My Media Picks of the Decade

The inaugural decade of the new millennium proved to be as tumultuous, but no one can argue that it came and went without introducing gobs of fantastic media and entertainment. While by no means a definitive list, here are my personal favorites.

Favorite Web Site

Twitter (2006)
No online service has changed the way I communicate more radically. Twitter trained me to expect immediacy in my communication tools, and opened my mind to the possibility of manipulating public data on the web. While lacking the ubiquity of Facebook, it’s influence is felt far more perceptibly in nearly all competitors.

Hopefully 2010 will bring enough UI improvements to make me consider using the actual site instead of apps like TweetDeck.

Honorable mentions: Hulu (2007), Wikipedia (2001)

Favorite Gadget

iPhone 3G (2008)
I resisted the temptation of this device for quite some time, until a horrific experience with Verizon customer service pushed me into switching to AT&T. In hindsight, I should really thank that terrible service rep (with bad tattoos and a fake tan) for giving me the opportunity to experience one of the best devices ever. The iPhone almost single-handedly pushed the mobile web out of the dark ages (or at least got the ball rolling) into a period of relative optimism.

While devices like the Motorola Droid and Palm Pre may soften the novelty of the iPhone’s interface, we can’t overestimate how influential it continues to be, due in no small part to a bustling app store economy that pushes it’s capabilities on a weekly basis. The next decade will almost certainly belong to the mobile web, and few can argue that the iPhone wasn’t a catalyst for that progression.

Plus, Doodle Jump is wicked addictive.

Honorable mentions: Dell Studio Hybrid (My HTPC), Wii (2006)

Favorite Comic

Bone (1991 – 2004)
Although Jeff Smith’s tale of the lost Bone cousins exploring a vast and mysterious valley started in the 1990s, it wasn’t completed until 2004. While the gorgeous color editions consistently top children’s best seller lists, I’m partial to the black-and-white collection for preserving the prominence of Smith’s incredible brushwork. Few cartoonists alive can match this level of believable acting and effortless storytelling. Superb.

Honorable mentions: Scott Pilgrim (2004 – Present), Blankets (2003)

Favorite Game

Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
Leave it to Mario to remind me of why I love video games in the first place. Galaxy transported me to a fantastic, whimsical and positively surreal universe with exactly the right balance of fun and challenging gameplay. This game transcends mere entertainment and tiptoes into the realm of wondrous art and superb craftsmanship. No other title ate up more of my time this decade.

Honorable mentions: Shenmue II (2001), Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

Favorite Album

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
The band’s fourth LP has become nothing short of legendary, thanks in part to the drama played out between Wilco and Reprise Records (thoughtfully immortalized in an excellent documentary). While some of the album’s backstory has been unnecessarily mythologized, the attention it receives is beyond deserving. What songwriter Jeff Tweedy describes as “holes” in the songs can be truly challenging, but are never without reward. Perfect.

Honorable mentions: Radiohead – Kid A (2000), LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007)

Favorite Film

The Incredibles (2004)
While I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Pixar, I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy Brad Bird’s debut film at the studio. The Incredibles reaffirmed my belief in the power of cartoony, expressive character design by crafting believable human characters in spite of their abstract structures (a fact that must have been truly embarrassing for the dismal yet purportedly “realistic” Polar Express film which debuted the same month).

While it certainly didn’t hurt that the story combined my love for superheroes with a healthy dose of pure Pixar warmth, what really struck me was the underlying anti-mediocrity subtext.

“Everybody’s special, Dash,” Helen says to her son, who replies “…which is another way of saying no one is.”

Honorable mentions: The Dark Knight (2008), Thank You For Smoking (2006)

Not Quite 10 Years in Journalism

The latter part of this decade was when I finally started blogging regularly. I recently took a look at my site analytics to discover which journal entries had been most well-received since their publication.

Most Popular Entries

  1. TweetDeck Replacement Icons
  2. Remember the Milk Favicon Redesign
  3. WordPress-Powered Portfolios: Slides & Snippets
  4. cufón vs sIFR (A Visual Comparison)
  5. New TweetDeck Replacement Icons
The WordPress-Powered Portfolios entry also received the most comments. My least popular entry? This WebVisions workshop reminder from May of 2008.

When I pushed an earlier iteration of this design live almost a year ago, one of the features I was most excited to introduce was the ability to comment on journal entries. I want to thank, in chronological order, each and every commenter who volunteered their thoughts, opinions, ideas and time to this space. I am humbled by your involvement, and I hope to hear from you again soon.

Names are taken from each comment author’s “name” or “URL” field and not from their email, out of respect for their privacy. If you’d like your name changed in this list, please comment or contact me. Each name links to the author’s first comment on this site.

Thank you Jason Grlicky, Matt Lohkamp, Bruce Colthart, John Brown, Erik Jung, Kristy, Amber Case, Michael Sigler, Terra, Matt Youell, Bryan, Peter Wooley, Vin Thomas, Mallory, Joshua Barton, Sandi Wooley, Michael Reese, Jordan Thompson, Noah Murphy, David Stewart, chimpchampion, Mason, yanblah, Jim Gray, Matt, Aaron Hockley, David Frey, Jeremy Meyers, Chris Kalani, Tac Anderson, J-P Voilleque, Jason Griffith, Frosty Goodness, Koes, Eric, Jacob Golden, Joey Yax, Martha Koenig, Justin Anderson, David Martschinske, Dennis Gutierrez, David Carroll and Fujilives.

