drwex: (Default)
2017-06-04 07:49 pm
Entry tags:

[sticky entry] Sticky: Let's just get this out of the way

(slightly modified from a post by Cory Doctorow)

Dear Liberals, Independents, and principled Conservatives
In 2020 there will be a candidate competing against Donald Trump for President. It is very likely this candidate:
  1. Isn't your first choice

  2. Isn't 100% ideologically pure

  3. Has made mistakes

  4. Might not really excite you all that much

  5. Has ideas you are uncomfortable with

Please start the process of getting over that shit now instead of waiting until 2020.

Dear Democratic Establishment
In 2020 we will need to choose a candidate to fight Trump, an actual threat to the survival of the human race. So you might be tempted (again) to ask America to vote for a warmongering, banker-friendly, more-of-the-same candidate, on the theory that we'll vote for the candidate who makes people like you rich as fuck rather than enduring four more years of Trump, even if that candidate is terrible in every way except for not being Trump.

That is a hell of a gamble, and it could literally cost us the only planet we have. Knock that shit off.

Democrats have no future as the "at least we're not Trump" party. Get used to it. You have two whole years; use them wisely.

No love,
drwex: (VNV)
2017-08-31 03:04 pm

Idly smashing tunes

Cancelled meetings today means let's put some effort into a music post. I've been listening to more "chill" music than I usually do. Often after reading some rage-inducing what-the-actual-fuck thing from my news feed. I also have a lot of long sets to post but I'll split those off into their own thing (or two).

The first of these is a Markus Schultz "chill mix," though its somewhat more intense than a typical chill track. Fronted by Victoria Horn (as Lady V), it has many of the same tonal qualities as the remixes below, but is more complex and intricate. I like both the vocal presence and the complexity of the mix - it's interesting without getting frenetic.

The second is an unusual track in that you don't find a lot of Kate Bush remixes around. "Running Up That Hill" is one of her most popular and accessible songs so if was going to remix any of her tunes this one would make sense. As remixes go it's not bad. Bush's tunes rise (or fall) on her vocal performance and here you get a lot of that. The backgrounds are almost minimalist in places - a single piano note.

If you're interested in the non-chill version, you can also listen to an extended mix at the third link. I've noted before that I tend to like extended mixes and this one carries its extra weight pretty well, even if it does rely on a bog-standard club-dance build halfway through. Where the first version was spare, this one has a lot of extra layers thrown in. The mix keeps them under the vocals for the most part so that's good, but I'm not convinced they add all that much.

Chill electronica often blends into some of the dark film-track pieces I like and this is a great example of that. Mandelbug (https://fanlink.to/mandelbug) puts together a mash here that wouldn't be out of place in many movie soundtracks. It's the sort of thing you hear as the camera follows the protagonist through a dark and crowded scene in some location Americans would consider 'exotic'.

If you start playing this and think... wait, that sounds a bit like Beats Antique, you're right. This is Dirtwire (https://www.dirtwire.net) the side project of David Satori of Beats Antique. It's got that amazing fiddle sound and interesting rhythms galore. The track notes credit Ethiopian electro, a thing I didn't even know exist and now must find more of. Of all the Beats' side projects I like this one best so far and I'm sad they didn't get to this side of the country on their 2017 tour. Maybe next year.
drwex: (Python)
2017-08-31 10:31 am

Life at home, N of a series

Pygment has made a beef stew while I was out for the evening. Upon arriving home, I give it a taste.

Me: Not bad!
Her: The stew?
Me: Yes, this stew shall pass.
drwex: (VNV)
2017-08-25 03:58 pm

I swear I'm going to write about music if it takes forever

I have a whole stack of things I've wanted to write but that got backed up behind the Charlottesville and fucking Nazi aftermath. So let's see if I can put this one together quickly; apologies if it's not as well-researched as I usually try for.

This came to me via my subcription to Aron Chupa's YouTube channel, which I set up after finding the delightful electro-swing piece from Chupa and Little Sis Nora. Here she is again, and the video is totally worth watching. I have a hard time classifying this music - it's definitely got a few swing beats in it, but it's also electro, and found-sound, and dance, and hey if you haven't ever heard someone rhyme Calvados then you should watch for that alone.

And if you think that's fun and don't mind your lyrics a little uncensored, here's Chupa again from an older (2014) track using the same linguistic twist. Here Little Sis Nora isn't directly credited but down in the video info you find a vocals credit for "Nora Ekberg", which I dig into a little further and find out is actually Chupa's sister. This track has some of the swing hints to it but is more typical electro-bounce. Still a lot of fun.

It feels like forever since I've written about funk, though I've been listening to a fair bit of it, as usual. Here, in a track from last summer, Big Gigantic (https://www.biggigantic.net/) do their "Bring the Funk Back" (like it ever left?). This track is a lot of funk and a lot of electro slammed together; I could do with less of the latter but I still found it worth blogging. It's interesting and ironic that this track comes off of Brighter Future an album dedicated to envisioning and making music for a brighter future something we need this year even more than last.

