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Best Photos of the Month - July 2020

August 1, 2020

Russian (and some other) cursives. So weird that so many languages with perfectly reasonable block letters evolve a high-falutin'/faster version. A weird elitism to it I guess? Like if you're just barely literate, stick with writing the same characters you read in print, but if you are privileged enough to have a life among words, and to have reason to write words down, you want a higher speed method.

I missed a school year of drilling in cursive, so my meh-handwriting was even worse in cursive, and for folks like me it's a big relief to student and teacher alike when we're "allowed" to go back to printing.

I can't say I think it's that important, and pretty much all the time I spent on cursive would have been better spent on keyboard skills. (Psychomotor skill building not withstanding. Maybe just playing a lot of videogames doesn't quite make up for that.)
Heh, though I guess people have to decide their signature... or as this tweet puts it:
Signatures are so weird. It's like, okay you have to believe it's really me because I used cursive.

A little bit more known about Umbrella Man, the white supremacist asshole breaking windows at an AutoZone early in the George Floyd protests, working to turn them into riots. Uh, at least he's not that one cop guy? (Assuming this is a legit lead.)

July 2020 New Music Playlist

August 2, 2020
Candy
The Bouncing Souls
Rock cover.
from a playlist Boys Will Be Girls, maleish cover of femaleish songs



Live a Little
Florrie
Nice horns and drums and vocals.
Arun trying to zone in on the kind of music I dig - modern but with brass + good percussion is a good bet!



Lola
The Raincoats
Man, the idea that the original made it so big just blows me away. And also that Weird Al used it for a parody...
from a playlist Girls Will Be Boys, femaleish covers of maleish songs.



You Were Cool
The Mountain Goats
God, such a resonant song - I can also think back to the people being treated badly in high school, how we got to bear witness to people working out lots of things about their identity, and we were hardly ever kind enough about it. I hope the kids today are better.
I listen to John Green's The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast, and The Mountain Goats are profoundly important to him. I couldn't find a version to buy so I had to make a rip.
Righteous Rocker (Hard Rock Version)
Larry Norman
Not a bad funky 70s rocker. Why can't all Christian music be so light handed?
via the movie "Knives Out"



Uproar (feat. Swizz Beatz)
Lil Wayne
Excellent well-hooked new hip hop.
My friend Jonathan Z is probably the most adept at catching songs I'll dig...



Coolin' With Da Homies
Savan Kotecha
Kinda inane like everything in Eurovision (I keep my chains low (woo), they droppin' to the floor / They're really, really, really low, they're droppin' to the floor, uh / I don't need gin and juice, I got a caffe latte) but hella catchy
from the Will Ferrell‎ Eurovision Song Contest movie, in-movie done by Swedish act Johnny John John.



Only So Much Oil In the Ground
Tower of Power
Not my favorite Tower of Power song but not bad.
BABAM played a Filk version of this at an Extentinction Rebellion Die-In protest
You Gotta Hear This Funk Band
Key & Peele
Pretty authentic sounding Parliament/Funkadelic sound, even if the end joke falls a little flat.
Random Youtube recommendation
Got Your Money (feat. Kelis)
Ol' Dirty Bastard
Older hop hop, dig the "Blacksploitation" aspect of the video.
Random Youtube recommendation
Land of the Living
Kristine W
Clubby Pop.
Another from Arun's set of music
Mbube
Lebo M
From the new CGI Lion King.
Mentioned in Cracked's Black Creators Who Got Their Material Stolen though sadly I liked the percussion in the Disneyfied version better.



Power to the People (Ultimate Mix)
John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
Probably don't need another white dude protest song but I do dig the percussion of this.
Ibram X. Kendi's "How to Be an Antiracist" mentions the Black Christian group Soul Liberation as their famous song, but I couldn't find reference to them doing it.

I just finished "Art of Atari" by Tim Lapetino, about all the art that tried to push the clunky pixels the Atari 2600 could offer into new worlds of drama. (Also with a side trip into the industrial design of some of the hardware.)

