Archive for the ‘Me Myself&I’ Category

Yes Chef

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

I picked up Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir on Friday. Finished it over the weekend. It’s good.

But also I share many things with Marcus, it’s uncanny. And I also have a distinct difference that is now sinking more and more in my soul:

I do not have siblings nor relatives, nor memories of them. I do not have pictures. And never did.

I’ve never had anyone blood-related to me and it looks like it’s going to be forever.

But back to Marcus, the 70s-born, European white family-raised, US-living black man that reminds me of me. He’s a star in New York and I’m grinding in LA. Still, I understand his every moves, the relentlessness that a transracial adoption I think enables: we grow up knowing damn well that we’ve got dealt a good hand. Time to not waste it. Shit is serious. It’s not about cockiness or arrogance. It’s about respect and fixing what doesn’t work. That’s the line we follow.

I see myself in him being serious about cooking while his friends were not at an early age. Paying attention to sound and deciphering how every one of them is created, has been a game of mine. When my friend told me “I’m going on vacation for the next three weeks” instead of producing music with me in early 2000s, I took that hard. The parallel between my domain and his is lovely because food and sound share vocabulary. Texture. Color. Flavor. Layers. Symphony. They share tedious preparation, obsessive dedication and limitless future. Samuel notes that he’s in the “memory business” which I love because sound and music are this too. I remember watching a Minecraft video of someone who had spent thousands of hours in the game and for whom the best memory of that game was the pretty piano playing hide and seek while he was building blocks. Memory business.

The biggest difference in careers, and this is where it super fucking hurts, is that the food business has been around for centuries and there’s an apprenticeship thing going on. There’s a system. I had none. Listen, I started making sound for games before game development schools and diplomas existed. So like Marcus, I focused like a demon and worked very hard to produce, learning a myriad of techniques. Instead of going slowly through the ladder of an international brotherhood like the culinary world is (or seemed through his book), I did not. There is no brotherhood in game development, just a gigantic web of pretty small tribes who don’t like each other much and don’t let outsiders like me in. You can’t see it unless you’re looking for work. I don’t talk too much about it in my memoir but I probably should give a few examples of searing pain when a job interview that goes more than well only leads to being ghosted. I have award-winning designers recommending me for positions and I don’t even get an email back.

It’s fucking me up and has been for years. Still at it. Determination is immense. I’ve left everything to do this.

When a 40-year-old business built from hippie/progressive white folks has less diversity than a centuries-old business built around regional taste and dare I say, patriarchy, you know there’s a problem. You know it means that my business is doing a very bad job at adding flavors. There’s no other way around it.

Marcus’ book highlights another thing: the exponential curve and the start of craziness. He was born at the start of the 70s, he got opportunities. I was born at the end of the 70s, opportunities from then and on are so much more fragile and rare. It’s one of the biggest constant in my life. A mere decade completely changed the job market. Thus people’s lives and expectations. Thus moods and feels.

Anyway. Great book. Inspiring. Tough for me, understanding that I won’t get the kind of closure Marcus experienced. Or will I?

A letter to James

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Hello Mr. Baldwin,

I just finished your book, The Fire Next Time. It’s also Black History Month. A wonderful adaptation of your book If Beal Street Could Talk is in theaters. Also, it’s 2019.

Nothing has changed, basically. The struggle continues. Only we have an ungodly amount of entertainment to go through while waiting for death. It used to be church, booze or needles on the stoop. That was your world. It is now “memes”, “likes” and a “feed” on the way to a mind-numbing job.

You asked the question: do I really want to be integrated into a burning house? Well, the burning house is now our whole planet, which is suffering from our stupid tenacity to stay ignorant and greedy. You know the deal. So integrated or not, the house, the property, our only property is in flames. It’s not a good look.

Love, as you mention it in the terms of tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth, is even less alive these days. We’re in the realms of ironoia, a term coined by Ian Bogost, which in essence is a failure to be earnest or true to oneself. You can understand that this is not helping with love. At all.

You would not believe the lengths to which people go to so that they can hide their hearts. It’s disheartening and a really tough problem to solve.

So we lose a fair amount of time, on everything. We dance for moons and nothing happens, really. We did get a black couple to rule the White House for eight years and you can accurately imagine how magnificent that was. But the fire is here now. It was there then too. We were just too busy smiling to acknowledge it.

Compounding effects led most people to do nothing between when you were writing and the world I’m living in. Black culture has exploded in popularity though, which is good? Consolation prize, I guess.

So, we continue. We stay focused. We work, relentlessly. We avoid, organically. We chill, seriously.

