and I quote

december 2013

click for permalink December 30, 2013

2013 Year in Review: The Best of Everything Else

1. Best 404 page

2. Best Resurrection from the Web of the '90s:
Tie! Neither of these should require any introduction... Tamagothi and David Bowie's Area

3. Best Wallpaper to Give Your Children Permanent Nightmares
"Carnovsky's RGB is an ongoing project that experiments with the interaction between printed and light colours. The resulting images are unexpected and disorienting."

Can you please leave the hall light on and the door open?

4. Most Appropriately Named Destination for Pulp, Retro, Bizarre, Nostalgic movie reviews:
House of Self Indulgence — Where else are you going to find such classics as Streets of Fire (1984), Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985) , Night of the Comet (1984) and Fright Night (1985) among others exhaustively examined for the cult and cultural artifacts they truly are?

5. Best Shoes:
3D Printed Shoes by Iris van Herpen and Rem D. Koolhaas (of Junkspace fame). But are they comfortable? Watch the promotional video and see if you can tell just by looking at the models' faces. (If you can't tell, maybe you should consider buying your girlfriend something other than shoes this Christmas.)

6. Best Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table candidate of 2013:
Truck Door Decor from Moe's Furnishings, Vancouver

Seriously, fuck your Truck Door Decor.

7. Best Geek Girl Video Blogger with Hot Pink Hair:
Comic Book Girl 19 (also the only person I've ever seen besides myself wearing a Dazzler costume (she went for the mid-90s Dazzler with yellow-on-blue starburst half-shirt, biker jacket and skater hair while I kicked it early-80s style in white spandex and KISS-inspired face makeup).

8. Best Infographic with the Most Ironic (or is it Brilliant?) Placement:
What are the chances resides on the blog, and it ranks the statistical likelihood of everything from getting Cancer (1 in 2 chance, although I believe for women it's still 1 in 3) to winning the Mega Millions lottery jackpot (1 in 135,145,920). Comparatively, death by mountain lion is far more likely (1 in 32,000,000) and the proverbial lightning strike ranks somewhere in the middle (1 in 700,000).

9. 30 Best Movie Posters of 2013 by Jason Bailey (Okay, you got me. It's just another list.)

10. Best Collector Barbie:
The Blonds Blond Gold Barbie Doll (see above, right)

11. How To Tell If You Remember 2013:The Year In Crying At Your Desk by Brent Cox


The Power 10: More Best Articles of 2013

  1. The Intelligent Plant: Scientists debate a new way of understanding flora by Michael Pollan
  2. Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics by Beatriz Preciado
  3. Peanut Allergy Epidemic: What Everyone Needs to Know by Patricia Lemer
  4. Deep Intellect: Inside the mind of the octopus by Sy Montgomery
  5. 10 Good Things About 2013 by Medea Benjamin
  6. A Mother's Day Letter by Jason Kirin (fair warning: tears ahead)
  7. What Lies Beneath by William Langewiesche
  8. The Shape of History by By Marc Parry
  9. The Stupidity of Computers by David Auerbach
  10. An Oregon Coast Christmas Carol: part two, posted Dec. 23, 2013 and part one, posted Dec. 17, 2013 (for which you will have to scroll down) by Matt Love



click for permalink December 28, 2013

2013 Year in Review: Best Videos of 2013

1. Mirror City by filmmaker Michael Shainblum

2. Male-to-Female: 3 Years in <2 Minutes

3. The Moth Presents Andrew Solomon: Notes on an Exorcism

4. Cat in a Shark Costume Chases A Duck While Riding A Roomba
(Okay... but what's it about? Can you give us a hint?)

5. The Moth Presents Michaela Murphy: Eye Spy

6. Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers by Tom Scott

7. Heart — Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin — Kennedy Center Honors

8. Incendie a Lac-Megantic by Nitrof Taz
An incredible 15 minute raw video taken in Lac-Megantic, Quebec (population 6,000) after a 77-car train carrying crude oil was left unattended, rolled and derailed, resulting in a conflagration that killed 47 and leveled more than 30 buildings.

Excerpt from Wikipedia: "Just before the derailment, witnesses recalled observing the train passing through the crossing at an excessive speed with no locomotive lights, infernal noise and sparks emitted from the wheels. People on the terrace at the Musi-Café saw the tank cars leave the track and fled as a blanket of oil generated a ball of fire three times the height of the downtown buildings. Between four and six explosions were reported initially as tank cars ruptured and crude oil escaped along the train's trajectory. Heat from the fires was felt as far as 2 km (1.2 miles) away. People were jumping from the third floor of buildings in the central business district to escape the fire. As the blazing oil flowed over the ground, it entered the town's storm sewer and emerged as huge fire towering from other storm sewer drains, manholes and even chimneys and basements of buildings in the area."

