Skip to main content

Rabbit Holes and Word Wonderlands

Tom Waits and his mole friends from Blank on Blank

Tom Waits and his mole friends from Blank on Blank (animation by Patrick Smith)

 

by

This week's Three from Me is from our New Media Director Laura Fedele, who points out some gems to make your time online worthwhile.

Online “rabbit holes” aren’t places you ever plan to go to; one thing catches your eye, then another, and the next thing you know, you’re hungry and you’re not sure just when it got dark outside. (My first was 20 years ago, The Gallery of Regrettable Food). These are some of my favorites.

Blank on Blank

Take a worthwhile journey through the Blank on Blank series of short videos from PBS Digital Studios (either on blankonblank.org or on YouTube): notable folks, in "lost" interviews, all artfully and whimsically animated, about five minutes each. Every one is a gem.

The “Rock’s Back Pages” series visits with the likes of Tom Waits (did you know there was a mole colony beneath Stonehenge?), Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Tupac Shakur (on life and death), Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Jerry Garcia (who says the Warlocks were terrible at first), David Bowie, Ray Charles, and of course, Bob Dylan, among many others.

There are also series with actors, comedians, writers, experimenters — the best moments from conversations with folks who don’t/didn’t give a ton of interviews and never suffered fools gladly. More highlights: Hunter S. Thompson, Fidel Castro in 1959, Oliver Sacks, Nora Ephron, Kurt Vonnegut, and Bill Murray (on being obnoxious).

Wait but Why

Fans of Tim Urban’s blog are now rejoicing that he is finally releasing the Very Big Project he’s spent the past few years writing. The first of his pieces to catch my attention years ago was Why Procrastinators Procrastinate (Hint: it has to do with the Instant Gratification Monkey living in your brain) and I was immediately taken in by his insightful and creative thinking, his conversational (and occasionally, delightfully profane) writing style, and his (admittedly) very rudimentary illustrations.

It’s hard to describe what he writes about. People? Why we do the things we do? Our best and worst instincts? I’ll call them “large topics delivered in a deceptively small way.” It’s like having a late-night chat with your philosophy major friend, who disappears for months at a time and then pops up with intricate, fully formed ideas that completely change how you think about everything.

  • Your Life in Weeks - There they are, you can count them, now what do you do with them?

  • The Story of Us series - This is the big project, now being released in chapters, on how people come together to form a society, based on our most well-meaning basic instincts, and manage to mess everything up.

The New York Times Crossword

All right (alright!) language freaks, I know you're with me... If you really want to crawl into a peaceful mental corner for a few minutes, there is but one crossword to take you there, and it is the New York Times crossword. Sure, there are a few others out there that are fun (New York Magazine) and/or cryptically difficult (Times of London) enough, but the Times has long set a standard for just the right amount of cleverness and precision. They grow in difficulty from Mondays through Saturdays, and then grow in size on Sundays for when we all presumably have a few extra minutes to spend and a few extra brain cells to work out an often-punny theme.

The crossword was the last thing I gave up in the dead tree realm. Even after I'd switched to Kindle and read my news on a screen, I grabbed a physical puzzle whenever I could. Even that is gone now, with an annual payment that is modest compared to what they could actually get away with charging me, since I am completely hooked on the things. I started them as a teen, working on vocabulary with my Dad after school. I had a Virginia newsstand save me the Sunday paper when I was in college. Now I fall asleep with my phone, doing the next day's puzzle to both focus and clear my mind and send me into dreamland.

It can be intimidating to start if you're new at it. Start with Mondays and Tuesdays, and know that there are patterns you learn over time, you get a feel for when a clue is straightforward or wry, and words like "ani," "riyal" and "moa" do become second nature.

Thanks to the puzzle, I know more than a few words in several languages, I sound impressive when Jeopardy! is on, and I'm reminded on a regular basis that there are still a few steady, solid things you can count on in this world.

Bonus Gratuitous Rabbit Hole Mentions:

The singular, captured moments from studio sessions, private concerts, public concerts and music festivals add up to nearly 20,000 photos on the WFUV Flickr Stream. Look for your favorite band and grab some new screen wallpaper for yourself.

Millions of views: You can find them all here, the exclusive performances from Studio A and remote concerts that make up the WFUV YouTube Stream, listed from most popular to least.