Monthly Archives: September 2015

Gold Star for the Internet: Ezra Koenig’s “Time Crisis” on Beats 1

Listening to Ezra Koenig‘s radio show on Beats 1 is one of my favorite weekend rituals. On Sunday afternoons, I make sure I’m somewhere in my house that has a good Internet connection, that my phone is charged or plugged in and that I’ve gotten something to eat for lunch (the very least, a Diet Coke).  I then settle in for two hours of A++++++ music.

Ezra is the frontman for Vampire Weekend, and hosts this show for Apple Music’s radio station. He’s one of many music celebrities who host shows periodically, including Drake, St. Vincent, Josh Homme and Pharrell Williams. I’ve been a big fan of Ezra and Vampire Weekend for awhile, and was overjoyed to find out that Ezra was getting his own show. Here are a few reasons why you should tune in.

The concept is refreshing. 

The overall theme of the show, like the title suggests, is time. Every episode starts with the same Abba song, “One of Us,” which is basically about the passing of time and remorse. Throughout the episode, Ezra revisits songs from different decades and genres. One moment he’ll be playing Billy Joel (kudos to you, Ezra) and the next he’ll be spinning Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” He’ll throw in some Hot Chocolate or Brian Eno, and follows it up with Harry Belafonte or Tame Impala. I’ve found some new-to-me music I’ve really liked through this broadcast, and find new things to like every episode.

To break up the music blocks, he’ll have conversations with some of his friends that are mainstays on the show. Some of these friends include the rapper Despot, Ezra’s cousin Asher, his sister and author Emma, and the painter Jake Longstreth. One of the other segments he does is a discussion about the top five songs on iTunes, and lately has been comparing it to top five Billboard 100 songs from other years. They talk about why these songs have been so successful, what lyrical content means and how some of the same sounds and conversations have reverberated in just a few decades. It’s crazy to listen to a song from the 1960s or ’70s and hear some of the same elements in a recent The Weeknd hit. Most of the people tuning into this radio show probably don’t listen to much of the older stuff they play, but I hope I’m not the only audience member making these connections and listening to Ezra and company’s analysis. He’s facilitating real conversation about music in 2015 and looking back on history through a specific medium.

He brings in some really awesome celebrity guests. 

In different episodes, he’s had the likes of Rashida Jones, Florence Welch and Jamie Foxx come and help him break down the iTunes Top 5, talk about life in the music industry or share some memories. Some of these celebrities he knows, and some are new friends. I know that late night television show hosts have celebrity guests come by all the time, but there’s something about a celebrity guest on a radio music show that makes it seem more genuine. None of these people have had anything in particular to promote or pimp, and it’s never the focus of the segment. It seems more like a few people hanging out and playing some tunes.

The art of the broadcast is dying in a world of replay, and he’s helping to bring it back. 

Time Crisis is pre-recorded and edited, but within a few days of the broadcast days. Although you can listen to these radio shows after they’ve aired, there’s a kind of magic to sitting down at a particular time and listening to this show. I know it’s hard to wrap your brain around, but your parents and your grandparents and your great-grandparents had to watch or listen to their programs in the moment. There was no rewind or pause button, and you couldn’t save stuff for later without going to great lengths. I like that Apple Music, for all its pushing towards the future, is trying to make the radio cool again. Ezra is doing a fantastic job at it, and for that, I’m giving him a huge gold star.

 

Time Crisis is broadcasted every other Sunday at noon. If you have iTunes, an iPhone/iPad, or can use Google, you can tune in for free. You don’t have to subscribe to Apple Music’s streaming plan, and you can even listen to the shows after they’ve aired or make them available offline to listen to elsewhere. This Sunday, there’s a new episode.

Do you listen to Beats 1? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 9/21-9/25

When I work events, I have a really hard time enjoying the food / entertainment just because I'm in Work Mode. Regardless, I was so impressed by Tastemade's first GALLIVANT! event. Here's an artsy shot of a chalkboard mural up at the event.

