This was a pleasant surprise in my Apple New Music Mix last week. I haven't heard any Black Marble in a while (I enjoyed some tracks on 2016's It's Immaterial). "Somewhere" starts off with some pretty standard synth swells, and proceeds along like a synthstramental for about a minute and half before kicking into an upbeat new wave/post-punk bopper. The video is fun, with a kid getting to hang and dance with the cool adults.
Duett channels the sounds of the 1980's on their pastel-infused album Leisure.
Duett has been around for a while, but just came to my attention via Bandcamp's Instagram account last week. I was drawn in by the stylized artwork and colorful pastels on the album cover of their newest offering, Leisure. The contents of the album sound exactly like you would expect from looking at the cover. Over-the-top synths bathe the listener in the color palette of the 1980's. The aesthetic is so completely intact, that the opening track, "Gallery," sounds like it was pulled from an 80's film about Wall Street.
Jason Morehead asks if Facebook deliberately deplatformed his church. Like others who have had this happen, he tried to work through the labyrinthine Facebook system to straighten things out, but eventually succumbed to frustration.
At this point, I just gave up. (Though I did take some solace in the fact that I’m not the only one who’s been confused and frustrated by this situation.) I checked the page several more times to see if somehow, miraculously, Facebook had reversed their decision but to no avail. Then I stopped checking altogether until late last month, when I found that Facebook had finally done the inevitable: they had deleted the page.
Our church had also been relying on Facebook for live streaming our services, since the pandemic began. Thankfully, we now have our own app, running on the Subsplash platform, and parishioners can stream the services there.
This one came up out of the blue last week, just as I had posted “Pink and Blue” as a Friday Night Video. Colatura is from Brooklyn and they correctly guessed that people would want to watch a guy in a half gorilla suite skating around what is presumably NYC.
Mars Hill Church reveled in being Christian the manly way.
I recently started listening to the much-acclaimed podcast on the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, produced by Mike Cosper. Mars Hill is the Seattle-based church that was founded by hyper-masculine pastor Mark Driscoll. I always found Mark Driscoll to be deeply suspect and wondered where he fit into Christian theology. In many clips I see or hear of him, he’s yelling “who do you think you are???!!!” or “how dare you!!!”1 He sounds like me when I think my wife has eaten the dark chocolate marshmallows from Trader Joe’s.
My 9-yr.-old loves video games. It seems sometimes like his love for video games surpasses his love for everything else. When he’s not playing video games, or negotiating with me about his game time limits, he’s watching others play video games on YouTube. The pandemic hasn’t really bothered him, because it did nothing to interfere with his favorite activities.
I loved the original The Wonder Years series, which tracked almost perfectly with my age at the time it aired. The familiarity of the youth experience mixed with the historical perspective that was mostly new to me was a compelling combination.
The return of the show, set in the same time period, but featuring a black family, promises to bring back both of the elements that drew me in. The focus on the black experience will also bring a new dynamic that can be instructive, as well as entertaining.
The smooth and slightly smoky voice of Saint Sinner pairs well with the instrumentals from Tycho. It's a welcome change to hear vocals on the (normally instrumental) Tycho tracks and this is one song where they really pull it off in a very cohesive way. I've always thought Scott Hansen from Tycho had a certain genius for making electronic music sound particularly organic and that is very evident here.
This is a bit of a return to form for the band that describe themselves as “smooth sailin’.”
Last week, I chose a live recording of Pictured Resort covering Craft Spells “After the Moment” for the Friday Night Video. I had also searched last week for a Bandcamp link for Work Drugs “Drive” as my lady friend and I had picked that as a standout on my playlist of new songs. I couldn’t find the track to share. However, when I went to Bandcamp to search for more tracks by Pictured Resort, I came across the split EP with Work Drugs and the lead track just happened to be “Drive.”
A new photo sharing service could be great for photography, but is it ultimately better than the ones that already exist?
The new photo sharing app, Glass, has been getting a lot of attention. One particular corner of the internet where it has received significant buzz is the Micro.blog community. The attention is both surprising and not surprising. It's not surprising because that community tends to be very tech literate and have a great curiosity for new apps and platforms, such as social networks, email tools, blogging services or note taking apps. A well made app like Glass with a user base that already seems to be passionate is bound to be a topic of discussion on the M.b. network of federated blogs. The enthusiasm is also expected because Micro.blog has quite a few very talented photographers that use the service.
Tonight we have Japanese band Pictured Resort covering Craft Spells’ ‘After The Moment.’ The original is probably my favorite song in the Craft Spells catalog. Pictured Resort honor the song with this straightforward cover and look like they are having fun while doing it. It reminds me of a time when jangle pop was having a bit of a revival with the new bands on Captured Tracks and chillwave was also in its ascendancy.
New songs from Film School set the stage for their soon-to-be-released album.
Film School just dropped a single for "Isla," from their upcoming album We Weren't Here (9/24). Their Bandcamp page describes the song as "is perfect, washed out, glimmering pool side hazy ease." In other words, just right for summer. The track is a departure from their typical sound, and brings to mind Fleetwood Mac and Roxy Music as filtered through Wild Nothing.
Amazon provides an almost perfect retail experience for the cost of a troubled conscience.
Last Christmas, my sister had one prohibition on her wishlist for her Secret Santa: Nothing should be purchased for her on Amazon.com. Other than that, there were some helpful suggestions about things she wanted. I never asked her directly why the caveat about where items were purchased. I didn’t do so because it seemed obvious that there were a number of reasons a person would not want to support Amazon.
Apple feels a little bit lost with regards to its implementation of Safari 15. The new look of the native Apple web browser was announced to much fanfare but a less than exuberant reaction from users. I’ve read a lot of opinions on the new layout and features and certainly more negative than positive.
I love that this Facebook ad spotlighting a retro skateboarding trick starts with footage of Ray Barbee from the Powell Peralta skate video Ban This (Bones Brigade 5). My mom and I used to love watching Barbee’s part in that video because his style was so smooth. He went from trick to trick like he was connecting the dots.
When I lived out my teen years, in the early nineties, the musical landscape was much different than it is today. I don’t mean in terms of genres or styles (although that is certainly true, as well). I’m now going through the experience of my teenage son exploring the music that was popular back then. It’s the same music, but encountered in a much different way. The easy access that he enjoys to jump to anything in the sonic universe enables him to quickly make musical connections that it took me years to understand. The glut of information available in the internet can, in a short matter of time, fill a brain with enough musical trivia to shame the most learned and cynical 90’s hipster record store clerks.
Freddie deBoer recently read an oral history of the film Dazed and Confused. He found himself wondering about the sense, among the cast and crew of the movie, that the kind of teenage cruelty depicted would never fly today. In At the Heart of It All, the writer, who never seems shy about openly discussing the more difficult aspects of life, argues that this type of cruelty among teenagers is not only still here, but will indeed never fully go away.
When Medium decided to stop funding many of the publications on their platform, most editors of those publications wrote nice notes thanking Medium for their patronage. A few detailed new plans for publishing their content elsewhere. Sarah Cords, from P.S. I Love You, however, will not go gently into that good night. She is angry about the defunding of the publication she had put her heart into, and wants others to know it.
I recently showed my wife my iPhone screen, which was dulled by complete grayscale. She responded by telling me that it didn’t look as interesting without the colors. Which was just the point. The once vibrant phone, alluring to my eyes, was now rendered much more boring. The bloom had come off the rose, and my attention was my own again.
Following the previous post, I’m risking turning this into a Sharon Von Etten fan blog, which would be weird, since I haven’t even heard most of her work. I did come across this cover of one of Daniel Johnston’s best songs, “Some Things Last A Long Time,” though, and found it unique enough to want to share.
It may be partly the haircuts (hey Linda Ronstadt), but something feels so authentically 70’s about this collaboration between Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten. Despite the video featuring the two artists sitting alone in rooms playing acoustic guitar, this song has a fleshed out band that augments the pair well. The song plays with country instincts the way many in the 70’s did (think Fleetwood Mac), without giving in to the cornier trappings of the genre. If the YouTube comments are any indication, the harmonies between Olsen and Van Etten are the realization of the dreams of many fans.
Facebook has been quietly rolling out a prayer post feature that will let users post prayer requests. The slow roll includes targeting particular users (ones who make their religious preferences fairly apparent, I would imagine). Once the request is posted, other users can respond to the request for prayer.
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash. There are many reasons to be frustrated with Spotify, but my number one at the moment has to be the way their payment setup is forcing artists to change their song structure in order to get paid by the service. So much so that it’s considered an act of rebellion for a song to have a standard verse, chorus, verse format. Or, as in the case, that Alan Jacobs writes about, a slow intro that gives way to something with hooks.
