Dec 14, 2017

2017 was a good year for music. I ended up listening to more tunes than I had since 2013, if I can trust the data at last.fm. Tons of great records. A few really great ones. Here are my lists.

Favorite records of 2017:

  • Mangaliso — Bongeziwe Mabandla
  • Humanz — Gorillaz
  • Damn — Kendrick Lamar
  • All American Made — Margo Price
  • Drunk — Thundercat

Honorable Mentions:

  • La Confusion — Amadou & Miriam
  • I Tell a Fly — Benjamin Clemintine
  • Capacity — Big Thief
  • Hug of Thunder — Broken Social Scene
  • Chronology — Chronixx
  • Ash — Ibeyi
  • 4:44 — Jay Z
  • Harmony of Difference — Kamasi Washington
  • Sleep Well Beast — The National
  • Africa Express Presents The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests — The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests
  • In Mind — Real Estate
  • Ctrl — SZA
  • Antisocialites — VVaves
  • Big Fish Theory — Vince Staples

And here’s a public playlist of my favorite tracks of 2017 on Apple Music.

Nov 28, 2017

Like most everyone, I’ve read too many articles about what happened in 2016. The Nationalist’s Delusion, by Adam Serwer, is by far the richest piece to date.

The plain meaning of Trumpism exists in tandem with denials of its implications; supporters and opponents alike understand that the president’s policies and rhetoric target religious and ethnic minorities, and behave accordingly. But both supporters and opponents usually stop short of calling these policies racist. It is as if there were a pothole in the middle of the street that every driver studiously avoided, but that most insisted did not exist even as they swerved around it.

Nov 27, 2017

Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker:

Lately, millennial dreams tend less toward global fame and more toward affordable health insurance, but she is correct that my cohort has grown up under the influence of novel and powerful incentives to focus on the self. If for the baby boomers self-actualization was a conscious project, and if for Gen X—born in the sixties and seventies—it was a mandate to be undermined, then for millennials it’s more like an atmospheric condition: inescapable, ordinary, and, perhaps, increasingly toxic. A generation has inherited a world without being able to live in it.

and

Young people have curled around their economic situation “like vines on a trellis,” as Harris puts it. And, when humans learn to think of themselves as assets competing in an unpredictable and punishing market, then millennials—in all their anxious, twitchy, phone-addicted glory—are exactly what you should expect.

Seems like baby boomers look at any single millennial and come away with one of two opinions: 1) if they’re doing well, then they’re entitled for wanting more, or 2) if they’re poor or downwardly mobile, they’re lazy and wasting their potentional. After years of this, coming from all directions, it begins to feel a bit oppressive. That’s what Tolentino is successfull at describing in this piece. The generation in power hoards all the wealth and grips tightly around their authority, while at the same time demanding that those of my generation live as they had lived. But the world they’ve created for us isn’t the world their parents constructed for them where the suburban homes were plentiful and for the taking, and even low-level blue collar jobs paid enough to own them. In 2017, homes are wildy unnafordable, and jobs pay less than they did, on average, than they did 40 years ago. It’s an untennable situation.

Oct 27, 2017

Ordered the iPhone X this morning, 3am. The preorder process was extremely convenient because of their pre-confirmation with iPhone Upgrade Program. Once the app finally let me in, it probably took less than a minute to order. Where it went wrong was with the feedback loop. There was one confirmation screen that the phone was successfully ordered, but after leaving the page, there was no way to get back to it. The purchase receipt email didn’t come until after 5am, so I had to go back to sleep assuming everything really did work.

It’s just a phone, and not a big deal. But when it makes a huge difference between getting it right at 3am versus 8am — as in delivery on November 3rd or possible after Christmas — these feedback loops are important.

Oct 27, 2017

So much to agree with in this article in the Atlantic, Climate Policy Can Help Avert Modern Liberalism’s “Doom Loop”.