I learned my favorite Atari artist was Hiro Kimura. Probably the best find of the book's author was this unused art for Pac-Man- I just love the weight of the ghost monster concept.


He also did Yars Revenge and Joust and a bunch of others. But growing up it was the B+W illustrations inside the manual for "Berzerk" that really grabbed me, the nod to Da Vinci and then the internal workings diagram that I think is a nod to some classic Astro Boy:



Another specific influential (on me) cover was Terry Hoff's art for Star Raiders (reused for Solaris) - I must've drawn starfighter cockpit interiors based it dozens of times as a kid:

how to be an antisexist

August 3, 2020
A bit less than halfway through Ibram X. Kendi's "How to Be an Antiracist". The most important points I've absorbed so far are how "Not Racist" (e.g. the "I don't see color" and "lets not move on and get into 'reverse discrimination'" stuff) is not the opposite of "Racist", and how in the racist/not-racist camp, Kendi points out the segregationist tendency and the assimilationist.

Sometimes the line between an assimilationist mandate to deny differences and the antiracist ability to recognize differences without hierarchically judging them seems a tough row to hoe. Celebrating difference, but still holding on to a bit of a tabula rasa view - or at least a view that recognizes how the crushing majority of inequalities result from racism baked into the system level.

It's the systems that are the problem, especially tricky are ones that fancy themselves race- or sex-neutral. I've been in bands that modeled themselves in a no-real-'leader' / non-hierarchical / democratic way, but when disagreement resolution then becomes "loudest voice in the argument wins", that's likely to be sexist or racist.

Melissa mentioned a parallel inversion, she got so sick and tired of certain men at work cutting in and talking over and interrupting her. And she saw it was sexist. But then she witnessed the same guys interrupting each other guys in the same way when women weren't around. So it's still sexist, but sexism embedded in a system of interaction, not sexism that is explicitly acting like it knows "men are better than women".

I've thought about this before in the context of the term "racist". We have the one word for (as Kendi might frame it) a segregationist view, that races or sexist are unequal and should be treated that way, as well as the softer but more insidious assimilationist view that grants a superficial equality but doesn't recognize how the entry requirements are proportionally different because of the status quos of society. (Like, "we don't discriminate against poor people - anyone is free to buy this $1000 ticket!" or whatever) And anti-racists don't want to give that "softer" racism a pass, so they call it out using the term racist. But people who are assimilationist "not racist" resent being called the R-word because they know that they believe in the equality of different groups. (Kendi also argues against seeing "racist" as a slur, in the sense of letting people assume it's just 'a view I disagree with', and looks to more technical definitions.)

Back in the band, another weird bit of geeky systematic sexism snuck in, one woman had used some of her spoons to set up a particularly nice socially distanced gig and she posted it on "Gig-O-Matic", the tool we use to email blast rehearsals and gigs within the group. This gig had some parallels with a gig we had had the week before, but the location was different. Some dudes in the group grumbled about the change in venue and it got into a bit of a debate where there shouldn't have been, since it had been set. And I personally took a "lets figure out both sides of the debate" role - but part of that sprung from my never having read the Gig-O-Matic entry closely, just glanced at it at best - to the extent I hadn't even realized 'til after the whole event who had set it up.

But not realizing it was a woman in this case is not exculpatory - if a technological system is set up to be a fair, open-access thing, but then is not properly heeded, that can be a form of soft sexism or racism too.

Some tough stuff! Oh and to top it off I managed to land a non-apology ala "sorry that you were offended" - I really did mean I was sorry I had chosen poorly to both-sideser, even if it was not deliberately sexist because I wasn't even cognizant of who had made the initial post. Whoops!
Life is tragic simply because the earth turns, and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.
James Baldwin

RIP Wilford Brimley!
My Band JP Honk were part of a joint production of the Fenway Porchfest:


(video assembled by Red Shaydez who ends the video spittin' a little fire)
I love how everyone has an ideological point that isn't wrong during COVID-19: libertarians are mad at the FDA and CDC; socialists are mad at the fact that we don't have universal healthcare; liberals are mad at the Trump admin; conservatives are mad at the media.

