Reminiscing about Music Videos

December 10, 2018

Growing up in the 2000’s I watched a lot of music videos. MTV and VH1 still showed big blocks of videos every morning and afternoon when I enterred high school. By the time I went off to college all of that time had been replaced by reality shows.

At the time, I loved music videos and I dreamed of making them. My favorite thing in the world was when cool bands collaborated with up and coming directors to create bizarre little experimental films around my favorite songs. I downloaded some of my favorite videos to my iPod and watched them on a loop on the school bus. The weekly Top 20 Countdowns were mandatory viewing in my household.

And though music videos are still a living breathing artform on YouTube today, I do feel some wistful yearning for the days of Morning Rush and (to a lesser extent) TRL. I discovered a lot of great songs and bands through those curated segments. That mystique feels very muted on YouTube.

So, as I’ve been thinking back to the music videos of adolescence I thought I’d share a few that inspired me in my formative years.

Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Released in 2000 (when I was eight), the video for “Californication” looks a lot like a Nintendo 64 game I would have plaeyd at the time. The Red Hot Chili Peppers mime their song in front of green-screened sky background, but most of the time that is in cut-out in a tiny corner of the screen. The “stars” of the video are virtual versions of the Chili Peppers who run, swim, drive and snowboard through a virtual Californian hellscape. The graphics haven’t aged incredibly well, but the conceit is still kind of novel.

This is one of the earliest videos I remember. I saw it at my grandma’s house. She had MTV long before my parents did. I was very into video games at the time, we had just gotten our N64. I remember thinking it was so cool that the band had made a video game of themselves. Of course, I had no idea that game didn’t exist. It was still super cool though.

The Scientist by Coldplay

Coldplay’s video for “The Scientist,” is still one of my favorites of all-time. Director James Thraves used a reversed narrative structure* and crafted a tragic backstory for Martin’s lyrics. Martin, to his credit, learned to sing the song backwards for the video and provides a revealingly emotional performance. He plays a grieving man whose significant other has been killed in a car crash. The viewer doesn’t know this until the song’s climactic coda. For the preceding two minutes we see him sleeping in the streets of London and sulking throughout the city.

I was shocked when I first saw Martin fly up off of his street mattress. A younger me couldn’t believe the lengths this video went to. They crashed a car just to play it back backwards! Manchester Orchestra’s video for “Simple Math” would push a lot of the same buttons for me later on, but you never forget that first moment of awe.

I’m Not Okay (I Promise) [Dialogue/MTV Version] by My Chemical Romance

Conceived as a movie trailer for a Revenge of the Nerds-esque comedy. This video stars Gerard Way and company as a group of emo-goth nerds at a preppy private school. Vignettes include people being locked in lockers, bathroom hook-ups, bad first kisses and a fight with the lacrosse team. It’s a surprisingly upbeat little video despite all of the guy-liner.

I have probably watched this video a thousand times. Frequent readers and friends will know that I love coming-of-age movies. This mock movie trailer falls right into that sweet spot. Seeing one of the most “goth” bands of the moment acting so goofy was also appealing to me. I knew people who were scared to listen to MCR. This video always reminds me of how fun they could be.

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

The breakout hit from Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton’s collaboration with Goodie Mob’s Cee-Lo Green. The song became a massive radio hit, but the rorshach test music video is one of my favorite parts. The use of motion capture on Cee-Lo’s face to create the animation makes for some really cool moments.

I mostly remember this video for how different it was. So much of MTV at the time was live performances and skilly skits. This video, like the rest of Gnarls Barkley’s first few years, felt like something wholly different. I don’t think they ever re-captured the “lightning in a bottle moment” of that first album unfortunately.

The Hardest Button to Button by The White Stripes

A year before he released Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and became a force to be reckond with in the film world Michel Gondry directed his fourth of five videos for The White Stripes. As Meg and Jack play their repetitive parts they move across New York City in a strange kind of stop motion. With each bass drum kick Meg moves forward leaving a trail of drums behind her. Jack similarly jumps from place to place by playing the song’s signature riff. As the music builds in complexity so do the shots. At one point the band form a carousel of their instruments and rotate around one another.

