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[No comments] The Crummy.com Review of Things 2016: Accomplishments:

Library Work: In 2016 SimplyE went from a two-developer team with me as backend guy, to a seven-developer team with me as architect. We launched the SimplyE reader for NYPL patrons and started work on rolling it out to other libraries across the country. We also launched the Open Ebooks project, which led to our brush with power.

SimplyE team photoI'm not comfortable bragging about the SimplyE product because it needs a lot of improvements, and I feel like saying how nice it is will lead to people thinking (or at least asserting) that I'm okay with the status quo. But if you compare it to the status quo ante, it's really damn good. We took checking out an ebook from a 17-step process to a 3-step process. And I'm totally happy bragging about the team, which is incredible. For the first time I ran a bunch of job searches and decided who to hire, and I think the past year's work has proven I made good choices.

At the end of the year, NYPL recognized our team with a Library Leadership Award! To the right is our official team photo (two of the developers are not pictured). I think this is an incredible achievement for a team that basically didn't exist a year ago.

Writing: Late 2015 I pitched a number of novels to my agent and we decided on Mine, a Rendezvous with Rama type political thriller. Lately, though, I'm haunted by the pitch I wrote for Nice Things, a novel about the fascist takeover of the Federation. Sometimes when I sit down to write Mine I feel like I should be writing Nice Things instead, but most of the time I'm glad I'm working on absolutely anything else.

Progress on Mine is slow but steady. But slow. My increased responsibilities at the library haven't been good for writing time.

Short stories I wrote in 2016 include "Quest For Boredom" (which I... supposedly sold??? but haven't heard back), "The Girls Boys Don't Notice" (possibly the best title I will ever come up with), "Fool, Professor, Peasant, King", and the unsellable "Unicode Changelog", which I might self-publish.

Situation Normal is still on the Desks of Editors.

Bots: I've drastically scaled down my use of Twitter because I don't like what it does to my brain. As a corollary, I don't really like that my whimsical software encourages people to spend more time on Twitter. So I've stopped putting bots on Twitter. Also, Twitter randomly suspends my bots without telling me. After the completely innocuous Vintage Groaners was suspended, I decided it wasn't worth the hassle.

I've thought about taking down my bots in a fiery cataclysm, rather than letting Twitter pick them off one by one, but a lot of people get happiness from Minecraft Signs, Hapax Hegemon, and (finally!) Smooth Unicode, so I'll commit to keeping the big ones working at least. I have a solution in mind for my computational creativity going forward, but I'm pretty damn busy so it's going to be a while. I've been doing this stuff since 1998 and it's still something I like, so consider this not a goodbot, but rather au botvoir.

Here's the 2016 robot roll call:

[Comments] (2) The Crummy.com Review of Things 2016: Games: If you've come for cutting-edge gaming news, I must disabuse you of the notion you've somehow acquired. I buy computer games when they're ported to Linux. Then apparently I only talk about them at the end of the year. Let's get started!

Two excellent tabletop games stick in my mind: the thrilling Pandemic Legacy, about which much has been said elsewhere; and the unassuming Stinker, which once you play it is revealed as an absolute marvel. Stinker cleverly fixes all the problems, large and small, with "spell-something" games and "one-person-judges-everyone-else" games and "come-up-with-something-funny" games. It's not as surefire a hit as Snake Oil, but I love it and it's usually a hit when I introduce it to new players. Stinker is the Crummy.com Board Game of the Year.

Three years ago I closed the book on non-tactical RPGs and declared Mother 3 the all-time winner. Well, now I gotta re-open that book because Undertale improves on the formula. It's clearly based on the Mother series, but it has a solid new combat mechanic, a lot of memorable characters, and a type of humor I like better than the humor in the Mother series (which I do like, quite a bit). I really disliked the climax of Undertale, but a lot of Mother 3 was rambling and unfocused, so it kind of cancels out. Undertale overcomes my prejudices to become Crummy.com Computer Game of the Year.

Runner-up is Duskers, the space exploration game which combines survival horror with system administration. Your typing speed can make the difference! Super creepy, but feels a bit unfinished.

Other computer games I enjoyed a lot in 2016: Mini Metro, Stardew Valley, RimWorld, Beglitched, Brogue, Caves of Qud, Sunless Sea, and XCom: Enemy Unknown.

