Downtown Raleigh, like some other major metro downtowns, was ablaze last night. A couple of hours of peaceful demonstrations gave way to riotous violence and frustration boiled over into destruction. “Nearly every shop along Fayetteville Street had shattered windows.”
Before the violence started, the police presence made Raleigh look like it had been taken over by a military junta.
Clearly, the city was preparing for the kind of chaos that was to come.
It’s terrible to see this kind of destruction nearby, in a city where supposedly, “all are welcome.” I pray that we can find answers to how to obtain justice for those in communities of color. I’m pretty sure smashing up a fine purveyor of sweets like Rocket Fizz is not going to win anyone freedom from oppression, but people have to start listening to grievances and taking positive action to address them.
While citizens riot in Minneapolis and people begin to say “enough,” the president of this country can only think that the proper response to a disproportionate use of force is another disproportionate use of force. For using the words of other racist leaders of the past, to call for potentially lethal violence upon US citizens, he has been censured by Twitter. Many of us were skeptical that the day would ever come that Twitter would enforce their own terms of service. While praise for Twitter always comes to me with reluctance, given their past negligence, they have done what Facebook will not.
If Twitter’s decision to hide Donald Trump’s tweet has amped up the pressure on Facebook to do the same, it hasn’t resulted in any noticeable action from the social network.
Twitter said in a statement Trump’s words received the label “in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts.” The same tweet was again labeled when it was subsequently posted by the official White House Twitter account.
But the words didn’t just appear on Twitter. As with other Trump tweets, it was also cross-posted to Trump’s Facebook and Instagram account. Facebook, though, has not taken any action on the posts, despite also having rules against glorifying violence.
The assymetrical violence of calling for the killing of looters is terrifying. It also fits within the broader narrative that has forced this chain of events upon us. White collar actors who benefit from systematically dismantling companies to loot them in a way that is recognized as legal are rewarded monetarily for their actions. Those of us who grew up on KB Toys and Toys R’ Us saw them get looted by private equity firms and individuals that are still highly esteemed and respected.
The Onion has a piece that points out this hypocrisy with scathingly dark humor.
“Look, we all have the right to protest, but that doesn’t mean you can just rush in and destroy any business without gathering a group of clandestine investors to purchase it at a severely reduced price and slowly bleed it to death,” said Facebook commenter Amy Mulrain, echoing the sentiments of detractors nationwide who blasted the demonstrators for not hiring a consultant group to take stock of a struggling company’s assets before plundering. “I understand that people are angry, but they shouldn’t just endanger businesses without even a thought to enriching themselves through leveraged buyouts and across-the-board terminations. It’s disgusting to put workers at risk by looting. You do it by chipping away at their health benefits and eventually laying them off. There’s a right way and wrong way to do this.”
It’s difficult to acquiesce to destruction of property. It appears that, in the case of Minneapolis, at least some of the destruction has come from agitators outside of the community. However, when a pot boils over isn’t the one to blame the person who saw it bubbling and didn’t turn down the heat? When a positive community influencer and messenger of the gospel is brazenly killed with impunity by the state, what are the people to do?
In this week’s Moore To The Point newsletter, Russell Moore dives into conspiracy theories, with an emphasis on their context in Christian circles.
The reason that crazy conspiracy theories get a hearing in Christian circles is not because most Christians believe them. In talking with a pastor with flat-earth, moon-landing denialists in his church, I asked, “How many of your people are convinced by that stuff?” He said, “No one but the one family, but the people who think the earth is not flat don’t wake up in the morning caring about that; these people do.” So what happens is that the pastor, just out of exhaustion, censors himself from saying things like “Let’s pray for our missionaries around the globe” because he doesn’t want the emails the next day accusing him of being a secret liberal. And the 99.5 percent of the people in his church just think, “Bless their hearts” but don’t say anything—out of kindness, I suppose. There’s a noble impulse there. We all are called to bear each other’s craziness, to some degree. But there’s a point at which it’s not just quirkiness but destructive and predatory (1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:23-24; Titus 2:9-10). And the church, in witness and in joy, suffers for it.