When I work events, I have a really hard time enjoying the food / entertainment just because I’m in Work Mode. Regardless, I was so impressed by Tastemade’s first GALLIVANT! event. Here’s an artsy shot of a chalkboard mural up at the event.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I loved this essay about annotating Alice in Wonderland and the contemporary connection of Genius. This is the kind of literary analysis content I’m here for.

2. The influence of Kanye West’s “808s and Heartbreak” on the rap world of 2015.

3. A French history of fancy frames.

4. Apparently you can go across the United States for $213 via Amtrak and see a lot of cool stuff. I want to go to there.

5. The rise of #luckygirl and how admitting effort or hard work is taboo for women.

And a bonus: Here is a short video of Jon Stewart dancing to Drake’s “Started From the Bottom.” It is everything.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Gold Star for the Internet: Podcasts I’m Currently Listening To

On Monday, I started a new contract gig for a media company that’s based in Santa Monica. Because of traffic, it takes me about 2 1/2 hours to get there and about the same time to get home. I have a solid iTunes library, and I put my iPhone on shuffle in the morning to help me zen out on the freeway / get pumped for work. But because I don’t have a lot of time to read during the day, I feel insanely out of the loop news and culture-wise by 5 p.m. To help combat that feeling, I’ve gotten really into podcasts. I listened to a few before, but now I’m obsessed. Here are the ones I’m currently loving:

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Another Round. 

I originally found out about Another Round via Ezra Koenig’s Internet radio show on Beats 1, which I’ve been meaning to blog about (but that’s another post for another day). Heben Negatu and Tracy Clayton interview some really incredible people, like a journalist who writes about school segregation and an artist who has spearheaded a street art campaign about harassment.  They also do some awesome games, like asking the editor of NPR’s Code Switch to connect random concepts to the problem of housing segregation in six degrees or less. What I like about this podcast is that I feel like I’m learning tons. It’s expanding the discourses of race and gender for me, even though I’m crawling on the 405 Freeway. This podcast is a Buzzfeed production, but it is really too good for Buzzfeed.

Call Your Girlfriend.

Now that my best friend Paige is living in Washington, I completely understand the ethos of Call Your Girlfriend. This podcast, touted as “a podcast for long-distance besties,” features one of my favorite writers, Ann Friedman, and Aminatou Sow. They talk as if they’re on the phone with each other just chatting about what’s happening in pop culture, and the audience just happens to be there. I like hearing about what other smart women close to my age group find interesting about culture and how they’re talking about it. Pro tip: They’re going on hiatus for awhile for tech upgrades, but past episodes are still good to listen to.

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Limetown.

The best way to describe Limetown, I feel, is to say that it’s Serial meets The X-Files. Limetown is an entirely fictional story about a remote town in Tennessee, which was built for and centered around a research facility. One day in 2003, hundreds of people just go missing. A young journalist decides to find out what happened, and gets sucked further and further into the mystery. There are also some flavors of government conspiracy and the supernatural. I will warn you that the first episode is awesome and gives you a lot of important background information, but really sets up the second episode as a doozy. It’s so incredibly well-written and produced that I was frustrated I couldn’t binge-listen. (I don’t know if that’s a word but I’m making it one now.)

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The Modern Art Notes Podcast.

I found this podcast because I follow Tyler Green on Twitter. Every week the show starts with a digest of interesting modern art exhibits happening around the country, and I like hearing about what’s going on beyond my little Los Angeles museum world. I also like how he interviews people from all aspects of the art world, because people like the conservators and art historians are just as important as the curators or artists themselves. On Monday I listened to one from last week where Green interviewed a curator for a Mark Rothko exhibit in Houston, and I learned so much about Rothko’s career and how he viewed his own art.

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Oh Boy by Man Repeller.

