The Queen of the West, writing letters backwards, and the truth about "Carol of the Bells"
Also: Why I need $6 million, LEGO ASMR, and a very smart pitbull
Welcome to the Follow Friday newsletter, and to the year 2010: Joe Biden is working in the White House, the last three Star Wars movies were so controversial that no one knows when the next one is coming, and I am on the hunt for interesting blogs to add to my RSS reader. More on that below.
The single best thing I saw online this week: Everyone knows the three most important things in real estate are “location, location, location,” which is probably why this Zillow listing leads with “Centrally located between San Francisco and Portland…” It’s not exactly the sort of walkable city apartment I usually look for, but, you know, I think I could make an exception if I had “700 awe-inspiring acres of oak savannas” and a nearly 9,000-square foot castle that looks like the lair of a James Bond villain who is also a huge fantasy book nerd. Mithrilfinger? We’ll workshop it. Now I just need one of you to spot me $6 million …
The best podcasts I’ve heard this week
My internet-culture-obsessed bubble of online friends spends a lot of time talking about the Fall of Twitter, but this episode of Today Explained reminded me that Elon Musk has (at least) one more controversial boondoggle under his belt. I knew relatively little about the Boring Company before listening, but it always struck me as a bad idea that local governments would not buy into. Turns out I was only right about one of those things!
I never regret making time for What’sHerName, a history podcast about fascinating women whose names usually get left out of the textbooks. The latest episode is about someone who was actually famous, but frequently got third-billing below her husband and his horse. Dale Evans wanted to become a Broadway starlet, and wound up becoming “The Queen of the West” in the early days of Hollywood.
As someone who loves movie trivia and watches The Muppet Christmas Carol almost every year, I felt very well-targeted by this episode of Too Much Information, which is packed with surprising facts about that film. For example: Not only did Michael Caine have to play Scrooge perfectly straight while surrounded by Muppets, but he had to do it while walking very carefully, or else he would fall through the floor.
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help i’m addicted to … my rss reader???
The ripple effects of leaving Twitter continue to surprise me. After privating my account last week, I’ve replaced what was once my go-to newswire with an RSS reader app called ReadKit, which I check every day.
(If you’re not familiar, RSS is the same technology that powers podcasting; when new content is released, it gets added to a chronologically-ordered feed; reader apps let you aggregate many feeds and read everything on them in one place).
This is not my first time as an RSS addict. Before we all switched to Google+, a thriving product that everyone loves, Google Reader (RIP) is where I first became a habitual online news reader, so filling up this app with the feeds of my favorite websites feels like going back to a simpler era.
And right on time, I also learned this week about ooh.directory, a collection of more than a thousand blogs — not newsletters, blogs — curated by British developer Phil Gyford. I spent about half an hour cruising through the categories that interested me and was pleasantly surprised by how many well-run old-school blogs are still alive and kicking. Thanks to blogs I found through ooh, this week I learned a ton about one of my favorite video game characters, stared at some jaw-dropping vintage postcards from the future, and made plans to someday ride the train that smells like ramen.
Oh hey, I was on Tom Scott’s new podcast
One more podcast for you: This episode of Lateral with Tom Scott, a very fun game show with unusual questions and connections. I’m on it! Above is a clip from the new episode that will give you a taste of how the game works: Each of the four contestants takes a turn reading a question to the other three, who have to talk it out until they get to the right answer. It’s actually my second appearance on the show, along with musician Mary Spender and Numberphile host Brady Haran; you can find our first stab at winning Lateral here.
(P.S. If you have a podcast and think I’d be a good guest, I’m available!)
I might go to hell for laughing at this
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(Content warning: Death by natural causes.)
Via- This TikTok is a little dark. But in less than 2.5 minutes, it made me laugh harder than some entire movies I have seen (looking at you, Bullet Train). It’s also the best execution I’ve seen yet of the “one thing about me” meme, where TikTokkers sing-talk their way through a story to the backbeat of Super Freak.
Coolest thing I learned this week
Via Julia Ioffe - one of the most ubiquitous Christmas songs is not really a Christmas song at all. “Shchedryk,” better known to English-speakers as “Carol of the Bells,” was originally a Ukrainian nationalist anthem, written and performed around 1920 to tell the world that Ukraine had its own culture, apart from Russia. Here’s a chill-inducing video of the song being performed in its original language.
Speaking of holiday songs and other languages: Atlas Obscura explains why “Mele Kalikimaka” should actually be “Hauʻoli ʻahaʻaina.”
A very satisfying video
Is LEGO ASMR a thing? Sure, why not.
The best thing I’ve read this week
danah boyd, in a must-read essay about “Twitter’s pending doom (or lack thereof)” called What if failure is the plan? There’s a lot in here, but this section especially resonated with me and was an important reminder to not be too self-satisfied about my ability to cut and run:
I highly doubt that Twitter is going to be a 100-year company. For better or worse, I think failure is the end state for Twitter. The question is not if but when, how, and who will be hurt in the process?
Right now, what worries me are the people getting hurt. I’m sickened to watch “journalists” aid and abet efforts to publicly shame former workers (especially junior employees) in a sadistic game of “accountability” that truly perverts the concept. I’m terrified for the activists and vulnerable people around the world whose content exists in Twitter’s databases, whose private tweets and DMs can be used against them if they land in the wrong hands (either by direct action or hacked activity). I’m disgusted to think that this data will almost certainly be auctioned off.
Palate cleanser: Django the Pitbull would like your attention, please and thank you
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I cannot get over how Django launches himself into this man’s lap, thereby leaving him with no choice but to hold the baby.
… And the rest
And finally, Steamed Hams But It’s All Beatles Lyrics.