Category Archives: Recommendations

Reviews, praise, or otherwise promoted.

Hunter Rawlings, on Liberal Education

“As you have no doubt noticed, many people in the U.S. have lost faith in liberal education. From governors to legislators, from pundits to parents, Americans increasingly view higher education as purely instrumental—as a ticket to a job, nothing less, nothing more. This vocational view sees college as a commodity: you purchase education the way you buy a car, and the return on investment is measured in strictly financial terms:

How much do graduates make?

How much do individual majors make?

What percentage of new graduates get jobs?

Why major in subjects that do not lead directly to high-paying jobs?

The Arts College does not see itself as a vocational school. Neither do our other colleges, which depend significantly upon the Arts College for many of their fundamental courses.

[…]

What is liberal education? I take “liberal” in its original Latin sense as an education for free people; that is, people who do not live in a dictatorship, but have an active role to play in the life of their society. Liberal education liberates students to think for themselves as individuals, to develop their creative capacities, and to contribute to public life, not just earn money as a cog in a machine.

[…]

A university’s curriculum says a lot about what that university purports to be. The Stanford faculty recently published a well-conceived report on the Stanford curriculum. Princeton is about to release its report on the same topic. In its turn, I would like to see Cornell give strong and clear answers to the following questions:

For tomorrow’s world, what should a well-educated person know?

What should she be able to do with her mind?

To contribute to her society?

These are tough questions. They are particularly pertinent now, given the state of this country, when our national discourse has descended to the language of the gutter. It is the responsibility of universities to do what they can to raise the level of discourse. Here are a few thoughts:

First, we need citizens who can read closely and critically; otherwise they will be easy prey for political and Internet nonsense.

Second, we need citizens who can reason intelligently and ethically; otherwise, we will continue to suffer from shallow arguments and dishonest leadership.

Third, we need citizens who can speak and write clearly and persuasively; otherwise, they will be incapable of convincing others of their views.

Fourth, we need citizens who can do independent research; otherwise, they will depend upon someone else to tell them what the facts are.

Fifth, we need citizens who can analyze quantitative arguments common to math and the sciences; otherwise, they will be unable to assess issues of critical importance.

Finally, we need individuals who have intellectual curiosity and a lifelong desire to keep learning; without those assets, they will not escape the vapid consumerism and celebrity culture that is all around us.

Those are general goals, as I see it, of a liberal education.”

Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings, “State of the University”, October 28th 2016. Comments have been condensed and reformatted.

An Arbitrary And Not Comprehensive Ranking Of My RSD16 Purchases, ~48 Hours Later

Saturday was Record Store Day 2016, which saw local vinyl shops filled with limited new releases. I went a little nuts, and this is a fairly quick take on what I bought. Thanks to Turntable Lab for making the process painless, and to Dan Budiac for keeping me company in line.

lush-origami

#1 – Lush / Origami

Beautifully packaged, beautifully mastered, and the download codes contain a ton of demos and unreleased tracks. Glad I splurged on this.

whitestripes-peel

#2 – The White Stripes / The Complete John Peel Sessions

Didn’t even know this was getting released. Missed how raw TWS could sound.

RfaD

#3 – Clint Mansell feat. Kronos Quartet / Requiem For A Dream

One of the greatest all time soundtracks, with new material and gorgeous packaging.

tgt-tls

#4 – The Go! Team / Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Has been on my favorite albums list for a while. This would be higher if it wasn’t for the nitpicky issue of this being the other version of T,L,S. (There’s this weird thing where there’s two very similar versions of the same album with some differences in the vocals and samples, and I’m used to the other one.)

The Diary

#5 – J Dilla / The Diary

Didn’t realize this was going to be a vocal album. Digging what I’ve heard so far but I need more time with it.

Cassanova 70

#6 – Air / Casanova 70

Not normally crazy for splatter designs, but it looks nice in person and it’s a reissue of a classic Air track.

Chvrches

#7 – CHVRCHES / Every Open Eye (The Remixes)

Haven’t spent much time with this, but liked what I heard. Annoyed the download code doesn’t work (yet), and doesn’t have a fully design sleeve.

