Liked Roald Dahl’s Anti-Black Racism (daily.jstor.org)

Recently, the family of author Roald Dahl family apologized for anti-Semitic remarks he made. But Dahl, most famous for the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, also brought young readers anti-Black racism in his original depiction of the Oompa-Loompas.
Dahl drew on his own life f…

Bookmarked Why Your Favorite Email Newsletter is Always So Jumpy (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Popular email clients, particularly Gmail, have a tendency to cut emails off after a 102-kilobyte limit. Why the heck is that?

Ernie Smith dives into some of the technical problems/limitations to email newsletters, in particular why one email gets cut off at 1,500 words and another doesn’t:

  1. You Write Too Much
  2. Your Email Has Too Many Design Elements
  3. Your Links Are Too Long
  4. Your Readers’ Email Addresses May Be Too Long
  5. You Waste Too Much Space

It is interesting to think about this in regards to Angela Lashbrook’s discussion of spam filtering. It is also another reminder of why email is broken.

Continuing on from my discussion of space and music, I am always apprehensive about playing new music out loud. I feel there is a strange assumption that when you play something out loud you know what is coming. For example, I recently played The Avalanches’ We Will Always Love You and I was asked about the bleeps at the end:

The last song, “Weightless”, contains the sound of morse code, the original 1974 broadcasted message beamed into space, written by Frank Drake with assistance from Carl Sagan among others. It included encoded information about human DNA and other indications of intelligent life to anyone in the cosmic vastness who might be listening.

Although I had an inkling what it was, I was a little lost for words.

I often have the same issue when putting on playlists too.

Today I spent some time in the backyard. A part of this was listening to music. I somehow ended up down a rabbit starting with Empress Of, I then listened to BANKS and, after realising the BJ Burton connection, then moved onto Sylvan Esso. Before jumping ship, going back to Matthew Herbert. Although I did all this in my own physical space, one thing that I often forget about is the shared space of sound.

This reminded me of my next door neighbour growing up. He and his band were in some sort of band and they would play I Shot the Sheriff again and again. (I am going to assume that it was just their song or maybe my poor memory.) This would often be late at night, with little consideration for world around.

In the end, a fence may designate where my property may stop and start, however there is very little to separate sounds, even more so when living in an apartment. As my father once quipped, bass is not designed to be heard in the room you are in, but in the next room over.

Listened album by the Avalanches from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
This album has been on the periphery for a while, with various teasers, it was not until the album dropped that everything seemed to fall into place. There are some great tracks, with my favourite being Wherever You Go, however the strength is listening as a whole.

Place between Oneohtrix Point Never and FourTet

Marginalia

But if that album [Wildflower] felt like the world’s most jumbled playlist, We Will Always Love You has, as they say, a better algorithm. Now reduced to a duo of Robert Chater and Anthony Diblasi, the Avalanches are still dedicated crate-diggers, unearthing obscure oldies at every turn. But this time, they go lighter on the samples and heavier on post-trip hop soundscapes and contemporary singers, making for recombinant pop that feels joyfully seamless and organic.

The record begins with a farewell voicemail—a final communication, we are led to believe, from a young woman who has passed away—and it ends with the Morse code-like bleeping of the Arecibo Message, an interstellar transmission carrying information on the human species into the infinite beyond. In between those poles, the Australian group continues doing what it has always done: spinning the sounds of disco, soul, easy listening, and other nostalgic staples into luminous, ludic shapes, turning musical collage into a sparkling, four-dimensional fantasyland.

Like the other two Avalanches albums, We Will Always Love You is an odyssey. Each track feels like an encounter with some new character or a scenic passageway in between outposts.

A sense of interconnectedness flows through “We Will Always Love You,” and Chater said the process of working with live singers isn’t that different from selecting found sounds. “It’s almost like sampling,” he said, “in trying to find the right vocalist, to match the music with someone who seems like they’ve got a certain spirit.”

That so many disparate talents have been corralled into such a cohesive whole is testament to Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi’s vision, with samples meticulously stitched together from a mass of voices and an underlying concept of remembering those singers no longer with us.

As they’ve grown older, they crave transcendence over hedonism; it’s why the album is slower, warmer, more contemplative and mellow overall.

In many ways, We Will Always Love You is The Avalanches’ own Golden Record, tracking their sonic DNA through an epic list of collaborators who have influenced their sound in some shape or form over the years while exploring love, human connection and our place in the universe.