This photo was taken after the blaze was extinguished some days later:

9. Space Oddity
Recorded by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.

10. Danielle by Anthony Cerniello

Artist Anthony Cerniello created this video by filming several women in his friend's family and editing them together to simulate a time lapse of one woman aging 80 years in five minutes. Online reviewers have called the video stunning, subtle and mesmerizing; most describe the effect as slow and "imperceptible," cautioning impatient viewers not to skip ahead.

For the first two-thirds of the video, the transformation is indeed almost imperceptible; childhood and adolescence blend almost indistinguishably, and the transition into adulthood is marked more by the barest addition of makeup than any other factor. The "years" from twenty to forty blur together in a similar fashion. It's at around the age of 45, or what I guessed to be 45 anyway, that the transformation seems to accelerate alarmingly. The last two minutes are among the most viscerally and existentially frightening things I've ever witnessed.

But based on the various comments I've read, I don't get the impression most people re-posting this video (who have ostensibly watched the entire thing) have this reaction. Which leads me to believe that most of them are either in their 20s (i.e. they still regard aging as something that happens to other people as an unfortunate consequence of bad life choices), or they're just being polite (e.g. the headlines that gush about "the beauty of aging").

I know we're not supposed to be alarmed or horrified — especially not the men, who risk being labelled sexist and ageist if they admit that the very idea of their wife or girlfriend's face morphing inexorably into that of her mother or grandmother is already one of those dark, intrusive thoughts they try their best not to think about (and thank you very much, Anthony whoever-you-are, for encapsulating our deepest fears in a five-minute video on the internet, our bastion of porn and cat videos) — and especially not women either, because there's nothing more unattractive, more desperately insecure, than that little voice that whispers from every reflective surface, in different words but the exact same tone as when it started making comments about our figures around age 12:

Do I look old yet? One of these days the answer will be yes... So how about now? What is that? Has that always been there? Maybe it's the lighting. Does this lighting make me look older? Fatter? Has my metabolism changed? Since yesterday? Do I look old now? How about now?

See, there's nothing more unattractive than that... After all, everybody knows it's confidence that makes a woman beautiful, right? Besides, everyone gets old — if they're lucky — so why not just shut the fuck up and grow old gracefully? But how exactly does one do that? Your mind just supplied an answer, didn't it? A shining example. Maybe it was Helen Mirren (and shame on you if it was anyone younger) but if you didn't look like Helen Mirren at 20, you're sure as hell not going to look like her at 70, and most women simply don't have the budget for the kind of large-scale engineering project that's required to grow old "gracefully."

Don't get me wrong. The women who contributed their faces to the composite "Danielle" are beautiful, all of them, and many reviewers have remarked on the tension around her eyes at 40 compared with her serene smile at 80. But, it's not our fault we don't know how to grow old gracefully; it's Hollywood's and it's Hef's and it's motherfucking Disney's (why does it always have to be Disney?).

I know what some of you are thinking (I can hear the Scorpios muttering out there... I can always hear you). You're thinking, of all the things that could keep you up at night, you're worried about a few wrinkles? How pathetic, how silly you are if this is what worries you about the inexorable march of time. But of course, wrinkles are just the visible markers of what awaits all of us on the other side of 40 (or is it 45?). Just past the "prime" of our lives, as this video reminds us, is the swift and inescapable slide into senescence and certain death. If you allow them into your consciousness, it's the other losses that go hand in hand with greying hair and sagging skin — your health, strength, mental acuity, livelihood and loved ones — that can bring you to your knees weeping for all humanity just for thinking of them.

So of course Danielle is beautiful — they all are — and the animation effects are flawlessly executed, but there's all that too. And honestly, I find it a little disconcerting that no one else has mentioned it...


Best Books of 2013

  1. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick
  2. I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy by Lori Andrews
  3. The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry by Dr. Gary Greenberg
  4. Vanishing Vancouver: The Last 25 Years by Michael Kluckner
  5. Half Empty by David Rakoff
  6. Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients by Ben Goldacre
  7. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls Essays, Etc. by David Sedaris
  8. Animal Wise by Virginia Morell
  9. Lionel Asbo: State of England (Vintage International) by Martin Amis & Alex Jennings
  10. Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick
  11. The Clinton Tapes by Taylor Branch
  12. The Walking Dead: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman
  13. Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio J. Mendez
  14. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by Max, D. T.
  15. Transpersonal Astrology: Explorations at the Frontier by Armand Diaz, Eric Meyers and Andrew Smith
  16. The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew J. Bacevich
  17. Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection by Simon Winchester and Nick Mann
    (Yes, it's a picture book but it's a picture book by Simon fucking Winchester.)
  18. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan M. Weinschenk
  19. Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works by Adam Lashinsky
  20. The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (again) and Firestarter, Christine, Carrie, The Mist and The Dead Zone by Stephen King (again)
    Mr. Pink and I were halfway through reading the audiobook of Christine when I decided to search for cast photos from the movie, which from what I remembered was a much abbreviated version of the story but with absolutely flawless casting. A few related searches later I started noticing all these articles about "re-reading Stephen King" in the search results. Who knew? Apparently rereading Stephen King is a thing people my age are doing now. (How do I know they're my age? Oh, I assume everyone is my age...) I wonder what could have prompted us to spontaneously and simultaneously do this. What else will we all start doing, each of us thinking we're exercising free will and all the while acting like ants under the control of some hive brain? Sounds like a bad Stephen King novel...


