Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas! Let's talk about music.

Great year for music! In my humble opinion.

Let's start off with the mild disappointment of the year: Purity Ring, Another Eternity. Merely a great pop album. Lost a lot of Shrines's weird Grimm charm.

Top N Albums that didn't come out this year but I just first listened to them now:
5. Qualité Motel, Motel Califorña: Silly fun electro pop from Montreal. Lots of guest stars including Mrs. Paintbrush on the excellent Grandfarceur.
4. Nicolas Jaar, Space is Only Noise: great for traveling and feeling out of place.
3. Flying Lotus, You're Dead!: Progressive jazz hip-hop psychedelic techno. I don't know. It feels a little like a bad drug trip probably feels.
2. OM, Advaitic Songs: my favorite doomy/meditative metal I've heard yet. Also dug Sunn O))) and would like to hear more like this.
1. Bleachers, Strange Desire: if all emo-pop were this slick, polished, and unembarrassing, I would have listened to a lot of different stuff in the late 90s.

Top N Albums that did come out this year:

7. David Bowie, Blackstar
Ok, it's not actually out, but watch this video and tell me you don't want to see the sci-fi full-length movie this must have been based on. If The Next Day was his return to form but not groundbreaking, I feel like Blackstar will be the one that is groundbreaking. We can all hope.

6. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
This is the next Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, in that it's sprawlingly epic and catchy enough that it deserves a place on everyone's list. By King Kunta I was sold enough to listen to the rest of it deeper, and it makes me think.

5. Jlin, Dark Energy
This is a late addition and I'm not sure how it'll hold up, but it's a pretty consistent techno-nightmare that I'm really digging. After Guantanamo, you'll know if you're drawn in or just not into it.

4. FKA Twigs, M3LL155X EP
On her first album I didn't get her. But that's because she didn't fit naturally into any of my boxes. She's doing the Knife-ish creepy spectacle better than anyone else I've seen today. "Now hold that pose for me" is as weirdly spine-tingling as anything I've heard. Oh, and that video.

3. MADE IN HEIGHTS, Without My Enemy What Would I Do
The fact that this isn't my #1 pop album speaks to how great this year's music was. They pull off the sort of charming-silly bedroom pop, but it's minimalist, crystal clear and finely crafted. Start at the beginning; if you like DEATH then strap in and enjoy the dreamy, catchy ride.

2. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
This too: if all emo-pop were this slick, polished, and unembarrassing, I would have listened to a lot of different stuff in the late 90s. It's as earnest as anything, down to letting the dude sing a couple songs even though he's way outmatched, and as a result has a few duds, but especially tracks 1, 2, 3, and 5 are The Best to sing while biking downhill.

1. Grimes, Art Angels
This is where she proves that she is the pop star of our age. Over the first 6 tracks you go from epic symphonic overture to top-40 to aggressive Taiwanese hip-hop back to top-40 to... whatever Kill v. Maim is. Like, I want to say something about gender stereotypes, and how she's this baby-voiced girl, totally unassuming, expert at all parts of songwriting and production, and I would not want to mess with her.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Here's some things I'm feeling

(disclaimer: not an interesting-to-read post, probably, more of a log-for-logging's-sake.)

Weirdly bored? Like, I finish work and I don't know what to do with myself? And then I'm reading internet things and when anything is longer than a short info snack, I get bored and flip it off? As if I have less ability to concentrate than usual, even on fun things.

Caffeine-tolerant. I'm finally feeling like I can't really think until I drink one cup, and don't really get going until two. That's not awesome.

Socially tired. I want to go home and sleep more.

Negative. I realized the other day we saw the new Star Wars and came out and talked about it and I was the only one really poking holes in how great it was. (upon further reflection, Kylo Ren wasn't really that bad, guys.)

I am not super proud of these. (I'm not really ashamed, either, it's just like I have a cold or something, so I feel not-100% mentally-emotionally-socially.) I suppose it's a good time for a Christmas break, then!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The rules to Contact

This is the best game that you can play without any physical things. It is hard to explain but easy to play. So, channeling Aaron Tarnow, I will try to optimize my explanation of these rules. Here is a first cut:

Alice is the Wordmaster. Alice has a Master Word in her mind. Alice tells Bob, Carol, and Diane the first letter of the Master Word. Bob, Carol, and Diane offer challenges to Alice, in the form of a clue, that can be anything. (example: Alice's word starts with C. Bob says "here's a challenge: my favorite food.")

Alice gets as many guesses as she wants. ("Cabbage?" "nope." "Celery!" "nope.") If she ever guesses it right, the challenge is defused and nothing happens.

Meanwhile, Carol and Diane, if they know the answer to Bob's challenge, they say "Contact." If not, they just don't do anything.

If Alice can't get it right and gives up, she goes "3, 2, 1, contact" and then immediately Bob and everyone who has Contacted says the word at the same time.

If they all match, then the challengers win and Alice says the next letter of her Master Word. If any do not match (or if nobody Contacted), the challenge is defused and nothing happens.

All challenges must begin with the letters of the Master Word that have been revealed so far. If a challenge ever has Alice's secret Master Word as the answer, the person who offered it is the new Word Master.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

What class AM I?

Back in 2008, I graduated and got a job making $80,000/year. This makes me a pretty lucky fellow, for sure! But how lucky? This was around the time that "The 99%" and "The 1%" started to become popular, and I saw a lot of people taking photos saying "We are the 1%, we stand with the 99%" and I thought I should do that too.

Wow, not at all! I was one of The 30%, maybe. Even given a lot of other factors that made life easier for me (no dependents, raises, bonuses, etc), there's no way I was close to The 1%.

This is not good, for a lot of reasons.

1. I left a ton of money on the table. Google told me the offer was non-negotiable, but everything's negotiable, especially if you have competing offers. You are doing nobody a favor by not negotiating, except a few thousand dollars stay in the company's coffers. That few thousand is pocket change to them and a real difference to you.

There was a successful anti-trust case over this. Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. were making a ton of money by fixing employees' wages and agreeing not to compete. This is classic corporation vs. employees labor dynamics.

And I didn't know that. Watch something like Silicon Valley and you'll see caricatures of millions of dollars being thrown around at socially awkward children. I thought I was the new elite. I wasn't; I was the new labor.

2. That fat salary is not as much as it sounds like. Consider a tech employee making $80k in San Francisco. She wants an apartment. That costs $3000/month. $80k after taxes = $55k - $3000/month = $19k. Which is not peanuts, but it's hard to save money and start building wealth on that much income. (If she lived on the Peninsula, she might get by on $2500/month, but then she will need a car, which costs on average $6000/year, exactly eating up the savings.)

I guess my point is, I thought I was the new Upper Class. But I may have been the new Working Class. Certainly the new Middle Class. And that changes a lot of things about how you look at the world.

Everyone in America thinks they are just inches away from being a multi-millionaire. This is the only reason I can think of that anyone still votes for low taxes on the rich; we all assume we are basically them. Friends, even tech friends: most of you are not.