Bookmarked How Disco Defined 2020 by Spencer Kornhaber (The Atlantic)
Spencer Kornhaber reflects on the year from the perspective of disco. This includes the reference by various (white) artists, as well as the place in regards to Black Lives Matters.

The artists involved seemed to recognize this as an issue—but only after they’d recorded their albums. Gaga’s house-and-techno-indebted Chromatica was released days after the death of George Floyd; recognizing that it wasn’t the time for her to grab the spotlight, Gaga temporarily suspended her promotional efforts. Ware also pushed her June release date back a bit. Both women, when they did return to advertising their albums, acknowledged the historical lineages and racial hierarchies they benefited from. “All music is Black music,” Gaga said in a Billboard article. Ware told Gay Times, “Everyone knew disco, but I didn’t fully understand the significance of it as a genre for the queer community and the Black community as much.” Remixes, music videos, and social-media activity by these artists did end up giving a platform to Black voices—but those efforts could not change the fact that the albums they promoted were, in the first place, not very inclusive documents.

Replied to Why “no code operations” will be the next big job in tech (blog.usejournal.com)

For an early stage startup, building solutions like this can be a superpower.

This is why I think “no code operations”** is the next great job in tech. If I were thinking about how to break into a startup right now, I would start building with these tools immediately. Even better, I’d start my own business on the side with only these tools. How far can you get with Airtable, Zapier and a website? Go for it, and develop your go-to-market chops and business building prowess along the way.

I enjoyed this piece Ben. I feel have achieved so much just within Google Sheets, including collecting together information, organising responses and generating a timetable.
Liked music blogs by Alex Hern (The World Is Yours*)

I’m happy that the, or at least a, exciting content platform of the day is unambiguously focused on writing rather than video, and happy to that Substack isn’t trying to build a social network. But I’d be lying if I said that the incredible success of a small number of already-established US media figures on the platform wasn’t a bit depressing. The world wasn’t crying out for a way for wealthy American journalists with large followings to earn a higher share of the expenditure of their readers but, at least in the short term, that seems to be the problem Substack is gearing up to solve.

Replied to 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years. | Open Thinkering by Doug Belshaw (Open Thinkering | Doug Belshaw’s blog)

A decade ago, I wrote a post entitled 30 things I’ve learned in 30 years. While I still agree with most of that, on reflection it just doesn’t seem particularly… deep? So, here, in no particular order are 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years

I always appreciate your reflections Doug. This reminds me of your ‘letter from the future‘.
Liked 100 FORMAT (11HHELLO WORLD) by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas (jeremycherfas.net)

What I would absolutely love, and might even be prepared to pay for, would be to have a live human being explain some basic ideas to me. There are tons and tons of online tutorials, as I know, but most of them start from a point that is already beyond me. I’ve spent all my spare time over the past three weeks trying to get there from here, and I am finally prepared to admit I cannot do it.

Liked I Bought a Ghost Town (Popular Mechanics)

Underwood wasn’t looking specifically for an abandoned mining town. He just wanted something with a rich history, and if you take that approach, you’ll find more inventory. “Somebody just texted me a Craigslist listing for an old library in Vermont that has 50,000 books from the 1700s onward,” says Underwood. “It has nine rooms, and it’s potentially haunted.”

That, he says, is the kind of property with value beyond its rickety structure. “People aren’t interested in Cerro Gordo because of the old buildings,” he says. They’re interested because it was the largest mining town in California, and it’s the source of so much mystery and lore. “If I were looking for another property, I would find one like that.”

Liked This was the year Australia restored trust in its politics – and that really is a miracle (theguardian.com)

When there are shared facts and values, and when governments are seen to be broadly competent and connected to the needs of citizenry, politicians lay the foundations of trust, because citizens are bound together rather than occupying detached alternative realities.

Rather than minimising the importance of moments of clarity like this – rather than pretending that government is about synchronising calendars – Morrison should make nurturing these conditions a project of his prime ministership.

Because the lesson of 2020 is democracies are in a larger fight than the transient scrabbles of partisan conflict that define our election cycles.

The crisis of 2020 will pick the world up and set it down in a different place, just as the global financial crisis did before it.

