Put your phones away and enjoy the concert.

Jack White is requiring fans to keep their phones in locked pouches during his concerts:

Jack White has discouraged phone use at his live shows for years. In the past, he’s made a point of going onstage and asking fans to keep their phones in their pockets. Now, for his upcoming US tour, he’s trying a more aggressive approach. Fans will be asked to keep their phones secured in a Yondr-branded pouch that can only be unlocked in certain areas of the venue, NME reports.

A statement released today by White’s team says that concertgoers will be banned from taking photos, audio, or video during the tour. “We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it IN PERSON,” the statement reads, according to NME.

Good move by White. I saw Dave Chappelle perform in Oakland a few years ago and he also has a no phone policy.

And to all you wannabe concert cinematographers: No one gives a shit about your shaky clips and you’ll probably never watch them again.

Japanese Rent-A-Friends

In Japan, you can pay an actor to impersonate your relative, spouse, coworker, or any kind of acquaintance:

Morin: When you’re working, is it purely acting, or do the feelings ever become real?

Yuichi: It’s a business. I’m not going to be her father for 24 hours. It’s a set time. When I am acting with her, I don’t really feel that I love her, but when the session is over and I have to go, I do feel a little sad. The kids cry sometimes. They say, “Why do you have to leave?” In those instances, I feel very sorry that I’m faking it—very guilty. There are times, when I’m done with the work and I come back home, where I sit and watch TV. I find myself wondering, “Is this, now, the real me, or the actor?”

Morin: How do you answer that question?

Yuichi: I don’t think I have an answer. The person that used to be me—is he me now? I know that it’s common for actors to feel that way. If you’re a really good actor—if you’re in it all the time—it feels very unsettling.

The Japanese continue to operate on a completely different level than the rest of the planet.

See Also: Making Friends Over 30

Facebook Still Sucks

On Facebook’s news blog David Ginsberg and Moira Burke ask if Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?:

The bad: In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook. A study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average in a survey. Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesize that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison — and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering. Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person.

The good: On the other hand, actively interacting with people — especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions — is linked to improvements in well-being. This ability to connect with relatives, classmates, and colleagues is what drew many of us to Facebook in the first place, and it’s no surprise that staying in touch with these friends and loved ones brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.

So Facebook has concluded social media sucks if you use it the wrong way. Wow, thanks for the advice.

That’s like a car dealership selling cars that all pull to the right without turning the steering wheel and the dealer telling you, “The driving experience is better if you drive straight.”

Facebook created a platform that encourages the passive consuming of information garbage. If people are engaging in this incorrect usage, maybe Facebook should rethink how Facebook is designed, which it sounds like they’re doing.

Another way of feeling better about yourself is not using Facebook at all. I admittedly have an account that I check once or twice a week and I’m usually reminded as soon as I log in why I don’t like using it for more than a minute or so. If I spend any significant time on Facebook, it’s in the private group my best friends and I set up to talk.

The main Facebook newsfeed feels like I’m having a political debate in an isle of Walmart, with someone handing out pizza bites next to me and a row of TVs playing clips of stupid home movies and dogs tricks behind me, all the while hearing everyone else’s rants around me. Bleh.

“reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled”

Back in September The Atlantic published a fascinating long-form article that I just got around to reading.

It’s titled, ‘How America Lost Its Mind‘, and it was adapted by a book written by Kurt Anderson:

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

Then comes the Internet:

And there was also the internet, which eventually would have mooted the Fairness Doctrine anyhow. In 1994, the first modern spam message was sent, visible to everyone on Usenet: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon. Over the next year or two, the masses learned of the World Wide Web. The tinder had been gathered and stacked since the ’60s, and now the match was lit and thrown. After the ’60s and ’70s happened as they happened, the internet may have broken America’s dynamic balance between rational thinking and magical thinking for good.