You can take seriously the socialists' concern for the welfare of the least fortunate, the libertarians' worries about bureaucratic bloat and calcification, the nationalists' desire for robust self-sufficiency, and the conservatives' concern that the media isn't seeing a crisis situation clearly (though conservative media has arguably been even worse). In all likelihood, the stubborn people from the different groups counterbalance each other anyway. If your goal is to be a pragmatist and a pluralist, you can go ahead and, as MGMT sang, "take only what you need from [them]."
Oliver Traldi, Stopped Clocks in a Pandemic "Everyone claims the pandemic proves their preexisting political beliefs. Maybe everyone's right."

August 4, 2020

The whippoorwill's name reflects the sounds we hear it make. But studies show there are two more notes to its song beyond the range of human hearing. Scholars wondered if other birds heard these notes, and recordings of mockingbirds, a species that mimics the songs of other birds, revealed that they did.
Charles Bowden
(He goes on to write "I think I want to hear these missing notes about the border and the ground about us when I write and bring the full song to the attention of others." The Harper's Magazine review I got the quote from talks about how he was a tremendous force writing reports from the American Southwest and Mexico.)
I was just trying to recall what comic this was, with a vision of cities as kind of a memetic parasite... turns out it was Grant Morrison's "The Invisibles".

Didn't realize how into Magic he was, like has part of his process. (Made me think of Damien Echols talking about magic on the trippy series "Midnight Gospel")
the tree who set healthy boundaries, an alternate ending for Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" (Part of the "Topher Fixed It" series for young people)

August 5, 2020

Trump on the death toll (boosted greatly by Trump and Kushner's decision not to make a national plan, assuming this was a "blue state" problem):

"it is what it is."

That's such a classic reality television show line! Maybe next he can be part of a montage and say "I didn't come here to make friends."
Oof, Beirut.
Two thoughts on WFH life:
1. Remember Sniglets? Words for phenomenon that many people encounter but don't have a single term for? I need one for when you get 3-4 notifications for the same damn event at the same time, button on different devices or from different programs. Like I have my Outlook calendar events mirrored in Apple Calendar, but then both fire alerts, along with maybe Microsoft Teams separately for the video call, the phone and maybe even an iPad I keep at hand. Same for phone calls! Phone, laptop, iPad... all suddenly clamoring to let me pick up an incoming call. Probably I could shut off some of these that are always redundant...

2. Thinking again about the challenge of staying focused during meetings, how it helps to think of it as a form of mindfulness. Same for dealing with coder angst during the workday, actually... (hopping up to get a drink of water or whatever... then realizing it's already chugged by the time I sit down again...) Social media's the most obvious ever present temptation, though I know always present Internet has been an all-too-easy escape hatch since my first job. I've learned to control it but still.

I think about what I was doing before always-there Internet... like in high school and college. I was a doodler, and many of my class notes are decorated with doodles or sometimes even back-and-forth margin notes conversations from those times - analog text messaging! So not being fully engaged has always been a challenge for me, probably some kind of shadow-ADD. (I suspect that so many syndromes might be spectrums - which shouldn't be a tool for people with rather mild presentations to excuse and not work on their bad traits. But still, I do wonder what my behavior and cognition with Adderall would be like.)
Watched Sam Jay's Netflix special "3 in the Morning" last night. Really good! For the recording she's sporting a shirt with a Roxbury Zip+4 number on it.

August 6, 2020

The unconscious mind doesn't know the difference between past, present, and future and is always trying to heal old wounds in current time.
I wonder if that's true, that the unconscious mind is so much less time aware. I really wish I had a better model of it. Is it the same as saying out emotional self, our intuitive self? Is it useful to think of it as a separate entity, like our "inner child"? (Or lately it - that is, my subconscious self - seems more akin to a clever but unruly dog.)
Life was durably sweet, it improved like a keeping apple.
Ralph Kello in Sylvia Townsend Warner's "The Corner That Holds Them"

August 7, 2020

Unbelievable to be living through this? No, it's believable. I believe it, the way you wake up in the middle of the night on a trans-Atlantic flight and believe: I am 35,000 feet above sea level, moving at tremendous speed through freezing air.