Over at Brainpickings, Maria Popova writes about accepting reality and setting your expectations accordingly. Though most of the piece is focused on passages from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, she also offers lessons in equanimity from Walt Whitman, who had to reset his outlook in the face of a debilitating stroke.
When Ursula Le Guin wrote the The Tombs of Atuan (published in 1970), the second book in the Earthsea series, female leads in fantasy books were almost nonexistent. It was countercultural for her to include Arha, a young priestess, as the main character. She discusses this in the more recently written afterward to the book.
Nandi Bushell always puts on a great performance. She started with videos of herself playing a particular song with a single instrument and wowed a lot of heavyweight rockers (like Tom Morello and Dave Grohl). She recently branched out into covering all the parts of songs like “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Where is My Mind” by Pixies using a looper and recording each instrument independently in sequence. With the latter recording, she does a sublime job with the vocals that bookend the song and allows her instrumental loops to buttress the main vocal part. Her more-than-apparent enthusiasm for rock music is always infectious and her craft is inspiring.
If you’ve ever heard J. Mascis perform Dinosaur Jr. songs solo on acoustic guitar, he goes about it in what could be described as a lazy way. He’s sloppy, which is part of who he is, or his brand, if you will. As one music critic once said of his cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” when he says, “‘I must have been asleep for days,’ you really believe him.” A recently released live album actually has him singing “blah, blah, blah,” on one of the songs when he forgets the words. Though he’s a much revered guitar player, his acoustic guitar playing is rough on live recordings.
Have you ever thought about how hypnosis so closely resembles guided meditation? Especially the beginning of hypnosis, called induction, which is designed to put you into a state of relaxation in which you are more susceptible to suggestion. The watching of the breath, the attention on sensations in the body that focus and settle your mind are integral to both beginning hypnosis and to mindfulness meditation.
Austin Kleon writes about blogging as a forgiving medium. It doesn’t carry the risk of social media (particularly Twitter). It allows for editing even after a post is originally published. I was happy to read that I’m not the only one that goes back and edits my blog posts several times after they are published.
Casey Newton very publicly left his job at The Verge for building his own brand on Substack. However, he continues to work with The Verge in some capacity, and they just published his piece on problems at Medium.com. As most have come to expect, Medium is doing yet another pivot in their strategy and is letting go a large chunk of their editorial staff, admitting that their rapid ramp up of publications had been too aggressive.
I was recently in search of something to to read after finishing the sprawling epic that was The Count of Monte Cristo. I pored through lists on Amazon, and recommendations I had read elsewhere. I typically read a fiction and a non-fiction book and and I needed something to fit into the former category. Nothing was grabbing me and Dumas’ masterpiece is a hard book to follow.
The header of the Bandcamp page for Prepare My Glider features a shoegaze staple: an overstuffed pedalboard. True to their name, they offer plenty of Shieldsian glide guitar and dreamy vocal harmonies that float beautifully above the noise.
After her bass player left a former band she was in to join a band he said was going to be “Jimmy Fallon big,” Michelle Zauner from Japanese Breakfast wrote a song about it. The bass player eventually rejoined Zauner in Japanese Breakfast and got his wish. The band just played their latest single, “Be Sweet” on the Tonight Show. I had this song on heavy rotation prior the performance and now I think I like it even more.
The Guardian has a piece on near-death experiences (as they have been known since the 70’s), which profiles a psychiatrist named Bruce Greyson and his research into the phenomenon. Like surgeon Dr. Sam Parnia, who has also studied this area thoroughly, Greyson has come up with no verifiable or satisfying scientific ways of explaining the extraordinary things people go through when they are on the precipice of death.
Warning: Contains spoilers about the conclusion of Wandavision from the series finale.
Over at Opuszine, Jason Morehead has a detailed examination of what the WandaVision experiment put the citizens of Westview through and what they are owed in the narrative. He believes that an extra episode that deals with their trauma would be appropriate. In the piece, he discusses the unreliability of Wanda as a narrator with regards to whether she knows what her spell is inflicting upon the citizens of Westview.
There is a theory that black metal flourished in Norway because there was never a counter-reformation in Scandinavia. Philosophy Professor Justin E. H. Smith touches on this in his piece on Weird Catholic Twitter.
The latest episode of the Fountains of Carrots podcast features an interview with Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, who is the nun known on Twitter for having a skull on her desk. Sister Theresa regularly meditates on her own death, in the Memento Mori tradition.
On the Mozilla Security blog, the Firefox team details their new implementation of cross-site browsing protection by keeping cookies from each site you visit in their own, separate containers. Firefox has had the ability to use different containers with separate cookies explicitly for some time with their “Containers” feature (I love to use this for testing with different identities on the same site).
When Batman came out in 1989, I was in peak comic mode and playing the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game by TSR pretty heavily. I had a promotional magazine for the movie that I pored over daily. My dresser drawer contained a Batman t-shirt (drawn more in the comic books style) and it was my favorite piece of clothing. The trip to the theater with my dad, where I wore my t-shirt proudly, felt like a holiday ritual.
By most accounts, evangelical Christians are concerned about the path this country is taking and encroaching restrictions on religious liberty. This is usually cited as their main reason for supporting the former president, despite the fact that he possessed almost every character trait they had vocally opposed in past leaders. Beyond supporting the president, they have appeared, at times, to almost want to make him their king.
I remember hearing Widowspeak years ago, when their album Almanac came out and not getting too attached to it. When Apple Music recommended a song from their new EP, I gave the band another try in the flow of a new music playlist. I quickly reversed the direction of the playlist and returned to revisit the track. I listened to “Romeo and Juliet” about a dozen times today.
Damon Krukowski writes for NPR about the differences between Bandcamp and Spotify. Though I would expect as much from an independent musician like Krukowski, the piece is not exactly kind to Spotify. Although they are not one of my favorites, Galaxy 500, of which he was a part, are one of the most influential bands of their generation. I would guess all their streams on Spotify have netted them a meager sum.
Giorgia Angiuli is a musical polymath. I don’t know my electronic subgenres as well as I should, so I have a hard time pinning her music down into a simple descriptor, but this video is incredible.1 However you may want to label the songs (“A rose by any other name,” etc, etc.), the variety of instruments and watching what goes into making the sounds coalesce is mesmerizing.
In 1995, a young, optimistic technologist found himself frustrated by the dire prognostications of a splenetic Luddite. The technologist, Kevin Kelly, a cofounder of Wired magazine, went to interview the Luddite, Kirkpatrick Sale, at his apartment. The interview was a pretext for Kelly to challenge Sale to a bet about the future of a society influenced by the rapid gains in computing technology. Kelly had a strong belief that society would benefit tremendously from advances in computing.
I don’t know how long I’m going to want to examine the previous four years, at least as we climb our way out of this mud pit. Maybe when we’ve left the pit far enough behind us, we can talk about it on a walk between the oak trees, breathing air that we aren’t afraid is diseased.
I love this post, about turning the tables on disgust, from Austin Kleon. In particular the quote below really speaks to me. I’m a person who appreciates much of life but who also has a certain amount of frustration and sometimes revulsion with things that I see going on in the world. Even with these feelings, I want to present the positive more often than the negative. Kleon explains his formula to do just that.
Approximately annually, around the end of the year, I examine my presence on the web. I mostly focus on blogging. This year, I experimented with the new blogging options on the Medium platform. I like them a lot. The ability to create shorter posts within your timeline is a game changer. The new customization options let your make your blog more personal. Combined with the great support Medium has for embeds through Embedly, the service feels a bit like Tumblr for adults. It's a nice set of tools. Unfortunately, it's still Medium. It thrives on social media staples such as likes (claps) and followers.
I have to admit, I have been somewhat surprised at people arguing against tech companies being able to enforce their terms of service. Working at a software company, I have been involved with our legal representatives in crafting terms of service, and never have I heard a question come up about our ability to enforce said terms. However, with social media, this seems to be coming up fairly often these days.
For the past 2 years, I’ve been making a playlist for each month. I put together the playlist, throughout the month, pulling tracks from my New Music list on Apple Music, my favorite music blogs and sometimes even rereleases of classic material. As Jason Morehead wrote of 2019, I always worry that I’m not going to find the same amount of good music as I did in the previous year.
I am a Protestant, but I can appreciate the purpose of icons that remind us of the great communion of saints. I have a hard time imagining asking for intercessory prayers from a saint, but a Catholic friend once put it to me as being like asking a friend to pray for you. I have to admit that made some sense, though I still don’t know about veneration.
Beautiful Noise. A simple title to a record label compilation, but a more accurate descriptor could not have been employed. Beautiful Noise from Sunday Records is just that, slices of mostly synthetic instrumental dream pop that are as ethereal and gorgeous as any your imagination could conjure. Almost every song is uniquely transportational, taking the listener to a different liminal space, but the pervading aesthetic fuses the parts together as a magnificent whole. By the time the drums pads hit on the second track, “Million Years” by Mariana In Our Heads, you will likely be someplace else entirely.
