There's a reason it's called the 50 Book CHALLENGE and not the 50 Books Breezily and Effortlessly Read in One's Wealth of Free Time. It's not enough that I'm dealing with young Master Sam and his own 50 Poop Challenge (a daily, rather than annual, event): there's also an entire World Wide Something-or-Other constantly tempting me away from my book du jour.
So, since I'm easily distracted these days, I thought I'd share my handicap with you. You're not doing anything else right now, are you? Be that as it may, here's a random sampling of my favourite web thingies, new and old:
Big Dead Place
Rusty turned me on to this site quite a while back. He's probably read every single word in it, and he's the Mikey of the internet, so that's saying something. The big dead place in question is Antarctica, or, more specifically, the McMurdo Station at the South Pole, whence this site originated.
You think you've got a lot of free time on your hands? You think I do? Compared to these guys, we are wet-behind-the-ears ama-teurs in the creative time-wasting department. Which explains entries like this one, a thousand-word critical analysis of a Christmas ornament. Unadulterated brilliance.
I would be spectacularly remiss if I did not mention that this site recently spawned a book -- Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica -- which is, by several accounts, quite good. The Times of London called it a "savagely funny... grunt's-eye view of fear and loathing, arrogance and insanity... It's like M*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy." Needless to say, I've already ordered it for Rusty.
I don't care if it's a TV ad, this spot that Spike Jonze directed for Adidas made me happy every time I caught it during its short broadcast life, so I sought it out online and bookmarked it. And now I watch it any time I have 90 seconds and want to give my brain a massage.
(For the record, I'm impervious to most TV advertising, which is due more to the fact that advertisers aren't targeting the tiny "weirdo" demographic to which I belong rather than to any inner strength of character I possess. I've probably watched this commercial a hundred times, and I still don't own anything by Adidas.)
I love the photo gallery on this site so much that I can even disregard the fact that it's a navigational nightmare to get to it. (I'm a usability snob. Yes, we exist.) First, you're presented with some arty French Frenchiness while the site loads. Then you click anywhere on the screen, causing the dots on all the "i"s in "minimiam" to fecklessly float away. Then the menu finally loads. It's in French, but that's not your problem. Your problem is that it's one of those coy, flirty menus that likes to dance around -- again, in a manner I can only describe as "French" -- while you mouse over it.
But if you're diligent and possessing of solid hand-eye coordination, you can pin down the link that says "Galerie" and you're in. If you dig bizarre miniatures and luscious desserts and incredibly artful photography, it's well worth the trip.
I started visiting this site a few years ago, when Eugene the Marvelous Crooning Child had only a half dozen songs under his belt. Now his playlist spans two pages. My favourite is still "Cat's in the Cradle" on this page. Listen to it three times and I promise you will not get it out of your head for weeks. Or months. Or... ever.
These paintings by artist Mark Ryden blow my mind. I can't even imagine how breathtaking they must be in real life. Dark, surreal, fantastical, and painstakingly, meticulously executed... I could stare at these for hours and still find new details to marvel at. Check out the serenely haunting nude rendering of Björk in "Björk." And I think I once had a dream that looked a lot like "The Magic Circus." But my hands-down favourite has to be "Princess Sputnik" (pictured right).
For a fun -- and potentially disturbing -- audio-visual treat, might I suggest playing Eugene's songs in the background while viewing Ryden's paintings? Let me know how that works out for you.