and I quote

november 2014

click for permalink November 15, 2014

Best Podcasts of 2014

1. Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men (Because It's About Time Someone Did)
In which Rachel and Miles dissect every insane detail of the X-Men and its many spin-offs, starting with the original Silver Age series launched in 1964. I collected comics, mostly X-Men related, from the early 80s through the mid-90s (age 10 through my first year of art school when I could barely afford food, let alone comics). At some point in the 80s, the news media began reporting that a comic book Renaissance was underway, but I saw almost no evidence of it outside the walls of our apartment. My experience of collecting comics was almost entirely solitary. None of my friends did it—not even the ones who wore homemade Starfleet uniforms to the same conventions I occasionally attended to buy back issues.

For this reason, "Rachel and Miles" is a singularly bizarre experience for me. It's like hearing a long-forgotten echo of my own adolescent subconscious as they speak reverentially of the generational changing-of-the-guard moment when creator Stan Lee handed over the reins to a then 25-year old Chris Claremont (to whose list of X-credits I would like to add, for the record, "honorary stepfather") and as they wax historical on the twisted storylines, tangled bloodlines and mind-bending time lines of everybody's favorite super hero soap opera.

The last time I experienced such a tangible sense of being part of a very specific demographic populated by ostensibly like-minded people was in 1993, the first time I saw an issue of the brand new, surprisingly high-concept glossy porno magazine called New Rave. It was the first in its genre—a category previously dominated by Baby Boomer publishing giants like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt—to target Generation X. New Rave had the graphic design sensibility of an after-hours party, headlines that slyly referenced bands our parents had never heard of and models decked out in Doc Martens, tattoos and Manic Panic-dyed hair. It was, to coin a phrase, definitely not our dad's porno mag (I know, barf...) and as weird as this may sound, it was at that moment that I realized my generation had arrived.

New Rave's run was short-lived, however. It apparently folded (no pun intended) in 1998, perhaps due as much to my generation's "middle child" status in the marketplace (Millennials are, after all, a bigger and more agreeable demographic) as to the suddenly burgeoning supply of free porn online. In the 20+ years (a full generation) since New Rave's first issue, even Playboy has gone to extreme lengths to rebrand itself for the modern era. As you can see from the screenshot below (captured in October 2014), now resembles something like a Mad Men-ified GQ. Are naked girls to Playboy what music videos once were to MTV? Their new tagline could be: come for the nude girls-next-door; stay for the high-end headphone reviews and anachronistic fashion photo essays.

2. Serial
The serialized spin-off by the creators of This American Life which shot to #1 on iTunes based on nothing more than a 3-minute preview, and now we're all addicted. Is he innocent? Or is he that blackest of black swans, the charming sociopath? Tune in next Thursday! (You say "bandwagon." I say, "How high?")

3. The Astrology Podcast by Chris Brennan

4. The Smartest Man in the World with Greg Proops

5. Psychedelic Salon with Lorenzo

6. Slate Daily Podcasts
Double X, Culture, Political, The Gist... everything but the sports one.

7. All Stories Are Fiction with Mike Daisey
Yes, that Mike Daisey (clever title, no?) performing monologues recorded in various New York venues, all but my favorite episode this year, which was performed in Toronto. Appropriately enough, since the topic was "Dreaming of Rob Ford" (by which, of course, I mean the topic was crack).

8. The Walking Dead 'Cast/The Watching Dead

9. Risk!

10. Anne Ortelee's Weekly Weather
My second-favorite astrology podcast at the moment—the first, of course, being...

11. Axis Astrology Podcast with Alison Price and yours truly.
Now available on iTunes!


Best TV Shows of 2014

  1. Hannibal Seasons 1&2 (In which America's twin, but hitherto separated at birth, obsessions—food and serial killers—are joyously reunited. I'm about as far from a "foodie" as a person can get and still eat every day; nonetheless, my affection for this show is borderline unhealthy.)

    (Found on an amazing Tumblr called Everything is Antlers. True.)

