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kottke.org posts about lists

Future 2024 Bestsellers

book covers for Long Island Compromise, Frostbite, and Hip-Hop Is History

Kirkus’s list of 20 Books That Should Be Bestsellers reminds me that Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s new book, Long Island Compromise, is due out this summer, so yay to that. Yay also to pal Nicola Twilley for making the list with her book Frostbite. And there’s a new-to-me title on there that I’m intrigued by: Hip-Hop Is History by Questlove (with Ben Greenman).

Reply · 1

Denis Villeneuve’s Four Favorite Films

Letterboxd asked Dune director Denis Villeneuve what his four favorite films were and he cheated and listed five (including 2001 and Blade Runner).

First of all, who knows how long Blade Runner has been on his top 5 (or even 10 or 20 list) but getting to do a sequel of one of your favorite films has to be unbelievably rewarding as a director.1

And I’m going to cheat as well here and list a number of other films that Villeneuve has publicly praised, courtesy of this piece from IndieWire: Vertigo, Children of Men, Downsizing (?), There Will Be Blood, Seven Samurai, The Beguiled, Jaws, and three Nolan films (Dunkirk, Inception, Tenet).

  1. I was trying to think of what might be the equivalent to this for me and all I could come up with is getting hired to reboot Suck or something.
Reply · 2

The 15 Greatest Documentaries

A thoughtful video essay from The Cinema Cartography about 15 of film’s greatest documentaries, including The Thin Blue Line, Grizzly Man, The Act of Killing, Shoah, Hoop Dreams, and OJ: Made in America (my personal favorite).

I am not sure I agree with their #1 pick? But it’s been a loooong time since I saw it (in the theater when it came out, if you can believe it), so maybe it’s time for another viewing. (via open culture)

Reply · 4

The Most Populous Cities in the World, From 3000 BCE to Today

I’ve always been a little fascinated by the list of the largest cities throughout history, so this animated version from Ollie Bye is right up my alley. While watching, it’s interesting to think about what makes cities grow large at specific times: a mixture of economics, demography, social movements, empire/colonialism, technology, and the like.

Reply · 1

Time Travel Movies, Ranked

For Ars Technica, science writer Jennifer Ouellette and theoretical physicist Sean Carroll review time travel used in 20 popular movies, ranging from The Terminator to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Interstellar. Each movie is rated on scientific accuracy and how entertaining the use of time travel is. Here’s part of their review of Superman (1978).

Our standards are admittedly lax when it comes to the physical mechanism by which cinematic heroes journey through time, but “flying really fast around the Earth so that it reverses the direction of its rotation and sends it back to a previous moment” is such thoroughgoing lunacy that one must almost pause in admiration. Then we return to our senses and ask, “Why does Superman’s flight have any effect on the rotation of the Earth? And what does that rotation have to do with the direction of time? Do I get younger if I start twirling counterclockwise?” No, dear reader, you do not. Indeed, by the rules handed down by Einstein, Superman’s near-speed-of-light journey would actually send him into the future, not into the past.

To its dubious credit, Superman pioneers two different flaws that will frequently recur in movies to come. First, time travel is portrayed as a miraculous cure-all, which is then never used again. Superman essentially goes back in time to save his girlfriend. This is admirable, but aren’t there other, more historically significant global disasters that could be averted by the same strategy? This is a narrative problem, not a scientific or logical one, but it rankles.

Then, of course, there is the flaw that almost always accompanies stories in which the past gets changed by time-travelers: Where did those time-travelers come from? We, the viewers, see a sequence of events that seems to make sense if we don’t think too hard. Lois Lane dies, Superman gets upset, he travels back in time, stops the events that led to Lois dying, and we live happily ever after. But at the end of this sequence, Superman still has the memory of Lois dying the first time around. Yet because he changed history, that event he remembers never happened. Lois certainly doesn’t remember it. How does he?

See also The Various Approaches to Time Travel in Movies & Books.

Reply · 4

Things Unexpectedly Named After People

Oh man, I really enjoyed this “infuriating” list of things that don’t seem like they are named after people, including:

  • Price Club (Sol Price)
  • MySQL (My Widenius)
  • Shrapnel (Henry Shrapnel)
  • PageRank (Larry Page)
  • German chocolate cake (Samuel German)
  • Baker’s Chocolate (Walter Baker)

It reminds me of trademarked names that have become generic words, including:

  • heroin
  • escalator
  • aspirin
  • trampoline
  • videotape
  • dry ice
  • flip phone
  • laundromat
  • dumpster
  • onesies
Reply · 14

Some Wonderful Things from 2023

view of the green rolling hills of Vermont under a mostly sunny sky

As the bulk of 2023 recedes from memory, I wanted to share some of the things from my media diet posts that stood out for me last year. Enjoy.

Succession. I did not think I would enjoy a show about extremely wealthy people acting poorly, but the writing and acting were so fantastic that I could not resist.

25 years of kottke.org. Very proud of what I’ve accomplished here and also genuinely humbled by how many people have made this little site a part of their lives.

Fleishman Is in Trouble. Uncomfortably true to life at times.

Antidepressants + therapy. I was in a bad way last spring and it is not too strong to say that finding the right antidepressant and arriving at some personal truths in therapy changed my life.

The Bear (season two). I don’t always love it (especially when the intensity ramps up) but there’s definitely something special about this show.

Barr Hill Gin & Tonic. The best canned cocktail I’ve had, by a mile.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Brutal and inspiring.

