My best of everything in 2015

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s been a while since I wrote end-of-year lists, but in light of my re-emergence on this very (digital) soil, I’ll give it a shot this year. I’m taking my liberty with the sorts of things I award in this blog, so don’t be disappointed if I won’t write about my favourite colour of the year (it’s goldenrod, though, as always). Well, here goes, in no particular order:

Best book of 2015 I started reading but will probably still be reading way into 2016 

This one is easy. It’s From Dawn to Decadence, an all-encompassing cultural history of Europe from 1500 to the present day. Written by eminent French-born but ultimately US historian Jacques Barzun. He had a rather illustrious career as an historian, wrote numerous books on a number of wildly different subjects (one about Baseball, as well). The book has been co-opted somewhat by conservatives in the US, probably because Barzun is a bit of a cultural pessimist. Unarguably, though, the book provides a clear, concise and wildly entertaining insight into what shaped Europe and ultimately all the other countries across the globe. It’s filled to the brim with insights and aha-moments. Barzun wrote this book at the end of his life (he lived basically through all of the 20th century, and then some). Asked how long it took him to write the book, he just said: “My whole life.” I like that.

The reason why  I haven’t finished it yet is either because I like to savour every singly word, or maybe because I start ruminating about what he writes and consequently fall asleep. You choose.

Best Horror film I probably won’t be ever be watching with my girlfriend

Let Us Prey. I’m cheating here a bit, simply because I think it’s the best horror film I’ve seen this year, period. But it really isn’t one I’d be watching with my girlfriend. Not that she’s squeamish, but the level of Hellraiserishness is simply not her kind of horror. Apart from that, though, I think she might actually like it. It’s set in a quiet Scottish town, it features an incredible female protagonist who prevails even in the face of utter chaos and fuckedupness.

The film is rather flawlessly made by director Brian O’Malley, not least because of his DOP Piers McGrail, who did such a stellar job. The whole thing is rounded off by Steve Lynch’s Carpenteresque score. In fact, the opening sequence alone is worth the admission for this one.

Let Us Prey – Opening Sequence (Feature Film) from Brian O’Malley on Vimeo.

 

Best horror film I did watch with my girlfriend

Babadook. That, too, is quite easy. I think it was the most lauded horror film of the last year and a half, and I can see why. Uncanny, terrifying on so many levels and great for doing impressions. “Ba Ba Dook!” finally replaced “Kagutaba!” to freak each other out (the latter by the way coming from the 2005 film “The Curse”, which was quite a shocker too).

Best horror film (save the other two above)

Yes, I do like watching horror films, so please excuse this final one. It’s called It Follows, and it’s one of those films that even though it doesn’t make sense all the time, feels just right. It’s a not so subtle, but still convincing parable about the, sometimes quite tangible, horrors of growing up. Again score and camerawork are spot on as well.

Best Film Festival I was invited to act as a juror on

Easy, that was of course the Vienna Film Festival Viennale! I loved having the opportunity to watch roughly 30 films in ten days (in the theatre, mind you), and then being able to actually, hopefully, help a film getting an Austrian release. The film we (my four great co-jurors and I) chose was the one by Portuguese filmmaker Carlos Saboga called “A Uma Hora Incerta”. I wrote about the film and why we chose it on my historical consultant blog. Read it!

The good people at Viennale and Der Standard were gracious, generous and full of enthusiasm. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime gig for a film nerd like me.

Best five weddings I went to this year

I’d say the best five wedding were the ones I went to this year. So yeah, all weddings were great, none like the other. We spent nights drinking in the middle of Viennese Donaupark, in a Palais on the outskirts of Vienna, near an old water-mill in the Upper Austrian countryside, in a wine-cellar again at the outskirts of Vienna and finally right underneath a Viaduct again at the outskirts of Vienna (there’s a pattern there somewhere). As I’m actually quite a fan of ties, but am actually not forced to wear them on a daily basis, I was happy to finally have good reason to wear ties. Here’s one of them.

