The LAN before time

Remember how things mattered until they didn’t?

I used to be meticulous with my music curation. Okay, let’s take it down a peg. I used to Care A Lot about my iTunes metadata. I downloaded a ton of music and ripped all my CDs for the digital realm. Just years and years worth of stuff. It was all organised in a way to make hearing exactly what I wanted to hear as simple and efficient as possible. I’m sure this doesn’t make a ton of sense to all y’all, but when we used to torrent stuff or grab it from Napster/Morpheus/Kazaa/IRC or whatever, it often had weird characters, was misnamed, etc. It was a bunch of work. The number of times I’d download the same track, but with different names, was astounding. They even used to sometimes insert weird SFX into tracks as an odd form of copyright protection. Hell, I used to burn albums by downloading each individual track, then arranging them in order on a CD. It was the opposite of sophisticated. So I’d spend the time to get everything in order on my computer before porting it over to my iPod. End of story. Sorta.

I used to go to LAN parties (we’d all bring our desktop computers around to someone’s place, then spend the evening getting loaded up on caffeine, snacks and stay up all night gaming). The unspoken law of LAN parties is that while everyone was up, computers were for gaming. Inevitably we’d crash at some point, usually after sunrise. One of the exciting aspects of LAN parties was getting to leech content from each other. You could load up on anime, games, movies and music. Maybe it was that I got used to having limited space, needing to be conservative, etc. Or perhaps I was just a control freak. I would be discerning as to what I grabbed. When it came to shows, movies and music, I’d go through and only take what I thought I’d use. This wasn’t the case across the board. A bunch of people with massive hard drives would just take everything. They could, they had the luxury of not needing to care.

When it came to music, this always made me feel really uncomfortable. Why would you take everything? What if there was tons of stuff you weren’t into? I took a personal stake in it. I’d spent all this time curating my collection, making sure it was exactly how I wanted it. These people, however, would just absorb it into their own. Most of it would likely never even be heard. For them it was about having more data. For me it was about tailoring specific experiences. After all the work I put into it, I felt almost betrayed. They wouldn’t appreciate it like I did. Did I really want them to have it in that case? I never said anything, but it stewed up inside me something fierce. An unspoken grievance that stayed with me. It was weird.

These days, of course, streaming exists. Music is all free and accessible, with collections that are exponentially larger than mine. None of it matters. What a load of wasted energy.

I wonder if anyone wants to come over for a LAN party…


You all scream for Itube

At some point in the past six or so months our department started doing short presentations. I’m pretty fine with it. I like public speaking and there’s literally no pressure. It doesn’t matter. It’s invariably an attempt to get us to do research on the industry and maybe teach others? I dunno. I don’t really care. At the same time I’ve been pointed in the direction of looking at what Youtube Premium is doing. it’s kinda interesting.

First off, I looked into the Youtube Creative Academy. Youtube has lengthy tutorials and classes for burgeoning creators. They teach the type of content that gets views and suggest how to make your content more marketable. In a sense it’s taking what works and getting more of that. It’s stuff like people enjoy tutorials or relatable topics. Make your stuff relateable. Be consistent, target specific niche audiences, follow ideas that allow you to sustainably create more of the same, make it so people can jump in at any point. Trite as it sounds, it’s actually pretty good advice.

In one sense it’s restrictions breed creativity. Giving a pre-set series of rules that help creators think in a certain proven way. In other, it allows them to test those boundaries and find out what works. The question of whether or not it helps encourage more creative content is moot. What Youtube is doing is pretty risk free. It’s putting resources in the hands of hopeful creatives and letting them make content. If the content does well, it’s drawing more eyeballs towards their service and bringing in advertisers. Once it reaches a certain level, Youtube can offer Youtube Premium contracts to creators with a proven audience. The burden is on the creators to do what they can with what they have. Aside from initial instruction, they’ve created a self-sustaining framework.

Youtube Premium is the rebranding of what was known as Youtube Red. It’s $11.99 a month, gives you ad-free Youtube, offline downloads, background play (stuff doesn’t stop playing while you’re in other apps or you turn your screen off) Youtube Music and original content. At the moment their big stuff seems to be proven IP. They’ve got a Karate Kid spinoff Cobra Kai, a teen lit adaptation Impulse, and a Step Up TV show.