Crossword puzzles. A few times a week, a friend and I do the NY Times crossword puzzle together over FaceTime. It’s become one of my favorite things.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Am I ever going to shut up about these? Possibly not. The sound quality is better than the first-gen ones and the sound cancelling is just fantastic. I used these on several long flights recently and you basically can’t hear much of anything but your music.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Visually stunning.

The Kottke Hypertext Tee. Might be bad form to put your own merch on a list like this, but I’m just tickled that these exist. Putting an actual physical good out into the world that people connect with is somehow satisfying in a way that digital media is not.

ChatGPT. This very quickly became an indispensable part of my work process.

Downhill mountain biking. I did this a couple years ago and it didn’t click for me. But my son and I went last summer and I loved it…it’s one my favorite things I did all year. Gonna try and get out more in 2024!

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. Probably the best TV thing I watched last year. Listening to survivors of The Troubles talking about their experiences was unbelievably compelling.

Au Kouign-Amann. One of my all-time favorite pastries. Looks like a boring cake, tastes like magic.

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson. An extremely clear-eyed explanation of how Trumpism fits in with the Republicans’ decades-long project of weakening American democracy.

The Creator. I liked this original sci-fi a lot — more stuff that’s not Star Wars and Marvel pls.

Northern Thailand Walk and Talk. I will write this up soon, but this was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

BLTs. I could not get enough of this simple sandwich at the end of last summer — I was eating like 4-5 a week. When the tomatoes are good, there’s nothing like a BLT.

The little hearts my daughter put on the backs of the envelopes containing her letters from camp. Self explanatory, no notes.

The smoked beef sandwich at Snowdon Deli. The best smoked sandwich I’ve had in Montreal.

The Last of Us. A bit too video game-y in parts but overall great. A couple of the episodes were incredible.

Photo of a Vermont vista taken by me this summer while mountain biking.

Reply · 16

The Best Movie Posters of 2023

movie poster for Barbenheimer

movie poster for John Wick 4

movie poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

movie poster for Asteroid City

movie poster for They Cloned Tyrone

movie poster for Poor Things

movie poster for John Wick 4

I am not in the habit of buying movie posters, but I bought one this year — for a movie that doesn’t even exist. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to snag one of Sean Longmore’s Barbenheimer posters. It’s still in the shipping canister, but I’m gonna get it framed and find a spot for it on my wall soon.

As for the rest of my favorite movie posters of 2023, I’ve included a few above that caught my eye. For more excellent picks, check out Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s Movie posters of the year 2023, Mubi’s The Best Movie Posters of 2023, First Showing’s 10 Favorite Movie Posters from 2023, The Playlist’s The 20 Best Film Posters Of 2023, and IndieWire’s The Best Film and TV Posters of 2023.

Reply · 0

The Best Book Cover Designs of 2023

Book cover for Fire Rush

Book cover for The Nursery

Book cover for Yellowface

Book cover for Big Swiss

Book cover for Kairos

Book cover for The Employees

Book cover for Good Men

I love a good book cover design. As I wrote last year:

The book cover is one of my all-time favorite design objects and a big part of the reason I love going to bookstores is to visually feast on new covers. I don’t keep an explicit list of my favorites from those trips, but there are definitely those that stick in my mind, covers that I’ll instantly recognize from across the room on subsequent trips.

I used those bookshop trips and several year-end lists to compile my list of favorites, pictured above and listed here, along with their designers:

Fire Rush (French edition) by Jacqueline Crooks, designed by Jodi Hunt.
The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar, designed by Linda Huang.
Yellowface by R. F Kuang (couldn’t find the designer’s name).
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin, designed by Jaya Miceli.
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, designed by John Gall.
The Employees by Olga Ravn, designed by Paul Sahre.
Good Men by Arnon Grunberg, designed by Anna Jordan.

Do you have a particular favorite cover? Let me know in the comments!

The lists I consulted are Literary Hub’s The 139 Best Book Covers of 2023 (don’t be dissuaded by that big number…this is the best list bc they consult actual cover designers), The Casual Optimist’s Notable Book Covers of 2023 (always a great list from an indie site), the NY Times’ The Best Book Covers of 2023, The Book Designer’s 2023 Coolest Book Covers (that bucked the year’s trends), Print’s 50 of the Best Book Covers of 2023, Book covers designs of the year 2023 from Creative Review, and Spine’s 2023 Book Covers We Loved.

It’s fun to see how cover design changes throughout the years — here are my lists from 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Note: When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

Reply · 0

52 Interesting Things I Learned in 2023

Inspired by Tom Whitwell’s annual list, I kept track of some things I learned this year, one for each week. Here we go:

