Best of 2014

It’s a tradition, a Holiday Tradition even, so it cannot be skipped, questioned or abandoned. Yes, I’m talking about the annual ‘best of list‘ and here it is:

Music: So many great albums this year! YOUNG FATHERS, JUNGLE, FUTURE ISLANDS, BECK, TWEEDY, NENEH CHERRY, FKA TWIGS, SYLVAN ESSO, … The list goes on. There was one album that stood out though, BLACK ATLASS – Young Bloods. Fire up your music streaming service of choice and make sure to listen with headphones not through that crappy speaker on your cell phone.

Movie: Fiction > Her – SPIKE JONZE.
Non-Fiction >  Somm – JASON WISE.

Book: Fiction > Absurdistan – GARY SHTEYNGART. It was a little meh actually, but I didn’t read anything that blew me away this year.
Non-Fiction > Long Way Round – EWAN McGREGOR and CHARLEY BOORMAN.

App: Spotify.

Website: The Verge. I love how The Verge has started to look beyond technology news and has become a great example of what internet journalism can (and should?) look like. I’m excited to see them broaden their horizon even further and diving deeper into Editorial Design in 2015. I have high hopes for the work Jason Santa Maria will be doing for them.

TV: Fiction > Boardwalk Empire (HBO).
Non-Fiction > The only non-fiction TV I watch these days are online clips and outtakes of late night shows and political satire (Jimmy Fallon, John Stewart, Bill Maher, John Oliver, …) so I guess I’ll just lump all of this together and declare those shows the winners of the non-fiction TV category. Now, where are the women in this industry? Can we see a little more balance please?

Last year no one shared their ‘best of’ in the comments. My dearest reader, that’s not acceptable. Please reciprocate, it’s not that hard, at least list your favorite album of the year, I’m sure you have one.

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Best of 2012

2012 in 6 categories…

Music: This was a tough one this year. There were plenty good albums, but nothing really stood out. I wonder if Spotify has something to do with that? If I have to pick one it’d be Sun – CAT POWER.
Honorable Mentions: Empros – RUSSIAN CIRCLES; Yellow & Green – BARONESS; awE naturalE – THEESatisfaction; Lonesome Dreams – LORD HURON

Movie: Fiction > The Sessions – BEN LEWIN (Based on a true story so almost non-fiction)
Non-Fiction >  Jiro Dreams of Sushi – DAVID GELB
Honorable Mention: Rundskop – MICHAEL ROSKAM

Book: Fiction > Super Sad True Love Story – GARY SHTEYNGART
Non-Fiction > Steve Jobs – WALTER ISAACSON

App: Paper
Honorable Mentions: Amplitube, NPR Music 

Website: Adventure Journal
Honorable Mentions: Pipeburn, Hell for Leather 

TV: Fiction > Game of Thrones (HBO)
Non-Fiction > Austin City Limits and The Artist Den (PBS) I know, that’s two shows, but they’re similar enough, they even share their time slot.

Looking back, 2012 was a pretty good year. Here’s to 2013 being even better.

Please share your ‘Best of’ in the comments, I can always use some suggestions.

More Best of Lists

Best of 2011

Like last year, I’m sharing my personal ‘Best of 2011’ list.

The format remains the same, no frills, no arguing the how or why. I didn’t want this post to become just a list of links, so you’ll have to Google or Bing your way to more information.

Music: Smoke Ring For My Halo – KURT VILE *Last minute discovery*
Honorable Mentions: Demolished Thoughts – THURSTON MOORE; Bon Iver – BON IVER 

Movie: Fiction > Black Swan – DARREN ARONOFSKY
Non-Fiction > Bill Cunningham New York – RICHARD PRESS

Book: Fiction > The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – MARK HADDON
Non-Fiction > Responsive Web Design – ETHAN MARCOTTE

App: Flipboard

Website: Poler’s Tumblr, I realize it’s a little weird to pick a Tumblr site as my favorite site of the year, but Tumblr really became hard to ignore in 2011 and Poler’s entire marketing strategy is just genius.

TV: Fiction > Mad Men (AMC)
Non-Fiction > Planet Earth (BBC)

That was 2011. Please share your ‘Best Of’ in the comments.  I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve missed.

Reading Now #1

I’m starting a new feature today: Reading Now.  In my old journal I used to write one (or two) sentence book reviews. Eventually I plan to bring that series to this journal too. For now, I’m just sharing what I’m reading right now. Who knows, maybe you’ve read the same books and would like to share your thoughts (no spoilers please!).

As this is ‘entry #1’ in the series, and it required a little explanation, I’m posting it as a regular journal entry. The plan is to use a Post Format for it. Post Formats are arguably the most exciting new feature in WordPress 3.1, aka Django, and I can’t wait to implement them here!

So without further ado (I was going to split the list between fiction and non-fiction, but it turns out I’m not reading any fiction at this time):

1. The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu

2. Smashing WordPress Themes: Making WordPress Beautiful by Thord Daniel Hedengren

3. Big Sid’s Vincati by Matthew Biberman

* Unlike what you’d expect these days, those links don’t link back to Amazon. I’ve linked to whichever page I consider relevant.