And then we get to Trump:

Donald Trump is a grifter driven by resentment of the establishment. He doesn’t like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth. He sees conspiracies everywhere. He exploited the myths of white racial victimhood. His case of what I call Kids R Us syndrome—spoiled, impulsive, moody, a 71-year-old brat—is acute.

Who knew we’d have to be so vigilant in our fight for truth and facts in 2017.

Making Friends Over 30

Over at The New York Times Alex Williams explores why it’s so hard to make friends over 30:

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.

I’m keenly aware of this problem as a 40-year-old dude.

My wife is initially surprised how dismissive I am of the boyfriends and husbands of her friends and co-workers. Then I explain to her that if the guy in question is cool, I’ll make a few concerted efforts at reaching out to them (grab a drink, hit a concert, meet my other friends) but I’m usually met either with radio silence or reasons they can’t hang out. At this point I write them off.

If I run into them again I’ll usually replace my previously genuine conversating with vapid smalltalk. If they’re not making an effort, why should I?

“the way things were back then”

David Bowie and Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Statutory Rape Problem:

We can dismiss all of this as just the “way things were back then.” We can pretend that we haven’t heard countless songs about young “Lolitas” who were “just seventeen—you know what I mean.” We can ignore the racial implications in the mainstream media’s relative silence on rockers’ histories of statutory rape and its glorification. But the next time you watch Almost Famous, take note of how much younger most of the Band Aids seem compared to the world-weary rockers that are repeatedly shown taking them to bed (Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane says she’s 16 in the film). Note how the movie casually nods to Page and Mattix in a scene at the infamous Hyatt “Riot House” on Sunset Strip. And think about how many girls would’ve been better off had someone given a damn way back when, as opposed to just fawning over a guitarist with some hit songs.Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman infamously began seeing 13-year-old Mandy Smith in 1983. According to Smith, Wyman had sex with her when she was 14. They married when she turned 18 in 1989; they divorced in 1991. She spoke about her time with the ex-Stone in an interview with The Daily Mail in 2010.

David Bowie, Jimmy Page, Sam Cooke, Don Henley, R. Kelly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis. Lots of names.

Every person condones questionable behavior of others, but the line “you’re not allowed to cross” is different for everyone. Some people are willing to overlook Bowie’s behavior, but others will write him off completely.

This brings to mind Woody Allen, particularly his movie Manhattan. In it, Woody Allen’s character Isaac is a 44-year-old dating a 17-year-old high school student, Tracy, played by an actual 17-year-old Mariel Hemingway. In 1997, Allen married his adopted daughter, Soon-Yi.

As a man, it’s easy for me to justify why I still enjoy watching Woody Allen films (I contend Cate Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine was her best ever), but I would like to know what the actresses that starred in his films from 1998 until today think about his past.

“My head makes the pictures.”

The New Bedtime Story Is a Podcast:

“What I love about this space is that it feels much more similar to reading to a child than it does sticking them in front of a screen,” said Emily Shapiro, Panoply’s director of children’s programming (and a co-founder of the New York International Children’s Film Festival). “With visual media, you can get these brain-dead kids who are just plugged in and being fed all of their entertainment.” But with podcasts, “they’re creating the world.”

We all descended from people who huddled around fires and told stories.

It should be no surprise people love (good) podcasts.

Android sounds like a dream.

Android 7.1+ has a “Panic Detection” Mode that Detects Frantic Back Button Presses:

While many readers of Android-centric websites such as our own are less likely to come across situations where a rogue application compromises their system, the same may not be true for the general population. Nearly every week we hear from various security researchers about new malware targeting Android users. Most of these malicious attacks can be avoided by inspecting permissions or avoiding installing sketchy-looking applications, and while we do recommend our readers take their phone’s security into their own hands, Google is responsible for securing every Android phone. To that end, the company quietly introduced a new security feature in Android 7.1 Nougat called “panic detection” which listens for multiple back button presses in succession then returns the user to their home screen.

I hate all the malware on my iPhone.