Todrick Hall is someone I hadn't heard of - I followed a curiousity link for Ru Paul and landed here, on "Low" by Hall, but featuring Ru Paul. Web searching tells me that he has been on Ru Paul's show "Drag Race" (see what I miss by not having a television?). I love the visuals in this video - lots of deep saturated lighting, fun dancing, and intense costumes. The rapping is good, but I find listening less fun than listening while watching. Those pyrotechnics and acrobatics would be particularly intense in person, I bet.

A variation on this 2014 track appeared on my stream and sent me looking for the original. The track is "Tortuga (Club Mix)" by DoubleV & Formal One, an instrumental club dance number with obvious overtones to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, particularly in the whistled bits mid-track. I'm not in love with it (like I am with Chupa/Nora) but I liked it enough for a blog entry.
drwex: (Troll)
2017-08-24 02:28 pm
Entry tags:

We saw "Atomic Blonde" and it was hot and messy

Note not a "hot mess" though there's an argument that label applies, too. Charlize Theron's lead in the screen adaptation of The Coldest City is somewhat scrambled and appears to suffer in a couple places from poor editing choices, but that's not what I mean. I mean, first, that Theron's Lorraine Broughton is hot on screen. Theron mastered more of the action and fight moves than the directors initially expected, so several of the fight sequences were improved and put together more tightly to show what she could do. She's now my #3 choice for next Bond. (*) Also, her interactions with Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) are hot. 4/5 stars if you like spy thrillers and good action flicks (of which there are far too few headed by women).

The film is also messy in a way you don't often see in action films. Broughton fights guys who are bigger than she is, and they hurt her. You get to see blood, not in the the gouts-of-fake-fluid sense, but in the sense that being in a real fight messes you up. You bleed, get cut up and bruised, and it stays with you. Broughton takes hits and gives better than she gets and you see all of it. It's like someone wiped all the "clean" off a Bond flick. Gritty realism has been a thing in Hollywood films lately, but mostly that comes across as oppressive darkness and gloom. Atomic Blonde is not a happy film and few people in it end up happy at the end, but it's not oppressively gloomy and I definitely want to see more. Making this into a Theron-led franchise would be a happy thing in my world.

I mentioned Boutella earlier and she turns in a good performance here as a possible naif, someone who may be in over her head. Broughton's foil in this caper, though, is David Percival (James McAvoy), an agent who has most definitely "gone native" in communist East Berlin in the months before the wall comes down. Nominally, Broughton and Percival are on the same side, supposed to work together to extract "Spyglass" a duplicitous Stasi agent who has managed to assemble a list of operatives. Spyglass will exchange this list for safe passage for himself and his family to the West. Of course, things go wrong. MI-6 sends Broughton in to sort the mess out and get that list, setting up the film's primary conflict.

The intertwined secondary conflict revolves around a long-known double agent, identified only as Satchel. This person has been selling Western secrets to the Soviets for years and Broughton is also given the job of discovering and eliminating this threat. In fact, Satchel's identity may even be on this List that Spyglass has assembled. The movie presents us with multiple plausible characters who could be Satchel and then... well, you should see it if you like this kind of thing.

McAvoy's performance is deliberately scene-chewing. He's loud, brash, doesn't care, drinks too much, screws around, and generally doesn't seem competent. Except he is, leaving us to think the whole brash thing is a front. In counterpoint, Theron's performance is restrained fury - she's cold and calculating and tough as nails. You know what she's capable of, and it's just waiting to see how and when she's going to cut loose. Both actors are excellent solo and opposite each other.

The other really good part about this film is the soundtrack. It's set in the weeks of May and June 1990, right before the demolition of the Berlin Wall. The film's sound includes a number of classic tunes from that era, including "Cat People" (often called "Putting out Fire") by Bowie, "Major Tom", "Fight the Power", and "99 Luftballons". Baby Driver was widely talked up as a movie that integrated music with its visuals and I think Atomic Blonde does an even better job of that. The music sets scenes, appears almost as a character in the film, and the way it's integrated with the action, the dialog, and the effects ought to win the sound designer an Oscar.

Spoilers and detailed discussion you might want to wait to read )

(*) behind Kate Beckinsale and Idris Elba
drwex: (Default)
2017-08-22 07:02 pm
Entry tags:

Now you know what you would have done

I give up. I've struggled with this entry for too long. It has deep threads that go into every area of my life and many of my beliefs. Like any such thing, I find I learn more every time I open it up. I am also reminded that I believe incomplete and contradictory things. Godel would be proud, I hope. I keep trying to say things and failing and deleting and rewriting and reading things written by people who've said this or that bit of it better than I and then more awful racist hateful shit emits from Trump's mouth and I'm struck dumb again.

A friend wrote this not long ago: I didn't plan to say anything, but it's hard not to, isn't it?