I am realizing how equally twisted our lives are: you moved to France, I moved to the US. You needed a break from racism, I needed space, which is kind of the same.

I write what I want to write, so you did. They say you wrote about bitter truths and I kind of do it as well, except that it doesn’t pay in my case.

You died of stomach cancer. I’m very active and in great shape but I feel like this world is burning my heart at great speed. Faster than it should, you know? The situation I am in is so intense I feel like apnea is occurring every five minutes.

Nonetheless I feel having a limitless amount of energy, hope and dedication to what I believe. Even though like 120% of black folks I am sick and tired, like we say these days: “but I’m here, bitch”

Godspeed James.

Your long distance nephew,

LA-AD

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Anthony Davis at the Lakers? I don’t know.

First, I didn’t know that AD grew up looking up to LBJ. He’s such a different player and he looks 35 already. He’s only 25. So I get how playing with your idol must be very exciting.

The problem is that basketball is a team sport more than ever. Yes, we see James Harden or Giannis take over and secure wins for their teams but make no mistake: it’s all about depth and having a squad. Big 2 or Big 3 ain’t it anymore. The Clippers or Kings show that very well right now: no big name, no problem. AD who gave everything for 7 years at the Pelicans knows that very, very well too.

Every position needs to be staked with talent that can switch and do everything from defending a 7 footer to shooting 3s. If the Lakers give everything for ONE player, they’ll just end up with injured stars. Sure, stars sell jerseys and that’s the juicy business here: merchandising is the cash cow, right?

But if the team doesn’t perform well, there’s no game. If there’s no game, what’s the point of buying stuff?

Back to you, ESPN.

RIP RED

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

My man Red passed away recently. I wrote about him last year, when he “retired”.

Things go too fast. He sold his business across the street. It’s a new gentrified shop now, as if the 25 years of him working that corner never existed.

He died six months after finally getting the bag. I still go through that street 4 times a day.

Down the boulevard another mom and pop shop, JnJ BBQ, is now gone.

NOLA Ninth homes

Monday, February 4th, 2019

The Lower Ninth Ward, a working-class, predominantly African-American neighborhood on the banks of the Mississippi River, was completely submerged by the hurricane. When actor Brad Pitt visited the area two years after the storm, he was alarmed by how little had been done to rebuild. Putting to use his considerable power and wealth, he pulled together 21 of the world’s most famous architects, as well as homeowners and community organizers in the Ward, and launched a project to build houses that were affordable, environmentally friendly, and aesthetically pleasing.

Ten years later, only 109 of the 150 have been completed, and of those 109, many appear to be falling apart.

It is now quite a disaster. People are suing. Some thoughts:

– On the neighborhood not wanting to change

There’s nothing wrong with that. There can’t be many stores and services? Have the minimum like everywhere else on earth then. Have a small shop that doesn’t make mad profit but serves a community with basics. Have bigger shops come in the neighborhood with trucks, once a week. There are many solutions to having single family homes serviced. You don’t need skyscrapers and a massive Walmart or Ralphs to accommodate people’s needs.

– On designs

And it quickly became clear to residents that a few of the all-star designs — sent from architects as far away as Ghana, Chile and Japan — weren’t going to work in Louisiana. The roofs on more than a dozen houses were flat — a red flag for locals.

smh. How on earth is that possible to fuck it up like that? Flat roofs in Louisiana is not a brilliant idea but even if you go for this, just tilt the damn roof by 5° and water will evacuate… It’s not rocket science.

– On costs

There are ways to build sustainable houses for quite cheap. The fact that they had inexperienced –and underpaid, probably- staffers working for the organization to help people go through one of the worst disaster ever in the USA, is maddening. You needed the best of the best here, no exception. The organization should have paid upfront to get a solid team so that they don’t have to rebuild and maintain houses for the next 20 years would have been smart. But no. Cut corners, get wrecked.

They also used OSB SIP for walls, a terrible choice because OSB rots easily. You wanted to experiment? Use hemp insulation and a bit more wood because hemp can’t be used for load-bearing. But it doesn’t rot and is natural.

That’s where having star architects was supposed to change the deal: they put some money in to make sure good material is used, for instance. Those residents are paying a mortgage on a new house that shouldn’t be decaying that badly within a decade.

What a shame. Imagine losing everything because the government failed you with levees that don’t work. Then you have a Hollywood star coming in with big bucks, building a green house that you pay for and it’s rotting right away. How can you trust anyone, anything after that?

Reflecting on Peak Prosperity

Monday, January 28th, 2019

First, you need the crash course (4 hours).