[No comments] The Crummy.com Review of Things 2016: Books: Nearly all the books I read in 2016 were in electronic format. I either read library books through SimplyE, or I dug through the piles of ZIP files I've accumulated through Simon Carless's video game StoryBundles. Greg Millner's Perfecting Sound Forever was the only paper book I read in 2016 that I recommend; in fact, it's the Crummy.com Book of the Year.

I've got seven more super-recs and I'll give little capsule reviews for them, since they predate the first occurrence of Book Roundup. I read a decent amount of fiction, but you'll notice there's not much fiction on this list. What happens in my head when I read fiction seems highly idiosyncratic, so I'm more comfortable recommending super-detailed nonfiction.

[No comments] Oh noooo:

Godzilla reacts with shock to an 'Oxygen Absorber' 'Oxygen Absorber' detail

[No comments] The Crummy.com Review of Things 2016: Film:

Film: Maintaining Film Roundup Roundup (now updated with 150 high-quality films!) makes it pretty easy to come up with a top ten for 2016:

  1. Man With A Movie Camera (1929)
  2. Dekalog 10 (1989)
  3. Tampopo (1985)
  4. Inquiring Nuns (1968)
  5. Approaching the Elephant (2014)
  6. Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed (2004)
  7. A Short Film about Killing (1988)
  8. Dekalog 1 (1989)
  9. Hail, Ceasar! (2016)
  10. The Defiant Ones (1958)

Look at that list, we got four documentaries on there.

My lower-tier "recommended" list gets longer every year; here's a quick stab at the top ten of my twenty-one recommended movies from 2016:

  1. Moana (2016)
  2. Ghostbusters (2016)
  3. Deadpool (2016)
  4. Caucus (2013)
  5. La La Land (2016)
  6. Avanti! (1972)
  7. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
  8. Three Colors: Blue (1993)
  9. Synecdoche, New York (2006)
  10. It (1927)

I'm not really happy with calling that second tier "recommended" because it implies I'll scoff at your decision to see a solid film like Arrival or Kung Fu Hustle that I didn't put on my list. Hopefully no one does the data gathering necessary to deduce (incorrectly) that I'm scoffing at you.

After several years of Film Roundup I think I can now make what to me looks like a normal person's top ten film list, containing only movies from 2016. All of these were worth watching:

  1. Hail, Ceasar!
  2. Moana
  3. Ghostbusters
  4. La La Land
  5. Deadpool
  6. Arrival
  7. Star Trek: Beyond
  8. A Beautiful Planet
  9. Shin Godzilla
  10. Zootopia
  11. The Last Arcade

Kind of a boring list though! Where are the nuns, the fourth-wall-breaking gangsters, or the convicts handcuffed to each other? Answer: in movies from previous years.

[No comments] December Book Roundup: Just a few notes on the books I read in December 2016. Books marked with a * are ones I read for free through NYPL's SimplyE mobile app. (Big news on that coming up! Also, I guess I should write a simple explanatory post for people who don't want to read my RESTFest talks.)

[No comments] December Film Roundup: Looks like December 2016 has escaped its holding pen! As you flee, please consult this Film Roundup for next steps and valuable offers from our partners.

As the year draws to a close (actually, afterwards; I'm writing this addendum on Monday) let's turn the Television Spotlight on the beloved classic, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968-2001). I don't think I've said this explicitly on NYCB, but when I was growing up my family did not own a television. You might think this was snobbish behavior, but I don't think Mom and Dad went around bragging about this at parties, and looking back on 1980s TV I have to say it was a solid choice.

This means that I didn't see any Mister Rogers' Neighborhood until I was thirty-seven, but no harm done. MRN is really good for kids who have serious problems in their lives, who need an oasis of ritual and calm, and the problems in my life started right around the time I grew out of the MRN age group. Now that I'm an adult I see MRN as a good model for talking to children without condescending to them or ignoring their concerns. The thing that stood out to me is that when he shows you a potentially unfamiliar place like an art gallery or an airplane, he always takes the time to verify that there are bathrooms there. He goes into the airplane bathroom and shows you how everything works. So you don't pee your pants on the plane flight because you're afraid to use the toilet.

