An opinionated take on travel in Japan

My family just returned from 2 weeks in Japan, broken up as such:

  • Tokyo (4 full days, plus the evening of the day we landed)
  • Japanese Alps
    • Matsumoto (1 day)
    • Takayama (2 days)
  • Kyoto (3.5 days)
  • Osaka (2.5 days)

This is very much a first-timer’s trip, hitting the main three cities. We added the Alps to get away from dense urban spaces for a bit, and also for the historic towns and spaces.

More Tokyo, Less Kyoto

Upon reflection, we could have spent much more time in Tokyo. You could spend a week, easily, and never see the same thing twice, never get bored, especially if you day-trip to Yokohama or Nikko.

Guidebooks love Kyoto, but the reality is it’s a city of shrines, gardens, and tourists—lots of tourists. It’s stuck in amber, looking back. It lacks vitality and relevance. There are lovely qualities, for sure, but unless you’re really into temples, two days in town is plenty.

Definitely make time for Osaka

Osaka is not a sight-seeing city. It’s a working city, with many distinct neighborhoods, a variety of foods (including the only street food we found in Japan; Tokyo and Kyoto are not street food cities), and bustling nightlife. It reminded me of southern European cities in that way—you get the sense that the nighttime is the right time in Osaka. It’s probably a city best enjoyed without children.

Osaka feels forward-looking, relevant, and surprising. Quests for coffee take you down back alleys teeming with life, art, and human connection.

Where you stay matters

In both Tokyo and Kyoto, our lodging proved a bit too distant from where things were, and the added 15-20 minutes definitely took its toll (and discouraged us from some evenings out). In Tokyo we stayed in the Kyodo neighborhood, a peaceful residential area. If I were to do it again, I’d look for places in Shimokitazawa (closer to the center, though still west of Shibuya) or even just a quiet part of Shibuya (though it can get quite expensive).

In Kyoto, we stayed south of the train station, but most of what you want to do is in the north of the city. I’d avoid Gion (tourist hell), but areas around Nakagyo are ideally situated.


Recognizing that 4 days in a city of 37 million people means that we barely scratched the surface, but some distinct experiences worth sharing:

While Akihabara has become the new home of otaku culture, I found it sterile. Far more interesting was Nakano Broadway, a warren of weird little stores, with assortments including retro toys, dolls, anime and manga merch, watches (lots and lots of watches), pop culture, crammed into about 4 stories. It feels distinctly human-scale and anti-corporate (compared to places like Animate).

Even though the fish trading has moved elsewhere, Tsukiji Outer Market warrants a visit, if only for the efficiency of all that food (mostly seafood) in such a small area, with so much variety to try. No particular vendor stood out for me.

I regret we didn’t have more time to explore Asakusa—we visited it on a tour (after Tsukiji) and were pretty tired after a couple hours. That said, I had a strangely blissful cortado at Fuglen Asakusa, sitting out front, watching the world pass by. It began my Japanese quest for ‘coffee with vibes,’ for which I found a number of worthwhile entrants.

Restaurant Komani, on the campus of University of Tokyo, provided an excellent cafeteria style lunch. The restaurant prides itself in local sourcing, and the dishes (in particular the mackerel) were excellent. It’s a little out of the way, but worthwhile if you’re looking for something a little lighter, cleaner, and easier.

Ueno Park proved uninspiring, but just to its north is Yanaka and Nippori, neighborhoods with pre-WWII architecture, human scale, and quality shopping. Definitely worth going a little out of your way.

Near one of the nuttiest shopping streets in all Tokyo (Takeshita Street in Harajuku, a place I hope to never return) is, perhaps ironically, Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine whose approach, a long forested walk, was serene, peaceful, and energizing.

Stacy and Dorothy treasured the treats they got from Shiro-Hige’s Cream Puff Factory, specifically the Totoro-shaped cream puffs.

There are two TeamLabs in Tokyo, and we chose TeamLab Planets, but the commute to get there and back was quite extensive (and there’s not much else to do around it), and so I’d recommend starting with TeamLab Borderless, which is more central.


I can’t say Matsumoto was a particular highlight of a city. It was a perfectly fine waystation for the Japanese Alps. If you find yourself here, we did find a few delights:

Matsumoto “Castle” is more of a keep. It’s a holding pen for warriors when the area is attacked. It’s one of the few original constructions left, and was worth seeing since we were in town.

