2015 is over. Done. Fin. And what a year it was. Here are some things I particularly enjoyed over the past year (and as such, are subject to my own personal preferences and biases. Sorry, Kendrick.).
Best Longform Journalism
What Is Code?, Paul Ford for Bloomberg
This is the best description of how computers work I’ve read, bar none. That doesn’t mean that it’s an easy read – this article is hefty. Plan to spend several hours reading, re-reading, and working through the examples. But the payoff is worth it, especially if you work closely with technical people at your job or at school.
The article itself is a great example of open-source software, where many people can contribute to the final product. While the content isn’t up for review, several programmers have added extra examples, neat little easter eggs, and more to improve the original article.
Honorable Mentions: The Really Big One, Kathryn Shulz (tl;dr don’t move to Seattle); The Lonely Death of George Bell, N. R. Kleinfield; Migrants, Scott Anderson
Best Non-fiction Novel
The Innovators, Walter Issacson
Written by the author of Steve Job’s biography, The Innovators traces the history of computing from its theoretical underpinnings in 18th century England, to the first von Neuman machines, through the rise of Silicon Valley. While other books (Turing’s Cathedral, Hackers: Heroes of a Computer Revolution) do a better job detailing certain periods in computing history, The Innovators instead highlights the parallels between the key inventions that gave rise to the modern computer.
Honorable mentions: Flash Boys, Michael Lewis; Business Adventures, John Brooks
Best Fiction Novel
The Martian, Andy Weir
The Martian wins by default as it was the only fiction book I read this year (much to my chagrin). That shouldn’t take anything away from the story, however. It’s a highly entertaining read and certainly inspired me to start hacking again.
In Colour, Jamie xx
Simply a fantastic album. The minimalism was a nice breath of fresh air compared to the bangers I hear every weekend at parties. Loud Places might be my favorite song of the year (though Above The Clouds Of Pompeii by Bear’s Den is a close second).
Honorable mention: Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens
Snowpiercer is not just entertaining, it’s surprisingly philosophical, features killer visuals, and (in my opinion) is a vanguard of future movie development. It’s definitely worth watching, but don’t take my word for it. It got an 85% on Metacritic (95% on RottenTomatoes, but Metacritic is better since I worked there). If you haven’t seen it yet, go into it blind. The less you know, the better.
So just how did you miss one of the best films of 2014? Well, there was some controversy surrounding its U.S. release, meaning unless you were in a big city you probably missed it in theaters. Don’t worry, it’s on Netflix!
Regarding the philosophy and film theory of Snowpiercer, I’m polishing my essay on the subject. It will be released next week, so make sure you watch the movie before then if you haven’t seen it!
Snowpiercer, to my knowledge, was the first movie made explicitly for an international audience. It features famous Korean and American actors, and was a critical (if not commercial) success in both Asia and in the United States. This allowed it to gross significantly more than films with similar budgets that are tailored to a specific region. Additionally, it was one of the first movies to be heavily distributed digitally, especially in the United States. I think we’ll see more movies built with the global audience in mind going forward.
Paul McCartney, Lollapalooza
Absolutely incredible show. It’s hard to believe Sir Paul is 73 years old given the length of the set and the energy he put into it. Hearing tens of thousands of people singing “Hey Jude” in unison was awe-inspiring. But the part that made it so special was that I was able to share the moment with my dad.
Honorable mention: Mac DeMarco at the Fox. Great venue, great friends, great music, Enter Sandman played at a variety of tempos as the encore, all capped off with cheeseburgers from The Smokehouse? Couldn’t ask for a better Tuesday night.
The Franklin Bar (Philadelphia, PA)
Special thanks to our host for showing us this one while we were in town. I would have never found it otherwise, as the enterance is unmarked and below streetlevel. Our group splurged on the tasting menu (the theme was Pennsylvania Dutch Country), and it was a great decision. The cocktails were stiff and surprisingly tasty. Cool vibes and a cool crowd. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area, and a great place to impress a date.
Honorable mentions: Local Edition (San Francisco, CA); Tap Haus (Berkeley, CA)
DuMont Burger (Brooklyn, NY)
Online reviews about this place are middling, but there was something about this burger that blew me away. Unfortunately for you all, I am unable to clearly articulate what that something is. Maybe the taste was enhanced by the company, as I was meeting up with some long-lost cousins of mine. Whatever the case may be, I’ll be going back the next time I’m in the area to see if it was a fluke or not.
Honorable mentions: Kronnerburger (Oakland, CA); Hops Burger Bar (Greensboro, NC)
You won’t understand. It’s okay. BIRD UP!
Honorable mentions: “Fogman, may I grip a cig?”, “Ranch it up!”
Celebrating a century
A dark-horse candidate prevails over the heavily-favored debacle that was my own birthday. But when the guest of honor crushes two whiskeys-on-the-rocks at their own 100th birthday dinner before promptly dismantling all guests in cards, you gotta give credit where credit is due.
Honorable mention: My birthday! Thanks for everyone who came. I was having a rough go at things, and the show of support meant the world to me.
Best Conversation In A Foreign Language
Translating orders at a McDonalds outside of LA
>>> me, standing in line behind a family
>>> Cashier: “Hi, may I take your order?”
>>> Mom: “Español?”
>>> Cashier: “What?”
>>> Mom: “Español?”
>>> Cashier: “Oh, no, I only speak English and Hebrew.”
Finally! I was able to put my four years of intense Spanish classes (shouts out to my immersion homies) to good use during a pitstop on the 5. Using my extensive knowledge of the Spanish language, notably how to say the numbers 1-10 and common food items like “chicken” and “lettuce”, I was able to help a nice family get fueled up and back on the road.
Honorable Mention: Not really a conversation, but that time I got lost in the Dominican Republic by myself and somehow convinced a local university student to take me out bar hopping deserves a mention. Good times.
2015 was certainly an excellent year. Here’s to an even better 2016! If you found my suggestions interesting, you might want to follow me on Twitter, as I normally tweet out good things as I come across them.