There is a growing cynicism among former computer geeks about the effect of ubiquitous technology on our lives. Tech lifestyle guru Patrick Rhone’s experiments to minimize the use of technology in his own life have almost become the stuff of legend in this community. In the latest issue of his newsletter, he urges his readers to take a break from the internet April 1st.
In fact, the silliness has already started showing up in my inbox today — a day early. Probably because April Fools falls on a weekend this year. If it’s not worth a company or organization or blog paying some marketing minions extra time working on a Saturday to spam you with some “light” “humor” to “engage” you with their “brand”, then why is it worth your time?
I did not disconnect from the internet today, but, to my knowledge, I didn’t read anything that was just an April Fool’s joke. Maybe Rhone was onto something with his theory.
Every once in a while, I’m painfully reminded that I’m a middle-aged man. Sometimes, it creeps up on me, like when I get to Friday night and can’t get myself off of the couch. Other times, it smacks me in the face, when I’m the closest I can get to forgetting that I’ve already spent 40 years roaming this earth.
The latter situation happened to me a couple of months ago. We had a much-hyped winter weather event that was supposed to dump significant snow in our area. In this part of North Carolina, when rain is predicted to turn to snowfall, it frequently becomes more of an ice event. Ice is not as pretty as snow, and it can be a lot more dangerous. With this winter storm, instead of the snow we were told to expect, we got about an inch of ice and maybe an inch of snow. Nevertheless, when kids like my two boys, get it into their heads that they are going to go sledding, the amount of snow we actually get doesn’t usually alter their plans.
In order for my 4-yr.-old to go sledding down the brutal hill near our house, I had to go with him. I do not exaggerate when I tell you this is a tough slope. Kids have broken bones sledding there several times. With blades of frozen grass sticking through sheets of ice, that day, the hill was rock hard. The soft fluffy snow we had dreamt about was in short supply. It was in those conditions that I put my hand down during a run, to steer the sled, and bent my fingers back in a most unnatural manner. The pain was pretty intense, but I’ve always understood that being the ultimate dad comes at a cost. So I decided to play injured and kept on sledding. I pulled the same move a second time and by then the pain was getting pretty unbearable. I calmly let my youngest son know we were going home. By the time we got home, I could hardly take my glove off because hurt so much. I spent the weekend with ice and ibuprofen, sure I had just sprained a muscle. Two weeks later, still swollen and hurting, I trudged to the doctor’s office, where I was informed I had a pretty bad fracture and would have to wear a cast for the next three weeks.
I made it through all of my teenage years skateboarding and never broke a bone. It was a point of pride for me. Okay, yes, I wasn’t Frankie Hill and I never tried to ollie the Grand Canyon or drop in on a massive vert ramp. I was mostly a flat-ground flippity trick guy, with some mini-ramping thrown in for good measure. However, I put my time in with the sport and had a lot of fun doing it.
Alas, that was over 20 years ago. This is the curse of being middle-aged: Looking longingly at things you can’t or shouldn’t be doing anymore. Part of that is the discovery that you no longer had the capability to relive some of your memories.
However, there is some salve for these wounds, when it comes to sports like skateboarding. We now have videogames that do an excellent job of recreating the experience. One such upcoming game, Skate City, is being brought to you by Snowman, the makers of the meditative Alto’s Adventure endless snowboarder. The teaser for Skate City appears to feature very little actual gameplay, but the Instagram feed fills that gap. Skate City looks like it will bring skateboarding to iOS with the kind of focus on environment, style and mood that made Alto’s Adventure so charming.
It was after my hand fracture that I realized the two skateboards in the trunk of my car should probably remain mostly unused. I’ll have to live the skateboarding life vicariously, and through games like Ollie Ollie, Skate City and various titles with Tony Hawk licenses.
Checkout the highly stylized trailer below and prepare to get stoked.
Our First 100 Days is a benefit compilation that aims to help causes that will likely be hurt by the Trump presidency. When you think of protest songs, Wild Nothing is not the first band your mind is likely to conjure up. Even when the band ventures into this territory, as they do for their track “Begin Again,” it’s easy to miss the message amidst the smooth grooves and hushed atmospherics. You would be forgiven for not picking up on lines like, “It sounds so safe, the new protected state. At least you’re free, from all those things you hate.” Despite the unusual (for them) subject matter, this song is pure Wild Nothing, and that’s always a good thing.