  1. Ciabatta was invented in 1982.
  2. “If our planet was 50% larger in diameter, we would not be able to venture into space, at least using rockets for transport.”
  3. Purple Heart medals that were made for the planned (and then cancelled) invasion of Japan in 1945 are still being given out to wounded US military personnel.
  4. More than 100,000 public school students in NYC were homeless during the 2021-22 school year.
  5. The San Francisco subway system still runs on 5 1/4-inch floppies.
  6. NYPL librarians have discovered that “up to 75 percent of books published before 1964 may now be in the public domain”.
  7. Gangkhar Puensum, a mountain in Bhutan with an elevation of 24,836 feet (7,570 m), is the tallest unclimbed mountain in the world. (Mountaineering has been banned in Bhutan since 2003.)
  8. The founder of Lululemon picked that name for the company because he thought it would be funny to hear Japanese speakers try to say it. What an asshole.
  9. Eigengrau is the name of the dark grey color people see in the absence of light.
  10. Bees can make green honey.
  11. Baby scorpions are called scorplings.
  12. Alaskan finishers of the Iditarod can get a custom license plate.
  13. Any Rubik’s Cube can be solved in 20 moves.
  14. Hurricanes don’t cross the equator.
  15. Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela sees almost 300 thunderstorms a year.
  16. Premier League referees are forbidden to work games played by their favorite teams (or their close rivals).
  17. The climate crisis has cost $16 million per hour in extreme weather damage over the past 20 years.
  18. The word for computer in Iceland translates to “prophetess of numbers”.
  19. All but two of the moons of Uranus are named after Shakespeare characters — the remaining two are from a poem by Alexander Pope.
  20. Bottled water has an expiration date — it’s the bottle not the water that expires.
  21. There are satellites that were launched in the early to mid 60s that are still operational.
  22. Multicellular life developed on Earth more than 25 separate times.
  23. US citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities can get a free lifetime pass to US National Parks (and other federal lands).
  24. If you try to pack information on a hard drive more densely than 10^69 bits/m^2, the hard drive will collapse into a black hole.
  25. Queen Victoria had a dog named “Looty” that was stolen from China by a British soldier while looting a palace in Peking in 1860.
  26. Colorado is not a rectangle — it actually has 697 sides.
  27. Horseshoe crabs are older than Saturn’s rings.
  28. Inmate is the ninth most common household type in America.
  29. Humans have pumped so much groundwater out of the ground that it’s changed the tilt of the Earth’s axis 31.5 inches to the east.
  30. “By 1920, the network of interurbans in the US was so dense that a determined commuter could hop interlinked streetcars from Waterville, Maine, to Sheboygan, Wisconsin — a journey of 1,000 miles — exclusively by electric trolley.”
  31. The Great British Kettle Surge is the simultaneous putting-on of the kettle in British households during commercial breaks of particularly popular TV programs, resulting in electricity surges.
  32. The Parker Solar Probe is the fastest object ever built by humans — at its closest approach to the Sun, it will reach speeds of 430,000 mph (690,000 km/h), or 0.064% the speed of light.
  33. The top speed of zeppelins was about 80 mph (129 km/h).
  34. Ernest Hemingway only used 59 exclamation points across his entire collection of works.
  35. TIL there’s a whole genus of South American spiders whose species are named after people and things in the 1987 movie Predator, e.g. “Predatoroonops schwarzeneggeri”.
  36. Robert Butler, who died this year aged 95, directed the initial episodes for Batman, Star Trek, Moonlighting, Hill Street Blues, Hogan’s Heroes, and Remington Steele.
  37. I cannot believe this is the first I’ve heard of this: in the original Super Mario Bros., you can continue where you left off in the last game by holding A down when you press Start. This would have saved me so much time as a kid.
  38. Thomas Smallwood, an African American shoemaker, coined the term “Underground Railroad” in 1842.
  39. Swedish criminal gangs are using fake Spotify streams to launder money.
  40. Human ancestors almost went extinct 900,000 years ago. “A new technique analysing modern genetic data suggests that pre-humans survived in a group of only 1,280 individuals.”
  41. “People who enroll in genetic studies are genetically predisposed to do so.”
  42. MLB broadcaster Vin Scully’s career lasted 67 seasons, during which he called a game managed by Connie Mack (born in 1862) and one Julio Urías (born in 1996) played in.
  43. When the Regimbartia attenuata beetle gets eaten by a frog, rather than accepting its fate to be digested, it crawls through the frog’s bowels and emerges through its butt. “The quickest run from mouth to anus was just six minutes.”
  44. The rarest single-game event in baseball is not the perfect game but hitting two grand slams in one inning, which has only been done once in more than 235,000 games.
  45. Crab-like bodies have evolved at least five separate times in the past 250 million years.
  46. Almost 800,000 Maryland licence plates include a URL that now points to an online casino in the Philippines because someone let the domain registration lapse.
  47. From 1999 to 2020, there were 1.63 million excess deaths among Black Americans (when compared to the death rates of white Americans).
  48. Almost 75% of all films from the golden age of silent films (1912-1929) have been lost.
  49. For years beginning in 2018, every copy of macOS has included a PDF copy of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper.
  50. This San Francisco barbershop has a “silent mode” for patrons who don’t want to chat with barbers.
  51. According to America’s Test Kitchen, you can use your SodaStream to double the life of your salad greens.
  52. Deadline’s chief film critic had never played or even heard of Tetris before seeing the film about the game’s genesis.
    1. Here are my lists from 2022 and 2021.

      Reply · 11

Always Interesting: “52 Things I Learned in 2023”

At the end of each year, I look forward to Tom Whitwell’s annual list of what he learned over the past 12 months. Here are some of my favorites from 2023’s installment:

6. The US Defense Department earns $100m/year operating slot machines used by soldiers on their bases. [Gabby Means]

8. A specialness spiral is when you wait for the perfect time to use something, then end up never using it at all. “An item that started out very ordinary, through repeated lack of use eventually becomes … seen more as a treasure” [Jonah Berger & Jacqueline Rifkin]

13. Humans are now roughly as tall as we were 12,000 years ago. 4,000 years ago, the average man was 5’4”. [Michael Hermanussen]

22. Hookworm infestation might be a cure for hay fever. [Helen Thompson]

31. Washboard sales went up 57% during the pandemic, inspired by “fears of societal collapse and limited laundry service”, although 40% are sold as percussion instruments. [Kris Maher]

I’ve got my own list that I’ll publish in the next week or two, so look out for that.

