Something fun to close out 2020
By Mark Hurst • December 17, 2020
This is my last scheduled post of 2020, and I'd like to end the year on a positive note. After all, this was a year of overlapping crises, including an unthinkable toll of human life from the pandemic. The best response I can think of, in spite of it all, is to offer some encouraging and creative pointers, and thus close out this year. Finally.
(If you're new to the newsletter, a quick catch-up. Here are the humor compilations I posted during the pandemic: memes and videos from April, May, July, and September showing how people responded throughout the year. Though what I usually write isn't too funny.)
Let's then move into our celebration of the end, the blessedly final end, of the year 2020.
Our opening ceremony features music and dance, so turn the sound on. As Kirstie Swain describes it, This woman danced past my flat the other day. (In the comments, the dancer replied that it's for a fundraiser.)
Before we let go of 2020, let's have some catharsis.
• Here's an online interactive dumpster fire from our friends at Basecamp and Hey.com. You can send an email (with your thoughts about 2020) to a special address and then watch as the email gets printed out and consumed in flame.
From the world of tech
• I can't tell you how much I despise the "prove you're not a robot" screens when I'm trying to log in. It's all run by Google, forcing us to provide free labor to train their self-driving cars to continue their dystopian... OK, OK. Deep breath. My point here is that Stevie Martin also has to prove she's not a robot.
• Here's a special audio essay I created this summer called Tron Life - about a pandemic experience eerily reminiscent of the movie, and video game, Tron. (My piece was part of the First Person, Fourth Wall multi-artist project by People Like Us.)
• They'll find your mouse pointer at PointerPointer.
• I was happy that the Galactic Federation finally got some press. Vinny Thomas has this sketch of Earth's membership interview.
• In actual space news, China's moon lander just returned to earth with a sample of lunar dust (see NYT coverage). Remember that early 1980s video game Lunar Lander? You can play here. Still holds up.
• This one actually has nothing to do with space, but the retro-ness of Lunar Lander reminded me that there's a whole site devoted to the bouncing DVD logo. (Wonder how long until it hits the corner exactly!)
More below. But first, a robot:
Illustration by Jeff Dean
• Food packaging isn't usually a hot topic, but Jimmy Rees explains it perfectly, food by food.
• Interactive explainer showing why buses bunch up.
• This guided tour through Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" is really well done. (Sound on.)
• Scroll down. And down. And down. Consider yourself warned: it's dark.
• I remain a committed fan of WFMU, the independent radio station - really, a network with live FM radio and multiple online streams - where my Techtonic show is based. Go to wfmu.org any time, click the Play button, and it might just be the best radio you've ever heard. (It could also be terrible, which is part of the charm. No mindless bland programming there!) I need to write more about WFMU another time, but the wealth of archives is really an embarrassment of riches. Just to take one example, Scott Williams' show has, now, twenty years of archives ready to stream, for free, with no ads or surveillance-capitalist underbelly. All powered by love and listener donations.
• Drag the animals onto the stumps at Animal Funk Club. Simple looping fun.
More below. But first, about music...
• My friend Scott creates Reflectacles, anti-surveillance eyewear. These are normal-looking sunglasses that have special lenses to dazzle and shut down facial recognition systems. (They were covered in this NYT story back in February.)
• I bought this two years ago and I'm still really happy the the Moon Hat, a warm winter hat that shows the phases of the moon. But there's a twist: it's functional. Between (1) moon position, (2) moon phase, and (3) sun position - if you know two of those, the moon hat will determine the third!
• Finally, I've been recommending the movie Coherence to friends. It's a thriller, sort of - and sci-fi... sort of. But also a mystery. It's hard to describe, but a good one to watch without reading anything about it. To find where it's available, look it up on JustWatch (another great resource, btw).
• Years ago I listed this happy-techno "dogs" song in my Fun Stuff roundup, and in the spirit of a positive note, here it is again. (The original of "Who Let the Dogs Out" has an amazing explainer in this episode of the Speed of Sound podcast.)
• More than a little cutesy, I Love Egg is a classic from a few years ago.
• From just two months ago, I wrote about the cranberry juice guy as well as a couple of fun takeoffs.
As for my own projects...
It was a busy year here at Creative Good, delivering radio and newsletters and project work from the - now - fully home-based studio. Thanks to you and everyone for listening, reading, and reaching out. Here's what I managed to accomplish in 2020:
• Broadcast 46 episodes of Techtonic, my weekly radio show (and podcast) on WFMU, continuing throughout the pandemic and moving to live broadcast from home a couple of months ago. I covered how the world could end, how the universe could end, what books to read in a pandemic, the best movies to watch during a pandemic, as well as blood-boiling stories of how Spotify and YouTube treat musicians, what it's like to work in Silicon Valley, and how the next 70 years might play out. Among other topics.
• Launched Good Reports, my new recommendation site for non-toxic technology. I've listed alternatives to Big Tech services for email, search, VPN, and more. (And I'm planning a bunch of new entries in the new year, thanks to the generous support I've gotten so far.)
• Continued to manage and improve Good Todo, my online todo list that lets you email your tasks directly to your list. With tasks out of the inbox, you can manage your work from the todo list and stop stressing about email. (Let me know if you or a friend wants a special premium trial account: just email me.)
Thanks for sticking with me. Have a safe holiday, and see you in the new year.
(Update: Added on Dec 18.) From 9-year-old Clarke Smith, summing up 2020, the year was "like looking both ways before crossing the street and then getting hit by a submarine."
Until next time,
- Mark Hurst
Read my non-toxic tech reviews at Good Reports
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