When you talk to people about why they don’t want kids, they don’t always talk about their aversion to children or child-rearing; they often talk about how bleak they think the future will be. Between the breakdown of the global liberal order and the ongoing degradation of the planet’s climate, the next few decades don’t seem like a particularly sociable place, for them or their hypothetical children.

Yep.

[M]uch of the conservative argument for pronatalist politics respects the fact that cultural changes—and important medical and political advances—have altered childbearing decisions. Isn’t the general anxiety about climate change as a cultural phenomenon—and the lack of political amelioration of it—one of those changes? Potential parents undertake a complex and often spiritual calculus when they plan their families, when they decide to have zero, or one, or five kids. It seems reasonable to me that if you want to coax people back into having larger families, or families at all, you may have to soften that calculus by assuring them the future will be a good place to live.
Because right now, the future does not seem like a very pleasant place to live at all. Economists who study climate change say that, at best, the phenomenon will exact persistent and troubling costs on the poorest parts of the United States; at worst, it will initiate one of several globally destabilizing crises. Global warming will also degrade Earth in plenty of hard-to-calculate ways, wrecking the gentle rhythm of the seasons and strangling the natural biodiversity of every stream and mountain.

Uh huh.

If you want a society that encourages people to have kids, you must first tell them that you are working to make the future modestly more hospitable. Not a perfect place, not a problem-free place, not a place where everything will be okay. Just a modestly better one

EXACTLY.

Oct 25, 2017

While observers tend to agree that there’s a stage at which most children strive for realistic depiction in their drawing, many psychologists argue that at their earlier stages of drawing, children aren’t thinking about realism. Take, for example, the way kids tend to scatter objects in awkward places in their drawings; they might draw a house on the left corner of the page and then a road that somehow stands above it. But that doesn’t mean they don’t understand how these scenes look in the real world, some experts say; instead, the child is more concerned about achieving a kind of visual balance between the objects.

Reading this was a stark realization. As in, this should have been obvious. When you think about it, it doesn’t make sense that a child, when handed sticks of colored wax, would instinctually attempt to draw realistic figures. The medium — Crayon — does not easily allow for realism. Crayons are blunt artistic instruments. Of course children use them to sketch hard lines and wild scribbles.

I disagree with this line, however:

Their goal, ultimately, is to create something that’ll make sense to the person they show it to.

Their goal is to create something that makes sense to themselves. That it might make sense to someone else is surely secondary.

But this is also right:

For the museum-goers out there who tend to point to a piece of modern art and say, “My kid could have made that!” it’s worth remembering that often, that’s actually just what the artist had in mind.

Aug 27, 2017

This explanation of neoliberalism, from the Guardian, is highly recommended reading.

[T]he public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets. The internet is personal preference magnified by algorithm; a pseudo-public space that echoes the voice already inside our head. Rather than a space of debate in which we make our way, as a society, toward consensus, now there is a mutual-affirmation apparatus banally referred to as a “marketplace of ideas”. What looks like something public and lucid is only an extension of our own pre-existing opinions, prejudices and beliefs, while the authority of institutions and experts has been displaced by the aggregative logic of big data.

Aug 27, 2017

From the Atlantic:

Teachers pay is 17 percent lower than other professionals with similar training.

This is one of the major reasons our schools struggle to satisfy our expectations. Our brightest and most capable college graduates will never turn to careers in education if the pay continues to hang at 83% of what they’d earn elsewhere. I have the utmost respect for those with the passion and drive to become teachers anyway, despite the low pay. Teachers are heros, and they should be financially rewarded for their service.

Apr 6, 2017

Albarn revealed today that he has around 40 to 45 Gorillaz tracks in various states of completion, tracks which aren’t on Humanz. And also that he hopes to continue releasing these songs over the next 18 months or so. To this Albarn fan, the idea of a new Gorillaz track nearly every week is amazing. Please let this happen. Gorillaz, more than most any other project out there, is perfectly suitable for this kind of release cycle.