Book Review: Smashing WordPress

About a year ago, I was looking for a good book on using WordPress as a CMS.  Browsing the shelves of my local bookstore, I noticed that there are few books on WordPress that go beyond the basics.  Most of them simply explain how to use the admin interface and write blog posts.  If you are lucky, you might learn how to make a few minor tweaks to the theme you use.  As a developer, I was looking for something much more advanced.  “Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog” by Thord Daniel Hedengren looked like it could satisfy my needs.

“Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog was written with the web developer in mind, but anyone who has fiddled a little bit with XHTML, CSS, PHP, or WordPress, can benefit from this book.”
{Thord Daniel Hedengren – Smashing WordPress – Foreword}

As you can tell from this quote, Thord Daniel Hedengren assumes his audience knows basic HTML, CSS and PHP code.  If you don’t know anything about these coding languages, this book is not for you.  However, if you know the basics and are willing to learn, you can jump right in.  Each time Thord quotes a long section of code, he breaks it up piece by piece and explains what the code does and why it’s there.  While I really appreciate this approach, I have to admin that the ebook version I bought sometimes suffers from hard to read formatting for the blocks of code.*  smashing wordpress cover

The book is written with WordPress version 2.7 in mind.  Today, the most recent version is WordPress 3.0 and 3.1 is about to be released any day now.  These newer releases of WordPress have really focused on improving the functionality of WordPress as a CMS.  Since Smashing WordPress is all about using WordPress as a CMS some things have obviously changed since the time of writing.  This doesn’t mean that the book is outdated already. It does mean, however, that some of the solutions Thord proposes are no longer the best way to do things, but conceptually most content is still valid and valuable.

Thord Daniel Hedengren writes well.  The book is much easier to read than his name would suggest.  Smashing WordPress is divided into five major parts, each part consisting of several chapters.  This structure works well for the subject.  The content is vaguely structured in a chronological way.  It starts with the things you encounter first, the installation of WordPress and how to get started with a simple theme.  The next parts and chapters explain WordPress from a functional point of view. Thord explains how WordPress works and how you can make it work for you getting exactly the results you are looking for.  From running queries to writing plugins, you learn about it all.  While Thord touches on the subject a few times, this book does not really focus on styling the content.  After all, it’s not a book about CSS it’s about WordPress.  Towards the end, we get a list of interesting plugins to look into, some specific examples of different types of websites and some final tips that will help you get the most out of WordPress.  The way the content is structured makes it easy to read Smashing WordPress from cover to cover.  I’ve read many technical books that are just impossible to read this way.  Since it’s important that you can easily pick up the book and look for something, the table of content is also very important.  Luckily this book has a great table of content, it’s easy to find what you are looking for because the titles for the chapters are comprehensive and descriptive. I also like that you a good feeling for the content and the focus of the book by reading the table of content, which also is not always the case with technical books.

As you can tell, I like Smashing WordPress.  There might be a few things that could have been done differently, but overall I’m very pleased with this book.  I keep it around and refer to it often.  I will definitely check out Thord’s next book Smashing WordPress Themes and who knows maybe one day write a review for that book too.  Now it’s time for me to find something negative to write about.  I feel like I’ve been endorsing and praising too many products and services here lately.

* I bought the ebook version instead of the physical version because the advantages outweighed the disadvantages for me, but in an ideal world I would just own both versions.  I would love to see a license for the ebook included with the physical copy of the book.  I could buy both, but that means I’m paying twice for the same thing which is why I always feel like it’s bit of a rip off when I’m presented with those physical book + ebook bundles.  But that’s a different discussion.

Best of 2010

They are a huge cliche, but I love them and this year I’m contributing to the culture by submitting my own: This Year’s Best Of List.
I’ve listed my favorites for a few media categories and, where appropriate, I’ve separated fiction from non-fiction.  Without further ado:

Music: The Way Out – THE BOOKS

Movie: Fiction > The Secret in their Eyes – JUAN JOSE CAMPANELLA
Non-Fiction > Touching the Void – KEVIN MACDONALD

Book: Fiction > Let the Great World Spin – COLUM McCANN
Non-Fiction > The Lost City of Z – DAVID GRANN (notice how having a name that ends with a double n really helps your chances in this category)
Honorable mention (Flemish) > De Laatste Liefde van Mijn Moeder – DIMITRI VERHULST

App: Instapaper

Website: This one is hard…  There is such a wide range of websites that I enjoy: New York Times, McSweeneys, The Selvedge Yard, etc.  It feels like comparing apples to oranges to pick a favorite.  But the first one that came to mind was BikeEXIF, so let’s just keep it at that.

TV: Fiction > True Blood (HBO)
Non-Fiction > Circus (PBS)
Honorable mention (Flemish) > Van Vlees en Bloed (VRT)

That’s it!  Please share your ‘Best Of’ in the comments!  I’d love to know.  Feel free to add your own categories too.