Sunday, March 04, 2018

How to Have Popular Culture No One Actually Likes

From Kaitlyn Tiffany on The Verge:  The last joke is Tide Pods

Seems like a nice summary of how memes can get out-of-hand.  Or maybe I'm just old:

The Tide Pod craze is an example of the internet machine operating exactly as we have built it to. I’m sure you are familiar, but it goes like this: Meme becomes somewhat popular on Twitter or Reddit or a body-builder forum; bloggers talk about the meme because it is their job; national morning shows try to understand the meme because they’ve been told to start treating the internet like a real thing; local businesses participate in the meme because maybe they’ll be on TV for doing so; nightly news programs drive irrational panic about the meme because this is the purpose of the nightly news; bloggers are obligated to comment further, with needlessly detailed explanation, because now the posts will get oodles of search traffic; the subculture from which the meme originally sprung splits into two factions: people willing to debase themselves by making lowest common denominator versions of the joke that will spread quickly and keep them in the spotlight, and people who will double down on encrypting the meme with in-jokes and croissant-intricate layers of irony and sarcasm that make it indecipherable to an outside world that will, nevertheless, attempt to decipher it. All the while, everyone is getting angrier and more boring.
Who in this assembly line is having any fun? Now you have Tide Pod cookies on Instagram and Tide Pod Jell-O shots at the local pub. Now you can’t buy laundry detergent without Wal-Mart’s special “opening the Tide Pod case” guy hovering at your elbow, asking you about your day. (Not that it’s any better to be him. I can’t even imagine the number of times he’s had to smile at some doofus who says, “I swear I’m not going to eat them, haha!”)
Now you have a popular culture founded on something nobody likes. Remember when all the cultural critics were worried about things like “highbrow vs. lowbrow” and “kitsch vs. art”? Bunch of snobs? Now we have to worry about whether everything we look at is something we elevated totally by accident and actively hate. We don’t even have time to debate the notion of “guilty pleasure,” because we no longer find pleasure at all.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

I Hope Phil's Ass Is Feeling Alright...

Sorry, I couldn't resist...

All snark aside, I'm really glad Apple had their mini press junket on tuesday.  Such a direct mea culpa is staggeringly uncharacteristic for the company, but it was sorely needed among their pro customers.  (Of which, at least according to the Schedule C in my tax return, I still count!)

As others have said, actions speak louder than words, but these words were exactly what they needed to be.  They also helped to explain Apple's recent actions - or lack thereof - in a way that rang true.  I have no trouble believing Apple would bet big on a radical new design, confident in their read that the pro market was moving to dual-GPU systems, only to find that their design couldn't accommodate  the real ways that hardware developed, and that they had backed themselves into a corner when they tried to plot future revisions.  Every company makes mistakes, and this is exactly the kind of mistake Apple would make.

It also should cement (if there was any doubt) the 2013 Mac Pro's place in computer history as the G4 Cube 2.0.  Heck, 10 years down the line the trash can will probably be a collector's item of sorts!

With as much work as they have ahead of them completely redesigning a modular and frequently-upgradable Mac Pro, the wait certainly isn't going to be easy.  But I'm excited to see where this leads...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Trump Bubble

I've held off on posting much about my thoughts post-election.  I've never really tried to hide my political leanings here, but I didn't really seek to make it a focus of this blog.  (Heck, I barely post here anyway!)  But while much of this opinion piece is fairly emotionally charged (and hey, I get it!), I thought this ending passage summed up a big part of my reaction pretty well:

I have plenty of sympathy for typical Trump voters. (I exclude the alt-right and other menaces to the public good, such as Rudy Giuliani.) I have written about cultural dislocation and I understand the corrosive effect of diminished expectations. Clinton talked about the glass ceiling, but too many American workers — or former workers — had to contend with a cement one: jobs that were gone and not coming back. We in the bubble understand. Truly, we do. 
But I will not concede that a greater wisdom exists in what is known as “flyover country.” It has voted for a charlatan, a blinged ignoramus who has promised the past as the future. Trump, who lives in a gilded bubble of his own, cannot reverse automation, replace robots with people or blunt American businesses’ compulsive search for the cheapest workforce. 
[...] What I cannot understand is fellow bubble dwellers who tell me, with an air of impeccable condescension, that a vote for Trump was such proof of their own superior wisdom that it eclipsed all doubts about his qualifications, his temperament, his honesty in business and his veracity in speech. These people live in a bubble of their own. It is one that excludes the lesson of history and the demands of common sense. It will burst.  

- Richard Cohen, 'Real America' is its own bubble

Monday, February 01, 2016

On the Tech Sector, Wages, and "Capitalism"

In my second-straight post cribbing a link previously pointed out by John Gruber... this is a really interesting analysis:  Maximum Wage - Steven Johnson

From the sweatshops and rubber factories to the Nike store, your sneakers are pretty much market economics from the first stitch, all the way down the chain. But your iPhone isn’t just made up of startup brainstorming and Foxconn labor; it also has in its makeup open source networks, and academic research, and military funding, and government-subsidized science labs, and whatever strange hybrid of socialism and monopoly capitalism Bell Labs was. Some of those systems increased inequality by making their founders rich; some of them decreased inequality by making a valuable resource free. Indeed you could make a strong case that the most important innovations that drove the triumph of Silicon Valley did not emerge inside traditional private corporations at all.