He’s right that churches suffer for the falsehoods conceived of, or spread by, their members. It damages the credibility of their witness for Christ. If they can believe things which are so obviously false, one wonders, what about the rest of their beliefs?
Wrong beliefs can also be sources of conflict, even as in the illustration of the church member above and their correspondence with the pastor. This is where the passage from Timothy that Moore cites comes into play.
That person is conceited. They don’t understand anything but have a sick obsession with debates and arguments. This creates jealousy, conflict, verbal abuse, and evil suspicions. (1 Timothy 6:4, CEB)
It may be simplistic to say, not having ever pastored a flock of believers, but I don’t think I could bring myself to change my message to suite the misguided obsessions of a single family of members. Let’s still pray for our missionaries around the globe, whether someone believes in a globe or not.
I bought an iPad Pro back in 2018, when I was studying for one of the AWS exams. It was both a reward to myself and a tool for taking notes on the exam topics. I have been using it heavily ever since. When the COVID crisis forced many of us knowledge workers home, I had to rework my home office configuration. That meant that my primary computer, my iMac, had to live someplace else. Reluctantly, I moved that to a desk in my boys’ room. I had always said they would never have a TV or computer in their room, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
When I lost my primary computer to my children, my iPad became my main personal computer. It’s a bit more limited than my iMac but I have long been adjusting to use it to get things done. It has helped a lot that Apple introduced trackpad support around the same time that I had to go all iPad. At first, I considered buying a more recent refurbished iPad Pro in order to get an upgrade and buy either a Brydge Pro keyboard with trackpad or one of the new Magic Keyboards with the trackpad. Andy Nicolaides from TheDent.net warned me away from the Brydge keyboard, as the trackpad from that seems made for the older trackpad support and is glitchy with the most recent changes.
Ultimately, I decided against even the newer iPad Pro with the magic keyboard. I just couldn’t justify spending the money on that at this time and fully recognized that all I really needed was a new trackpad. My old Magic Trackpad from Apple will work with the iPad, but won’t scroll, making it essentially useless. I bought one of the sleek Magic Trackpad 2’s and am very happy with my setup. While the cursor isn’t perfected yet on iPadOS (sometimes you have to double-click a link or button, sometimes single click is sufficient), the cursor technology seems in some ways so much more advanced than what has been the standard for the last 40 years. I can do almost everything that I need to on this machine. There are still some things I can’t do, like download songs from Bandcamp and add them to my Music Library. For those few things, I have to borrow some time from my kids. For most things, though, I’ve adapted.
I’m not regretting that I didn’t upgrade. For one reason, I wouldn’t want to have to deal with grimegate. If I spent that much on a machine + keyboard and then it looked worn after a week, I would be seriously frustrated. I’m happy with what Patrick Rhone refers to as “good enough tech.” Sometimes I do think about the fact that the much cheaper iPad my wife got for Christmas is essentially the same as my iPad Pro from a couple of years ago, but I’m okay with that. His and hers iPads suite us.
Marius Masalar has some thoughts about blogging and link posts. Masalar sees a lot of value in them and the role they play in the makeup of the IndieWeb.
At their best, link posts are a way for independent bloggers to engage with and continue a conversation started by one of their fellows.
We use them to boost each other up, offer constructive criticism, point out other views, or amplify a message we believe in.
He makes a point, though, that link posts should contain something of value from the curator. What does the person linking to the content think about it? It’s best practice to try and explain why someone should make the jump. There are a billion things on the internet and all sorts of entertainment offline, as well. It’s up to the blogger who is linking to something to at least briefly explain why it is worth the reader’s time. It shows respect and a genuine desire to point followers to things that they might find compelling.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and I’m not suggesting that people who share links without commentary are committing some sort of crime against the indie web. However, if you’re going to share new ideas and experiences with someone, it seems courteous to do so with the same care and attention you’d grant them if you were making the recommendation in person.
Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with sharing nothing but a link, but the effort to put your own take on things ultimately rewards your readers.
Another view related to this is from Paul Jarvis, who laments the decline of small b blogging. Small b blogging being that art of writing for those who share interests, without thought to growth or gaming the system for metrics. In that model, presenting your own take on things found around the interwebs is integral to the implied contract with those who follow your blog.
