Over on the website for my “alter ego” electronic music act Yarred, I’ve started posting every day (until the end of the year!) all about my favorite works by #synthmusic maestros Tangerine Dream. I elaborated a bit about my long-time obsession with this band on the first installment about the brilliant 1980 album Tangram.
I know TD may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you have any interest whatsoever in electronic music, you should be at least familiar with their role in the rise of synthesizers in popular music. As I wrote in the linked article above:
“Talk to any electronic music legend of recent years and ask them what they think about Tangerine Dream. Go ahead. You many not have heard of TD, but I guarantee most of your heroes have.”
Look, I get it. You already subscribe to too many newsletters. So much to keep up with. But guess what? I only send out a newsletter once a week. And if you‘re feeling curious, peruse the Creator Class archive. You might find something that resonates with you! It’s a great way to stay current with what I’m publishing, and newsletter recipients always get some extra insight just for them. So what are you waiting for? Let’s roll!
This was a thought-provoking read by Walter Chaw about an uncomfortable topic. As the years have gone by, I’ve (slowly, to my great chagrin) come to realize more and more how ethnic stereotypes in popular media can be so damaging to the targets of such “humor”. One aspect of this which hits close to home is my own memory of cringeworthy experiences as a Scottish/Irish-American who once performed Celtic folk music professionally across the United States.
No, of course I’m not in any way comparing my experiences directly with those who are Asian-American. Being white-presenting in America, you get to choose when and how you are the butt of ethnic jokes. Others aren’t so lucky, to put it mildly. But it was certainly illuminating to see how stereotyping can feel “othering” and disrespectful, or simply how people’s ignorance—while perhaps understandable—nevertheless was frustrating. Just a few examples:
Pronnouncing “Celtic” as “Sell-tic” (the C is a hard K sound as it comes from the Greek word Keltoi), “Slain-tay” instead of “Slon-cha” for Sláinte, “Edin-berg” instead of “Edin-ber-re” for Edinburgh, and vast litany of other faux pas…
Seeing people very poorly dance “an Irish jig” as they’re walking down the street and notice our performance…
Calling our music “Riverdance music” 😡
Throughout my teenage years I was regularly misgendered as a girl because I wore my hair long and wore a kilt—which is NOT a skirt!
Not to mention all of the kitsch and cultural artifacts we had to contend with…what I might call the “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” set of stereotypes. Dancing red-headed leprechauns with pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and all that. Or worse, drunken Irishmen punching each other out at the pub. Grizzled old Scotsmen with impenetrable accents roaming the moors. Bagpipe jokes…So. Many. Bagpipe jokes.
Sure, it’s not all terrible, and sometimes genuinely amusing—but as is often the case with these sorts of things, the jokes are funnier when they’re offered from people already immersed in the culture. A legitimate Scottish pipes player can make a joke about bagpipes. Some bozo American who thinks “Braveheart” is an accurate historical depiction of Scottish history? Fuck no.
Which is why I try to be careful what I say or do when I’m around other cultures—especially ones I have little familiarity with. Rather than throw out a phrase I heard once or do some idiotic dance move or mention something truly dumb…along the lines of “hey, you look Asian, so you must be great at kung fu!” …I’ll shut the fuck up. 😅 (More people should try this!) There’s a fine line between stereotyping (even when well-meaning) and outright #bigotry.
All that to say…it’s really wonderful to see far better representation in popular Western media of many different ethnicities and demographics. We still have a long way to go, but it is getting better. Personally, every time I see someone obviously Irish or Scottish in a modern movie where they’re not defined by their accent or fairies or getting drunk or “the troubles” or sheep on the moor or funny sounds coming out of bagipes, etc., etc.—well that’s certainly cause for celebration.
I’ve been sounding the alarm for some time now that #generativeAI is exploitive, but I was primarily considering the ways in which these large learning models rely on scraping online content without the consent of its human authors. Now we learn the uncomfortable truth that these popular tools built by OpenAI such as ChatGPT were made possible by the exploitation of third-party low-wage workers in parts of the world Silicon Valley would rather us Euro-centric netizens not know too much about.
But hey, this is going to be Big Tech’s next Big Thing, so what’s a few poor African souls with faltering mental health in light of Western Capitalism. Hmm, I wonder what ChatGPT thinks about this single-minded pursuit of the almighty dollar, ethics be damned… (Don’t ask.)
While it’s conceivable that Elon will soon appoint a new CEO of #Twitter and get back to focusing mostly on Tesla, I wouldn’t bet 2c on it. Elon is the ultimate poster child for an unhealthy addiction to social media and reveling in his status as “the main character” — frankly I don’t see any indication he’s ready to step away from the day-to-day.
If I were a major shareholder of Tesla, I too would be furious. Elon’s actions are not only damaging to the business of Tesla internally, but to the reputation of the company. Many people, myself included, have switched from viewing Tesla as an aspirational brand to regarding it as anathema. Major structural changes would need to happen at Tesla, including but not limited to firing Elon Musk and bringing on a new CEO, for any of this to turn around.
OK, so not everyone’s going to dig this headline (I don’t hateThe Last Jedi personally, but I don’t exactly love it either). That comparison aside, I and I think a lot of the rank and file Star Wars nerds out there have really and truly enjoyed Andor. It’s certainly one of the best #scifi#tvshows in recent memory, and unlike most of the other Disney SW content, that’s almost in spite of Andor being part of the Star Wars franchise.
