What a year it has been. Personally, 2016 was pretty good. Our child is now walking and talking constantly, mostly about Thomas the Tank Engine1. Some of my brothers got married (one literal, two figurative). I developed a fairly consistent note-taking habit, first with Workflowy and then with some Field Notes. Probably worth its own post at a later date.
Having a toddler means I don’t get out as much as I used to, so my Official Dad Best-Of–2016 awards go to Deadpool, the new Ghostbusters, and the newest season of The Venture Brothers. Rogue One was also pretty good.
The Rest Of The World
Professionally, and for the world in general, it has been a goddamn nightmare.
Here’s my list of (mostly terrible) things that happened, month by month, with some good tweets for flavor. I’ll try to avoid the elephant in the room.2
I am a dad and have no time for non-dad-related things anymore. So my year in review, which I produce purely for my own leisure and amusement, is several weeks later than usual (see previousyears). As such, it includes one week from 2016, which will then be excluded from next year’s review, if I remember.1
From what I heard of the outside world, 2015 was mostly a shitshow. But Dad Land has been good to me. So in the spirit of Chris Lacy’s …Of The Yearposts, I present 2015 Of The Year.
Spoiler Of The Year
There is a new Star War. All the #brands are talking about it! The review that most reflected my reactions is here.
I was locked out of my work laptop for the first 3 days and the biggest news story is these Oregon jamokes. Also, my son needed surgery to remove a dermoid cyst (he is fine). At this point I’ll take 2015.
In many ways, Gamergate is an almost perfect closed-bottle ecosystem of bad internet tics and shoddy debating tactics. Bringing together the grievances of video game fans, self-appointed specialists in journalism ethics, and dedicated misogynists, it's captured an especially broad phylum of trolls and built the sort of structure you'd expect to see if, say, you'd asked the old Fires of Heaven message boards to swing a Senate seat. It's a fascinating glimpse of the future of grievance politics as they will be carried out by people who grew up online.
The day after "Endless Appetizers" was announced, I went to TGI Friday's in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay. I wanted to challenge the hubris of a company co-opting the infinite for a marketing gimmick. I wanted to demand accountability from copywriters.
I wanted to call their bluff and eat appetizers until they kicked me out, to seek the limit of this supposedly limitless publicity stunt.
But no matter what my relationship to Pokémon is now, I can’t deny that it was one of the driving forces in my nerdy life. And like any fanboy or girl who has ever played the original games, Pokémon was singular in that it provided me the first life-altering choice in my young life: Which of the starting Pokémon—Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur—should I pick? It felt like a digital “Sophie’s Choice,” with any decision rendering two Pokémon forever un-catchable, destined to be used against me by my rival.
...We can’t all be grand visionaries. We can’t all be Picassos. We want to make our business, make our art, sell it, make some money, raise a family, and try to be happy. My feeling, based on my own experience, is that aiming for grandiosity is the fastest route to failure. For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are 1000 Jack Zuckermans. Who is Jack Zuckerman? I have no idea. That’s my point. If you’re Jack Zuckerman and you’re reading this, I apologize. You aimed for the stars and missed. Your reentry into the atmosphere involved a broken heat shield, and you burned to a crisp by the time you hit the ocean. Now we have no idea who you are.
You can't restart the internet. Trillions of dollars depend on a rickety cobweb of unofficial agreements and "good enough for now" code with comments like "TODO: FIX THIS IT'S A REALLY DANGEROUS HACK BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WRONG" that were written ten years ago. I haven't even mentioned the legions of people attacking various parts of the internet for espionage and profit or because they're bored. Ever heard of 4chan? 4chan might destroy your life and business because they decided they didn't like you for an afternoon, and we don't even worry about 4chan because another nuke doesn't make that much difference in a nuclear winter.
BEST NEWS OF THE YEAR THAT CANNOT BE TOPPED, EVEN IF I WAS AWARDED THE POWERBALL JACKPOT BY A RECENTLY-RESURRECTED J. H. CHRIST
A healthy baby Pilch is on the way. It's a boy.
Hey, there's a St. Vincent in the music and movie section! Not pictures or articles though. Maybe next year.↩
I've already declared that we are a Lego Movie family. Not a Frozen family.↩
It takes a lot to admit that anymore. That admission comes with a lot more baggage now than it did 10 years ago. It is a bit like being a Los Angeles Clippers fan; things started to get pretty good, but then the guy in charge is super racist1 and is kind of mad that people found out about that and goddammit he's going to take everyone down with him.
My allegiances lie firmly with Hasbro, who I assume ghostwrote the current movie, as they have since the beginning. I own numerous shape-changing action figures, and will continue to buy them2 because secretly I am a nine year old with no self control. Even my USB drive is Ravage (a knock off, but still).
I write all this to frame my review of Transfomers 4: Hey, Mark Wahlberg! Right?3 It is, in the words of Charles Barkley, T-R-B-L turrible.
(Edit: I wrote this in the few days following the theatrical release, but haven't had time to publish until now. The review holds up, but some of the references would have made more sense in June. Deal with it lol)
I rewatched the third one, because a) I am a glutton for punishment, b) I've already said I am a Transformers fan, and thus own all the #movies, and c) because I wanted to confirm the my theory that they are steadily getting worse. I think it holds.
The first one had just enough of Spielberg's touch to be pretty good. The second one was critically panned, and probably rightfully so, so several actors and writers jumped ship. Seemingly the only goal of the third movie was "don't be actively racist again", which they accomplished by killing of Ken Jeong (best character in the movie) before they could do any damage. And for the fourth, they basically took a cookie cutter to the third movie and said LaBeouf, Turturro, Jeong, Patrick Dempsey ==> Wahlberg, Tucci, TJ Miller, Kelsey Grammer4. And DINOSAURS!