IMG_20150627_111812

 

Best food I ate

I like to eat a whole lot. Currently not reflected in my food-blog, because I just haven’t had the time to write pithy comments about food. I do take a lot of pictures of my food, still. Picking out a single dish I had over the course of the year is amazingly difficult, if not even impossible. Always one to shy away from a hard task, I’ll just go ahead and post some of my favourite dishes here. You decide which one I liked best.

Best language I learned

Proof!
Proof!

SPANISH! I finally got real about using Duolingo. I’d started up courses a few years back, went through a bit of Spanish, Swedish and French. This year I decided to go all the way, at least with one of those languages. It turned out to be Spanish. I finished the whole course after five or so months, and now I’m just tirelessly repeating what I learned. Because hey, according to the Duolingo Owl, that’s how you learn a language. I’m by no means really good at it, but I’m good enough at it for now. Which is exactly what I wanted.

 

Best indie-game festival I visited

There’s a lot of indie-game developers in Austria and the neighboring countries. Especially for those in the Eastern European countries, champions and chances to network are needed. Radius Festival, originally a London-based games expo, does just that. In July 2015 it came to Vienna, and I got to meet some very interesting people in the process. There’s loads of great people making games in Austria and the neighboring countries, and events like these are great to foster that talent. Since I’m at it, have a look at Games Austria, a non-profit organization that is very active in that area. In February, they’ll even host their first real conference. So go there and have a look.

Best Podcast I became a part of

Well, I didn’t have a favourite one for the most part of the year, but then in late September my friend Daniel of Codinghistory fame approached me. Asked if I wanted to, I said yes, and two weeks later we had our first episode up. Ever since then we’ve been going strong, currently at episode 14, I think. The whole thing is called Zeitsprung (astute readers of this blog might have seen me mention it elsewhere already), it’s about stories from history and quite entertaining. Also, you’ll learn a whole lot of stuff and since we always publish the latest episodes on Sundays (or early Mondays), it’s the best thing to start off your week. And you’ll be able to tell cool stories at the water-cooler (like about that one German-Spanish bastard who happened to become one of Spain’s most famous heroes). A small caveat: the whole thing’s in German, so if you don’t understand it, you’ll have to wait until we make some English versions of the show (might happen sometime).

Best way to end this blogpost 

It’s been a great year, and I did a whole lot of things that made me enjoy it, whether I managed to cram those into one of my “best of” categories or not. I finally started reading more, learning more, enjoyed more time with my girlfriend and my parents and met loads of new people. I started writing more, and even though it might be to the detriment of those people who feel obliged to read my ramblings because they’re my family and friends, I think a blog filled with new life is a great thing.

And who knows, maybe, a few thousand years in the future, when the AI-humans have found a way to read the fragments they found on those hard-disks buried beneath the rubble of long lost civilizations, they’ll see this post and re-evaluate their decision to use humankind as batteries to fuel their virtually endless lives.

Have a great 2016!

 

Of sausages, turkeys and trees

Reading Time: 2 minutes
2015-12-23 20.11.59.jpg
Assorted sweetstuffs

Before I started writing more again, the latest blogpost on here was one about Christmas. Short and quite to the point. Despite its almost three year tenure as this blog’s top post, it failed to gain much traction. It might have been a marketing problem.

