“And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them?”

You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument:

According to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.

It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.

What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?

This is the best thing I read in today’s Sunday Times.

WXOU Radio Bar

Katherine Lewin, writing for The Infatuation, on WXOU Radio Bar:

This is as straightforward a bar as you’ll find in the city. DGAF attitude, dad rock, and beers & well drinks are the key components here – it’s all familiar, and that’s a good thing. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the routinely expensive, sceney, and packed bars that you keep going back to. You’ll leave wishing you had this place on your corner.

It doesn’t matter that I lived in New York for 12 years. There will always be bars I haven’t visited. This is one of them, and it looks great.

Flash

Last week Vice posted an article on Rob Ford’s newly published book, Web Design: The Evolution of the Digital World 1990-Today.

The 640-page book, full of pictures of interactive websites from prior eras, benefits from taking a wide view of the visual culture of the past: Starting at the embryonic stages of the World Wide Web, it follows the art of web design through periods of extreme experimentation on the way to the convention-driven scaffolding we have today. The book makes a compelling case through its general structure that the sweet spot of creative web design came during the late 1990s through the mid-2000s—periods in which major brands were willing to invest a whole lot of money in a website intended for show, not just tell.

Ford’s main perspective is that Flash is responsible for the Internet’s most creative era.

I started my career as a designer in the “sweet spot” Ford highlights in his book, so I am both biased and knowledgeable about the breakthroughs in web/interactive design of the period. I remember Joshua Davis and his website Praystation, where he posted his digital art experiments in Flash on an almost daily basis. Davis also provided his pre-compiled source files for anyone to take and run with. There was also Eric Natzke, James Paterson (Presstube), Robert Hodgin (flight 404) and dozens of other digital artists and experimentors pushing the envelope with what was possible with Flash on the Web.

Then there were all the nascent digital agencies blazing a trail in web design like Huge, Big Spaceship, grupoW, hi-res, RG/A, Kioken, group94, and Firstborn to name a few.

It was also during this period that I was a contributing editor to one of the larger web design portals, Moluv (it’s actually still up). As a young designer I’d sift through hundreds of website submissions every day to find just a small handful that were actually great — great interactivity, great typography, great animation, and great content.

Sure, you could say Ford and I are looking back at the Web through a rose-colored, 72dpi monitor, but it’s a fact that every immersive website – powered by HTML, Javascript, and CSS – you see today on design portals like Awwwards, siteinspire, and Designer News has it’s roots in the experimental Flash sites of the early 2000s.

Parallax scrolling, custom typefaces, scripted motion, dynamic masking, video backgrounds, interactive 3-D objects — these all began life on the Web as Flash websites.

There are also interesting comments on this Vice article over at Slashdot.org. Many of the comments are negative, shitting on Flash as a buggy plug-in, plagued by endless security holes. While the security concerns around Flash are very real (Adobe will stop distributing and updating Flash in 2020), this discounts all creative work created in Flash.

Flash’s greatest contribution to the world of digital design is it lowered the barrier to entry for creating experimental, immersive, digital experiences. Designers and artists were no longer stuck with static HTML and images. They could now express themselves though motion, sound, and interactivity. If he or she was unable to figure out how to achieve a particular effect, they could go one of the many vibrant forums and find the answer – and source files – from someone else.

Fun Interface

John Gruber on the upcoming iOS 13 and what bothers him with the “post-iOS 7” UI:

I don’t know why, but one of those things has been bugging me a lot in recent months: the drab gray color that indicates tapdown state for list items and buttons. Putting aside skeuomorphic textures like woodgrain and leather and the 3D-vs.-flat debate, the utter drabness of tapdown states is just a bad idea. I didn’t like it when iOS 7 debuted, and I like it even less 6 years later.

In classic iOS, when you tapped down on list items or buttons, they’d instantly light up in vibrant color. The standard color was a bright cheerful blue. In iOS 7 through 12, the tapdown state is the color of dirty dishwater.

I agree with Gruber to an extent.

I remember how weird iOS 7 felt when it came out. It was the first major iOS update after Scott Forstall left Apple and Jony Ive took ownership of iOS. Readability was shitty (it used a lot of Helvetica 35 Thin) and there was poor foreground/background contrast in Control Center with greys and whites. It felt like a print designer was designing their first RGB interface. It also didn’t feel fun. Love skeuomorphism or hate it, iOS, up to version 6 felt fun (I hate to break to the the skeuomorphism haters, but iOS still a lot uses skeuomorphism, but that’s for another post).

Fast forward to today and I think iOS 12 feels much more fun. There are more rounded corners (and bigger radii on those corners), and animations have more easing to them. Transitions are not as robotically linear as they used to be.