Of course, some of these techniques only work on television. Mister Rogers will frequently ask you a question that sounds rhetorical, and then proceed as though you had answered it. I believe is the source of the common "can you say X?" parody construct. The semi-rhetorical question is incredibly condescending when someone does it to you in person. But Mister Rogers never acts like he heard your answer. You both know it's television and he can't hear you. Instead, he'll answer the question himself. "Is this the right shape? No, certainly not." He waits for you to give your opinion and then he weighs in with his own. If you don't say anything, that also works.

In general, this show is not my thing and never would have been, but I really admire the dedication to the target audience, and the field trip segments are always cool.

little of my collections have enabled in contemplation: I created a blackout story as a present for Allison and decided to retroactively make it my 2016 NaNoGenMo project. I call it "Amazon Prime". Enjoy!

At work, in the morning, when it's quiet:

Holiday tree in the main lobby at NYPL SASB.

November Book Roundup : Please join me in writing a long-overdue Crummy feature, Book Roundup. Hmm, I'm being informed I have to write this myself. Please join other NYCB readers in reading a long over-due Crummy feature, Book Roundup. This is part of my up-ramping effort to post to NYCB more often and to control more of the information I put on the Internet.

It works like Film Roundup, but with less detail. At one point I pledged less detail on Film Roundup and it hasn't really worked, but here I'm serious. I'm just going to mention the books I read that I liked or that I need to remember I read. I'm reading most of these books on NYPL's SimplyE reader, and since libraries don't keep track of which books you read, this is a great way of remembering what I've read.

November Film Roundup: A few movies seen in a miserable month. Really high success rate though! Plus, this is the first month since the beginning of Film Roundup where every feature I saw is a new release. Maybe that counts for something in this messed-up world. Naw, who am I kidding? Update: turns out that's not even true, I forgot about Avanti! when I was writing this. When I was writing this I knew there was probably a movie I'd forgotten and I'd have to write an update like this one, and now it's happened.

[Comments] (2) October "Film" Roundup: October was a Krzysztof Kieslowski month at the museum, so we saw a lot of his stuff with a few other things mixed in. Kieslowski is Sumana's favorite director, whereas I had seen one of his films. Tons of new stuff, many new favorites, some duds... it's all in a Film Roundup's work!

Reviews Of Old Science Fiction Anthologies: 1972: Just finished Donald A. Wollheim Presents The 1972 Annual World's Best SF, an old SF anthology with one of those funky 1970s Yves Tanguy-esque cover paintings, obtained, I believe, through Jed Hartman. While it's fresh in my mind I wanted to take note of my favorite stories from the book. If nothing else, it's sometimes useful for me to go back and remember stories that I really liked.

As you'd expect from a year's-best anthology all the stories in this book are pretty good by 1972 standards. I'd say the champion is probably "Real-Time World" by Christopher Priest, which is weird in a way I found really interesting. Has a PKD-like plot but written in a different style. Honorable mention to Joanna Russ's "Gleepsite", which is weird in almost the same way, and a lot shorter. R. A. Lafferty's "All Pieces of A River Shore" was my favorite story in the book all the way up to the last paragraph, which enraged me to the point that I've bumped it down to third place.

Runners-up: Paul Anderson's "A Little Knowledge" was slight but really fun to read. Larry Niven's "The Fourth Profession" (Hugo nominee!) combined the superb inventiveness characteristic of the very best SF with a very 1972 conception of the range of acceptable human behavior. The introduction to "The Fourth Profession" mentioned it was originally published in a Samuel Delany anthology series called Quark, which looks like it's got a lot of good stuff.

Now that I've started writing all this down, I'll conclude by mentioning that I recently read the September/October 2011 F&SF and my favorite story was "Aisle 1047", Jon Armstrong's goofy story of brand warfare.

September Film Roundup: Ah, September, the month of cinematic disappointment. Wake me up when September ends. What's that you say? Well, just gimme like five more minutes.

August Film Roundup: August was a month with a lot of writing and relatively little film-watching, but I've got a number of good selections for you.

July Film Roundup: Rising global temperatures, political documentary series, and blockbusters in franchises I care about ensure that I spend a lot of time in air-conditioned theaters this summer. The result is a Film Roundup for the ages! Specifically, ages 13 and up. (Sorry—COPPA demands it!)

Film roundup Special #2:

June Film Roundup: This month's movies are all over the place. I also wrote a huge essay about a movie I saw on July 1, so there might be a supplemental post as well.