Anyway, it’s that time of the year again, so tomorrow will be Christmas Eve, where at roughly seven at night my family and I will be entering the living room, marvel at the tree, sing songs, read poems and stories, then embrace each other and wish each other “Merry Christmas” and then we’ll give each other presents and then put on some water for the traditional sausages, which we’ll soon crowd around the kitchen table to eat (the living room table will be covered in wrapping paper, presents, cookies), after which we’ll all just find us a place to sit somewhere and nurse the rest of the beer from the sausage dinner (some maybe a cup of tea) and start reading in one of the books we’ll have received, while my mother, who’s by now the only one who still does, will announce it’s time for her to go to church for the Christmas service, a second after which she’ll ask who would drive her there, because parking there is always a pain, and either my sister or I will give in (I think it’ll be me), so after I’ve dropped her off I’ll get back to reading in one of my new books (my mother will probably return by foot fifteen minutes later because according to her the church was just too full, but really I think she just found it to be too cold and wanted to go back to reading in one of her new books), and in between I’ll get up over to the big basket filled with cookies and pick out my favourites until I’m full, tired and ready for bed, which is in one of the two rooms that evolved out of the cowshed my parents converted when they moved in, so they’d have space to host their children, not just, but especially for events like these, and since it’s not connected to any central heating, I’ll put another log or two in the iron stove heating the room, and then get under the covers, making sure no feet are peeking out because this room has the tendency to release any and all warmth as soon as the last log has been turned to ash, which will probably happen roughly an hour after I’ve fallen asleep, happy and content, even though my face isn’t covered by the blanket, meaning I’ll wake up with an icy nose.

Next night we’ll have turkey.

Krampus and 994 posts

Reading Time: 1 minutes

2015-10-16 15.06.39

Looking through my logs, I realized that some of the things I wrote on here many years ago still get quite some views. And sometimes it’s for the funnest of reasons. I wrote about a tinfoil-wrapped chocolate figure called “Krampus” eight years ago. I didn’t dare to hope back then that in 2015 a film about said Krampus would be released, prompting scores of people looking for more information on that little fella. But alas, here we are.

Looking through my  logs I also noticed that I wrote a whopping 994 posts on here (not including this one). In light of my rekindled love for this platform, I’ve decided to write the remaining five (after this one) to end the year on a high note. So, expect at least five more posts here (after this one) until the end of this year. Don’t expect them to be the pinnacles of my literary output (but don’t be surprised if they are, you never know).

Reviving the network

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Having decided to focus more on writing on my blogs again, I’m realising just how many I’ve created over the years (and subsequently neglected). Over the last two days, I did my inventory: updated plugins, themes, cleaned up the odd, erm, hacked installation and put them all under the roof of the rather handy wordpress.com centralized command.

All of those blogs had their very own raison d’etre, but now that some time has passed and I’ve grown somewhat tired of having to look after all these installations, I’m thinking about maybe consolidating them into one, maybe two roofs. I’m still torn about what to do with each of them, so I’d value your input.

Stormgrass
That’s of course this blog right here. I started it, I think, sometime in 2000, then still without my own domain. Ha, I remember the invigorating feeling when actually accessing it under my own domain. What freedom! What self-expression! Its tagline “The Excitement of Boredom” was actually my own criticism of then prevalent blogging practice. I found most of them dull and thought I could be even duller. I stuck to it, for better or worse. If I’m consolidating my other blogs, this will be the hub. The stormgrass empire, if you will.

Stormgrass Tech
I used to write about technology a lot. Technology in the sense of web services and other consumer-oriented tech products. It was all done on my main blog, but I soon realized that the people who visit my blog to see updates about my personal life (mainly my mother) didn’t really care about the tech updates, and vice versa (currently most links there are broken, which I think is due to some rewrite rules I’ll have to figure out). Creating a separate blog seemed like a good solution. Today, I’m not so sure anymore. There’s a whole bunch of popular blogs out there that don’t have this strict dividing line and I find that rather charming. I’m thinking especially about Ninjas and Robots, the blog of Nathan Kontny, CEO of Highrise. The thing is, he’s got a voice, and that voice is carried through all of his posts, whether they’re technical or personal or whatever else. I do think I should strive for that.

Death by Martini
Yet another fork from my personal blog, this time one oriented towards food and eating and general gastronomical debauchery. I used to write about food a lot, used to post pictures about food a lot. Mind you, that was quite some time before the advent of apps like Instagram. When I realized that there’s actually food blogs out there, I wanted my own. And as it happened with so many of my blogs, after a while it seemed far easier to just post those pictures to Twitter or Facebook and be done with it. My qualms with this blog are similar to those I have with my tech blog. Keep it or incorporate it? I’m too much in love with the name of this blog to just let it go, but maybe it’s the right thing to do.

