I Just Met the Bot I Could Text for the Rest of My Life

Actually, not “just.” This happened about a week and a half ago. I tried to share it on Facebook, but in that format the image came out all shrunken and horrible-looking, so I decided to post it here instead. I figured Valentine’s Day was about as fitting a day as any to publish it. Image after the jump. Please forgive the janky image edit; I’d cobbled together these screen grabs in between doing things that actually mattered.

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Welcome to Ello. Here’s Your Tinfoil Hat

301410-aabc2b945a6ffda2bee3aa3b879af79f-medium_jpgSo, I joined Ello two weeks ago, during that wave when, out of nowhere, your Facebook feed became peppered with people either giving away or asking for invitations to the beta-phase social network. Fifteen days later, Ello kind of feels like… digital Detroit. Do you have a lot of artist friends who love to gripe about how limited they feel where they’re living, and how if they moved to Detroit, they’d have all the freedom and space they wanted to really flourish? The problem being, when any of them actually get to Detroit, their immediate perception is that there’s nothing there, and very few have the wherewithal to try to create something out of a perceived “nothing” or to discover the resources and connections they need to wrest what they’d wanted out of the experience? It’s the same thing with Ello. You have those certain friends who feel like Facebook is monitoring them, or Twitter isn’t “cool” anymore, or whatever, and they’re itching for an excuse to jump ship. Ello is that excuse at this particular moment. Good luck with that, guys. Continue reading

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Racism, Linguistics, History and a Little Band Called “Me Chinese”

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I don’t know if there’s a single good image to accompany this post, so basically, this thing above is unarguably Chinese, we can agree.

Sometimes you just can’t predict what takes over your social media feed. Here my local Greater New York City musician friends were, gearing up for the coming CMJ festival, booking shows and announcing dates, same as every October. But right now, a lot of those people find themselves talking and thinking a lot about a band from Florida few (if any) of us had ever heard of. The band is called Me Chinese. The discussion isn’t about their music. It’s about the fact that they’re called Me Chinese, and about whether it’s at all acceptable for a band to be called Me Chinese.

A few of my musician friends and acquaintances of Asian descent were the among the first to notice the name Me Chinese on CMJ schedules (the band’s booked at a few small clubs where local bands like ours play all the time), and reaction ranged from mild frustration to allegations of outright racism. The discussion on Facebook has been building for a couple days and was picked up yesterday by the blog Brooklyn Vegan. As with just about anything on social media and in music blogs, the reaction spans from earnest discussion and statements of solidarity, through waffling and equivocation, through straw man counterarguments, to basic trolling. Continue reading

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That Summer When Jeff Lynne Really Understood My Pain

ELO_A_New_World_RecordHere’s something I haven’t done in a while: A long-form music feature published somewhere other than this blog. My buds Jon Mann and Derek Hawkins — two men of many talents, whom New Yorkers of a certain persuasion might recognize as the dual frontmen of the Brooklyn punk/powerpop band Sunset Guns — edit and contribute to a really fun blog called Square Zeros, which has a couple different functions. One is the online home of the Square Zeros podcast, in which Jon and Derek talk to active musicians about their very first bands, revisiting recordings their guests had made as teenagers. The other is the “In Defense Of…” series, in which musicians, writers and aficionados write about records or musical acts they love, but that are somehow underappreciated. That doesn’t mean those acts are unpopular. In fact, in most cases in this series, the act at the center of the story is extremely popular, or at least was for a brief moment. But in most cases, the writer thinks the act isn’t taken seriously enough by people of “discerning taste,” and sets about explaining what they hear in this record that makes it special to them. The best “In Defense Of…” posts get into some really interesting questions about art and fanship and subjective experience: Do I like this record because it’s good, or because I first heard it at a pivotal time in my life? What do my perceived tastes say about my hang-ups and prejudices? What do the things I like say about the person I think I am?

Turns out I’ve been writing an “In Defense Of…” column in my head about one of my 25 or so favorite albums for the past, I don’t know, seven years. Continue reading

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Led Zeppelin Probably Lifted “Stairway” From Spirit. So Why Sue Now?

This is not Led Zeppelin. This is Spirit.

This is not Led Zeppelin. This is Spirit.

I’m normally a big proponent of proper attribution in all media. I’m also a proponent of giving Jimmy Page hell for the sheer number of guitar licks he lifted without attribution throughout Led Zeppelin’s existence, and I dig the band Spirit. You’d think, then, that I’d applaud former Spirit bassist Mark Andes and the estate of that band’s virtuoso guitarist, Randy California, for finally getting around to suing Led Zeppelin over an uncredited nick that turned into the introductory passage of “Stairway to Heaven.” But… I just don’t like the sound of this lawsuit thing.

Here’s the thing: Jimmy Page probably based the acoustic guitar figure that opens “Stairway” off of “Taurus,” an instrumental track from Spirit’s self-titled 1968 album. Continue reading

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2013: The Year in Epigrams

makeitshortIf you’re a Facebook user at all, you’ve probably noticed the recent appearance in your news feed of a whole bunch of “2013 Year in Review” posts from your friends and acquaintances. This is a feature where, if you choose, Facebook will select your “20 biggest moments” out of everything you posted in 2013 and bundle them up in one tidy stream, which you may in turn share with your network. I gave it a shot, because like a lot of people, I can’t remember everything I did this past year, and yet I’m also a complete narcissist, so I thought it would be good to look back on all the awesome things I’ve done.

As it turned out, I found the results appallingly unrepresentative. Continue reading

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Three Alt-Weeklies, My Own Salad Days and One Long Goodbye to Them All

So much fun, we turned it into a lunchbox: Jeff Glagowski's 2004 illustration of a giant mayor's fictitious rampage.

So much fun, we turned it into a lunchbox: Jeff Glagowski’s 2004 illustration of a giant mayor’s fictitious rampage.

This morning, the final editions of the three alt-weekly newspapers that serve Connecticut — the New Haven Advocate, Hartford Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly — all hit newsstands. The Hartford Advocate, which I discovered on the floor of my high school’s chorus room, was the first alt-weekly I ever read and inspired me to pursue journalism seriously. The New Haven Advocate, which I read religiously through college, opened my eyes to the premise that whatever I wanted to get out of doing journalism, I wasn’t getting it from being a journalism major. (I switched to English pretty quickly.) At some point in my 20s, I wrote for each of those three papers. It’s often sad to acknowledge a significant part of your past is gone (and almost always a bum-out to realize you’ve reached an age when you can look back and notice how entities that at one point defined your life are totally gone), but my own sense of loss is a mere detail. The tragedy is that every region deserves an alt-weekly, and to imagine every Connecticut college campus and artists’ colony and band rehearsal complex to not have one that serves its own denizens… well, the image just doesn’t feel like Connecticut to me. The Connecticut I know is home to a culture where mild crankiness and dry wit ride high, where homegrown music and art are championed by very vocal local boosters, where the landscape is dotted with a few of the more prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S., where the political conversation tends to pan leftward, and where an extremely diverse (economically and ethnically) group of people try to understand each other and get along. Connecticut is alt-weekly country, man.

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