I feel like it’s unfortunate that I can’t in good conscience buy this compilation, due to some of the causes that the money goes to support. In addition to “Begin Again,” there are a lot of top notch tracks by great artists on Our First 100 Days. These songs are not throwaways for sake of putting together a benefit comp. Take a listen to Wild Nothing below and then checkout the contributions of the other bands.
Mot nord (Northbound) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful skate videos I’ve ever seen. It has a focus on conquering the elements in a man vs. nature kind of way and feels very introspective at the same time. The tricks are impressive, but the video is more about the environment of frozen beaches and found objects than the skaters themselves, who are so covered up for the cold that they almost look like shadows dancing.
Ice, driftwood, foamy waves and … skateboards? Four skaters head north to the cold Norwegian coast, applying their urban skills to a wild canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup — biting winds and short days, ollies and a frozen miniramp.
I’m tempted to buy or rent the full video documentary on the making of Northbound, called On Thin Ice, which can be found here.
Is the ability of an artist to make changes to their work after it is initially released a good thing?
Vinyl records may be on their way back. However, music consumption trends are moving farther and farther away from sitting down and listening to a single long playing piece of music that you own. In the last few years, all-you-can-eat streaming services have revolutionized the way we consume music. When Spotify first went live in the US, I read a number of tweets gleefully swearing off buying digital music outside of a streaming service subscription. People just didn’t seem concerned about owning the music they were listening to anymore. Ownership just doesn’t carry the same weight when your roommate can copy all of the music you own from your hard drive.
Yet another new trend may be on the verge of emerging, though, and it could alter the way we consume music in pretty radical ways.
The legitimization of xenophobia and its effects on our children.
Parents, you now have a new reason to worry about your children, when they are out with other kids. A couple of months ago, my son played a light, loose ruled football game with a bunch of guys from the neighborhood. Some of the kids he knew fairly well, others were just joiners from around the area. My son ended up in an argument with another child about Donald Trump. My son made it known that he thought Donald Trump was horrible and the other kid countered that he was awesome. One of the child’s reasons for admiring the real estate mogul turned politician was that he believes Muslims need to leave the country.
When a child believes racist and exclusionary things in elementary school it’s almost a forgone conclusion where the views came from: the child’s parents. We are entering a new age where these kinds of views are becoming more normalized, thanks to this political season. Unfortunately, this is not just speculation, it’s a fact backed by some pretty significant data.
We had reached a point where holding such views was not considered socially acceptable. It would be naive to believe that people didn’t have them, but (most) people certainly didn’t feel as cavalier about openly expressing them. The change that this political season has wrought, regardless of the eventual outcome of the elections in November, is a dangerous and vile shift in the tone that is passing as permissible.
When I hear my son tell me that a child at school is who is named Mohammad is being told by another child to “go join ISIS,” I fear for the marginalization of a group of people that had been fairly well integrated into American society. It concerns me not only for those who are among the marginalized, but for those who cannot, in good conscience, participate in that process. I worry that those who are taught that others are to be treated fairly, regardless of their religion or skin color, can and will again become a minority. The expressions of a new xenophobia and longing for a fading societal hierarchy are setting us back decades.
Simon Owens recently published a piece comparing email newsletters to the cut-and-paste zines of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. He discusses why the style is often less formal than blog posts and fundamentally different than social media posts. Some of the characteristics, such as the often mixed types of content and lack of a singular theme, as well as the directness of the medium, map well to those of the zines of days gone by.
Zine creators pushed issues on friends and acquaintances. If you were lucky there was an address printed somewhere within an issue’s pages so you could subscribe, although it was difficult to know whether a new issue would ever be published.
As someone who published a short running zine called Martha Dumptruck, most of the content of which is too embarrassing to republish now, in the early nineties, I can relate to some of the comparisons. In fact, the article’s points compel me to want to revisit some of the ideas from my zine in the email newsletter format.
I’ve been using the news aggregator Feedbin’s newsletter integration for a couple of months now, and I love the way it keeps newsletters out of my personal inbox and fits in with the rest of my news consumption process. Newsletters like Nextdraft from Dave Pell are perfect ways to catch up on the day’s news in the same format as the RSS feeds from sites that are more analogous to glossy magazines. I’m even using the Feedbin Notifier app on my phone to only alert me when new newsletters come in.
With an appropriate distribution system and good ways to consume the content, this may be the time to get back in the zine game.