Week In Preface: 2011 In Review

Schott's Almanac

Back in July, I heard about Nick Felton, the creator of the Feltron Annual Report. In order to distill his life events of the previous year,   he qualitatively summed it up – from the amount of beers he consumed per diem to the total number of interactions with people. Much like Felton and the remarkable Ben Schott of Schott’s Almanac, I find it important to come to terms with and really analyze the past year – even though, unlike Feltron, I can’t fully create a whole report to the shareholders of my life (read: me), due to lack of the data and lack of want to compile them, and unlike Schott, I do not have the ability to sum up the year globally, nationally, or even locally.

I can only write what I fully (or at least mostly) know, which is my year. But I do want to first break down the numbers: I wrote and reblogged 971 posts on Tumblr, as seen by my 124 followers; sent over a thousand posts to my 145 Twitter followers (between the two follower-based schema, there’s a Venn Diagram of probably 20 to 25 mutual readers); went to twelve free concerts; visited the Museum of Modern Art for films approximately 20 times; wrote five letters to friends for birthdays and as general correspondence; gave blood five times, including once at Citi Field, at which there were the awesomest cookies I will ever have at a blood drive; read two John Green books (Paper Towns and Will Grayson, Will Grayson) each in one night, and am currently averaging 1.7 rides per day on the MTA.

This year meant so much more to me, though. I met an absurdly awesome group of people in the New York Nerdfighters, who (past the palpable homoeroticism amongst the females group, which is fine in its way, I suppose) represent the best of young America today: incredibly intelligent, incredibly thoughtful, incredibly passionate people who love conversation and making a difference. I became part of a great YouTube project in AccioNerds, and thereby formed what really is a great Internet family that goes across the country (and England, and Bulgaria). I not only appeared on a game show, but thanks to the winnings from the show, I more or less started a game show from my iPod.

I started watching Doctor Who and Arrested Development and sort of started watching Community, became a huge fan of Sufjan Stevens, Modern Skirts, and the Alabama Shakes; of This Nerdist, Radiolab, and 99% Invisible; and despite their respectively perpetually middling records, retained my allegiance to the Mets and Everton Football Club.

In short, this year, from the classes I took to the places at which I interned to the media I consumed to the products I launched (or am about to launch): I did the things that I love. I maintained and strengthened my existing passions (of history, of New York culture, of transit trivia) and added a few more. And I strengthened bonds and made new friends, with whom to share those passions and foment new ones.

And with this in mind, here’s this week’s posts and a brief announcement about the blog after the jump: Continue reading

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Watch This: Thoughts from Places

Back in August of 2010, John Green recorded a video of his time in London and Edinburgh, doing readings, going to Nerdfighter gatherings, and generally traveling. It wasn’t a travelogue, per se – it was more a reflection on that travel; it was retrospective, rather than in the moment. And – as the key difference between it and other Vlogbrothers videos – it was presented in voiceover.

This became the basis of what the Greens called “Thoughts from Places” – a series of 100 videos (18 of which have already been done), a series to, paraphrasing John Green, bring more writing to YouTube and more YouTube to writing. It led not only to probably my favorite series-within-a-series the Vlogbrothers have done, but a style of video that has been imitated (or mocked) throughout YouTube.

Most of my favorites are from John’s European travels – starting with London and Edinburgh and continuing forth with my personal favorite, in Amsterdam, a video that combines the humorous with the thoughtful in a downright brilliant way; and in Bruges, during John’s stay in Amsterdam researching for and writing The Fault in Our Stars, his upcoming novel:

Continue reading

Thursday Trivia: Spyridon Louis

Spiridon Louis, 1896 Olympic marathon champion

Spyridon Louis, Greek sports legend/sharp dresser. (Image via Wikipedia.)

This is a departure from the usual ThursTriv format; instead of five facts about a certain topic, here’s one of my favorite Olympic stories.

Also, a reminder that the Thursday Trivia Podcast returns next week with five questions on Nintendo.

In 1896, when the Olympic Games were revived where they were born in Athens, the marathon was born (or, in a sense, reborn, following in the footsteps of Phidippides running from Marathon to Athens relaying the news of the Greeks’ victory in the Battle of Marathon – for the record, he died almost immediately after giving the word). After victories in the other track and field events by foreigners, the Greek people longed for one of their own to win the marathon.

Enter Spyridon Louis, who transported mineral water with his father outside of Athens. After coming in fifth in the second qualifying race, he competed in the official race and ran his way into Olympic history and Greek lexicon.

Continue reading

Summer In Review: “It’ll All Be Over In a Hundred Years…”

At first glance, it kinda sucks that it’s ending with such a large blemish. That Summer 2011 will be remembered as “The Summer My Laptop Was Stolen.” That’s not to say that this will be the only event that will resonate from the last two months – there’s a great deal I got done. I interned at the Museum of American Finance (with the photographs and video to prove it), writing posts for their Twitter feed, helping bring the Race Around Wall Street into fruition, and scanning documents from the museum’s aptly-nicknamed “Icebox Archive“. Along with gaining the ability to economize words – and even characters, in the case of Twitter – to concisely convey an idea, I went to the New York Mercantile Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, the offices of Bloomberg, and the New York Federal Reserve, places I never had even a minuscule chance of visiting on my own or with another institution. (For the record, I really don’t want to work in the financial industry. That’s something else I learned this summer.)