It’s just great storytelling, pure and simple. With adult themes and expert world-building—along with an amazing and awe-inspiring takedown of fascist ideology which speaks poignantly to the present zeitgeist—this is a show that deserves to be taken seriously. There are a few very specific moments in Season 1 which to my mind elevate the entire art form, and it’s largely due to top-quality acting (though it’s definitely an ensemble cast, Stellan Skarsgård gives a standout performance) and a rock-solid script—NOT some whiz-bang effects and orchestra swells (although it’s not entirely devoid of action-adventure-style rousing moments either).
Perhaps Andor won’t be to everyone’s taste across the broader fandom, but I can tell you right now: THIS is the kind of Star Wars I like. More please.
Today I found out Jack Conte has fired a bunch of people at the behest of former Instagram bigwig who became Patreon’s Chief Product Officer in January. Obviously “the big rewrite” is now underway.
First of all, changing your development priorities = firing a bunch of people is ridiculous. It’s the cookie-cutter mentality in tech. Oh, we need React developers now. Oh, we need Swift developers now. Oh, we need Kubernetes DevOps experts now. Oh, we need…
If you can’t adequately train the people who already work for you how to adapt to changing requirements, your org is fundamentally broken. Conte insists Patreon’s doing great financially, they just have some new ideas. OK. SO THEN WHY FIRE ANYBODY @#&%!#%?!
Secondly, I’d missed the memo that the former Head of Product of Instagram’s “Home experience” (aka “Feed, Stories, Ranking, Video, Profile and Interactions”) is now in charge of Patreon UX.
That revelation alone is firing planet-sized alarm bells in my head.
And it continues on from there… I was not a happy camper!
Needless to say, it’s now been well over a year later and Patreon genuinely sucks. 😒 The iOS app doesn’t feel noticeably nicer or more appealing in any way compared to before Mr. Instagram Julian Gutman took over, and the desktop web app now looks like a crappy knockoff of old Facebook. Most of the design on my large macOS display is blank nothingness. None of the UI has any character or personality whatsoever. (Remember when Patreon looked like this? Now it’s a dry corporate Silicon Valley VC desert.)
Patreon started out feeling like an indie product: by indies, for indies. Now they’re having to peer under sofa cushions looking for loose change in an effort to placate their VCs. It’s exhausting. I begrungingly support a tiny handful of creators still on the platform. I’d much rather pay them directly.
Look, I’m sure Jack Conte’s heart is in the right place and he means well. But I have ZERO confidence in the future of Patreon. They should have never hired Julian Gutman, and they should have never taken ridiculous piles of VC money. Bad moves, plain and simple.
Next obvious question: who will rise up and take Patreon’s place, only this time actually stay indie and forever feel indie and support nobody but indies?(VCs Begone!)Inquiring minds want to know!
So I’ve been sad hearing the rumor mill pontificate that the mini size will be going away due to middling sales numbers. However, the flip side to all this is I’ve never been a fan of the notch. Sure I understand why it’s there, and it doesn’t bother me in daily usage. Yet it’s always felt like a hack, a necessary evil, a stain on an otherwise “perfect” form factor.
The pill-and-hole design brings us much closer to perfection. There’s no visual interruption along the edges of the display. It feels much more symmetrical, especially in landscape orientation. Obviously I can’t come to a final conclusion without seeing the final product in the flesh (assuming the rumors are true), but I’m far more impressed by the mockups so far than with the iPhone X-era notch.
If that’s the new design language of the iPhone 14 Pro, I’m afraid I’ll have to kiss my mini goodbye and embrace the bigger size once again. The pill-and-hole styling is simply irresistible.
This excellent tweet by Hector Martin sums up the bewildering lack of understanding many people—including the (likely) new owner of #Twitter, Elon Musk!—seem to have around the moderation of online speech.
Obviously I don’t want government goons arriving on your doorstep to haul you away if you’re just spouting off racist / homophobic / transphobic / misogynistic (etc.) garbage. You certainly have the right to be a trash human.However, you do not have the right to invade an online space I’ve chosen to participate in which purports to follow specific moderation rules. Twitter has been such a space as an independent company running an independent service on the web. If you don’t like it, well guess what? Run your own space! No one’s stopping you.
If Twitter is going to change its rules to make it “OK” to post hate speech on its service, then the people who are targets of that speech along with their allies will pack up and leave…which ironically results in less “free speech” on the platform in totality. “Let everyone express themselves freely in the public square” …and eventually you will find that the only people left in that square are the trolls.
This lengthy essay featuring reams of historical context and various theories on why so many modern movies & TV shows are noticeably desaturated along with a brown/amber or blue/green color wash is a must read. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about. And it’s interesting Emily St. James mentions the The Matrix Resurrections as a startling counter-response to this trend (and to the original Matrix trilogy for that matter) because that really struck me as well…though didn’t surprise me in the least—I fully expected the new movie to feel as much like sense8 as its direct predecessors.
I’m now on record saying I have a great love for a highly-colorful aesthetic—though apparently even in this new digital world (and perhaps even more so because of it), so many filmmakers feel like the way to look more “cinematic” is to desaturate everything and avoid any significant colors popping out of the image. I can only hope more and more creators in the industry start to realize they can—and at times most definitely should—embrace vibrancy without fear of professional blowback.