Today I got this shirt from my loving wife as a Christmas present. The Local 506 is where, in 1993, I saw my first rock show. The headlining act was a local math rock band from the Merge Records stable, Polvo. Proceeds from the t-shirt go to help the club reopen when the pandemic is over.
Jonas Ellison writes about wanting to attend a vinyl church, and I’m here for it. What does he mean by a vinyl church? He is using vinyl as a reference for older traditions that are slower and more thought out. Vinyl churches don’t try so hard to be accessible to the younger generation.
Subsonic Eye is a Singapore-based band coming out with their third full length, Nature of Things, in January. If you hadn’t read that, though, their mid-fi production, perfectly angled guitars and complex time signatures might lead you to believe they came out of the nineties Chapel Hill indie rock scene.
Cal Newport writes about ASMR rooms and virtual reality. While I have yet to see virtual reality implementations that really spark my interest, and my wife is a much bigger fan of ASMR than I am, I do like the idea of ASMR rooms. Newport tells of a reader who has a specific way of using the ASMR rooms to stimulate creativity.
By the level, by the square and by the All-Seeing Eye: Christianna Silva writes for NPR about the decline in the ranks of the Freemasons. The order is making the case that more people should be joining groups like them, that eschew differences and promote fellowship, primarily for its own sake. While social media (particularly Facebook) may present itself in a similar manner, as bringing people together, quite often the actual result is division.
A colleague of mine recently moved to a new apartment after his roommate left and his lease was up. He travels lightly and made short work of the move. I wish I could say I would be able to do the same, but it would take me a while to move all of my stuff.1 I wondered aloud about the difficulty of moving my record collection. Another coworker said “one man’s treasure is another man’s trash,” inverting the old aphorism. I stared at my records filling the bottom four cubes of my IKEA Kallax shelves.
In episode 270 of the Seeing and Believing podcast, hosts Wade Bearden and Kevin McLenithan discuss one of my top five favorite movies of all time, the cinematic adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. The discussion was prompted by the recent death of Sean Connery, who starred in the film alongside Michael Caine. I first saw the movie when my 12th grade English teacher showed it to the class and loved it immediately.
M.G. Siegler has a post describing what I thought Twitter’s new Fleets feature would be and goes into why it really doesn’t fit with Twitter in its current state. I agree with the assessment that this functionality just doesn’t make sense on this platform the way it does on Instagram.
Medium recently changed their mobile reading experience. It’s still in beta, and you have to toggle a preference in settings to turn it on, so you won’t see it by default. They have been signaling its coming for a few months, though. The
tag line they’ve been using is that it makes Medium “more relational.”
I want to pose something to others who are writing on the internet. You don’t have to write think pieces to refute bald-faced lies. If someone tells you the sky is green and you can easily determine that it is blue, you do not bear the burden of proving the sky is blue. Particularly if the person saying it is green is known for nothing so much as the outrageous and provably false lies they constantly tell.
This Friday night, those of us in the US are probably election fatigued. Let’s spend some time with a duo from the other side of the world. Egoism hail from Sydney, Australia and stand firmly in a global line of brilliant dream pop. They just dropped the On Our Minds EP today, which they affectionately refer to as their shoegaze release. Most of the tracks have more of an indie pop sound, though, with subtle hints of gauzy textures. However, my favorite track, ‘Never Leave,’ has a little of Depreciation Guild in the last minute, sounding a bit like shoegaze flirting with chiptune.
I am an unaffiliated voter. I used to vote based on policies and candidates. In the last few years, the Grand Old Party has made decision making at voting time a lot easier. They helpfully put an R next to the people you shouldn’t vote for on the ballot.
The kinds of people this party tends to attract view politics as a game to be won, rather than a way to improve the country.
One of the casualties of the COVID-19 crisis this year was a Tennis show in May that was to be held at the Haw River Ballroom. Tennis, like many other bands, had to cancel their tour across the US. I’m assured by the ticket vendor that the show will still happen, in 2021, albeit at the spartan Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, instead of the lush ballroom in Saxapahaw. We will have to see if that comes to fruition.
My son seems to be able to play any videogame with little to no instructions.
I just downloaded a game on Apple Arcade called the Survivalists. I literally would have had no idea how to play this game (even with the little tutorial tips) without my 8-yr-old. He immediately picked up on the system and how to collect different elements and make things from them. He just started telling me how to play it, having never touched the game in his life. No doubt, playing games with similar mechanisms like Minecraft and Terraria prepared him, but it still amazed me. Within a short time of actually playing the game, he had an empire of monkeys doing his work for him as I tired myself hacking down trees with what looked like a piece of flint.
🎵 Softer Still - Turtle Bay: This song and video aren’t new. I first heard the track while on a beach trip in 2018, when it showed up on my Apple New Music playlist. Maybe it was the sand between my toes, but it seemed just the right time to be listening to a song about escaping to an island paradise. However, the vinyl record was just released for the accompanying album, Nuances, so this seemed like a perfect video with which to close out this summer.
Not to sound like the teaser to a typical Medium article, but one of my favorite vinyl instagrammers sustained a serious brain injury in a bike accident a few months ago and has found herself happier than ever.
The identity politics that more and more defines the left has a built-in political flaw. It divides into groups rather than uniting across groups; it offers a cogent attack on the injustices and lies of the past and present, rather than an inspiring vision of an America that will be.
~ George Packer, Make America Again, The Atlantic
🎵Bat for Lashes - Daniel: With the current popularity of the Cobra Kai series, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit Natasha Khan’s 2009 emotional tribute to the Karate Kid himself, Daniel LaRusso. I’m posting the live version from The Late Show here because I find the official video to be kind of creepy. Also, although Khan has reworked the arrangements for this song a few times, most of the live versions, including this one, feature the Seventeen Seconds guitar sounds much more prominently in the mix.
Back in May, which now somehow seems like years ago, a bunch of folks with guns protesting COVID19-related restrictions paraded around the streets of neighboring downtown Raleigh, intimidating pedestrians and ordering submarine sandwiches. The ridiculousness of people with weapons such as inert rocket launchers ordering from the sandwich artists at a Subway franchise prompted the creation of many an internet meme.
On the Friday night that started a holiday weekend, I found myself helping to troubleshoot an application outage that had come up about unexpectedly. It was an interesting start to the weekend and I am thankful for the technical acumen of my coworkers (near and far) for helping us to get through the crisis. Afterward, it was slightly past my normal bedtime, but having been keyed up by the night’s events, I felt there were miles to go before sleep.
For a long time now, I’ve had a hard time fitting in politically. I’m adrift in the sea of American politics and even religion I know I’m not alone. I consider myself neither conservative nor progressive. When you study the Bible and Christianity, it’s hard to fit the beliefs you derive into the neat little packages that are offered by our political parties and cultural warriors.
After Amazon stopped shipping vinyl records, in the spring, to prioritize orders of more critical goods, I wondered about how the record industry would fare. Several months later, I have my answer. Amidst a pandemic, sales of records are still climbing.
🎵 Soccer Mommy - Who’s Going to Drive You Home?: Until now, I’ve been largely immune to the hype surrounding Soccer Mommy. Then I heard this cover of the Cars off of the new Soccer Mommy and Friends singles series.
Is the government afraid to ask Americans to make material changes to support the country? When we were at war, the U.S. used to call for citizens to sacrifice for the war effort. Rationing of materials like gas was one of the ways people could make sure that they supported the military. Buying war bonds was another. Propaganda posters unabashedly correlated personal patriotism with what you were doing to help America win a conflict.
When Wilco’s incredibly critically acclaimed album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out, I remember reading a review of it on Amazon. To paraphrase the review, it said this is an amazing album, but you have to get it on compact disc. It assured the aspiring listener that on the CD, you could hear things that you wouldn’t hear on the MP3’s. Not long after that, I went to my friend’s record store, CD Alley, in Chapel Hill.
This is something for Christians to think about, as we get closer to Election Day. Christians will be persecuted. It still happens today, but not as much since the church became respectable under Constantine. There is a good example of a leader who led the church in the wrong direction and changed the focus. We have never recovered. Some are still looking for another Constantine instead of the return of Jesus.
The days are piling up on one another. Their beginning, middle and end feel strikingly familiar. One bleeds into the next. I’ve heard others describe it as Groundhog Day. At some point during this endless string of days, it became clear to me that I had to do something to get my boys out of the house. We limit even their ability to go with us to stores to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID.
Filmed in Osaka and Kyoto, this short film by Brett Novak follows Japanese skateboarder Isamu Yamamoto as he freestyles his way around ancient structures. Isamu is obviously deeply influenced by Rodney Mullen, and brings back a style of skateboarding that hasn't been seen much since Mullen and Per Welinder ruled the streets in the 80's. Mullen was a spectator, when, at the age of 14, Yamamoto took first place at the World Freestyle Round-Up Skateboarding Championships in BC, Canada.