Reply · 3

10 Rules for Drawing From Christoph Niemann

two of Christoph Niemann's 10 rules for drawing: 2. Be reckless. 3. Deliberately ruin a drawing.

Illustrator Christoph Niemann shares 10 Things I Remind Myself Before I Draw. I’m a strong advocate of his 10th rule:

Sitting at my desk is always right. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make good work. There are millions of tips and tricks and manifestos out there. But at the end there’s only one single truth for me: sit down and start drawing.

(thx, matt)


The 10 Rules of Being Human

A few decades ago, Chérie Carter-Scott devised a list of 10 Rules for Being Human, which was published in her 1998 book If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules. These rules are often presented on social media as being “handed down from ancient Sanskrit” but their more recent origin shouldn’t keep us from learning what we can from them. Here they are:

  1. You will receive a body. You may love it or hate it, but it will be yours for the duration of your life on Earth.
  2. You will be presented with lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called ‘life.’ Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or hate them, but you have designed them as part of your curriculum.
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of experimentation, a series of trials, errors, and occasional victories. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that work.
  4. A lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons will be repeated to you in various forms until you have learned them. When you have learned them, you can then go on to the next lesson.
  5. Learning does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
  6. “There” is no better than “here”. When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain a “there” that will look better to you than your present “here”.
  7. Others are only mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you.
  9. Your answers lie inside of you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
  10. You will forget all of this at birth. You can remember it if you want by unraveling the double helix of inner knowing.

Update: Chris Glass had a lovely experience with Carter-Scott’s book recently.


The 50 Greatest Music Videos of All Time, Ranked

A.V. Club has taken on the task of ranking the best 50 music videos, from the first video ever played on MTV (Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles, featuring none other than soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer on keys) to Thriller, Sabotage, Addicted to Love, and Sledgehammer. You can watch the whole list via this playlist on YouTube.

I loved the video for Sledgehammer. I was 12 years old the summer it came out. We didn’t have cable TV then, but I’d turn on MTV anywhere I could, hoping for a glimpse of it. My dad used to take my sister and me on roadtrips all over the country and I vividly remember the rare times we got to stay in a motel (they had to have a swimming pool with a diving board), turning on MTV, and catching that Sledgehammer video a few times every hour. It was only years later, after becoming a Wallace and Gromit fan, that I learned that — of course! — Aardman had done the animation for Sledgehammer.

Reply · 29

Movies That Began As Short Films

Deadline’s Robert Lang compiled a bunch of short films (that you can watch for free online) that were later developed into feature-length films like Reservoir Dogs, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Boogie Nights, Bottle Rocket, Napoleon Dynamite, and District 9.

For instance, here’s Quentin Tarantino’s original Reservoir Dogs:

Wes Anderson’s original Bottle Rocket:

The original short version of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On:

Peluca, upon which Napoleon Dynamite was based:

The Dirk Diggler Story, the short film by PT Anderson on which Boogie Nights was based:


Always Worth a Look: the AIGA’s Best Book Covers of the Year

You know me; I love a good book cover. The AIGA’s annual roundup of the best designed books and covers is usually aces and the results of the 2022 competition (announced at the beginning of July 2023) is no exception. Here are a few I picked out that I didn’t feature in The Best Book Covers of 2022 back in December.

book cover for Butts: A Backstory

book cover for Sound Within Sound: Radical Composers of the Twentieth Century

book cover for Sabit Fikir

book cover for No hay nadie en casa

Uh, I guess I’m really into orange today? Anyway, these covers are from:

Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke.
Sound Within Sound: Radical Composers of the Twentieth Century by Kate Molleson.
Sabit Fikir by Paul Valéry.
No hay nadie en casa by Isabel Díaz Alanís.


Barack Obama’s 2023 Summer Reading List

a list of the book Barack Obama is reading this summer, reproduced in full below

It’s always fun to see what the former President is planning on reading over the summer. Here’s his full list:

I’ve read The Wager (so good!) and have been wanting to dig into Matthew Desmond’s book but most of the rest of these are new to me.

Right now, I’m reading Hugh Howey’s Wool (after inhaling the first season of Silo) and American Prometheus (after seeing Oppenheimer last night) — I’m sensing a pattern here…


Revisiting the Long Boom

In 1997, Wired magazine published an article called The Long Boom: A History of the Future, 1980–2020 (archived). The subtitle reads: “We’re facing 25 years of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment for the whole world. You got a problem with that?” As you might expect, the piece makes interesting reading here in the actual future, particularly the sidebar of “10 Scenario Spoilers”:

The long boom is a scenario, one possible future. It’s built upon the convergence of many big forces and even more little pieces falling into place — all of them with a positive twist. The future of course, could turn out to be very different — particularly if a few of those big pieces go haywire. Here are 10 things that could cut short the long boom.

1. Tensions between China and the US escalate into a new Cold War — bordering on a hot one.

2. New technologies turn out to be a bust. They simply don’t bring the expected productivity increases or the big economic boosts.

3. Russia devolves into a kleptocracy run by a mafia or retreats into quasicommunist nationalism that threatens Europe.

4. Europe’s integration process grinds to a halt. Eastern and western Europe can’t finesse a reunification, and even the European Union process breaks down.

5. Major ecological crisis causes a global climate change that, among other things, disrupts the food supply — causing big price increases everywhere and sporadic famines.

6. Major rise in crime and terrorism forces the world to pull back in fear. People who constantly feel they could be blown up or ripped off are not in the mood to reach out and open up.

