My review of the new Conan movie is as follows:
Neil Peart on why Rush is no longer an album-per-year band:
I know that the mechanism that brought us up doesn’t exist anymore. For instance, a perfect example of how reversed it is, in those days we made no money touring for a long time, even into the successful years. You counted on record sales and songwriting to make your living. And touring was a way to publicize that. Suddenly, in the last 10, 15 years all that turned around and our income is entirely from touring, and recording is an indulgence. In a band like Rush, no one’s going to pay us to make a record. It’s going to be an indulgence. Even Snakes and Arrows basically paid for itself and that’s it, and if we want to make a living beyond that we have to go on the road and tour.
Somewhere between the lines is an assumption that the transition from store-bought CDs to downloadable MP3s had more than just a little to do with it. And it makes sense: If you’re a non-Bieber hard rock / heavy metal band and you decide to put out an album, who’s going to carry it? Walmart? Target? Barnes & Noble, maybe—and even then, only if you’re Rush, and even then only a few copies tucked out of the way on the Rock shelf.
I used to have to take two buses home from school. The connection wasn’t great, but it wasn’t too bad either—twenty minutes between buses, and the stop was right out in front of a Circuit City. I passed the time by ducking inside and browsing the music section. That’s where I discovered most of what I listen to today. That’s where, an album a week (it took me that long to recharge my jar of pennies), I acquired Alan Parsons’ entire discography, ten bucks a pop. And Hanson. Yes, goddammit: Hanson.
That was a good fifteen to (holy fuck!) twenty years ago. A lot has changed. Circuit City doesn’t exist anymore. Tower slit its throat in 2006. Borders? Terminal cancer. Virgin Megastore? Pills. All those shopping mall CD shops? Starbucks. My first instinct on walking into a modern-day Wal-Mart is to lament the death of the CD and of “better days.” There’s a narrow aisle of boy-girl pop discs wedged between the audio/video department and the video game displays. I want to cry. But then I remember: as good as they sounded, I kind of hated CDs. I hated having to store them, hated how easily they scratched. I hated only being able to fit a handful into my backpack during any given road trip (lest I sacrifice toothbrush or extra-pair-of-underwear space for that copy of The Moody Blues’ Time Traveller).
No, I don’t miss CDs. I miss the experience. Much as the older kids missed vinyl once CDs came along and transformed the lavish album format into a 4.7-inch-sized disc pressed into a jewel case, I’ve come to miss walking up and down the sprawling, labyrinthine music aisles of yore now that brick-and-mortar music stores have basically become the music section of Amazon.com. The old ways—that’s how my love affair with David Arkenstone’s music began. I walked into Tower’s New Age section looking for something that sounded funny, there was David with his poofy hair and outdated clothes and bad-ass multi-instrumentalist abilities. Mission friggin’ accomplished. Amazon has great discoverability, don’t get me wrong. I find new and fabulous music—Anathema, Metric, Nightwish, Pendragon, Tycho—all the time while browsing their site. It’s not that music-buying has become harder or less rewarding. It’s just…a little less glorious clicking a “buy now” button and instantly downloading something onto my MP3 player. I love the fuck out of the convenience, I love being able to carry around my entire music collection on my laptop—so why do I have that empty calorie feeling?
My theory is this: buying music has become too easy, and even though that’s a good thing, my archaic upbringing yearns for the thrill of the hunt, the glory of the kill. It’s the part of me that imagines how awesome it would be for my employer to switch from humdrum paychecks and / or direct deposits to bags filled with gold and silver (who am I kidding—nickels, dimes, and a few quarters). So much more substantial than plain, boring direct deposit…although I guess I’d have to pawn or Cash4Gold my earnings, then deposit them at the bank before I could spend anything at Amazon.com. And then I’d have to store or recycle all the empty money bags afterward—
—whatever. My theory’s air-tight. Music tasted better back when you had to hunt and kill it yourself. Today’s kids don’t appreciate the value of a dollar. Get off my lawn. And so forth.
I lost this round of Anticipation because I didn’t think the game would go there. It did.
Lesson learned. :p
With a little tweaking, this can be applied to the ultimate app—Windows 8:
Want to use an inconsistent version of our OS where you can’t get your work done without constantly having to toggle back and forth between two separate, opposing user interfaces?
Upgrade to Windows 8!
Yes. Bitter much.