I find myself in the most unusual position of agreeing with Attorney General William Barr. Barr believes that major tech companies are making serious compromises in order to get access to the Chinese labor and consumer market.
"The Chinese Communist Party thinks in terms of decades and centuries, while we tend to focus on the next quarterly earnings report,” Barr said. “America’s big tech companies have also allowed themselves to become pawns of Chinese influence.”
In the article, one of the tech companies named, Apple, declined to comment. How could they offer any explanation? They are at the mercy of China for the products that are made almost entirely in that country.
The Micro.blog platform has been growing lately, and part of the growth has been through plugins and new apps. Plugins are a welcome additions to the base M.b. hosted blogging experience. They do simple but helpful things, like adding open graph and Twitter cards for rich previews of content on various platforms, site search and footnote popups. Plugins feel like a big step in the maturity of the platform and allow those with the technical savvy to extend the features of the service.
Image by Charles Deluvio from Unsplash Andrew Carter writes for the News and Observer on how wearing a mask became a political issue. In the piece, he describes how a group called ReopenNC recently organized a protest against current restrictions put in place by the governor. When a reporter asked a man at the protest to discuss his thoughts on wearing face coverings, he responded with a sarcastic dismissal.
“Mandatum” by Lawrence OP via Flickr Matt Taibbi has a thought-provoking edition of his newsletter where he ponders whether journalism is destroying itself with its changing mission of asking hard questions to one of trying not to offend. He makes some good points, although some of his examples of cancel culture might not be entirely accurate. What struck me, though, was a particular paragraph listing situations where people were trying hard to show their respect for the African American community.
One of my favorite albums this year has been TOPS I Feel Alive. I know I’ve been down on music algorithms in the past, but this was one recommended by Apple Music in my New Music Playlist and I was instantly smitten. I think I played the title track around 100x the first couple of days after I heard it and a delivery of Coke bottle clear vinyl was not long behind that.
Bad Brains at the 9:30 Club in 1983. Image by Malco23 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I’m not normally a huge fan of recorded live music. Very few of my most treasured albums were recorded in a live context. The majority of the time, I find live recordings to be inferior versions of their studio-recorded counterparts. Right now, though, I’m mostly home bound, unable to attend gatherings where music would be played.
I do not want this moment to pass with the changing of the news cycle. I want these fires to remain lit until there is reason to put them out. I don’t mean the literal fires and I don’t mean the looting that is destroying communities and livelihoods that were already in danger from the pandemic. I mean the protests that catch people’s attention and make them take a pause and start thinking about what right looks like and how we get there.
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. From WRAL.com, police in riot gear in Raleigh Clearly, the city was preparing for the kind of chaos that was to come.
Protesters photo by Lorie Shaull via Flickr “Our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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.
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.
My 2018 iPad Pro with Magic Trackpad 2 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.
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.
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.
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.
People who want church to be more traditional make a good point. But they don’t typically aim far enough back in time. They want to go back fifty years. We should go crack 1900 years, before Constantine, before priests, before church buildings, before the Lord’s supper became a sacrifice, before women we locked out of ministry. That’s our tradition.
Randall McRoberts Amen.
Disney wisely chose to observe what has become an annual tradition of celebrating the Star Wars universe to release the last of the Skywalker series, The Rise of Skywalker on their Disney+ streaming video service. The movie debuted to mixed reactions from fans and critics. There were plenty of think pieces arguing over the faults in the narrative and the ending of the iconic series, and one would expect no less for something that has become as polarizing as the Star Wars series.
Hoops new EP, English Breakfast, takes what is probably Coldplay’s best song and adds a bit of trip-hop to it. The vocals are smothered and the beat rules the song.
For the b-side, they cover “Reflections After Jane” by the Clientele.
English Breakfast by Hoops
Happy Bandcamp Day, everyone. For a few more hours, Bandcamp is waiving all of their fees to help artists in the time of COVID-19, when touring is impossible.
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.
After putting out a successful album in 2018, an illness left Gia Margaret without the ability to sing for about a year. To cope, she made an ambient album.
The first video from the album is for a song called ‘Body.’ Something about the juxtaposition of the gentleness of the track and the samples from Alan Watts with the roaring excitement of a monster truck rally strikes a chord.
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.
When Austin Kleon started making zines out of a single piece of paper, and then kept on making them, I knew at some point, I would have to try my hand at it. Despite what those who mean well keep suggesting, not everyone has a lot more time on their hands because of the COVID-19 restrictions. I have gained a bit of time in dropping my commute to and from the office, though. This has opened up some space for creativity and craft.
In love with the cut and paste zine culture of the early nineties, I made my first zine with a typewriter and some photo copiers in 1993 or 1994. With ideas borrowed from some other zines and some amateurish writing, I put together a few issues and dropped them in the found materials spaces at local record stores. Hoping to connect with a kindred spirit or two, I included my mailing address on the back of each copy.
The hand-crafted zines of the era felt right at home with the musical scenes that were emerging at the time. The DIY aesthetic was blooming and cut and paste collages encapsulated that aesthetic perfectly. Some of the pillars of the indie rock scene adorned their album covers with surrealist mixed media collages.
After his months-in-the-planning shoot for a new song got cancelled, due to COVID-19, Ernest Greene from Washed Out fan-sourced the video. He compiled clips sent in from over 1200 fans to comprise the video for “Too Late.” Both the song and the video come across as authentic Washed Out. This is Greene in default glo-fi mode and, after a lot of experimentation on the last record, it’s probably a welcome return to form.
It’s surprising to see that the “iLamp” version of the iMac, which hasn’t been sold for 15 years, continues to appear in new places. This version of the iMac stands out in the line of products as being the most unusual. It is the only iMac to feature most of the guts in the stand, instead of behind the display.
Outer Peace, by Toro Y Moi (2019) I was in my second round of college when these models were starting to be phased out.
Most of the time, dream pop isn’t known for being particularly challenging. Still, Noble Oak’s new single, “Just A Game” and the accompanying in-studio performance video is probably some of the most accessible dream pop to come out in recent memory. If terrestrial radio was just a little bit less terrible, I could imagine this sounding perfect coming over the air waves on a warm summer day. With just the right amount of hazy tenderness, the track wraps the listener in a comforting sense of wistful melancholy.
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1694396191 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=e99708 tracklist=false artwork=small track=868700961] This week in worship, in place of a traditional sermon, our worship leaders engaged in the practice of havruta (learning in pairs). The text that was discussed was Ezekiel 37:1-14. The LORD’s power overcame me, and while I was in the LORD’s spirit, he led me out and set me down in the middle of a certain valley. It was full of bones.
Philip Christman implores us, in Volume 99 of The Tourist, when we are tempted to write another “What is art in the face of ___________,” piece, to remember that C.S. Lewis already did it. Though a Christman uses slightly stronger language than I am willing to employ here, he makes his point. During the Second World War, Lewis wrote “Learning in War-time” as a sermon that he preached in 1939. The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumable they have their reward.
I am happy that my church decided to hold virtual worship service this morning, complete with singing, responsive liturgy, sermon and passing of peace. I wasn’t thrilled that it was done through Facebook, a platform with which I have many reservations (to be charitable). Our church isn’t used to this kind of thing, though, so choosing a platform for broadcasting is just one more hurdle to be surmounted as quickly as possible.
Andy Nicolaides from The Dent has a post about continuing to care about things that may seem inconsequential during these times of isolation and illness. He emphasizes that it’s okay to look forward. If any of you reading this have been thinking there’s no point in starting that new podcast you’ve had on your mind for a while, or writing a blog post about how much you like that one episode of Star Trek, or whatever, I ask you to reconsider.
The vinyl industry didn’t need another piece of bad news, after the delay of Record Store Day, and the fire at one of the two lacquer manufacturing plants. The latest blow is that Amazon will stop stocking records in order to retain shelf space for more critical products during the Coronavirus pandemic. “We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock,” Amazon said in a statement to third-party sellers this week (via Variety ).
Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash Inspired by Austin Kleon, Omar created a one page zine, about living through quarantine in China during the Coronavirus outbreak. He has also been blogging regular updates about what the isolation has been like. The quarantine not only excludes contact with others, but for families, it tests your internal dynamics.
To answer the question of what people would do if stuck inside all day, Arsh Raziuddin from the Atlantic posits this:
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a song firmly in the classic shoegaze genre start out with such a lofi stripped down demo feel. One might even suggest the beginning of the song feels sort of haunting. The intro serves as a stark contrast to the blast of fuzz and reverb that adorn the wandering guitars when the song kicks in, though. Laveda has a full-length record coming out in the early part of this year and “Ghost” is a strong enticement to wait for its release.