It is truly an honor to continue to design, write and speak for an audience that appears to be growing steadily. I’ll continue to push myself to justify your enthusiasm.

Have a wonderful twenty-ten!

Implement 2.9’s thumbnail feature in your WordPress-Powered Portfolio

WordPress 2.9 was unleashed upon the world last evening with a pile of killer features (image editing, anyone?).  Perhaps my favorite new feature is built-in support for thumbnails associated with a page or post.

When I discussed building WordPress-Powered Portfolios earlier this year at WordCamp Portland, you may recall my rather obtuse solution for supporting thumbnails. Basically, you were required to upload an image, copy its filename, close the media browser, create a new custom field called “tn,” and paste the filename into it.

No longer!

With support in your theme for 2.9’s post thumbnails, simply upload an image and assign it as the thumbnail with a single click (or through the handy new “Page Image” box in the lower-right corner). No custom fields to mess with, no copying and pasting filenames.

Implementing this feature in a portfolio already using my WordCamp functions is a three-step process.

  1. Tell WordPress that the feature is supported by adding addthemesupport('post-thumbnails'); somewhere in your theme’s functions.php file.
  2. Log in to WordPress and assign each of your portfolio items an image. If you’ve already used the “Upload/Insert” tool to add them prior to 2.9, just click the “Add an Image” button, then “Gallery,” “Show” the image you want to use and click the “Use as thumbnail” link toward the bottom.
  3. Adjust your functions to support the new feature. Refer to my updated list_work function snippet as an example.
Your mileage may vary depending on the volume of portfolio items you’ll need to switch over, but it took me roughly an hour to support the feature on this very site.

I recommend reading Justin Tadlock’s excellent blog post on the subject, which details the post thumbnails in much greater detail than WordPress’ documentation and was of great help to me in supporting them.

I do have one bit of extra theme development knowledge to bestow on other developers which I was unable to find elsewhere online. To echo only the URL of the thumbnail image file, use the following:

<?php echo get_post(get_post_thumbnail_id())->guid; ?>

Pixies Play Doolittle at Eugene’s Hult Center

Pixies performing, photo by rstoker on Flickr

Fun fact: Pixies frontman Black Francis and I share a birthday. Whether this is mere coincidence or evidence of a divine orchestration responsible for my ongoing love of this band I’ll leave for believers and skeptics to debate.

I vividly remember putting the Pixies’ Doolittle on for the first time and listening to it in the car on the way to school. Predictably, “Debaser” remains my favorite song, etched into my brain as soon as I heard that predatory bass guitar. Hearing Black Francis’s scream for the first time was like getting a punch in the stomach that shakes out all your dust and cobwebs. It was exhilarating and dangerous, and it changed the way I felt about rock and roll.

IMG_0444You can imagine my excitement as Mallory and I shuffled into the Hult Center in Eugene to see them perform their seminal album in sequence, in its entirety. To the possible chagrin of my fellow concert-goers’ indie hipster pretenses, I couldn’t suppress my smile. Neither could bassist Kim Deal or drummer David Lovering for the entirety of their set.

The band played the best I’ve ever heard to one of the most enthusiastic crowds I’ve ever been a part of. Doolittle was impressively solid, accompanied by some unique and appropriately atmospheric visuals (possibly a first for the band). Hearing the collective audience’s voices swell with the lyrics of “Hey” as they echoed throughout the beautiful concert hall was one of many highlights. The set was book-ended with a selection of b-sides, both oft-heard (“Dancing the Manta Ray”) and rarely performed (“Bailey’s Walk”).

The house lights came on as the Pixies took the stage for their final encore of the night, a visual indication that the Doolittle theme had been discarded in favor of roaring through songs like “Isla De Encanta” and “Where Is My Mind?” We exited the theater completely exhilarated and in disbelief. Despite having seen a Pixies performance in some form or another four times prior, they had outdone themselves almost effortlessly. Simply a stunning display.

Pixies are offering a four-track sampler of their live set for free. While I don’t think it matches the primal splendor of their live experience, it might be just the taste you need to seek them out.

Read the rest of this entry…

Ice Cream Social Icon Pack 1.2 (Designmoo, Google Voice, Posterous & more)

Originally created for use on this site and since incorporated into several of my projects, the Ice Cream Social Icon Pack is a set of 30 social media icons you can use in your designs.

New to this release are icons for any blog (generic), Designmoo, Google Voice, Picasa and Posterous. The Twitter icon has also been redesigned. The complete list:

  • BlinkList
  • Blog (generic) Blog (generic)
  • Blogger
  • Buzz
  • Delicious
  • Designmoo Designmoo
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Feed
  • Flickr
  • Google
  • Google Voice Google Voice
  • Lala
  • LinkedIn
  • LiveJournal
  • Mail
  • MySpace
  • Newsvine
  • Picasa Picasa
  • Posterous Posterous
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Twitter Twitter
  • Vimeo
  • Virb
  • Wave
  • WordPress
  • YouTube

Too good to be true! What’s the catch?

These icons are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. They’re free for you to use as long as you place an attribution link to somewhere in proximity to them (such as a site footer or about/credits page).

How can I ever repay you?

If you wanted to be really awesome, you can tweet about the icons or send me a message. If you’re more of a gift-giving sort, you can make a PayPal donation or buy something from my Amazon wish list.

Download Ice Cream Social Icon Pack 1.2