Content is rewarded now through the act of getting someone to a website. Who cares if they read something, who cares if something was written well, who cares if there’s even content. Content now needs likes, shares, outrage, promotion, and to rank high in Google. Content online has gone from acting like an e-zine to being what it started out counter to, and that’s mass, mainstream media.
Small b blogging follows that e-zine model and differentiates itself by being honest about its intentions. Part of that is the explanation and the personal reasons for why you are linking to something you found and want to share.
Lofi beatmaker extraordinare and all around great guy Takahiro Fuchigami put together a compilation (also on Spotify) of his work to commemorate a decade of making music. Here is his recommendation for listening.
Please enjoy when you study, cook, clean your place, and as your store BGM. It’s enjoyable at any situation. Please put the music beside of you and make your time peace and calm.
This collection would make an excellent soundtrack to playing the game Skate City or to just watching a street scene.
Takahiro is my sister’s ex-husband, so he is no longer my brother-in-law, but just my brother. I love his music and am happy to share it.
I’ve been trying Wordpress out for a long time. I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many innocent AWS EC2 instances died horrible deaths so I could experiment with self-hosted Wordpress installations. It’s almost sadistic. Yet I keep checking out the platform, hoping to find that perfect theme, and that ideal blogging workflow that allows me to write in a good text editor, post through a robust API and like the way it comes out when a reader sees it.
Until recently, I was still searching. When I found this year’s flagship Wordpress theme, “Twenty Twenty,” I thought I had my match. None of the Wordpress.com themes offer extensive customizations, but this one more than most. It was also a whole lot easier than hosting your own Wordpress installation, making a child theme and going through all of the work of customizing settings like fonts. Sure, you have to upgrade to a business plan that most bloggers don’t need to make any of your own CSS edits, but who needs that if the theme has enough options?
Early on, though, I ran in to a big bug (no pun intended). The theme’s “normal” size font is big. It looks great on mobile, but not so much anywhere else. The problem is, when you change the font from “normal” to “small” it actually gets bigger. I was completely dumbfounded by that bit of font maleficia.
After some time of living with the bug, but not really liking how my posts looked on a desktop machine, I decided to email Wordpress support. They were aware of the bug, they told me, and the theme developers were looking into it, but they had no estimate of when the bug would be fixed. I was surprised that they wouldn’t fix a font size bug on their flagship theme in relatively short order, and told them as much. Their next email assured me the bug was in testing but they still had no date on a release.
I waited a month, sometimes trying the font size option out, to see if things would get fixed. With no movement, I emailed them again. They responded that they still had no time frame, although they did send me a link to the bug on Github. Unfortunately, the bug in Github doesn’t seem to indicate that a fix is in testing. In fact, it indicates no one has even been assigned to look at the issue.
In parallel to this nonsense with the Wordpress issue, something I didn’t expect happened. IA Writer, a longtime favorite text editor of mine, and one which I used to post to Wordpress and Ghost blogging platforms, added support for Micropub. This means you can now post to your self-hosted Micropub blog or to the excellent Micro.blog platform. I have been a long-time user of Micro.blog, but the only way I could post longer blog posts on it with images was using the Drafts app. Draft’s Swiss-Army-Knife capabilities are great, but it doesn’t really excel at facilitating longer blog posts and its design is something that is best overlooked. So I eventually joined the herd and moved from M.b. to Wordpress. Now, with IA Writer supporting it, I’m back to M.b.
Micro.blog uses the Hugo static blogging engine and is extremely customizable, no additional plan other than basic hosting needed. It’s also based around markdown, which has long been my preferred method of writing for the web. It doesn’t have the same plethora of WYSIWYG options as the Wordpress Gutenberg editor, but it has what a humble blogger like myself needs. In addition, it is getting better all of the time. I’m happy to support a strong IndieWeb alternative to the great behemoth that is Wordpress.
Just updated my Now page (tending your garden edition).
Jeremy D. Larsen, writing for Pitchfork, uses the riotous 1913 Paris debut performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring to illustrate the difficulty our brains have in enjoying new music. The performance, to perhaps understate the effect, took its audience outside of their sonic comfort zones.