7. The cumulative escalation in pollution causes a dramatic increase in cancer, which overwhelms the ill-prepared health system.

8. Energy prices go through the roof. Convulsions in the Middle East disrupt the oil supply, and the alternative energy sources fail to materialize.

9. An uncontrollable plague — a modern-day influenza epidemic or its equivalent — takes off like wildfire, killing upward of 200 million people.

10. A social and cultural backlash stops progress dead in its tracks. Human beings need to choose to move forward. They just may not …

Numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10: check, check, check, check, check, check, check. And a couple of the others rhyme. Take #2: technology did increase production and the economy, but in the United States, this mostly just increased the wealth of a few and did not “trickle down” to the rest.


Seven Rules For Internet CEOs To Avoid Enshittification

In a piece from January, Cory Doctorow outlined the enshittification lifecycle of online platforms:

Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they’re locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they’re locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.

Taking note of various platforms lighting themselves on fire recently, Mike Masnick offers a list of rules for the leadership of these platforms to follow to avoid turning into dumpster fires. Here’s rule #3:

Create more value than you capture. This one is not mine, but Tim O’Reilly’s, and it’s one that constantly sticks with me. As you’re developing a business model, the best way to make sure that you’re serving your users best, and not enshittifying everything, is to constantly make sure that you’re only capturing some of the value you’re creating, and are instead putting much more out into the world, especially for your community. Your investors will push you to capture more and more of that value, but again, when you start chasing that, you’re also spiraling down the enshittification curve.

IMO, some of what is going on with Twitter & Reddit is not enshittification per se, but more of a pushback against the power of their users. (I always think of Tron in instances like these. “I fight for the users!”) I think these CEOs know on some level that they’re making their product worse, but bringing their user bases to heel is worth the short-term headaches.


The 150 Most Legendary Restaurants in the World & Their Most Iconic Dishes

a list of the top 50 most legendary restaurants in the world

From TasteAtlas, a listing of the 150 Most Legendary Restaurants in the World & Their Iconic Dishes. These aren’t necessarily the best restaurants on Earth, but places that have “withstood the test of time, eschewing trendy gimmicks in favor of traditional, high-quality cuisine”.

Here are a few of the entries from the list that I’ve either been to or would like to go to someday (ok, almost the whole list would have qualified for that):

2. Katz’s Delicatessen (pastrami on rye)
10. Gino e Toto Sorbillo (pizza margherita)
22. Schwartz’s Deli (Montreal-style smoked meat)
25. Peter Luger Steak House (dry-aged porterhouse)
34. El Rinconcillo (tapas)
42. O Thanasis (souvlaki)
47. Au Pied de Cochon (soupe à l’oignon)
95. Le Relais de l’Entrecote (steak frites)

Schwartz’s is iconic, but I think Snowdon Deli has better smoked meat. In the same vein, I’ve had good steak and not-so-good steak at Luger’s — as far as an iconic NYC steakhouse goes, I would have gone for Keen’s.

I’m sure any food fan worth their (don’t say it, don’t say it) salt (ugh) could come up with a few dozen restaurants that could/should be on this list, but 150 is certainly a good start! Soba, bratwurst, ćevapi, udon, churrasco, kofte, phở, ramen, ceviche, sushi, risotto, bouillabaisse, dim sum, BBQ, Peking duck, biryani, xiao long bao…man, I’m so hungry now!


The 40 Greatest Tech Books of All Time

books covers for Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs and The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

The Verge has published a list of the 40 best nonfiction books about “tech” (which relates to the industry centered around Silicon Valley & the internet and not technology in general). I was pleased to see Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire Evans and Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs on there, as well as Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents by Ellen Ullman and Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. I’m baffled that Tracy Kidder’s amazing The Soul of a New Machine didn’t make the top 5 or even 10.

But reading through the rest of the list, it occurred to me that I don’t really read tech books — and if I did, I didn’t get a whole lot from them. When I was younger and trying to understand the industry and momentous period I was participating in, I generally looked to books outside of tech as guides. I read things like How Buildings Learn by Steward Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, Chaos by James Gleick, The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander, and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

Anyway, back to the list — it seems incomplete in a way that I can’t quite articulate. I would have liked to have seen Tom Standage’s The Victorian Internet on there. What else? I would like to hear about your favorite books about tech (or non-tech books that are sneakily about tech anyway) or what you think might be missing from the list. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Update: Some great additional suggestions from the comments:

As many commenters noted, it’s hard to see how Hackers was left off this list. And My Tiny Life…it anticipated so much about how social media was going to function.


Shows That Are Other Shows

Title card for Game of Thrones but it's called 'Dragon Succession'

If you watch TV for more than a couple of minutes, you start to notice that certain successful plots/ensembles for shows are repeated over and over. Rohita Kadambi recently categorized dozens of shows into a few archetypes; for example:

Golden Girls = Elderly Sex and the City
Insecure = Black Millennial Sex and the City
Will & Grace = Gay Friends
What We Do in the Shadows = Vampire Friends
Yellowstone = MAGA Succession
Game of Thrones = Dragon Succession
Arrested Development = Goofball Succession
Mad Men = Sexy 60s West Wing
The Bear = Sandwich West Wing
Ted Lasso = Soccer Office
Cheers = Bar Office
Schitt’s Creek = Riches to Rags Full House
The Addams Family = Goth Full House

Some of these would make pretty good Midjourney prompts but I will leave that as an exercise to the reader.1

  1. Mostly because I’ve never had the patience to figure out the Rube Goldbergian process for using Midjourney. Step 1: sign up for an account on a gamers chat app??! No thank you.


