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Lileks @ Lunch

James Lileks writes about everything - except sports and gardening

The Ubiquitous Granny-Square Afghan

This could only be spoken by someone who lived through the Seventies :

Granny square vests, granny square shorts, granny square hats. Heck, I believe there was some kid out there who was forced to go to school wearing granny square underwear.

It’s a Slaton or Salte piece about why there’s an afghan throw rug in the granny-square style in “every TV show.” Well, no. #notalltvshows. There isn’t an afghan draped over Captain Kirk’s chair, although it would be amusing if there was. If Kirk had to bat some throw pillows from the chair before he could sit down.

That’s from the Slate Browbeat section, which looks at “culture.” Let’s see what else is going on.

Oh, go to hell. Elsewhere:

This is either a pro-peas piece or an anti-peas piece, but in both cases you have the bossy pants accusation right up top, so, here, author-person, take this chute, yes that one . . . yes, it lands in hell. You have earned it. Off you go! Oh, screaming in fear for your mortal soul, you’re doing it wrong. Try a higher pitch, something that suggests the sudden and immediate loss of sanity.

Finally, let’s see if there’s anything SHOCKING in the world of clickbait ad chum:

Is anything "Shocking" on the internet shocking at all? In the least?

SPACE We lost contact with the Pluto probe a while ago, and reestablishing contact and troubleshooting the problem is difficult. Not impossible, but image trying to help someone fix a computer over the phone by saying one letter at a time, with four and a half hours between each letter. But here’s the part that’s making the UFOlists say oh ho, what’s this?

Metro headline: “NASA probe sees weird ‘dotted line’ on Pluto – then signal cuts out.” Well, hours later. But still! Mysterious, right?

Actual science here at the WaPo. Three days to Pluto!

Sorry, forgot to tell you the SHOCKING story NASA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW. From the WaPo comments:

As exciting as these photos will be, its funny how they are making it seem as if they sent this craft out just to visit Pluto. Its only a fly-by mission because its real destination is to look for a phantom planet the size of earth orbiting way outside Pluto's orbit. Of which its existence is a debatable subject. This mission has got "agenda driven science" written all over it.

Ah, our old Friend Planet X, or Nemesis, or whatever you wish to call it. Probably another base for the humanoid lizard people. Oh tell me something I don't know, you say. How jaded the internet has made us.

RUSSIA TODAY Turns out the trade sanctions have deprived Russians of something they'd come to take for granted: good cheese.

The Putin government, as well as some news reports, claim that the countersanctions have been a boon to Russian producers, including cheese makers. But most of what they have been able to produce is the subject of complaints and jokes. People often post photos of cheeselike objects they discover at grocery stores, and at least one St. Petersburg shop has installed tongue-in-cheek advertising of the domestic processed cheese it sells: Parodying a Vladimir Mayakovsky poem, it commands the customer to “stop whining” and “start chewing our own Russian-made cheese spread.”

Who? Well, here's a Marxist artist site's notes on the fellow:

. . . he refused to see Soviet reality in strictly rosy colors, at one point even going so far as planning to write a poem entitled “Bad”

Oh, that’s a dangerous game. He committed suicide in 1930. Here’s how the manifesto of the 1917 collection ends:

And if for the time being the filthy stigmas of your “common sense” and “good taste” are still present in our lines, these same lines for the first time already glimmer with the Summer Lightning of the New Coming Beauty of the Self-sufficient (self-centered) Word.

He also calls for people to stop reading Pushkin. Well, now he’s in the pantheon of beloved poets - obviously, since someone can make a parody of his poems today, and people get the joke.

Speaking of Russian Cheese:

“Cult” and “Past” seem to be apt ingredients.

VotD Dear Google: Please stop doing this.

Google says: ”Deep neural network hallucinating Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas: how meta is that? Visualizing the internals of a deep net we let it develop further what it think it sees.” As a PSA against acid, though, it's probably more effective than anything.

Apple Music is a Mess

There are three qualifications for reviewing iTunes: one should have used it since v.1.0; one should regard it as as a kludgy blob of bloatware that does a few things well; one should be open to change, and accept a few new paradigms and perhaps a loss of some old features if it means the new product is slim, smart, and unintuitive. For example: iTunes handles movies and TV shows, neither of which are tunes, but that’s how you sync to your mobile device or play them through the TV. It handles phone management, so it knows about all your apps, and handles updates and backups. Well, it handles updates through the App Store pane, which is a different place in iTunes than the pane where you see you sync and backup info, but nevermind. It lets you sync your books, even though those aren’t tunes either. And the books are added by a separate app.

Otherwise it’s a totally seamless experience.

If some of these things were spun off into different apps, or iTunes was visually organized to draw sharp distinctions between each medium, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The new version of iTunes does not do either. It adds Apple Music, the new subscription-based streaming system. This is different than Radio, and it is different from iTunes Match - both of which are still around. How does it work? Well, I’ve seen wads of cold spaghetti that were less complex.

