Links

December 12th, 2019 by harold

So much work I can’t even.

52 things I learned in 2019. Number 3:

Emojis are starting to appear in evidence in court cases, and lawyers are worried: “When emoji symbols are strung together, we don’t have a reliable way of interpreting their meaning.”

Why the fuck do you think hieroglyphs never came back? Symbols are vague and are not good at stating things. Another example: Uber. They paid a graphic designer to design a logo that nobody gave a shit about. They reversed to plain old letters and a “Uber” sign in 2018 because people can read. Reading is potent.

Twitter really is hypnotoad. And so are symbols and icons.

Links are disappearing and it’s all your fault.

An Antidote to Dissatisfaction. I get what this video is saying and I’m grateful most of the time which does the things the video says (feeling good about yourself, not caving to depression). But it’s still some bullshit. The dire pace of incremental progress is fucking with me. Am I grateful that change is that slow? Fuck no. Am I grateful to the state of the world where money is so central to personal development, when I know and understand that money’s made out of thin air and not fairly shared? Fuck to the no.

I’m reading Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and it’s hilariously brilliant. Loving it. It needs to be an animated movie like Mind Game for which I would direct the sound. It would be the best thing ever made by two black men since 2 Nigs United 4 West Compton.

AYYYEE

November 28th, 2019 by harold

That’s what you hear when the Spurs are in the paint. DeMar, Lamarcus, Rudy, they’re all yelling the same thing while struggling to score.

The problem is on defense though. A lack of effort and mostly, anticipation. That’s where Kawhi is so, so good. He anticipates two turns ahead of everyone in most cases.

The Spurs are making players better. LMA out of Portland was a tank, only posting up and shooting 2s. Now he runs back and forth, gets alley oops, shoots 3s. DeMar in his first season immediately got his career-high assists per game and he is working on his defense more. He’s not very good at it but he’s got better.

There’s definitely something about shooting/defending 3s that is killing them. The league really is about shooting those now. Last night they were not falling for the Spurs. It happens. They still need much better defense.

Maybe moral is low after a string of losses this past month. KEEP GOING

The Stahl House

November 20th, 2019 by harold

Why yes, I enjoyed this iconic architectural masterpiece for a few hours last week.


When that day off hits you in the neck

It was exactly how I thought it would be: pretty small yet spacious. Loved it. Here’s the short version of the history of this house:

Clarence “Buck” Stahl had the original idea for the home. After purchasing the lot on which it sits for $13,000 in 1954, he began, along with his wife, Carlotta, to search for the perfect architect to realize his vision. More than one architect the Stahls met with insisted their dream could not be executed. Pierre Koenig disagreed. The young, energetic architect took on the project in 1959.

Today, the home is known as Case Study House #22. That’s because it became the 22nd of 27 homes to be a part of Arts & Architecture’s famous Case Study series, which commissioned emerging modernist architecture in Southern California. Homes designed by Raphael Soriano, Charles Eames, Craig Ellwood, Richard Neutra, and Eero Saarinen were also part of the project, but the Stahl House has become the most recognizable of the Case Study houses. It embodied the home of the future.

LA Mag

It was an everyday people’s house is what is so interesting here. Buck Stahl had a very weird (for his time) career. He moved to LA to become an actor, found the lot almost randomly, worked on it for three years and half to make it better (by adding concrete he would scavenge around Los Angeles because the man was broke) while paying back the loan and living modestly somewhere. He was in his forties, had a dream house and worked to make it happen.

He built a model, showed it to architects. Most thought he and his wife were nuts. Pierre Koenig accepted the challenge though. Here comes the most beautiful and ironic part of the story of this house. To finance the building, the couple had to take a loan. No bank wanted to be part of a project like this. Too risky. Pierre used his connections and found a bank to loan money. A black-owned bank.

In short: a white couple built a modern, iconic house in a segregated area (the lot was not to be sold to anyone not Caucasian), thanks to LA’s black capital. THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE BRO THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE

Curbed (excellent article about the house, you should read it)

I didn’t know that when I visited the place. I learned that sitting in the living room, as the only black person in the room too. I mental five’d my ass off, giggling.

Back to the everyday people thingy: the Stahl family is a simple, humble family. You would think that they are all about tuxedos and martinis, they are not. Like the very nice tour guide Andrew said, they were more about “beer cooler and kids jumping in the pool from the roof” type of folks, which you know, feels right. And yet out of character when you look at Julius Shulman’s outstanding and timeless pictures.


This is the most widely published architectural picture in the world

Now my review of the house. The house itself, the volumes, the amenities, size, furniture, floor to ceiling windows… It’s pretty much perfect. I love how they lowered the ceiling in the kitchen while providing non-direct light to the islands. The most striking effect is how the house itself disappears: you live in a beautiful space and don’t really feel like in a box like we feel like in traditional houses. It’s soothing and elegant. I can’t get enough of that modern feeling. That horizontal, wide, cinematographic, no limit vibe.

