Friday, January 29, 2021

Favorite Movies of 2020


Honorable Mentions:
Promising Young Woman
The Hunt
Malcolm & Marie
The King of Staten Island
The Old Guard
On The Rocks
Borat Subsequent Movie Film


Athletic Brewing Company


Bloomberg – "Celebrity Backers Are Making Nonalcoholic Beer a Hot Investment" (January 2021)

Fast Company – "Inside the nonalcoholic brewery making the year’s most exciting beer" (September 2019)

Thrillist – "Meet Athletic, the Brewery Finally Making Non-Alcoholic Beer Cool" (June 2019)

Esquire – "The Best of Nonalcoholic Drinks—Cocktails, Spirits, Beer, and Beyond—for When the Mood Strikes" (January 2021)

Esquire – "Non-Alcoholic Beer Is for Everyone Now—Yes, Even You" (July 2019)

2034: A Novel of the Next World War


WIRED – "2034: A Novel of the Next World War, an Exclusive Excerpt"

WIRED – "2034, Part I: Peril in the South China Sea"

Book by Elliot Ackerman and James Admiral Stavridis USN is out March 9, 2021.

Madlib and Lofi Hip Hop Jazz


New Yorker – "The Obsessive Beat-Making of Madlib"

Favorite TV Shows of 2020



The Himalayas


New Yorker – "Can We See Past the Myth of the Himalaya?"

Cautious Optimism on Climate


New York Magazine – "After Alarmism The war on climate denial has been won. And that’s not the only good news."

"What is perhaps most striking about all the new climate pledges is not just that they were made in the absence of American leadership but that they were made outside the boundaries of the Paris framework. They are not the result of geopolitical strong-arming or “Kumbaya” consensus. They are, instead, plans arrived at internally, in some cases secretly. This has been eye-opening for the many skeptics who worried for decades about climate’s collective-action problem — who warned that because the benefits of decarbonization were distributed globally while the costs were concentrated locally, nations would move only if all of their peers did too. But a recent paper by Matto Mildenberger and Michaël Aklin suggests this shouldn’t be a surprise. In their retrospective analysis, they found that, despite much consternation about designing climate policy to prevent countries from “cheating,” there was basically no evidence of any country ever pulling back from mitigation efforts to take a free ride on the good-faith efforts of others. There was, in other words, no collective-action problem on climate after all. For a generation, the argument for climate action was made on a moral basis. That case has only grown stronger. And now there are other powerful, more mercenary arguments to offer."

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Each presidency's best team"


From Axios AM newsletter

Axios Sports' Kendall Baker and Jeff Tracy, who made these picks, give their top three candidates to take the crown during the Biden-Harris years: 

1. Kansas City Chiefs 

2. Alabama 

3. Lakers

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Cheer for Player or Team?


New York Times – "Houston, Seattle Feels Your Loss"

By Kurt Streeter

Beast Quake 10 Years Later


Seattle Times – "How Marshawn Lynch’s ‘Beast Quake,’ which just turned 10, helped prepare scientists for actual earthquakes"

"It was Jan. 8, 2011, and the 7-9 Seahawks led the 11-5 Saints, 34-30, with 3:40 left in the NFC wild-card game. At a supposedly silent Qwest Field in Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck took a snap at his own 33-yard line, turned and handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Amid a morass of broken tackles, the “Beast Quake” was born.

Lynch — a 215-pound, 24-year-old torpedo — laid waste to New Orleans’ defensive line, burrowing through Scott Shanle and Will Smith’s feeble tackle attempts. At the second level, Darren Sharper and Remi Ayodele each latched onto a leg — and Lynch shook them off like Forrest Gump finally breaking free of his metal braces. Jabari Greer wrapped his arms around Lynch’s waist at the 49-yard line, and received a 4-yard ride before unceremoniously tumbling to the turf.

Which is when Tracy Porter ate the most iconic stiff-arm in NFL history. As the Qwest Field crowd came irreparably unglued, the 185-pound corner attempted to wrangle a loose lion by tugging on its fur. Instead, Lynch launched Porter seven yards into the stratosphere, then skirted through defensive lineman Alex Brown’s diving arms along the sideline. He veered inside, evaded a helpless Roman Harper, and somersaulted backward — exalted — into the end zone.

