Top 20-21 things I enjoyed in 2021


Note: I have so many links in this post that I've placed them all at the end and just list the link number inline.

A list of software, music, events, blogs, podcast episodes, candles, programming languages and primarily videogames

1. Gemini - Although I started browsing Gemini in fall 2020 and posted my first posts in November that year I really came to love it in 2021. It expanded, new tools developed (like my fave: Antenna, the front page of Gemini for me), and I now have a loose community of blogs that I read and people that I communicate with through email after having found each other on here. I love hearing from people that read my writing. Thanks to everyone on here.

2. Fediverse - Fediverse overall and the [1] instance I'm a part of are my new social media addiction over the past year, maybe more than Instagram, but it doesn't feel soul sucking. It feels good. Great community of programmer nerds interested in permacomputing, tiny languages, noise music, loops, livecoding, building in nature, living at sea, etc etc. Dispersed around the world. When I have technical questions of a particular sort, this is the place to ask it. I mean I'm not gonna go on Stackoverflow and ask for help writing a RSS generator in shell or Lua. Lotta dudes though.

3. Em Reed's writing [2] - Writes on video games, tiny tools, overlooked technology history, and other nerd shit. I mean, she writes on topics I'm interested in, but she's better.

4. Wolf Eyes [3] - I never really took a break from listening to Wolf Eyes since I first read about them in the Philly Weekly in 2004, specifically one of the musician's being hit in the head with an ax at a concert and being rushed to the emergency room. If that's not a "The Boredoms" level of commitment, what is? Anyway, I was intrigued and checked em out playing a basement show at the First Unitarian Church I think, or maybe at a gallery? Idk. Anyway, they fucking ruled. Pretty sure I never opened for them or anything when I was active in noise music, though I did play with their collaborator John Weise. Sometime after like 2007 or something or maybe 2010 they had a lineup change and rocked less and I stopped listening for a bit, and then I lost all my CDRs pretty much when I travelled around the world for a few years and left my shit in my mom's uncle's house-garage (he lives in a garage of a millionaire. You should see this fucking garage. It'd be a mansion in New York). Wolf Eyes' members had Handson Records and AA (aryan asshole it stood for) and i think the third dude was Gods of Tundra but I didn't collect their tapes and CDRs. Anyway, I mostly got rid of my old CDRs and many didn't work years later and I don't have a CD player. So anyway, what I'm saying is that I paid for a few bandcamp albums, pirated the ones I had bought years earlier but didn't have anymore, and then used youtube-dl to grab a bunch of live shows, then make a fake streaming radio station type thing, which is really a random playlist that triggers playing wolf eyes music on my computer whenever I want, and I'm fucking enjoying listening to them all the time while working on art shit that needs some concentration but I'm not in an ambient mood. One of the albums, live at Banfields I think, is just like 25 minutes of recording of them having stage banter and then getting off the stage, no music. I paid for it without listening since all their albums sound the same, like Phish I guess, but anyway, fuck it, glad I have it.

5. Infinifactory - Yes this game [4] came out in 2015. I bought it in december on GOG since it was 50% off after watching a youtube vid on Zachtronics game where the creator shows why they are just brilliant and goes through the intro of Infinifactory showing how you get into the game and how expertly crafted it is. It made it seem very approachable, as opposed to the TIS-100 game I bought, a Assembly game that I was excited about but didn't stick with. I've been playing so many block puzzle type games this year - haven't finished Baba is You, got fairly far with Draknek's Cosmic Express [5] which reminds me I have to play more of the PuzzleScript version Train Braining [6] that came first. All this is to say, Infinifactory is a gorgeous well-crafted puzzle game. You're a kidnapped human that alients are forcing to build little factories to generate unknown machinery. I'm about halfway through the game, that I casually play for an hour or so a few times a week. There's some mystery where all these dead humans are scattered around and I think I'll either get killed or defeat the aliens but it's also separate from and not really needed if you just like puzzles but I'm enjoying the two together. Kind of like how the Human Resource Machine [7] is a programming-type assembly game but also about humans vs. robot overlords. Anyway, I'm primed to love this type of game and I certainly do.

6. Aerofoil [8] aka Glider PRO, a game I LOVED as a kid in the 90s. I had this on my family's Performa 475. I just sent it to my sister. It has the two player mode! Maybe we can play it again. You're a paper airplane flying through a house with steam vents (to rise), killer cats, alarm clock bonuses, random drips that'll kill ya. All's you can do is press left or right with the arrow keys. This game is perfect. There's a level editor too. Incredible. Play this game.

7. thecatamites [9] possibly the best game maker of all time is releasing so many tiny games over and over that are incredible worlds. Why haven't you played them all? THis is a question for me too. I need to play all of them and not do any other work. I just downloaded Crime Zone, his 2013 game and it's as thrilling at 3am now as it was back THEN.

8. Increpare [10] took a break releasing games from January 2020 to June 2021 and now he's back with a vengeance. All difficult puzzle games in PuzzleScript mostly, mostly abstract puzzles but many funny theme ones too. Even though I usually can't get that far I enjoy trying them. Maybe I'll unlock the solution some day. I got pretty far in Subway upholstry snot smearing championship [11] and Swimming Time [12] is so NSFW. I beat it once but not again.

9. Occult Spreadsheet Synthesizer [13] technically came out in the past day or so of 2022 but was largely made in December for the Glorious Trainwrecks Secret Santa thing that I'm also participating in but haven't gotten my game fully popped out yet. It's a spreadsheet synthesizer, you should probably play it. For fans of the occult, spreadsheets and synthesizers in any combination.