The self-hosted web
This is not so much a blog, but more of a project about the beauty of self-hosting consumer-oriented software. Think self-hosted Instagram, WordPress, social networks and the like. It was born out of the idea to not give all your content and especially all the discussions that happen around it to other companies. It’s alive, but I haven’t been as active there as I want. Since this really isn’t as personal as my other projects, and more geared towards becoming a community project, it’ll stay where it is. I am always looking for new software that fits this space, so if you’ve got any recommendations, do drop me a note.

Intrepidlytrite
Remember tumblelogs? Yes, exactly, the kind of blogs tumblr was designed after. In a time when Facebook was more of a, well, Facebook and less of a publishing tool and Twitter hadn’t yet taken off, tumblelog was the designated name for a kind of blog that could do without titles, categorization, tags and all that cruft, and let people concentrate on quickly posting stuff. Take note of this Lifehacker article from 2007 detailing the ins and outs of a tumblelog.

Intrepidly Trite was to be that kind of blog. I had it connected to Austrian soup.io for a long time, after that ran a couple of different self-hosted blog variants under the name. Today it’s a bare-bones WordPress installation I had created in order to turn it into my own photo-sharing site. Somehow it didn’t really fit, so I’m not sure yet what to do with it. There’s this beautiful open-source project called “Chyrp” out there, which is basically a tumble-log software to self-host. I might just use this for Intrepidlytrite if I feel the need to have my own tumblelog again. If I don’t, I might shutter the site altogether and just see what else I could use the domain for at some point in the future.

Colordisco
This domain was actually a joke. A couple of years back, companies had this tendency to create apps that were named after common words. There was “Color”, a photo app that sounded promising but didn’t take off, and there was “Disco”, a group messaging app by Google that got sunset basically right after its start. I thought it was a fun idea to get a domain name combining those two. Ironically, today both apps are gone but my domain is still here.

I finally used it to create yet another blog which I envisioned to be something more in the vein of a blog like kottke.org. An aggregator of cool stuff, mostly films, articles of note, videos. Not hugely personal, but simply based on the things I find interesting. As it turned out, I didn’t have enough time to keep it updated regularly. I’m not yet sure what to do with it. It somehow fits the “aside” category on a WordPress installation but could also work as a sideblog (similar to what Helge does here).

Medienschelte
Speaking of Helge, his community blog called “Kobuk” is similar to what I and my friend Daniel had created quite a while ago. Medienschelte was a media-watchblog that detailed the systematic mis-information and error-riddled coverage by the two Austrian tabloids “Österreich” and “Kronenzeitung”. It hasn’t been updated in a long time and probably won’t ever be again. “Kobuk” does a good job with that and I do have to admit, reading those tabloids on a daily basis can be rather detrimental to your mental health.

Hemmer.co
Finally, this is a blog that hasn’t even started yet, but which is going to happen. I’m a trained historian and after working in social media and other rather technical jobs, I’m about to embark on a journey as a freelance historical consultant for TV, film and videogame productions. Hemmer.co will be the place where I’ll write about history, specifically history in the above mentioned products. Do keep your eyes on that (and if you need someone like me, don’t be shy to drop me a note).

So, here we go. The result of roughly 15 years of creating blogs and projects. The landscape of publishing on the web has changed drastically during that time and while blogs haven’t disappeared, they’ve either become neglected (like mine) or been turned into mainstream products that rival traditional publishing outfits on the web. Creating a blog that doesn’t strive to become a viable source of income seems somewhat outlandish today, which is one of the reasons why I think most people who just want to publish with the least amount of hassle simply do it via Facebook or Twitter. It’s due to that development that I find it rather important to revive my network of blogs and maybe, at some point, inspire others to do the same. Not for fame, money or glory, but simply because they can.