I love, love, love Man Repeller. I love Leandra Medine, who I see as a role model in the murky world of new media. I love Man Repeller’s editorial voice. I love the content they put out on all of their channels. So I was overjoyed that they started up a podcast where their friend Jay Buim interviews women about their professional success. I find the concept to be refreshing and inspirational, and I like hearing from women who have been in my spot and are successful now. So far, my favorite episodes have been with Leandra herself, Stacy London, and yesterday’s Payal Kadakia. Pro tip: Skip the second episode, because that’s the only one so far that has been Not Good. You’ll thank me.

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Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

Occasionally I used to listen to this in the car with my mom, and I’ve started listening to it again. Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! is NPR’s weekly quiz show. It has a few different segments with different call-in participants, which all test the participants’ knowledge of current events. It’s performed and recorded live in Chicago, and the energy of the studio atmosphere translates really well to audio. I giggle throughout the show along with the audience, which in a way makes me feel looped into what’s going on in the news. In addition to being funny, it’s wickedly smart. I think that’s what I love about all of these podcasts in general. It has become one of my new favorite ways to stay connected to culture. And for that, I’m giving all these podcasts the biggest gold star.

Do you love podcasts? Give me your recommendations in the comments.

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Link Party: 9/14-9/18

Grandview Beach is the most perfect beach in the entire world, no contest.

Grandview Beach is the most perfect beach in the entire world, no contest.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I follow Anne Helen Petersen on Twitter, and was not surprised that this profile on Alison Brie was so well-written and so thoughtful. A must-read. (Also, I like how Buzzfeed is stepping up its design game.)

2. This is a great article that explains the history and methodology behind emoji. FYI: The middle finger emoji is not in iOS 9.

3. Sadie Stein, a contributing editor at The Paris Review, was on a train from Myrdal to Flåm when she got off to visit a tourist spot. Little did she know some local artists were going to perform Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” video and that is was going to be awesome.

4. Because Seinfeld will never not be relevant, someone actually drew comparisons between Festivus and the second GOP debate. I love the Internet.

5. This dude named Hyrvoix de Landosle obviously loved to annotate. Marginalia is great.

And a bonus: I posted this on Facebook earlier this week, but I cannot get over this Reggie Watts song. So good, yeah.

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Culture Conversation: A 1969 Olin Ad

This is A Lot.

This is A Lot.

I have a stack of vintage National Geographics that I bought from my public library’s bookstore for my art journaling. I’m starting a new journal and was going through the magazines to find photos and words to use. In the October 1969 issue, I came across this advertisement for Olin, which is a Missouri-based company that is still around today and still makes ammunition, chemicals and bleach projects. The ad is in the first 10 pages of the issue, which includes stories about South Africa’s black eagles, flooding and mud issues across the United States and the growth of Honolulu.

LIKE, THIS IS CRAZY

LIKE, THIS IS CRAZY

Because the font is small, I’ll type the copy here for you:

We know a land where the streets are paved with gold. So do the Russians.

At the bottom of the sea lies one of the greatest sources of wealth and trouble in the world today.

Gold, oil, diamonds, food, minerals beyond your wildest dreams.

For the first time, new technology is allowing us to tap these resources. But there’s a greater problem than technology.

Ownership.

How does one go about staking a claim in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

If two little countries disagree on a copper field under the Arctic Ocean, do the big countries go to war?

Wouldn’t the “finders keeper” principle of ownership give all the ocean to a few nations, to the consternation of the rest?

In no other field are the legal questions so knotty. And the answers so necessary.

Because if we don’t set up some international agreements soon, we’ll be stuck with “to the victors belong the spoils.”

Not only is agreement crucial for governments, but for private corporations as well. Because oceanography is one of the major growth industries of the not-so-distant future.

At Olin we’re developing many products for oceanic research and exploitation.

Urethane foam for undersea recovery operations. Hydrazine chemicals for flotation systems and exploration at the very lowest depths of the ocean.