[Comments] (2) Paris Pictures: Versailles: I'm back with another Paris trip photoessay! This time we venture to Château Versailles, a short train trip from Paris. Versailles is a small commuter city whose major attraction is the residence (and occasional prison) of kings; sort of if New Rochelle used to be the capital of the United States.

There are four parts to the Versailles experience and it all depends on how much you want to pay and how far you're willing to walk. We paid full price and walked all day, we saw it all, and I'm here to tell you that the best thing is right at the end. I would not have chosen to go to Versailles, but I'm glad Sumana suggested it as our day trip.

Let's start at the Château proper. This was... a big palace with a lot of history. You get in a big line, which goes through a metal detector and then shuffles as a single unit through one extravagant room after another. It's not what the original architects had in mind but it does instill the intended sense of being dutiful and oppressed.

I took lots of pictures of this stage, but afterwards I realized 5000 other people had taken the same photos that day, so I won't show most of them. I will show the big Hall of Mirrors, which was really intimidating back when mirrors were an advanced technology, but which now kind of feels like a tinpot dictator showing you his Hall of Integrated Circuits.

"Yeah, it's all on one chip, no big deal."

There was a big gallery of paintings of French military victories, from which I took this dyptich I call "Leonard's Two Moods":
In a sop to the non-bloodthirsty, the gallery of military prowess was balanced by a hall of statues honoring humanists and statesmen who "spread the glory of French civilization without drawing the sword." They were able to get some big names, like Descartes (left).
In the many Versailles gift shops we learned that Frédéric Lenormand wrote a series of mystery novels staring Voltaire, including Le diable s'habille en Voltaire (The Devil Wears Voltaire), which according to the back-cover copy is the book that finally delivers the long-promised Voltaire-Satan grudge match! I don't read French well enough to read a historical-fiction novel, but I'd love to see some translations of these.

There's a restaurant (a branch of Angelina, a famous Paris hot-chocolate joint) in the main Château. Their croque monsieur was the only bad food I ate between the time I got off the plane at De Gaulle and the time I got back on the plane a week later. Generally museum restaurants are not great, so not too surprising. However the hot chocolate was excellent! And it's hard to beat the ambience; it called to mind a Ken MacLeod quote about how "our children giggle and eat ice-cream in the palaces of past rulers."


Speaking of which, let's move on to part two of the Versailles Journey, the gardens! This is a park about twice the size of Central Park, all done in the perfect shaved-trees geometric format that seems kinda creepy to me but it's just the way the French do parks. We took some establishing shots for Sumana's mom just so she could see we made it.

This part of Versailles is free, so if you're a cheapskate and just want to have a day in the park, this is for you. It's also the part of Versailles with the most replay value. Lots of kids running around eating ice-cream. You can rent a bike or a boat.

Near the entrance you see this fountain full of statues of frogs, and statues of people being turned into frogs. There's an implied threat that the king might himself turn you into a frog. (He had the legal right to do this, though it was rarely exercised.)

A lot of the gardens operate on the hedge-maze principle. You leave the beaten path, wander around in the trees and eventually stumble into a fountain or statue grouping. Unfortunately, although you're free to wander through the mazes, the fountains and whatnot are all caged behind gates, so you can't get a good look at them! Kind of spoils the fun.

You can't really see it in that picture, but the latticework on that gate says "XIIII XIIII XIIII XIIII".


A lot of people call it a day after seeing the main chateau and a bit of the gardens, but we pressed on! We took in the Grand Trianon, the palace that Louis XIV had built to get away from it all. This was the exact reason he'd had Versailles built, but when you're the king, truly "getting away from it all" would require delegating important decisions to someone else, and Louis XIV was not the delegating type, so he brought "it all" with him wherever he went. If he'd lived longer he would have probably built another palace even further away.

Because of this history the Grand Trianon made for a disappointing sequel to the Château. It is a little more informal, though; you get to see Louis's man-cave, where he would bro down for some billiards.

While you're over here you can check out the Petit Trianon, originally built for Madame de Pompadour but later occupied by Marie Antoinette, of unhelpful-suggestion fame. This is still more informal, a little closer to something a modern person might be able to live in. And if you're undeterred by the fact that it's now well into the afternoon and you've been walking all day, you can step outside the Petit Trianon into the Queen's Hamlet. And this is where it gets freaky.