click for permalink December 21, 2013

Best Lists of 2013: Part One

As always, one of the indispensable elements of the year-in-review is the list of lists. Not in a "one list to rule them all" sense, but in the sense that it is a list consisting of other lists. Not only that, but the best of them. Here is Part One of the "list of lists" portion of the year in review, followed by the Top Ten Podcasts and Best Television of 2013.

1. The 101 Best Written TV Series of all Time
While its idiosyncrasies are legion, this is a fascinating and thought-provoking list. It was created by the Writer's Guild of America, for god's sake — if nothing else, it should provide you with several solid minutes of nostalgia and/or outrage.

Brain and brain! What is BRAIN?Here are some of the more problematic juxtapositions, off the top of my head: Seinfeld at #2 and Louie at #98... That's Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. You see what I'm saying? Anyway. Then we have Star Trek: The Original Series at #33 and Star Trek: The Next Generation at #74. (Really? I mean, sure, Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon wrote for the original, but for every "City on the Edge of Forever," there was at least one "Spock's Brain." I could go on and on, but something tells me I'm preaching to the choir on this one.)

Here are my top 10 out of WGA's 101, in order of best to Lost. Heh. The parenthetical numbers are the WGA rankings.

  • The West Wing (#10)
  • Breaking Bad (#13)
  • Mad Men (#7)
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (#17)
  • The Office (UK) (#50)
  • Absolutely Fabulous (UK) (#91)
  • The Sopranos (#1)
  • The Shield (#71)
  • ER (#28)
  • Lost (#27)

2. AV Club's The New Cult Canon
Best of the New Cult Canon in order of personal preference:

  • Fight Club
  • Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Near Dark
  • Donnie Darko
  • Punch-Drunk Love
  • I Heart Huckabees
  • Team America: World Police
  • Battle Royale
  • Pi

Worst in no particular order: The Blair Witch Project (Look, people: it's been 14 years. Can we drop the charade already? It was a terrible, abysmal movie "event" pulled off by a lot of clever Marketing minds. Removed from that narrow context, there is absolutely no reason to seek it out and watch it now. If you want to see a "found footage" horror movie done right, watch Cloverfield. If you like shaky camera work and ambiguous endings that leave you with a feeling of existential dread, watch Darwin's Nightmare.)

3. The 100 top things you honestly don't need to do before you die by Richard Osman, The Guardian

Excerpt: "The average human being will live for 701,844 hours. You will be asleep for 233,600 of those hours... You will be working for 74,060 hours... Take off another 200,000 hours for miscellaneous activities such as being on hold for broadband customer service... looking up pictures of your ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend on Facebook... This means your available hours now stand at... just over 90,000 hours. To do everything. So, Breaking Bad should be a breeze: just 61 hours, or 0.000667% of the rest of your life. And—I don't know if you've heard—apparently it's amazing."

4. The 150 Things the World's Smartest People Are Afraid Of by Brian Merchant (Motherboard)
A surprising number of "the world's smartest people" claim they aren't afraid of anything (they apparently haven't gotten around to reading Stung! ) Despite that troubling fact, this list could come in handy if you've outgrown all your childhood fears but haven't read enough about the world's fresh water supply or the declining effectiveness of antibiotics to be concerned about those yet. (By the way, never admit to a Virgo that you're not afraid of anything. An opening like that just makes us want to give you something to cry about. Besides, we tend to assume that an unfurrowed brow is a sign of an empty head.) Here are my five favorites, whether or not I actually agree with their reasoning:

  1. Timo Hannay, publisher: "It is possible that we are rare, fleeting specks of awareness in an unfeeling cosmic desert, the only witnesses to its wonder. It is also possible that we are living in a universal sea of sentience, surrounded by ecstasy and strife that is open to our influence. Sensible beings that we are, both possibilities should worry us."
  2. Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist: "Men." (Good one! I didn't buy it though. Sure enough, her full response isn't really an answer. It's just a summary of her latest research findings, none of it particularly scary.)
  3. Melanie Swan, systems-level thinker, futurist: "A worry that is not yet on the scientific or cultural agenda is neural data privacy rights."
  4. J. Craig Venter, genomic scientist: "Not much. I ride motorcycles without a helmet." (I have to call bullshit on this one too. This tinkerer with the building blocks of life may be a bad ass, but he's not a dumb ass.)
  5. Kevin Kelly, Wired editor: "Our global population is aging. The moment of peak youth on this planet was in 1972. The picture for the latter half of this century will look like this: increasing technology, cool stuff that extends human life... 100 years from now... we'll have the same number of over-60-year olds, but several billion fewer youth."