  2. Walking Dead Seasons 4&5
  3. Bates Motel Season 2
  4. House of Cards Season 2
  5. Orange is the New Black Season 2
  6. Veronica Mars (RIP) Seasons 1-3 — Why on earth did no one tell me about this show before? I still have dreams about her outfits from Season 1.
  7. Orphan Black Seasons 1&2
  8. Scott & Bailey Seasons 1-4
  9. Mad Men Season 7: Part 1
  10. Boss (RIP) Seasons 1&2
  11. LOST (rewatch) Seasons 1-6
  12. True Detective Season 1
  13. Sherlock Season 3
  14. The Killing (RIP) Season 4_final_FINAL


Best random observations found in the little notebook I carry with me to write down random thoughts for further pondering later (or not, as the case may be) *New category!*

  1. Conversation with "Mike" at work:
    Mike: "Can I get you a glass of water?"
    Me: "No thanks, I don't drink water."
    Mike: "So you're, like, the exact opposite of every living thing on earth?
  2. Signs the economy is doing well: within a single block in Yaletown, you pass three day spas and something called "Bombay Brow Bar" and they're all open on a Sunday.
  3. Quote from Mr. Pink: "Just think, had we not been making fun of the derivative sub-genres of 'Black Metal,' we never would've stumbled upon 'Cello Metal'!"
  4. Manufacturing Content
  5. It is spring and downtown Vancouver is absolutely lousy with Pomeranians.
  6. Compliment from a lovely, vagrant-looking man on East Hastings: "You are knockdown, drag-out, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt gorgeous!"
  7. If they want people to think online piracy is uncool, they should really call it something other than "piracy." Because, obviously, pirates are cool. They always have been. Captain Jack Sparrow? Cool. Captain Morgan? Cool. Captain Blood? Very cool—and hot! Even Captain Hook was cool, although slightly less so as played by Dustin Hoffman. They need to decouple the idea of file sharing with the indelibly cool idea of pirates. Maybe call it "file dumpster diving" (or "file binning" in the UK). In the absence of actual consequences, the only way to get people to pay for something voluntarily that they can easily obtain for free is shame. They need to find a way to speak to the inner 6th grader. Tap into that "your mama shops at K-Mart" vibe.
  8. Clay Shirky/ Lawrence Lessig/ Seth Godin—separated at birth?
  9. Classic quote from our Gemini friend Char: "So I was watching this documentary on butterflies, or so I thought..."
  10. YouTube's automatic captioning feature is like a speech-to-text algorithm that translates English into Cockney rhyming slang.

Best cat gif of 2014.



click for permalink November 5, 2014

I don't care if it's only November. I'm starting the list of lists early this year—and how better to kick things off than with...

2014 List of Lists

  1. From Wikipedia, the List of lists of lists. Aw, yeah...
  2. Every Insanely Mystifying Paradox in Physics: A Complete List by Cliff Pickover
  3. The Top 10 Essays Since 1950 by Robert Atwan
  4. 13 things that do not make sense by Michael Brooks
  5. Amazon's 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime
    (Maybe because I've actually read 25 of them)
  6. Top 10 Magazine Covers of All Time
    (Not just one magazine, but all magazines ever. A bold assertion from Next Issue... but I can't argue with at least 8 out of their 10.)
  7. Old bands from the 70's if you can't remember thier (sic) names
    (What I searched for was "70s bands." What I was looking for was this. It came back 3rd in the results... Nice work, hive mind.)
  8. 150 Great Articles and Essays
  9. 10 Illustrations Of The Most HILARIOUS Google Searches
  10. List-within-a-list: Weirdest Google Searches in My 2014 Browser History
    (The ones I'm willing to share with anyone but the NSA, that is.)
    1. painting braineater aliens - Google Search
    2. list of plane crash casualties by year - Google Search
    3. what is oven mitt filling made of - Google Search
    4. Central Bank of Azerbaijan - Google Search
    5. opposite of monotone - Google Search
    6. pimped-out Airstreams - Google Search
    7. who is "chicken a la king" named after - Google Search
    8. who benefits from fear of economic collapse - Google Search
    9. bite the wax tadpole - Google Search
    10. vancouver earthquake today - Google Search
    11. movies with monkeys - Google Search