Added first-year Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: “It was one of the greatest runs I ever saw.”"

"At the time, at least, John Vidale didn’t see it (or hear it, or feel it). The director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington, Vidale was working in the lab an hour or two after the game when he was told there was a play he needed to see.

“So I went to YouTube and found videos of Marshawn’s run, and it was striking,” said Vidale, who currently works as a professor of earth sciences at USC. “Some of them were taken with phones in the stands. People were just cheering forever. It was deafening. It looked like everything was shaking. So I just figured I’d see if the seismometers recorded anything."

Coincidentally, one of the PNSN’s permanent seismometers — instruments designed to gauge ground motions — was located directly across the street from the stadium. And, sure enough, it registered an unmistakable spike at precisely the moment “Beast Mode” broke free.


“But I was surprised to see it on the seismometer, because it’s just people jumping around and shouting. It doesn’t usually have the power of an earthquake.”

Usually it doesn’t. This time, it did. The sustained fervor inspired by Lynch’s 67-yard scamper reached a peak acceleration of roughly 1/20,000th of a G, and a peak motion of 1/100th of a millimeter — registering as a highly localized magnitude 1 or 2 earthquake. Vidale told The Times the week after Lynch’s run that “you probably would have felt it very easily if you were outside the stadium.”"

Social Networks as Public Square


Platformer – "What social networks can learn from public spaces"

By Casey Newton

"Public spaces display a number of features that build healthier communities, according to researchers. “Humans have designed spaces for public life for millennia,” they write, “and there are lessons here that can be helpful for digital life.” 

Here’s a list (emphasis theirs). These spaces:

Develop programming – social activities – that draw different groups in, without over-optimizing for any one group

Offer visual cues as to what kinds of behavior are invited in the space

Are designed to be physically accessible and attractive to many different populations

Engage stewards, leaders, and maintainers who can do the labor of community-building

Are designed in partnership with the communities that use them.

Save for the third bullet point on that list, these are not features that I would associate with any of our largest social platforms. And that begins to explain, I think, the rot we find throughout them. Giant, rudderless communities left to imagine for themselves what they ought to do on a platform, or how they ought to behave, often turn on one another.

Imagine if a Facebook, or a Reddit, or a YouTube offered actual programming to these communities — constructive, creative tasks that go beyond individual fundraisers or the creation of content. Would they not wind up with services that they were more proud of?

It’s relatively easy to imagine what this might look like. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been captivated by the story of the TikTok users who took it upon themselves to write a musical inspired by the Pixar film Ratatouille. It happened spontaneously — and raised $1.9 million for the Actors Fund — but there’s no reason other platforms couldn’t similarly goad their users into creativity, philanthropy, or other ends more compelling than the traditional like, comment, and share."

The Rise of Josh Allen


New York Times – "Will N.F.L. Teams Learn the Right Lessons From Josh Allen’s Success?"

"The Bills’ 2020 success is a testament to the talent and hard work of Allen, his teammates and coaches, but also to a great deal of patience, a little innovation and inspiration and a dollop of good luck. It’s not the result of a secret recipe, but of a long process that most N.F.L. decision makers pay homage to but few are capable of executing.

In fact, Allen’s success is a result of so many factors that it essentially can’t be repeated. But that won’t stop the rest of the N.F.L. from trying."

Winter Camouflage

From @cetincem: It was snowing in Istanbul during the Basaksehir - Sivasspor game and Sivasspor thought wearing white would be a good idea. Yes, there are actually two sides in this photo - look closely and Sivasspor players are there.

Netflix's 2021 Movie Plans and Beyond

Stranger Things 4 Teaser and Netflix's 2020 Film Roadmap (February 2020) 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Newsletter as News Format


New Yorker – "Is Substack the Media Future We Want?"

"Still, it’s nice, from time to time, to receive a chatty, engaging, personable e-mail from someone who doesn’t expect a response."