JK+DP

#8 – Junior Kimbrough + Daft Punk / I Gotta Try You Girl (Daft Punk Edit)

Not what I would’ve expected out of a Daft Punk remix/edit, but a solid 15 minute reworking of a soul classic. Nice etching on the B side.

if

#9 – If Music Presents You Need This: Eastern European Sounds (1970-1986)

Some interesting exotic tracks, but Alojz Bouda’s “Random (Naslepo)” was one of those songs you drop the needle on and immediately rip it back off the vinyl.

planetrock

#10 – Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force / Planet Rock (Remixes)

A little underwhelmed with what I heard of the remixes. But one of those classic songs that felt mandatory.

disney

#11 – VA / Disney’s Favorite Songs

Was hoping this would be more than just a by-the-book compilation of well known Disney songs. Dig the cover art, though.

hellokitty

#12 – Hello Kitty / Hello World

It’s telling that no one submitted this into Discogs for a solid 24 hours out of embarrassment. Luckily, I have no shame. Mostly just bought this for Katie’s Sanrio collection – the songs are pretty awful.

NYC 10: The Best

Last month marked 10 years since we moved to New York City. I’m writing on a variety of topics to reflect on a decade in one of the best cities in the world. Read all the posts.

New Yorkers are generally stereotyped by being rude; in truth, they’re just strongly opinionated. With that in mind, here are a number of things I am right about, in alphabetical order.

The best Apple Store in NYC is West 14th Street, as it is rarely crowded or busy.

Inside Chinatown Fair

The best arcade is Chinatown Fair, although this is mostly because it’s the only arcade worth a damn at this point. It’s lost something since its hole-in-the-wall years (as pictured above), but it still has a good selection of music games and a couple fighters.

King Henry's Road NW3

The best bar in NYC is The Dead Rabbit. Busy Irish pub downstairs, crazy speakeasy cocktails upstairs. If you’re downstairs, get the Irish Coffee; if you’re upstairs, get the Ginger Daisy.

The best barbecue in NYC is Mighty Quinn’s. The brisket and pulled pork is unreal.

The best coffee in NYC – and this is, admittedly, a very tough pick – is the Iced Latte at Cafe Grumpy. Any Stumptown or Blue Bottle location is also acceptable.

The Troll 2 Experience

The best comedy venue in NYC is UCB Theatre. I’ve seen Aziz Ansari, Paul Scheer, Bobby Moynihan, Julie Klausner, and plenty of others build their careers there.

The best doughnut in NYC can be found at Doughnut Plant. I am partial to the Vanilla Bean & Blackberry.

Schnitzel & Things Line at 12:08

The best food truck in NYC is Schnitzel And Things. Chicken platter, fries and cukes, spicy mayo.

The best fried chicken in NYC is Hill Country Chicken. Eat downstairs. Don’t skip the pie.

The best lobster roll in NYC is Luke’s Lobster. Practically perfect.

The best mocha in NYC (which is very different from best coffee) is at Lucid Cafe. I don’t know how they make it but it is downright magical.

The best movie theatre in NYC is Regal Battery Park Stadium 11. Somehow, it is still a secret, despite everyone I know agreeing on this point.

The Cloisters

The best museum in NYC is The Cloisters, not because it’s got a particularly vibrant collection or strong curation, but because it is so far out of the way that you don’t feel like you’re in the biggest city in the world.

The best music store in NYC, and the best place to buy movies, is Kim’s Video and Music. I miss their old location, but they are vital for DVD and vinyl collectors.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Sakura Field

The best park in NYC is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, especially in the spring.

The best pizza in NYC is at Motorino.

The best ramen in NYC is at Hide-Chan Ramen. You get a free topping Monday through Wednesday. Get extra pork.

The best overall restaurant in NYC – and by “overall”, I mean balancing the service and quality of food against price – is Gramercy Tavern. I have a solo lunch here every year on my birthday, and it’s where we go on our anniversary. Yes, Per Se is gorgeous, and Le Bernardin does amazing things with seafood, and I eat at North End Grill every week – but Gramercy just hits this balance of everything so well that it’s a solid level above the rest.