A few months ago, Consequence of Sound reported on Disney passing on the chance to buy Twitter because, in the words of Disney chief Bob Iger, “the nastiness is extraordinary.” Gladiatrix fight photo by Hans Splinter from flickr. Once upon a time, way back in 2017, there was a little website called Twitter that caught the eyes of the monolith Disney. The idea at the time was for Disney to acquire Twitter to help modernize its distribution, The New York Times reports.
Once upon a time, way back in 2017, there was a little website called Twitter that caught the eyes of the monolith Disney. The idea at the time was for Disney to acquire Twitter to help modernize its distribution, The New York Times reports. When Iger saw the downsides of Twitter firsthand, though, he realized the deal couldn’t possibly be worth it. He began feeling intense dread and knew he had to reject the deal.
Whether the overall nastiness started with Gamergate or the Trump presidential campaign, by 2017, it had hit critical mass. Around the same time as the revelation about the Disney purchase, Tim Challies wrote about “becoming a Kwitter.”
At the top of the list is the simple reality that I may have the wrong disposition for Twitter. The man just doesn’t fit the medium. Over the past few years I’ve awakened to the reality that in many ways I am a weak person. I am weak physically, constitutionally, and in some ways emotionally. Especially, I’ve learned that I am easily fatigued, drained, or discouraged when involved in unnecessary conflict or even when witnessing it. If my unsanctified disposition is toward cowardice and running away, I believe my sanctified disposition is toward peace and peacemaking. Yet Twitter is a medium that seems to generate conflict and to thrive upon it. I find it a discouraging and intimidating place to be. I derive negligible pleasure from it. It adds nothing necessary to my life and very little that’s truly beneficial.
I can relate to the admission of being weak in some ways and though I’m not usually conflict averse IRL, I see online conflict as mostly unproductive. Rarely do hostile exchanges result in changed minds or reconciliation. On a platform like Twitter, it can also feel like conflict can be unexpected and especially intrusive.
I was caught off guard by this aspect of the platform one Sunday a couple of years ago when I quoted something that I had read in a popular newsletter and liked and with which I identified. I tweeted the quote with attribution. I did find the quote on a Twitter but I couldn’t use the retweet or quote features because the original tweet had some additional comments that didn’t really add context. So I used the good old copy and paste and throw some quotes around the copied text method. I then added “(x Twitter handle) has said:.” Pretty simple, right?
Patrick Rhone writes about why he used Amazon for affiliate links and why he no longer does so. He now favors a site called Indiebound, which serves to federate a group of independent bookstores and positions itself as the conscientious consumer alternative to Amazon.
In the post, Rhone quotes Dan J on the danger of using the ubiquitous e-commerce site for book recommendations.
The problem with linking to Amazon as a “safe default” is the same as the problem with just publishing your book on Amazon and calling it a day: it entrenches Amazon as The One True Place Where Books Are, and, while convenient, that’s not good… it’s not good for society to have one big private corporation responsible for distributing such a huge proportion of the collective written work of the human race.
The Mandolorian Unofficial Wallpaper From Deviantart, a beautifully subtle Mandalorian wallpaper in an assortment of colors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0.
Baby Yoda forever!
This winner of the Best Bocumentary (Short Subject) Oscar this year went to the film Learning To Skate In A War Zone (If You’re A Girl), about the courageous girl skateboarders in Afghanistan. vimeo.com/369606564 I fear for the individuals involved in this just as I revel in their enthusiasm. Having been a skateboarder myself, I recognize what an important outlet it can be and I believe that goes doubly for these girls from Afghanistan.
John Pavlovitz found himself buying bananas the day after his father died. He was going through such a normal part of life, but inside he felt anything but normal. Everyone around you; the people you share the grocery store line with, pass in traffic, sit next to at work, encounter on social media, and see across the kitchen table—they’re all experiencing the collateral damage of living. They are all grieving someone, missing someone, worried about someone.
Dinosaur Jr. - Green Mind
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.
Image via Bruce Timothy Mans 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.
This year, around the holiday season, I’ve had a shift in my thinking about Christmas and the period of waiting that comes before. In the past, I’ve thought of the season of Advent as a joyous preparatory time for the a celebration that is Christmas. The onslaught of cheerful Christmas songs, that starts just as the tryptophan induced coma from Thanksgiving wears off, contributes to that way of framing things. Bing lets you know when it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and he doesn’t seem at all concerned that the holiday is almost a month away.
According to a new Pew Research poll, the number of Republicans who say presidents could operate more effectively if they did not have to worry so much about Congress and the courts has increased 16 percentage points since last year, from 27% to 43%. Among only those classified as conservative Republicans, the number of those in favor of more presidential power has doubled in the past year. The fears that this president has promoted the idea of a totalitarian state to his followers seems to have been well founded.
I saw my first show at a club in 1993, at the venerable Local 506, on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill. The venue is still there, nestled snugly between two Indian restaurants. Now I typically go to see a band there every couple of years or so. At that initial show, I saw Polvo, with the classic lineup of Ash Bowie, Dave Brylawski, Steve Popson and Eddie Watkins. My first rock show was supposed to be seeing Mudhoney the previous year, at the 9:30 Club in DC, where my cousin worked.
Manuel Riess (@hutaffe) recently wrote a bit about returning from Apple Music to Spotify. His dissatisfaction centers around music discovery, hearing new material from artists that the system already should know he likes, and the New Music playlist.
I have had some of the same frustrations. The New Music playlist, which is updated every Friday, used to be something to which I looked forward, at the end of the week. Lately, though, it almost seems like artists (or labels) have been paying to have their music featured on the lists of listeners.
Folks, I would really like to checkout The Mandolorian. However, that would require two things:
That I setup a Disney+ subscription. This shouldn’t be too hard. That I stop watching the new Tennis video on repeat. That one is going to be tougher. The husband and wife duo that comprise Tennis wrote this song while living on a boat, anchored in a fisherman’s cove, armed only with an acoustic guitar and a drum sequencer.
Next week, Instagram is set to begin hiding like counts on posts in the US, according to this TechCrunch piece. The move is expected to hurt influencers on the platform, as initial tests in other countries showed that likes on posts went down when the counts were not displayed. The influencer economy is supposed to be a big part of what drives the platform. The speculation is that anything that hurts those influencers and their ability to use Instagram to build their businesses too badly will be rolled back.
Two years ago, in 2017, was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. For those of us in the reformed tradition, it was a pretty big deal. This Sunday, we celebrate our annual “Reformation Sunday” in the Presbyterian Church.
Internet Monk recently had a repost from the late Michael Spencer, on the Reformation. Spencer studied the Reformation extensively. Though he remained a proud Protestant, he also came away with some pretty frank observations and critiques of either the Reformation movement itself or the way we have come to view it.
It has never been a better time to quit Facebook, after the company recently revealed a policy that formalized the ability of politicians to lie in ads on the platform. Techcrunch writer Josh Costine called the move a disgorgement of responsibility. The web publication has another piece by Costine, calling on Facebook, and other tech companies, to ban political ads altogether. The ban would hold until they can come up with a coherent policy that doesn’t erode democratic freedoms by inundating the populace with misinformation.
In a break from my normal habit of avoiding hot takes and only sticking to what is room temperature or below, I wanted to write a bit about the uproar of the week. Specifically, the NBA, that proud bastion of social justice rebellion in recent times, ceding their moral high ground for the irresistible attraction of oodles of Chinese yuan.
Part of the name of this weblog has to do with my intention of capturing ideas being echoed around the blogosphere and there have been many people weighing in on this subject on their blogs.
It’s good to see early results in some experiments with universal basic income. I’m especially interested in seeing how can the implementation of such programs can break the cycle of poverty.
In Stockton, CA, those who qualified for the program were given $500 a month.
After talking to researchers and social workers about the program, Paradela felt a little more confident. And when the money finally showed up that first month, “it came just in time,” she said: Her car battery had died, and she needed money to fix it.
In the latest issue of his newsletter, Om Malik writes about consumerism being one of the harder habits to beat.
But there is one demon I have not been able to conquer, an addiction that is worse than nicotine: consumerism. For the past four years, every year, I make an effort to get rid of things and buy less. It is not easy to do — the machines of desire work constantly and are powerful.
With the start of the football season, there are many who are questioning whether they should continue to support the sport and the NFL. @mgs had this post on the subject of the upcoming season.
I have very mixed feelings about watching football these days. On one hand, it’s without question the best of the major US sports to watch on television. On the other, it’s an absolutely barbaric sport.
In Light Phone 2: the high hopes of the low-tech phone, Michael Zelenko writes about how hope for the minimalist phones like the Light Phone and the Punkt phone should probably be tempered by limited target customers.
