Hi Matt of 2025,
This list contains some of the stuff (books, music, films,…) that you were into 10 years ago. I hope all these links still work in the future. Enjoy!
Books that I read
- Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (2011): fascinating history about coinage, dept-peonage, slavery, the gold standard, merchant navies, …
- The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement by David Graeber (2012): a much more personal book than his anthropological work, about his involvement with Occupy Wall Street, partially a how-to for aspiring protest movements.
- Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production by Johanna Drucker (2014): constructivist / interpretivist perspective on visualization and interface design, suggested reading for those interested in visualization in the humanities.
- Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline by Daniel Rosenberg & Anthony Grafton (2010): the fascinating evolution of the graphical form of the timeline spanning millenia.
- This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein (2014): alarming, and introduced me to concerns about geoengineering.
- On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Biss (2014): a long-form essay on vaccination, touching upon the myth of Achilles, linguistics, and Dracula.
- My Struggle books 3–4 (Boyhood Island, Dancing in the Dark) by Karl Ove Knausgård (2009–2011, translated by Don Bartlett): the series of autobiographical novels continues. The 3rd book was told from perspective of the author as a child, and while convincing, I didn’t enjoy as much as books 1 or 2. The 4th book involves more of the adult author inserting his views into the narrative, which takes place following the author’s completion of high school.
- A Song of Ice and Fire books 1–3 (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords) by George R. R. Martin (1996–2000): I have finally read these books and I find them to be highly engrossing and enjoyable…and no, I have not yet watched the TV series.
- My Cousin, My Gastroentorologist by Mark Leyner (1990): absurdist experimental fiction critiqued by DFW in one of his better essays. Some hilarious sentences, with impressive wordplay, but not cohesive at anything longer than the paragraph level (which I think was the point), found at Powell’s City of Books in Portland.
- Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian McDonald (1994): rare, stylish cyberpunk lyrical poem about a bicycle pilgrimage in a post-industrial Japan. One of my advisor’s favourite books, found at Powell’s City of Books in Portland.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin (1974): utopian (dystopian?) classic that I finally got around to reading, prompted by an epigraph in David Graeber’s Debt: free your mind of the idea of deserving, of the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think. Found at a used book shop near UW in Seattle.
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (2002): because I was in Japan at the time, and it’s one of Nakata’s favourites. Not recommended for cat lovers.
- Rule Bound: Rookies and Rogues by Michael Brehmer (2014): my father’s debut novel, a fictionalized memoir of sorts about investigating money laundering and the drug trade crossing the Canada/US border.
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992): re-read this cyberpunk classic 10+ years after first reading it. Still relevant, and many of its predictions have since come to pass.
- Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton (2015): delightful satirical comics poking fun at history and popular culture.
To read in 2016
- The Peripheral by William Gibson (2014): I just started reading Gibson’s return to SF, now with time travel!
- Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe (2015): an extension of xkcd’s up-goer-five comic in which he explains many complicated things with the 1000 most common English words.
- A History of the World in Twelve Maps by Jerrey Brotton (2012): found this cartographic history book at Powell’s City of Books in Portland.
- Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty (2013, translated by Arthur Goldhammer): to-read post thesis defence.
- My Struggle book 5 by Karl Ove Knausgård (2009–2011, translated by Don Bartlett): due out in March.
- A Song of Ice and Fire books 4–5 (and perhaps 6?) (A Feast For Crows, A Dance With Dragons) by George R. R. Martin (2005–2011): thousands of pages of fun ahead!
New records that I picked up in 2015
- Never Were the Way She Was by Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld (2015): layered saxophone and strings with wordless singing, apparently with no loops or samples, found at Neptoon Records in Vancouver in May.
- Escape from Evil by Lower Dens (2015): third record from American rock band, found at Jive Time Records in Seattle in August after seeing them at the Capitol Hill Block Party and loving the track Ondine.
- Deep in the Iris by Braids (2015): 3rd album by Canadian electronic pop band. I have enjoyed all of their singles from their three albums (especially Miniskirt on this one), but their records still don’t work for me as cohesive albums, found at Audiopile in Vancouver in July.
- Chambers by Chilly Gonzales feat. the Kaiser Quartet (2015): you would think that adding a string quartet to Chilly’s piano would work, but I didn’t find this record to be as interesting or enjoyable as his two solo piano records, found at Audiopile in Vancouver in April.
