Louis CK about Inside the Actors Studio

Brilliant.

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Best of 2013

With only a few hours to go, here’s my annual ‘Best of’ post.

Music: I hate to repeat myself, but this is always the hardest category. This year it was a real close toss-up between Muchacho — PHOSPHORESCENT, Woman — RHYE, and Nomad — BOMBINO. I guess if I really have to pick, it would be the Bombino album. I can’t neglect to give an honorable mention to The Jazz Age — THE BRYAN FERRY ORCHESTRA, if I had bought that one on 78rpm vinyl (or would it have been shellac?) it would be wearing thin by now. There were many, many, more great albums this year (Savages, Earl Sweatshirt, Chvrches, …) so if you want a more extensive list, check out the 50 best albums of 2013 according to Pitchfork.

Movie: Fiction > The Place Beyond The Pines – DEREK CIANFRANCE
Non-Fiction >  Searching for Sugar Man – MALIK BENDJELLOUL

Book: Fiction > The Circle – DAVID EGGERS. This was not Egger’s best effort by a long shot, but the fact that I plowed through this in under a week must mean something, right?

Non-Fiction > I’m afraid most non-fiction books I read this year were either web design or baby related, so I’m sure you won’t blame me for not picking a favorite among those.

App: iOS 7. Despite all the hate, I think iOS 7 was a great upgrade and therefore deserves the trophy this year.
The honorable mention goes to Notabli, if you have kids you should check it out and send me an invite. 

Website: Feedly. I know, Feedly is not technically a web site, but it’s by far the URL that gets visited most from my browser (and the iOS app was a strong contender for the category above). I still believe in the value of RSS so a good RSS reader is an important tool for me. I’m probably one of the few RSS users that didn’t mind the death of Google Reader, good riddance!
Last year’s Hell for Leather honorable mention Hell for Leather became RideApart and since this meant that the entire web site and business model changed, I believe another honorable mention is warranted.

TV: Fiction > House of Cards (Netflix)
Non-Fiction > TV keeps getting worse and worse, hence the fact that a Netflix series took the fiction trophy this year. I honestly can’t think of anything that’s worth mentioning here, even Nova is too silly to watch now.

As always, please share your ‘Best of’ in the comments, my horizon is in need of expansion.

NYT: Once Around an Island

Todd Heisler walked around Manhattan and took pictures. I forget who did this a few years ago, I even think I might have blogged about it back then. I also recall someone walking the length of Broadway from Battery Park to the edge of Inwood and documenting that walk with photos. So while this might not be the most original idea ever, I still enjoyed this story. From the classical images of the bridges across the East River to the less obvious shots of Inwood, Washington Heights and the cookouts along the Hudson River Bike Path, a lot of these images look very familiar. The series provides a great window into a Manhattan that’s very far removed from the madness of Times Square or the Soho shopping scene. Reading through this story made me realize why the edges of the island are some of my favorite places in NYC.

Riverside Park

Further Reading: New York Times – Once Around an Island – Todd Heisler 

 

The Internet of Things

In the past few months I have become really excited about the internet of things. There are a lot of different definitions of what that is, but the way I interpret it is as ‘objects that are integrated with the internet‘. I say integrated rather than merely connected. Computers and phones are connected to the internet, but that’s not what this is about. Seamless integration is key.

The Nest Thermostat, which you might have heard of, is an example, and so is Apple’s Find my Friends app. But both of those are borderline regular internet applications. The Good Night Lamp or the TapTap wristband are much better examples.
the-good-night-light

The Good Night Lamp is a table lamp that is connected to smaller satellite lamps. When you turn on or off the big lamp, the smaller lamps — wherever they are in the world — follow suit. This creates an emotional connection between people that are physically separated, and it can be very useful to communicate a simple message. Image an elderly parent that lives alone, each time his or her lamp turns on or off whoever has one of  their small lamps knows that they are OK.

taptap

The TapTap wristband is a set of bracelets that communicate with each other through taps and vibrations. Maybe you just want to let someone know that you are thinking of them, remind them of something or let them know you arrived in the parking lot and are ready to pick them up. Whatever it is, it’s easy, simple and between you and the person wearing the other bracelet.

The idea behind both of these devices is that the internet needs to get out of the way of our communication. Neither relay a message that you couldn’t communicate with your phone or computer, but the way it’s done removes so much friction it fundamentally changes the experience. What I like best about these two examples is that using them is an almost entirely analog affair. Another great example is an (experimental) apron that uses a magnetic clasp to alert all members of the family that someone started preparing dinner and then lets them know dinner is ready when the clasp is opened. I admit, this stuff is very new and most of these early implementations will probably never go beyond the early adopter stage. But eventually that will change and pretty soon we’ll use products and services that rely heavily on their connection to the internet without feeling like high tech digital devices.

Who knows, maybe we’ll spend less time staring at our screens. That won’t happen if it means giving up the conveniences and habits that we’ve grown accustomed to. But it might happen if we can get access to those conveniences through a different medium. Of course, there are privacy concerns to deal with. And maybe some existential questions need to be answered about how much we want to rely on connectivity and the internet to simply lead our lives. But those are topics for another time.