If you are a person of conscience, a person of moral character, yes, it is very hard not to. At least some of you are old enough to remember as deeply and painfully as I do why we wore "Silence = Death" tee shirts. To do nothing, to say nothing, has ceased to be a valid option. Team Sideline no longer plays in this league. There are now two very clearly defined sides: this side and "fucking Nazis." Our president and his supporters from Putin and David Duke on down are simply wrong to equate them in any way. Voices from across the country, from across the political spectrum, have stated this eloquently, unequivocally, and forcefully. If you are so committed to your support of Trump, or your dislike of other politicians, that you are willing to ignore, excuse, or condone sympathy with Nazis and traitors then you and I likely have nothing further to discuss.

If you ever wondered what you would have done in Germany in 1935, look around. Now you know what you would have done - what you're doing right now, today.
drwex: (Troll)
2017-08-11 02:06 pm
Entry tags:

We saw "Baby Driver" and it was... not what I was expecting

Baby Driver is Edgar Wright's fast-paced heist-crew movie featuring Kevin Spacey (Doc) and Ansel Elgort as the eponymous Baby (b-a-b-y) who is the driver for all of Doc's gangs. I tend to like heist-crew movies - of which Heat is pretty close to the platonic ideal. This one promised to be something extra-special because Baby listens to music throughout. He has a soundtrack to his life and that becomes a large part of the soundtrack to this movie. You may have noticed I'm a little obsessive about music. Also, I tend to like almost everything Kevin Spacey does so I figured this one was a no-lose for me.

For about 80% of the movie that's true. Spacey is a tough-boss tough-guy with a surprising good streak in him, Elgort is a great pastiche of the "kid who could have been nice, but who fell in with the wrong crew" and the other players also do well. I particularly liked Deborah, as played by Lily James. She's sweet but not naive, beautiful but not glamorous, and it's easy to see why Baby falls for her.

The plot is pretty simple: some time ago, Baby boosted a car belonging to Doc that had valuable merchandise in it. Something went wrong and Doc is now extracting his due from Baby one job at a time, because Baby is an amazing getaway driver. Once the debt is paid off, Baby will, in theory, be free to do as he pleases. Of course, nothing is that simple. 3/5 stars; would've had 4/5 but for the ending.
Not exactly a spoiler but I'll cut-tag it anyway )
Still, see this if heist movies are your thing. Just brace yourself.
(*) or words to that effect.
drwex: (pogo)
2017-08-10 02:41 pm

Well that's an analogy

This afternoon I was trying to describe to MizA how I was feeling and why and came up with this:

I have spent a lot of energy herding cats this week. This is making me snippier than I should be and not happy with cats that require further herding. Imagine if you set a bunch of balls bouncing down a hill. You'd expect them to bounce, roll, maybe collide, and go every which way but mostly down.

Now imagine that some of them start bouncing back UP the hill at you. Unpredictably. That's been my week. I think it explains why I'm kind of twitchy and jumpy and all up in the "stop DOING that!" space.

(It's also been compounded by off-again/on-again intestinal unpleasantness that has messed with my sleep.)
drwex: (pogo)
2017-08-10 11:45 am

Just for fun

I am normally not a memes person but I saw this on a mailing list where people had fun with it and I though my week could use some fun. Love/hate/ate - reply in comments and repost if you think it would help spread more fun.

Love - I love the light in the evenings at this time of year. I notice the days are shortening but there's still a liminal quality to the twilight that I don't think exists in other seasons.

Hate - I hate that cell-phone spammers have started faking local-seeming numbers. I deal with enough contractors and such that I am often fooled.

Ate - fresh-picked fruit. Typically I wait until late in the fruit season to go pick Macoun apples, which are my absolute favorite variety. This year we did some fruit picking as part of our trip and Pygment has been getting fresh-picked fruit from the local farmer's market.
drwex: (WWFD)
2017-08-08 10:52 am
Entry tags:

On the mess at Google

I was startled to read (on one of my tech mail lists) that a person felt firing the Google employee who circulated the position piece on the inferiority of women (henceforth G) was "petty." It was not petty, nor done without thought.

I've never worked at Google, nor do I have any insight into their internal processes. But I've worked at a lot of tech companies and talked to many people at many others; I believe my experience generalizes. I have also worked at companies that have made the transition from private to public, which is significant. And finally, I have a background in cognitive science and experience working in Compliance. Both are relevant here.
First, let's deal with the science )
Now let's talk about tech companies for a minute )
Being a public company matters )
and this all explains why this guy got fired and why he didn't get fired faster )
You know who else should be fired? )