10 Best TED Talks of 2014

  1. Nick Hanauer's (Banned) Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming (Everyone should see this.)
  2. Kimberley Motley's How I defend the rule of law (Wake up your girls and show them their new role model. Motley is doing the work of superheroes—she even dresses like a superhero—and she's the winner of my first annual and highly coveted F-bomb of the Year award.)
  3. Glenn Greenwald's Why privacy matters (Obviously.)
  4. Laurel Braitman's Depressed dogs, cats with OCD — what animal madness means for us humans (If you're still not sure if animals experience "emotions like us," ask yourself this question. Why do we test antidepressants on rats? No... it's not to make sure they aren't poison—everything is poison, it's just a question of dosage—I mean behavioral studies, as in: "subject exhibited behavior consistent with depression; loss of appetite, loss of libido, lethargy, listlessness," etc., just watch this: Animal Consciousness Officially Recognized by Leading Panel of Neuroscientists)
  5. Ze Frank's Are you human?
  6. Christopher Soghoian's Government surveillance — this is just the beginning
  7. Lawrence Lessig's The unstoppable walk to political reform (About a boy—Lessig's friend Aaron Swartz, who was tragically driven to suicide last year as a result of unjust federal prosecution/persecution.)
  8. Simon Sinek's Why good leaders make you feel safe
  9. Jeff Iliff's One more reason to get a good night's sleep (If it's true, it's the scariest health news since...)
  10. Ed Yong's Zombie roaches and other parasite tales (This shit is nasty, but Yong's deadpan delivery takes the sting out of having to know these things exist.)


Best Articles of 2014

1. The Fermi Paradox by Tim Urban

Everyone feels something when they're in a really good starry place on a really good starry night and they look up and see this.

 Some people stick with the traditional, feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the insane scale of the universe. Personally, I go for the old "existential meltdown followed by acting weird for the next half hour." But everyone feels something. Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too—"Where is everybody?"


2. The Overprotected Kid by Hanna Rosin

For someone who doesn't have children, there are so many "holy fucking shit" moments in this article it was hard to pick just one excerpt.

"Even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the 1970s, mothers—and fathers—of all income levels spend much more time with their children than they used to. This seemed impossible to me until recently, when I began to think about my own life. My mother didn't work all that much when I was younger, but she didn't spend vast amounts of time with me, either. She didn't arrange my playdates or drive me to swimming lessons or introduce me to cool music she liked... When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years."

Percentage of third graders who walked to school alone in:

Photo from Google Earth, near Sedona, AZ:
When I was in third grade, school was too far away to walk, but I spent most of my afternoons and weekends biking by myself, climbing, exploring and, strangely enough, even roller skating around the trails near our house.


3. Two Heads by Larissa MacFarquhar

"The Churchlands like to try, as far as possible, not only to believe that they themselves are thoroughly physical creatures but also to feel it—to experience their thoughts as bodily sensations. They have never thought it a diminishment of humanness to think of their consciousness as flesh—quite the opposite... Paul sometimes thinks of Pat and himself as two hemispheres of the same brain—differentiated in certain functions but bound together by tissue and neuronal pathways worn in unique directions by shared incidents and habit. This is not a fantasy of transparency between them: even one's own mind is not transparent to oneself, Paul believes, so to imagine his wife's brain joined to his is merely to exaggerate what is actually the case—two organisms evolving into one in a shared shell."

4. The Most Fascinating Profile You'll Ever Read About a Guy and His Boring Startup by Mat Honan

"Stewart was the kind of kid who went to China (at 16, by himself, in the '80s)... At Cambridge he scored a master's degree in the philosophy of the mind and was preparing to go for a PhD when, oh my God, have you even seen the Internet? The Internet! ...His first real job was working for a dotcom whose entire business model was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how people would come to use the Internet, plus domain squatting. Look, it was the '90s, OK?"

Not that I usually give a rat's ass about tech startup billionaires (or millionaires, as the case may be) but not long before he went and founded Flickr and got himself all Internet-famous, Stewart and I worked together briefly (at a conspicuously similar dotcom to the one described above, but I'm certain that wasn't his "first real job"). He's one of those people you just instantly like. He's also one of the people I have to thank that Ms. Pink exists at all (as opposed to, e.g., Mistress Pink—don't even ask). In fact, the first iteration of this site mentioned him in the credits thusly:

"You can usually tell within a paragraph that Stewart was a Philosophy major... what you can't tell right away is that he was indirectly responsible for Ms. Pink's existence! Fate's funny that way—he was also looking over my shoulder when I wrote my first article since high school. ("Hey, that's really good," he said. Thanks, Dharma!) Soon after, I decided to write 'for a living'."