I saw this video a few years after it came out, when I started studying music videos in an advanced art class at my high school. I was shocked to see one of my favorite bands had worked with such a well-known director. This was one of the first times I started to really take music videos as an art form seriously.

These were just a few of the videos that really stuck out to me from that time. There are countless others. As a music nerd I was constantly on the hunt for cool new bands and videos. I even made a handful of pretty mediocre videos myself during this period. I just liked the art form that much.

I don’t watch nearly as many music videos today, event though the medium is arguably in a better place than it has ever been. I’m always on the lookout for some new or interesting approach though. So if you see anything, send it my way.

*Previously seen in Spike Jonze’s video for “Drop” by The Pharcyde.

Finally Caught Up: Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three

December 3, 2018
Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three Title Card

Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three Title CardIt took me long enough, but I finally got caught up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After watching Ant-Man and the Wasp I can now recap the third phase of the MCU. I should note that there are two forthcoming films that fit into this phase. But I wanted to write recap everything up to this point while things were still fresh in my head.

Captain America: Civil War

Civil War is basically an Avengers movie in everything but title. Marvel had signed a deal to do three Captain America films, but the plotline they were building toward required a lot of other characters. And so Civil War is a crowded, fast-paced ensemble feature that pulls no punches. Every hero introduced so far gets a cameo and Spider-Man is triumphantly introduced after being from the evil clutches of Sony.

I watched this at home, years after the theatrical release, and it didn’t hit me as hard as I expected. This movie was such a big deal when it came out that I already had an idea of most of what happened. The ensemble experience of the first two Avengers films definitely shows here. Everyone gets equal time and some semblance of a character arc. I actually wanted a little more Captain America, but I can see why he had to lead from the sidelines. This is the first time (of many) where it feels like the MCU is pushing toward something as a unified front.

Doctor Strange

I expected to dislike this movie, based on what I’d heard about it from Marvel die-hards. However, I actually thought it was pretty awesome. The effects and art direction, in particular, are truly impressive. I love the way Strange uses time as a weapon in the climactic fight sequence. It’s also cool to see Inception style gravity-bending turned up to eleven. Definitely going to re-watch this one and comb through some of the more visually intricate scenes again.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Like the first Guardians film, I saw this one during its theatrical release. It retains the sense of fun and goofiness of the original, but gets a little too tied down in a cliche’d family reunion plot-line. I really enjoyed Chris Pratt as Peter Quill in the first film, but he is the second least interesting person in this sequel. Basically everything involving Kurt Russel’s portrayal of Ego the Living Planet is a frustrating exposition dump. The color palette is brighter and the jokes are goofier than ever before. Also, there is Baby Groot.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I. Love. This. Movie.

I’ve always been a huge fan of John Hughes’ seminal ’80s coming-of-age flicks. Homecoming is a love-letter to Hughes and high school where the nerdy protagonist also happens to be Spider-Man. Tom Holland plays a bumbling teenage Peter Parker perfectly. The Vulture is a decent vilalin. There’s a nice twist. Tony Stark is also present. After the epic scale of some of the recent MCU films, it is nice to have a smaller entry into the canon that includes a few good laughs.

Thor: Ragnarok

Where The Dark World was a miserable slog through a sea of grey, Ragnarok is a lively jaunt thorugh a technicolor dystopia. The unlikely team-up of Thor and Hulk (spoiled by the trailer…ugh) makes for a unique chemistry. Jeff Goldblum is basically just playing his ridiculous self. Tom Hiddleston chews up and spits out every inch of scenery he touches. This film really feels like a tour de force.

Acclaimed director and first-time MCU contributor Taika Waititi makes the most of the comic book craziness here. The fight scenes are over-the-top, the art direction is ridiculous and the actors genuinely seem like they’re having a blast with it all. I really hope he gets to make another blockbuster like this soon.

Black Panther

The hype was so loud and the praise was so effusive that I skipped Black Panther while it was in theaters. It’s an amazing film deserving of some serious award consideration this year. There’s nothing else I can say that hasn’t already been said.

