Home again, from RSS to Jocko Homo

It’s not uncommon for blogs nowadays to have no RSS feed.

You can still subscribe, but via email.

Email is a superior technology in some ways:

  • It is simple. RSS has a lot of specialized features like fields for atom:category, managingEditor or skipHours.
  • Every user already has an email client. RSS readers are a niche category.
  • Email is an effective marketing platform, so effective that email marketing is a career track. RSS readership is a black box to the blogger.

The vastness of the Internet is a simplification engine. Anything unnecessary is stripped away. Not to get all poetic, but beach glass is like this in that frippery is worn away and only crucial features remain.

Picture via sponge-headedscienceman

Back in the days when blogs were new and RSS was the new hotness, there was euphoria around blogging. It was going to sweep the world. It was going to be Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Weibo, LinkedIn, and more. RSS is overequipped to handle all this.

The Internet is pitiless towards excess.

Jocko Homo

We are not men, we are DEVO

Email came before RSS by a large margin, twenty years or so. RSS evolved out of email. A return to email is de-evolution. To quote DEVO:

They tell us that
We lost our tails
Evolving up
From little snails

I say it’s all
Just wind in sails

Are we not men?
We are Devo!
Are we not men?
D-E-V-O

The Wikipedia entry on Jocko Homo the song says it came from an anti-Darwinist Bertram Henry Shadduck.

Le titre « Jocko Homo » vient d’un pamphlet religieux contre le concept d’évolution écrit par Bertram Henry Shadduck1. La chanson présente le concept de « dé-évolution » qui donne son nom au groupe, et en est devenue l’hymne officieux2

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jocko_Homo

As a Methodist pastor, Shadduck served churches largely in West Virginia and Ohio. His influence would perhaps have been confined to this territory had not two particular incidents sparked a prolonged response from him. The first was the unveiling of The Chrysalis, a sculpture of a man emerging from an ape ‘cocoon’, in West Side Unitarian, a liberal New York City church, in 1924.  Dr. Shadduck was so revulsed at the thought of evolution supplanting Biblical creation even within church walls that he responded with the publication of Jocko-Homo Heavenbound which featured a disparaging pen-and-ink rendition of The Chrysalis on its cover with an added, angelic apparition emerging from the man-ape

Shadduck was the Nostradamus of Creationism and feed formats. Bloggers who only support email subscriptions, and not RSS, are in league with the anti-evolution league.


A return to email suggests that RSS was vanity. It was over-engineered. Email was always the answer. We were home all along.

You’ve always had the power, my dear.

Glinda

Animation with found objects

Kottke has a neat post about dancing twigs.

Artist Chris Kenny uses bits of twig from tree branches to make these interesting found art pieces that exploit the human tendency for pareidolia, including the one above of twigs in motion.

It strikes me you could generalize this into a method for generating animation using any type of found object.

  1. Generate an animation using standard methodology. For example, you might use a stick figure animator to create a sequence of dancing image.
  2. Search within a body of found images to find the one most similar to the generated image.
  3. Replace the generated image with the found image.
  4. Assemble the found images into a movie.

I’ll (lazily) skip steps 1 and 2, because they are hard and you can easily visualize the output, but step 3 might lead to this sequence of twigs:

And step 4 would lead to this movie:

As an extension which allows for filling in gaps where there was no suitable found image, you could train a GAN on the pairs. The GAN would be rewarded for generating the found image from the source image.

Then, when no found image is close enough to a source image, a GAN-generated image can be used instead.

Stiff-Arming TikTok

TikTok is having a big impact, or so I hear. As curious as I am, I can’t live with its privacy and security tradeoffs.

We collect information about the device you use to access the Platform, including your IP address, unique device identifiers, model of your device, your mobile carrier, time zone setting, screen resolution, operating system, app and file names and types, keystroke patterns or rhythms, and platform.We collect information about your location, including location information based on your SIM card and/or IP address. With your permission, we may also collect Global Positioning System (GPS) data.

https://www.tiktok.com/legal/privacy-policy?lang=en

No, really, *keystroke patterns or rhythms*. Biometrics.