The 100 Greatest Children’s Books of All Time

books coveres for Where the Wild Things Are and Pippi Longstocking

Relying on the choices of 177 book experts from 56 different countries, BBC Culture recently chose the 100 greatest children’s books of all time. The top five are:

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
3. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
5. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

In terms of Sendak, I always preferred In the Night Kitchen to Where the Wild Things Are. Here are a few of my personal favorites from the list:

14. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
20. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
31. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
45. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
92. Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

Is the Lord of the Rings a children’s book? Young adult? And I would have liked to have seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go on the list. And perhaps some Frog and Toad?


The Four Republican “Freedoms”

For the NY Times, Jamelle Bouie takes a look at the legislation that Republicans around the country are pushing and, in the style of FDR’s Four Freedoms speech, outlines what goals they are attempting to achieve.

There is the freedom to control — to restrict the bodily autonomy of women and repress the existence of anyone who does not conform to traditional gender roles.

There is the freedom to exploit — to allow the owners of business and capital to weaken labor and take advantage of workers as they see fit.

There is the freedom to censor — to suppress ideas that challenge and threaten the ideologies of the ruling class.

And there is the freedom to menace — to carry weapons wherever you please, to brandish them in public, to turn the right of self-defense into a right to threaten other people.

That sounds about right, and it reminds me, as Republican “governance” often does these days, of Frank Wilhoit’s definition of conservatism:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.


The Future Pandemic Playbook: What the US Got Right

From The Atlantic, 23 Pandemic Decisions That Actually Went Right, the result of interviews with more than a dozen pandemic experts.

17. Basic research spending matters. The COVID vaccines wouldn’t have been ready for the public nearly as quickly without a number of existing advances in immunology, Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told us. Scientists had known for years that mRNA had immense potential as a delivery platform for vaccines, but before SARS-CoV-2 appeared, they hadn’t had quite the means or urgency to move the shots to market. And research into vaccines against other viruses, such as RSV and MERS, had already offered hints about the sorts of genetic modifications that might be needed to stabilize the coronavirus’s spike protein into a form that would marshal a strong, lasting immune response.


The New Rules?

The cover story of the current issue of New York magazine is a collection of tips, rules, and etiquette for how to behave in contemporary society (ok, urban east coast society). It’s a good list for the most part, if unnecessarily provocative in places — gotta sell those magazines and rile up whoever remains on Twitter. I snipped out several of the rules and gently annotated them with my opinionated thoughts below. Just like bloggers used to do in the olden days. Quaint!

6. Never wake up your significant other on purpose, ever.

And don’t turn on the lights when they’re asleep. Jet-lagged and want to talk? Don’t do it. Think someone is coming in to kill you? Work it out yourself.

Huh? I think it’s the “ever” that bugs me here. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sleep and if I don’t get 7-8 solid hours, I’m more or less worthless the next day. But if you actually need me at 3am, by all means, wake me up. (I feel like the person who wrote this doesn’t have children? Getting woken up in the middle of the night is de rigueur w/ kids around, so your partner rousing you in the middle of the night bc they’re, for instance, having a panic attack or are sick & wondering if they need to go to the ER not only isn’t a big deal but is part of the reason you’ve partnered up in the first place.)

27. The proper response to being told something you already know isn’t “I know.” It’s “You’re right.”

I would like to tattoo this on my son’s arm for reference; I hear “I know” from him like 90 times a day when what he really means is, “That’s right” or “Thanks for the reminder”.

30. When casually asked how you are, say “Good!”

It’s neutral and doesn’t force someone to endure a trauma dump or a spiel on how “the world is up in flames.”

I have some trouble with this one. Even when the grocery store cashier is just being polite, I sometimes answer them like my therapist is asking.

33. If you bring up astrology and it isn’t met enthusiastically, change the topic.

Not everyone believes in your made-up star bullshit.

“Made-up star bullshit”: thank you. Religion too. But this probably goes for anything — if your conversational partner isn’t digging it, move along to something else.

47. Listening is not the time for you to silently rehearse what you want to say next.

We can see your eyes glazing over.

I know what they’re trying to get at here — listening, really listening, is important! — but this isn’t great advice for folks who aren’t neurotypical… Some people simply cannot participate in conversations without being extremely in their own heads about how to respond to what is being said, especially when they don’t know their convo partner well.

50. If your burger is becoming a salad, your restaurant-order modifications have gone too far.

You’re allowed to ask for things based on allergies and preferences. But when your dish transforms into another dish, you’re a problem.

Yes, exactly. This is the dunderheaded “the customer is always right” run amok.

59. The correct number of slices of pizza to order for a group of X people is 2X + X/3.

Any fewer is for misers; any more risks catatonia. N.B.: This rule holds for “classic” New York-style pizza.

I’d never heard this rule of thumb before. Let’s see if it checks out. For 3 people, you’d get 7 slices. For 8 people, you’d get 19 slices. Everyone gets two slices, plus one out of three people gets an extra slice. I feel like this might fail sometimes with smaller groups but with larger ones, things will tend to average out more (some ppl will eat more, some less).

78. Don’t talk about a movie when leaving the theater.

You never know who might overhear you raving about the big twist or panning an actor’s overhyped performance. At a certain point, people have to accept that they’re going to hear spoilers for the film, but not three minutes before seeing it.

Yes! I am always very quiet when leaving the theater, aside from non-specific utterances like, “that was great!” It’s easy to wait like 30 seconds for when you make it to your car or out on the street.