Avengers: Infinity War

Was it ambitious? Yes.

Was it a cross-over event? Yes.

Was it the most ambitious cross-over event of all-time? Maybe.

Infinity War is the first time in this franchise where I honestly forgot I was watching a film. This feels more like a season finale of a streaming drama series than a movie. There’s almost no introduction to the plot, very little character exposition and no resolution. The effect is somewhat dizzying, especially with its breakneck pacing that makes 160 minutes fly by.

The last ten minutes of this movie have been the subject of a lot of fan speculation. Where did all of our heroes disappear to? What happens to them there? How will they get back?

This is all undercut by the fact that we know they live. Most of the actors are signed on for 2-3 more movies. On one hand, it sucks to lose the suspense of who lives and who dies. On the other, I’m glad that some of my favorites are definitely going to live to make another blockbuster.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Everything in every movie leading up to this one was extremely important. The groundwork for Infinity War was laid years ago. So what’s up with Ant-Man? Well, he’s on house arrest.

I’ve heard a few people say they don’t like the Ant-Man movies because they don’t matter. I can argue for the importance of the first film as a palate cleanser during the phase of darkness and grit. This is just a playful romp.

The whole cast performs well, the effects are even better than before and the new additions to the team (Laurence Fishburn!) fit in nicely. I love the shrinking cars and buildings. I still can’t believe T.I. can act.

The problem is that the stakes feel as small as the quantum void. We all know that Thanos’ plan succeeds somewhere at or around the time of this movie, so what happens here barely matters. Sure enough, all of Ant-Man’s firends disappear in the post-credits sequence and that is honestly the most intriguing minute out of the 125 here.

Still to Come…

It’s hard to judge this phase without seeing how it ends. Captain Marvel will make her debut in March of 2019 and we’ll see how the Infinity War shakes out in April.

My hunch, based on who survived, is that we’ll lose most (if not all) of the original Avengers next year. The actors are tired of their roles and the franchise’s newer more diverse characters have proven extremely popular.

Marvel has proven that audiences can follow a continuous story over the course of ten years and twenty-something movies. There are even super-fans that keep up with the ancillary streamings shows. Will those audiences stay after their core roster of heroes goes away?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an impressive example of how to excel at storytelling, marketing and filmmaking in the post-modern age. It has attracted a lot of pale imitations (looking at you DC) and half-hearted hangers-on (ABC just renewed Agents of Shield for a sixth season). Most of the movies in the series are only remarkable as parts of the whole, but they present a consistently entertaining experience.

I’m glad I took the time to get caught up, but more importantly I’m excited to see what happens next.

A Month of Getting Things Done

November 12, 2018
My list of books and movies to read and watch in Omnifocus

I’m a little over a month in to Getting Things Done, so I thought I’d provide an update.

My Setup

As I wrote in my Starting to Get Things Done post, I’ve set myself up in my new office with a physical in-tray, Outlook for my email and a task management app. I ended up going with OmniFocus 3, partially because most podcasters I listen to recommend it and partially because I got education pricing on the Mac version.

I try to keep my inboxes as low as possible throughout the day by knocking out any less than five minute tasks as I get the chance. This wasn’t much of a change for me. I’ve always kept tabs on those sorts of things throughout the day. The difference is that now I shut them out when I’m working on larger projects.

Managing Projects in the Workplace

Those larger projects have been the main focus of my new GTD system. My role in the university invovles communicating with a lot of stakeholders and managaing a lot of collective input. Through the liberal use of tagging in OmniFocus I’ve managed to keep on track of tasks and thoughts for about a dozen coworkers at a time. Every time I walk into a meeting I pull up the tag for that person and work my way through the list of things left outstanding between us. It’s been particularly helpful with those that I don’t see every day.

I’ve also found the weekly review (recommended by GTD and built-into OmniFocus) to be a great way of catching up on projects that may be buried in someone else’s inbox. As we get closer to holiday travel projects often tend to get stuck in limbo, waiting on deliverables from who know’s who. A simple weekly check-up has helped me at least keep tabs on where things are which eases my mind.