[1] Note this is not why Summers was fired; see Cathy O'Neill's explainer from a few years back about what actually got him fired. But that's a digression. Summers was wrong, and G is wrong.
[2] There's a whole lot to say about what's wrong with tech companies in these areas but that's sort of aside. Take as given please that I think places like Uber are a cancer and should be cleansed with fire if nothing other than serving as a warning to everyone else.
[3] My actual background is in financial compliance - NASD, SEC and so on - but the principles are the same across industries. Financial compliance is just more complicated and more expensive.
[4] It's possible that the PR firm did advise them on this and Google didn't take that advice - I have no inside insight.
[5] Google's stock price doesn't per se exist since it's part of Alphabet, Inc and listed on the NASDAQ that way. In the last five days the price has been pretty stable so maybe this is a tempest in the tech teapot and the rest of the world doesn't give a hoot. If the stock was nosediving you'd be hearing a very different tune from Pichai.
drwex: (VNV)
2017-08-04 09:46 am

Could there be Friday music

There will certainly be music today and if the meeting cancellations keep coming (two so far today) then I might actually post this on Friday. I think for this one I'm going to do a few of the more gentle and beautiful tracks I've got marked.

We'll start with this lovely piece from Skrillex and Poo Bear. This video is one you want to watch. To be honest I was hoping the video would be a a no-cut one-shot of the boarder. I don't think the generic sunrise shots help and I'd rather watch this guy do his thing. It's not typical Skrillex things, which goes along with my general theory that I tend to prefer him working with other people or remixed by other people to him solo. Bangarang (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJVmu6yttiw) being the notable exception to that. This track has nice vocals and very smooth feel.

As an antidote to the blood pressure-raising dumpster fire in Washington I've been playing more chill and ambient music lately. Here's a lovely relaxed track from Boreta (part of The Glitch Mob), remixing Christopher Willits' "Clear". The original (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPFQvluC7nc) is from a couple years ago, and has much more of a drone feel. I think the Boreta mix is superior.

First link: another very pretty Reload Sessions offering. Dahlia (whose online presence I've been unable to locate - there are at least six other artists/acts using that name) bring three singer/guitar players to a track called "Heart Would Say". I keep thinking I've heard this before but it might be just because I've had this tab up for a while and played it many times. I like the way the singers pass around the lead and all of them harmonize rather than one being lead and two being back-up.

The second link is Dahlia's cover of "Million Reasons" from Lady Gaga (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYRJ-ryPEu0). The original is also a simple-vocal-plus-guitar track so this isn't that different. It's interesting to see how the cover distributes the lead pieces so it's once again three strong voices trading off rather than the original's one-strong/two-backing.

DJ Energy's bootleg remix of the very popular "Photograph" from Ed Sheeran (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSDgHBxUbVQ). The original is a great spare strong-voiced track and the remix respects that. It adds a little energy and some club beats, but they're muted for the most part to keep the original feel.

And finally, a closer from LA producer SNBRN that takes some intensely breathy trance-style vocals and lays them over a nice deep house vibe. It's a fun combo that mostly works (I could quibble with some of the echo-y repeats as unneeded) and brings this blog set back to my more traditional EDM choices.

(Aside for the tagging geeks: I had originally written that SNBRN was new to me but it turns out I'd tagged him back in October of last year. One of the side effects of losing tags is that I'm going to lose some of my memory for things I've posted in the past; it's just too voluminous to search manually.)
drwex: (pogo)
2017-08-02 01:41 pm
Entry tags:

Four days away

This past Thu-Sun we took advantage of our temporary child-obligation-free status and went across the border into New York State to enjoy fresh air, beautiful views, and a whole lotta cider.

Pygment wrote it up in quite some detail, which I shall not attempt to reproduce, particularly since she let me put in some editorial bits on her original text. I'll just say that the days were punctuated by frequent remarks of the "boy I'm glad we're getting to do this" and "this is really fun" sort. We vacation well together and found a good balance between doing things each of us wanted.

I'm slightly sad that we didn't have more time and flexibility but lots of this was learning experience. We only had the information that was available on the various Web sites. Once we got to the area we found there were guides and maps that the locals produce but that weren't clearly obvious to outsiders coming to the area.

But that's kind of a detail - the important point was we had a good time and we are looking forward to a time when our travel will be less constrained by other obligations. Also, we'd love to see more people who are far away.
drwex: (Default)
2017-07-26 05:57 pm
Entry tags:

Let's talk about who is unfit for the job

It's not going to be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I think Trump's stated policies against trans individuals serving in the armed forces is heinous. It's despicable, divisive, regressive, and just frankly wrong. I've seen assertions of somewhere between 4,000 and 15,000 trans persons serving in the armed forces today. Even if we take the highest number, the resulting amount of cost to the VA care system is minuscule compared to the real costs of meeting our social commitment to care for those who have put their lives and careers on the line for this country.

If Trump actually cared about the costs of medical care for military personnel he'd be paying attention to the VA healthcare system and its needs. But in fact he doesn't care. Nor does he care about trans people. They're just today's convenient targets in his ongoing abdication of the job of being president for anyone who isn't his natural supporter. I hear those folk think he's doing just fine to which I say, "fuck you."