On the other hand well, building on top of a hill is, I think, not that great. Yes, you have an absurd 270° view of Los Angeles. You also get all the wind, all the cold, all the sun, all the time. That can be harsh sometimes. And it’s of course, pretty cumbersome to drive all the way up there. I can imagine that living up there and commuting can be alienating and isolating.

Having said that, once you sit down next to the pool, looking over the sun going down while the city turns into black and lights, the hum slowly dying down… It’s wonderful and calming like no other places I’ve been to.

Thank you SO much dear Stahl family for letting strangers in instead of selling the place for dozens of millions of dollars. It’s very much appreciated and I look forward to do the same once my custom-made house is built and attracting peasants I mean, everyday people.

Unraveling Race

November 12th, 2019 by harold

Unraveling Race
Thomas Chatterton Williams wants to discard traditional racial categories.

It’s an interesting point of view. I think it lacks a connection to the real, dirty world of everyday reality.

Williams understands that his path is not necessarily for everyone. “I am not so ingenuous as to think everyone can want to reconceive themselves,” he writes. “But I do believe the more people of good will—white, black, and everything in between—try, the more the rigidity of our collective faith in race will necessarily soften.”

People mostly just want to have decent, happy lives. Race —obviously as a social construct and cultural angle— will determine a lot of outcome, out of the womb.

Of course you might want to identify with the powerful ones. Which are not black (not that we can’t be powerful but with an average wealth ten to a hundred times smaller, obviously, it’s very much harder).

And your face will determine a lot, as we all know. If you look like a negro, even if your skin is #FFFFFF you won’t be treated the same in western society. This intellectualism about what you call yourself and what you identify with, becomes pointless in the day-to-day life. It’s all about what opportunities are more or less available and how it’s consistently worse for black people, every, single, time. No matter what. If you can un-identify with blackness so that you can have a decent life, considering the receipts of the past 60 years, you might want to do it. It makes sense. Weak, but it makes sense.

As a black man I am not as free to choose as I want to be. In our society that’s more of a feature than a bug. I don’t have a problem identifying as black while doing black things like designing sound, a future home, reading a lot about everything, being extremely proficient with a computer and knowing its history as well as 90s rock or 80s funk etc.

The day wealth is completely, evenly redistributed, black people will be able to not care about race at all.

Which we didn’t obsess with in the first place, to be clear.

Bicycle LA

November 10th, 2019 by harold

‘been biking LA for ten years.

You bike without a helmet, isn’t that very dangerous?

AR-15s. Those are dangerous. Those will pulverize your body in the distance through a concrete wall, do you understand? Navy Seals training is dangerous. Landing a switch 3 flip to switch crooked grind on a handrail is some dangerous shit.

Biking is way softer than that. Most people on earth ride bicycles without a helmet, sometimes drunk while wearing flip flops. And for those who do wear a helmet here in California, well some are the wildest riders I’ve ever seen, running red lights as if they were driving a Hummer. You might have a helmet but you’re still a bunch of sticks on wheels, bro.

How do you deal with traffic, potholes etc?

You just do, memorizing them. My training comes from playing shoot’em ups when I was growing up. I’ve become pretty good at aiming, avoiding, “reading” movement and now have an acute sense of anticipation. It’s crucial. And yes, you need to know how to ride while looking behind you on both sides. It takes a little while to get good safety habits for rush hour time.

It’s also taxing. More than the physical effort, paying attention to the environment at all times is the hardest part of biking daily I think. You can (but shouldn’t) chill in your car. You can but also cannot on a bike.

Still biking the same bike?

Yup, ten years on my 1974 red Schwinn bought off Craigslist in 2009. Extremely sturdy. Built-in kickstand. Single speed. Sometimes I wish I had two that would go like “default” and “nope, not today”.

Why red?

It’s a nice, bright color. You want to be seen on a bicycle, people are not even looking at the road anymore. And it’s also red like Kaneda’s legendary vehicle and I like that. I’ll stick to red.

Aren’t drivers in LA the worst?

I think they’re fine (they feel way worse when I drive my car for sure). They’ve never done anything bad to me. But I also make sure to be gracious to them: a little peace sign when they let me go while waiting. It’s just courtesy. I’m still nothing on my bike so I make sure the four-wheels predators are chilling. No taunting or anything like that. Be fluid, don’t act as if you were a full vehicle. Don’t be that biker who doesn’t give a damn.

Maintenance?