My list of books and movies to read and watch in OmnifocusThroughout Getting Things Done, David Allen advocates for employing his system throughout your entire life no matter how awkward it may initially feel. I was reluctant to project manage my home and social life, but after a month of admittedly minimal implementation I’m sold.

I’m not tracking every potential social interaction or routine task as a box to be checked. That would be ridiculous.

Instead, I’m trying to keep lists of potential ways to spend time when I’m bored rather than endlessly scrolling on Twitter.

For example, as Oscar season approaches I’m building a list of movies to see in anticipation of the nominations. I’ve also got a list of local restaurants and bars I want to check out. Another list is full of small improvements I want to make around my apartment.

Keeping track of these things in OmniFocus and tagging them properly has helped me avoid those painful indecisive conversations like “Where should we go for dinner?” or “What should we do this weekend?” Now I have a long list of things past me was interested in that I can filter through my mood and run by whoever I’m meeting up with. I should have started keeping those lists years ago.

On the whole, I think this was a great move and one I should have made a couple of years ago. The Getting Things Done system and its insistence on coimpletionism matches up well with my way of thinking.

Writing down every little thing I want or need to do has been great for me. It freed up a lot of my mental energy and minimized the sense of always feeling like I was forgetting something.

I’d highly recommend it to just about anyone.

A Weekend of Beer and Blogging

November 5, 2018
UFO Pumpkin Ale brewed in Boston and consumed in Tennessee by way of Georgia

This weekend I met Jeff Casavant in northern Tennessee for a camping trip and the opportunity to zero out our beer bet for the year so far.


A Place Out of Time

Fall foliage at Bandy Creek CampgroundBandy Creek Campground, where we stayed stradles the line between the Eastern and Central Time Zones. Our trip also fell on the end of Daylight Savings Time in the United States. With minimal cell service and no way of knowing which zone we were in I mostly gave up on tracking the time.

I tried to connect to a cell network just long enough for my Apple Watch to get the sunrise and sunset times each morning. The rest of the day was pure guess work. We ate when we got hungry and hiked until we were tired. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent that long not thinking about what time it was.

On the way down from the Angel Falls Overlook our conversation turned to the midterm elections. It wasn’t until that point that I realized I hadn’t checked Twitter, read the New York Times or kept up with any news at all since Friday afternoon. In the heat of a contentious election season it was great to just walk away from all of that. I early voted a few weeks ago anyway, so it really felt like the weight of the situation was gone for a little while. What a welcome change.

Beers & Blogging

UFO Pumpkin Ale brewed in Boston and consumed in Tennessee by way of GeorgiaBased on our records it looked like I had missed four posts and Jeff had missed five, so we owed each other four and five beers respectively. I stopped at a Kroger on the way out of Atlanta and created a mixed six pack of some of my favorite breweries of the southeast (Terrapin, Monday Night and Highland) plus some UFO (from Boston) for good measure. Jeff went a slightly different route picking out three core flavors from two of his favorite breweries: BrewDog and Land Grant.

Rotating through new tastes and old favorites around the campfire was an excellent way to spend an evening. I noticed that our conversation similarly rotated around new and oldtopics we’d written about. We made reference to each others’ blogs and recommended media and topics based on the other’s work.

When we made this bet (at Fifty West Brewing) last December I don’t think I realized how much it would impact our relationship to each other. Jeff and I have always kept in touch, but we haven’t shared regular updates like this since we were working on stage crew together in high school. Reading what is on someone’s mind once-a-week for a year creates a much deeper impression of the person. I’m pleased and honored that Jeff has agreed to take the time to commit to that with me this year.

Announcing “No Repeat”

October 29, 2018
No Repeat Podcast artwork

No Repeat Podcast artworkI’m very excited to announce a new project I’ve been working on. After three years of pocasting, my friends Shaun EvansTyler Reed and I have decided to end our pop culture panel show Dudes Brunch and launch a new music podcast: No Repeat.

