Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, "Bobbing Beams Of Light"

This track is like one of those lamps that gets increasingly bright over a set period of time so that you emerge from your slumber gently and with a sense of serenity rather than abruptly and full of homicidal rage. How much happier would everyone be if we woke up and weren’t wracked with dread over the day to come and disappointment that we were stuck having to see it through? Much happier, right? I guess that’s some kind of impossible dream and we will continue to meet each morning with sorrow and fear, as has been the case since time immemorial, but it’s nice, every now and then, to pretend for a couple of seconds that things could ever be different. Anyway, there’s a whole backstory to this song that you can check out if you like, or you can just appreciate it as is. Unlike the remainder of your days, with music you still have a choice. Enjoy.

New York City, October 6, 2015

★★★★ A bird cheeped and trilled somewhere along Broadway. A shine was on the asphalt; the sky had attained a still deeper blue, making the buildings look close at hand. Full sun came down Fifth Avenue, and bits of sun bounced into the depths of a shaded mid-block. Raised wreaths on a facade stood out, as did the bricks on the scar where a missing building had once touched a wall still standing. The architectural details caught the eye even through the window, deep indoors, across the street. After the sun was out of view, the bright blue of the sky was still reflected in the leaves on the treetops.

Stealing Sheep, "Apparition"

What’s that? You won’t be able to get through the rest of the day without a video centered on the theme of Morris dancing from one of the year’s best albums? Well, your needs are extremely peculiar but it is my pleasure to meet them. Enjoy.

Twitter Thanks You For Your Service

There are two stories about Twitter that are really just one story told from two different points of view. There’s the Twitter that studies its users, observing their habits and formalizing their behaviors into features. This is the Twitter that turned manual retweets into a button; the Twitter that watched its users use hashtags and then turned them into a core feature of the service and a part of the language of the entire internet. Then there’s the Twitter that invited app developers to build apps for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS, before eventually either acquiring or building native apps of its own, allowing developers to live but explicitly marginalizing them, in some cases out of business.

In both stories, Twitter is a rational party acting in its own best interest—it didn’t need to defend itself because it could correctly say, in most cases, that it was making Twitter a more effective product. The difference lies in the distinction between a user and a partner: a party that gives and takes time and content and a party that actually turned what it gave to Twitter, and what it took back out, into money.

Here’s a third version. In 2011, Twitter introduced embedded tweets. This too was an observed behavior—Twitter screenshots had been showing up in web articles for years, and third party embedding services were growing. The announcement blog post laid out the official rationale:

Every Tweet has a story that’s more than just 140 characters. It has an author, mentions @people and #topics, contains media, and has actions you can use to share or join the conversation. It’s a dynamic piece of media, and we believe that everyone should be able to view and interact with Tweets on the Web in the same ways you would from any Twitter client.

So began a strange and fruitful era of Embedding Things From Twitter: posts aggregating loathsome responses to news events; posts using tweets as kicking-off-points for arguments; posts embedding tweets to display the expensive media contained therein; posts making sense of breaking news stories by linking together tweets and other media. Tweets, it turned out, were useful tool for the web, as little modular content units. All the while, less visibly, Twitter provided an ambient news and information context from which all kinds of news was consumed, written and published elsewhere. (Non-video embedding thrived for these few years of exploding traffic and awkward tension between platforms and websites. Instagram, Quora, Imgur.)

Nicolas Jaar, "Fight"

Joy is the name we give the fleeting moment when we somehow forget how unhappy we are. This is why we spend so much time seeking out distraction. Anything that prevents us from remembering what life is like when we’re paying attention is worth whatever price we pay to clutch it to our chest for even a second or two. There is so much happening in the eight minutes of this track that I wouldn’t know what to call out, but I promise you that there is at least a brief bit somewhere within that will take your mind off of how awful everything is, if only for a moment. That might just have to be enough. Enjoy. [Via]

New York City, October 5, 2015

★★★★ Light bounced off glass in great flooding sheets, glanced off the quilted side of a food cart to make twisting figures on the sidewalk. People were out in their drab chilly-weather clothes. It took some searching to find a warm spot of afternoon sunlight, and a cloud fairly quickly picked it off. The switch from foot socks to full socks was not enough for the office; a space heater had to be deployed under the desk. The Empire State Building stood side by side with the upside-down Empire State Building of negative space up Fifth Avenue, in the rich late-day glow. A man paused to take frame the sun-flooded pillars and arches atop the MacIntyre Building in his cameraphone.