Ramset power tools for underwater construction. Pow-R-Quik cold weather starters for offshore oil rigs. Olin marine safety flares for vessels in trouble.

Chemicals that can help heat up the water around divers. Others that help make glass hard enough for deep-sea storage and housing at fantastic pressures.

A new fuel cell that will be able to power deep-submergence vessels at depths of 20,000 feet and below.

With all this at stake, we have a more than passing interest in seeing law and order prevail under the high seas.

It could determine what happens on top.

1. In all of my history classes that ever approached the Cold War, we discussed the role of propaganda in shaping the public’s views on the Soviet Union extensively. But I don’t think I’ve seen anything, in person especially, quite like this. This is a real advertisement that was marketed to real people and published in a highly reputable magazine focused on increasing and spreading geographic knowledge. I can’t get over that. History seems so removed until you stumble across an artifact. Even museums can’t really do the experience justice.

2. In a quick Google Image search for Olin advertisements, I didn’t see anything else that was so blatantly anti-Soviet. But there was a lot going on around the time this magazine was published. In September and October 1969, the United States, the USSR and China conducted several nuclear tests. The Concorde broke the sound barrier, the USSR launched three Soyuz spacecraft, and Bolivia was in the middle of a military coup. That context is important, because it helps us understand better what the national mood was at the time.

3. This ad has a lot of different things happening at the same time. The primary aim of this ad seems to be convincing the audience that Olin is a real American company that has a vested interest in Cold War policy and objectives, and a company that believes that America deserves to have and be the most. They do a pretty good job of relaying that just through the rhetoric: “ownership,” “necessary,” “‘to the victors belong the spoils,'” “with all this at stake” and the kicker “It could determine what happens on top.” The headline and their hypotheticals about how to stake a claim in the Pacific Ocean, which at the time could definitely have happened (and even today), also suggest that awareness. They even mention how difficult this discussion over who deserves what is to strengthen their ethos. Gaining the public’s opinion that Olin is doing the Right Thing by drilling in the ocean before the Soviets can seems important to them, and in context I can’t really blame them. They say that they’re in the midst of developing products to help this conquering of an unknown land, which would satisfy the reader in knowing that their government and businesses are working for their nation and keeping their workers safe. Never mind the philosophical and cultural ramifications of plundering the bottom of the sea. The language and logic of this ad forces the reader into a corner — either agree with this viewpoint or be considered anti-American. It’s smart, but very, very scary and very, very insidious.

4. This also may have helped to cloud how environmentally friendly their practices were (read: not at all), which was a movement gaining steam. 1961 was a busy year for establishing offshore drilling. It wasn’t until 1985 that there was an international cooperative effort to use drilling as oceanographic exploration rather than a moneymaker, and this effort has had several reincarnations since.

5. It’s important to realize that we still have not solved some of the same problems we’ve been dealing with for decades.

6. I don’t know if any advertisers could get away with something like this in 2015, but I could be wrong.

What do you think about this ad? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

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Culture Conversation: Heads Up Seven Up

I spend a significant amount of my Internet time researching stuff that is not particularly new or timely but catches my interest, and I inevitably end up thinking about it through some cultural lens. Here is the first post of a new series that chronicles this aspect of my Internet adventures.  I encourage you to share and become a part of the cultural conversation. 