This podcast is a natural evolution of Dudes Brunch with a clearer focus and more polished presentation. Each week we’ll begin with a prompt or situation such as the best karaoke song.

We each pick one song and argue for its inclusion in the canon of songs on our endless Spotify playlist. Those songs are then ineligible for all future challenges.

As time goes on the choices will get narrower, the challenges will get more esoteric and we’ll hopefully be forced to listen to new and different kinds of music.

The format may be new, but the conversation is classic. Shaun, Tyler and I have built our friendship on ten years of loving and listening to music together. We went to some of our first concerts together. We spent hours swapping songs on flash drives and burned CDs in Tyler’s basement as kids. And we have very strong opinions about what we like and dislike.

One of the most exciting parts of this show for me will be seeing how the audience pushes us into new challenges. We’ll be accepting submission prompts via Twitter and Email, and I really hope things get weird fast. All three of us have over 1,000 songs in our iTunes Libraries and we honestly belive we can find a song for just about any occasion.

I’m also just excited to continue to have the opportunity to make cool things with two of my oldest friends. That was the spirit behind Dudes Brunch, and its the underlying motivation of No Repeat. I hope you’ll get at least as much enjoyment out of listening to it as we do recording it.

No Repeat is available now on Apple PodcastsOvercastTuneIn and as an RSS feed via Libsyn.

I’ve also embedded the first episode below for your listening pleasure.

Trying Typora: A Minimalist Markdown Editor

October 22, 2018
Screenshot of Typora on the Mac

Screenshot of Typora on the MacI’ve toyed around with Markdown a little bit in the past as a Reddit user and internet nerd, but I really didn’t start using it in earnest until I spent a lot of time writing on the iPad this summer. I took a recommendation from Jason Snell and started using 1Writer, which is a great minimalist Markdown writer.

When I became accustomed to writing in the language I needed a solution for my iMac at home. After months of passive-agressive searching I think I’ve found my solution in Typora.

Typora is a super minmal Markdown editor for Mac, Windows and Linux that uses Github Flavored Markdown. It’s attractive, fast and stays out of my way. Basically it’s exactly what I was looking for.

There are a lot of great text editors availble for the Mac that support Markdown. However, most of them also support dozens of other languages and are used primarily by programmers. Typora is one of a few editors that seem to focus on prose.

When you open the app you’re immediately greeted with a blank document. When you hover over the window’s title bar you get a word count and an option to open the sidebar. That’s all that’s there. The rest is just a blank canvas for your text.

I almost always launch it directly into full-screen mode. I think its a carry-over from iOS, but I just haste having anything else on the screen while I’m writing.1 I also use Typora’s “Night” theme, which is a light-grey on dark-grey look that is easy on the eyes at any time of the day or night.

As you write Markdown, Typora creates a live preview of your formmatted text. It even auto-completes certain common character sets like square-brackets and parenthesis. Purists may find this distracting or frilly, but I like it a lot. It gives a better perspective when I need to look back to a section above where I’m typing.

The app auto-saves documents to a user-defined folder (in my case, a drafts folder in Dropbox) and can export your document to a handful of common formats including HTML, RTF, PDF and even Microsoft Word’s .DOCX.

My only minor complaint is that I wish I didn’t have to save an exported file for uploading to my CMS. I prefer 1Writer’s option to copy the article to clipboard as Rich Text for easy insertion. The “Copy as HTML” works just as well most of the time, but every once in a while I need to paste Rich Text.

Typora is currently in beta on all three platforms and the developers are sharing it for free during the beta period. If you write anything longer than a tweet on a desktop or laptop I highly recommend checking it out. I’ll almost certainly be picking up a paid copy when it comes out of beta.

1 If I need a web browser to do research or cite links I’ll keep it in a separate desktop space immediately to the left.

In Another Life by Sandro Perri – A Review

October 15, 2018
"In Another Life" by Sanro Perri album cover

Album artwork for "In Another Life" by Sandro PerriI listen to a lot of ambient music. It’s a way I calm down my anxious brain and wind down after a long day. Usually when I’m in those moods I listen to Brian Eno, Moby or Trent Reznor. This month though, I’ve been fascinated by an album outside of my usual circles: In Another Life by Sandro Perri.