There may not be a mass market for minimalist phones — they’re expensive, they’re superfluous, they’re extra — but there could be niche markets for the Light Phone: well-to-do campers, weekend warriors, the hyper-wired looking for relief.
This post by @rmcrob bemoans the current state of churches focused more on therapeutic purposes than biblical teaching.
A year ago we focused, ostensibly, on the Bible and what God wanted to tell us. Now we are concerned with the financial health and wealth of young families, how to raise children, how to keep a marriage vital, how to be good friends, and stuff like that. Sort of like classes you might take at a community center.
In this post, @ayjay writes about studying politics as opposed to absorbing news.
A great many people think they’re interested in politics when they’re only interested in news. I have in recent years grown more and more interested in politics and economics, which is to say, the whole long history of all the ways in which we human beings have tried to live together without killing one another but instead, perhaps, finding some arena of mutual benefit.
With the introduction of the Feedbin client for iOS, which mirrors the new design of the Feedbin web app, I think I may have found my Twitter sweet spot.
Feedbin has had top notch integration with Twitter for some time, allowing you to follow users as if they had RSS feeds (which Twitter did have, in the early days). For tweets with links, Feedbin includes the content of the article to which the tweet links.
In a piece entitled Our Moloch, written just after the Sandy Hook shootings, Garry Wills compares the American love for guns to the ancient worship of the god Moloch.
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned.
In the continuing saga of anecdotal evidence that our healthcare system is badly in need of repair, @ayjay offers this story from his son.
Yesterday my son, who works in the Chicago Loop, saw a woman on a bicycle get hit by a car. She wasn’t seriously injured, but she was knocked to the ground, dazed. He ran up to her to see if she was okay and pulled out his phone to call 911 — but she quickly, urgently said, “No!
In the piece, Study Asks If War Makes A Person More … Or Less … Religious, Diane Cole writes for NPR about the affect being in intense conflict situations has on personal and communal religiosity.
The more profound the impact of war on an individual — such as the death, injury or abduction of a household member — the greater the likelihood grew of that person turning to religion. By contrast, those who had been less affected by the impact of war were also less likely to join a a religious group.
In Why On Earth Are So Many Millennials Becoming Nuns?, Eve Fairbanks examines why millennial women are flocking to religious orders in record numbers. The piece is a fascinating look at how ancient Catholic institutions are faring in contemporary times.
Several women are profiled in the article. One, named Rachael, in part seems to be reacting against the ambiguity of moral relativism.
It was partly a bitter joke, but partly a sincere thought.
In our worship service on Sunday, we watched the trailer for a documentary, done by the PCUSA, on Central American migration. The documentary, Genesis of Exodus explains the conditions in the countries from which people are fleeing. Ultimately, it’s a call for compassion for those who are leaving their homelands for better lives somewhere else.
That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19, CEB)
Chaplain Mike writes on Richard Beck’s observations about the relationship of progressive Christians to the Bible.
First, he finds many of them fragile when it comes to the Bible. They are fearful and suspicious when approaching scripture. Their first instinct is to find what’s problematic in the Bible. They miss the joy of scripture. They approach it as skeptics first, mistrustful of what they are going to find, already leaning toward a conclusion that the Bible has been used in so many harmful ways over the course of history that one must first deconstruct it before finding anything of value in it.
I seem to be reading a lot about “influencers” lately. When I think of influencers, the typical profile that comes to mind is the Instagram star with oodles of followers trading their share of eyeballs for products that are ripe for placement.
@rmcrob recently posted a link to an article about an ice cream truck that charges influencers, who try to get free ice cream, in return for exposure, double the cost for some fresh desert.
In The New Wilderness, Maciej Cegłowski writes about changing views around privacy and how the rules that served us so well in the past didn’t take into account the present landscape. Though there are many, the piece is easily one of the best that I’ve read on the subject.
In the eyes of regulators, privacy still means what it did in the eighteenth century—protecting specific categories of personal data, or communications between individuals, from unauthorized disclosure.
🎵 Sebadoh - Sunshine: I’m still deciding how I feel about the majority of the new Sebadoh album, Celebrate The Void. Sebadoh and I have a long history and it has been about 27 years since I heard that the bassist who got kicked out of Dinosaur Jr. had his own band. At the time I nearly flipped my lid. In the fall of 1994, I went to see Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr.
An excerpt from an interview with singer/songwriter Bill Callahan about his new album, which exudes a certain comfort.
Do you consider yourself an optimist?
Every day, waking up in the morning fills me with optimism. Everything is moving along. The bugs are doing their thing. Traffic is going on. Everyone’s going to work. Everything’s working, going in one direction.
Keep in mind, Callahan has been in some pretty dark places, as even a quick examination of his older albums will show.
I wrote recently about how my bullet journal is becoming more of a traditional journal now. It also serves as a common-place book for various bits of information. This post from Public Domain Review goes into detail about how John Locke organized his common-place book and briefly reflects on how the glut of information that was a consequence of the printing press made such books popular.
With the rise of printing technologies, common-place books reflected an anxiety with a deluge of new information still present today.
The New Yorker recently featured an article from Cal Newport entitled Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us? that generated a lot of interest and responses from the IndieWeb community. The focus of the piece was whether the rise of the IndieWeb and decentralized social media services could help to mitigate some of the problems that have come from the corporate social media networks. Ultimately, Newport concludes that the IndieWeb will never reach the popularity of the current social media spaces.
I started the year 2019 with another respectable bullet journal (bujo), crafted from a Moleskine notebook and made to get things done. Something went awry along the way to filling that notebook, though.
The problems begin when I realized, as in other years, I was going to have far less tasks than notebook. Something seemed slightly tragic about having a perfectly good notebook with so much space going to waste. The bullet journal system doesn’t encourage traditional journaling, so much as it does creating action items and systems to develop habits.
I have been following the health status of, and praying for, Rachel Held Evans recently, as she lay in a coma induced to keep her brain from constant seizures. Yesterday, Evans passed away, after a fight to keep her alive following an ordeal that started with a reaction to antibiotics.
As word of Evans death spread through the internet, many expressed their shock and grief. A number of those people also wrote about how she inspired them to take bold steps in their lives, to walk in faith.
I never was one to buy a ton of records, but one of the reasons I have slacked off of my vinyl purchasing lately is that not everything I have been excited about has been released on that format. That may be a problem with a resolution, thanks to Bandcamp’s new vinyl service.
Today, we’re offering a first glimpse of an initiative from Bandcamp that aims to address these challenges.
This is a piece I wrote almost exactly a year ago. It never made it to this blog but it seems relevant as Christians head into Easter and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
I’ve written favorably of The Faith Angle podcast before, and I continue to be impressed by the content on the show. In the fifth episode, guests Ross Douthat and Father James Martin argue the importance of adhering to traditional Catholic doctrine and when it’s imperative to set aside that doctrine in light of individual conscience and grace.
For those who are creating on the web and even monetizing their creative output, Richard MacManus - @ricmac - has had some appealing content recently. His interview with Jason Kottke dives into the journey Kottke has gone through in his 20+ years of blogging. I probably don’t need to do too much to recommend Kottke’s blog, as it already seems to have such a broad following. I will say I’ve been reading the blog for years and he consistently has a variety of interesting posts.
My little guy had his seventh name day not long ago. He was over the moon to receive what he called, “birthday love” from all the kids in Sunday School, grinning from ear to ear when they sang to him. We don’t do big birthday parties for our boys, so he doesn’t usually have a bunch of kids singing to him. We worried that he would be embarrassed, but that wasn’t at all the case.
Last year, for the first time, I fasted during Lent. I made Friday my fast day and fasted from sunup to sundown. It was an interesting experiment. Some days it wasn’t too hard, other days the hunger was intense, or I would get a bad headache by the end of the day. The point of fasting (especially as part of Lenten devotion) isn’t for it to be easy, though.
This past month, I spent 3 weeks sick with the flu and then bronchitis.
Most of the Record Store Day exclusives recently have not been my cup of tea. However, this year, one release in particular caught my eye after the tragic death of Richard Swift.
Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard will pay tribute to friend and collaborator Richard Swift with a new 7-inch split single featuring two unreleased tracks recorded by the pair. The A-side is an unreleased demo of “Me and Magdalena” which Gibbard wrote for The Monkees’ 2016 album Good Times!
A lot of people these days are worried about the demise of Tumblr. The product has changed hands a few times, and neither its Yahoo! parents or its Verizon parents seem to have paid much attention to it. M.G. Siegler took his concerns to his Medium blog, 500ish Words. In the post, he evaluates the current alternatives to Tumblr. What is most interesting, to me, is his quick dismissal of Micro.
After pining for the Apple HomePod last year, but feeling like it was just a bit too expensive to justify purchasing at the time, I rejoiced when Apple announced they were bringing their music service to the Amazon Echo. I even wrote a blog post about the move.