Listened I’m Your Empress Of, by Empress Of from Empress Of

12 track album

This was one of those albums that I overlooked earlier in the year. I dived in after it came up in my recommendations in Spotify. Listening to this album I was reminded of some of the textures from Banks’ III, only to realise that they were both produced by BJ Burton.

Place between BANKS and Sylvan Esso

Marginalia

Written in a two-month break between tours in her Los Angeles home studio, Rodriguez produced the record whilst also processing some serious heartbreak, making ‘I’m Your Empress Of’ deeply personal. It also sees her soaring avant-pop imbued with a new sense of urgency.

I’m Your Empress Of is exhilarating, filled with layers of emotion packed tightly into some of the most infectious, club-ready songs of the year.

I’m Your Empress Of vibrates with the contradictions that one person can contain: how mourning the loss of a partner is bound up with anger, the fatigue of resilience, and the pleasures to be found in escaping it all, if only for one lusty night. With unexpected production and left-field samples, Rodriguez’s album is powered by a heady rawness that bucks the trend for theatrical concepts in today’s electronic pop nonconformists, producing epiphanies like hot stones spat from a fire.

Listened Free Love, by Sylvan Esso from Sylvan Esso

10 track album

Ferris Wheel seriously got stuck in my head, but I was late to the album.

The major single from the record, ‘Ferris Wheel’ is almost the opener’s complete counterpoint. It provides a series of summery vignettes providing hopes of sexual gratification and a beat that is unstoppably infectious. It’s a piece of music that can transport you to a whole new place, time and narrative. It’s a real joy. This duality is what sets Sylvan Esso apart from the rest.

This is the sort of album to just listen to. After a few listens, you manage to know all the twists and turns. There is nothing that wrong with this. Like like how Lucy Shanker captured this:

Free Love is an inherently soothing album, but placed in the context of the year in which it’s being released, its predictability is practically a gift. Each of the 10 songs continues to build on the foundation Sylvan Esso have laid over the past seven years. It’s not boring or repetitive despite it being expected; it’s just the exact album you want them to put out. After all, hasn’t there been enough shock this year?

They also released a follow-up live reworking of some of the tracks as With Love.

The six-track EP was recorded on Tuesday night — mere hours ago as of publication — as part of the final installment of their virtual concert series “From the Satellite”.

Place between Lykke Li and Matthew Herbert

Marginalia

Detractors will rightfully point out that Free Love utilizes the same sonic architecture as its predecessors, but it’s a fairly idiosyncratic template and one that Meath and Sanborn have shown great skill with over three albums now. Besides, the world always needs more dance music for introverts.

There is a word that’s been rattling in the back of my brain this year: phantasmagoric. It’s basically an illusion that has the appearance of truth but isn’t the truth. An interpretation that is created in your own mind that may not exist. The phantasmagoric appear in everyday of our lives, in our politics, in our tweets. It’s how we interact with media of all forms from allowing the suspension of disbelief for a town overrun with monster on Netflix or feeling like a beloved musician wrote a song that speaks just to us. Music is its own deception, a 3-minute escape for whatever ails you. Sylvan Esso seems to be contemplating that imaginary space as well. Ideas about authenticity, celebrity, love, music, and self shift and filter over the course of their new album, Free Love.

Listened
I remember hearing the track Foreign Bodies in a mix by Andy Barlow from Lamb.

I had recorded it on tape and then transferred it onto the computer. However, in the days before Shazam, I had no idea what the track actually was or who it was by.

It was a few years later when when I stumbled upon it. I think it was after taking a dive into the world of Matthew Herbert via Rosion Murphy.

Liked Why I Read 'King Lear' in Advent by Mark Labberton (theatlantic.com)

Since it was finished in 1606, it has never not been relevant. Contemporary stories can be urgent and often compelling, but the seasoned crisis of Lear pierces more primitively, at a deeper and more elementary level. That is one reason it rings as it does.

Liked Tim Ferriss Is No Longer Living the Tim Ferriss Lifestyle. Neither Should You (Inc.)

Because not everything that is meaningful can be measured.

Before you optimize a task or function, take a step back and consider the goal. If extreme efficiency is the only goal, by all means optimize away — because that will make you happy.

But if a personal component is involved — purpose, or meaning, or satisfaction, or fulfillment, or self-awareness, or any number of other emotional rather than quantifiable outcomes — then make sure optimization doesn’t require too high of a cost.