Kobayashi Soba offered an excellent set lunch, with which Stacy and I had a sake flight, a couple of which were truly delicious.

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream had easily the best ice cream we enjoyed on this trip. It’s a curious spot—a Japanese outpost of an ice cream store based in Maine. Anyway, the Ishii Miso Butterscotch was nearly worth the trip to Matsumoto.

Alps Coffee Lab definitely delivered vibes, from the choose-your-own beans to the big picture window overlooking the river.


The raison d’etre for staying here was visiting Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site as a historic village, best known for gassho-zuruki, massive farmhouses with thick, steep straw roofs, designed to handle heavy snow. The highlight here is the open-air museum, a collection of houses that also tells the story of the area.

We took part in a sake tasting at the Harada Brewery, which was decidedly mediocre. I think they don’t put out the good stuff for this experience.

The Showa-Kan Museum provides a sense of Japanese life in the Showa era, but came across as cluttered, and lacked any interpretation.

Far and away, the in-town highlight was Yu, a cocktail bar staffed by a mixologist, a robust and outgoing middle-aged man whipping up drinks, and a server, a nattily-dressed, more severe (though still friendly) younger man, all in the most charming setting you’ve ever enjoyed a drink in.


Perhaps the single best meal on our trip was at restaurant muni, where we ordered omakase, and had an array of treats including a fried salmon burger, foie gras, wagyu beef, and more.

Kiyomizo-deru just made me mad. The temple and surrounding areas are just crawling with folks. Avoid it.

Our best temple experience began at Higashiyama Jisho-ji, with a delightful garden, and then a peaceful wander down the Philosopher’s Path (where we were encouraged to sail flower boats, and came across an older man listening to opera while doing his morning calisthenics) ending in Nanzen-ji for a quality temple visit.

In Arashiyama, Monkey Park proved non-essential, but the garden at Sogenchi Teien and the Bamboo Garden were very pleasant (especially as we were approaching dusk, so it wasn’t too busy).

The torii gates in Fushimi-Inari are definitely worth the visit—just go early or late to avoid the crowds.

Day-trip to Nara

Nara was as close to ‘magical’ as we experienced in Japan, for two reasons:

  • Isiuen Garden (my favorite garden we saw, and probably a top 3 experience over all)
  • Feeding deer (they really are everywhere, and it’s as cool as you’d hope)

The ginormous Buddha at Todai-ji is undoubtedly impressive, too.

We day-tripped from Kyoto, but you could just as easily do so from Osaka.


Unsurprisingly, the best okonomiyaki we had was in Osaka, at Okonomiyaki Tsuruya. Technically, I had negi-yaki (green onion pancake style). I then did a happy dance.

We experienced Shinsekai through a delightful walking food tour, trying about 15 different dishes at 5 different places, ranging from izakaya to whisky bar.

Of personal interest was The Silver Ball Planet, a ginormous pinball arcade in Amerika-mura.

Nakazakicho is a must-visit neighborhood, a kind of scavenger hunt of cool in the north of the city. Dorothy drew a lot of inspiration from Gallery IYN. I had tasty coffee (with vibes) at Pauhana, a one-man operation in a converted container box. And we adored our shave ice desserts from Osaka Naniwaya.

Review of American Artifact: The Rise of American Rock Poster Art

American Artifact: The Rise of American Rock Poster Art is an excellent, highly DIY doc. In it, Merle Becker (who has a YouTube channel devoted do DIY video production) follows her passion around the country, interviewing rock poster artists active from the 60s through the early 2000s. It about 90 minutes long, and has three fairly distinct chapters: late 60s (largely psychedelic), 1980s (mostly punks), and the indie period from the 90s through early 00s.

Produced in 2009, it was new to me. Rock poster art, while a form of applied art/commercial art, emerged from a kind of vernacular and outsider source, distinctly different from what would have been similar-ish, such as magazine ads. It’s an art form definitely worth celebrating and studying, as these artifacts were created to advertise local shows, often at small clubs, and their less costly, ephemeral nature means they very much speak to the zeitgeist within which they were created.