I had of course heard that Marie Antoinette had "dressed up as a milkmaid", but there were a lot of slanders going around about ol' Marie, so a) I wasn't sure this had really happened, and b) I'd assumed it had maybe happened once, at the sort of party you see nowadays where frat boys dress like they're homeless.

Well, I'm here to tell you that it didn't happen once. It happened all the friggin' time, and the Queen's Hamlet is where it happened.

The backyard of the Petit Trianon is pretty normal, with winding paths through a natural-looking constructed environment. Trees, bridges, a theater, a "temple of Love"; what the French would consider an English-style park. Then you enter the Hamlet, a working replica of a farming village.

You know in Constellation Games where Tetsuo Milk creates the Ip Shkoy Replica Village with its convenience store and printing press, then goes around pretending to be all the inhabitants? It's like that, but it happened for real, in the 1700s, and it wasn't even the first time someone had done this. It was a fad!

There's a barn-type building with chickens and other farm animals.

There's a little pond with its own fairy-tale lighthouse.

There's a mill that doesn't do anything.

There are many other single-use buildings--a dairy, a "boudoir" whose only purpose seems to be to let Marie have a conversation in private, etc.

Over the centuries the Hamlet has fallen into disrepair and been restored with modern techniques. Here's the main house, which we couldn't enter because it's undergoing renovation. That's right, we're restoring the replica farmhouse to recreate the effect of the original replica.

And it works! It's clearly fake, but the part of my brain that likes this sort of thing doesn't care. Even with tourists and kids running around, the Hamlet is a nice relaxing place to be. There's something deeply appealing about these tidy replicas of rural life. It reminds me of watching Peter Jackson's Hobbiton. Sumana called it the "Pinterest mom" look.


In general we found the French attitude towards Marie Antoinette confusing. The Versailles gift shop was full of kitsch indicating a demand for the pomp and decadence of pre-revolutionary France, and the doomed queen in particular. But most tourists, having gotten within a mile of her really nice Minecraft base, were not willing to walk out here, to what, in our opinion, is the highlight of the park.

So we asked a French friend about history's final judgement on Marie Antoinette, and he thought about it a long time and said, "Well... she wasn't French." 'Nuff said!

Mad May Beyond Film Roundup: It is with great pride that I announce Film Roundup Roundup, a page that collects my recommended films in one convenient table, without any of the bad movies or nuance-adding reviews that clutter these monthly blog posts. Of all the films I've written about on NYCB over the years, there are about 125 that I'm willing to go on record and say that you, random person on the Internet, should check out. I'll update the list... at least once a year, how about that? And now, the latest candidates for addition to that big list, though I set up the toolchain before I wrote these reviews, so none of 'em are on there:

Paris Pictures: Musée des Arts et Métiers: Hey, how's it going? I've got a ton of important stuff to do, but that just means I can procrastinate by putting up pictures from our Paris trip. Today I'd like to introduce you to the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a museum not found in either of our guidebooks but recommended by every French person we talked to. You know how The Da Vinci Code starts in the Louvre? Well, Foucault's Pendulum isn't having any of that mainstream nonsense--it starts off in Arts et Métiers, a museum of Science and Invention with none of that postmodern self-reflection seen in museums whose exhibits were updated after, say, 1995.

That's probably why it's not in the guidebooks; it's kind of old-fashioned and disjointed. You'll walk through a bunch of exhibits that don't seem to have changed since the 1960s, and then suddenly jump forward in museum time to the electronics age (mid-1990s I'd say). You check out some cool old computers and awkard "interactive" exhibits, then you walk through a doorway or around a corner, and you're back in the 1960s with things behind glass in wooden cases.

Nonetheless, if you're reading this weblog, this is a must-see museum when you're in Paris, because the amount and type of incredible stuff they have is off the charts. Here's just a sample to whet your appetite:
I figured out who buys all that Statue of Liberty kitsch in New York —it's tourists visiting from Paris! Parisians love the Statue of Liberty. There's a 1/4 scale model on the banks of the Siene, there's this thing (I think a 1/16) in front of the museum, another one outside the Musée d'Orsay. Look, you gave it away, it's ours now... don't make this weird, France.
This is the sort of thing you come to the museum for: Léon Foucault's 1862 apparatus for measuring the speed of light with a rapidly rotating mirror. To see how it works you can either watch a very slow video or promise yourself you'll read the Wikipedia page later and then never get around to it.
Or how about this wicked bastard? This is a steampunk oscilloscope, made by Rudolph Koenig in the 19th century. On the left is a big stack of Hemholz resonators, each designed to pick up one specific frequency and dampen all other frequencies. Each resonator is attached to a little gaslight. You set all the gaslights blasting away, and when a resonator vibrates it makes the flame of the attached gaslight wobble.