This isn’t the only way that it feels invasive and unwise. I would only install it in a virtualized sandbox, like for example a concrete bunker on a remote island.

Acousticity is green

I’m inspired by Bas’ MUSIC x GREEN project.

Greta Thunberg would not approve of your vinyl fetish.

How to be a more environmentally-friendly vinyl collector?

Well, the very first thing to do would be to cut back on vinyl purchases.

https://www.normanrecords.com/features/environmentally-friendly-vinyl-collecting

Not that streaming will make everything green again.

The vinyl vs. streaming comparison isn’t easy, as the infrastructure required for each is quite different, and information is scarce. However, our calculations suggest that the key factors are how many times vinyl gets played and the equipment it’s played on. As energy continues to decarbonise, streaming’s environmental performance will improve. But for now it seems that vinyl and streaming are pretty much neck and neck.

https://theecologist.org/2018/mar/16/setting-record-straight-streaming-greener-vinyl

But wait, you don’t have to give up. Do not abandon hope. There is a way to have your music and not heat it too. (😂)

Acoustic instruments and voice. No amps. No plugs or batteries.

Seriously. No electricity at all. A completely acoustic show is the greenest you can get.

Hikes Without Mics was doing this back in the day.

These have to be for small crowds, but so what? A living room or back yard concert can be pretty great.

I predict some band will make this happen in a reasonably big way because the politics are so compelling. The genre doesn’t have to be campfire songs. It doesn’t have to be retro. It can be original music with great players in a space full of happy listeners.

The economics are tough, but that’s a secondary problem. Bands can play more shows. Venues can have better natural acoustics. Players can gravitate towards louder instruments. Instead of one inaudible acoustic guitarist, there can be ten making a loud sound together. All of this can be solved more easily than global warming.

Psych Jazz 1969

I was poking around in the tattered Real Book I got from my first guitar teacher and happened to notice an oddly trivial snippet just below a classic Coltrane tune.

“Memphis Underground”? Wha? So I pulled it up in Spotify. And my mind exploded. I had stumbled across a peculiar and wonderous artifact from the peak (or depths, depending on how you feel) of the psychedelic era: Herbie Mann’s 1969 “Memphis Underground” album.

It’s jazz, in a sense:

  1. Instrumental
  2. Long vibraphone and flute solos
  3. The flute is funky

But then again, it’s chamber jazz noodling packed into the psychedelic rock framework, or vice versa, like a two-person horse costume where the front and back legs are different heights.

The jams are one chord, mainly, which gives them a primal urgency, and the harmonies are designed to accommodate the five-note scale every rock guitarist learns first.

That scale is critical for enabling electric rock guitar. It’s that fuzztone blues rock you’d ordinarily find in garage punk freakouts like Os Mutantes or Psychotic Reaction. In places, it’s out-there noise worthy of Confusion is Sex or White Light/White Heat.

This was 18 months or so *before* Bitches Brew. And regardless of the date, BB was upmarket compared to Herbie Mann. Miles is subtle. He can’t help being high art. He used rock but he was bigger than it.

Memphis Underground had a hint of outsider art. It was raw, awkward and unforgivable. It was not the better album, but it was more punk.

So what the hell was it doing in The Real Book, nominally on par with a John Coltrane piece? The JC thing is unusually short for him, just 12 lightly filled bars. Even so, the Herbie Mann tune – which has a one-bar bass line, a four-bar melody, and one unchanging chord – makes Coltrane’s look baroque.

I think the Herbie Mann thing just happened to fit the page. And maybe also it was a little tiny bit genius.


P.S I couldn’t not add this tune to my Shot and a Beer 1971 playlist in Spotify, which is about butt jazz, not head jazz.

December 25 is for chumps. December 28 is the future.

Christmas presents don’t have to cost what they do. Just move your personal gift-giving back to December a few days, then shop during after-Christmas sales.

There’s nothing magic about the 25th of December. The day was chosen for convenience in the first place.