My mom substitute teaches at my old elementary school. She came home for a quick lunch today, because they’ve put the kids on “rainy day schedule” (a shorter lunch indoors) since it’s so hot and the kids shouldn’t be outside. Before leaving, she told me she was going to go play Heads Up Seven Up, a school game I had completely forgotten about. We used to play it in elementary school, regardless of the teacher or grade. If you don’t know what Heads Up Seven Up is, the first description on this page is a solid explanation. At my elementary school, we never did any variation on the basic premise — no one ever had to share something about themselves or their culture, which is also apparently a common variation. I remember now that even as an elementary school student it was basically impossible to figure out who had tagged you, unless you cheated and looked at the person’s shoes or one of your friends happened to be a tagger. But I started thinking about Heads Up Seven Up and its cultural influence, and went down a research rabbit hole.
1. Apparently this is a game that people have been playing for a long time. Googling it gets me nearly 53 million hits on how to play it and what it is, and the first results are from a lot of teaching, sociology and parenting blogs. “Heads up seven up drinking game” is also a suggested search, which I find amusing. But that helps to suggest something about the basis of the child’s game apparently has staying power. It’s probably because it’s easy to teach and kids like the novelty of it — at my school, for example, it seemed like it was exclusively for rainy day schedule. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about the origin of the game. If you find something, I’d be curious to know who came up with it and its story.
2. Because elementary school in particular (and games and play in general) is about socialization and refining motor skills, it makes sense that this could be a covert educational attempt. This blog post talks about how adding the “tell something about your culture” aspect and making it an icebreaker could help students understand each other better at an earlier age, as well as how to listen. We played it with no variation, so I have no idea what it was supposed to be teaching us beyond what other people’s touches felt like and how people can play mind and guessing games with you. I guess in one way that’s educational, but a very twisted way.
3. Regardless of where you’re from, there’s a large chance you know or have experienced this kind of game. I know it’s been awhile, but I do not ever remember having to stop and explain the game to new students. Everyone just knew how to play it. The gameplay is easy, but I think it’s important to note. There are just things that everyone knows how to do, which I think just has to to do with the power of socialization. Take playground rhymes, for example: do you even remember learning the words to “Ring Around the Rosie” and “Miss Mary Mack” and ever realizing what they meant? Or do you remember learning how to play hide-and-go-seek? And how did kids in California and kids in Maine know the same rhymes and games, pre-technology? And how are they perpetuated? Folklore is creepy. I haven’t been able to find anything for confirmation, but my guess is that children’s publishing was just that prevalent and the minimal pair rhyming of a lot of these songs just stick in kids’ heads. Siblings and family members also have a lot of influence in passing it on.  Heads Up Seven Up isn’t quite equivalent with metafolklore since it seems to be exclusively a classroom thing, but the basic idea that we’re all related in weird ways is fascinating and important. Beyond interests in media or hobbies, there’s this underlying thread that connects most people in the form of childhood games and rhymes, which is touchingly and uniquely human.
4. This t-shirt is a thing and I don’t know why. I remember not being particularly great at the game, but the fact that this is a shirt you can buy as an adult and that people know exactly what it means is overwhelming.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 9/7-9/11

I’ve had this quote from Ira Glass saved for awhile, but one of my closest friends, Valerie, sent it to me this week — a very trying week for me — and it is so incredibly profound to me now that I’m trying my very best to remember it.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit. Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that. And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I’ve been following Jedidiah Jenkins on Instagram for awhile, and he’s in the middle of writing a book about riding his bike from Oregon to Patagonia. Based on this essay, I’m even more excited for his book to arrive.

2. The A.V. Club covered Force Friday in Chicago and it sounded insane. There are a lot of components to this that stuck with me: that this was a marketing and PR ploy more than anything else when it really should have been about the fans and the ethos, that people didn’t end up getting what they wanted and that the merchandise sounded and looked sub-par.

3. This discussion about freelance writing in 2015 and the state of online media is actually pretty frightening. I think it is a Real Problem when it’s more lucrative for writers to write multiple shallow articles than it is to write an in-depth longread. (Also, if you don’t click through to read the essay, he doesn’t get paid.)

4. Apparently there’s a story behind the company most famous for boxed wine that is essentially a soap opera. (I have never and will never understand the appeal of slap the bag.)

5. Do you miss Oliver Sacks? I miss Oliver Sacks a lot. This essay about his relationship with gefilte fish is very important.

And a bonus: These photos of David Bowie from the Ziggy Stardust era are everything.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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