Oh yeah, I never have to deal with malware or “panic detection”.

Open always wins, right?

Tough Old Jew from the Bronx

Actor Carl Reiner — at 95 years old — just wrote an op-ed in The New York Times directed at Justice Anthony Kennedy:

I would like to start with congratulatory wishes on your forthcoming 81st birthday.

As someone who has almost a decade and a half on you, I can tell you this: It may well be that the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.

When I turned 81, I had finished “Oceans Eleven” and was gearing up for “Oceans Twelve” while also writing another book, which led me to a cross-country book tour.

Just a reminder that most of us aren’t trying hard enough.

“the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a toy”

Apple’s AR is closer to reality than Google’s:

Looking at this distance-measuring app, it seems so simple and obvious. Of course your super-powered, multi-core phone should be smart enough to measure out basic distances, and there have indeed been many wonky apps trying to do that in the past. But measuring with AR, as already shown off by Google Tango phones, allows you a much more intuitive method for doing it. Having the phone actually aware of the three-dimensional space in its view allows for precise measurements, which can be represented with a neat hologram of a measuring tape. Apple’s advantage in the contest for doing this best is simple: while Google Tango demands special hardware, ARKit requires only that you have a recent iOS device. At WWDC earlier this month, Craig Federighi described ARKit as “the largest AR platform in the world,” and he was right.

This isn’t just about raw engineering brilliance. Google and Microsoft can easily go toe-to-toe with Apple in that realm. This is about design, and making a sophisticated technology approachable to everyday people. It seems Apple still understands this better than their competitors.

In 2016, Microsoft introduced its approach to augmented reality with their big, fat headset, the HoloLens. They demonstrated how you could play Minecraft in your living room, stacking virtual blocks in real space. This demo reminded me that despite the departure of Steve Ballmer and their new-found love of hardware in their Surface devices, this is the same company that came to multi-touch market with a $10,000 table. Some things never change.

The ARKit demo apps in the story quoted above might look cute or trivial, but as Clay Christiansen said, the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a toy.

Sure, a phone screen isn’t as immersive as an AR headset, but this is just the first step and one with a much lower barrier to entry than a big headset.

“Compared directly against Google Assistant, Bixby Voice is in for some embarrassing showdowns.”

Samsung has released a preview of their AI assistant ‘Bixby’ to beta testers:

First things first. If you registered to be a beta tester, make sure you’re running the current version of Bixby by going to its “about” screen. Download any updates that appear there. I also had to clear the data and cache for Bixby apps in my S8+’s settings screen before Bixby Voice appeared. Once it does, you’ll get a tutorial that involves teaching you how to trigger the voice feature and then teaching it to recognize your voice.

This already sounds like a great user experience. Clearing cache, tutorials. Bixby sounds even more beta than Siri was went Apple launched it.

Even the essential task of text messaging someone is surprisingly hard to pull off. For one, you’ve got to use Samsung’s Messages app as your default SMS app. And if you don’t word things exactly right, it won’t happen. “Text mom and ask ‘how are you’” sent me to a Google search. “Send a text to mom and ask ‘how are you’” worked — but still necessitated a few taps to fire off the message. What’s the point of voice, then? Google Assistant nailed it with a single attempt.

One more nugget:

Compared directly against Google Assistant, Bixby Voice is in for some embarrassing showdowns. Until things get better, a lot of people will be asking “What’s the point?” I’m not really sure Bixby Voice saves you much in the way of time since it often runs through the same menus and screens you would with your finger when performing tasks.

Haha. Good luck with this, Samsung.

What I love most about this is that Samsung phones run on Android and Google already has Google Assistant which is way more advanced than Bixby, but Samsung wants to differentiate themselves from the sea of other Android phone manufacturers.

I suppose in that respect they’ve accomplished their mission.

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!”