I was quite taken with the degree of passion and commitment that went into producing these things that would get torn down from telephone poles. I loved the part where folks shared how they learned the idiosyncrasies of the photocopiers around them, and would run their flyers through different ones to get the effects they wanted. This is a level of dedication not typically associated with punks.

The episodic nature of the doc also makes it conducive to watching in ~30 minute chunks. My only complaint is that I think this has only ever been produced for DVD, so the picture quality isn’t HD, which means you lose some of the majesty of the art.

The best books I read in 2022, Part 2: Non-fiction

When it comes to non-fiction, while I bought more this past year than in prior ones, most I don’t read end-to-end. Instead, they’re references for my work (organization design and leadership). That said, four stood out and kept me engaged from beginning to end:

  • are we human? notes on an archaeology of design
  • Man’s Search for Meaning
  • American Urbanist: How William H. Whyte’s Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life
  • Two Heads: A Graphic Exploration of How Our Brains Work with Other Brains

Are We Human? Notes on an Archaeology of Design, Colomina and Wigley

As a design nerd with an anthropology background, it’s perhaps unsurprising that are we human? was my only ?????????? book this past year. I want to revisit it for a deeper critical appraisal; I simply haven’t had the time for such an exercise.

But *anyone* interested in design, humanity, anthropology, culture, society, and the folly of modernism (it never ceases to surprise me how design-types continue to fall for the intellectual bankruptcy of the modernist movement, particular the philosophies of shysters like Le Corbusier) should get a great deal out of reading this book, particularly the reflections it encourages.

Though written by professors and willing to traffic in theory, are we human? is never oblique or obfuscatory in the way of so much academic writing. I would love to run a chapter-by-chapter book club for this text.

Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl

The oldest book I read this past year, originally published in 1946 in German, 1959 in English, with a number of updated and augmented versions since (I read the 2006 e-book.) I was introduced to Man’s Search for Meaning by my 14yo son, who, after having completed a class assignment well before the period was over, was recommended the book by his English teacher. It blew his mind, so I thought I’d give it a crack.

It’s a powerful book, divided into two parts. The first details Frankl’s experience in German concentration camps, a horrific experience that somehow made him stronger. The second then explores Frankl’s theory of logotherapy, his belief that meaning and purpose are what’s most important to humans and their continued survival. As someone with nihilism tendencies, I’m intrigued by non-religious and non-spiritual discussions of being connected to something greater than yourself.

American Urbanist: How William H. Whyte’s Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life, Rein

A recommendation I found through The New York Times, American Urbanist is an intellectual biography of William H. Whyte, probably best known for his 1957 book The Organization Man, an early anthropology and sociology of corporate life, though he spent the bulk of his career pursuing matters of urban design and public spaces, with a focus on New York City. On that front, probably his greatest impact was as an early advocate of Jane Jacobs, whose The Death and Life of Great American Cities established a new way of thinking about urbanism.

As both an org designer and urban nerd, I was predisposed to appreciate this book. While I would have been quite content with a straightforward biography, Rein’s engagement with Whyte’s intellectual realm is impressive and illuminating, making connections and pursuing threads for further study. Whyte proves to be a great main character, an East Coast WASP with an Ivy League education who nevertheless developed an outsider, even Bohemian take on the heart of American life. Whyte operated within the comfort of established corporations (Time/Life Inc., the Rockefeller Foundation) while maintaining an iconoclastic perspective that often ran contrary to his benefactors’ beliefs.

Closer to home, I appreciated how Whyte developed his points of view not through formal education, but simply a no-nonsense approach to understand the world around him: close observation (he was an early advocate of sociological and ethnographic practices in studying corporations and cities), an appreciation of the impact that design choices have on people, the practical application of good writing and strong storytelling, and an allergy to dogma.

Two Heads: A Graphic Exploration of How Our Brains Work with Other Brains, Frith, Frith, and Frith

Cognitive science has long been of lay interest to me (and was a ‘path not taken’ in college, when I chose to study anthropology instead), and more recently, I’ve been studying up on collaboration and team dynamics, given my professional orientation around increasing the effectiveness of organizations.