Just a note on that last one, which I've read in its entirety (long answers can be found here) and I'm still not sure what he's proposing we do about this problem (which is currently the exact opposite of the problem). Should our densest cities' residents start having twice as many children despite declining natural resources and increasing financial insecurity to ward off the impending catastrophe of the birth rate leveling off to merely viral levels? Hey, I've got an idea! What say we leave defusing the "depopulation bomb" to our descendants (well, not mine but you know what I mean)? Assuming our ranks ever decline to the point where keeping everyone fed, clothed and employed consumes less than one planet's worth of resources, they will undoubtedly be clever enough to figure out that it's time to "be fruitful and multiply" again. It's the one thing we humans can be counted on to figure out, plagues, pandemics and power plant meltdowns be damned! It only took us three-quarters of a century to go from 2 billion to 7 billion and at last count, our numbers were increasing at a scale approaching exponential.

Until then, why don't we try something all the other mammals on Earth have mastered without opposable thumbs or Twitter? Despite their obvious deficiencies in the technological innovation department, every species that we haven't wiped out yet has managed to achieve some kind of population stability. They reach a state of equilibrium with their environment, whether characterized by periods of moderate growth and moderate decline or by alternating phases of explosive growth and sudden decimation by external forces. I know which of those options I'd prefer... but this whole thing of blooming like god damned mold spores? It's just embarrassing.

Here, Eric R. Pianka provides a more scientific counterpoint to Kevin Kelly:

Excerpt: "People sometimes ask, 'What is the carrying capacity for humans?' Six billion of us occupy roughly half of earth's land surface, consuming over half the freshwater and using about half of earth's primary productivity, but many of those persons are living in poverty and not getting adequate nutrition. Certainly if our population continues to double in the next 40 years as it did during the past 40, we will finally have reached our carrying capacity at 12 billion in the year 2040 — at that population density, humans will occupy all the earth's surface (there won't be any more wilderness or any wild animals), and we would be using every drop of freshwater as well as every photon that intercepts the surface!"

5. Things I Will Do For $(x)

AKA the "I Do Anything" Craigslist Ad Posted by Disgruntled Copywriter Travis Broyles. It was actually posted in 2011, so I hope and assume that Travis has since landed a great job. Unfortunately, I'm either too lazy or too disgruntled myself to search the internet for his name and find the answer more or less instantly. (Or maybe it's nothing more than a simple, absolute certainty that such a search would expose me to far more information about Travis Broyles than I'm willing to ingest. I'm exercising a rare opportunity here and choosing not to know).


Best Podcasts of 2013

  1. The Smartest Man in the World with Greg Proops
  2. The Psychedelic Salon with Lorenzo
  3. Pop Culture Happy Hour
  4. Mike Daisey's All Stories are Fiction
  5. Dan Carlin's Hardcore History and Common Sense
  6. How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner
  7. RISK!/ The Moth
  8. We're Alive: A story of survival
  9. The Walking Dead 'Cast/The Watching Dead et al
  10. Axis Astrology Podcast — featuring ME and my friend Alison Price (of so you should totally download it, subscribe to the RSS feed, follow us on Twitter AND check out our website for awesomely detailed show notes on every single episode, artwork by Ms. Pink, intro music and sound production by Mr. Pink.