An early review of Apple Music is not impressed, but looks for something nice to say:

After installing iTunes, the only thing that was available to me was Apple Music's "Connect" and the Beats1 station. I turned on the Beats1 station to see if it was any good, heard some rap music, and then very very quickly turned that station off. Fortunately, that much worked.

Can you delete the radio stations? Hard to say. People ask about that on the Apple discussions site, but the answers apply to old versions. You may ask: why do you care? Just don’t click. But it’s not like a radio station, really. There are stations I don’t know exist, because I never play them. I do not want them to be demolished. But a window on a screen is different; if it presents options you do not want and cannot be customized, it’s their window, not yours. I mean, the first thing you see at the top of the radio banner is the Beats logo, spreading the width of the page. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing on that channel I care to hear. But there it is. That goes for the Children’s Lullaby channel, too. That goes for the Pop section sponsored by Pepsi, which starts a Pepsi video if you click on it, because you’ve never heard of Pepsi before.

Anyway, that’s the radio feature. Apple Music is different. Apple Radio plays songs they’ve chosen for you, like radio. Apple Music plays your music, except you don’t own it, and the options are a collaboration between your input and their guesswork.

When you launch Apple Music you get a nifty interface that asks your music preferences, and lets you nuke some so they’re never heard. They’re rather broad; I’d prefer more specific genres, like “Young men yelling over samples of music they did not write,” but you’re stuck with the basics. Then you’re asked to choose between certain artists - tap once for like, tap twice for love, click the X box to eliminate. Okay, that helps; that narrows it down. You’re still stuck having to make a blanket judgment about, say, Elvis. There’s a few songs I like. Maybe one I love. Do I want my stream to be choked with Elvis? No. Do I want a stream in which Elvis never makes an appearance? I don’t know kinda maybe no not really. But you can hit RESET and ADD MORE ARTISTS to fine tune what you want. Then it thinks a bit and comes up with your channels, available in the FOR YOU tab of iTunes. Your experience may vary, but I got four panes, three devoted to a particular artist, the bottom pane consisting of five suggested albums, from Daft Punk to the Wiener Phiharmoniker.

This is different than NEW tab, which has everything in the world that is new.

Well, let’s add some songs. Anything new from Royskopp? Noppe. Apple Music looked at royskopp and had no idea what I meant.

This may sound petty, but Spotify looked at royskopp and figured out I wanted Royksopp - based, probably, on previous searches. Apple Music was flummoxed by the spelling and couldn’t deduce the correct band. Well, I found a new song, and decided I should add it to my playlist, so it will sync with my phone. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Select something on the laptop, add it to your constellation of musical pleasures, and pick it up later on your phone when you want to hear it again. So I clicked the small “heart” icon” on the window that shows play, progress, name - you know, the part that used to look like a radio station display. the part that’s on the bottom in Spotify’s desktop app. Once I clicked the heart a window popped up saying “Your First Love,” and assuring me it had been added to -

Well, I can’t remember. I don’t know where it went. Is it in “MY MUSIC”? No. Is it in “Playlists”? No. It doesn’t show up in the smart playlists designed to show most recently added songs, which means there’s an iron curtain between the music on Apple Music and My Music, which are the songs on my hard drive. I don’t know where it went. Contrast that to Spotify: there’s a big button next to PLAY that says SAVE, and after you have clicked it, it changes to SAVE. Apple Music lets you make a station from the artist, and I clicked this option to get an all Royksopp channel. I have no idea where it is. RADIO? No. NEW? Doesn’t seem like it.

Later I discovered my problem: in the Royksopp artist view - that is, everything by this artist - I had played the latest release by clicking on the play button. I know, I know: total n00b movie. If you click on the album art, or the song title, you go to a different window.

and then you get an option for adding it here or there, IF you mouse over the line that has the track number, and 3 dots magically appear.

If you click on the three dots in the top grey pane, you get a menu. If you right click, you don’t. Below, where the title is duplicated and has more info, like rating / time / genre / date released, you can click on the three dots to bring up the menu to send it thither or yon, AND you can right-click for a different menu. Providing you moused over to make the dots appear.  

One more thing: they have pre-made playlists that sound interesting; you can click to send them to your list of playlists. Except you can’t. It doesn’t export the collection as a new playlist; you have to add it to a preexisting playlist, and since I don’t have a Summer Poolside Playlist, you have to go back to My Music, create a playlist, go back to NEW, then add it.

Voila, there’s the songs. The playlist even syncs to your laptop if you choose the LIBRARY option, which looks at everything you have everywhere, but the playlist is empty because this version of iTunes doesn’t think you’ve signed up for Apple Music. Well, click the button that says “Already a member?” and deduce that this may be a rhetorical question, because no log-in option appears and nothing happens.

Verdict: one day they will blow it up and pave it over and rewrite iTunes from the ground up, and stop hanging more ornaments on its slender boughs. This is not that day.