Jan’s the quiet, disinterested type, the guy who stands nondescript at the edge of a crowd gathered around a seizing shopping mall Santa. He’s not shy or introverted or an asshole or anything (he’ll wait to take pictures with his cell phone until after he’s called 911). He just doesn’t overreact like everyone else. That’s why it bothers me to hear him talking like he’s talking. It’s not what he’s said, it’s how he’s said it. He’s concerned, maybe even worried. “I’m kind of in bad trouble.” That could mean, “I lost my legs in a bet.” Or, “I’ve killed someone.” Or even, “I got lost in the Boca Linda stacks and read from this really old book and I think I’ve accidentally opened the gates of hell.”
The premise: Learning that Jan’s been left to wander the streets after his apartment was unexpectedly towed, Theo reluctantly agrees to install the SuperMegaNet app on his cell phone. Read the full episode here.
I don’t know why people hate on GNOME Shell so much:
I am convinced that Gnome has no future. It will soon be pushed into obsolescence by its own suicidal design. For those who want traditional, there’s Cinnamon or KDE. For those who want, pseudo-touch, there’s Unity. For those who want touch, there’s Android. Which leaves Gnome 3 nowhere and with nothing. An idea that came to solve world hunger. On planet Mars.
Ouch. Just…ouch. I understand that GNOME 3 is still new and funny-looking and trying to make friends out on the playground and all, but to say that its design is suicidal, well, that’s just silly.
The real problem here isn’t with GNOME’s core design or usability. It’s designed well, and it’s quite usable as of version 3.6, even though there are an awkward number of works-in-progress to be finished. I use it for my day-to-day, thank you very much, Ubuntu GNOME Remix, and I’m convinced, personal preferences aside, the main obstacle facing GNOME 3 is the unnecessary nature of its inception (and not a total lack of usefulness). There was no good reason to throw out the GNOME 2 desktop paradigm. GNOME 3′s “overview” metaphor isn’t necessarily better or more efficient than the tried-and-true taskbar method. It’s merely…different. It works just fine (and I think GNOME Shell does it better than Ubuntu’s Unity, at the moment), but I suspect the drastic change was more for the sake of change than it was a response to droves of longtime GNOME users demanding desktop ascension.
Nevertheless, here we are. GNOME has undergone puberty, and its younger siblings, MATE and Cinnamon, aren’t being mature about it. They’re too busy laughing and pointing fingers at the zits, the newfound body hair to notice the inner beauty…or the sexy new Tay Zonday voice. Apples and oranges, haters and fanboys.
Why the haters are wrong:
- Organization. GNOME Shell is well laid-out and, in my opinion, better organized than Unity. Unity’s developers took a good idea, lenses, and allowed it to proliferate to the point where clicking the Ubuntu button or hitting the Windows key now brings up a barrage of icons. Overkill.
- Overview mode. Clean. Organized. Faster than Unity’s laggy dash.
- Application menu. A work-in-progress, woefully useless in most current apps—but when this sucker’s short and curlies start to come in (in other words, once it’s more fully implemented across more apps), it’s going to rawk. I’ve never liked menu bars, as much as they’re needed; this is a way to free up screen real estate without cluttering up the top bar. Me likie.
- The lock screen. It really is beautiful and useful. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s more of a pain to use than the previous GNOME lock screen because of having to swipe / click and drag with your mouse to get to the login box. Simply hit ESC or ENTER. Duh.
- Click and drag into the overview. The ability to click and drag from, say, Files to an app open in the overview is pretty sweet. To be fair, Unity includes similar functionality with its launcher, though it can sometimes take a moment to scroll through the list if you have a lot of favorites and / or open apps.
- Adwaita theme. A much-needed upgrade from the default, icky Clearlooks of yesteryear, and my new favorite GTK3 theme, hands down.
Why the GNOME fanboys are wrong:
- Necessity wasn’t this invention’s mother. GNOME Shell didn’t need to happen. The previous desktop metaphor (think the GNOME 2.x series, Windows 95 – Windows 7, KDE, etc.) was and still is perfectly relevant, functional, and stylish. No user ever, ever posted to a message board asking, “Why the hell hasn’t anyone designed a UI that’s optimized for both desktop computers and tablets, simultaneously, all at once?”
- There’s a such thing as oversimplification. The removal of all but the close button from GNOME’s window manager, for example. Yes, you can maximize a window by dragging it up to the top bar, you can unmaximize by dragging back down off the top bar, but as of GNOME 3.6 there’s no handy way to minimize a window without using Tweak Tool to restore the window manager’s minimize button. As GNOME Shell doesn’t allow icons on the desktop, GNOME developers are no doubt wondering why anyone would want to minimize their windows in the first place. It’s simple: to unwind during snack breaks by appreciating that naked volleyball chick desktop background your ex-girlfriend used to hate. My question is, can you really call something a window manager if all it does is close windows?