Best Television of 2013

  1. Breaking Bad: Final Season — The new benchmark for gracefully concluding a much loved series without turning the whole Tweeting internet against you. Some people thought the show let Walter White off too easy, but fuck that. If you want a show where everyone who's ever done anything morally questionable is made to suffer, even if it won't right any wrongs or lessen anyone's suffering, and even if it makes a mockery of the very idea of morality until the downward spiral of nihilistic violence and vengeance makes the whole world blind, well, that already exists. It's called The Walking Dead and it's #2 on this list. But Breaking Bad was never about justice or karma or whatever Vince Gilligan said it was about. It was about yin and yang and the balance/ imbalance of good and evil in everyone. (BTW, if you want to see a medium that's really flourishing in the wake of the show's finale, just Google "Breaking Bad" + infographics. You're welcome.)
  2. The Walking Dead: Season 4 — Yes, even after two entire episodes were hijacked by "The Walking Governor" in a completely unnecessary lead-up to the delayed (from last season's misfire of a season finale) gratification, although it was inevitably mixed with mourning (because such is the story of The Walking Dead) after the mid-season finale (and jesus, don't you wish that was a phrase we weren't all obligated to use now? At least it's not as bad as "show-runner").
  3. Orange is the New Black — Morally questionable, justice and karma, yin and yang, yadda yadda yadda... but with lots of hot lesbian sex (and I mean lots).
  4. Mad Men Season 6 — Even with the too-frequent flashbacks to Don/ Dick's awkward adolescence in the Saddest Little Whorehouse in upstate NY. (Painfully awkward for us, I mean. We get it. He was a dork and he grew up in a whorehouse and now he's in advertising. Oh, the irony and exposition.) All that being said, I will miss this show like a member of my own god damned family when it's gone. While we're on the subject, can we not space these epic series-endings a little farther apart? It's been hard enough trying to psych ourselves up to find new things to watch since Breaking Bad ended... All of our friends are like, " I dunno... have you tried Homeland?" in the same way you'd recommend a new flavor of smoothie to someone who can't eat solid foods. "I dunno... [shrug] Have you tried banana-strawberry-kiwi?"
  5. The Killing Season 3 — As anyone who's lived there can attest, the only setting more dependably soul-crushing than the zombie apocalypse is Seattle, Washington. So it was no stretch of anyone's imagination to transplant this bleak, glacially paced Scandinavian crime drama to an American city that boasts the highest per capita rate of serial killings, not to mention overcast days. Lucky for the audience, though, what they saved on location scouting they made up in casting. Somehow, even though entire episodes could be painted in a palette of only brown, grey, black and blue, the show's two co-stars have such chemistry they never fail to light up the screen, inoculating us again and again against the inexorable downward pull of its relentlessly depressing story lines.
  6. Bates Motel — This was a surprisingly compelling concoction of Hitchcock, Freud and Lynch with a dash of Spelling. In the months after the Season One finale (which ended on an ambiguous enough note that it could have just as easily concluded the series), I found myself missing this show even more than Mad Men, The Killing or Damages. I still can't explain that.

  7. Hemlock Grove
    — Another Netflix exclusive now greenlit for a second season, which is further proof of the supremacy of their "programming by algorithm" method. Critics who haven't seen it claimed this series was tailor-made for "teenage horror fans" (perhaps forgetting that a grim drama about zombies is currently the best-rated show on cable and a recent series of novels about teenage vampires became a runaway hit with the mothers of teenagers). But the un-critics make one good point. If you don't see a lot of supernatural psychosexual gore-fests with-a-heart in your Netflix recommendations, Hemlock Grove might not be the show for you. Sure, I enjoyed the hell out of it, but who are you going to believe, me or the all-knowing algorithm? If you'd prefer a more Amazon-like recommendation, think of it as Bates Motel with more werewolves... Or Twilight with less abstinence... Or X-Men; First Class with more homo-erotic teen angst. Sigh. What I'm trying to say is that it's really good? Long live the algorithm!
  8. Damages: Season 5 — The first two seasons were brilliant, but all the stunt-casting in the world couldn't save the last three which sped by in a blur of flashbacks, flash-forwards, hallucinations, nightmares and when all else failed, random scary pseudo-subliminal shit thrown at the screen to see if it would stick. Damages increasingly relied on these tricks not just to disorient viewers but also, we suspect, to gradually whittle away the amount of actual new footage they needed to shoot with each passing episode. By the end of the fifth and final season, we had given up the sport of second-guessing plot twists because they increasingly failed to live up to our convoluted (but almost always more cohesive) predictions. The final episode was hands-down the most disappointing denouement to a long-running series that we had ever seen, until...
  9. Weeds: Season 8 — For most of eight seasons, Weeds was a showcase for the most darkly humorous, subversive family dynamics, political and social incorrectness on every level, mocking of racial and gender stereotypes and the breaking of sexual taboos (television taboos anyway) and that was all icing on top of the drug-dealing, drug-taking premise that was promised in the show's title. But the wicked, unrepentant heart of the series was its ground-breaking matriarch, a black hole sun with a stellar supporting cast in orbit around her. Nancy Botwin was a truly original character every bit as narcissistic, flawed and formidable as Walter White. She sold drugs, conspired, committed and covered up murders, kidnappings, bribery, arson, robbery, identity theft and fraud—all for the sake of her family but of course, even more for herself. A lot has been said since Breaking Bad (and The Sopranos and The Shield and Dexter) ended about the inherent limitations of the anti-hero archetype so who knows, maybe it's just profoundly difficult to conclude an anti-hero character arc and leave your audience feeling anything but empty and angry (unless you're Breaking Bad). Or maybe there's something fundamentally different about a female antihero... or maybe it's the same cowardly conservatism at the core of the entertainment industry that it's always been. (Unfortunately, we'll never know because of that phenomenon where a male character can just be some guy while a female character always stands for all women everywhere.) All I know is that the two most iconoclastic anti-heroines in TV history deserved better endings.
  10. House of Cards — Because charming, manipulative sociopaths can still be men, and the chicks in this show (Robin Wright and Kate Mara) are pretty fucking fierce as well. Also greenlit for a second season.


click for permalink December 13, 2013

2013 Year in Pictures


To Mane / Barcroft Media / Landov
Garrett McNamara attempts to break the Guinness World Record for largest wave ever surfed on in Nazare, Portugal.