Beside the occasional flat tire and greasing the chain once a year, not much. I just broke my brake cable and one pedal, after ten years. Bike technology is fascinating when you think about it. I mean, you have a wheel that stands on an axle that needs to be locked on one side (bike frame) and is in perpetual movement on the other side (wheel). While taking all kinds of vibrations from the road and sustaining my weight on tubes full of air. The whole thing allowing me to bike 5,000+ miles a year *for years* without changing anything. Talk about resilience.

A bicycle axle is some serious technological dope ass marvel, is all I’m saying.

Myths be bugging

November 2nd, 2019 by harold

I saw Ta-Nehisi speak and Ryan Coogler asked him why he decided to try to write fiction and he said because he realized that facts and history have short arms and can’t compete with the reach of mythologies.

Kyle a.b.

That moment struck me and that take, although I absolutely understand it, freaks me the fuck out.

Myths are false. That’s the definition. They have no weight to me. Yet they’re powerful enough to start some reasoning for some people and make them believe something. More than reality.

Knowing that we need to stick to the realms of reality because the reality is that we’re fucking up our planet at an unprecedented rate, mythology being “hip” is I think, not a good thing.

As societies evolved, we’ve made progress despite myths, not thanks to them. Considering the future, feeding myths to a young crowd that has to deal with adults lying, pictures and videos being fake, deep fake, photoshop’d, people pretending being someone they aren’t on social media 24/7 while watching crossovers of actual, real history (Black Wall Street) laced with fiction (Watchmen), is some crazy ass shit. Seriously.

Those kids will not believe anything ever happened for real. I wouldn’t be surprised, with the level of BS floating online (and the impossible task of deciphering it) if kids born in 2019 don’t believe that WWII happened and was horrifying. They’ll downplay it and think it was like the movie Starship Troopers or the game Call of Duty. Brutal, but kind of fun.

I don’t like fiction like that. It’s just dangerous and kind of unconscious to make it super serious.

If facts and history have short arms, let’s not give myths longer ones. It’s not going to help at all.

One line

October 30th, 2019 by harold

A challenging month, that’s what that was.

Noita

October 8th, 2019 by harold

Noita is chemistry. Noita is Life.

It’s a dungeon crawler game and it’s pretty unique. The more I play the more I see the work they put in and man, it’s something.

It’s a game designed from a bottom up perspective and Nolla Games did an amazing job. It doesn’t feel like early access.

Runs on 2012 laptop and “old” Surface Pro 3, check.

Sound and music are on point and once again, quite unique: when you start being in trouble, there’s this open ended mid 70s psychedelic prog rock soundtrack fading in and out (never quite the same), with distorted guitars, flutes and tambourine, phaser and chorus effects etc. It just works with the little wizard world, check. (not only it just works, but it’s REFRESHING OH MY GOD THANK YOU)

Controls are perfect, both on keyboard and mouse and gamepad, check.

The randomization is extremely good. I haven’t gotten stuck somewhere because of procedurally generated levels. It feels fair most of the time but sometimes it isn’t. When it isn’t, it’s hilarious. Like you land somewhere with 3 enemies shooting at you at the same time but one falls in a fire pit and starts burning the entire room by himself while you’re trying to escape, jumping in the water and shooting arrows at acidic flying thingy from under the surface.

I got stuck under my own pile of dirt once, created from a spell and I didn’t have enough air and almost died and then I couldn’t move at all so I had to use a bomb and it, of course, killed me. Chaos as a Service, check.

It’s a really hard game though. I can’t get past the Snowy Depths (level 4) because enemies become more aggressive than the US government on migrants. It does say a lot. The loot is too rare and it’s difficult to deal with electricity without getting murdered in one second (water and electricity, you know). I did angered the Gods –I don’t know how and it didn’t go well.

Noita has this incredible feel of being alive, thanks to its technical achievements. Playing other 2D games feels like some fake theater things after playing this one. They feel so very static.

Tiny pieces of glass on my bike commute looked like pixels today. Pixels. Chemistry. NOITA

Length matters

September 28th, 2019 by harold

Overland is a strategy, turn-based game in which you take care of a bunch of travelers on a road trip in a post-apocalyptic world.

The core loop doesn’t allow for much. You’re immediately overrun by monsters, whatever your plan is. So you die a lot, constantly anxious. Reaching the next level is less a victory and more of a “fuck it” moment, knowing that the next level will be next to impossible.

Overland has been hard and getting harder ever since its inception. I think that is a tragic mistake.

Overland, from its aesthetic to its theme SCREAMS that this is a “doable” game and not a hardcore fest. I know, Cuphead does it but that’s the thing, it goes all the way: ultra-ultra cute and ultra-ultra hardcore. The dissonance works because it’s unapologetic. It’s part of the game’s identity. Overland with its road trip theme suggests a way more laid back vibe. That it has. And that it doesn’t want to follow.