Sandro Perri has built an avid following for his blend of folk sounds, acoustic instruments, quiet vocals and experimental synth textures. His latest album seems to be a refinement of his previous works. On In Another Life, Perri lets songs simmer and develop slowly. He also invites collaborators to bring their own vocal flare to his beautiful soundscapes. The album exudes a quite confidence that I’ve found really reassuring and relaxing.

In Another Life is structured as a vinyl record made up of two long tracks. The entire first side is taken up by the title track and the three movement suite “Everybody’s Paris” makes up the b-side. Streaming services break this up into four tracks, but I listen to either the whole thing or one side at a time since each “piece” clocks in right around twenty-three minutes.

In Another Life

Perri’s epic title track is one of the stickiest pieces of music I’ve heard in years. The pensive piano chords that serve as the track’s foundation have carved grooves into my brain like the catchiest of pop songs. The electric guitar slides and bubbling synthesizers add an ever-evolving texture to the piece, but those piano chords make this song work for me.

Sandro Perri croons over top of this repeating cycle of bleeps, bloops and chords with a sincerity that could cut through glass. He laments about the world around him and waxes poetic about ideal states of being. He intermittently repeating the titular phrase “…in another life…” like a mantra. The result is a calming sense of possibility mixed with a haunting sadness. By the end of the song it starts to feel surreal, like the spiraling thoughts of an anxious mind.

As he sings, Perri’s synthesizers ebb and flow between a minimal drone and near cacophony. He uses stereo panning to excellent effect, with patterns entering and receding like passing cars. The changes creep up on you, which helps the time go by as you fall in and out of focus on the music. A piece this long almost begs the mind to recede into its own thoughts. Perri gently pulls the listener back every few minutes with new sounds throughout.

Everybody’s Paris

Separated into three parts, “Everybody’s Paris” feels more like a series of traditional “songs” than “In Another Life.” Each section is lead by a different vocalist, with Perri taking lead on the first section. All three movements are meditations on the city of Paris, built upon a shared chord progression.

“Everybody’s Paris” moves from plinking pianos, childrens’ singing and Perri’s ethereal croon to a swinging lounge jam led by Andre Ethier and ends somberly with a distorted dirge sung by Dan Bejar. It feels like the progression of a day or a life spent in the City of Lights. However you interpret it, the suite is impressive.

As the pieces pushes on the perspective on Paris becomes more and more negative. Perri’s lyrics in part one are mostly hopeful and aspirational: “Everybody’s Paris, everybody’s France, Everybody coming when they get the chance”. Ethier celebrates the everyday parts of everybody’s Paris in a ballad to the mundane beauty of city life. Bejar, though, shares a much darker picture of Paris:

In a city of lights In a city that lights up Everybody wants to fall then get back up But all around you the dead stack up In everybody’s Paris

Despite this darkness, I find a strange kind of joy in “Everybody’s Paris”. It feels like a character study of a city. It provides glimpses into how one place can mean many things to many people.

The plurality of interpretation is, in my opinon, the best part of In Another Life as an album. These songs are organized around central thoughts, but they leave a lot of space for interpretation. They inspire creative thought and encourage imagination. I think that’s why they’ve had such a tight grip on my mind lately.