Crowds in New York City protest after the Trayvon Martin murder case ends in an acquittal for George Zimmerman.


NASA's latest mind-bogglingly beautiful portrait of Saturn captures "extended family" members Mars, Venus, Earth and several moons (somewhere in there). Further details and of course caveats can be found here.


Boston on lockdown while police, FBI and Homeland Security stormtroopers combed the streets for the Marathon bombing suspects.


Giant rubber duck deflates in Hong Kong harbor.


Femen activist protesting against Islamists in front of the Great Mosque of Paris. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)


During a time of dangerous levels of air pollution, a bright screen shows blue sky. Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)


Hell is other wildebeasts.

Karen Lunney/National Geographic Photo Contest


The Most Powerful Photos of 2013 Super Cut Compilation from RVLSTS

More Year in Pictures collections:


Best Articles of 2013

I'm not ashamed to admit this is always my favorite of all the year-end lists — and I love the fact that "lists of articles" has become a legitimate editorial platform in and of itself, as evidenced by sites like, and Arts & Letters Daily and the existence of Instapaper, Readability et al — but what annoys the hell out of me is that I'm still struggling to remember 20 books I've read this year. (Then again, maybe I wouldn't have this a problem if they were as easy to locate with a glance through my bookmark folders and browsing history.) Anyway, here are some excerpts from ten of the best articles of 2013.


1. They're Taking Over! Tim Flannery's review of Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean by Lisa-ann Gershwin

Excerpt: "From the Arctic to the equator and on to the Antarctic, jellyfish plagues (or blooms, as they're technically known) are on the increase. Even sober scientists are now talking of the jellification of the oceans. And the term is more than a mere turn of phrase. Off southern Africa, jellyfish have become so abundant that they have formed a sort of curtain of death, "a stingy-slimy killing field," as Gershwin puts it, that covers over 30,000 square miles. The curtain is formed of jelly extruded by the creatures, and it includes stinging cells. The region once supported a fabulously rich fishery yielding a million tons annually of fish, mainly anchovies. In 2006 the total fish biomass was estimated at just 3.9 million tons, while the jellyfish biomass was 13 million tons."


2. Death in Singapore by Raymond Bonner and Christine Spolar

Excerpt: "On June 24 last year, the body of a young US electronics engineer, Shane Todd, was found hanging in his Singapore apartment. Police said it was suicide, but his family believes he was murdered."

3. Upon This Rock by John Jeremiah Sullivan (GQ Magazine)

Excerpt: "I would rent a van, a plush one, and we would travel there together, I and three or four hard-core buffs, all the way from the East Coast to the implausibly named Lake of the Ozarks. We'd talk through the night, they'd proselytize at me, and I'd keep my little tape machine working all the while. Somehow I knew we'd grow to like and pity one another. What a story that would make—for future generations."

4. Five Super-Easy Tips For Dealing with the Apocalypse! From Our Partners At 'Living Lady!' Magazine by Heather Havrilesky

Excerpt: "Watching everything you care about go up in flames can be pretty stressful. It's true that we'll go down in history as the one generation to destroy our entire planet and everything on it in a single lifetime. But thankfully, there won't be any history books to record our great big, super-embarrassing blunder!"

5. We Should All Have Something To Hide by Moxie Marlinspike

Excerpt: "Imagine if there were an alternate dystopian reality where law enforcement was 100% effective, such that any potential law offenders knew they would be immediately identified, apprehended, and jailed. If perfect law enforcement had been a reality in MN, CO, and WA since their founding in the 1850s, it seems quite unlikely that these recent changes would have ever come to pass. How could people have decided that marijuana should be legal, if nobody had ever used it? How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship?"

6. How Antisec Died Jeremy Hammond, Sabu, and the Intelligence-Industrial Complex by Quinn Norton

Excerpt: "Jeremy Hammond, aka sup_g and crediblethreat, was sentenced to 10 years last Friday in connection with the hack of Stratfor at the end of 2011. He was shopped to the feds by Sabu, the still unseen and unsentenced Lulzsec/Antisec hacker who spent nine months running the scariest hacker group ever on behalf of the FBI."