Many members of the audience could not fathom this new music; their brains—figuratively, but to a certain extent, literally—broke. A brawl ensued, vegetables were thrown, and 40 people were ejected from the theater. It was a fiasco consonant with Stravinsky’s full-bore attack on the received history of classical music, and thus, every delicate sense in the room.
He goes on to explain why new music, truly different music, is so hard for us to enjoy.
People love the stuff they already know. It’s a dictum too obvious to dissect, a positive-feedback loop as stale as the air in our self-isolation chambers: We love the things we know because we know them and therefore we love them. But there is a physiological explanation for our nostalgia and our desire to seek comfort in the familiar. It can help us understand why listening to new music is so hard, and why it can make us feel uneasy, angry, or even riotous.
I’ve often read that our musical tastes solidify somewhere in the late high school/college years. I like to think I’m an exception to that, because I still spend a fair amount of time seeking out new music. I read music blogs and diligently check out their recommendations. I listen to the Apple New Music playlist that is algorithmically curated for me every Friday, comparing my list with my wife’s. I make a new playlist every month, comprised of mostly fresh tracks (with some evergreens thrown in for good measure).
How exceptional am I really, though? Is the new music I like that much different than what I would have liked in the past? Is it really challenging me?
For example, one of my new favorite songs is “I Feel Alive” by the band TOPS. The band describes itself as “a raw punk take on AM studio pop,” though it feels like more of the latter. So of course I like it! The band itself is fairly new, but I got introduced to music by AM studio pop in the seventies and I spent my high school years listening to punk.
It is true that I do listen to things that I wouldn’t have in high school. Don’t tell anyone, but I didn’t really like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless when it came out. I can’t imagine having enjoyed the Velvet Underground at the same time I was exploring industrial bands. However, the noisy rock and quiet modes of the VU did influence a lot of the bands I listened to in high school and college, so again, eventually liking them is hardly a stretch. I never would have been into sophistipop in the nineties, but having grown up in the eighties, I was able to appreciate it more when teenage angst died down.
I plan to keep exploring new music, but I don’t expect my tastes to change in a revolutionary way. Whenever I so much as look at the band/artist names that are trending on Apple Music, I’m just not sure what to make of them.
I’m happy that my tastes didn’t get stuck in a lock groove in 1994, but I’m also cognizant that there is a familiarity and sometimes nostalgia with even the new music that I appreciate.
It’s worth noting that I also don’t like a lot of the stuff I did in my teens. Those industrial bands didn’t stick with me, and neither did hip hop or ska or half a dozen other genres I threw myself into for a while.
In his latest newsletter, Chris Bowler spends a bit of time on the Roam note taking service that is currently in beta. His reference for Roam was Drew Coffman. I love Drew, and he attaches to new ideas with the zeal of an ancient Athenian. Roam bares more resemblance to a wiki than anything else, but its proponents insist it’s a completely new way of thinking about note taking. The service is thick with enthusiastic documentation on how to use it for different purposes, adapting it to GTD, increasing your speed and productivity with a plethora of keyboard shortcuts, etc.
Roam only has a web app, and it’s not a particularly attractive one, at that. The site for the service partially obscures this by resizing browser windows in screenshots to make things seem a bit more native. The app just looks clunky, though. There are more bullets than a early-20th-century Chicago gangland murder scene. Perhaps a bit unintuitively, you can turn most of the bullets off by right-clicking on the title of the page. Otherwise, you end up looking like a PowerPoint junkie in desperate need of a fix.
The big draw with Roam seems to be the ability to create linked notes on the fly, by typing the name of a new note in double brackets. It is a cool idea, although I could also see it creating a fairly unwieldy database or a bunch of empty pages waiting for content that never comes. I’d like to see apps like Bear and IA Writer try out something like this, though. Bear already has a similar style of linking to other notes and IA Writer’s content blocks seem like a natural fit for this sort of functionality.
It’s clear that, even in the 21st century, note taking is still evolving. For a information hoarder like me, that’s a good thing, even if I don’t love every solution that is created.
🎵 It’s hard to believe that the Mogwai that just put out the house music inspired Reverso EP are the same Slint disciples that recorded Young Team in 1997.
