Rehearsals for Departure

Zooey Deschanel and Matt Ward, of She & Him, have a new album scheduled to come out in the fall on Columbia Records. Perhaps this will be Volume 4 in their lp series. Volume 3 was a terrific summer album, and as I spent a week at the beach this August, it was on pretty heavy rotation. It’s got that warm retro feel that seems to permeate small beach towns, like someone decided they shouldn’t stray all that far from the 1955–1965 aesthetic (with the exception of the e-cigarette shops). The pastel ice cream and candy shops that seem a holdout from a simpler time go perfectly with Volume 3.

However, there is a loss of goodwill whenever a band jumps an indie label and heads to a major or “bigger” label. In the case of She & Him, it’s like that same quaint beach town when it becomes filled with resorts and mega-hotels. It’s a disappointment, at least for me. The disappointment is compounded when a band leaves a local label with such a reservoir of positive sentiment like Merge Records. Merge has put on a charity run, music festivals and a night with the Durham Bulls, featuring music from the label. They’ve been releasing carefully curated music as an independent label for 25 years. It’s also worth mentioning that they’ve pressed a lot of records for Matt Ward.

I don’t know how the split with She & Him took place, or why. So it was with Camera Obscura, Spoon and other bands that left. I have little doubt that the departures were amicable. Some bands, after leaving for what they thought were greener pastures, eventually returned to the Merge stable (Polvo, The Magnetic Fields). Maybe that will be the case for She & Him, if things don’t work out with the majors. However, it’s unfortunate to see them leave the label that has supported them since they began.

A Technology Fast from Everything *Except* the Internet

Recently, writer John Dyer moved from Texas to England to start a PhD program on digital Bible use. In the process, he was forced to give up a lot of technology we take for granted (like dryers and coffee makers). When he moved to his new home, he found himself wondering about “technology fasts” and Sabbath breaks from the internet.

What about the concept of “Sabbath” and “rest”? While fasting seems to be for the individual’s spiritual maturity, the Jewish Sabbath was and is very much a social activity. A Sabbath rest declares that the world can go on without me, but that I am still valuable to my community as a human being. The Sabbath is something the entire community does together, and the lack of work creates space for alternate social practices that deepen community and relational bonds.

Dyer realizes that line of thinking seems to go against the trend of some Christians (including myself) to give up Twitter or Facebook for Lent or taking a “Tech Sabbath” and avoiding those social networks for a period of time. Those services are designed to create community and, at least in some ways, do a pretty good job of it.

Certainly, rest can be experienced on an individual level, but for ideally a “Tech Sabbath” should be something shared within a group, a family structure, or a living arrangement.

When the Law was/is strictly enforced in the Jewish community, Sabbath observance is a big deal. Nehemiah closed the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath. When merchants even spent the night outside of the gates, he warned them, “If you do this again, I’ll have you arrested.” (Nehemiah 13: 19–20)

If we abstain from social connections for Sabbath rest, are we actually going against the spirit of community implicit in the observance of the Sabbath? It’s a point of view I had not considered before, but will certainly be giving more thought to in the coming year, as I consider the right level of technology my life and the lives of my family members.

Mobile Photo Editing

Doctor Popular explains his setup for taking and editing photos on his iPhone.

Doc Pop is a bit of a purist. When doing his app experiments, he likes to keep the entire process contained to his phone. 

It’s cool to see all of the apps he uses to bend a simple photo to his will. It becomes a bit of an app store shopping list. Checkout his photo stream for some of the results.

The Internet's Original Sin

Ethan Zucker wrote the code for the first pop-up ad and he’s really sorry.

All of us have screwed up situations in our lives so badly that we’ve been forced to explain our actions by reminding everyone of our good intentions. It’s obvious now that what we did was a fiasco, so let me remind you that what we wanted to do was something brave and noble.


Designer Louie Mantia laments that fact that Apple systems, in particular, are so locked down to customization these days. 

Just the other day I was wondering… what happens now? Not with me, but with the next fourteen-year-olds who are ready to be inspired. Do they look at Dribbble and decide to make things? Do they jump in and make an app? 

I started by tinkering, customizing. Just as an engineer might. You start with something that exists and you change it to understand it. You do things on your own. But now… companies like Apple have locked down things like theming. It’s so hard today that no one even bothers. Changing icons is hard too. With some apps you can’t even do it without an app breaking because of code signing. 

Most of the people I know listed above have a similar story. Maybe young people will be inspired by our apps, maybe they’ll be inspired by our art. But will they be able to tinker like we could?

I followed a similar path as his, customizing on Windows, then on the Mac. I also loved Macthemes and looked for inspiration there. Even if it was just changing the dock and the theme for Adium, customization added a level of excitement and enjoyment to the computing experience. The current locked down nature of much of the GUI on the Mac is unfortunate with respect to the loss of the ability to make your computer more yours.

I’m sometimes envious of my friend’s Linux screenshots but I’ve dealt with Linux enough over the years to know I don’t have the time or inclination to put into messing with that OS (or, more accurately, those OS’s). My days of being an aspirational Linux hippy are behind me.

This Apple commercial, perhaps not surprisingly, is one of my favorite ways to remember Robin Williams. The poetry, and his reading from Dead Poets Society, seem even more poignant now, after his passing, as we remember his contributions. When he asks, “what will your verse be,” the impact of the question is powerful. 

Choose Firefox Now, Or Later You Won't Get A Choice

"Mozilla hacker" Robert O’Callahan writes about why choosing Firefox is an imperative.

Microsoft and Apple will try to stop Google but even if they were to succeed, their goal is only to replace one victor with another.

So if you want an Internet —- which means, in many ways, a world —- that isn’t controlled by Google, you must stop using Chrome now and encourage others to do the same. If you don’t, and Google wins, then in years to come you’ll wish you had a choice and have only yourself to blame for spurning it now.

His point is understandable, if a bit overstated. However, the problem for those of us in the Apple ecosystem is that we are second-class citizens in the Mozilla world. Mozilla claims to sync your bookmarks across “all of your devices” and conveniently leaves out those who have iOS devices (which is a decent percentage of people with tablets and smartphones). Since Mozilla decided to discontinue the Firefox Home app, there is no way to get your Firefox bookmarks to sync to a browser on the iOS operating system. Unfortunately, decisions like that about the product direction keep me from using Firefox as my primary web browser.