I went to a downright inspiring exhibit at the New York Public Library, along with the engrossing Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan (an exhibit that will surely be talked about for at least a few more months, and one that made me recognize the importance and art in gallery design and curating itself). I went to an absurd number of free concerts (let’s see – Andrew Bird at Prospect Park; Jim Gaffigan and John Pinette at Comedy Central Park; tUnE-yArDs at Hudson RiverRocks – that one was by far the best show I’ve ever seen; They Might Be Giants twice, one at the Apple Store in SoHo and the other at Williamsburg Waterfront – a veritable Nerd Woodstock, featuring Eugene Mirman, Patton Oswalt, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Jonathan Coulton, among others, in the absolutely pouring rain; a concert by a group called Citigrass that I basically stumbled upon at the World Financial Center Plaza when walking along the Hudson; Mavis Staples at Lincoln Center Out of Doors; and Aaron Schragge, player of the Japanese flute the shakuhachi, at the infinitely-cool Rubin Museum of Art; and whoever the hell played the Armstrong House concerts on the 4ths of July and August – with (Supreme Being willing) Das Racist, Reggie Watts, Santigold, Janelle Monáe and Cee-Lo Green over the weekend at the Afropunk Festival – that’s 15 in total by my count). I visited MoMA (most of the time just to see movies) more times over the course of this summer to see movies more than I’ve visited any museum in the last couple of years (seeing Casablanca, Wall-E, Up, Ratatouille, and Jaws at MoMA, Scott Pilgrim Versus the World at the Museum of the Moving Image, the documentary The Captains on the deck of the USS Intrepid, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Performing Arts Library), which has given me the inspiration to apply for an internship position in the film department at MoMA for the spring. I saw movies and made dinner and watched soccer (seriously, we watched the Gold Cup final together and I can’t totally remember why she watched it with me) with Kelly Cordray, the best friend I could ever have. I saw (and continue to see, and brim with pride at the sight at) my brother grow up from ‘annoying little bugger’ to ‘someone I can see myself actually being friends with as an adult’ right before my eyes. I read John Green’s book Paper Towns in one night (the same night, for the record, I saw Wall-E and Up) and Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants in four. I walked what had to have been hundreds of miles – along Broadway, through Chinatown, beside the Hudson River, to and from the Upper West Side, and even a bit in the wilderness of northern Queens with new friend/beacon of awesomeness Kelly Montoya.  And I gave blood twice.

It’s not like after school starts, all sources of fun end. Whether it’s the Vendys or Doctor Who returning (that’s another thing I did this summer – watch a crapload of Doctor Who) or random book talks at Barnes & Noble (almost forgot – saw Jimmy Fallon and Henry Winkler talk about their respective books over the course of the last few months at the Union Square B&N) or new and awesome sandwiches or just listening to Andrew Bird and M. Ward on repeat (as I did a lot over the course of this summer), there will be sources of happiness as the nights grow shorter and the air grows colder.

And, as Kelly Cordray once relayed to me from a memory of hers, it’ll all be over in a hundred years, anyway. There’s simply no need to fret over the sucky things life throws at us, ’cause good things will come again soon, and all of it really won’t matter in the end.

And at the very least, I get a loaner laptop.

Preview: “Here Is New York”

I’ve had an idea kicking around in my head for a while – a bit of brain crack, if you will – about a daily video show on the YouTube channel (a channel I’ve been neglecting recently). What really got me to get up off my rear end and start bringing it to fruition were two things: first, this week’s theme on AccioNerds being outside, and second, and most important to my hopes for the style of the videos, Craig Ferguson’s shows in Paris last week. (In case you missed it, Craig along with robot sidekick Geoff Peterson and actress Kristen Bell had a week of shows mostly walking about Paris without a license due to the show’s ostensibly low budget, filming whatever they could.) Specifically, his discussions on the history of Paris and its sights truly captivated me and influenced my thoughts on this project. Additionally, I’ve been a bit influenced by Thirteen’s New York on the Clock series and, oddly enough, This American Life (which has been recording in New York right under my nose the last four years – how I haven’t run into Ira Glass in Chelsea yet, I don’t know); specifically, the interstitials Ira Glass did on what little I’ve seen of the short-lived TAL television show – just him, reading off a script, with a really low-quality camera – on a subway escalator, the Roosevelt Island Tram, whatever.

Anyway, here it is: for one year (specifically, 2012), I’ll upload a new video each day in a series I’m calling Here Is New York. Right now, I’ve only got videos of me talking into a camera (hastily done ones at that) about a certain thing, but hopefully there will be a few “Thoughts from Places” type videos, a few videos of other people telling their New York stories, perhaps other things. In any case, here’s what I have so far, a sneak peek into Here is New York:

Making Crap Up: “6 Shockingly Evil Things About Hank Green”

(Ed. Note: This is part of a series in which I put a name in the Linkbait Generator and write on whatever comes out. As usual, a word of caution that what you are about to read is almost entirely untrue.)