7. Don't Hate Her Because She's Successful by The Last Psychiatrist

Excerpt: "[Sheryl] Sandberg's book is heralded as "the next great feminist manifesto", by this logic the first one was TV Guide. Just because there's a woman near it, doesn't mean it's about women.  The feminism debate, labeled equivalently as "gender discrimination" or "women sabotage themselves", is not about women, it is about LABOR COSTS, making working for something other than money admirable. If some women rise to COO that's unintended consequences, what the system really wants is people, especially the still not maxed out women, to want to work harder for it, to be a producer/consumer for it, by making noble and desirable the long hours, "a seat at the table"— the kind of things that give away the majority of your high heeled, productive life in exchange for the trappings of power."


No Self-Respecting Woman Would Go Out Without Make Up by The Last Psychiatrist

It's hard to find the right excerpt to convey what is so brilliant about this piece in which you'll find a little bit of everything that I love about TLP. It alternates between illuminating and infuriating, insightful and incitory and all over the fucking map, and just when you're starting to think he's overreached and after all he has been wrong before, maybe you can just write this one off, he pulls out the big guns (metaphorically and otherwise). The last few paragraphs should literally be taught in school.

Excerpt: "Every stupid parent teaches their girls not to get raped, duh, but have any mothers spent any time indoctrinating their daughters what to do if another woman is being raped? 'We need to support each other!' Sure, as long as it's from the safety of a computer monitor or a 5K, yay women. Have you explicitly told your daughters that if a woman is passed out drunk and you see a Notre Dame Hat climbing over her couch, it is your responsibility to grab an aerosol can and a lighter and threaten Armageddon, or at the very least yell stop? 'Well, that's kind of dangerous.' Yeah, that's kind of the point, but I grant you that it's safer to giggle and let boys be boys. Do you want power, or the trappings of power? Somebody's going to have it, you can't make it vanish. I wasn't at this particular rape, the town's defense amazingly appears to be she was a slut and she was asking for it, and my point is: so what? Why didn't the other women stop it anyway?"

8. Humanity's deep future by Ross Andersen (

Excerpt: "If there is nothing uniquely fertile about our corner of the cosmos, he reasoned, intelligent civilizations should arise everywhere... And if intelligent civilizations are destined to expand out into the universe, then scores of them should be crisscrossing our skies... But so far, there's no sign of one... It could be that life itself is scarce, or it could be that microbes seldom stumble onto sexual reproduction... Or maybe technologically advanced civilizations choose not to expand into the galaxy, or do so invisibly, for reasons we do not yet understand. Or maybe, something more sinister is going on. Maybe quick extinction is the destiny of all intelligent life."

9. You Are Going to Die By TIM KREIDER

Excerpt: "Segregating the old and the sick enables a fantasy, as baseless as the fantasy of capitalism's endless expansion, of youth and health as eternal, in which old age can seem to be an inexplicably bad lifestyle choice, like eating junk food or buying a minivan, that you can avoid if you're well-educated or hip enough. So that when through absolutely no fault of your own your eyesight begins to blur and you can no longer eat whatever you want without consequence and the hangovers start lasting for days, you feel somehow ripped off, lied to. Aging feels grotesquely unfair. As if there ought to be someone to sue."

10. Steven Soderbergh's State Of Cinema Talk

Excerpt: "How does a studio decide what movies get made? ...Obviously the bigger the budget, the more people this thing is going to have to appeal to, the more homogenized it's got to be, the more simplified it's got to be. So things like cultural specificity and narrative complexity, and, god forbid, ambiguity, those become real obstacles to the success of the film here and abroad... There's another thing, a process known as running the numbers... I could tell you a really good story of how I got pushed off a movie because of the way the numbers ran, but if I did, I'd probably get shot in the street, and I really like my cats."

I don't know what it says about me that, on a list featuring death, death, death, hate, mass extinction and mass extinction [shudder] by jellyfish, Steven Soderbergh's rant about why making movies is becoming all but impossible for the very people who care most about movies, is the one that actually brought tears to my eyes. Must be my artistic temperament.


click for permalink December 04, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Let's get this party started with the first of my "best of" lists of 2013...

Heroes of 2013

  1. Chelsea Manning

"The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in... We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability... As the late Howard Zinn once said, 'There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.'"

  1. Edward Snowden

"The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair... I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: 'Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.'"

  1. Aaron Swartz

"There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture. We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?" (Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, July 2008)

  1. Michael Hastings

"Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn't be mistaken for hostile—I'm just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That's what reporters are supposed to do, report the story."

  1. Glenn Greenwald

"Over the past five years, a creeping extremism has taken hold of our federal government, and it is threatening to radically alter our system of government and who we are as a nation. This extremism is neither conservative nor liberal in nature, but is instead driven by theories of unlimited presidential power that are wholly alien, and antithetical, to the core political values that have governed this country since its founding... The fact that this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically—means that not only our system of government is radically changing, but so, too, are our national character, our national identity, and what it means to be American."