Hang This in the National Portrait Gallery


Vulture – "Print, Frame, and Hang This Image in the National Portrait Gallery"

By Jim St. Germain 

"As it turns out, that face has a name: Adam Christian Johnson. Records indicate he was arrested for a nonviolent drug offense when he was a teenager, just like I was, and got locked up again a year later for violating his probation. But things seem to have worked out well for him. He lives in a six-bedroom house on a golf course in southwest Florida with his wife, a family physician. According to the Bradenton Herald, he studied psychology at the University of South Florida and now makes and sells furniture, which may explain why he was so excited about his find. Over 300,000 Americans are dead from the coronavirus, unemployment is soaring, and this guy looks like he just secured a bag on Antiques Roadshow.

As someone who has survived violence, I’m not happy that five people died at the riot. But I can’t deny that this picture of Mr. Johnson gives me life. It reminds me of another classic American image — a white man dressed in blackface, flanked by velvet curtains with fancy gold trim. Do a Google image search for “the original Jim Crow,” and you’ll see it. Note the bugged-out eyes, the mindless grin, the hand held out in a cheerful wave. For years, white people portrayed us as happy, vulgar fools undeserving of the rights and dignity America supposedly represented to the world. Now the greasepaint has been wiped away, and white people are seeing that they are what they’ve always made us out to be. Some are embarrassed. Some are scared. It’s our turn to be entertained."

Revisiting Only God Forgives


Guardian – "Hear me out: why Only God Forgives isn't a bad movie"

By Scott Tobias

"Only God Forgives exists in a kind of cinematic no man’s land, too arch for the genre fans and too grotesque for the arthouse set. And yet it’s fully in keeping with Refn’s evolution as a film-maker, which started with the kicked-up pulp of his Pusher trilogy and has grown in formal rigor ever since, pivoting on a Norse adventure film, 2009’s Valhalla Rising, that starts as a Crusades bloodbath and grows more and more abstract as it goes along. For all of Refn’s evident skill at staging punchy action sequences, he’s become increasingly interested in deconstructing and manipulating our expectations of what genre movies should be. That’s maddening. It’s also, in the right frame of mind, mesmerizing.

Opening the film in bright reds and deep blacks, Refn is making noir in color, replacing the single-source black-and-white of American classics with an equally eye-catching study in contrasts. Few neo-noirs have made such a strong visual impression, because they don’t limit their visual palette as much as Refn does here – every frame is carved with precise color and light, like the fussed-over panels of a graphic novel. Combined with the humming synths of Cliff Martinez – who had composed the score for Drive, too, as well as many Steven Soderbergh movies – the film accomplishes more through mood than action, capturing the dilemma of an antihero who exists in a paralyzing state of moral limbo."

43 Years Old in 2021 vs. 1970


Malcolm & Marie

Written & Directed by Sam Levinson (Euphoria)
Starring Zendaya, John David Washington



New York Times – "The Impractical but Indisputable Rise of Retrocomputing"


What's old is new again

Judging a book by its cover


The Casual Optimist – "Notable Book Covers of 2020"

Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Long 1980s


Vintage Ikea (August 2020)
Princess Diana Style King (November 2020) 
What's old is new again (December 2020) 


The Return of Sports Cards


ESPN – "How the coronavirus, the internet and tons of money unexpectedly fueled sports cards' biggest boom"

Axios – "The sports trading card boom"

CNBC – "Sports trading cards see a resurgence during the pandemic"

Bloomberg – "Wayne Gretzky Card Reaches for $1 Million in Sports-Collectible Boom"

The Mandalorian's Virtual Sets

Interior Chinatown


New York Times – "With His Fourth Book, Charles Yu Finally Feels Like a Writer"

New York Times – "A Devastating (and Darkly Hilarious) New Novel From the ‘Westworld’ Writer Charles Yu"

Wall Street Journal – "Novelist Charles Yu Worries America Is Getting Less Inclusive"

"You're on mute"


New York Times – "The Things Our Bosses Said a Lot This Year"