So, when Two Heads came to my attention (likely another The New York Times recommendation), I was intrigued not just by the subject matter (how our brains have evolved to work best with other brains), but the presentation format—comics. Visual representations of abstract concepts is something else I grapple with a lot (e.g., org charts), so I’m curious as to how others conduct such things.

This book is very much for the layperson, and much of it addresses the basics of neuroscience. When it gets to the heart of their thesis (about collaborating brains), it definitely picks up, and provides some interesting insights into when we work better together, vs when we work best on our own. (I even cited it in a post on LinkedIn about the folly of individual performance evaluations for people working in teams.)

The best books I read in 2022, Part 1: Novels

Like many left-brained nerdy types, there’d been a point in my reading life where I stopped with fiction, as I felt it a waste of time when there was so much out there for me to learn. Also, it felt like fiction was dominated by sad modernity novels, a genre I have absolutely no interest in. As I age, I’ve grown to appreciate the reflective qualities of good fiction, and a willingness to engage in genre stories, which don’t tend to have the weary solipsism of so much contemporary writing.

In the order I read them:

The Anomaly, Herve Le Tellier

Published in France in 2020, translated and published in English in 2021, The Anomaly is a mind-bendy and twisty tale of how the world reacts to… an unexpected event.

This is one of those “the less you know before you read it, the better” books. If you dig mysteries, light genre affectations, existential musings, all in a plot-driven page-turner, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better.

A Prayer For the Crown-Shy, Becky Chambers

I’m a fan of Chambers’ Wayfarer series (in particular the second, A Closed and Common Orbit), and have enjoyed the first two Monk + Robot books, of which A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is the second. These brief books (more novellas than novels) are gentle explorations of the human condition, centered on a tea-serving monk, and the intelligent, self-aware robot who becomes his companion.

It’s nice to read books that aren’t centered on conflict, but instead use wonder, philosophy, and good-heartedness to keep the reader engaged.

Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Published in 2015, Children of Time came to my attention this year when I put out a call for “meaty genre stuff” to read (thanks, Mike!).

And boy, does it deliver. Another book (man, I hope I don’t keep saying this) where the less you know going in the better, because I found that my initial surprise that the story went there, and then kept building on that far beyond where I thought it could go, was essential to the joy of reading.

Don’t let the length (600 pages!) deter you. It moves quickly, and once you get going, you won’t want to put it down.

I also read the follow-up, Children of Ruin, which wasn’t as compelling for me. And only recently found out that the third book, Children of Memory, has been published in the UK, and comes to the US in 2023. So, if you’re the type who likes series… there’s a lot to look forward to!

Trust, Hernan Diaz

I think I came across Trust thanks to my connections on Goodreads [A miserably designed service that, sadly, is still the best of its kind. Damn we need a “Letterboxd” for books. Anyway, follow me on Goodreads.], and enjoyed this puzzle-box of a book, telling the same story from a number of different perspectives (a little Rashomon-like). It also hits on the recurring contemporary theme of how the very wealthy aren’t really that much smarter than the rest of us.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin

If any novel caught the zeitgeist of my tribe (highly online GenXers and Xennials) it was Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. This is as close to “literary fiction” as I’m sharing in this list. A coming-of-age roman a clef about Sam and Sadie, who meet as children, bond over video games, reconnect in college, and collaborate in producing a video game that is both critically and commercially successful.

While it falls into some increasingly tired contemporary tropes (trauma plot; shooting), the author clearly loves her characters and rewards them with a rich story with thematic depth.

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton

Perhaps the most aggressively genre book in this list, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle come through my social media feed right when I needed a new book, and, as it’s been out for a few years now, was readily available by ebook from my local library. (All of the books I’ve listed I got through the library. I love the library with every fiber of my being.)

This is a time-bendy murder mystery, though the point isn’t to try to ‘solve’ it, but just to enjoy the twists, reveals, and other surprises along the journey.

2022 Television Worth Watching (and some other show, too)

While I don’t see nearly as many movies as I’d like, I do consume massive quantities of television. Forthwith, my favorites from the past year (listed here, then expanded on below).