(Also, a reminder that we’ve got the live show with birthday girl Danielle Gold, Cialina Ngo, and I on Ustream at 8:30.)

Hank Green of the VlogBrothers is quite a guy – intelligent, tech-savvy, and an advocate for Internet musicians, which I consider pretty damn important. So he’s probably a nice guy, right?

WRONG! Here are six devious parts of Hank Green’s past:

The Greatest Spam Comment Ever

Now, this is a small, humble, Mom-and-Pop style blogging establishment, and like the Pie Hole, we chit-chat here, in the form of the comments. (While you’re here, leave a comment and I’ll respond to it…or anonymously ask me a question, and I’ll answer it – best questions from the next month get to go into a post, or possibly an episode of The Random Report!) But in spite of the status of small, and humble, and Mom-and-Pop, I get a bunch of spam comments (668 have been caught so far, according to my Akismet Stats). Most of the time it’s either kind of dumb of a Groupon thing that I don’t want to post, but this one – this one takes the cake.

And since I didn’t want it in my spam inbox anymore, I decided to post it. I’ve blacked out the e-mail and the IP address (so you don’t spam the spammer), but nothing else has been changed, leaving it in all its nonsensical glory:

First of all, the dude’s username is “sex.” That screams “spammer” right there. What comes after is pretty damn ridiculous – “I give birth to be familiar with a few of the articles on your website trendy, and I really like your tastefulness of blogging”? Only part of the last clause makes sense. Giving birth will not make you familiar with my love of sandwiches and info about string. “I added it to my favorites web stage list” – okay, maybe that’s what they call it in Poland – “and disposition be checking promote soon” – that just sounds like a jumble of words that the dude got when putting the original Polish into Babelfish or Google Translate. “Please contain into public notice my position as approvingly” – ditto. “…Vindicate me know what you think,” actually makes some degree of sense, if you put a semi-colon in between those two clauses. “Thanks.” You’re welcome, spammer.

Making Crap Up: “10 Common Misconceptions About Carson Daly”

(Ed. Note: This is the fifth post in a continuing series, powered by the Linkbait Generator, I put a real person, thing, or group of persons or things into the Generator, see what ridiculous title comes out, and write a story with as few shreds of truth about it. As always, a disclaimer that very, very little (if any) of this story is true.)

Oh, Carson Daly. He was culturally relevant for a few years as host of TRL, then took a late-late-late night gig on NBC and went into obscurity. Even when Conan and Jay were in total turmoil, while Jimmy Fallon took a vow of neutrality, Carson was cast aside and totally unheard of. As a result, people remember a few things about Carson Daly that just plain aren’t true. Like:

  • Carson Daly is actually Geoff Peterson of The Late Late Show with a special skin-suit.
  • The people outside the TRL studios were real; in reality, they were incredibly lifelike blow-up dolls.
  • Last Call with Carson Daly, much like Belgium, doesn’t exist. (This one’s a real misconception; Last Call is still on the air.)
  • Total Request Live was actually live. (Also true: it was almost always taped.)
  • While hosting NBC’s coverage of New Year’s Eve, Carson’s resolution each year was “to get an earlier time slot.”
  • Carson was named after Johnny Carson, but unfortunately has never risen to that level of success.
  • However, unlike Carnac the Great, Carson Daly knew exactly what was in the envelopes.
  • Carson, a big Star Trek fan, owns three tribbles.
  • Carson is still best friends with the members of O-Town.
  • Carson’s offices at NBC consist of a broom closet and an unplugged fax machine.

Making Crap Up: “5 ultra-secret government projects involving ‘Back to the Future'”

Great Scott!

(Ed. Note: This is the fourth post in a continuing series, powered by the Linkbait Generator, I put a real person, thing, or group of persons or things into the Generator, see what ridiculous title comes out, and write a story with as few shreds of truth about it. As always, a disclaimer that very, very little (if any) of this story is true.)

Twenty-five years and almost two months ago, the first Back to the Future film was released. While it wasn’t the first film to use time travel as a major part of the plot, it – and its two sequels – became a film for the ages, and one of the greatest film series of all time. With a budget of only $19 million, it made more than $380 million at the box office.

So it’s no wonder that the film would have led to government products, such as:

  • The thick metallic sunglasses that Doc Brown wears led to a similar creation, but as a thinner version of welder’s goggles.
  • Dr. Fusion, an addition to the DeLorean at the end of the first movie, was part of a government plan for a fusion plant that could create its own energy – which was scrapped when Dick Cheney became Vice President and gave the oil and coal companies control of the Energy Department.
  • Inspired by World Series results in 2015 in Back to the Future Part II, a government project was formed to get the Cubs to finally win the World Series; it had been a massive failure which after much consternation was killed off by Illinoisan (and White Sox fan) Barack Obama in March of 2010, meaning the Cubs will have to suck on their own.
  • Of course, time travel has always been a project of DARPA’s. They just haven’t gotten that flux capacitor right, or the ability to attain 1.21 gigawatts.
  • And the hoverboard. Seriously. You just know that stuff’s real.