I'm enough of an occasional-utopian-futurist to really like the idea of Basic Guaranteed Income in a post-scarcity world largely run by our digital and mechanical creations... but some of the conclusions and ideas presented here are much closer to the real-world-of-today.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Film vs. Digital, with Steve Yedlin

I'm going to start out by straight-up quoting John Gruber's post about this in its entirety:

Jim Coudal:
Check Steve Yedlin’s Film vs. Digital Tests, plus this series of tweets from Rian Johnson who is directing SW Episode VIII with Yedlin as DP, and finally this conversation about the matter.
This is a deep rabbit hole for film nerds, but I ate the whole thing up over the weekend.
(and yes, that post itself quotes someone else's post.  Blogception, everybody!)

All three of those links do indeed make for a great rabbit hole to fall into.  It's very interesting seeing such an articulate and well-backed-up take from the Cinematographer of "real" films I admire (particularly Brick and Looper).  Overall, I definitely agree;  while there was still a strong argument to be had back when I was in college, high-end digital acquisition not only caught up to, but in many cases surpassed 35mm film in most technical attributes (ability to resolve detail, dynamic range, low-light sensitivity) a few years ago now.  The prevailing argument since then has mostly been one about the supposedly-innate aesthetic "looks" of each medium, but I think Yedlin makes a very strong case that the malleability of digital image processing makes these sort of argument relatively moot.

That said, I'm still glad he will be shooting Episode VIII on film.  It may not make a lick of difference to the image itself, but the touchy-feely emotional connotations are still real.  (A cynic would call this "marketing," but would still agree...)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Teenagers and Social Media Apps

I just read a story on Medium on "A Teenager's View on Social Media."  While reading it, I saw some interesting connections to my post about Twitter from back in 2009, so I thought it worth writing about.  Since I am now slipping inexorably closer to the "30" milepost, it's worth admitting that I'm probably not such an authority on such things anymore.

Disorganized thoughts and comments, arranged by social network:


I've definitely noticed the shift in how Facebook "feels" to use.  It doesn't surprise me that it isn't considered cool anymore, since the exclusivity it originally had (by virtue of only allowing college .edu emails) has long since gone.  I definitely agree that it's hard to not have an account though.  Facebook grew fast enough that the network effects are incredibly strong now - if you aren't on Facebook, it's not that much of a hyperbole to say you're invisible in a social media sense.

I also find it interesting, and at times frustrating, how pretty much every conversation I used to have on AOL Instant Messenger has now moved to Facebook Messenger.  I still refuse to download the app though, out of spite.


This one really is interesting, and I get the reasons the author mentions.  I'll admit that my own use of Instagram is fairly limited, but my fiancĂ© has attracted quite a few followers, due to tapping into the strong "craft beer aficionado" niche.  It definitely feels much less commercialized and "creepy" than Facebook.


I admit, I feel somewhat vindicated that "To be honest, a lot of us simply do not understand the point of Twitter."  Although I did eventually get an account, I don't tweet very much.  I mostly use it to follow people who have interesting things to say, frequently "celebrities."  Though one strength I do see about Twitter in this regard is that you can follow people that you normally wouldn't hear too much about.   I can't see a gossip magazine caring one bit about Wil Wheaton's latest craft beer exploits, Adam Savage's latest prop-recreating obsession, or anything William Gibson has to say...

The odd parallel-life Twitter leads as a news outlet is also fodder for an entire post unto itself.


Yup:  I'm old.  Don't care.

Though I do find it interesting that the "private, but you know who you're talking to" aspect of it is very similar to the sort of things that initially drew me (and pretty much everyone I knew) to Facebook back in 2005-ish.  Note to future social media companies:  I think there's something there...


To quote:
"Tumblr is a place to follow/be followed by a bunch of random strangers, yet not have your identity be attached to it. Tumblr is like a secret society that everyone is in, but no one talks about."
Sooooo... you're saying it's LiveJournal, basically?  That's what I'm getting here.


This is completely foreign to me.  I've seen the icon before, but that's about it.


Haven't really looked into this too much personally. (Though it is where the originally article is.  I found it through a link in the comments of another site.)  At this point, I'd have to say I pretty much look at all blogging services as more or less interchangeable, from a reader's standpoint.  This may be because few of my real-life friends maintain blogs anymore.  (and frankly, can you even say I do?  How long ago was the last post before this one?)


"We have to get it, so we got it."  Yup.  I think this applies to pretty much everyone, regardless of age group.


Yup.  I do literally nothing with this site (though I do know what it is).

Kik, WhatsApp, and GroupMe

I can't bring myself to bother with pretty much any messaging app.  (Including, and especially, Facebook Messenger, though that one is more a form of feeble protest...)  E-Mail and group texts suffice (especially since among my iPhone-using friends, iOS 8 brought a lot of useful controls to group texting).  I totally get why WhatsApp is useful internationally, though.

Sunday, July 06, 2014


I kept deleting files and deleting files, but for some reason Parallels kept saying that it couldn't reduce the size of my virtual machine file!

I wonder why that could be...

(It's better now!)