COLUMN: This week's web picks: An Antarctica radio station, Ann Arbor Film Festival archives and more
There are really only two reasons to love this page: the music it streams, and its links to Antarctica. I'm not sure which I like more.
The site was set up in Antarctica by George Maat and was one of the first internet radio stations to offer nonstop, commercial-free, mellow folk music streams of the highest quality — musicians like Isaac Guillory, John Prine and Duck Baker. The sound is as crisp and clear as Antarctic air. Links to and videos of the musicians are included.
The research substation down there seems to be part of A-Net, which would explain why spectacular photographs of the area, updated daily, are on the site, as well as weather charts, livecams and links to climate change and various esoteric computing and climatology issues. A big dose of clever, tongue-in-cheek humor is hidden in the slapdash design, asides and hidden hyperlinks, and testifies to the humble pride, camaraderie and job satisfaction of the guys living and working down in that frozen chunk of heaven.
Isn't it strange, the kind of fiction we like to read? I don't mean the thrillers, the romances, the sci-fi, but the moods, the fantasies, the values they satisfy. Sometimes the genres and stories reflect our true selves, but often? Well, that seems hard to believe. Who knows what some fictions satisfy, but the craving for a good read can be overwhelming.
It’d be nice if there was a website that let you dial into a book recommendation as if you had a thermostat for your mood or taste. Or soul. And there is.
Whichbook, a British site, lets you literally dial up recommendations, using up to four sliders (out of a few dozen) to suit the intensity level of a category: want funny to serious, gentle to violent, easy to demanding, beautiful to disgusting (Michael Moorcock’s King of the City fits these)? A story set in Argentina? A character of mixed race?
Whatever combination you choose, a list of well-selected, annotated titles appears with its cover, library and purchase links, ebook and audiobook availability, and a share link. Whichbook also lets you create your own lists or look at other customized lists. Other websites recommend titles, but where else can you dial-a-book?
Sometimes only a homegrown website will do. This one lies hidden inside several links from the Ann Arbor District Library home page. It offers images and text of nearly every AAFF program ever printed, as well as interviews, photos and fliers of the festival, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary.
See what films were playing at the 16th festival in 1978. Or what the entry form for the ninth festival looked like in 1971. Why is this important site hidden? Because there’s simply nowhere to promote it on the AADL's busy main page. This typically happens at many libraries, where unique, local digitized collections can be buried online like a thin volume of poetry in the stacks.
Even the Ann Arbor database page it belongs to, where other local archives sit, has an undercover presence. The festival archive itself isn’t very well organized or catalogued, but local digitization takes time and often makes its own rules. Meanwhile we have the only place where much of the story, work and glory of our famous Film Festival can be studied, built upon and celebrated.
There's nothing quite so fascinating as a disaster that happened to someone else. Especially if it happened 100 years ago, when it couldn’t even be reported back home on the same day and TV coverage couldn‘t bore us to death with it and tell us how to feel. But though the sinking of the Titanic became a legend created by print media, the other media wasted little time on catching up (yes, there are Facebook pages).
Despite the monumental success of books and movies recreating it, there are still countless fans, scholars, hobbyists, experts and artists devoted to uncovering, recovering and discovering more facts about the night, the victims, the crew, the causes, the ship and its accoutrements. There are few better places to see what they look for and what they find than the Encyclopedia Titanica.
The stillness of the web page suits their contemplation. With its photos, essays, discussions, passenger lists, news film archive, letters, deck plans, auctions — heck, even a gift shop — you can happily immerse yourself in that darkly documented sea of despair without tapping your inner bloodlust.