Starting to Get Things Done

October 1, 2018
I’m excited to be starting in a new professional role next week. I’ll be joining the team at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies within Georgia State University as their website coordinator.
As part of the transition into a new position I wanted to take some time and re-evaluate my productivity systems. I’ve heard podcasters and tech professionals praise David Allen’s Getting Things Done for two or three years now, but I’m finally going to give it a shot.
It was Do By Friday’s recent episode on the system that pushed me over the edge. Merlin Mann’s admission that the book is somewhat dated helped me contextualize the method differently. He explains how many of the productivity apps and techniques we use today are based on or inspired by GTD. Once that clicked for me I realized that I’ve been using a watered down version of this system for longer than I thought.
As mentioned in my State of the Apps from early 2018, I’ve been using Asana and Evernote to keep track of projects in my life for a couple of years now. I’ve also experimented with more traditionally GTD-esque tools like Wunderlist and Todoist in the past. Now that I’ve started reading up on the original method, I’m starting to see how many of these apps have spun off from the core concepts. Asana, in particular, leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to contextual organization of tasks.
So in starting my new role I’m going to start from scratch. I’m going to try to implement Getting Things Done as close to its original description as possible. I plan to use Evernote as my reference filing system, a physical in-tray as well as a basic desktop-based email client, and either Things 3 or Omnifocus as my task manager. I’ll use the same systems for maintaining this site and producing podcasts, in hopes of simplifying my life a little bit. 
One of the first tasks I’ll input into my new system will be writing a recap of the first month for this blog. We’ll see how this goes.

The Beatles Announce 50th Anniversary “White Album” Reissue

September 24, 2018

From Stereogum, The Beatles Announce 50th Anniversary “White Album” Reissue:

The Beatles’ helter-skelter behemoth from 1968, officially a self-titled double-LP, will get the expansive reissue treatment on 11/9, a couple weeks ahead of its original 11/22 release date. As Variety reports, George Martin’s son Giles, who handled last year’s Sgt. Pepper reissue, has remastered the full 30-song tracklist alongside studio engineer Sam Okell. The set will also include 27 early acoustic demos and 50 session takes; most are previously unreleased, though a few appeared on the band’s Anthology collections. The legendary “Esher Demos” are part of the package as well.

I am beyond excited for this. Followers of this blog already know that I love The Beatles, and their 1968 self-titled double album is my favorite of their works. I will absolutely be picking this up.

The so-called White Album is unique in The Beatles discography as their longest and most diverse release. Each member of the band wrote multiple tracks, though the lion’s share were still Lennon-McCartney originals. This album also features a little help from some friends, including: Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Jackie Lomax, Maureen Starkey, Patti Harrison and Mal Evans.

After the failed psychedelic film project Magical Mystery Tour this double album was billed as a return to form. It includes some of the most straightforward rock songs of The Beatles middle period. “Back in the USSR,” “Glass Onion,” and “Helter Skelter” still hit hard fifty years after their release. Jams like “Yer Blues” and “Savoy Truffle” could be from any number of Garage and Psychedelic revival groups of the 2010s. There are also some really strange experiments in there too, though. “Wild Honey Pie” and “Revolution 9” are two of the weirdest tracks in The Beatles catalog.

That’s what I love about The White Album, it’s the best of both kinds of Beatles: the art school avant-garde and the working class rockers. It’s also a great glimpse at the individual members of the band. By this time the Fab Four were operating more independently than ever. They were getting married, acting, traveling the world and even making a bit of music on their own. These disparate influences shine through on songs like Lennon’s politically charged “Revolution 1,” McCartney’s music hall inspired “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” Harrison’s world weary ballad “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and Starr’s country-western flavored “Don’t Pass Me By.”

In my opinion, this is the most wide-ranging and timeless album of the Fab Four’s career. Nowhere else do you hear all four Beatles supporting each other’s unique talents so clearly. The Beatles, as the album is formally known, spawned no hit singles and is often derided for its admittedly weird moments. Still, I hope its 50th anniversary and this reissue bring it to the ears of more fans. I’m certainly going to give it a few more listens this Fall.

Ten Years on Twitter: A Look Back

September 3, 2018
Ten Years on Twitter - A Look Back

This week, my Twitter-less friend Jeff Casavant asked me to write about the ten years I’ve spent on Twitter.

My first reaction was that being a regular user of Twitter for more than ten years has felt sort of like a death by a thousand cuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I still really appreciate and enjoy Twitter. I check my timeline almost hourly and I tweet on average once per day not counting replies.

My general attitude towards Twitter has changed pretty significantly over time though. I think a lot of that has to do with the diverging interests of Twitter the company and Twitter as a community.