Youtube Premium has series orders involving big names and it’s not just super broad stuff. Weird City is a sci fi comedy anthology series (think a lighter Black Mirror) exec produced by Jordan Peele and Adam Bernstein (Fargo and much more), and a dark comedy about a water park employee rising to the top a pyramid scheme starring Kirsten Dunst. Projects starring Susan Sarandon, Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr are also in the pipeline. They have 50 original shows being released in 2019.

One of the advantages Youtube Premium has is bringing a cluster of services together under one roof. It’s handy for families like Netflix, but also extends to music service and on-the-go public transit content. Would you really need Netflix and Spotify if Youtube Music is included? Cutting the ads from Youtube is not negligible either. It’s bundled into a package that balances affordability and convenience. The advantage for Youtube with premium is it allows a bunch of their pillars to come together without solely relying on one. They don’t need to keep pumping money into cultivating new series, it’s value added.

It’s tricky though, because at the same time, people don’t like paying for things. If they can just keep using youtube and they already have Spotify/Netflix, it’s gonna be hard to get them to switch over. Quitting something you’ve already invested in is a hard sell. Will people get both Netflix and Youtube Premium? Would you? It seems like the goal is to tip the scales just enough to bring people over.

They’ve also launched Youtube TV, which could bring everything in house. It’s a monthly cost for all the ABC and Fox stable of channels, but totally unbundled from cable. It seems like I’m totally shilling here, but I’m genuinely interested in this service now. The OTT model makes a bunch of sense. Like Walmart trying to put local businesses out of order, the big bloated TV corporations are gonna have trouble competing with these global entities. I mean, I work at one, I’ve seen the writing on the wall for a while now. The big question, is it all sustainable? Netflix is burning money putting out original content. Will their subscriber base eventually justify it? Can they amortise this? I’m genuinely curious to see where it’s all going. From my perspective at least, the medium isn’t dying, it’s shifting.

Is it finally time for me to jump ship into podcasting professionally? I wish.

Taking the scenic root

Cabin in the Woods spoilers to follow. Though at this point if you haven’t seen it yet, that’s kind of on you.

I went to a party last night. While that sounds like a generic statement someone in their early 30s would toss out, it was pretty refreshing. I’ve been hermitting big time lately. A combination of lower energy levels and a widespread loss of mojo mean I’ve had trouble socialising. It’s a pity, ’cause getting pulled into meandering conversations with friends of friends is kind of my favourite thing. It’s how friends of friends become friends instead. It’s not simple every time, but occasionally I’ll walk into a party in a good mood and other partygoers will help bolster it. Do you ever feel like you’re on your game, charming, witty and making other people feel good about themselves? It’s the best. The conversations twist and turn and you find yourself walking away with a renewed perspective.

Last night the topic of Ten Years Ago came up. In case you’d forgotten, Ten Years Ago it wasn’t the 90s. Ten Years Ago we’d just gotten smartphones and the world was reeling. Opportunities opened up, the word “app” became common parlance. Social Media expanded, the world reaching new levels of online interactivity. Clickbait may have ruined the phrase, but smartphones changed everything. Remember going to the airport with paper tickets? Now many of us merely bring our phone. What if it died and you couldn’t get your tickets? Ten years later, the notion of our phones dying doesn’t factor in. We’d never be without a working phone. Are you nuts? People have an arsenal of backup phones now.

We started wondering what kinds of new technologies and services would be offered ten years from now. I thought about people paying for personal, artisan experiences and wondered if we’d cross past certain puritanical lines. What if, I thought, you could have tailored sexual experiences, directed by an auteur? Much like Cabin in the Woods (here be spoilers), you and your partner(s) could be placed in a controlled environment room. You’d tell the director what kind of feelings you were looking to engage with. They’d call the shots from a production suite. They’d pull in certain music or audio cues, like thunder and rain outside. Maybe wolves howling in the distant background. All kind of lighting effects, setting the mood. Raising or lowering the heat for the desired effect. Encouraging intimacy or even sinister atmosphere. Influencing the experience of the paying customer. I’m sure there’d be a host of celebrated directors across a range of genres. Avant garde mavericks creating strange experimental environments, or horror directors playing with status dynamics. Even sweet and tender scenes. Would certain genres become old hat quickly? Basic Bitch sessions that were no more than glorified painting by numbers? The wedding equivalent of a DJ set? Would certain individuals become sought after for their ability to warp reality and evoke desire? Could customers get over the idea of people watching them having sex enough to let loose?