  • Reservation Dogs
  • Andor
  • The Bear
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Letterkenny
  • Severance
  • South Side
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
  • Station Eleven
  • Tuca and Bertie
  • What We Do In The Shadows

Reservation Dogs (Hulu)

Though I made a decision not to rank shows, this is the one exception. Reservation Dogs is, without reservation (ha!), my single favorite television show. I eagerly awaited it each week, and was bereft when the season ended. It features a delightful mix of character work, comedy, pathos, mysticism, set in a milieu that is both familiar and utterly foreign. And no show better handles tone and emotion without feeling manipulative. Two seasons in, it’s a weekly revelation.

Andor (Disney+)

All the critical plaudits are dead-on. This is the best piece of Star Wars media since the first movie. (Yes, I think A New Hope is superior to The Empire Strikes Back.) It may also be the best piece of ‘sociological storytelling’ since The Wire. A complex, multi-layered story, it’s told in a matter-of-fact fashion such that you never get lost, and it’s never boring. And a remarkable portrayal of the banality of evil.

The Bear (Hulu)

A standout among the smaller, heartfelt, indie-style television shows. This follows a fine-dining chef who inherits his brother’s short-order Italian beef restaurant after the brother commits suicide. Come for the authentic representation of running a restaurant, stay for the unparalleled acting (very New York-70s-era) and clever filmmaking.

Bob’s Burgers (Hulu)

My family never saw an episode of this until the end of 2021, and it is the single most watched show in our household (usually over dinner). I’ve been awestruck at how they’ve maintained such quality and humor over so many seasons. Every 3 or 4 episodes I laugh harder at this than anything else I watch.

Letterkenny (Hulu)

They drop seasons the last week of every year. We’ve watched a couple from the most recent, but I’m counting the 2021 drop as we watched it at the beginning of the year. And Season 10, Episode 3, titled “Dyck Meat”, may be the hardest I laughed over the course of any half-hour this past year.

Severance (Apple TV+)

A show where the less you know about it the better. If you haven’t watched it, and were wondering if it was worth the investment, well, if you like Kubrickian filmmaking, corporate satire, mystery-box sci-fi, and occasional out-of-left-field absurdity, this is for you. I don’t know if anything *looked* better.

South Side (hbomax)

There may be no sillier show, and you’d be hard-pressed to find more laughs-per-minute. It all clicked for me when I heard its creator, Bashir Salahuddin, compare it to The Simpsons. There’s a main cast of 5-6 folks, and then a menagerie of literally dozens who populate this world, each of them richly drawn, even if only on screen for a minute. The first season is rougher around the edges, and the 2nd and 3rd show sure footing.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount +)

I was heartbrokenly disappointed by the latest season of Star Trek: Discovery. Everything that made that show interesting was taken away. And the less said about Picard the better. So thank goodness Strange New Worlds delivers, hewing more towards classic Trek and ST:TNG in terms of episodes that standalone, and tonal variety. This show remembers that Star Trek can be fun.

Station Eleven (hbomax)

Released at the end of 2021, and definitely worth inclusion for its lyricism, open-heartedness, and thankful lack of “bad guy.” A meditation on what makes life worth living, told after a pandemic wipes out nearly everybody.

Tuca and Bertie (Adult Swim)

In this house, we stan horny lady birds. Thanks to the magic of animation, this is far and away the most imaginative show. While rewarding paying close attention for all the visual wit on display, it never skimps on emotional depth and honesty. Sad to see it go, but happy that we ever got it in the first place.

What We Do In The Shadows (Hulu)

This is perhaps the most trustworthy sitcom on television. Episode in, episode out, it delivers. If you haven’t started it, you’re in for a treat. This season showcased a somewhat increased budget, best put to use in a brilliant Night Market episode that may be my favorite of the whole series.

Thoughts on other shows.

Only Murders in the Building features in my spousal-watch rotation, a fun and amiable murder mystery.

Rick and Morty, which is somehow on no one’s top lists, still delivers.

Netflix had a number of shows with premise that proved terrible. As a fan of Dark, I really wanted to like 1899, and gave it a few episodes. It’s… not good. A puzzle box that forgot we need to give a shit about the characters to stick around for the mystery. And the less said about Inside Man, created by Steven Moffat and starring David Tennant, the better.

The first episode of House of the Dragon bored me, and given how miserably Game of Thrones ended, I didn’t bother. (I did enjoy Rings of Power just fine, largely for the amazing production design.)

