Further Retreats from 2020

The “Pope of Trash” and “Filth Elder” John Waters offers a “hilarious,” “glorious,” “boldly retro” poster design for the 58th New York Film Festival.

“Retro digital oasis,” poolside.fm (via Daring Fireball).

A retreat and a “redo” all in one: this December, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, a new, “vindicating” cut of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III (1990) will be released (in theaters 🤞) and retitled Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.

Mixtapes: Machined (2018) and Wrapped (2018)

You Are What You Listen To by Mohammad Metri

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

I decided to conduct an experiment in 2018 and embrace the coming age of the bots. Throughout the year, I culled songs from Spotify’s Discover Weekly1 recommendations, music heard in the wild (thanks Shazam), songs surfaced by Apple Music, and tracks played on local radio (esp. KUTX).

I say that I embraced the coming age of the bots because well over 80% of the ~1,500 – 2,000 songs I listened to (and tracked) during the year were purposefully based on algorithm-generated recommendations. Of these, I saved 2282. I then filtered for only those songs released in 2018, reducing the count to a reasonably compact 45 (clocking in just under 3 hours of total play time). And in one final nod to letting the computers do the thinking, I sequenced the song order on “shuffle.” I’ve published the final playlist on Apple Music.

It should be noted that I was inspired to share these results by a friend of mine who regularly posts his favorite songs and albums of the year. Interestingly, though a couple of artists (CHVRCHES, Courtney Barnett) found their way on both of our 2018 lists, not a single song was duplicated.

As a point of comparison, I also installed Federico Viticci’s Siri Shortcut Apple Music Wrapped, which attempts to capture for Apple Music customers the spirit of Spotify’s year-end listening trends summary. The 25 songs that comprise my resulting “Wrapped (2018)” playlist are not limited by year of release, as the experiment above, but are selected solely based on play count. As Apple further embraces services, one can hope they will bake-in these kinds of features in the future.


  1. Spotify serves up 30 songs a week to “discover” based on an algorithm which assesses your listening habits, saved songs, and, from what I have read, songs others on the network are sharing, saving, and what not. ↩︎
  2. 90%+ of the down-selected songs originated with Discover Weekly. ↩︎

Stephen Shore @MoMA

All clips here are worth exploring, but I was struck in particular by Shore’s thoughts on Instagram and global photo-based communities and how the iPad, like a view camera, mediates the act of picture making.

Between Then and Again: Peter Funch’s “42nd and Vanderbilt”

Peter Funch, 2012.07.03 09:09:07 / 2012.07.17 09:09:43

Peter Funch, 2012.07.03 09:09:07 / 2012.07.17 09:09:43

What to make of this collection of images taken over nine years at the same intersection in New York City, comparing individuals (separated from the crowd) walking by on different days?

In his New York Times review, Teju Cole’s reference to Walker Evans is helpful, but his famous and groundbreaking subway portraits are much more surreptitious. Evans wasn’t as interested in the ritual or the remembering of a particular yet insignificant intersection of time and space but rather sought the truth that photography alone seemed to be able to conjure: the unguarded, unrehearsed version of a person that emerges within the presumed anonymity of public spaces in large cities.

Likely Funch wants us to be impressed by the discipline of nine years going at something, and the unique fruits of that particular labor, and for the most part I’d say we are. Time, that much of it, gives the project weight and a lens through which to look at difference, perhaps the best way to recognize (and predict) patterns.1 But as with any project, “42nd and Vanderbilt”2 is also very much the result of curation. How many shots didn’t make the cut? How many days did his commuters not turn the right corner? These images, and the moments they point to, are no longer unremarkable or transitory, as a natural consequence of their choosing. In this light, Douglas Coupland’s mention of Warhol makes sense, given his exploration of (the paradoxes of) unedited phenomenon.

To my eye, it seems Funch is trying to paint the routines and mundane patterns of everyday life here in the most flattering light possible. Unlike Coupland, I’m not as preoccupied with the limited wardrobes these images betray. Nor am I as struck by the “remembering” the project evokes for Cole, perhaps because New York is not my home.

Rather, these images, despite their careful curation, composition, and exposure, function in a much more abstract and less personal or sentimental way for me. The isolation of these subjects in terms of framing, focus, and lighting, within a context (a street corner in New York!) that is anything but isolated, pushes my attention more to the blurry bits in the background where others (often partially) enter the frame. Those stories, and the potential intersections and geometry they represent (through happenstance or otherwise), pique my interest as much as the day to day differences and similarities Funch seeks to reveal.


  1. Though it is worth noting intervals between photos of a given subject, at least for those I’ve been able to see online, typically span days or weeks not years. Perhaps the full collection goes further. As well, likely for practical reasons, most if not all exposures occur between May and August. ↩︎
  2. I haven’t done the research to discover if there is a significance to this particular intersection, other than its proximity to Grand Central Station, and therefore the increased chance of spotting commuters coming and going. ↩︎

“The Superhero Factory: An Unauthorized Corporate History of Marvel Comics” by Paul Morton

Paul Morton, reviewing Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story:

Howe notes that the first issue of Fantastic Four, while it did not resemble any superhero comics, did resemble the horror comics Lee produced with Kirby and Steve Ditko. A fear of the uncanny and of what it can do to the human body would inform a new line of heroes, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. These heroes were as self-loathing as they were self-confident and it’s tempting to imagine these artists hunched over their boards informing their heroes with their own bitterness and insecurities.

A Brief History of Film Exhibition Courtesy of John Belton

How we experience moving images, including today’s streaming services, and the impact it has had on modes of film production and film style is fascinating and always evolving. But, as Randall Stross points out, many film scholars and historians, including history John Belton (who knows more about the history of film exhibition than most), want to make a distinction between what constitutes a cinematic experience and mere movie watching.

Memory, Reason, Imagination

Great conversation here discussing how the Library of Congress, the largest library on the planet, is encouraging folks to use their digital resources and data sets in innovative ways as part of a general rethinking of the cultural role of libraries today. 

I was particularly struck by Kate Zwaard’s thoughts on how the notion of ephemerality is changing in the age of Instagram, mobile, and cloud computing:

I think the other thing about the ephemerality of the material as far as the young people think about what they create. It think actually they don’t think about it as ephemeral. They actually trust the world to keep it. So they don’t think about their photos as disposable but they don’t think about storage. They’ve actually abstracted that, right? That’s someone else’s problem. And to me that’s actually very good. I think reconstructing an archive from someone’s cloud services is very possible.