Gallow Green

The best rooftop bar in NYC is Gallow Green. Gorgeous in the summer. Yes, it’s expensive – it’s a rooftop bar. That’s how these things work.

The best sandwich in NYC is the prime rib sandwich at the Rosticceria inside of Eataly. This is a sandwich I come into the city for on my days off. It’s only available until about 5 PM, so plan accordingly.

The best subway line is the N. While I take the E every day because of its copious cell signal coverage (and that its the best choice for my commute), it’s hard to beat the path the N cuts diagonally across the island.

The best sushi in NYC is at 15 East. Be forewarned, it’s expensive – sitting at the counter for lunch is the best way to try it.

The best video game store is Video Games New York. The shelves are legendary, and sometimes pricey, but their selection is unmatched.

Always A Lighthouse, Always A Man, Always A City

infinite-street

So Bioshock Infinite came out yesterday.

infinite-battleshipbay

While I generally try to save all my praise for games until the end of the year, I’m going to make an slight exception for this one to tell you, in the present, that it’s really, really fantastic.

infinite-forward

If you’re not already playing it, you should push everything else onto your backlog so you can go play it. (Preferably the PC version, if you can.)

infinite-sky

What are you still doing here? Go play it.

Disclaimer: My wife works for Take-Two Interactive, parent company of both the developer (Irrational Games) and the publisher (2K Games) of Bioshock Infinite. This recommendation would still be coming even if she didn’t work for them.

A Good Night For Ghosts: Early Thoughts On Then She Fell

Photo by Adam Jason Photography.

In large part due to an addiction to Kickstarter that has been described as “compulsive”, I recently backed the production of Then She Fell by Third Rail Projects, an immersive theatre experience that revolves around Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland. As part of my backer perks, I was invited to a dress rehearsal last night – below are some broad thoughts and observations about the performance (mostly contrasted with Sleep No More as a reference point) in advance of the opening later this week.

A few introductory notes:

1. I’m staying away from detailing specific scenes/sets/story points; this will mostly be about the experience. Some might consider this spoiler-y, so if you want to go in with no preconceptions at all, stay away from the rest of this post. SPOILER WARNING.
2. This was a dress rehearsal, which meant the show wasn’t quite ready. There are a handful of minor complaints I’m leaving out of this post as the team gave every indication it’ll be tightened up for the opening. (We were allowed to give feedback at the end of the show and those points have been lodged there.)
3. The show is already sold out for the entire run and it seems unlikely that they’ll be extending it into perpetuity as Punchdrunk has with SNM. If this interests you and you don’t already have tickets, you are most likely out of luck.

Down the rabbit hole we go.

Continue reading A Good Night For Ghosts: Early Thoughts On Then She Fell

My OS X Standard Apps, 2012 Edition

Lia recently posted about her favorite OS X apps, triggers by a recent rebuild of her Mac. It’s been a long time since I’ve cataloged what I’m using on my desktop, so here’s a quick inventory for the sake of having a list. Not every last I use, just the things I feel strongly about or think people may not have heard of.

Chrome – my general tolerance times for browsers tends to be about two or three years before I feel compelled to switch, but Chrome may finally break that trend. It remains zippy fast, has a good extension community, and it works well. Little quibbles are building – the new print pane is pointless, browser sync seems to break a lot when you have two-factor authentication, and I have a bad email address in my autocomplete I absolutely cannot seem to remove – but generally I’m still happy.
Favorite bit: background updates, rather than Firefox’s habit of alerting you about every last change to your extensions.

Reeder – it’s my RSS app of choice on iOS, and the desktop version is plenty nice as well. My general OCD about feed reading means I’ll typically have a browser with three tabs to Google Reader open, as well as having Reeder open in my dock – I should really use this more.
Favorite bit: Fully customizable keyboard shortcuts, so it works the same as the native Google Reader.