Normally I try to be a little more tolerant but between the attempt to kill people by taking away their healthcare and this nonsense I've run out of tolerant for a while. Trump is manifestly unfit for the job of Commander in Chief; the people he's attacking are either fit or not, a fact that can be determined without ever raising questions of their sex, their gender, their assigned-at-birth gender, or their gender presentation. Disqualification of a class of persons based on a characteristic unrelated to their job performance is a sign of a weak and cowardly leader.
drwex: (VNV)
2017-07-25 11:55 am

OK it's Tuesday but it's still music

This will likely be the only music post this week. Next week I'll begin chipping away at the backlog. But this week I found something enjoyable enough I jump it to the head of the queue.

Start with another of Ummet Ozcan's "Innerstate" sets. I have a few of these sets marked that I might say a word or two about but in general these haven't excited me too much. Like a lot of the things I've been listening to they're often overrun with pointless glitch and wub and I click off about halfway through. This one I stuck with and that's a good thing.

I recommend listening - midway through there are two of Ozcan's own tracks - the "You Don't Know Switch" and "Something Just Like This" - that I think are quite good but I couldn't find separate linkable uploads for.

The real payoff is at the end, though because you get back-to-back goodies. The first is this edit by Dmitri Vegas and Like Mike based off of "Renegade Master" a track popularized by Fatboy Slim (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyWqeJ1vLWo) though it was originally created (but never released possibly due to copyright issues over samples) by a DJ known as Wildchild. This new edit is actually based on a recent mash done by two other producers. It's a fun bouncer of a track and a study in how music travels and mutates.

Then finally stuck on the end like an afterthought - or maybe saving the best for last? - is this gem. "Mariko" by Sagi Abitbul (https://www.facebook.com/sagiabitbulofficial and also https://soundcloud.com/sagiabitbul). Near as I can tell, Abitbul is an Israel-based DJ with origins in eastern Europe (Serbia?). The track is a hot crash of modern EDM sounds with traditional east-European vocals and instruments - can anyone identify the stringed instrument shown briefly at 1:19?

I love this kind of thing - mining a variety of traditional styles for modern inspirations. Damned if I can figure out the language, either; Google thinks it's Bulgarian. Anyway, that led me to find this:

Sagi Abitbul again in collaboration with Guy Haliva (https://www.facebook.com/Guy-Haliva-670327543003366/ and also https://soundcloud.com/guyhaliva) another Israeli. This one I recognize the sounds as being more Israeli/Middle Eastern but the lyrics are likewise a mystery. I've seen claims of Bulgarian, Serbian, and Turkish but damned if I can tell those apart. Still a fantastic sound and I'll be following both these guys to see what else they do.
drwex: (Default)
2017-07-24 11:54 am
Entry tags:

Curbing hate against police

One of the areas where I can differ from other liberal/progressives is in the area of violence against law enforcement. A nice column addressing this came out today from Professor Margulies of Cornell.

Margulies is also very left-liberal and has been deeply into the theories and research around policing and criminal justice reform. I was interested to see that he takes a stand very similar to my own, which is that although acts of murder against police are quite rare (and have been dropping steadily for the last 40 years) there is still a perception that police are targeted and that violence against police is not adequately addressed.

I understand why this is so - we focus attention on the victims of police violence, particularly because those victims are often young men of color who are ignored and denied a voice unless we keep a hard focus on their unjust treatment. But I think we are adult enough to pay attention to more than one thing and in this case that means giving appropriate attention to violence against police without taking attention away from the violence committed against their victims.

Margulies' column notes that police are increasingly being asked to solve problems that they simply cannot solve, and that a first step in reducing violence and tension is for us (society) stop making police the first and only approach to public manifestations of complex intertwined social problems such as addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. He argues we need to change the role and mission of police - if you read his earlier writing you'll see he's a big advocate of place-based policing, reducing overall police presence in favor of concentrating on the handful of individuals and locations that are responsible for the majority of crimes.

I think it makes sense to try these approaches - in particular I agree with Margulies that AG Sessions' attempts to reverse the history of policing are only going to make things worse. And I would go one step further, specifically to address the perception issue. I would make it law that any person who targets police because they are police should be subject to hate-crime investigation and possible prosecution.

At first this seems like a stretch. "Police" are not an identifiable protected class the way black people or women are. But I think that misses the point. When someone firebombs black churches, or vandalizes Jewish cemeteries, or shoots up a gay nightclub they are attacking the visible symbols of identity of a class of persons. Likewise, on those rare occasions when someone specifically targets those in uniform such as happened in Dallas last year they are attacking the class of persons who wear those uniforms. And I believe those attacks should be investigated and potentially prosecuted the same way.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the perception of police being under fire is not matched by statistical evidence; however, when women say they feel a company has created a hostile environment we don't ask them for statistics (or ought not). Instead we (ought to) work to turn the environment around. Part of turning around the environment for police is to stop asking them to solve unsolvable problems; another part can be making a clear public statement of how we feel about violence that targets them.
drwex: (VNV)
2017-07-20 01:49 pm

Still talking about talking about (watching?) music

Yes, I will be posting music entries Real Soon Now, I promise. Probably next week. But first I want to unload some of the stuff in the mental backlog.

