Just Listening to Music

April 16, 2018
My simple stereo headphones are nothing special, but they get the job done

My simple stereo headphones are nothing special, but they get the job doneWhen I was a kid, throughout middle and high school, I used to spend a ton of time just listening to music. I would get a new CD from the library or some new MP3s from some sketchy download service and pore over them for hours. Now it has become a special treat to listen through an album.

I haven’t stopped listening to music altogether, but I’ve stopped just listening to music. I no longer intentionally sit down simply to experience songs. I constantly find that I have to fit music in around the rest of my day. And if I do have a spare hour for an album I inevitably end up doing something else halfway through the first side.

I’m sure part of this is the increased obligations of being an adult and living on one’s own. Another part is probably the insane amount of podcasts I listen to. The abundance of readily available streaming video is certainly a contributing factor as well.

Lately I’ve found myself craving the solitary listening experiences of my youth.

I brought my phone, EarPods and a book to the laundromat tonight. Redundant entertainment to keep me from spending a single moment idle. In the end, I spent most of the wash-dry-fold cycle just listening to music.

For the first time in a long time I sat through an album just staring off into space. Granted, POST- by Jeff Rosenstock clocks in at a brief forty minutes, but it was a nice feeling. I found that I enjoyed the songs a lot more on this listen than I had during the countless times I’ve heard them in the car over the last few months. There was something about the intentionality of it that made them feel more impactful.

When I got home and put my laundry away I kept on listening. Even though there’s an unedited podcast project on my desktop and there are dishes that need washing in the kitchen. I sat in my room ruminating about writing while listening to Television. It felt like old times, even though the band’s sophomore LP Adventure was new to me.

I started my third album of the evening, Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds, while writing this post. I can feel myself ignoring it though, so I think I’m going to wrap things up here and just listen to the music.

Empire Records Headed to Broadway!?

April 8, 2018
The cast of Empire Records

Via Stereogum, Empire Records Broadway Musical In Development:

Empire Records is being turned into a Broadway musical, as Deadline reports. The musical is in development now and is being eyed for a 2020 debut, which would coincide with the film’s 25th anniversary. The stage adaptation of the 1995 cult film, which is set in a failing record store, is being made alongside the film’s original writer Carol Heikkinen, with music and lyrics written by Zoe Sarnak, who is behind the upcoming musical Afterwords.
This is radical news to hear on Rex Manning Day! I really hope this production actually makes it to the stage. I love Empire Records and I can just imagine how a blend of soundtrack cuts and original songs could make it into a super fun musical. Plus, who doesn’t want to see more of Sexy Rexy?

The Life and Death of The Dana Carvey Show

April 7, 2018
A promotional image for The Dana Carvey Show

I watched a great documentary this week on Hulu called Too Funny to Fail; The Life and Death of the Dana Carvey Show.

I’ve been a big fan of Dana Carvey since I was a little kid. My uncle did a mean Church Lady impression, and I remember checking out his Saturday Night Live Best Of DVD from my local library.

I had never heard of his short-lived sketch show. Learning of it now, I’m realizing I would have totally been one of its raving fans if I weren’t four-years-old when it aired.

The Dana Carvey Show was an off-kilter sketch show with an anti-authoritarian streak and a strange sense of glee. Its cast and crew included Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK and Robert Smigel.

In the documentary a few of the contributors mention that Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a key influence. I was a big Python fan in middle and high school thanks to a friend’s extensive DVD collection. Watching a couple of episodes of The Dana Carvey Show brought me into a weird parallel nostalgia for my afternoons spent with the Pythons.

If this sounds like something up your alley, you should check out the trailer for Too Funny to Fail:

I also want to share what may be the best moment in the film. In this clip Robert Smigel recalls the night when he finally watched ABC’s  broadcast of The Dana Carvey Show in context. He immediately understood how horrible it was that their show aired after the family friendly sitcom Home Improvement. The documentarians then showed the lead-in to Carrell, Colbert and other cast and crew in the present-day. Their reactions are priceless.

The full eight episode run of The Dana Carvey Show is now also streaming on Hulu. It’s well worth four hours of your time.