Christopher Martenson started this over ten years ago now. It’s still totally relevant.

The whole world is finite and you guys are fucking it up is happening with batteries and cobalt. It’s sad and disgusting how everyone involved in this business is acting as if yes, like oil, there was no shortage at all, if ever. That our techno-economy is not wildly depending on an earthbound rock.

But it is. And immediately, manufacturers are sweating because they can’t grow anymore. They can’t sell more phones and tablets. Make sense of that: the market is saturated and a key ingredient in batteries is running out. Manufacturers are all insanely rich, beyond their dreams, but it’s not enough. What the fuck y’all want? It makes no sense.

I just want to remind everyone that our current battery technology is 40 years old and that we only incrementally, very painfully made it better in the past decades. We put our very best brains on the problem, tried a million ways to use something else than cobalt and… We haven’t found shit. We’re dependent, there’s no way around it.

Meanwhile I’ve been here in LA for 10 years and every time I look at the daily weather, some record was set within that decade, extremely often. I basically lived the hottest, coldest and wettest days in southern California while being new here. That’s crazy.

Butterflies, of course. They disappeared a while ago in summer in France and here man, I can see the dramatic decrease each year. Super old trees –which lived longer than civilizations- dying suddenly are a powerful sign that we fucked up.

We live in this world of infinite entertainment, infinite lies and vapid ass shit. People argue far too much for things that don’t matter like “is Superman stronger than Aquaman”. We spend most of our times with feel-good solutions while refusing to scale down our aggressive behavior towards earth a bit.

So, I feel good spending time thinking about building an independent, zero-maintenance needed, green house. I hope to have the time to make it happen before the world economy collapses.

Hopefully we soon find a way to store electricity for at least a few months without significant loss. That wouldn’t solve everything, especially our crazy world economy. But that would tremendously help and empower us to be gentle with earth while living nicely and boringly.

We can do this.

Free gym

Monday, January 28th, 2019

True story, couple years ago.

*Phone rings*

me: allo?

dude: hi, harold? how are you today?

me: fine, how about yourself?

dude: good, thank you. listen, don’t you want a gold’s gym membership?

me: nah I’m good thank you, I’m in great shape man *grabs pasta*

dude: oh really? how do you do that? what’s your strategy chief?

me: well I move my body a lot and don’t eat too much

dude: …right. good for you if it does the job!

me: It does work pretty well and it’s free *puts lid on pot*

dude: nice

me: I’m sorry I gotta go now have a good one

dude: take care, bye

*clicks*

Lonestar Demar

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Man, he can’t get no calls. I still think he relies too much on this, but he really doesn’t get them. Unfortunate loss last night.

He’s great. His jumpshot is the smoothest in the game. His moves are flowing. Impeccable footwork. He’s become a great passer. But he’s missing the rage. It’s not a bad thing per se but in the extremely competitive western conference, it is showing. Add some speed to increase your unpredictability and you’ll be fine Mr. DeRozan.

I guess it’s his character as well. He sounds like a chill dude who doesn’t like conflict. Which might be why he’s playing so often on the soft side. Pump faking. Trying to passively get the foul.

I want to see Super Saiyan Demar, torching teams like he’s possessed by MJ. Then add AD to the Spurs and let’s get a ring y’all. FOR POP

Settle down tech

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

I’m writing about RSS, praising its resilience. Meanwhile technology is fucking with me.

Outlook! I don’t know what the hell happened with their last redesign but it’s so bad (I’m still using the old interface through some link). Bad enough that I’m really on the verge of leaving any webmail behind for good and forever. UI/UX is super sensitive these days because we use those services day in day out. Don’t fucking change the interface like you’re doing me a favor. We’re not at that point anymore.

Flickr! A nightmare. All my photos/pictures there. All the links to my blog. I paid for years, then it became free. Now they charge twice as much, want to delete pictures if I don’t spit the money. I tried to pay with a coupon, couldn’t do it. Tried to get help, no answer. People who try to download their stuff say some pictures are corrupted. I’m freaking out about my content but also goddamn, it’s so sad. Flickr had everything. I trusted them. 13 years, fuck.

Nest! This is supposed to be the best thing in the world. It isn’t. it’s dumb as shit. It keeps pushing heat when it’s not really necessary and doesn’t when it should (like during a super wet week). It’s supposed to be “learning” but I’m mostly learning that it sucks. Cold is coming from the floors anyway, that’s where it should be heated. That’s why my FLW, Neutra and Lautner were building houses with radiant heating floors a hundred years ago. Today, we’re just stupid. We’re blasting hot air in shoe boxes and calling it a day.