- Application menu. One of GNOME 3′s most promising new features also happens to be one of its pubertal blemishes. Nautilus / Files is one of the first few apps to take advantage of the app menu, though full functionality across all apps remains to be seen. And it’s not all peaches and cream. For example, when you have multiple maximized Files windows open, there’s no way to close the currently active window from the app menu without quitting Files entirely—because the window manager discards Files’ close button when it’s maximized. Yes, you can switch to overview mode and close the window that way, but it seems there should be a “close” as well as “quit” option in the app menu.
I’m not that big a fan of UI developers’ deciding to apply tablet interfaces to traditional desktops / laptops. Ideally, a desktop should have a desktop-specific UI, and a tablet should have a tablet-specific UI. But if this is how it’s going to be, if this is our point of GNOME return, then GNOME 3 seems to be a comfortable middle ground. And, in light of the massive train wreck that is Windows 8, I suspect there’s more love for GNOME 3 than the haters will let on, because even Cinnamon, designed to thumb its nose at GNOME’s sexy new body, has recently implemented its own “expo” and “scale” overview modes.
For reasons that are quite possibly beyond human understanding, the world as we know it did not come to an end in 2012—which means that it, much like the ragged, sleepwalking corpse that is SuperMegaNet, shall continue to lurch onward into 2013. To that end, episode 5.3, “Bedroom Apocalypse,” is up at the usual place.
I close and lock the door, pressing my back up against it. “Beta?”
Beta shakes his head, as if coming out of a trance, and looks at me. “Oh. Hey, little dude.”
“What the heck happened to my room?”
A coyote howls in the distance.
Beta says, “You’re not going to believe me.”
I pay the mountain of skulls another glance. “There’s a pile of human skulls now occupying my bedroom. I don’t think anything you say can be more unbelievable than that.”
The premise: Discovering that his bedroom has been utterly ransacked, Theo comes to terms with the possibility that Mini may be harder to control than he first thought. Read the full episode here.
SuperMegaNet episode 5.2, “The Nakayoshi Factor,” has been posted over where the sun don’t shine. Theo hasn’t seen some action in a while, so I figured it was time to change that. Hence the reason for the darker, more introspective feel this time around…because Theo’s a dark, introspective kind of guy.
I suppose there’s a silver lining to all of this: Mr. Nakayoshi’s presence tonight has afforded me a certain level of anonymity. No one’s fussing over me, no one’s hovering over my shoulder and waiting for one of my contacts to fall out so that they can swoop in and catch it before it hits the floor—which is pretty much all Mom and Dad have been doing since finding out about the New Eyes incident. In the mornings, Mom now waits with the car idling until she’s satisfied I’ve made it inside the Boca Linda locker hall in one piece. The worst, though, is if I forget to lock my bedroom door at bedtime, and she happens to walk in on me while I have my contacts out. “Oh,” she says, her tone quick, clipped—as if she’s walked in on me naked, or masturbating—or masturbating naked with my contacts out. Oh.
The premise: After enduring yet another dinner accosted by the ever-flirtatious Mr. Nakayoshi, Theo sneaks upstairs to find an unexpected surprise waiting in his bedroom. Read the full episode here.
Trust me, I did my best to prevent it, but it looks like Vol. 5 of SuperMegaNet has gotten off to a moaning, groaning, snooze-button-pressing start over at That Blog Which Must Not Be Named. You may want to lay off the Internet for a few days until all the uncool has dissipated. Alternatively, a Firefox extension allowing you to block the site can be found here.
I look out the window and wonder how seriously I’d be injured if I throw myself from the car while it’s still moving. It feels like I’ve been stuck here since December of 2011 even though it’s only been five or ten minutes. Hitchhiking with a pedophile has that effect on the passage of time, particularly if you’re twelve years old and homeless.
(It doesn’t help that Justin Bieber keeps panting “baby, baby” over and over again.)
Robbie goes on to lament the loss of Logan Lerman to adulthood. I nod and mutter an obligatory “uh-huh” every few minutes, only vaguely paying attention. I just want the car to stop at a red light long enough for me to grab Mini and do a dive roll out the door. Speaking of Mini, he’s been busy gathering the most horrific evidence from beneath the passenger seat: a bottle of Jergens, a box of condoms, a camcorder, some kind of giant toy shaped like a man’s—
—that’s it. I’m jumping. I’d rather take my chances face-surfing the asphalt than sitting here waiting for Ernie’s boy-stalker to make his move. I reach for the door handle…
The premise: Jan realizes that he’s hitchhiking with Ernie’s pedophile “friend” (and possibly worse, a Justin Bieber fan). Meanwhile, Mini-Theo explains what “muff” is. Read the full episode here.