Other new records that I have enjoyed
- Elaenia by Floating Points (2015): contemporary jazz meets electronic, apparently inspired by late-period Talk Talk (Spirit of Eden (1988) and Laughing Stock (1991) are two of my all-time favourites).
- Depression Cherry by Beach House (2015): I’m sorry for ignoring this shoegaze band for so long, this record is great.
- Platform by Holly Herndon (2015): Chorus, released in 2014, was one of my favourite tracks (and music videos) of that year. The Stanford University computer music PhD candidate released a fascinating new album this year, integrating sousveillance and musique concrète.
- LateNightTales (mix by Nils Frahm) (2015): as the title of this mix series suggests, eclectic music ideal for sitting quietly in a dark room.
- Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich (1998): minimalist classic 2xLP reissued for Record Store Day.
- In a Safe Place by the Album Leaf (2004): mostly instrumental electroacoustic record found at Reckless Records in Chicago in October, recorded in Iceland with guest appearances by members of Múm and Jonsi of Sigur Rós.
- I Can Hear The Heart Beating as One by Yo La Tengo (1997): classic 2xLP shoegaze record found at Reckless Records in Chicago in October.
Other music that I picked up in 2015
- Immunity by Jon Hopkins (2013): ambient electronic 2xLP.
- Desire by Tuxedomoon (1981): avant-garde jazz/new-wave record referenced by Karl Ove Knausgård in My Struggle book 4, found at Audiopile in Vancouver in July.
Favourite tracks of 2015
- REALiTi by Grimes: I understand why someone made a 10 hour loop of this song, the catchiest track I heard in 2015 (I prefer the unmastered demo version to the album version).
- The Rest of Us by Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld: ominous sax, strings, wordless vocals.
- Ondine by Lower Dens: I was totally hooked by the accompanying guitar and the sad refrain “I will treat you better…“, co-produced by the popular and prolific Ariel Rechtshaid.
- Miniskirt by Braids: this track has three movements. Once that synth kicked in after the quiet piano part in the middle, I was hooked.
- XT by µ-Ziq: a playful instrumental electronic track that reminds me of cartoon themes from the early 90s.
- The Less I Know The Better by Tame Impala: my favourite track from TI’s new album, also a hilarious music video.
- Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd: catchy song evoking MJ.
- Run Away With Me by Carly Rae Jepsen: my guilty pleasure pop track with an epic sax riff.
- Them by Nils Frahm: solo piano piece that reminds me that I still need to see Victoria, the film that Frahm scored.
- Feel You by Julia Holter: because every list needs a harpsichord number.
- Cold Stares by Nosaj Thing (feat. Chance the Rapper): heard this track recently on the Strombo Show on CBC, rhymes include “Silent and solemn… Smeagol to Gollum… Evil done got him”.
Concerts that I attended
- Sufjan Stevens (Paramount Theatre, Seattle, June 2015, w/ Helado Negro).
- Capitol Hill Block Party (Seattle, July 2015) featuring Jamie xx, TV on the Radio, Ratatat, Father John Misty, DIIV, Lower Dens, Badbadnotgood, The Kite String Tangle, Broods, Shabazz Palaces, …
- Maroon 5 at Gasworks Park (Seattle, July): a surprise private concert for Microsoft interns.
Films that I watched
- Inherent Vice (2014): terrific PT Anderson adaptation of the psychadelic mystery novel by Pynchon, which I read in 2014.
- The Lobster (2015): highly enjoyable absurdist comedy about a world in which single people are brought to a remote hotel and told to find a mate in 40 days or less, or else they are turned into an animal of their choosing. Seen at the Vancouver Intl’ Film Festival.
- Experimenter (2015): saw this biopic about social psychologist Stanley Milgrim at the Vancouver Intl’ Film Festival, interesting style, albeit anti-climactic (not as “shocking” as one would expect…).
- Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014): watched this fantastic quirky film on the plane returning from New Orleans. Made to seem as though it is a single continuous shot.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): I liked it! It’s a remake of A New Hope, right?
- The Gentlemen Hecklers present Dune (1984): a live riffing in the style of MST3K at the Rio Theatre, the only way to watch this incoherent Lynch creation.
- Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013): watched this on Netflix, very interesting and entertaining documentary about the film that almost was. Funnier if you imagine the film as a mockumentary and Jodorowosky himself as an invented character.
- Snowpiercer (2013): Korean adaptation of dystopian French graphic novel in which geoengineering has rendered Earth’s surface frozen and uninhabitable. All of humanity rides a 1000-car train circling the globe. Class struggles and hatchet brawls ensue.
- A Most Wanted Man (2014): terrific Corbijn adaptaion of the de Carré novel, Seymour Hoffman’s final film. Quite relevant given the current migrant situation in Germany.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011): because I went on a de Carré tangent following AMWM.
- The Imitation Game (2014): biopic about the troubled father of modern computing, Alan Turing.
- The Road Warrior (1981) & Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985): watched these while visiting family; brother argued with father re: the merits of Mad Max: Fury Road, which I still haven’t seen. Road Warrior is great, Thunderdome is highly questionable.
- Under the Skin (2013): slow, creepy Jonathan Glazer film about an alien abductress played by ScarJo, with a chilling soundtrack by Mica Levi.
- The Godfather Part I (1972) and Part II (1974): I had seen these years ago, but this kicked off a mafia/gangster movie streak in 2015.
- The Untouchables (1987): more gangsters. Connery, De Niro (as Al Capone), Costner, Garcia, with a fantastic Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
- Goodfellas (1990): continuing a series of mafia-related movies.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988): two swindlers try to one-up another as they cheat wealthy tourists in the French Riviera.
- The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991), The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994): all cinematic masterpieces. Ricardo Montalban, Robert Goulet, Fred Ward play the villains.
- Filth (2013): watched this Irvine Welsh novel adaptation on Netflix while visiting with my parents, about awful people doing increasingly awful things. Did not enjoy it.
- The Hobbit (trilogy): An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, The Battle of Five Armies (2012 – 2014): watched these on the plane to/from Japan. They are not good, but fine if you have 20 hours of flight to kill.
TV series that I watched
- Breaking Bad (seasons 1–5, 2008–2013, Netflix): finally got around to watching this, and yes it is as brilliant as everyone told me that it would be.
- Rectify (season 3, 2015, Netflix): slow-moving drama about death row inmate freed after 20 years.
- Hannibal (season 3, 2015, NBC): great cinematography, enigmatic dialogue in which the characters don’t actually speak to each other and only recite riddles, set in a world without security cameras.
- Portlandia (season 4, 2014, US Netflix): LOLs while cooking / eating dinner during internship.
- W/ Bob and David (4 episodes, 2015, Netflix): because of Bob Odenkirk.
- Mr. Show with Bob and David (seasons 2-3, 1996–1997, Youtube): because of W/ Bob and David.
Visualization projects that I worked on
- Energy Manager: work that I did between 2013–2015 at Pulse Energy (now EnerNOC), which I presented at IEEE InfoVis 2015.
- TimeLineCurator: work with Johanna Fulda, which she presented at IEEE VAST 2015.
- Microsoft Research Internship project: work that was very interesting and fun that I can’t talk about publicly (yet).
- SoundConsensus 2015: visual ranking of the year’s most reviewed records based on scores from 19 prominent music publications.
- Why Visualization? Task Abstraction for Analysis and Design: my PhD dissertation, now four drafts in, defending in March 2016.
Visualization projects that I’ve enjoyed
- Dear Data by Georgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec: hand-drawn data pen-pals get to know each other by quantifying a different aspect of their lives each week for one year.
- The Fallen of WWII by Neil Halloran: astounding interactive narrative unit visualization about casualties during and since WWII.
- The Speculative W@nderverse by Uta Hinrichs, Stefania Forlini, and Bridget Moynihan: an interactive visualization for exploring a large corpus of archived speculative / science fiction stories dating from the mid 19th century. Read the research paper here.
- Poemage by Nina McCurdy, Julie Gonnering Lein, Katharine Coles, and Miriah Meyer: a visualization system for exploring the sonic topology of a poem.
- Keshif by M. Adil Yalçın: a faceted visual browser and an amazing dataset library.
- …and of course, I can’t forget about The Magnificent Bears of the Glorious Nation of Finland by Annukka Mäkijärvi: bear density in Finland, visually encoded as bears.