I’ve got zero idea whether or not I’d like the service, but it’s interesting to think of. If it has the potential to give people encounters they couldn’t cultivate themselves, I don’t see the problem.

They could even have Wednesday specials for hump day.

Hoard is where the heart is

I’m extremely lucky that I was raised too pragmatically to be a hoarder.

I know the potential is inside of me. As a kid I practically drooled my way through Consumers Distributing catalogues. Infomercials really worked on me and I swear I still know the Aircore infomercial song. No, I’d never need to make chilli in my freezer, but at least I want the choice, goddammit. I love eclectic single use items and, if I had all the dollars and a bottomless bag of holding, I’d get each and every one. I’d single handedly keep Sky Mall afloat. It’d be like one of those fetishised shots in action movies where they pull open a hidden compartment in a closet and it’s racks on racks on racks of guns. Mine would instead be an array of dog pedometers and automatic melon ballers.

Unsurprisingly, I love thrift stores. Even if I’m not planning on buying anything, window shopping lets me imagine fantasy scenarios where I’d have a use/space for all of that junk. Sometimes when I’m feeling very perky, I’ll actually buy the object in question and bring my fantasy to life. Which is a long way of saying that I now own a Roboraptor. This thing is fucking enormous. It’s longer than the cat. It also terrifies the cat, which brings me no end of joy. I remembered how Roboraptor was the hottest Christmas toy 10-15 years ago. They used to retail for something like $140-$200 back in NZ. I bought this one for $7. At that price, I was practically losing money by not buying it. Right? RIGHT?

Okay, so after getting it, discovering that it still worked and loading it with batteries, I found out that it was missing a remote. This means I’m missing out on being able to control it, or putting it on certain modes like hunting or prowling. Still, for $7 and batteries, I got myself something neat to bring to parties. I’m, not drinking at the moment and I would’ve spent more than that on alcohol. In its basic demo mode, Roboraptor (I’ve named mine Nigel) walks around, is sound sensitive and sometimes lunges at shit. It’s cute and goofy, and pretty neat to have wandering the floor. I know this because I brought it to a space themed party last night. I figured it was appropriate as a sort of ersatz space parrot. I carried it like a toy dog and occasionally set it down and let it run rampant. It was pretty fond of running into corners and hanging out. Each to their own.

I like Nigel a lot (I know, I named it and now I’m attached). Now I’m at a crossroads. Do I pump more money into it and buy a second hand controller? Or do I keep it as is, bring it to another party or two then give it to some kid? It’s a hard call. Nigel isn’t exactly the pinnacle of robotic technology (as a 13 year old toy). I have no doubt that I’d quickly get bored of it and it’d sit on a shelf taking up space. Still, are there real opportunities to use Nigel to bring joy to various scenarios? Could it be fun camping? When I’m bored at work? If we ever end up babysitting? Could it be a great present for some young child? Depending how much use I’d get out of it, $40 could be a pretty reasonable cost for the benefits.

I wonder if Value Village would have second hand Aircores…

In South Korea is it called Ready Player Won?

After all of my protestations over buying a new phone, I kind of love it. Now that it’s encased in a gummy purple shell, it’s damn near perfect. Its cool aluminium body no longer slips out of my clumsy mitts. The case deftly creates small alcoves for the buttons. The on/off button is immensely satisfying to push. It’s not bulky or heavy, plus it has the desired aesthetic of a seven year old. It’s outfitted with a screen cover, so I can’t even smudge it with my greasy fingers. The battery rocks my fucking socks, I can even get a whole day out of it without charging. It’s exceeded my expectations something fierce. It even does creepily helpful shit like knowing I’m going to London in a week and suggesting I download the maps for offline use. I trust my phone as far as I can throw it (and yes, there’s an event for that), but you know what? I did what it told me to do. Because I’m meek, weak willed and want to curry favour with my inevitable robot overlords.