My enthusiasm may have been a bit premature. I purchased one of the new Echo Plus units, with an Amazon gift card I had received, shortly after Christmas.
I like the idea of an analog manifesto from @rianvdm. The comparison to the Agile Manifesto, with it’s message of preference, not exclusion, seems appropriate. This coming year I’m going to try to manage my home tasks and journaling with a bullet journal and my work tasks with Things. I’ve discovered over this past year that what works in one environment is not always as effective in another.
I’m not sure about New Year’s Resolutions, but if I have any, it would be to look at everything through the lens of a new manifesto: analog over digital.
This paragraph from Tim Challies’ recent Merry Christmas post captures the twinge of sadness that comes from watching your kids grow up and lose some of that youthful enthusiasm really well.
I know I’m mostly waiting in vain, though, because I know those days have passed. In previous years the Christmas Eve discussion was, “How early can we get up?” This year it was, “How late can we sleep in?
Though I have yet to see any of the ad placements he writes about, this piece from John Voorhees in MacStories about Apple heavily promoting the Apple Music/Amazon Echo integration comes as little surprise. Voorhees believes that the motivation for Apple to strike this partnership with their sometimes rival in services may be to get their hardware back on Amazon’s virtual shelves. While I haven’t read any contradicting information about the deal, I believe there may be another reason entirely.
Surprisingly, a not-insignificant part of the plot of the Bumblebee Transformers movie involves the main character, a teenage girl named Charlie Watson, trying to get Bumblebee to dig the Smiths like she does. What are the chances that a semi-anthropomorphic transformable robot from another planet will dig the heavily British jangle rock of the 80’s alternative band? Apparently, pretty good.
This aids my theory that the Beatles were not only not the best rock band, they weren’t even the best British rock band.
Each year at Thanksgiving time, I think about the time I spent working in retail and the family time that had to be given up during the holiday season at the end of the year. I used to have to get up at 3am the morning after Thanksgiving to go to work and prep for the Black Friday stampede. In those early morning hours, I would arrive at work to find a line had already formed to await the opening of the doors.
A few days ago, my mom showed me these books about my great grandfather/grandmother and great great grandfather. I never knew these books existed and was delighted to read about these adventurous, faithful ancestors.
The public was recently treated to a preview of the new Star Wars themed areas at Disneyland/Disney World that was accompanied, most appropriately, by a John Williams soundtrack. The new parks, called “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” look as amazing as their $24 billion dollar price tags suggest they would. With openings in summer and fall of next year, respectively, the days of counting down will soon be starting for fans.
Justin Kossyln, who works in product management for Alphabet, argues it may be time to add some friction back to the web.
But the internet’s lack of friction has been a boon to the dark side, too. Now, in a matter of hours a “bad actor” can steal corporate secrets or use ransomware to blackmail thousands of people. Governments can influence foreign populations remotely and at relatively low cost. Whether the threat is malware, phishing, or disinformation, they all exploit high-velocity networks of computers and people.
I was fortunate to see Henry Zhu speak at the All Things Open 2018 conference with honesty about the difficulties of being a full-time contributor to the open source community (as a maintainer).
Though he probably won’t be thought of as the most dynamic speaker, Zhu’s humility, work ethic, desire to give back and vulnerability give strength to his message. Zhu has a podcast he co-hosts with Nadia Eghbal called Hope In Source about the parallels between faith and open source software.
The Apple New Music algorithm tries. It really does. At the end of every work week, it conjures up recommendations of recently released material that it thinks I would like. Sometimes, as was the case in early September, it finds a song from a band I’ve never heard of, that instantly becomes a new favorite of mine.
Most Friday’s, though, I end up skipping through a lot of tracks that feel like near misses.
At its most effective, group therapy is successful primarily because it destroys the fallacy that we are alone in our sufferings. To discover that another individual has the same feelings that you have but thought were unique to you can be a revelation. We tend to see the face that others put on in order to get through the day and forget that the person we are viewing has many of the same fears and frustrations that we have but are also hiding.
Alexis Madrigal writes about how, despite the ability to switch to the reverse-chronological timeline, you can never go back to the old Twitter.
Twitter always had a high-modernist novel’s scope — you peer into the boxes, and see someone having tea, a war you should have known was going on, a parent’s take on a 4-year-old, the latest ProPublica investigation, a screenshot of some idiot, a video of a black person being killed by police, an ad for Quiznos, and then Donald Trump tweeting about the television program he’s watching.
My family just enjoyed a beach trip with many of the amenities that renting a house by the ocean provides. In addition to all of the beach-related luxuries, we had cable television, which has long been absent from our house. It was a bit of a culture shock, going from the work of antenna-sourced television to the cesspool of cable TV, though. It was somewhat like imagining what it would look like if the unfortunate and immoral residents of Sodom and Gomorrah had closed-circuit television broadcasts.
The other day, on Twitter, I stumbled across this thread of people espousing their opinions about the Myers-Briggs personality profiler (or MBTI - Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator). Quite a few of the negative comments seem to be based on the belief that the origins of the type indicator are not scientifically credentialed enough. It is interesting to see a bunch of folks on Twitter who probably have no background in personality study attacking the MBTI for its humble origins in clinical observation done by CG Jung.
It seems the latest distraction thrown at the American public, from the president, is attacking the top Internet companies (Google, Twitter and Facebook) in just another step in the strategy of “feed the press or it eats you.” After all, though, it’s only natural that the constant cries of lugenpresse would eventually extend to the internet giants.
Elizabeth Picciuto from Arc Digital argues the benefit for the president of consistently working to delegitimize any source of news that paints him in a bad light.
The Reagan administration was known for its deregulation initiatives. I never thought about one of those initiatives that probably actually had the most impact on my life as a child during the Reagan years, though.
For decades, the FCC had rules that limited “excessive advertising.” This affected the amount of commercialism that could creep into children’s shows. Groups like Action for Children’s Television (ACT) ensured compliance with the rules.
Consequence of Sound has a piece that speaks to how things were different under Reagan and how that enabled film-length product placement opportunities like Mac and Me.
This week, for the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed following the general news cycle in the US. I’m not going to lie, I have long harbored a belief that electing a white collar criminal to the office of President of the United States was a very bad idea. It’s more than mere gloating that gave me a sense of satisfaction from the events unfolding this week, though.
I’m happy to finally have a name for that phenomenon that I always knew existed but of which I never had a scientific explanation.
Back in 1980, psychologist Richard Solomon came up with an idea he called the “ opponent process theory ” (paywall). Broadly, this states that whenever you feel one emotion, you’re slated to feel the opposite next. This would explain why after feeling happiness, we feel slightly gloomy.
I recently had my name day and added 2 years to the 4 decades I’ve been on the earth. I observed my birthday by undertaking a pilgrimage to the closest mecca of low-cost contemporary home furnishings, to buy some shelves for my turntable and records. After spending more than 20 years collecting records, I still did not have an ideal storage solution for them. While I’ve always rejected the argument that people collect vinyl for purely performative reasons, I’ve seen through Instagram’s discover algorithm that there are many people who do enjoy showing off their records.
Last year, I taught a confirmation class of 8th graders about famous Presbyterians. Although few really knew who he was, my favorite among those discussed was Fred Rogers.
With the release of the movie Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Mr. Rogers has once again become a topic of conversation. @vasta recounts his emotional experience of the film, which was colored by his lifelong admiration of the beloved children’s show host. One thing that stood out to him is that even Fred Rogers suffered from self-doubt.
Philip Christman captures the kind of frustration I felt when using Tinyletter.
Readers, I apologize for the atrocious formatting of last week’s newsletter. I have trouble making the UI of TinyLetter work on my laptop–in particular, it never wants to link. So sometimes I cut-and-paste the thing from elsewhere. That seems to have bitten us all in the ass. When I got my copy of my own newsletter, all the words were cut off on the right.
This article on the Apple data center in rural Maiden, NC sounds like something written about the Hawkins National Laboratory from Stranger Things before the cover was blown on their experiments. One quote particularly stood out amidst descriptions of the secrecy surrounding the site.
David Vosburgh, a retired construction worker, says he doesn’t know anyone who has been hired there. He has lived in Maiden about 15 years, and says he unsuccessfully applied for a job at the data center.
The main response I hear to the Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country is disbelief that the events depicted in the show actually took place (in America, no less). Jen Chaney, from Vulture, takes a stab at encapsulating the insanity.
It is a story that involves religion, free love, land use disputes, one of the co-founders of Nike, an exalted guru, abuse of power, arson, the wife of one of the producers of The Godfather, attempted murder, mass poisoning, an obsession with Rolls-Royces, the homeless, election battles, and one extremely bizarre anecdote about attempting to contaminate a town’s water supply using blended beaver parts.