Then you turn the crank on the right to rotate the mirror (everything had a rotating mirror back then), and the resonant frequencies of whatever sound you're playing show up visually as wavy lines across the mirror, versus the undisturbed lines of all the frequencies not present. There's almost no signage on this thing and I had to sit through a slow five-minute audioguide explanation to figure out what's going on here but it was worth it!

Perhaps the plastic arts are more your speed. Here's a show-offy piece by Colville from the 1855 Universal Exposition, which demonstrates all the colors the manufacturer is capable of slapping onto a piece of porcelain. It really reminded me of the DOS color palette the way there are adjacent dark and light versions of the same color.
Or maybe you're too pure, too abstract for such material concerns. Maybe you'd like to take this sample case door-to-door, selling geometric solids to the public? This was briefly a popular business model among the Willie Loman types of nineteenth-century France, who eventually gave up and used the shapes to study geometry. These two pieces are by Louis Dupin (1846) and Baradelle (1805).
You know that the French Revolution gave birth to the metric system and had its own calendar, but did you know they also used decimal time? Tragically, counterrevolutionary clocks, like this two-faced example, made it easy for slackers to continue using the old system, and decimal time was only the law of the land for about a year. Look at it! The decimal time face is the tiny one on the bottom! They're not even taking it seriously!
Sumana with a model of the Jacquard loom, distant ancestor to the mighty general-purpose computer. What we didn't expect was all the other looms that came beforehand! They were all here in one big room that people walked right through, not knowing how cool the things they were seeing are.
Here's an example: a model of an earlier loom controlled by holes punched in paper. Now that's computery! Looks just like 1980s dot-matrix printer paper. (We also saw a full-size loom that basically ran off a player piano roll.) The problem here is that it's one huge sheet of paper. If you want to add or remove an "instruction", sucks to be you. It's like programming in BASIC when you can't change the line numbers. Whereas the Jacquard loom is programmed by small cards that are tied together. It's a lot easier to go in and change something.
There was a whole exhibit hall about keyboards and other input devices, a section I like to call "Telegraphy and Typewriters". The museum is full of unusual keyboard layouts. You'll have to trust me on this because I'm showing you a stenography typewriter, and those still have weird keyboard layouts. The second picture shows the box the stenography keyboard came in, and another, more spidery stenography keyboard in the background.
Here's perhaps my favorie piece from the "Telegraphy" section of that exhibit hall. This brave inventor refused to succumb to Not Invented Here syndrome. In an era when everyone was inventing weird telegraphy keyboards, this person thought "We already have keyboards! The keyboard has been around and successful for hundreds of years! I'm not going to reinvent the wheel!"
I'm going to close with this shot of the classic Minitel terminal. The museum had a very Pavel Chekhov rah-rah attitude towards all things French, and I don't begrudge this attitude—technologically the French have a lot to be proud of. But sometimes it was kind of a stretch. Did you know that the European ground station for the Telstar satellite was in France? I don't really think that's sufficient grounds to display a model of the Telstar in a museum exhibit and do a whole thing about it. You made Minitel! Minitel was amazing! You should do a whole Hall of Minitel! Just a suggestion.

April Film Roundup: Man, this took forever to put together. I can't believe how many movies I saw in April, given that we spent a week in France, where everyone knows they don't have movies. Enjoy:

Well, see you next—ow! I banged my shin on Tomorrowland (2015), which for some reason is sitting right in the middle of this high-traffic dread threshold! Oh, right, the curse. Well, only one way to undo my hasty decision—express an opinion about the movie! It was a nice surprise to see Hugh Laurie as the scenery-chewing villain. Bye!

Paris Graffiti: There's a lot of boring graffiti in the world, but sometimes it's cute or interesting, and I think the Francophone cartooning tradition means there's more interesting stuff in Europe. Here are the greatest acts of vandalism I saw on our trip to Paris:

Man, that second one's like a Paul Klee graffito. The snail and the "Nos amores digitales" were on the same wall!