This isn’t to say there’s not room to improve iOS and make make it more fun.

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I only speak orders when I’m at a restaurant

The Reality Behind Voice Shopping Hype:

Amazon and Google both tout voice shopping—the ability to make purchases and check on the status of orders with verbal commands—as significant features of their smart speakers. Some forecasts call for annual voice shopping sales to reach $40 billion in just a few years.

But it appears that only a small fraction of smart speaker owners use them to shop, and the few who do try it don’t bother again. The Information has learned that only about 2% of the people with devices that use Amazon’s Alexa intelligent assistant—mostly Amazon’s own Echo line of speakers—have made a purchase with their voices so far in 2018, according to two people briefed on the company’s internal figures. Amazon has sold about 50 million Alexa devices, the people said.

This statistic sounds about right.

My 71-year-old father, who’s very tech-savy, hooked up his two Alexa devices to all of the lights and two televisions on the ground floor of his house, but I don’t think he’s ever made a voice purchase with them.

As someone who doesn’t own an Alexa device, I can maybe see myself making voice purchases for utility items like toilet paper and cleaning products, but definitely not for things like clothing, books, or electronics (maybe for low top black Chuck Taylors).

whipping people into a state of anger

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf breaks down British journalist Cathy Newman’s interview with Jordan Peterson:

Actually, one of the most important things this interview illustrates—one reason it is worth noting at length—is how Newman repeatedly poses as if she is holding a controversialist accountable, when in fact, for the duration of the interview, it is she that is “stirring things up” and “whipping people into a state of anger.”

At every turn, she is the one who takes her subject’s words and makes them seem more extreme, or more hostile to women, or more shocking in their implications than Peterson’s remarks themselves support. Almost all of the most inflammatory views that were aired in the interview are ascribed by Newman to Peterson, who then disputes that she has accurately characterized his words.

If you haven’t seen the interview do yourself a favor and check it out. I love the interview because it’s a great example of an interviewee not accepting the drama television personalities like Newman love to engage in.

Newman misquotes Peterson and tries to create arguments were none exist but Peterson corrects every one of her misquotes during the interview. Good for him.

Recreational Outrage

‘Simpsons’ Creator Says of Apu Criticism, ‘People Love to Pretend They’re Offended’:

While speaking last week to USA Today, Mr. Groening was asked if he had “any thoughts on the criticism of Apu as a stereotype.”

“Not really,” Mr. Groening responded. “I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”

Groening is right. People love recreational outrage. People eat up things to get pissed off about like I can eat up Reeses Pieces.

Now I have to admit I’m one of the few Americans who has never regularly watched The Simpsons, but I do know most of the characters. I’m familiar with Apu. So my question: Is Apu’s character degrading to East Indians? I’m not talking about his accent and I’m not talking about his working in a convenience store. I’m asking about character.

While we’re on the subject, I’m offended by the portrayal of Americans as idiots through Homer Simpson. All Americans are not idiots. That’s a broad generalization. Most Americans are idiots.

Of course I’m not in that group. I’m clearly an intellectual blogger.

Native Apps are Still Better

From The Verge, Web apps are only getting better:

So, what is a Progressive Web App?

Well, for starters, it’s just a website with a special “manifest” file that defines the name of the app, the icon for the home screen, and whether or not the app should show the typical browser UI or just take over the full screen. Users can add any website with a manifest file to their home screen or their Start menu and launch it like a regular mobile or desktop app.

But instead of just loading a website from the internet, a Progressive Web App is typically cached on your device so it has some sort of offline functionality. That could be anything ranging from saving the JavaScript and CSS so the website simply loads faster, on up to saving everything the user does locally like a traditional app.

Progressive Web Apps, importantly, can also support push notifications and other background work due to a new web technology called “service workers.” Service workers can help cache new content and synchronize local changes to a remote server, which keeps Progressive Web Apps as up-to-date as a typical website, while staying as responsive as a native app.

Right now the best example of a Progressive Web App is the Twitter Lite client. It’s fast, minimal, and even has a toggle so you can minimize data usage. Some online stores and publications have also taken advantage of the snappy performance of PWAs. I’ve actually been playing a minimal 2048 clone PWA on my iPhone for the last week. It works offline and remembers my high score between sessions. Sometimes it even saves the game state so I can resume a long run, but it’s not perfect.

In 2007, before the introduction of the App Store for iOS (then iPhone OS), Steve Jobs promised developers the power of writing web apps for iPhone. Developers didn’t buy it. Fast forward 11 years to now and I still don’t think many are buying it.

I’m happy web apps are getting better but native apps still have the upper hand.

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

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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.