August 8, 2020

'God is dead, God is dead' ...Perdition! When God dies, you'll know it.
Confessions of St. Argentine, via Greg Bear's Petra

He was short, stout, with huge hairy arms like the clamps of a vise. He had once killed a spouter with a single squeeze of his fist, and spouters are tough things, since they have no guts like you (I suppose) and I. The hair surrounding his bald pate was white, thick, and unruly, and his eyebrows leaned over his nose with marvelous flexibility. He rutted like a pig, ate hugely, and shat liquidly (I know all). A man for this time, if ever there was one.
"Petra" was my favorite story from Bruce Sterling's "Mirrorshades" anthology of cyberpunk... and the most idiosyncratic and least mirrorshades-y - projecting a future where faith is what underlies the fabric of reality, and where the Death of God isn't just a philosopher's pontification, but a universe-shaking event where only pockets of belief (like around a cathedral) keep things together.

(I think also of the old New Yorker lede "The death of God left the angels in a strange position")
I'd rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever.
Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, being called out on the anti-sexism message of "Song for the Man" vs the chauvinism of their early work.
That's a challenging statement for someone like me, who doesn't have much of an intuitive belief personal growth.

Watching "The Beastie Boys Story", Ad-Rock and Mike D on stage talking about the band's progression. You know, it's weird that I've liked their stuff for like 32 years and never noticed that two of them were named "Adam".

August 9, 2020


by HappyToast on b3ta

August 10, 2020

Sort of on a gaming kick, like playing through this one really fun little game called "What The Golf?" - a bunch of physics puzzle-y microgames, pushing the boundaries of what qualifies as a golf game, lots of neat mechanics and smart little parodies of games like Portal and Superhot.

But mostly, games have become a less taxing way of spending parts of big 4 hour stretches of facetime on a semi-weekly basis with my 6 year old super niece Cora. The majority has been Zelda: Breath of the Wild, because it has detailed horses in and she digs those. We've also dabbled in Mario Odyssey, which has a lot of fun things I can show her.

I picked up Animal Crossing at her prompting (someday we might visit each other's islands, or something?) but man, that just isn't my kind of game. There's no sense of motion, and while I can sort of see the Sims-like build your space charm, I don't dig the tamagotchi chore slash roulette wheel reward aspect of it.

In general I'm up for suggestions for remote fun games. She has access to a Switch and her own iPad (definitely routing for the whole Phonics game thing) but she's pretty content playing witness and telling me what to do while watching.

(I'm half tempted to try Red Dead Redemption 2, and see if you can get to a place where you're just doing horse stuff... though the game itself would be a huge time sink, and I think the ratio of horse fun to cowboy violence might be a bit out of wack for a 6 year old.)

Getting back to the games... it's funny how Animal Crossing has some of the same weirdnesses of Zelda: like crafting, and how stuff wears out and breaks. I'm still knocked over with what a richly developed land Zelda creates in, so much detail it makes Animal Cross look really primitive, but of course it's a very different energy.

Once I finish What The Golf?, I'm trying to figure out if I want to slip into game sessions as a nice way of unwinding in quarantine freetime or if I should stick with coding projects, reading, and a bit of band stuff. I get bummed that I feel more distant from games in general...

Alligators don't even alligate.
just-shower-thoughts

Anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture.
Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts. We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.
Ira Byock, "The Best Care Possible: A Physician's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life"
It's a cool thought but the podcast I heard it on pointed out that the attribution is suspicious - and also we need to be careful by what we mean by "civilization" - groups considered "wild" or "savages" by "the civilized" were certainly capable of this level of empathetic care and treatment.
Humans just can't fathom a billion dollars. Casually we mix 'billion' and 'million' in the same sentence, but they're apples and Death Stars. And until we get our arms around that, some fundamental stuff about the American economy will elude us.

