Dec 292006

I’ll probably be revising my blogroll in the near future, weeding out a few blogs and throwing in some new ones. So it seems like a good time to ask: Anybody have any recommendations?

What am I looking for? Thoughtful and incisive writing on nearly any subject, but especially books and current events. Technology is a fine subject, too, as long as it’s from the layman’s point of view. I enjoy a meaty political blog, but spare me the wingnuts from both wings. Humor is a plus. And plain old good writing always carries the day.

Any recommendations?

(This is quite likely my final post of 2006, so happy new year!)

Dec 222006

I seem to be in one. I’d announce them in advance if I knew when they were going to hit. Happy holidays and a happy new year — there may be a post or two over the next week, but for the most part, I will see you in 2007.

Dec 192006

The Fark headline is too good not to share: “Joseph Barbera dies. Funeral procession to pass same three buildings every two seconds.”

Dec 192006

Notes from all over:

1. Sneaking in just in time to be the craziest lawsuit of the year, we have Mr. George Allen Ward, who was (until his lawsuit was dismissed) pursuing Arm & Hammer, makers of quality baking soda and baking soda products. Why? To quote the legal blog Above the Law, “The company failed to warn him that if he cooked up their product, baking soda, with cocaine, he might end up serving a 200-month prison sentence.” Click through to peruse the complaint itself — I’m thinking that Mr. George Allen Ward served as his own lawyer. (Via Overlawyered.)

2. Holy freaking hell, what have they done to Betty and Veronica??

3. It’s not often that the demo version of a game will entice me enough to order the full version, but Armadillo Run did it. A creative problem solving game, all you have to do is build some kind of structure that will allow an armadillo to roll into a magic portal. (Why an armadillo? Probably because the game is called “Armadillo Run.” That’d be a pretty silly name if there wasn’t an armadillo in it.) The physics of the game feel dead-on accurate — indeed, playing this game feels like the most-fun physics homework ever. When you build a bridge, that bridge needs to damn well be supported with metal braces, or kaboom. If your armadillo is rolling down a hill too fast, you better figure out how to absorb some of that energy or cowabunga.

The best part of the game is that the game doesn’t care how you solve a puzzle. (Indeed, I have a hard time imagining that I’ve solved any of these puzzles so far in the intended fashion.) And the other best part is the free edit mode, where you can build Rube Goldbergian contraptions to your heart’s delight, and download the contraptions made by other players. All this for $19.99? Sweet deal.

4. Ladies and gentlemen, the largest Swiss Army Knife ever. (What’s in that thing? Here’s the complete inventory.) (Via Hit and Run.)

Dec 172006

You are Time magazine’s Person of the Year! I’m so proud of you!

And with that, Time magazine gently excuses itself from any serious role in the national conversation. It’s been noted here before, but it’s worth pointing out again: Time’s Man of the Year was once given to the person who had most affected world events in the previous 365 days. Hitler got it, Stalin got it. Somewhere along the way, however — but most clearly in 2001, when Osama Bin Laden failed to receive the nod — Time decided that the Man of the Year was, in fact, an “honor,” and couldn’t be given to bad guys. (Or they were just too cowardly to court such controversy.)

The problem with this is, it is not easy to single-handedly change the world for the better. The number of such candidates this year can be counted on… uh… are there any? That Grameen Bank guy would have been a good choice if the Nobel committee didn’t get to him first, the bastards.

I’m not saying that no one is doing anything good out there, but they are being far overshadowed by incompetent U.S. leaders and crazy-ass foreign ones. Time could have picked any of them and been well within their rights: Rumsfeld, Ahmadinedjad, Kim Jong-Il. Any of those would have been serious, meaty choices in a year where we saw so much war and violence, and so many ill omens for the future.

Time instead decided to, essentially, make a joke of their Man of the Year tradition. Yes, yes, I see what they’re getting at with this goofball “You” thing. With the tools of the Internet — blogging, YouTube, podcasting — an individual can like never before emerge out of nowhere and make a mighty impact. I have been deeply impressed with Radley Balko’s investigative journalism, and until recently the only place you could read it was on his blog. (He’s since joined the staff at Reason.) Countless others have all come from nowhere to have a tremendous impact on politics, entertainment, you name it. I read in the New York Times a few weeks ago that the must-read blog for the entire television news industry is run by some random college student. We are definitely living in a new era, and I am willing to give half a point to Time for acknowledging it. (If indeed they do; it’s not like I’ve read the article yet. Or, frankly, plan to.)

But, no. Come on. That’s not even close to being the most important story of the year. You’re a freaking news magazine, Time. Isn’t there a big picture somewhere you might want to take a look at?

This, in a nutshell, is why I don’t subscribe to Time anymore. It’s an entertainment magazine that also sort of covers the news. Ditto Newsweek. They can both be read in about fifteen minutes, and that’s on a good week. If you want a real news magazine, try The Economist. It’s meat, potatoes, and two other vegetables, especially compared to what American news mags offer these days.

“You.” What a really incredible choice. How was it not laughed out of the conference room the first time somebody brought up the idea?

Update: Jonah Goldberg predicts next year’s Time cover.