Adium – I took a lot of crap from friends over the years for choosing Adium over iChat. Apparently video chat and Direct IM were more important to them over tabbed conversations, multiple accounts compiled into the same window, or conversation logging that had search. As someone who’s been feverishly communicating by IM for half my life (!), I need a versatile IM client, and iChat is pretty inflexible.
Favorite bit: multiple profile support (hold Option on launch), so I can glom my work accounts into one profile, my home into another, and jump between them on launch.

YoruFukurou – generally, desktop Twitter clients fall into one of two buckets. Either they’re overly simplistic for day-to-day users (see: official client), or they’re over the top and intended for “social media consultants” (see: TweetDeck). YoruFukurou finds the difference, being a client meant for regular users that just happens to be full featured and have lots of customizations available.
Favorite bit: the hotkeys that let me either go to my full stream (Command-1), just the stream of the user I clicked on (Command-2), or the conversation of the tweet I clicked on (Command-3).

Aperture – everyone’s got their habits for photo post-processing and Aperture is mine. All of my post-processing workflows are there and I feel comfortable with it. FlickrExport for Aperture is a must, as the native Flickr support is TERRIBLE.
Favorite bit: the price tag, now $80 in the App Store, down from the $300 list price it had on its original release.

Transmit – another long-standing favorite, it does everything I need in an FTP/SFTP client.
Favorite bit: “Open With…” for remote files. Being able to toss things into my editor of choice and save them naturally to upload is something I take for granted now. Things used to be so much worse.

Paprika – I was looking for a recipe book application of choice for my iPad, when I stumbled onto Paprika. It was exactly what I wanted. The desktop version came out later, and it’s similarly indispensable. With the cloud sync between the two versions, I generally do recipe input on my iMac, and then cooking with the iPad in the kitchen.
Favorite bit: the in-app browser that recognizes most recipe sites, and gives you a glowing “Save Recipe” button to auto-create a new recipe. It’s like magic.

Notational Velocity – text editors are generally causes for holy wars among coders. As management, I don’t do much coding anymore (the bits I do, I use TextMate for). But I do often need to jot notes and refer back to them, and Notational Velocity excels at quick capturing of meeting notes or phone messages.
Favorite bit: cloud sync that works with SimpleNote on iOS.

Linkinus – it may defy all rational explanation, but I do still regularly use IRC. While I had been a Colloquy user up until a few weeks ago, Linkinus feels a bit more tended to and thought out.
Favorite bit: being able to favorite snippets of chat for later reference. Why did no one think of this sooner?

Transmission – if you need an OS X BitTorrent client, this is the one to go with.
Favorite bit: auto-grouping of torrents based on import criteria, so they’re all neatly arranged in a list.

Fantastical – best menu bar calendar add-on ever. Works with Outlook as well as iCal, so helps greatly at work.
Favorite bit: quick entry of events through text input.

Delivery Status – as someone who orders a ton of crap from Amazon, this is a life saver to know where my things are. If it wasn’t for this, I would never use Dashboard anymore.
Favorite bit: Growl notifications.

What are you all using these days?

Why Do Things The Easy Way?

“It has almost bankrupted us, almost killed us, and estranged us from family and friends, but we had to do it.” – Dave and Steph Dewaele

If there is a musical project worth your attention this summer, it is Radio Soulwax.

To describe it briefly: Dave and Steph, two of perhaps the most ingenius DJs on the scene today, have opted to not merely release an hour-long mix every week, but also with an appropriate visual accompaniment. There are free apps for iOS and Android allowing for download and streaming, and the web site provides a rotating scheduled stream of the mixes.

Being 13 mixes in, there’s a solid half day of music up already; some quick recommendations:

* *Introversy* – as many song intros as they could jam together in one hour.
* *(Nothing Worse Than A) Bad Rap* – as many horrible late 70s/early 80s rap songs as they could find.
* *Librarian Girl* – library music, as in instrumentals generally licensed for backgrounds in TV or movies.
* *This Is Belgium Part 2: Cherry Moon On Valium* – perhaps my favorite of the mixes thus far, this mix is 20-year old Belgian rave and Hi-NRG songs that have been slowed down from their typical 140-150 BPM down to a “sexy” 115. This would be amazing even if it weren’t for the visual accompaniment of people doing the appropriate rave dances to the music.