Beam Barrel Aged Buds

April 3, 2018

From Ad Age,  Budweiser and Jim Beam team up for new beer:

Budweiser in September plans to release a limited-edition brew called Reserve Copper Lager that is aged on Jim Beam bourbon barrel staves. (Staves are wood pieces that makeup bourbon barrels.) Before then, the two brands will begin appearing together at bars. The “beer and a bourbon shot” promotion kicks off this month.

Beam Barrel Aged Budweiser seems like a no-brainer to me, and I’m surprised they didn’t come up with it sooner. Barrel-aging is really taking off in the craft scene right now. I’m glad to see trends and new styles bridging the gap into the macro-brewing space too. Anything to bring more variety to the table.

RSS is Due for a Comeback

April 3, 2018

Via Wired,  RSS Readers Are Due for a Comeback:

The difference between getting news from an RSS reader and getting it from Facebook or Twitter or Nuzzel or Apple News is a bit like the difference between a Vegas buffet and an a la carte menu. In either case, you decide what you actually want to consume. But the buffet gives you a whole world of options you otherwise might never have seen.

This analogy perfectly sums up why I’m still a die-hard RSS fan. I want to get the news I’m interested in from the sources I trust without having to wade through a sea of click-bait and garbage.

Free the Line; A Film by Shantell Martin

April 2, 2018

Shantell Martin created this great short for the Moment Invitational:

I’ve been following Shantell for a few months now, because I love the way she succinctly describes her creative process. Her focus on flow and feeling are really appealing to me. It’s so outside of how I think. I’ve always had to create inside of structures and processes to feel comfortable with my work.

I also love that she’s working within a scene and used this opportunity to show the work of her peers and talk to them about their processes. I’m a huge nerd for that sort of thing.

Too Many Chat Apps

April 2, 2018
All of the chat apps currently on my iPhone

My blogging counterpart, Jeff Casavant, recently wrote a mini-series on the chat app Matrix. My TLDR understanding of Matrix is that it bridges multiple chat services into one app, creating separate rooms for each and replicating their structure (i.e. Topic-based channels for Slack, one-on-one instances for Facebook Messenger and so on).

I like this idea in theory, but I find it clunky in practice. 

Matrix is an impressive band-aid on the gaping wound that is text chat. Ever since WhatsApp and similar clients started gaining considerable attention we’ve seen a bevy of new chat apps.

It seems like every eighteen months I’m asked to join up with another one for some project or another. I have SMS/iMessage, Facebook Messenger for conversations with friends, Skype for Business at work (which basically no one uses), Slack for my podcasting team, Discord for my D&D group. Oh, and Snapchat, for whatever Snapchat is now.1

If I’m being honest, the chat app I enjoy the most is iMessage. And that’s because, at the end of the day, I know most people will check their texts. You can have hundreds of apps with chat features on your phone, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t pay attention to them. 

There’s a part of me that likes the separation. I like being able to mute notifications for an app when I’m not engaging with that group or project. I also like being able to separate personal conversations with collaborators from work on our projects. I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps right now.

As the chat space gets more and more fragmented I feel like I lose track of more people. I’ve run out of space in my brain to remember everyone’s favorite apps. Jeff prefers Matrix, Tyler only checks Messenger and my DM needs my latest character sheet uploaded to Discord.

I applaud the innovation in each of these apps and I’m glad to see Matrix trying to make sense of it all. I’m just ready for things to settle down a little bit. For now, I’m going to try to keep my inventory instant messengers down to two rows of my home screen.

All of the chat apps currently on my iPhone

This list doesn’t include any dating apps, because I’m honestly not sure if these classify as chat apps.

Apple Watch is my Co-Pilot

March 26, 2018
My Apple Watch showing a boarding pass

Delta Boarding Pass on my Apple WatchThis past weekend I was in New England, in three weeks I’ll be in Cincinnati and then three weeks after that I’ll be in Toledo, Ohio. These seasons of back-to-back travel always make me think a lot about systems and tools to improve my trips.

I don’t know that anything has improved my traveling life more in recent years than my Apple Watch. This tiny little computer I carry on my wrist is an absolute necessity whenever I leave my home city now.

One of the Watch’s killer features for me is it’s role in turn-by-turn navigation. Shown off in the first demo for the device, Apple Maps on the Watch is perfect for navigating new cities. I used it to get around Boston this weekend by train and on foot. The transit directions do a good enough job of telling you the ideal stops to enter and exit trains.