As soon as I found out that we had hippie parents in common, and that he was born "Dharma Butterfield," I became one of those obnoxious people who made a point of calling him that more often than his actual name. He met Mr. Pink one morning when I got a ride to work, and afterwards Stewart said to me, "I like your boyfriend. He says clever things." Mr. Pink does a great many things besides that, but it's one of my favorite things about him too.

When went live, Stewart posted this note on his (now long-decommissioned) blog:

"It is finally time for Ms. Pink, as in,, as in the long-awaited new site from Arwynne O'Neill who is without any doubt one of the most, let's say, "self-actualized" people I know. Nice to see a persona developed for a now-failed resurrected with indy flair."

[He then quoted a rather uncharacteristically saucy excerpt from the pinklog:]

"I realized something early in the day. Bad massages are worse than bad sex. And, in keeping with the comparison, considerably worse for someone who is uncomfortable speaking up to say "harder" or "you mean that's IT?" What little relaxation was gained from the massage quickly wore off during the mile and a half walk home in the freezing rain."

He concluded: "This is where I will be getting all my lipstick and eyeshadow tips from now on."

Yes, I did have to bend over backwards just a little bit to find that post (thank you, Internet Archive) but it was worth it and I'll tell you why. Okay, you remember how you would spend the last several manic days of the school year carrying around your yearbook trying to collect everyone's signature while seeming like you weren't? (Oh, what—this? Yeah, sure, you can sign it if you want to...) Well, the Internet is kind of like that. Or it was, back in 2001.... Or maybe it still is, how the fuck would I know? I'm old and I hate social media. Anyway, my point is not look who signed my yearbook 13 years ago and what a fucking dork I am. No, it's not that at all.

What's funny is that I almost didn't bother looking it up because I thought I remembered it word for word. The "self-actualized" part, anyway, with its chatty commas and eye-rolling quotation marks. I wondered about that part at the time. Was he calling me shallow and self-absorbed? Or was it simply snark, for all my uttered Dharmas? Was the philosopher simply pointing out the inherent superficiality and sexism in a girly make-up advice column, one hippie kid to another? (You're such a Barbie doll... Oh yeah? You're such a capitalist.) Then again, it could have been none of the above—maybe he was just being, "let's say, polite"—but my narcissistic brain kept returning to it, like a prisoner working away at that weak spot in the wall, and eventually the phrase was engraved across multiple synapses.

Just to be clear, I would've had the same reaction regardless of who said it. I don't have any weird feelings of attachment to whatever Stewart Butterfield's opinion of me was 13 years ago —or of my alter ego, as the case may be. But who can say they've never been bedeviled by an enigmatic inscription in their yearbook, found themselves obsessing against their better judgment over an offhand comment, wondering if there was some hidden meaning or the exact opposite of any meaning?

Anyway, the one thing I didn't remember—the thing I couldn't have picked out of a lineup before reading it again today on Internet Archive, in fact—was "indy flair." Now that, I will take as the straight-up compliment that it seems to be.

[From the website circa 1999. Thanks, Internet Archive!]


5. How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood by Alexis C. Madrigal

"Netflix has meticulously analyzed and tagged every movie and TV show imaginable. They possess a stockpile of data about Hollywood entertainment that is absolutely unprecedented... And now, they have a terrific advantage in their efforts to produce their own content: Netflix has created a database of American cinematic predilections... When they create a show like House of Cards, they aren't guessing at what people want."


6. The beautiful imperfection of Magnolia by Nathan Rabin

"Magnolia begins with its intensity level at 10 and somehow manages to sustain a tone of bruising melodrama for more than three hours. It doesn't seduce viewers like Boogie Nights, it overwhelms them. Its raw, cathartic power lies in its unapologetic excess. With Magnolia, Anderson takes the kind of chances that only those with a reputation for genius can get away with."


7. Earth's Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected by Kelly Dickerson/ LiveScience

"Changes measured by the Swarm satellite show that our magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than originally predicted, especially over the Western Hemisphere."