83. Go on, take the last bite.

Nobody wants to be the person who swipes that lone, lingering croquette or slurps down the final oyster from a communal seafood tower. Are you selfish? A glutton? All of the above? No. You are sparing everyone — your guests, yourself, your server — from the limbo of leaving one last bite on a shared plate. Letting something sit on the table uneaten while the bussers wonder whether they should clear the dish: That’s not polite. It’s annoying. Eat the food! That’s why it’s there.

Oh man. As a midwesterner who went to sooooo many potlucks and church picnics as a kid, this has been a tough habit to shake — taking the last morsel of something might as well be a felony in some parts of rural Wisconsin. But I’ve learned that if you’re paying attention (which is the key to many points of etiquette), you can tell when it’s alright to take the final bite of something, when to leave it for someone else, and when to urge someone you noticed enjoying a particular dish to grab the last bit of it.

94. It’s okay to email, text, or DM anyone at any hour.

There’s nothing worse than being woken up at 2:30 a.m. with a dumb text or a Slack notification. So why did you do that to yourself? Phones and computers have great tools now to manage your time away, including setting working hours and muting types of notifications. We’re responsible for which flashing lights and noises we let into our lives. Because of that, anyone should feel free to text a friend or message a co-worker at any hour. We can’t successfully move into the future unless we recognize that the onus is on the receiver, not the sender.

No. I get that other people’s notification strategies should not be your problem, but sending work-related emails and messages at all hours may generate a corresponding pressure in recipients to be awake to respond to them and normalizes the sense that you should be on the clock 24/7/365, which is no way at all to live and should be discouraged at every turn.

108. Don’t try to help a stranger parallel park.

People should be allowed the grace to park alone without being perceived. If you are walking down the street and see that a stranger is parallel parking, avert your eyes. “What if they need my help?” you ask. You are allowed to help only if you are directly and explicitly asked to by the driver. Otherwise, keep walking — it’s what’s best for everyone.

Yes! This is related to a current pet peeve of mine here in VT: people who wave at you or flash their lights for you to turn across traffic in front of them, even though you don’t have the right of way. I get why people do this: traffic is “heavy”, they have a clearer view of oncoming traffic than you do, and/or they are trying to be nice. But in reality, it creates a dangerous situation for you: you feel rushed into accepting their offer of help and move into the intersection before you’ve checked if it’s safe. Or someone behind them gets antsy and passes them on the right and suddenly they’re in the intersection when you’re pulling out. It’s just safer and better if everyone just takes their turn when they have the right of way.

111. It’s perfectly fine to walk through someone’s scene.

Whether it’s Marty Scorsese or someone filming an outfit-of-the-day TikTok, they don’t own the sidewalk.

Absolutely. Especially with people on busy streets taking photos with digital cameras, just walk in front of them…they can always take another one.

139. Post like the wind.

On Instagram, where best practices are unspoken but nearly universal, the conventional wisdom is that you should post on your main feed no more than once a day. Infrequent posting is perfectly in line with Instagram’s social mechanisms — it maximizes likes on each post, prioritizes the consumer, and lends itself to a tasteful, optimized feed where only the best-of-the-best pics make the cut. But if you’re going to participate in social media, the only way to have any fun with it is by consciously defying the incentives it dangles in front of you. Post excessively, indulgently, tastelessly. Maybe even take some shots with the in-app camera and post them as-is (it only seems unimaginable because you’re not thinking big enough). The curated photo-dump carousel, polite and unintrusive, is dead; posting 15 individual photos to your main grid in one day is what freedom feels like.

Ha, I like this advice! But I do not do it. Curators gonna curate, so my social media is pretty metered and controlled and all that jazz. Gonna think about letting loose a bit more often.

140. Don’t post RIPs for celebrities.

“Only the most moronic amongst us post photos of famous people seconds after they die,” Keith McNally recently wrote on Instagram. “It’s not a form of respect for the dead, but an attempt to sycophantically associate themselves with the famous. It’s their 15 minutes of fame, the necrophiliac bastards.” We tend to agree: Unless David Crosby was your actual uncle, or cousin, or whatever, refrain.

Huh? No. The public displays by strangers of remembrance, condolence, and, yes, even grief in the wake of a beloved celebrity’s death is one of the best things about social media. What this point should have been instead: If the dead were monstrous, go ahead and speak ill of them after they die. When Dick Cheney finally goes, I want to hear all about how he helped fuck America up for decades to come, please and thank you.


The Best Opening Title Sequences of 2022

The Art of the Title, Print magazine, Slashfilm, and Salon have each compiled their picks for the best film and TV opening title sequences for 2022. There’s quite a bit of overlap, with the opening titles for Severance (which I added to the Unskippable Intros Hall of Fame earlier this year), The White Lotus, Peacemaker, and Pachinko making multiple lists. I haven’t seen After Yang yet, but I love that title sequence. Always a fan of lots of creativity and expression packed into small times and spaces.


The 25 Best Films of 2022

It’s here, it’s here! David Erhlich’s annual 25 best films of the year video for 2022 is here. Every year around this time, I get a little down about the movies. There’s nothing to seeeeee… And then I watch Erhlich’s 17-minute love letter to cinema and I want to see ever-ry-thing. The only complaint I have is that Everything Everywhere All at Once is not rated highly enough (a respectable #3 but not #1).

Erhlich has been doing these recaps since 2012 — you can find them all here or almost all of them at kottke.org with my commentary.