It’s the walking directions that really make it indispensable to me though. I love getting a tap on my wrist telling me to turn at the end of the block without pulling out my phone. Not only does this keep my hands warm inside my gloves, it also keeps me from looking a tourist which is both reassuring and helpful. The last thing I’d want is to get my phone stolen while I’m on the road.

I’m also a huge fan of Apple Pay. As more stores in the US adopt contactless payments it keeps me from reaching for my wallet, but it also keeps my transactions encrypted while I’m in foreign territory. On this last trip I started using the Watch’s Wallet app for my boarding passes at the gate too, which was way more convenient than digging in my pockets or my bag for my phone.

And that leads me to playback controls. Being able to control music and podcasts on the watch while I’m walking through airports is satisfyingly convenient. I go back and forth between devices for these functions, but its nice to have multiple options when I’m in a rush or my phone is underneath a couple of layers of jackets.

As much as I love my Apple Watch there are still a few features I think it needs for it to be the perfect travel companion.

While playback controls are great, they only work when your bluetooth is on. Right now Apple Watch and iPhone both turn bluetooth off as soon as you turn on Airplane Mode. So you have to manually re-enable bluetooth to regain controls on the Watch. This seems like an easy fix that could have been resolved a while ago.

And speaking of playback controls, it’s mildly infuriating that Now Playing has to be open and the watch has to be awake for turning the Digital Crown to control volume. I’d love to just reach down and turn without even looking at the display.

Technically the charger is an accessory, but I’m bitter about the lack of quality third-party Apple Watch chargers out there. I’d love a more portable solution than the long USB puck and string. Something integrated into the side of a portable USB charger would be cool. The Twelve South TimePorter makes a good solution for most situations, but I still think something better should exist.

On the whole, I probably use my Apple Watch more when I travel than I do at any other time. It’s a great little companion and I love it more with every trip I take. I can’t wait to see where my watch and I go next.

Uplifting Content for when the Internet is Just Too Much

March 19, 2018
Apple's classic "Sad Mac" sums up a lot of current web content

Apple's classic "Sad Mac" sums up a lot of current web contentWorking on the web, it’s very easy to get sucked into a weird sort of hive mind. Drama echoes around the blogs and think pieces of the contemporary internet in tones of angry indignation like the halls of a high school.

From career defining burnouts like Logan Paul’s trip to Japan to wide-reaching bugs and scandals like the Heartbleed bug, our industry seems to be the first to know and the last to forget about all kinds of terrible stuff. The recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica and its shady practices surrounding the 2016 US Election and the UK’s EU Referendum are following a similar pattern.

All of these things are terrible in their own way and I don’t mean to minimize them at all.

I am feeling a bit jaded by the current state of affairs online though. We’re three months into 2018 and so far it is not looking like a great year to be a creative on the internet.

Or is it?

In light of some of the frustrating and depressing news on the net I’ve consciously tried turning my attention to lighter fare. And it turns out there’s still a lot of great uplifting stuff online.

I wanted to share a short list of things that have been renewing my hope and excitement about the internet lately in the hopes that it might brighten your browser as well:

The Anthropocene Reviewed

Author, video blogger and podcaster John Green’s latest project is a monthly-ish look at the things humans have created or enabled in the world. Each episode includes historical rundowns of two topics which are then rated on a five-star scale. Topics range from Cholera to Diet Dr. Pepper. Like most things Green does, this podcast is smart and silly in a way that feels like it could only exist in the 21st century.

Cecil Robert

We’ve talked at length about the unique “music videos” of Cecil Robert on Dudes Brunch lately. This YouTube user’s unique ability to provoke an emotional reaction by placing music in desolate spaces is weird and wonderful. Some of the videos on this channel make me laugh, some make me want to cry, but all of them make me glad to live in a time where this kind of content is possible.

Africa by Toto Bot

It tweets lyrics to that one Toto song you like.

The Aunt Nancy

The impromptu resurgence and canonization of a stunt cocktail created on a goof for a podcast in 2003. John Gruber and Paul Kafasis discussed this at length on The Talk Show earlier this year and I can’t stop thinking about how weirdly charming  segment was. Also, the phrase “fistful of maraschino cherries” always brings a smile to my face.

I’m always looking for new fun little things from the internet. If you know some good ones, leave a comment.