Ugh.

My RSS way

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

RSS still exists. It’s still the most brilliant, discrete and beautiful technology to get served content. Here’s how to use it at its best.

RSS is for “interesting stuff that you follow”. You don’t need them every day per se. But you don’t want to click on all of those sources every single time you think about browsing their new stuff. You want to be able to do that from one application that allows you to browse quite some content, at once.

Yes, an RSS reader is crucial because it separates the web, email and interesting things.

  • Web: anything, but mostly quick things.
  • Email: mostly work and friends, maybe some deals and notifications about important shit.
  • RSS: interesting things.

I say interesting things instead of news because I believe this is the only way to use RSS: to gather things that make you think mostly positively. Which is the exact opposite of news. News, torrents of vapid ass shit that is so addicting, are everywhere from your coworkers, the radio and family members on social media. You really don’t want to subscribe to that kind of content. It’s just not interesting.

Now, to build an index of interesting things takes a long time. Years. At first I only had a dozen feeds, mostly friends’ blogs. Then I extended to a few folders: design|gamedev|people|music|tech in each of these categories I added feeds, one at a time. RSS being discrete –it barely takes any space- I’ve never deleted more than a few feeds in 14 years. And RSS being so strong, it’s delightful to have a dormant feed for years and all of sudden, you read a new post that says ”I’m back” or something like that. It’s awesome because it comes to you. RSS is the best mailman on earth.

Make sure your RSS reader has an import/export OPML feature. OPML is basically the .zip of your feeds. What it does is, if you don’t like your RSS reader, you can use another one, pop in your OPML file and you’re back in business in 2 seconds. It’s wonderful (and why most recent RSS readers don’t support it: they want you to stay forevah). Of course, save one in your cloud and whatever happens to your machine, you can go back to reading wonderful things in a heartbeat. Dope.

Don’t share that OPML file. I mean, of course you can. But what I mean is that it should be considered like your “secret source”. Share the links, articles, paragraphs. Don’t share the whole thing. The whole thing is yours and yours only. Subtle obscurity is fine.

Disable any type of notification and make sure that once you visit a feed, it checks all posts as read. RSS is about Z reading through a lot of great things or stopping on a tremendous 1,200 words post. It’s not about reading as much as possible or check some arbitrary number (I read 300 feeds a day, resPEK me!). In the same way, don’t synchronize between your phone, laptop and or tablet. Just have RSS on ONE machine and ONE machine only. Trust me, I tried the sync thing and it’s terrible because it doesn’t work so well outside the big RSS players and it’s a terrible experience where you “run” after making everything disappear. We all have that already with email, let’s not do that with RSS. Not on my watch.

Yes, you can do most of that with newsletters, social media and favorites in your browser. But you lose the flow. You start doing too many different things in the same software. Not only it feels weird –work in a tab, fascinating article in another one, stupid TMZ next, etc– but it kills performance, your laptop gets hot bingo, your knee caps just got seared.

Meanwhile, I’m been using the same RSS reader since 2004. Around 150 feeds. In one month, thousands of articles. In six months, hundreds of thousands. The software doesn’t even flinch. I can skim through months-old content like I’m browsing local files. It’s been like this since my old ass and beloved Centrino laptop. I clean up the database once a year and it’s not even because my machine slows down, it’s because the app keeps telling me I might want to. RSS is insanely efficient compared to a web page that tracks you, that feeds you ads, that shows you a pop-up etc. You don’t need to fight, click “no” or “please, no wtf” while waiting on the browser to display everything. RSS is super-fast.

Don’t listen to the doom and gloom. 14 years that I’ve been using RSS. Every single WordPress website has a feed. So does Tumblr. So does Craigslist. So does many, many things. Services exist to RSS other feeds like social media. I won’t tell where because walled gardens are so powerful, we’re in the “don’t ask don’t tell” era of RSS. If it works, don’t touch it.

I suggest you use your reader with feeds on one side, content on the other side. 2 pane view. You don’t want 3 pane view because it slows you down and becomes more like email and you don’t want that. You want to have access to interesting things as fast as you can. 2 pane view does that very well. “hey, what’s up with this person?” You click on his/her feed boom, you have the content next to it. No “I read the title and then decide if I want to fully commit”. If you subscribe to interesting things, that’s not even an option: everything is worth your time! Hence why it’s important to subscribe to interesting things and not extremely light things like photos or YouTube playlists. Those are better to be used in social media apps or browsers.

Now go subscribe to that inspiration waiting for you.