On this Independence Day, when we celebrate the birth of our nation and honor what that means to us, there is division in the air and on the ground. I find it a most appropriate time to bring discussion to the state of the union and I’m happy that the church to which I belong, the Presbyterian Church USA, recently clarified some political positions. It is not mandated that all churches within the denomination to affirm the declaration that was made, but it is hoped that it will bring about some fruitful discussion and a careful consideration of where the Spirit is leading us as Christians.
One thing that angers me a great deal is the misappropriation of passages from Holy Scripture. Tyler Huckabee writes in Relevent Magazine on the dangers of dividing the Bible up into bite-size chunks appropriate for bumper sticker sloganeering:
An unfortunate consequence of littering the Bible with the little demarcating numbers we call “chapter and verse” is the ease with which it allows the Bible to be split up piecemeal. We study and memorize the Bible in bite-sized chunks, just long enough to fit on a day calendar or scribble on a bathroom mirror.
Even as members and pastors have changed over the years, one complaint I’ve consistently heard about my church is that there are too many cliques. It’s an easy thing for a church culture to fall into. In fact, it may be impossible to avoid.
Research into human relationships has given us insight into the number of close personal connections a person can maintain. This limit is referred to as Dunbar’s Number.
Justin Lee at Arc Digital argues that Apple is painting itself into a corner by arguing for a strict interpretation of the constitutional right to free speech in the Masterpiece case. Previously, when the FBI asked Apple to create software to neutralize security features on the iPhone, Apple argued that the order was compelled speech and that source code should be included in free speech protections. In doing so, Apple was advocating for a very broad interpretation of the free speech provision of the first amendment.
From Christ and Pop Culture on how the NFL has handled the player’s protesting by kneeling during the national anthem.
By excluding the NFLPA from this decision, the owners are accepting the false narrative that the protests are against America and the military. These dismissive actions demonstrate that owners have shown little concern about the injustices and inequalities the players were attempting to highlight. Instead, their demand to end the protests seems to only come from a concern for their bottom-line profits.
One of the most rage inducing/heartbreaking things I’ve read this past week is that Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, removed her posts from Instagram. The action was most likely due to harassment Tran has been the recipient of for the last few months. Since shortly after the film’s debut, she has faced racist and sexist abuse online.
A certain segment of Star Wars devotees proved to be too attached to the series after the prequels failed to live up to expectations.
I was only a few years old when the Star Wars trilogy first came to theaters, and the movies and toys tied to them had a formative role in how I used my imagination. I played Jedi training with my cousin on the playground, my dad and I used plastic baseball bats and pretended they were lightsabers, and different spots in my basement became their own planets as action figures shuttled between them in tiny space ships.
A nautical journey in Boston. Walden Pond was not at all what I expected. I didn’t envision the beach vibe.
Union Square donuts and some New England architectural charm.
This way to Fenway Park.
Sarah Kurchak, writing about her grandfather’s apparent affection for Jar Jar Binks, who he called “Ho Ho Ding Ding” and believed was a talking camel, comes to some conclusions about the power of film.
I also came to understand the depth and diversity of roles that a film can play in someone’s life: it could be a mere amusement or a guiding force, your best friend or your nemesis, your muse or your medicine.
After literally working with town officials for years on a new site for a store, IKEA has just cancelled their plans to build a location in Cary NC. Since the town had been planning a lot of changes that hinge on the arrival of the new store, I’m sure those that had worked on the deal and all of the concessions that had to be obtained are seriously frustrated.
“When I asked whether there was anything Cary could do to influence IKEA’s decision, I was told that there was nothing; not even an incentive would make a difference,” Stegall said in his statement.
Tedium has the backstory on a movement that took place in the aughts to make Windows machines look like they were running the Mac OS. During that decade, there were plenty of reasons to be running a Windows box instead of a Mac (not the least of which was cost). There was something so sleek and attractive about OS X that just made people wish the user interface on their Windows PC looked a bit more like the Mac.
I’m not a lifestyle guru. You probably won’t see a post with a listicle on 11 ways to hack your sleep on this blog. I do, however, have a practice that I have used and want to share about managing bedtime. Specifically, how you can manage devices when it’s time to go to sleep and how you disconnect.
I recently implemented a Disney Circle device, which allows you to manage wifi devices and usage profiles for each individual in your house.
This past week, Alto’s Odyssey, the sequel to the much lauded iOS game Alto’s Adventure, was released to positive reviews. Alto’s Adventure offers a take on the “endless runner” game that gives a snowboarder a vast natural playground for collecting coins and doing simple tricks. Odessey isn’t a brand new experience, but rather builds upon its predecessor in innovative ways.
What interests me about the Alto’s franchise is how people use the games in a therapeutic way.
The folks from the writing tool IA Writer (which I love) have an amazing blog post that gets a lot right about the current state of the web. They discuss the problems that are being widely reported and an alternate solution to taking a “digital sabbatical.”
Again, taking a break is generally good advice. And yes, there is Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is great. Alphabet sounds like a James Bond Villan and it is not harmless, but Google Search is powerful.
Van Halen’s debut record recently celebrated its fortieth birthday. Consequence of Sound featured an article, by Wren Graves, on the record and the culture that made it possible. I was struck by the observation Graves makes that much of the band’s antics at the time wouldn’t be tolerated today.
Late-70’s Van Halen were flamboyant and full of themselves. Some of their higher-profile hijinks are the stuff of legend. In those days, there were a few rock stars that were notorious for trashing hotel rooms.
Photo from the Library and Archives Canada on Flickr Some days, I find myself questioning the value of my Netflix subscription. Though not terribly expensive, the monthly cost of the service has gone up recently (I got my email notification a couple of weeks ago). As Netflix works to develop more and more of their own content, their catalog of video for which they need to pay licensing fees has shrunk.
Smart speakers are becoming ubiquitous. Apple finally released their entry into this increasingly crowded market with the well-reviewed HomePod. Streaming services, most notably Spotify and Apple Music, are in their ascendancy, having each added tens of millions of paying subscribers over the last couple of years. As much as I hate blog posts decrying the death of things, these trends certainly signal the grave digging for music on physical media could soon begin.
For a few years now, I’ve followed a “read the Bible in a year” program. Last year, I used the plan from Bible Class Material, which presents the readings in a more-or-less chronological order that I’ve found extremely helpful for following the Old Testament material.
Every year that I have read the Bible, I have gained new insights and different passages have stuck out to me in different ways. It’s been a new experience, each time.
I recently mentioned to my boss that I’m used to metrics being involved in my work. I’m used to decisions being made based on data. I’ve taken it for granted that enterprise organizations like to be able to measure things that may impact profitability. The last few jobs I’ve worked out were pretty rigorous in tracking certain metrics.
However, in my personal life, I’m not into self-quantification. Even at the height of their popularity, I never wanted a FitBit.
Austin Kleon writes about his take on copyright law here. Since Kleon published a book titled Steal Like An Artist, he encounters a lot of people who assume he is against copyright. He assures the reader that he is not against copyright protections for intellectual property. He does, however, believe that art builds on prior art.
Every artist knows that art comes from art—it’s only the honest ones who admit it.
When I was in Walt Disney World earlier this year, the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom was being updated to include a new animatronic Donald Trump. The event was closed for the update and I wondered how everything would turn out.
Donald Trump rarely says things that inspire us. More often, he is inarticulate and boastful. He routinely says things that divide Americans and sound petty, at best.
At this point, most of us have read about all of the research and effort that has gone into making apps like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. addictive. The concept of variable reward structures was proven decades ago by experiments on rats to be one of the most effective ways to drive repeat behavior. In contemporary times, humans are the subjects of the experiment and the instruments are mobile phones.
Let’s face it, we’re all viewed as rats pushing feeder bars now.
When I first saw the headline that Moogfest (which occurs annually right down the street from my house) would be featuring a 2018 lineup led by female, non-binary and transgender artists and would feature a keynote by Chelsea Manning, I was a little surprised. Moogfest has always attempted to be cutting edge, even to the point of hubris, but the new strategy just didn’t make sense.
By Judah Gross (Finding love at MOOGFEST) via Wikimedia Commons
Listening to twee pop from South America and feeling nostalgic about the 90’s was not how I planned on spending a sick and tired Monday night. Yet, there I found myself, eyes glued to yet another screen, soaking up sounds from a far away place and digging into information about a scene I never knew existed.
It started out when I saw an Instagram post about a rerelease of a record by South American disco pioneer Junior Mendes posted by Bandcamp (that website is an international treasure).
Today was one of those days. Down with a cold and unable to do much, I spent much of the day in bed and moping about the house. Then the mail came, and brought with it two new records from the Sounds Delicious series. I had been eagerly anticipating hearing Frankie Rose cover the Cure and almost immediately put it on the turntable.
Sick and feeling crummy today, but at least this LP of Frankie Rose covering the Cure arrived in the mail to cheer me up.