Over at The New Yorker, Ferris Jabr explains why walking helps us think:

Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight. Earlier this year, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford published what is likely the first set of studies that directly measure the way walking changes creativity in the moment. They got the idea for the studies while on a walk. “My doctoral advisor had the habit of going for walks with his students to brainstorm,” Oppezzo says of Schwartz. “One day we got kind of meta.”

As a former New Yorker, I walked everywhere for photo-shooting, idea generation, and because sometimes it’s the easiest way to get to where you’re going.

No Speaky to Bixby

Samsung says Bixby voice assistant won’t ship with Galaxy S8:

One of the key signature features of Samsung’s Galaxy S8, its Bixby voice assistant, won’t work out of the box, when the device goes on sale later this month. Other parts of Bixby, including its visual search and reminder abilities, will ship at launch, a Samsung representative told Axios in a statement.

Samsung really doesn’t like being reliant on Android to power all their mobile devices. Tizen is the most obvious example of this. TouchWiz is another. Bixby is the latest example.

What I want to know is if Samsung is truly invested in Bixby for the long-term?

Siri was very beta and had many problems when it first launched. Today it has much fewer, although it has a ways to go. Apple’s great at having the balls to ship 1.0 versions of products and then iterate year after year. Remember when everyone was bitching about the shitty colors, icons, and hard-to-read Helvetica Light in iOS 7? If you compare iOS 7 to iOS 10 you can see a lot has changed in four years.

Even if Samsung does decide to stick with Bixby, they have yet to prove they can ship top-quality software experiences on par with iOS and Android.

If Samsung is dreaming of overcoming Apple, they have some work ahead of them.

Car Companies Are Still Struggling with Interface Design

Headline from The Verge:

The 2017 BMW 5 Series emphasizes design over intuitive software

First off, shame on whoever the editor is for creating that headline. They’re conflating design with the superfluous. Design isn’t how it looks, it’s how it works.

How many times do we have to go over this?

If you do eventually get your phone connected over Bluetooth, you have a few options for controlling iDrive. The most novel way is with those gesture controls. I was excited to try them because, as I’ve learned after playing around with many gadgets, it’s often a gimmicky and faulty feature. I hoped that BMW had figured out the magic solution to making it an essential form of interaction. Spoiler: the company hasn’t. The gesture controls didn’t always function, and beyond that, I never wanted to rotate my finger in a circle to adjust the volume level or stick two fingers out to end a call. I tried to make the controls part of my driving experience and ended up never using them, although they were still a fun party trick that entertained my passengers. Buttons and knobs have a 100 percent success rate — why would I want to struggle to change the volume with a twirl of my finger when I could just turn the volume knob?

BMW’s voice commands also weren’t foolproof. The system registered people who have a full name in my phone book, like The Verge’s photographer Amelia Krales, but not addresses like 550 West 25th Street, or simple words like “mom.” Why is it always so hard to call my mom?

Incumbents always laugh at the idea of a newbie coming into their industry and stealing away market share, but the car industry is a great example of an industry ripe for disruption. This happened to the fixed-keyboard smartphones with the iPhone, it’s happening now to the watch world with the Apple Watch, but I’m not sure we can say it’s happening to the auto industry yet (Ford sold 2.5 million cars in 2016, Tesla moved 80K).

It frustrates me when I read about BMW creating it’s own (currently inferior) voice command system, when a lot of us already use Siri or ‘Ok, Google’. It’s bad enough we have redundant AI efforts happening at Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple, but now auto makers are joining in. I understand not wanting to let the tech companies eat your lunch, but something has to give. Let us plug our phones into our cars, our lives are on those devices.

Mercedes-Benz is another company continuing to make cumbersome user interfaces. I recently drove a fully-loaded 2016 E Class sedan and for such a classy, well-engineered, and fun-to-drive car, the on-screen graphics and menus lack the visual sophistication you expect from a Mercedes (fonts are clunky, drop shadows are heavy-handed, background swooshes and texture are dated, animations are stiff), and are also confusing to navigate.

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