On February 28, Greenwald reported on the commencement of the court-martial trial against Private (then Bradley) Manning and his statement upon entering a guilty plea:

"[Manning] knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combatted, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret. Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged today he chose to undertake."

Well, anyone who knows me could have probably predicted at least two of the people on this list. While they might not have come as a surprise to you, they all took the world by surprise when they entered the public arena, and for them, there's no more appropriate word than "arena." From the moment the world learned their names, their lives were turned into the Internet version of the Bourne franchise. But despite a 35-year prison sentence and living in exile as a guest and political refugee in Putin's Russia, at least Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have so far been fortunate enough to avoid the fates of Aaron Swartz and Michael Hastings. Glenn Greenwald has been one of my heroes for years; I'm just glad to see the world finally catching on.

People, and by that I mean corporations, talk a lot about "integrity." If you work for a company that has a set of "core values" or "guiding principles," odds are Integrity is one of them. Without getting into the irony and absurdity of that fact in the face of how most corporations conduct themselves, take a moment to reflect on the acts for which Manning and Snowden are currently serving time — either in prison or in exile. In 1945 the Nuremberg trials established a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. Among those was Principle IV: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." (Otherwise known as the law that says you can't commit war crimes and claim you were just following orders.)

The definition of integrity in the OED is pretty bland; "The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles;" to which the American Heritage Dictionary adds, "moral uprightness," but the awful motivational posters with their solitary waves crashing skyward in improbable Flamenco formations, and their soaring eagles and backlit lions silhouetted against the setting sun provide us with a more modern usage: integrity is having moral courage and the conviction to act in accordance with your ideals, regardless of their popularity, the difficulty or personal risk involved.

More often what they actually mean by it is this:

I think we like to imagine there was one pivotal, deciding moment in each of their lives, right before a critical decision was made, beyond which there was no turning back. By extension then, before that moment, there was always the option to simply choose another fate. We can picture such moments, perhaps even imagine a tiny devil or angel perched on their shoulders (or guiding the mouse). But I don't think that moment, for any of them, took the form of choosing between personal security and self-sacrifice. For them, "doing the right thing" didn't just mean doing what was hard; it meant throwing themselves in front of a moving train. While there were inarguably moments in all their lives when beliefs turned to action — when fate, as it were, had them in Missile Lock — there is no evidence that Manning or Snowden or Swartz or Hastings ever wrestled with their own feelings about what was right. That was the one thing they were all certain of, and the only decisions they wrestled with were logistical. The only philosophical question was whether we, the public in whose name they risked everything, would prove worthy of their sacrifice. It's a question that remains open.

Here's an interesting thing, which came to me from the Free Chelsea Manning campaign via Facebook; a poll for Time magazine's 2013 Person of the Year. She's not actually a nominee, although Edward Snowden is, but every time I tried to vote this retarded pop-up kept telling me to sign in via Facebook, which obviously I already was — duh, that's how I got here, and it's still open in another tab — as if Time wouldn't know. The pop-up assured me in tiny grey, barely-visible type that it wouldn't share my information without asking first. Really? Fucking christ, Time. What other conceivable reason could you have for requiring us to log in via Facebook but "sharing" our information? At the very fucking least with Facebook and all its affiliates and obviously the US government, unless that's all changed very recently? What do you think, Time, that we just look at you for the pictures?

Instead of taking the next exit, however, I went further down the rabbit hole and ended up scrolling through all the "Person of the Year" covers back to1928 and soon found myself irritated beyond measure at the rather startling (even to me) fact that there have been a grand total of three Women of the Year in the entire history of Time magazine. (There have been several groups in which at least one member was a woman—but this is not a diminution—as well as an ever-increasing number of inane non-persons Persons like "The Protester," "the American Soldier" and "You" (all three of which occurred in the last decade, just in case you'd blocked that).

So the three most important women of the 20th and 21st Centuries, according to Time, were: Corizon Aquino in 1987 (oh yes, she's the most recent), the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth in 1953 and Wallace Simpson in 1937. That's right, the last time a woman was named Time's Person of the Year without sharing the title was in 1987, and of those three women, only one of them was notable for something she actually did.

The only reason I made it all the way back to 1928 was because Margaret Thatcher wasn't one of the three... although I can't imagine why not, since she's right up Time's alley, on a par with every sitting president, famous military generals and more than a few reviled foreign dictators (Stalin, twice!). But no Thatcher, no Bhutto, no Ferraro, no Suu Kyi, no Day O'Connor, no Bader Ginsburg, no Earhart, no Ride, no Curie, no Carson, not even a Teresa.

Time could right two wrongs by naming Chelsea Manning the Person of the Year. Just sayin'.