Speaking of robot overlords and exceeding expectations, I got to try real VR for the first time the other day. Since I was a kid, the novelty of VR has never ceased exciting me. On the other hand, the reality of VR was virtually always disappointing. I get motion sickness, and most rigs lacked a widened depth of field option. So ten minutes of VR often meant a few hours of feeling violently ill. My friend had the Playstation VR equipment, which was way more high end than I’m used to. He suggested I try out Archangel VR which was basically Battletech/Mechwarrior. I didn’t expect it’d be half as immersive as it was. There we were in his lounge, he was making coffee and asking how I wanted it. At the same time, I was in another reality, riding in a convoy as my young son showed me a wargame he’d programmed. If it wasn’t for him asking me about coffee, I would’ve entirely forgotten I was in a lounge.

The scale was remarkable. There was this great moment when I arrived at the foot of my mech. I had to crane my neck to take the whole thing in. The controls were simple, but felt very intuitive. I could reach out and punch things with my massive arms, fire my machine gun or missiles. I had shields mounted on each arm and had to block in a directional capacity. I likely played for around 20 minutes, but for those 20 minutes I was absorbed utterly. If this is the future of gaming, it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Speaking of a wild ride, it’s time to go back to Chinatown to get a refund. They sold me a “Fast Charger” which is just an ordinary charger. If I don’t have the time to properly charge my phone, I certainly don’t have the time for that brand of bullshit.

Onwards to the future!

More like a cellularge phone.

It’s getting late and I still have no idea what I’m doing tonight, which means the answer is probably going to be “nothing”. Expect this entry to be perfunctory to the MAXXXX.

I got my new phone today. I expected it’d be the same size as my faithful Moto G LTE, then discovered to my dismay that it’s a gargantuan 5″. To be honest, I thought the last one was 4.5″, so I really only bamboozled myself. I like a smaller phone. It means my tiny digits can cover it, thumb and all, without effort. There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing full well how absurd and unwieldy this beast of a phone is, Motorola created a function that enables you to shrink the useable screen space. It’s weird and without having used it much, I’ve got no idea whether or not it’ll be handy. Basically the screen shrinks down and gets a big black border around it. You can use the shrunken screen as you would a full sized screen but if you want to get the truly nonsensical amount of screen back, you can just tap the black space and it’ll expand. Holding out hope here.

There were a couple of other cool features I appreciated and we’ll see in practice how useful they really are. If they’re Poopsville, USA I’ll disable them. To turn on the flashlight you can do this little karate chop gesture twice and it’ll flick on. If you press the power button twice it goes into camera mode, irrespective of whether or not it was switched on beforehand. Apparently there’s some capacity to twist the phone twice when you’re in camera mode and it’ll alternate between front/back camera, but I haven’t gotten it working. Best of all, you can turn the phone face down and it’ll disable all notifications and/or interruptions. That almost justifies the price in and of itself.

Then again, I haven’t used the phone a hell of a lot. Before I could even get into it, I needed to do some cosmetic surgery on my SIM card. My old phone used Micro SIM, the new one used Nano SIM. I was resigned to go out and buy a new SIM before I looked it up, pondering if there were any ways to save myself the emotional fatigue of the process. Turns out the difference between the two is… size. That’s it. A Nano SIM is the same information, but in a smaller casing. The chip size is identical. According to a quick Google search, I could actually literally cut my Micro SIM down to a Nano. It was remarkably easy, incompetent as I am. I printed off the template, lined it all up, used a pen to follow the lines and Cut It Out. Of course it didn’t fit first time around and of course I nearly had a conniption fit as I imagined a future where I’d irrevocably wrecked both my SIM and my phone permanently with one fell swoop. But then I pulled it out with fucking pliers and used the nail file on my clippers to sand it down to size. Like A Glove.

I turned it on and there was a whirr of activity. It asked me if I wanted to download my old profile/apps from Google and I clicked yes. It started downloading all of the apps I’d installed on my past phone. Handy. Freedom Mobile sent me a message telling me that there’d be forthcoming notifications that would enable the correct settings for internet and MMS. Sweet. A Motorola update appeared in Spanish (I’m not sure why. I bought the phone from Motorola’s Amazon page. Everything else is in English) and I figured sure, why not? It downloaded, installed and reset the phone. I started working on customising features when I got a notification for another Motorola update in Spanish. I sighed and clicked yes. It downloaded, installed and reset the phone. I thought I was getting somewhere on making the phone useable when I got ANOTHER notification for yet another Motorola update in Spanish¿ SI ALREADY! After it installed I waited. I watched. I took a deep breath. I reached my hand towards it, ready to snatch it away at a moment’s notice. It was finally at peace.

