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Category: Culture

Notes: 2023-01-26

Mmm, a whole month’s worth.

Look! Finally an article about “the average rural voter” that doesn’t turn out to be about a local Republican activist!

I need to remember to check out this online course about modern Ukrainian history from Yale.

The trap everyone falls into with technical debt is basically the result of the fact that human instincts are terrible at risk analysis. “It’s been OK so far!” And then your entire airline stops being able to fly.

Have an excellent list of the best movie action scenes of 2022. Baby Assassins is so cool.

There’s some neat insight into Cronenberg’s process in this interview about Crimes of the Future. Also it’s hilarious that Ted Turner wanted to censor Crash because he was worried about kids having sex in cars.

Living on a boat, building new assembly languages by hand, the usual kind of thing. For my money this is somewhat more interesting than the guy who went off the grid in Manhattan, although that was neat too.

There is no way that Shopify will change underlying behavior with this much change in one shot, but good experiment, will come back and check it out in six months. I am working out of a Dublin office this week and the ability to have uninterrupted blocks of a couple of hours of time every single day is magical.

When thoughtful conservatives read about fascism, they produce one kind of reading list. When thoughtful progressives read about fascism, they produce another kind of reading list. Both have value but only one comes away thinking we’re not in danger of fascism because of, uh, feminized societies.

Pallet cleanser. (YouTube, music.)

Gretchen Felker-Martin pulls the old “I’m gently ribbing you, it’s not a micro-aggression” trick.

Good summary of what the 1/6 Committee learned about social media. You can also read the full report, which is wild, and not just because it tells us that there were Rumble employees worried about violence.

Have a decent summary of why each release of the Twitter Files has (mostly) sucked, from — of all places — TechCrunch.

And now S. and I are off to have pancakes.

2022 in Movies

Something weird happened in 2022: I watched 423 movies.

This is pretty atypical for me. It’s over 20% of the movies I’ve watched in my life. I’ve never watched as many as 100 movies in a year before. I’ve been trending up a bit recently, particularly during the pandemic, but 423? Sure, some of them are shorts, but that’s balanced by the 7 hours of Les Vampires and the 5 hours of Fanny and Alexander (TV version) and the 4 hours of Ludwig. At the end of the day — uh, of the year — we’re talking 730 hours of movies. WTF?

Well, I quit playing World of Warcraft, and that’s a huge time sink right there. I also just got into a rhythm. On any given weekday night, it’s easy to catch a movie after dinner. If you’re not doing anything else during a weekend, what’s a movie after each meal? I joined a couple of subreddits that watch a movie a week collectively, I took on a challenge to watch 52 Criterion movies, and about halfway through the year I realized I was on pace for over 350 movies. All those neurons I’d been using on making WoW numbers go up got dedicated to making my movie count go up. Whoops. Fortunately S. is supportive of my whims and obsessions.

An aside: Letterboxd, which I am linking to throughout this post, is amazing. Also a total enabler of my numbers go up obsessions. Worth every penny I pay them as a patron, which is not all that much. It’s been a great way to find movies I might want to see, it’s way more comfortable to use than IMDB, and I just love them to pieces.

At times it was a grind. The trickiest month was October, because S. and I took on a horror movie challenge together. I didn’t love the way I was engaging with challenges in general; I love movies but I want to watch them because I love them, not because they’re leaving my favorite streaming service or because I need to finish a checklist. I am not taking on any challenges next year, although S. and I made a list of 50 date night movies. (Each one has a connection to the one before, and we swapped picks. It was really fun making the list.)

But you know, it’s like anything. If you spend a lot of time on something you love, you’ll discover new depths and new joys and new preferences. Or I guess you’ll start hating it, but that wasn’t me and movies. I’m still not a guy who can breezily analyze Kurosawa in terms of his shot choices, but I know which directors and actors make me happy, which is good enough for me.

Notes: 2022-12-20

Nah, I don’t do these on a schedule or anything.

James Fallows writes about word processors … in 1982. Paywall, sorry. Really good reminder of what computing used to be like. The Sol-20 he was using was a pretty important machine, historically speaking.

Do you interact with other human beings on a regular basis in any way? Read this piece. It’s aimed at engineers but it’s good general advice, which I can summarize as “learn to write well.” You know how you can always find the rough spot on a floor by walking on it barefoot? People notice bad writing, spelling, and grammar even if they don’t know they notice it.

Disney ran a booth at New York Comic Con to advertise the new Guardians of the Galaxy rollercoaster, and the whole thing was an interactive roleplaying experience with a lot of levels. Disney Imagineers have been exploring this area for a while; the high end version is the Galactic Starcruiser, for example. A lesser-known version was the Legends of Frontierland experiment. It’s interesting watching them try new things.

I am currently watching the classic movie serial Les Vampires on the Criterion Channel, and I’m looking forward to rewatching Irma Vep when I’m done, and then I’m looking forward to watching the new TV show also named Irma Vep. Olivier Assayas did a great interview with the LA Times about the interplay between them all. It’s meta, and I do love me some meta.

If you like fanfic and creepypasta and meta-discourse about the nature of fandoms, you might enjoy Northern Caves.

If you like housing developments, you might enjoy reading about Corviale. One kilometer long! It was completed about a decade late for my Delta Green Years of Lead game.

More on Apple Sing

Previously…

The song coverage is more varied than I’d thought. For example, Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy has all three levels of coverage. “Johnny Strikes Up The Band” has line-by-line lyric tracking, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” has no lyric tracking, and “Werewolves of London” has syllable-by-syllable lyric tracking.

“Werewolves of London” is in the Sing: Classic Rock playlist, for what it’s worth.

It seems more and more like the process that generates a Sing-compatible track is either manual, automatic but time-consuming, or costly in terms of licensing. Otherwise surely you’d want every album with a playlist song on it to be fully enabled, to give explorers like me the sense that there’s a ton of coverage?

A Brief Exploration of Apple Not-Karaoke

I am not a karaoke aficionado, for the record; I just like singing loudly to the music of my childhood.

So I updated my Apple devices today, as one does, and with the updates came Apple Music Sing. It’s pretty cool; like it says on the tin, for songs it works with, you can turn the vocals way down and the lyric display shows you where you are in the song — down to the syllable — and you can sing along. Nice.

You do not get any cool mixing, which is a shame. You kind of want to be holding a microphone and you want your vocals to get mixed into the backing music and maybe add a little autotune? I don’t know how that stuff works but I know I’m always flat. But it’s still fun. I just lost half an hour to it.

The question on my mind, of course, was “what songs work with this?” For starters, Apple has a bunch of playlists:

They’re what you’d expect. Popular fare, nothing too weird, certainly enough to make me pretty happy.

What about your own library? Not the streaming stuff, the actual library that only weirdos who used to buy CDs have? Welp, nope, this is an Apple Music feature so it doesn’t work with your antique library, even if you have Apple Match and you’ve synced with the cloud and all. I checked a couple of Boston songs which worked when streaming but not when looking at my library. Fair enough.

What about more obscure streaming stuff? It apparently depends, but here’s something interesting: there are two classes of song that support Apple Music Sing. More popular stuff supports the syllable-by-syllable tracking of the song lyrics:

But, say, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?” from Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking only goes line by line.

And coverage is spotty: Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights doesn’t support Sing, but their I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight does. The former is licensed through Rhino and thus Warner, while the latter is by way of Universal — maybe that’s the difference? No, because Hokey Pokey is on Universal and doesn’t support Sing. So who knows?

There’s no way to tell whether or not a song supports Sing without popping it open, and you can’t tell whether it’s syllable by syllable or line by line without playing it.

All in all I like it.