Kids won’t even know until they’re old enough to understand the calendar.



Thinking Militarily about Laptop Theft

I’m typing this from a defensible position high above the cafe because the other day I saw a laptop get snatched. Today I am in a loft extension above the service floor. That day I was two tables from the front door, and the laptop which was stolen was at the table closest to the front door. I am nowhere near the front door today.

I was typing with headphones on. I heard a crash right in front of me and looked up. There was a woman half-standing beside a chair that had been knocked over. The exterior door was closing. The thief was already outside. I rushed to the door but saw nobody on the street.

The snatcher planned his line of retreat with care. There was nothing in his way. It was the shortest possible hop from the point of attack to the outside. Inside the cafe, many things could go wrong. Outside he had the advantage.

I must have been his second choice. That there was a slightly better victim is the reason I still have this machine I’m typing on.


The attack was similar to another one I saw once – a phone snatching on the subway.

The train was half-crowded, like the cafe I had been in. There were enough people for there to be a well-positioned victim and for the thief to blend in. There were not too many people for the thief to move freely.

The victim was in one of two seats closest to the door. It was a woman. She was in an aisle seat with no seats ahead, exposed from her right side and in the front. The attacker positioned himself just behind, with a clear path to the door.

The train was pulled into a station with the doors open, but the attack didn’t happen until just before the doors closed.

The victim must have been looking down, into the screen and her interior world. The attacker was waiting just behind her shoulder. The train pulled in. The doors opened. A few people got on or off. He moved. Grabbed. Ran out the door. Made a sharp left. The doors shut. She was hardly in motion. He was gone before she had time to react.


Can I watch your laptop while you go to the bathroom?

A better question is whether you can watch your own laptop while it’s right in front of you, while your own hands are on the keyboard.

I won’t say no, but I can’t really help you. You have to be aware before crime happens. Attackers may be dumb, but they don’t want to be caught. They plan carefully.

To protect yourself you have to establish a reasonable line of defense. Sometimes you just have to think militarily in daily life.

How to quit Facebook? One day at a time

Today is December 5. My browser history shows that the last time I logged into Facebook was November 25. Ten days of separation.

Most recent Facebook visit in my history, as of December 5, 2019

Since then there hasn’t been a day when my fingers didn’t itch to go there. It’s been ten days of itching. The strength of the itch is easily on par with quitting smoking.

One substitute has been increased Twitter usage. (Ok, yeah, yes, I get what’s wrong with this).

There have been gains in positive habits. More of my writing is blogging, which is more substantive. For quick breaks between tasks at work I’ve been reading blog feeds via RSS, often from my blogroll. For emotional connections online I’ve been Slacking with friends more; this is intimate and nourishing in a way that Wall posting could never be.

In December 2018 they had 2.32 billion monthly users, of whom 1.52 billion checked in at least once a day. FB isn’t a technology, it’s a behavior.

It’s been a week since I’ve been on Facebook. This blog is helping me stay on the wagon.

My fingers itch for it, but I’ve been able to stay away. It feels like quitting smoking. Cigarettes were a reflex. They were linked to specific contexts, like the waiting-for-the-bus cigarette.

The waiting-for-the-bus Facebook.

It took me many tries to leave cigarettes behind 100%. The fails taught me all the ways not to fail, one painful lesson at a time.

I don’t miss the same overposting marginal acquaintances, day after day. Some of them I was charmed by, but with most of the people whose posts appeared in my feed, we had no relationship apart from the algorithmic sizzle.

I got crushy on one overposting marginal acquaintance – that’s how good the posts were. She dated a slightly less marginal acquaintance who lived across the hall in my freshman dorm. I was not super impressed at the time, but over the decades our tastes must have converged. It wasn’t a sex appeal thing, only the posts.

A few of the people in my feed were real friends, and the social network nourished our relationship in a way that was genuine. One of those folks sent me an email a couple of days ago as a followup to a Facebook thread a month back. I’ll need to develop new lines of connection with the people I care about.

I might even send some letters, that’s how bad things are. At least I still have Twitter.