New mixes are released roughly every Monday. Enterprising souls might be able to pick apart the mobile versions to reap the rewards of pure MP4 files.

If you’re into electronic music in the slightest, and have a sense of humor, don’t miss this.

Anil Dash on Community Moderation

Anil has penned the wonderfully named and 100% correct [“If Your Website’s Full Of Assholes, It’s Your Fault”](http://dashes.com/anil/2011/07/if-your-websites-full-of-assholes-its-your-fault.html):

> When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you’re the person who made it possible, it’s 100% your fault. If you aren’t willing to be a grown-up about that, then that’s okay, but you’re not ready to have a web business. Businesses that run cruise ships have to buy life preservers. Companies that sell alcohol have to keep it away from kids. And people who make communities on the web have to moderate them.

Really, go read it now if you have anything to do with online community building or moderation.

> So, I beseech you: Fix your communities. Stop allowing and excusing destructive and pointless conversations to be the fuel for your business. Advertisers, hold sites accountable if your advertising appears next to this hateful stuff. Take accountability for this medium so we can save it from the vilification that it still faces in our culture.

The Witch In The Green Dress: Thoughts on Sleep No More

Sleep No More

On Saturday night, I stepped into the McKittrick hotel with five friends. Three hours later, I found myself back on the sidewalk of 27th Street, catching my breath, my heart still racing, my mind still spinning.

If you keep an ear to what’s going on around NYC, then you may already know that the McKittrick is home to Punchdrunk’s “immersive theatre” experience, Sleep No More. Audiences are invited to don a mask and explore 100,000 square feet of a recreated abandoned hotel, while a cast of twenty-three actors stride from room to room and silently act out Macbeth by way of Hitchcock. Some audience members choose to follow one or two characters and see what happens; others opt to explore on their own, rifling through drawers and cabinets and suitcases. The choices are up to each attendee.

Much has been written about the experience, and I am loathe to rehash. You might want to heard the observations on the inherent voyeurism from Ben Brantley at the Times, or Michael Abbott’s lovely argument as to why anyone who calls themselves a gamer needs to go see it. You may be interested in the amazing set and prop design, which would lead you to this NYT slideshow. And there are plenty of other impressions around the web, almost all positive.

My normal way to talk about these sorts of experiences is to meticulously walk my way through everything that happened, trying to gather all the details so they form a single authoritative post. I am going to skip on that method for Sleep No More. I may have caught multiple scenes, I may have followed most every character at least once, I may have dug through a lot of drawers – and I may have even found an easter egg or two. But that experience was mine, and when you go, you will have your own – and it will be different, and unique, and yours. I do not want to taint that or come across as recommending a course of action.

But I will share one story from last night, after the jump. (This might constitute a spoiler, so if you’re looking to go in blind, stop reading here.)

Continue reading The Witch In The Green Dress: Thoughts on Sleep No More

In Praise Of Adam Kuban

Truffle Pile-On

I have met many of my best friends over pizza.

In 2004 and 2005, I found myself attending a couple of “Slice Club” meetups, a gathering for people (who like pizza) to meet other people (who also like pizza). While at the time I wouldn’t have considered myself a “foodie” – nor much of a “blogger” – these events introduced me to some really fantastic people, which began so many of my friendships (both directly and indirectly), spawned adventures in NYC and beyond, and triggered more parties than I can remember.

To that end, I owe a gigantic amount of love and respect to Adam Kuban, the founder of Slice NY, creator of Slice Club, and all around awesome guy. Ironically, I did not meet Adam through Slice Club – but his friendliness and efforts to get people together over a love of pizza (and burgers!) has perhaps impacted the last five years of my life more than I realized. (As was clearly evidenced by the outpouring of connection tracing on Twitter with so many friends this evening, I am not alone in this respect.)

Why mention this today? Adam has informed the world that he is leaving Serious Eats after four and a half years there. He has done a tremendous job as a part of Ed Levine’s team, and I’m sure his future exploits will be similarly amazing.

Adam Kuban

So, many thanks, Adam. I bet you didn’t think you’d change lives with a pizza blog, did you?