I really appreciated all the commentary on the last post. If y'all want to chime in about this one I'd likewise appreciate it. The topic is "Music video WTF" - as in, should I link to videos if I like the song but not the video?

Here, let me give you an example that sits right on the borderline, two videos for "One On One" by Tujamo, with vocals by Sorana. Tujamo is a German producer and EDM spinner; Sorana is an eastern European singer (near as I can guess, Romanian) and this is her first big team-up with a "name" producer. So, OK, great. It's a fun tune and I like her voice, though as with a lot of these things I think it's over-tuned.

First up, the official video for the song:

Minor warning: it's a PoV video done in the style of a lot of porn these days where you, the viewer, are invited to have the gaze of the (male) camera in intimate interactions with a small, very conventionally attractive woman through a series of scenes, including bedroom. There's nothing actually X-rated about this, but I was uncomfortable watching it. In case that gaze isn't intimate enough for you, there's even an official 3D-VR version - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx6OeuZ-mLE

Plus side: she's smiling and active throughout. She appears to be not only enjoying the interactions but initiating things. But if voyeurism isn't your kink (it's not mine, at least not for strangers) then you may (like me) find yourself unable to watch this video and see if there are other alternatives. Here's one:

At least that's just a static conventionally-attractive-skinny-chick-half-dressed-in-provocative-pose. You see that kind of thing selling pretty much any product under the sun everywhere in the industrialized world. But, seriously, what does this have to do with the music?

I usually try to link to SoundCloud for my music choices but lots of things aren't up there and are on YouTube or other visual media.

So, dear readers, what do you make of this? Would you rather I didn't blog video music that sets me off, or blog it with information so you can judge for yourselves?
drwex: (VNV)
2017-07-18 04:10 pm

But first a little talking about talking about music

Once upon a long ago I used to merrily blog music. Yay, it was fun. Sometimes people would leave comments telling me they liked this or that or otherwise indicating that I wasn't just blogging into the void. That's always nice.

Then [personal profile] mizarchivist pointed out that LJ has these things called "tags" and I could tag my music entries. This is helpful to know what's going on, and particularly helpful for back-reference and finding things that are particularly notable. Eventually I got enthusiastic enough to go back and tag my existing couple years' worth of music entries... at which point I promptly ran out of tags. This more than anything else prompted me to move to a paid LiveJournal account because I needed more tags. All is fine until the company owning LJ decides to move the servers into Russian airspace and I decide it's time to move over here to DreamWidth. Which, I shall not bore you with details, will not allow me to have unlimited tags, even if I do pay them.

For a while this has stymied me. I really like the convenience of being able to go back and revisit things I've blogged in the past, and I blog a lot of new artist/DJs in a given month so the list of tags grows with no obvious way to condense them. I'm tired of being stymied though and it finally penetrated my thick skull that this convenience I've grown used to is just that, a convenience. I don't actually have to tag music entries in order to write them. So I'm going to start blogging music again, only with erratic-to-nonexistent tagging. You've been warned.

I realized this because I have re-remembered (I keep forgetting, somehow) that music is important in my relationships. Intimate, certainly, and otherwise. If you and I don't share some musical taste or other, it's likely we're less close of friends than we would be if we did share. For example...

This morning Pygment and I responded to a wedding invitation that included a request to list something that would cause us to get up and dance. At first I snarked that my music tastes would appall most people and DJs wouldn't play it at weddings anyway. Pygment agreed and said something like, "Yeah but imagine if they would, we could get them to play..." and in two clicks I had the track linked below, which we put on the RSVP card. I'll let you know if it plays at the wedding because I will sure as shit be dancing if it does.

We Can Make the World Stop
drwex: (Troll)
2017-07-18 02:00 pm
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I went to Gettysburg and had a good time

Took Amtrak to/from Harrisburg and met up with the g/f to do a couple days of touristing in Gettysburg. Rode down Thursday, back Sunday. Overall good, but I am glad to be in my own bed again. If I'd had more knowledge I would have planned better, but given the knowledge I had at the start I think we planned very well.

Friday we took two pre-planned tours. A "History Nerds" tour that was mostly riding around in an air conditioned bus (quite useful when the temp AND humidity topped 85) and looking at sites with a guy who could firehose details about pretty much everything. We got a fairly complete set of visits and lots of facts. I would have liked it if the bus stopped more often, but it did provide info we used later.

That evening (once it had cooled off from "utterly beastly" to "merely summer sticky") we had a walking tour of the city itself with a hobbyist guide. That was interesting because most of the National Park-level focus is on the battlefield and kind of glosses over the fact that the battle swept through the town multiple times. Our guide had lots of interesting stories and trivia to help contextualize the facts and sites and since it was just the two of us on this walk we got extra time and it was much more conversational.