The Cocktail Party of the Internet

I joined Twitter in December of 2008, back when most tweets were sent and delivered as text messages. Many of my early tweets read like things that would be sent to a group text thread today.

In those days Twitter was still a pretty small place. It felt like an extension of my real world friend group and a chance to reach out and meet new people.

The tech industry had already hopped on, musicians soon followed and it seemed like everybody  worth following was still going to SXSW every Spring.

Third-party apps and data visualizations started popping up thanks to Twitter’s wide open API. The user community invented conventions like the @reply and the retweet. The whole endeavor felt uniquely collaborative.

Gary Vaynerchuk gained a lot of clout during this period and started calling Twitter “the cocktail party of the internet,” where you could run into just about anybody.

It really did feel that way too. Gary used to randomly tweet “What can I do for you?” and then fulfill people’s bizarre requests for favors. Once during college I caught one of these tweets at the right time and he bought me lunch.

The Creation of a Culture

The world of “Weird Twitter” began to emerge in the summer of 2010. Surreal accounts like @Dril had existed since the earliest days, but it was @Horse_ebooks and @ProBirdRights that signaled the popularization of a new kind of content.

These strange comedic snippets added to the growing culture of snark on Twitter. There was a unique brand of witty sarcasm developing among the most engaged users. It matched up with my dry sense of humor and constant media consumption.

In the early 2010s it seemed like the community was growing, but very few “normal” people I knew were joining. Most of my timeline was classmates, media professionals and weird meme accounts. Sports Twitter was becoming a larger demographic, but event here the most sarcastic content was king.

The general public started paying more attention to Twitter in the 2012 presidential election. President Obama’s campaign used Twitter to massive success and had one of the most retweeted posts on the site after their victory.

Then Oreo tweeted a perfectly timed snarky marketing message during a power outage at the Super Bowl. Social media marketers talk about this tweet to this day as the perfect example of capitalizing on a moment in the cultural zeitgeist.

Those two posts, less than six months apart, seem like a tipping point to me. From then on, we all started taking this website more seriously. Social media marketing became an even more massive industry. The jokes and quips during live events like the Super Bowl and The Oscars became a sort of comedy contest. It seemed like this was going to be the sharp, witty, cultured alternative to Facebook.

Everything in Moderation

Then there was Gamergate. It’s hard to express how intense and far reaching this controversy was on Twitter. Everyone I followed was trying to deal with the ramifications. Hugely popular accounts were being doxxed and it seemed like one mistyped message could put you in the harassers’ sights.

There had always been bad actors on Twitter, but this seemed like a new level of terrible. Hate groups and conspiracy theorists started amassing large followings. Twitter (the company) shut down its verification program after “accidentally” verifying a white supremacist.  It started to feel like the company had no system of moderation and was losing control of the community it had spent years building.

Donald Trump has been a notable presence on the platform for about as long as I can remember. He joined three months after me, in March of 2009. By the end of the Republican National Convention in 2016 I think we all knew he wasn’t going anywhere and neither was his rapidly growing follower base.

It suddenly seemed like way more people were on Twitter. Donald Trump quickly became the most notable user of the site and the dominant discussion topic. Everyone was complaining about or cheering for President Trump and no amount of mute filters1 could keep your timeline off the topic.

Now, a lot of people I follow are talking about limiting their time on Twitter or leaving the service altogether. There’s been discussions of “Twitter addiction” and an overall sense of fatigue. Technologists are leaving for alternative services like Mastodon and

I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere. Most of the friends I joined with are still active on the site. I maintain accounts for work, and I use my personal account to do a good bit of professional networking. Weird Twitter is still alive and funnier than ever.

The last eighteen months or so have definitely made re-think my ten years of tweeting. I imagine I’ll remain a member of the community, but I’m probably going to try to spend less time there.

1It should be noted that “Mute Filters” are a feature of many third-party Twitter clients, which Twitter (the company) has spent the last few years running out of business. This has angered many of the community’s most engaged users, including yours truly.