August 11, 2020

One big takeaway from Ibram X. Kendi "How to Be an Antiracist" is the idea of segregationist vs assimilationist racism. Both are problematic. I'd say the latter has its heart in a slightly better place. It's sometimes the result of acknowledging the hierarchical judging people generally use to evaluate differences in groups, and so tries to blur everything into a big melting pot any race can participate in.

The book mentions the importance of black (and other group) spaces, enclaves where a given minority is empowered to make the decisions about it - and where a member of that group can be part of a local majority, the default, instead of always being "othered".

In December's Wired (catching up on a backlog) Jason Parham echoes that idea and talks about some important places on the early web that were that.

It's an idea I can get behind but man do I dread the dumbass "but doesn't that make THEM the racists, not letting fine white folk like me in because of the color of my skin?" arguments I'd likely have to get into rebutting. (And I do wonder, how gatekeeping for that kind of thing could/should work - but of course the whole point is that's not for people like me to decide.)

Parham talks about the Blackness of the current web:
Functionally, the web is still very black. Our identities are embedded in Black Twitter-fueled memes and reaction GIFs, from Kermit sipping tea to Real Housewives star NeNe Leakes' virtuoso shade-serving. Black culture is likewise a major artery of platforms like TikTok and our beloved Vine (RIP). Even the very modes of exposure find root in blackness: Black death and its digital-era companion, the police brutality video, became a terrifyingly mundane 21st-century spectacle, recorded, uploaded, and shared with perverse frequency. "Blackness gave virality its teeth. Turned it into trauma," the writer and academic Lauren Michele Jackson has said. In life and in death, black people are the bones and lungs of the web, its very body.
Of course it's interesting- and disturbing- to think of some the toxic whiteness at other parts of the web are fostering, the whole 4chan/QAnon/alt-right shit, which is so very talented at coopting shit.

August 12, 2020

I was impressed that my half asleep dream brain was thinking about rendering 4D shapes and what not, like maybe using a timer playback to see the 3D shadow of it change over time....
then it got stuck on the old jingle with Rosemary Clooney singing "Extra value is what you get, when you buy Coronet" and was like "ah, that's more like it"
Wow - this 120 year old photo of a cat (from a recently unearthed time capsule) has a strong energy - see the link for another one with a companion kitten...

August 13, 2020

Reading memes about how parents don't understand you can't pause online games (but they should, because you can't pause cable TV either.)

That's kind of funny, because the Atari generation couldn't pause, but it's the Nintendo generation having kids.

(And maybe a later generation grew up with more Tivo than cable TV, where you could pause after all.)
Worthwhile episode of the podcast 99% Invisible: Policing the Open Road. Automobiles really changed how policing was done in the USA - they added a whole bunch of rules everybody had to obey (because roads are a shared resource, and cars have are hugely empowering for people but also dangerous) and the decision was made to add enforcement of these rules to what cops do, beyond classic crime fighting roles like dealing with theft and violence. (Enforcement of vice laws was another issue some thought were below what police should be dealing with.)

So this car-based stuff was the wedge for our 4th Amendment protections getting split open... during prohibition, it was decided that cars were so potentially empowering for "bad guys", they were no longer part of "person, houses, papers, and effects" that were protected and cops didn't need a warrant. And once that precedent was set, that the 4th Amendment wasn't an absolute protection and times change, somehow "Stop and Frisk" seemed ok too. (Funny but I don't recall too many "strict constructionists" bitching about that clear violation of the letter of the law/Constitution?)

The podcasts talks about ideas for trying to treat traffic enforcement more like an administrative task, for example they mention you don't give building inspectors guns just in case they run into some criminal activity over the course of their work. But attempts to de-police-ize traffic enforcement have sometimes failed.

But it is weird. I'm in about the most privileged + protected demographic class the country has got (save for not being stinkin' rich, and having a car that's even shabbier than that) and my pulse goes crazy if I think I may have caught the attention of a police cruiser.

Gotta be a better way.



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