It was interesting to be reminded throughout just how much of a cultural bubble I live in; for example, the evening guide was explaining how the local Lutheran congregation continues to struggle with whether to do services in (traditional) German or (modern) English, how they vary some week-by-week and how they print variations on the prayer book in one or the other or both languages. I commented, "Yeah, sounds like every synagogue I've ever been to" and the guide admitted she had no idea Jews did that. I get the sense that she likely doesn't know any actual Jewish people.

Saturday we decided to revisit the battlefield in the morning, predicted to be the coolest and least humid hours of the day. Despite some navigation snafus we made it to several of the sites we'd wanted more time at and spent a lot of time wandering around getting a sense for things that's hard to achieve while in a bus.

After a few hours of that we declared a break for lunch at a period recreation inn in town that was OK and fortuitously was across the street from the local cidery that I'd been wanting to try. Between heat, exercise, post-food coma, and a flight of very tasty ciders we decided to ditch the previous plan of going back to the battlefield in favor of nappage. By the time we got up from that it was late and GF wanted to visit the official Gettysburg visitor center and cyclorama.

The visitor center was OK - we saw a short film narrated by Morgan Freeman that talked about some of the impact of the Civil War on slavery and economics. The Gettysburg Cyclorama is one of the last few surviving cycloramas anywhere. This version was originally displayed in the Boston Cyclorama building (who knew?) and moved to the park's visitor center in 2008 after restoration work. It's quite impressive; unfortunately we were the last group of the day and the museum needed to close promptly because there was a wedding using the site right after closing. I would have liked more time to soak it in but such is the nature of things.

After dinner and ice cream we detoured into what is locally marked as the "Soldier's National Cemetery" but Wikipedia calls Gettysburg National Cemetery. The place is a little eerie, particularly the rows of "unknown" markers for soldiers interred there who could not be identified. There's a commemorative marker for Abraham Lincoln as well, which people have placed numerous Lincoln pennies onto. Being my own contrarian self I found a pebble.

It was interesting to me to have a memorial marker there since it's not where he's buried (that's his hometown of Springfield at the Oak Ridge cemetery) nor is it where he gave(*) the Gettysburg Address - that spot is marked by a separate memorial stone. Humans are weird, what can I say.

We skipped doing one of the many "ghost" tours that take place in the evenings and I felt good about that in retrospect. They all seem to be popular but kind of commercial and largely beside the point. My interest is in authentic history, at least to the degree we can understand and experience it. I would have liked another half day on the battlefield - we got to see almost all of Cemetery Ridge (the Union side) and about 3/4 of Seminary Ridge (the Confederate side) but not really view Little Round Top or see the cemetery in detail.

(*) Actually there's some debate about where Lincoln actually stood. He was not the featured speaker of the day - that was the popular orator Edward Everett of MA - and in fact had not been expected to attend. His remarks were so brief that the photographers didn't even have time to set up properly; there is only one popular photo of the address and Lincoln isn't even easy to distinguish in the shot. The location is in dispute as contemporaneous accounts differ and really nobody paid much attention to his speech at the time. The New York Times printed Everertt's address in full but declined to reproduce Lincoln's remarks.

To make matters more confusing, at least five different versions of the Address were printed in other newspapers of the time and all differ in some details from written versions that have been authenticated as being in Lincoln's handwriting. Post-hoc analysis of Lincoln's condition ("ghastly color" and "haggard" were reported) indicate that he was likely feverish at the time of the speech and so may have said things different from what he had written.
drwex: (Default)
2017-07-12 11:06 am
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I was going to write about music, but maybe not just yet


Because once again we're in a fight to be able to listen to the music we want, watch the videos we want, load the Web sites we want, message with who we want using the app we want... all of which we've paid for.

Net neutrality ought not to be a new or surprising concept to anyone who reads this blog but Vi Hart breaks it down for you anyway along with a history lesson.

If you don't feel like watching an 11 minute video it comes down to this: Cable companies (Comcast, Verizon, ATT, etc.) pretend we live in an era of cheap quality data service with lots of alternatives. In fact, cable companies have one-provider monopolies over 90% of subscribers and I cannot find a major metropolitan area where any person has more than two cable choices. Even a company with the deep pockets of Google has been unable to break these monopolies and the monopolists have sued numerous cities and towns to protect their monopolies against municipal-funded competition.

All the while providing US consumers with crappy data service. We're middle of the pack or worse compared to other industrialized countries with wide broadband penetration.

Cable companies, and now the FCC, are acting like monopolies didn't exist and like people were getting high-quality broadband services. They're also acting like the ISPs were disinterested parties rather than also being large cable companies whose cable divisions (e.g. HBO) are in direct competition with broadband media services (e.g. Netflix).

