This will be, obviously, my final set of recommendations for the year. I posted 42 sets of these in 2013. The idea was to do it once a week, and while I clearly missed that, I wasn’t too far off, all things considered. That includes 88 articles, all of which you can view/download as a Readlist here, as well as any number of songs and videos (for “any number” here, read “I don’t feel like counting”). I hope that somebody somewhere has found something new and worthwhile by looking at these, and I’m looking forward to what I will find in 2014.
Article: “Google’s Road Map to World Domination” by Adam Fisher
The most interesting thing, for me, about Google is their willingness to put a lot of resources into projects that have no obvious or immediate prospect of making the company any money. There seems to be a kind of faith there that, if you can make a large quantity of related data easy to access and manipulate, people will find ways to use it and, eventually, turn it into something marketable. Google maps is a good example of that, and this piece describes some of that process.
Album download: Instrumental Mixtape 3 by Clams Casino
At some point over the last couple of years I have, I think, posted both of Clams Casino’s other instrumental albums, so I figured I might as well mention this one as well. He remains one of the more interesting producers in hip hop, now much imitated but retaining a unique sound. The best thing about these instrumental releases is that I have no interest at all in most of the rappers he works with; when I hear the vocal versions of these songs, I mostly just wish they would be quiet and let me hear the music— which is exactly what this is.
Album Stream: Light That Comes, Light That Goes by Ensemble Economique
In quite a different vein, some spooky, beautiful assemblies of drone and field recordings ( think). I’m not sure how long this will be available to stream here, since the album is available for sale, but it is definitely worth checking out before it’s gone.
Article: “Love in the Time of Hollering: The Age of Enthusiasm” by Linda Holmes
Online conversation about cultural productions tends to be binary; people either really totally unreservedly love things, or hate them with equal vehemence. The bright side of that (or one of the bright sides) is that communities of interest— sometimes very rich communities— can form around shows, music, movies, etc. whose appeal is otherwise so marginal or demographically specific that fans would feel forever isolated. For such marginal or esoteric things, the conversation tends to be overwhelmingly enthusiastic, if only because there aren’t enough people paying attention to feel strongly negative about them. But there are downsides to the development of these fan bubbles (my term), one of which is clearly that the people in them vastly overestimate the cultural impact of the thing they love (because they spend a lot of time talking to people who love it as much as they do). That raises the stakes, making the conversation about that thing much more fraught than it needs to be; it also tends to fool people into thinking that love, in itself, is enough to justify the continued production of whatever it is they love— regardless of the economics of its production. This, and much else, is discussed with wit and clarity in this piece.
Photos: The Year in Pictures from The New York Times
Finally, the New York Times has assembled a collection of 80 photos that tell the story (or stories) of 2013. Unsurprisingly, there are many amazing images here, and they range from scary and heartbreaking to sweet and funny.
That’s it for this year. Hope you all had a good one, and that you discover lots to interest you in the coming year. I also remain firm in the belief that if you do not, you are not really trying.