The Night the Lights Went Out

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 3.21.57 PMI’ve been thinking a lot about murder. Not committing one, but a few of them from a few decades ago, so my playlists have become filled with murder ballads. Life has changed and so has death, but not murder; there might be less of it, but it’s still bullets and knives, bare hands, pillows and poisons. These ballads are as old as time, though you don’t hear that many of them on country radio any more. Threats and taunts, yes, but nothing quite like the murderous streak from my childhood: Garth Brooks, with a pistol fired at a cheating spouse in “The Thunder Rolls”; Gillian Welch, with a broken whiskey bottle to the neck of a rapist in “Caleb Meyer”; and the Dixie Chicks, with poisoned black-eyed peas down the hatch of an abusive husband in “Goodbye Earl.”

On the top of that heap of bodies was, and always will be, Reba McEntire’s “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” I say it’s hers, but she didn’t write it (that was Bobby Russell) and she wasn’t even the first to put the song on the charts (that was Vicki Lawrence). Firsts don’t matter, though, because that lightless night in Georgia has belonged to Reba ever since she streaked wrinkles around her eyes and fixed a dusty white wig on her head, playing the lead in one of country’s best music videos.

What TV Does To Itself

Here is an excellent piece by Emily Nussbaum about “what advertising does to TV” at a time when the two are necessarily clutching each other closer and closer:

Viewers have little control over how any show gets made; TV writers and directors have only a bit more—their roles mingle creativity and management in a way that’s designed to create confusion. Even the experts lack expertise, these days. But I wonder if there’s a way for us to be less comfortable as consumers, to imagine ourselves as the partners not of the advertisers but of the artists—to crave purity, naïve as that may sound. I miss “Mad Men,” that nostalgic meditation on nostalgia. But embedded in its vision was the notion that television writing and copywriting are and should be mirrors, twins. Our comfort with being sold to may look like savvy, but it feels like innocence. There’s something to be said for the emotions that Trow tapped into, disgust and outrage and betrayal—emotions that can be embarrassing but are useful when we’re faced with something ugly.

This is a call to action, almost, but perhaps it’s better read as a eulogy, or as content-creator self-care. “To be less comfortable” with a brand as character or a product as plot is only an option when the two are somehow at odds—if not in practice, then somehow in spirit. And as easy as it is to dismiss the craven CONTENT IS CONTENT people, who are not so much making arguments as they are stating what needs to be true for their businesses or industries to thrive, it’s not clear what we’re really aiming for here. Where is the threshold for an honest transaction between artist and patron and corporation? Surely what animates an argument like this isn’t passion for a particular kind of limited commercial, or for the importance of whatever line product placement allegedly crosses. “Those of us who love TV have won the war” is a statement dependent on what the war was about. To give TV the credit it deserves? For what? For imitating forms politely regarded as less crass or commercial, only to be consumed, shortly, by one considered by the same people to be the crassest of all?

Basic Soul Unit, "The Rift Between"

I rather like this. Perhaps you will too. The whole thing seems like a good soundtrack for a long walk, so if you’ve got something like that in your future click on the “Resident Advisor” bit at the top for the rest of it. I mean, if you are someone who owns one of those fancy phones that has a little computer in it that you can carry along with you on your journeys. Have I told you yet about how I still don’t have a smartphone? I haven’t? I must not know you personally, because oh my God everyone in my life is sick to death of hearing about WHY WOULD I WANT TO LUG THE INTERNET AROUND WITH ME ALL THE TIME / HOW GROSS IS IT THAT YOU CAN’T EVER BE DISCONNECTED FROM THE CENTRAL DISTRIBUTION POINT OF ALL THAT IS TERRIBLE ABOUT MODERN LIVING / DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A THOUGHT ON YOUR OWN OR HEARD THE SOUND OF YOUR OWN VOICE INSIDE YOUR HEAD PROBABLY NOT / YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH BETTER LIFE IS NOT HAVING TO LOOK ANY ANYONE ELSE’S PICTURES ON INSTAGRAM etc. It gets pretty tiresome even for me, and there are very few things about which I can’t be tiresome on a professional level, but I have so little left to be smug over in my life that I want to wring out every last drop of superiority that I can before they stop making phones that don’t connect you to the Internet and I become a glass-eyed scroll jockey like the rest of you. Wait, where were we? Oh, right, this track. I know nothing about the act in question but as I said before you got me distracted by the subject of smartphones, I rather like the song. Perhaps you will too. Enjoy!

The 'Real' Steve Jobs

steeeveSteve Jobs is a three-act play written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, whose facts, such as they are, largely come from Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of the same name. It is a superbly acted drama, but by far the most dramatic thing about it will be the internet’s reaction when it goes into wide release on October 23rd, because Steve Jobs is less about a product visionary than it is about a deadbeat dad who denies fathering his daughter, grudgingly accepts some culpability in her existence after reaching a low point in his career, then finally achieves resolution with her, which allows him to go on to do some truly great capitalism. All the while, this man is nagged by some haters while preparing PowerPoint presentations to announce some immaculately designed new computers, two of which, according to the film, are total failures.