10. Fujichia's 2021 Movie Roundup [14] which was my inspiration for doing my own 2021 best-of list here. I'm just going to quote one of many brilliant reviews:

Ponyo (2008): Rewatch of this dynamite flick. So refreshing to see a great movie with a cool weird rich world, in which no one ever tells you details and you simply do not require them. Of course there are a million questions you could ask, from "who's that guy" to "why is this happening" but we don't ask those questions because we're not nerds, we're people enjoying a beautiful moment. Even the people in the movie don't know what's going on! That's really inspiring-- everyone just rolls with it. If this movie was made by a committee like most modern movies they'd insist that audiences need a stand-in character to constantly ask questions and be perplexed. Luckily this particular movie was made by a tyrant.

11. Lua - Yes, the language was born in 1993 but I only started programming in a version of it (well, really, Pico-8) maybe 2 years ago. Now I'm playing with Love2d as well, and even writing some Lua scripts for some simple applications and games on my own. I love it. It's like javascript if they froze the spec, didn't constantly change how the language is written, made it less popular, made it faster, made it simpler. A perfect language. It's even 1-indexed. Surprising! Seriously, I started working on some web projects recently and wished I could just write Lua instead of JS. Maybe I can make my own sub-set like JavaScript the Good Parts did but it's not about being 'correct' and instead about being straightforward.

12. PuzzleScript - did I mention this previously? Yes. [15] The greatest funny little game engine. Just try it. Even if you don't think you'll love puzzle games. We need more code engines and tools like PuzzleScript. Integrates a pixel sprite editor as ascii art in 5x5 grids of text. Sound creation is random intuitive beautiful brilliant. Yes.

13. The Dawn of Everything - David Graeber and David Wengrow's anarchist omnibus on the flexibility of pre-modern civilization. Inspiring. Exciting. Purposefully provocative and essential reading. Yes I am.

14. Tildegit [16] - It's the tilde world's answer to GitHub. Many of my new personal projects I host here instead of GitHub. Clean. Simple. There is a tiny explore feature and surprise surprise it's all tiny smol-web projects like Gemini servers and the like. It's not GitHub, it's not run by a benevolent asshole for life. Works great for daily use.

15. My 10-year old Nook Simple Touch e-reader in combination with my bookmobile [17] software to convert articles from the internet to epubs. I want to make a reference to Us3's line "We be to rap like key be to lock" about bookmobile to the e-reader "but honestly," I'm telling myself, "please don't."

16. Ezra Klein interviews Noam Chomsky [18] - Yes I'm a Chomsky stan. Went to see him speak multiple times in my undergrad and he came and spoke at my school as well. I didn't follow it all well then but now yes yes yes. I can't summarize everything he says in 2 sentences.

what we’re talking about is the massive extraordinary effort that goes into creating wants, shaping opinion, ensuring that doctrines are not questioned. A separate question is whether it works. Well, that’s a mixed story. Sometimes, it does. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But underlying it is the fact that one of the major factors components of our social order is a huge attempt to manufacture consent to create wants, to ensure doctrinal conformity.

17. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay - started 2021 with this book because I needed some delight in the small things and honestly I need some again. This isn't a big idea book but sometimes small light beautiful little cozy things are nice? I kept a little list of delights for a minute. I got into this only because I heard Ross reciting his delights on an episode of This American Life. Great voice. Maybe I'll start adding some delights to my daily diary (my minilog) I keep for myself.

18. Candles - I have soy tea lights and various candle holders and it's giving me life this winter. I did shabbat many friday nights of the pandemic, cooking for or with friends, followed by a movie or video game and beer or other smokables. Good tradition. Hope we can continue if omicron wanes a bit. Anyway, I learned while visiting Denmark just how much candles can increase the warmth-feeling. They use candles everywhere, even in summer, and I looked online: Danes are the highest per capita candle users. Soy candles are less pleasant than paraffin wax, but they don't produce harmful soot. To my initial not-extensively-researched-yet eyes there are some arguments between soy vs beeswax candles, which also don't produce soot. Soy production can use lots of chemicals and lead to deforestation. But bees can be over-farmed (is that the right word?) as well, so it seems like maybe a tossup.

19. Thrive [19] - I paid into the Kickstarter I think in 2020 but it shipped in 2021 and boy it was worth it. I love this game, a "build your own chess piece" game. Innovative 2 player board game, and it now has a iOS app [20]. The creator Martin Grider has a website with his blog posts, games and talks. In particular I recommend checking out his talks, where he gets into the secret sauce of board game design.

20. Mike Tyson's intro music to his fight against Spinks in 1988 was an excerpt from a song by industrial band Coil for a famous match (that he won in a minute and a half). I randomly only learned about it recently. See this article from the old AnimalNYC [21] in Animal, where you can listen to the full track from Coil's How to Destroy Angels. I mean I don't think I have any interest in boxing whatsoever except for this song and Tyson's beyond atrocious extremely serious so terrible it's charming 'primitive' face tattoo. So I guess I'm just a huge Tyson fan.

I'm forgetting a million things. Stay tuned for more. Or not.


Em Reed's Writing

Wolf Eyes bandcamp

Infinifactory on

Cosmic Express on

Brain Training game

Human Resource Machine game

Aerofoil game on

Thecatamites games on

Increpare games

Subway Upholstery Snot-smearing Championship

Swimming Time game (NSFW but silly)

Occult Spreadsheet Synthesizer on

Fujichia's 2021 movie roundup

Building Gameworlds in PuzzleScript

Tildegit git forge

Offline E-reading

Ezra Klein Interviews Noam Chomsky

Thrive board game

Thrive iOS app

Mike Tyson Entered the Ring to Coil (AnimalNYC)

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