The Best Movie Posters of 2022

movie poster for Everything Everywhere All at Once

movie poster for Fire of Love

movie poster for White Noise

movie poster for The Act of Coming Out

movie poster for Pinocchio

movie poster for Tár

movie poster for Everything Everywhere All at Once

movie poster for Corsage

movie poster for White Noise

It feels weird to admit this, even to myself, but maybe I love movie poster design even more than I love book cover design. After running across Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s list of his favorite movie posters of 2022 (via his newsletter), I found some more best-of lists — Mubi, Indiewire, Collider, The Playlist, First Showing, The Film Stage — and selected a few of my favorites to include here. I couldn’t decide between the different versions of the posters for White Noise and Everything Everywhere All at Once, so I included both of each. *shrug*


Some Wonderful Things From 2022

looking out over the Atlantic Ocean

As 2022 recedes into the rearview mirror, I took some time to go back over my media diet posts to pick out some books, movies, TV shows, and experiences from the past year that were especially wonderful. Enjoy.

Everything Everywhere All at Once. I’ve seen this a few times now and I still don’t know how the filmmakers pulled this off. A chaotic martial arts action comedy romance multiverse movie with heart? It is a miracle of a film. Definitely my favorite movie of the year and probably in the past 2-3 years.

Glass Onion. I don’t know, maybe this shouldn’t be here because I just watched it the other day, but whatever. This movie is fun. Janelle Monáe and Blanc’s bathing costume were the highlights for me.

Fortnite. The one thing I worked on more than almost anything else during my sabbatical was my Fortnite skills. My kids play and I wanted to join them, so that we could have an activity to do as a family, one that was on their turf and not mine. I’m still not great at it, but I’m more than competent now and it’s been a great addition to our routine.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Seeing this painting in person is a whole other deal. I think I stood in front of it for a good 10 minutes and then circled back later for another look.

Station Eleven. You can see the ending of this coming a mile away and it still caught me by surprise when it happened. I didn’t think I wanted to watch a TV show about a flu pandemic causing the end of civilization, but it was actually perfect.

Severance. It’s comforting to know that TV shows on these massive streaming services can still be weird. I didn’t love this as much as many other people did, Severance did keep popping up in my thoughts in the months after I watched it.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. If you’ve ever worked on a creative project with someone and that collaborative frisson felt like the highlight of your life, this book might be right up your alley.

Tár. Cate Blanchett is just ridiculously good in this.

My Brilliant Friend. The most underrated show on television? This was so much better than a lot of other shows I kept seeing praised but not a lot of people seem to be talking about it.

Kimi. Soderbergh does Rear Window + The Conversation. The direction is always tight and Zoë Kravitz is great in this.

Middlemarch by George Eliot. By far the best thing I read during my sabbatical and an instant addition to my all-time favorites list. For whatever reason, I thought this was going to be stuffy liht-tra-chure but it turns out it’s hilarious? Almost every page had me laughing out loud. The writing is exquisite and Eliot’s observations about human behavior are still, 150 years on, remarkably astute. And there’s a scene near the end of the book that is almost cinematic — she painted such a vivid picture that it took my breath away (like, literally I was holding my breath).

Her Place. This Philly spot is getting a ton of attention and end-of-the-year kudos; it’s well-deserved. The food is great but it’s the casual family-style dinner-party vibe that really makes this place special. People will try to copy this concept — it’ll be interesting to see if they can do it as well.

The Lost Daughter. Based on an Elena Ferrante book and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the acting and cinematography are the central strengths of this film. Olivia Colman & Jessie Buckley shine as an ambivalent mother at two different points in her life and the tight shots keep them smoldering the entire time.

Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman. Correctly lauded as a masterpiece.

Top Gun: Maverick. I was shocked at how much I liked this movie — a Top Gun sequel didn’t have any right to be this entertaining. Straight-up no-frills thrill ride that’s best on a big screen. Loved Val Kilmer’s scenes.

Matrix by Lauren Groff. I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what I liked so much about this book, but it has something to do with its surprising entrepreneurial bent, its feminist startup vibe. Groff’s Marie de France is one of my favorite characters of the year.

Bar Kismet. The type of place where you instantly feel like a regular. And with the ever-changing food and cocktail menus, you’ll want to become one.

Schitt’s Creek. I was worried that I wouldn’t jibe with the show’s humor — nothing worse than a comedy that isn’t funny — but it delivered so many laugh-out-loud moments that I lost count. The show really hits its stride after the first season or two when it makes you start caring about what happens to these annoying weirdos. I would have watched 10 seasons of this.

The Bear. Again, I didn’t love this as much as some others did, but my thoughts kept returning to it often.

Saap. When someone says a restaurant in Vermont is “good”, you always have to ask: “Is it actually good or just Vermont good?” Saap is great, period.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. I don’t know how to think about the kind of stories that Chiang writes — they are simple and complex and deep and fantastical and familiar all at the same time. It’s the perfect kind of sci-fi for me.

The US and the Holocaust. Essential six-hour documentary series about how the United States responded (and failed to respond) to Nazi Germany’s persecution and murder of European Jews in the years before, during and after WWII. Another banger from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. I can’t say that this book made me want to become obsessed with surfing, but maybe it made me want to become obsessed with something again. Beautifully written and personally resonant.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. All nonfiction books should aspire to be this compelling.

Mercado Little Spain. José Andrés’ Spanish version of Eataly. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but omg the food. The pan con tomate is the simplest imaginable dish — bread, tomato, olive oil, garlic, salt — but I could easily eat it every day.

Photo of the Atlantic Ocean taken by me on my trip to Portugal this summer.