Net neutrality is about stopping monopoly providers from using their protected positions to disadvantage competition. It's that simple (though I realize those are long complex words - upgoer five knows almost none of them). If you haven't already called your Congress critters, or written a comment to the FCC today is the day to do that.
drwex: (Troll)
2017-07-10 05:16 pm
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On the 4th of July, a small social report

I realized that "what's up with me" has largely been "the kids." They and their needs occupy almost all of my brain space. They've been away at camp and will be intermittently gone this summer - all the away time doesn't quite line up the way we hoped but it's still a fair set of days of nobody but us and the dog in the house. Very mixed feelings about all that.

I've also realized that I'm not updating the way I'd like to. It's the usual cycle of not-writing that leads to there being so much stuff to write that it's overwhelming and so more not-writing happens. So let's talk first about the 4th because I felt good about it.

Project Social has been one of my ongoing goals since November. Feeling crushed and attacked on a daily basis - if not me then people I know and care about - is a real and disheartening thing. Seeing friends and doing relaxing things with them is a good antidote.

The Fourth there's one friend's party we traditionally go to, and we try to catch some fireworks somewhere. This year we were trying to figure out how to fit in another party with no kids home to do dog care when we got a message from [personal profile] mizarchivist saying she was in the midst of a packing marathon and could use company.

So we adjusted plans to stop by, bring packing supplies over, pack a handful of boxes while we were there, and then take her away to the party, a few blocks from her place. Feed, give tasty drinks, and hopefully provide a useful and refreshing interlude. We all agreed that moving (especially one's own stuff) is a horrid and horrible experience and if things can be done to make lives easier then that's a blessing.

The party was nice, tasty foods and some conversation with people I don't see that often. The attendance has shifted over the years to where I see fewer of my acquaintances there, and so spend less time there. We got home in time to feed the dog and chill a bit before going to see fireworks with Pygment's GF and fiancee (I keep wanting to type "husband" but they haven't quite yet formalized it - soon!) I think they are both excellent people but due to a combination of natural introversion and tiring work travel we don't see them much.

The fireworks show was good and the GF drove, meaning I didn't have to stress out about the traffic - if you've never driven with me in a traffic jam just accept that such things activate my aggression and anxiety a lot more than they ought. But if I'm not driving I can mostly ignore it.

So that was a holiday. Unlike many of my cow orkers I was in the office the 3rd and the 5th and did actual work. It was kind of empty in the building but not horribly so. One-day weekends aren't nearly as good as four-day but that's coming.
drwex: (Troll)
2017-07-07 02:16 pm
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We saw "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and It Was About What I Expected

Finally, Marvel has given us its version of Spider-Man, fit into the Marvel movie universe. Having shown us chunks of it in Avengers and with a fairly revealing trailer the outline of the story was pretty well-known and the plot has only one or two surprises. 3/5 stars for a passable movie that doesn't inspire, particularly, but doesn't turn off.

Like almost all the Marvel movies so far this one rises on the strength of its main portrayal. Specifically, Tom Holland is Peter Parker/Spider-Man for the early 21st century. He's got the embarrassed nerd act down pat, and the wonder-struck teenager done pretty well. He bumbles and improvises and does frankly stupid things.

The script is a bit of a mess- I ended up disliking the ending because it rang false and felt like unnecessary fan service[1]. There are also some really bad inconsistencies, not least of which is the utter lack of concern everyone has about a minor disappearing all the time in all kinds of places. But it's not so terrible as to throw me out of my enjoyment.[2]

That said, the film does nod to several bits of Spider-Man canon and history without hitting anyone over the head about it. Perhaps the best thing about the script itself is that it is not an origin story. Where I felt that Wonder Woman absolutely needed to give us a definitive origin tale, Spider-Man's origin is something we've seen done and done to death. Here what's needed is to situate Spider-Man in the (new) Marvel universe and its ongoing events, not retell how Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. This movie does that.

I do want to give a special shout-out to the movie for representation. Laura Harrier plays Liz, a mixed-race [3] senior that Peter Parker is into. Her movie parents... well, yes, right on. Zendaya is Michelle, the very hip not-a-girlfriend who hides just how smart she is, also mixed background. Jacob Batalon as Ned-the-best-nerd-friend-ever, also clearly not a white guy. Major roles are still white dudes but it's very 21st-century appropriate in my view to have people of all sorts on the screen and nobody makes a big deal of any of it. It just is. The film doesn't pass the Bechdel test, though.

Go see it; it's a fun summer movie and nobody but me expects these things to be great art.

[1] for a change I'm going to try doing this one spoiler-free so you'll just have to watch the movie and see if you agree with me.
[2] Does it bother anyone else that Peter calls her "May" rather than "Aunt May?" I get that they're trying to update a stodgy white-haired old widow into the younger, obviously hotter Marisa Tomei version and I can roll with that, but him calling her "May" throws me every time.
[3] I hate that term; if you have a better one for a person who has one white and one black parent then I'd love to update my vocabulary.