I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America.

Long and awesome story about things a cable tech saw on her rounds. Yikes.

I was filling out the work orders and emailing my supervisor to give him a heads-up on a possible call from a member of every cable tech’s favorite rage cult, when his wife knocked on my van window. She stepped back and called me “ma’am.” Which was nice. Her husband with the tucked-in polo shirt had asked my name and I told him Lauren. He heard Lawrence because it fit what he saw and asked if he could call me Larry. Guys like that use your name as a weapon. “Larry, explain to me why I had to sit around here from 1 to 3 waiting on you and you show up at 3:17. Does that seem like good customer service to you, Larry? And now you’re telling 7 to 10 days? Larry, I’m getting really tired of hearing this shit.” Guys like that, it was safer to just let them think I was a man.

She said she was sorry about him. I said, “It’s fine.” I said there really wasn’t anything I could do. She blinked back the flood of tears she’d been holding since God knows when. She said, “It’s just, when he has Fox, he has Obama to hate. If he doesn’t have that …” She kept looking over her shoulder. She was terrified of him. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just need him to have Fox.” I got out of my van.

Nearing The Inversion

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

Why Your iPhone Selfies Don’t Look Like Your Face

When a prominent YouTuber named Lewis Hilsenteger (aka “Unbox Therapy”) was testing out this fall’s new iPhone model, the XS, he noticed something: His skin was extra smooth in the device’s front-facing selfie cam, especially compared with older iPhone models. Hilsenteger compared it to a kind of digital makeup. “I do not look like that,” he said in a video demonstrating the phenomenon. “That’s weird … I look like I’m wearing foundation.”

This isn’t a totally new phenomenon: Every digital camera uses algorithms to transform the different wavelengths of light that hit its sensor into an actual image. People have always sought out good light. In the smartphone era, apps from Snapchat to FaceApp to Beauty Plus have offered to upgrade your face. Other phones have a flaw-eliminating “beauty mode” you can turn on or off, too. What makes the iPhone XS’s skin-smoothing remarkable is that it is simply the default for the camera. Snap a selfie, and that’s what you get.

Listening To…

  • Nod – So Much Tonight. Nod is always hard to explain. The best I can do is: Can, Pavement’s early EPs and The Stooges but without angst or ego. They’re so loose and ragged it seems like they’re always on the verge of falling apart. But there are enough hooks in their songs (rusty, broken, twisted hooks) to keep me listening. And, after something like 25 years, they put out this record which sounds exactly like a Nod record, but is still fresh and interesting.
  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs. Energetic melodic Aussie guitar rock. There’s a lot in here that reminds me of a lot of great Australian rock bands from the 80s: INXS of course, but also The Church and Midnight Oil and Split Enz (OK, they were from NZ). They also do a nice Feelies-ish guitar drone/jam thing now and then. Solid record, all the way through. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.

    Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Time In Common [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

  • Nujabes – Metaphorical Music. He was one of the originators of ‘chill’ hip-hop – lots of laid-back beats, smooth jazz-y samples, often with little or no vocals. It’s … exactly that. Good for layin about.

    Nujabes (Metaphorical Music) 07 – Letter From Yokosuka

  • Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon. If you like bands like Dirty Projectors (bands who seem dead set against repeating a phrase for more than two bars without a giant jarring leap in dynamics, rhythm or tempo) and you like modern jazz and soul, you’ll like this. The previous parenthetical is what kills it for me. There’s a nice phrase, I’d like to hear it a… oh, here’s something different, maybe I can get into … OK, another melod… ack! They’re talented players, no doubt. But why are they putting a dozen songs’ worth of ideas into this verse? It made a lot of best-of lists this year, but I find it grating and nerve-wracking.

    Hiatus Kaiyote – Breathing Underwater


Viva America!

In an era of waning American exceptionalism, inhabitants can at least pride themselves on an underratedly important, probably shameful distinction: They reside in the paper-towel capital of the world.

This status is unquestioned. According to data shared with me by the market-research firm Euromonitor International, global spending on paper towels for use at home (but not in office or public bathrooms) added up to about $12 billion in 2017, and Americans accounted for about $5.7 billion of that total. In other words, the U.S. spends nearly as much on paper towels as every other country in the world combined.

Suck it, losers.

Parquet Courts

Last summer, while he was down in NC for a visit, I played some Parquet Courts for my dad, and he was immediately hooked. So, when they announced a December show in NYC, he floated the idea that he, my brother and I should all go to see them. So, that’s what we all did.

My brother already lives there, and he generously put us up, and put up with us drunken tourists, for two nights. Dad lives upstate and drove down to meet us.

We missed the opening band – Sun Ra Archestra – since we didn’t think an NYC show would actually start at 8. But it did. We go to see them walk off, though.

PQ were exactly what I was hoping for. They were energetic and tight when they needed to be, but perfectly sloppy otherwise. Set list was great, if short: lots of stuff from their fantastic new album, and good stuff from the others. No “Stoned And Starving”, however.

Mrs and I were mightily impressed by the bass player. I rarely listen to bass players on records (mostly because my ear buds do a crappy job with bass frequencies). But live, his contributions stood out. And I began to suspect that he might be the key to their sound.

I also had had too many vodka-tonics.