It’s so much work setting up a new phone. You’ve gotta disable all the bloatware, tailor notifications settings to your tastes. Then there’s the matter of how it looks, what kind of apps you want easily available. Each time you get a new phone, phone technology has advanced so much that all your favourite apps are outdated and/or riddled with ads. Then Facebook tries to send you push notifications for fucking everything. I’d also forgotten that I’d been using an older, cleaner version of the app. Each new update ads so many unnecessary features. Le sigh. The price of progress seems too much sometimes.

In any case, I have a phone again. Mum, Dad, we can Skype now.

Stop tone policing me.

I had it all planned out. I was so keen to talk about my new friend-dating project “I Have My Dates”, because I went on my first one. Then I got distracted by impassioned thoughts on gun control protests. Then I had a super busy workday and blabbed on about that. It’s been an active week. No complaints.

So instead of circling back and talking about how wonderful my friend date was (and it really was. I’m so excited to find more ways to date my friends. I’ve got a double-date coming up this Sunday evening), I’m gonna delve into something incidental that happened while on my friend date: I dropped my phone.

It’s dead. 100% fucked. The screen cracked, but in a manner that left basically the entire screen unresponsive (except the area where the number “4” shows up, oddly enough). It’s a total write off and I need a new phone. Buying a phone is weird, specifically because I’m very adamant about the type of phone I’m looking for. I don’t want a top of the line phone, because I don’t use my phone for anything that requires advanced specs. I use Facebook, Reddit, Google Maps. Occasionally I’ll email or write into the notepad while on holiday (so I can keep bringing y’all this fine content, naturally). Maybe once a week I’ll eat gamjatang at a Koreatown restaurant and watch Magic the Gathering cube draft videos while periodically peeking over my phone at the screen displaying an endless reel of Kpop videos with oversaturated colour palettes and curiously adventurous camerawork.

None of this takes a lot of processing power. If my old Moto G wasn’t stuck on a constant restart loop (and honestly, I think the phone is actually in perfect working order. There are supposed to be ways to boot into a recovery screen, I’m just incompetent enough that I can’t make them happen), it would still be able to do all of those at a level that was adequate for my needs. It’s weird when I say this to people, because they clearly have a different relationship with their phones than I do. They’ll recommend all these high quality models, $700+ phones, y’know? Some of them get oddly adamant that I upgrade, buy a new phone. Like my decision for deliberate low-tech infuriates them. It’s this strange application of their own values over mine. I’m not shitty or defensive about it, it just strikes me as peculiar. If I can get all of my cellphone needs serviced by a $300 phone, why would I pay twice that?

What it all boils down to, is that I don’t really care about phones very much. I was basically made to get a cellphone back in the early 2000s and adamantly didn’t want one. I liked just saying I was gonna be somewhere, then being there. I didn’t want to carry something else in my pockets. The thought that anyone could get a hold of me at any time was far from comforting. Sometimes it was nice to be left alone. The convenience factor didn’t add enough to my life in order to justify what felt like a psychic weight. Not on your sole, but on your soul, etc etc etc. Something about the quality of merci? This metaphor is getting strained.

Blessedly, many things about me have changed since I was 16. I’ve discovered that my distaste for phones hasn’t. For the past three days, I’ve been considerably less stressed. I practically only need my phone for commutes. I never got a signal at work, so that didn’t matter. Plus when I’m at work/home I’m plugged into my computer at most every moment. Don’t take any of this like I’m technologically avoidant, I like technology plenty. I’m just not convinced phones are a technology that do a lot for me. It’s nice to be present so much of the time. Nothing shits me more than when I’m spending time in the company of friends and they’re constantly on their phones. Look, if you want so badly to be somewhere else, go there. It’s fine, I take no offence. I notice that when I have a phone, my attention gets flighty. If I’ve got more than 30 seconds I have to fill, I’ll turn on Facebook or Reddit. But why? Why would I need to fill that teensy amount of time instead of just taking things slower?

Unfortunately the rational part of my brain knows that not having a phone would create more emotional labour for the people in my life. They’d have to work hard to track me down and I don’t want to put that burden on them. Oddly enough, me disentangling from the web would make their lives harder and that’s a shitty thing to do to loved ones. Plus any vacation is made immensely easier with the aid of Google Maps and notepad.

So I guess I need to figure out how to buy phones in Canada. Or how to reboot my Moto G…