[Comments] (2) I'm Stuffed With Pastries And Drunk With Power: Sumana and I just returned from an anniversary trip to Paris, courtesy of Sumana's mom. We had a great time, and as time permits I'll be putting up mini-travelogues of the major sights we saw. I'll start things off with a catalog of our lesser adventures and discoveries.

As always, I travelled exclusively by private bus. We had to make some minor livery changes to make my usual ride street-legal in France.

We skipped the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, Paris's two biggest tourist traps. However we did take a boat cruise of the Seine the first day, so there is proof that I was near the Eiffel Tower at some point.

We were more enthusiastic about Montmartre, home of the perspective-tastic steps seen in Celine And Julie Go Boating.

I loved the Jardin du Luxembourg. For some reason people were always taking selfies next to this statue.

Also in the garden but a bit harder to find was this awesome metastatue!

The Luxembourg also features a functional Beaux-Arts latrine (not pictured).

The most touristy thing we did was a walk down the Champs Élysées, which was the Paris equivalent of walking through Times Square on Broadway, then crossing the street and walking back. It was cool at the start (Arc de Triomphe), and again later on once it turned into a park, but I'm gonna let this picture sum up the middle:

We ate a lot of great food! I won't be sharing pictures of the food because I don't take good pictures of food, but I'll say that raw milk cheese is fabulous, and pastries and bread were routinely as good as the best you can get in New York. High-quality carbs and cheese: the culinary highlights of my trip.

We went on a food tour with two other tourists and since three of us were from New York, when we went into the cheese shop the tour guide said "Look, you can get most of these at Murray's, so we're just gonna focus on the raw milk." Much appreciated.

We didn't eat at La Grenoille but I thought it was cute and it can stand in for a lot of Paris restaurants. I tried escargot, as well as the mysterious Futurist dessert known as the floating island, and my verdict for both is "meh".

We also didn't eat at this restaurant, because it was closed, and because the passive-aggressive note taped to the window ensures that no one will ever eat there again.

(My translation: "We will reopen upon completion of the work to stop the recurrent floods of fecal water from the WC installed in the basement. We are waiting on the leaseholder to act.")

But I'm sure you're asking: what do the French think of America in today's Je Suis Charlie world? Well, here's the answer, in sidewalk menu form.

Bad luck, rest of the country! According to France, New York City is coextant with the United States, and Toronto stands in for all of Canada. It could be worse; in the airport I saw a French guidebook for "New York + Brooklyn". I mean, I get it, we didn't really leave Paris, but I know there are different regions in France.

This tote bag we saw in a €1.20 store (i.e. a dollar store, but more expensive) managed to achieve greater overall accuracy by avoiding pesky details. Not sure where that subway map comes from though.

Okay, that's it for now, but tune in soon for scientific instruments, Duchamp's obviously fake readymades, and the Tetsuo Milk-approved netherworld of Versailles. Just to whet your appetite, here's the sort of thing you see in the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a really cool museum that wasn't mentioned by either of the guidebooks we used, but was mentioned by every French person we asked.

An early steno keyboard! Awesome. See you next time.

March Film Roundup: Roundin' up the films, roundin' up the films... oh, hi. I didn't see you there. Because I'm looking at my computer monitor, typing this paragraph. Hey, you want to hear about some movies?

This month the Television Spotlight shines on Drunk History, a Youtube series that made the leap to basic cable and has been going strong for long enough that I'm comfortable spotlighting it here even though there's (hopefully) many more seasons to come. Sumana has written about the uses of history in Drunk History, Hamilton, and the comics of Kate Beaton, so I'll just say that all three use anachronism to deconstruct the accepted narratives of Serious History. Drunk History treats Serious History as an inhibition to be broken down with booze, and then tries to build the wall back up with 100% literal reenactments that treat the drunken ramblings of the narrator like they're Shelby Foote talking about Gettysburg. Great stuff.

I'm pretty sure Drunk History was also the inspiration for the hilarious, Mormon-friendly Kid Snippets Youtube series, which means that even as it's still on the air it's paying back in inspiration to the indie-web-film community that spawned it.


This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Monday, September 09 2013, 18:05:52 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Tuesday, January 17 2017, 09:00:01 Nowhere Standard Time.

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