The Peripheral (Amazon), an adaptation of William Gibson’s novel, started strong, and then faded into mediocre melodrama. In particular, the ‘villains’ are just terribly drawn, all mustache-twirling (even those without mustaches) and no sense of motivation.

I’m midway through the second season of Slow Horses (Apple TV+) and liking it better than the first.

YouTube 2022 Reflections, Part 4: Stuff I watched with my 11yo daughter

[I watch a lot of YouTube. It’s the first thing I select when I turn on the TV, seeing what new material has been added. YouTube may feel overwhelming considering how much is there (and how much is just sooooo bad). So, I thought I’d share the Good Stuff I found this past year, posted in 4 parts.]

Most evenings after dinner, my daughter (D) joins me on the sofa, and we watch YouTube together (and, occasionally, classic Looney Tunes on hbomax). These selections tend towards cute animals, arts and crafts, and family-friendly selections you might find on The Kid Should See This (an excellent resource for any parent). Some highlights from this past year include:

Out of Sight was placed on YouTube in 2010, but I only just discovered it in the past month, when The Algorithm served it up and I clicked out of idle curiosity. A gentle Miyazaki-esque animation with a light surprise, it quickly became a personal favorite, which I then immediately shared with D. You won’t spend a better 5:27 on YouTube today.

David M. Bird’s series of “Becorns,” tiny people-like made from acorns that ‘interact’ with birds and other critters. A clever combination of vision, craft, silliness, nature, patience, and photography.

My daughter likes to draw, and we watch a variety of YouTube illustrators who ‘show their process.’ My favorite is angrymikko, due both to his whimsical aesthetic, and his patient and affirmative teaching/explanation style. I chose this video, though it’s from 2020, because my daughter liked it so much, we bought a print of the illustration!

Joseph’s Machines, a video channel with Rube Goldberg-ian delights, this year featured perhaps his most complex, and, somehow, wittiest machine, a mechanism for passing the wine across a table.

I started watching Girl With The Dogs, a dog-grooming channel, because of it’s relaxing ASMR qualities—clippers, shedding combs, blow dryers—a welcome post-work break I found quite soothing during trying pandemic times. We watch pretty much every video posted (they’re usually just a few minutes long), and a favorite of mine are the huskies, who can be counted on to serenade throughout the experience.

YouTube 2022 Reflections, Part 3: Video essays and explainers

[I watch a lot of YouTube. It’s the first thing I select when I turn on the TV, seeing what new material has been added. YouTube may feel overwhelming considering how much is there (and how much is just sooooo bad). So, I thought I’d share the Good Stuff I found this past year, posted in 4 parts.]

As resort travel isn’t really my thing, I doubt I’ll ever visit Cancun. That didn’t stop me digging this 6-minute video which explained why and how Cancun became a tourist destination. It involved math.

This was the year I discovered Johnny Harris, a video essayist with a geographic and cultural bent. He wields ProTools (or whatever he uses to produce and edit his work) expertly, as shown in this 16 minute exploration on… bread. And why it’s so terrible throughout much of the U.S. (though, thankfully, not where I live in Oakland/Berkeley, within walking distance of many fine bakeries).

I never watched a minute of the Disney Channel. Yet I was still engrossed by this video which uncovers the composer of the Disney Channel’s identifying music, in particular a four-note theme that, I guess, is iconic for a generation of television viewer. Defunctland is, for me, what YouTube (and the internet) is all about: an obsessive’s view, in this case rendered through excellent video craft. Don’t be scared by its 90-minute runtime… It’s easy to pick up and put down. This video hit me emotionally in a way that I didn’t expect.

YouTube 2022 Reflections, Part 2: Media Analysis

[I watch a lot of YouTube. It’s the first thing I select when I turn on the TV, seeing what new material has been added. YouTube may feel overwhelming considering how much is there (and how much is just sooooo bad). So, I thought I’d share the Good Stuff I found this past year, posted in 4 parts.]

As a general rule, I am not a fan of Fleetwood Mac. 70s-era AOR leaves me limp (see: Steely Dan). An exception is “The Chain,” which somehow fucking rules. I can’t recall where I heard it specifically this past year (it may have been in Our Flag Means Death), but I wanted to learn more, and this 10-minute explanation of how it got made scratched that itch.