🍿 Just watched A Marriage Story. As an alternative, I could have stabbed myself in the heart 20x.
It may have been Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t prevent my lady friend and I from engaging in our Friday night tradition of doing Apple New Music playlist bingo.
“Does anyone have the new track by Camel Power Club?”
Every week, Medium sends an email about an article urging people not to “fall in love with a smart, introverted man.” For some reason, they seem to feel this is a particularly clear and present danger for me.
The DMV forces you to pay extra to submit vehicle property taxes via a chatbot. Someone please explain to me how having a faux conversation about my address beats using a form.
Us old dudes are suckers for reissues of our favorite records. I’ve owned Green Mind by Dinosaur Jr. on cassette, compact disc and vinyl. Still, when I saw another colored vinyl version newly available for sale, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to make a purchase. It’s especially hard to resist that kind of acquisition when you believe that, after the apocalypse, the only currency worth anything will be vinyl records.
The limited edition vinyl game is not for the faint of heart nor the easily discouraged. A rare bundle of reissues came up recently for another one of my favorite indie-rock bands, and before I even knew about the bundle, it was sold out.
The most frustrating thing about this sort of “you snooze, you lose” situation is that being off Instagram for a few days was what ultimately prevented me from getting the bundle of LP’s. The three LP bundle is sold out, and the only way to get the third record is to buy it off of Discogs for a cool $100. It wouldn’t irritate me as much as it does if it wasn’t a case of a legendary independent record label like Merge Records using a corporate silo owned by Facebook exclusively to advertise their new hotness. There is a news section on the label’s website, but it doesn’t appear to have an RSS feed.
The founders of Merge records are famous for their progressive political activism. However, not even they consider the role that Facebook has played in undermining our democracy. That is a role to which even executives at the company now admit. It doesn’t seem like Facebook is a platform a fiercely independent label would want to help amplify. Nor should the label force their fans into those platforms to keep up with new releases.
Music is easier than ever to discover. Surely this is a triumph and yet, it makes me kind of sad when I think about how one doesn’t have to search out and find music in traditional ways anymore. Pitchfork and Rolling Stone may still be relevant, but you don’t need the encyclopedic knowledge of a music critic to tell you what you might like these days. Plug in some songs you already know you love, and have an algorithm feed you what else you will probably enjoy.
It really works, mostly. What the formula probably won’t tell you, that you should know, is that “Pale Blue Eyes” was the sonic template from which Mazzy Star was birthed. It won’t tell you that “Sex Beat” by Gun Club created the sound that was heard in many a Pixies song. You might figure some of those things out from recommended “influencers” lists, but it will be hard to put together an entire band’s catalog from the seed of some forgotten classic.
Turning art recommendations into a system is about more than just algorithms, though. If you feel like you just want to unwind, in addition to the “chill mixes” that all the streaming services feature, neuroscience has found the song that will most relax you. After listening to the song, “Weightless,” by Marconi Union, I can attest to the fact that the song is indeed, incredibly relaxing. They even have a ten hour version. With results this precise, it can be hard to argue with science.
It works by assessing the “value” of an actor, estimating how much the film could make in theaters or streaming sites, and offering “dollar-figure parameters” for packaging, marketing, and distribution decisions behinds movies.
Human creative choices are not entirely out-of-the-picture, but data drives business decisions. They say lightning doesn’t strike twelve times, but based on the criteria above, don’t be surprised to see artificial intelligence recommend Die Hard 12. Thank goodness the Skywalker series is over because things could get a lot worse for that unfortunate family’s saga. You might even find yourself wondering what could go wrong with reconstituting a couple of dinosaurs from some ancient DNA to make a theme park, again.
As with many of the scientific and technological advancements, these things seem like mixed blessings. Computers can never replace humans in some areas, and creativity is certainly one of those areas. Tastes will never be an exact science. I like to think people are a bit too mysterious for that.
Knowing E.B., this tweet will probably be purged soon, but I’m linking to it because it was inspirational to me this morning.
It has been raining for days. It feels like we will all be living underwater soon. We’ll try to make casual conversation, but only air bubbles will escape our mouths.
It’s in the 70’s in January here in NC. The windows are open and the sirens outside sound so close and so desperate.