8. The Human Factor by William Langewiesche

"On the last day of May in 2009, as night enveloped the airport in Rio de Janeiro, the 216 passengers waiting to board a flight to Paris could not have suspected that they would never see daylight again, or that many would sit strapped to their seats for another two years before being found dead in the darkness, 13,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. But that is what happened."

Award-winning journalist and former commercial airline pilot William Langewiesche has written some—if not most—of the best aviation articles of the last two decades (many of them available on If in the last 20 years you have at any time found yourself reading an exquisitely detailed, scientifically researched blow-by-blow account of some high-profile disaster, there's a good chance you're already familiar with his work. You may have read his epic analysis of the final fateful descent of NASA's second doomed Space Shuttle, or his harrowingly bizarre tale of two planes on a collision course over the Amazon jungle. The excerpts under his Vanity Fair byline begin to sound like plot synopses from a Netflix category called "ripped-from-the-headlines disaster movies." His exploded-view slow motion style reenactments lead us by the hand through the final hours of human catastrophe, whether they unfold in the air, on the decks of an ill-fated cruise ship, or inside the tormented minds of air traffic controllers. He's been called upon to document the miracles and post-mortems of our modern-day Hindenbergs and Titanics. Some of you will understand exactly what I mean when I describe him as North America's Simon Winchester. He's our go-to sober historian, dispatched into the chaotic aftermath of unthinkable tragedy to perform the alchemy of turning facts into stories.


9. The Internet with a Human Face by Maciej Cegłowski

"To early adopters, the suburbs were a magical place... The suburbs seemed to combine the best of town and country. And best of all, you had that car! As time went on, we learned about the drawbacks of car culture... Our commercial spaces became windowless islands in a sea of parking lots... All of us are early adopters of another idea— that everyone should always be online. Those of us in this room have benefitted enormously from this idea. We're at this conference because we've built our careers around it. But enough time has passed that we're starting to see the shape of the online world to come. It doesn't look appealing at all. At times it looks downright scary."

10. The Theory of Receptivity and Some Thoughts on Ethan Hawke's Face by Michelle Orange

The first half of this essay is a somewhat self-indulgent (but braver than I am) meditation on aging. The second half is a righteous nomination of 1999 as one of the best years ever in film, with which I couldn't agree more (and which I also noted in my 2009 year in review).

"The fall is where things really get ridiculous: next is the one-two crunch of Boys Don't Cry and Fight Club, both of which had me wandering out into the streets with the anguished, bleary look of someone who's been kidnapped, injected with adrenaline, alienation, and heartbreak, and kicked out of a moving car."

List within a List: The 26 Best Films of the Best Year in Film within My Lifetime (1999)

  1. Magnolia
  2. Fight Club
  3. The Matrix
  4. Run Lola Run
  5. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  6. Bowfinger
  7. Dogma
  8. Galaxy Quest
  9. Three Kings
  10. The Sixth Sense
  11. American Beauty
  12. The Insider
  13. The Hurricane
  14. The Green Mile
  15. October Sky
  16. Last Night
  17. Boys Don't Cry
  18. Detroit Rock City
  19. Drop Dead Gorgeous
  20. Man on the Moon
  21. Buena Vista Social Club
  22. Pushing Tin
  23. 10 Things I Hate About You
  24. The Talented Mr. Ripley
  25. Being John Malkovich
  26. Eyes Wide Shut

Best Articles: Honorable Mention (because as it stands it's also his last)

Who Bullies the Bullies by The Last Psychiatrist

"This cover story details #young #vulnerable #feminist writer Amanda Hess's frustration with disinterested male law enforcement when, after writing an article about receiving rape threats from a troll, she received rape threats from a troll. I sympathize, though in my experience what's even more frightening than a guy telling you he's going to rape you is a guy not telling you he's going to rape you...
Keeping in mind that actual stalking has never been dealt with in any significant way ever, the desire of a few female writers to curb online anonymity wouldn't be enough to get an @ mention, except that this happens to coincide with what the media wants... "Cyberbullying is a huge problem!" Yes, but not because it is hurtful, HA! No one cares about your feelings—but because criticism makes women want to be more private—and the privacy of the women is bad. The women have to be online, they do most of the clicking and receive most of the clicks. Anonymous cyberbullying is a barrier to increasing consumption, it's gotta go."