This game should be able to be completed in 2 hours by a not so good player. And then, because it’s procedurally generated in many ways, it would offer very good replayability. You should be able to make a run in one evening session, go to sleep, dream about your little crew, especially the dog you named yourself, and want the next day to have another run.

Instead Overland, like far too many games, owes its development to fans, people who want the most hardcore shit all the time because they are –and it’s a little bit unhealthy- obsessed with said game.

I understand that that fanbase is very important when selling games. But if it’s basically closing the door to the rest of the audience, that’s a failure to me. Games take too long to be made and can’t be dependent on a small subset of an audience. That’s an incredibly fragile position to be in.

Game developers need to craft their experiences around time spent, respecting players. I’m sorry but the reality is that there’s tons of entertainment out there. You want to attract people, not deter them from having a good time.

Hit Men

September 26th, 2019 by harold

Hit Men by Fredric Dannen is a wonderful and sobering read on the music industry from WWII to 1991.

It left me looking up at the sky. There are some nuggets about race relationships. Music is all about that, after all. After WWII, Black American music takes over the world: it’s selling like crazy in the country and it’s influencing absolutely everyone (wealthy white UK folks would import those black records –blues, R&B- and create bands like the Beatles, if you didn’t know).

“The separate designation of pop and R&B bears explaining. Pop in the record industry is an euphemism for white; R&B means black. Until 1949, Billboard listed music by black artists as “race” records, but then a staffer named Jerry Wexler coined the term rhythm and blues. This is about all that has changed (though the industry has found other euphemisms, including “soul” and “urban”). A rock record by a black act is automatically R&B –regardless of its sound–unless white radio plays it and white people buy it, at which point it is said to “cross over” to the pop charts. Since white record buyers outnumber blacks by a large margin, a crossover hit means a bigger payoff.”

The built-in discrimination! Wonderful. Because meanwhile in white culture R&B is considered the worst shit when at first, it was pinned just to stop using the term “race” records because that’s a bit offensive and not very marketable.

R&B was simply a marketing term and became the symbol of “bad” black music, for no reason at all. It is messed up.

Then there are the stories of artists getting screwed over:

“The seventies provided some classic horror stories from this scenario. When Teena Marie was signed to Motown in 1976 by founder Berry Gordy, she had no attorney at all. When she asked to take her contract home before signing it, she later testified, a Motown official admonished her: “Don’t you trust us?” Motown assigned as her manager the common-law wife of Berry Gordy’s brother. Result: two of her albums made an estimated $2 million for Motown, while the label paid her about $100 a week for six and a half years.”

Ruthless. George McCrae was owed $100K in royalties by the label and was ready to hurt the boss. The boss gave him a few thousand dollars cash and the keys to the Cadillac outside. The car was rented.

The entire industry has been based on screwing over people. Whatever it takes (many executives were war vets, basically soulless mfs). Payola is rampant and the labels basically control the top 40 radios by the mid 70s. And then, a very important thing happens: disco.

“The Network [people bribing radios] took root in 1978, the peak year of disco. It was no coincidence. Disco created the climate that made the Network possible. The dance music breathed new life into the Top 40 format, after a decade of strength in album-oriented radio. More important, the disco phenomenon was fueled by hype, by the mistaken belief that hits are bought, not born. Of course, you can buy a hit, but not profitably. It was going to take the record industry a long time to figure this out.”

Hype. This is all there is in music from then on. It’s all about artists that can create hype. Hype is dangerous: yes, when it works bam, 30 million copies of Saturday Night Fever sold. But that’s impossible to reproduce the next year and the year after. It’s unpredictable. And then video games happened:

“In 1980 the Atari unit grossed $513 million, almost twice as much as the year before, while sales for the records group increased to $806 million. And the Atari’s unit hadn’t even existed five years previous. Overnight success breeds shortsightedness, and Warner Communications began to believe that video games were a better business than records.”

They reverted back real quick after 1983 and the video game crash. Hype is dangerous.

Oh did I mention the strong links between the music industry and the mafia? Man there are some details in this book and now I understand that it’s not so weird that they found some narcotics ring going on at a famous music label back in 2011. In the book no one was ever convicted. The government tried, with the help of the FBI, but it never went anywhere. The music industry is very powerful.

So, if you think there’s actual demand for an artist, there’s none. It’s all marketing money. Is the artist bankable? Then yes, you’ll see that artist a lot.

If you think charts are a pretty accurate picture of the market, they are not. They are completely fabricated to fuel hype and advance marketing plots. And if they were that much gamed in the mid 70s, I can’t even imagine the mental gymnastics they’re doing to produce today’s charts. It’s all bogus.

If you think only good artists survive, well, it depends.

Sometimes it feels like the entire entertainment business only exists to funnel money for some future real estate firms which will steamroll the earth.

Music is dope though.