A lot has been said about Everyone Everywhere All at Once, but this video, exploring the non-toxic masculinity of Waymond, provided a fresh take I hadn’t heard elsewhere.

Another worthwhile re-framing of masculinity comes from Like Stories of Old.

“The Bear” was among my favorite television shows of the past year. This video is the first in a series by a professional chef explaining how it compares with his experiences, providing an eye-opening appreciation of what it takes to run a restaurant.

Tim Rogers creates and criticizes video games with an unmatched level of depth, rigor, and, well, poetry. And length. This year’s entry, about a Japanese game from the mid-90s that was never released in English, and centers on a boy’s month in the countryside, clocks in at over 6 hours. But! It’s consumable in chunks, and you’ll be rewarded by Tim’s insight. Of personal interest are dissections of game design choices. If you’re into such dissections, I even more strongly recommend Tim’s exegesis of Tokimeki Memorial, a high school simulator that is a marvel of game, narrative, and interaction design.

In our household, we were fans of the TV show “My Name is Earl.” Somehow, the algorithm showcased this recent conversation with Jason Lee, and clicking in, I dug his affability, charm, and ease.

YouTube 2022 Reflections, Part 1: Silliness.

[I watch a lot of YouTube. It’s the first thing I select when I turn on the TV, seeing what new material has been added. YouTube may feel overwhelming considering how much is there (and how much is just sooooo bad). So, I thought I’d share the Good Stuff I found this past year, posted in 4 parts.]

Reminiscent of PES, an old favorite of mine, tomosteen creates jaw-dropping, clever, and silly stop-motion animations, typically involving cooking, either with LEGO or dice. The attention to detail is startling, with incorporating things like fluid motion you wouldn’t expect.

The one I’m embedding is technically from 2021, but I don’t think I saw it until this year.

Maybe I can interest you in some anti-music? Or, maybe, music that somehow leaves no impression? At some point this year I was pointed to Sounds of the Department Store 1979, pressed play, and minutes later, realized the video was still going even though my brain was no longer processing the sound it was making.

I probably don’t need to pump a teaser trailer for a movie from a major studio, but this minute-long video elicited an audible guffaw.

A new Bad Lip Reading is always cause for celebration, and the latest, “Inspirational Holiday Video” featuring Joe Biden, does not disappoint:

A variation of the following clip has made internet rounds for years, but I was introduced via this video, which shows just how insane the drum work is. Particularly when played by someone in an evidently-awkward mascot costume. (And if you’re further intrigued, there’s an illuminating video providing backstory on this character.)

Published 10 years ago, I first saw it this year. And while it says “Sizzler Promotional Commercial 1991,” there’s nothing more deeply 80s. It’s also unintentionally bizarre. Enjoy!

A supercut of every time someone on Star Trek: The Next Generation says, “Some kind of…” It’s mesmerizing.

Andrew Stanton, Pixar, the Criterion Collection, and Me

This tweet…

…brought back a very specific memory. In 1995, I managed the website of The Voyager Company, a pioneer in multimedia CD-ROMs. It was a dream job, participating with a crew charting new digital media territory. Voyager was a sibling with The Criterion Collection, which at the time still only sold laserdiscs. In fact, Voyager was taking some Criterion titles (A Hard Day’s Night, This Is Spinal Tap, For All Mankind) and making them available as annotated movies on CD-ROM.

I was also an animation nerd. In college I had not just attended, but worked the Spike and Mike Festival of Animation, and had followed the development of Pixar through their shorts Luxo, Jr and Tin Toy.

In my webmaster role, I read every email that came through our contact form, and one day saw one from… Andrew Stanton at a email address. This was before Toy Story had come out (I think). It turned out he was a huge Criterion fan, and a burgeoning CD-ROM collector. I forget what he asked about, but I remember exchanging a few emails (and doubtless fanboy-ing him). I think I learned that Pixar studied classic cinema very closely, in their endeavors to create greatness in their new medium.

27 years later, I see that image above, and I think how great it must feel for him, someone who deeply appreciated the efforts of Criterion, to have one of his works given that gold star treatment. And I think about the young man I was, with no clue where my life and career would take me. I’m grateful and gratified for the experiences I’ve had along the way.