Basically, the movie plot can be boiled down to this quote, from the writer of the goddamn movie:
When you’re talking about aliens, robotic machines which disguise themselves as vehicles and animals, you start to make your peace with the idea that logical sense doesn’t have to be the be-all, end-all.
Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but expanding it to include plot and character development is another. "Making the robots the main characters? Allowing natural human interaction? Using the dinosaur robots before the last 15 minutes of a near-three-hour film? Nah, those would make logical sense. Oh, a samurai that transforms into a Bugatti Veyron AND a helicopter? Now you have something. Get Ken Watanabe on the phone."
My only recourse is to not pay to see the film (which I already did). I can only sit back and watch Michael Bay ruin the rest of my childhood. So, Michael, if you are reading this: STAY AWAY FROM CAPTAIN PLANET. NO. STOP IT.
My love of Mark Wahlberg comes from the fictitious 'Mark Wahlberg' character from the podcast Doug Loves Movies. It is the best. It is how I learned that he greenlights the first script given to him every month, and that they used live ammo on Lone Survivor - he only hit 3 extras and a PA. His review of Transformers: "You think it's 3 hours because it's bad?" ↩
Which you would think would be an improvement, right? Not really. ↩
The cheesy sci-fi Animorphs books heightened the strangeness of adolescence
The Internet is choked with nostalgia for the youth-oriented entertainments of the not-too-distant past: Tumblr blogs regurgitating images of half-forgotten toys; YouTube compilations of long-lost TV-show intros; countless blogs playing “Remember when?” with movies and video games whose rose-col
It's the end of the year, a time for reflecting and summation. It is a totally arbitrary time, probably adopted from some pagans, just like most of the holidays on the Gregorian calendar. But the year had to end sometime, and that time is now1. Time for the quality of weather to plummet, and for the amount of listicles published to soar. I now have a blog, and so by the transitive property I must now make listicles, like so2:
BEST PICTURES I TOOK THIS YEAR, AS JUDGED BY ME
Two of them are screencaps. I don't take a lot of pictures.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="1516,1510,1505,1501,1497,1496,1500,1499,1492,1491,1484,1477,1476,1466,1468"] AWESOME SONGS THAT MAY NOT HAVE COME OUT THIS YEAR BUT I LISTENED TO A LOT ANYWAY
What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.
Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer?
The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”
You've gone and done it. You've expressed a preference for a bourbon within earshot of another person. Little did you realize that arguing about bourbon is now our sixth most popular sport, behind arguing about "grape vs. grain" vodkas, parenting strategies, craft beers, workout regimens, and college football.
Kurzweil claims that whenever technology hits a limit, “a paradigm shift (i.e., a fundamental change in the approach) occurs, which enables exponential growth to continue.” That’s not much more than a convenient article of faith. As Peter Thiel points out, “technological progress has fallen short in many domains. Consider the most literal instance of non-acceleration: We are no longer moving faster. The centuries-long acceleration of travel speeds … reversed with the decommissioning of the Concorde in 2003.”
Music is a staple of human civilization. Musicians are staples of music. Being exploited and undervalued is a staple of being a musician, especially if you listen to them long enough that they start talking instead of music-ing. Even in the early twentieth century when prerecorded music became a staple of movies, musicians were not happy with their lot. It is not a new concept, and the latest iteration of this argument has musicians battling music streaming services over royalties. If these problems have been around for so long, why can't anyone figure this out?
Growing up in the Napster age, I have a weird relationship with #music. Don't get me wrong; I love listening to music. It's just the discovering and buying and playing where my views are a little more fluid than the previous generation. For instance, I feel like there was probably a time when radio was relevant, and I keep hearing that MTV played music when Kurt Cobain was alive. Now, however, the interwebs bring meager fame to bands that would likely have never been in the MTV rotation, and in flyover country you are lucky to get anything on the radio other than just that: country.
Let's go back to the beginning. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was by Chumbawamba, which I have come to terms with but realize I will have to acknowledge for the rest of my life like a bad tattoo. (For the record, I did marginally better on my first tape purchase with Space Jam) Then came Napster, which was shutdown by the time I tried to install it on my family's PC (75 MHz processors and dial-up had something to do with that). The local library really never caught on to the borrow-burn-return technique, though, so I got by. I finally found out about cool music around age 16, starting with the Strokes and a subscription to SPIN. My first MP3 player was a college move-in gift, which I soon flipped for the first iPod generation to have a color screen .
iTunes is all well and good unless you are (A.) a poor college student and (B.) that college has a fairly robust internal file sharing network. I would say my digital music collection increased by about 50% by sophomore year (we're talking double-digit gigabytes here), but growth has been stagnant since those halcyon days for several reasons. The low cost of entry back then is one, and the sheer difficulty to discover interesting, new music on the cheap is another. I gladly bought music from artists I enjoyed, but only because they were already on my radar. Thirty second previews never feel like enough to justify buying something I may not like -- I've been burned before (see Chumbawamba).
Interwebs killed the radio (star)
That is all coming back around now with the advent of #streaming music. #Pandora broke the mold with an amazing engine of music association and recommendation, and #Rdio and #Spotify (and seemingly everyone else now) has applied the Netflix model to music. This is the future of music, regardless of whether record labels will accept it or not. The barriers to discovery as they were even 5 years ago are non-existent. I have found more music in the last 6 months than I had in the previous 3-4 years using these services. My conscience is far cleaner than in my file sharing days, and I get the convenience of access wherever I want.
So, bottom line. If this reaches any music executives, heed these words: Ten dollars a month seems like the right price for all the music I never paid for in the first place. Make it work, and pay the musicians so they keep music-ing. I have pirated before, and taking that away will make me likely to do it again. Signed, Pilch c/o the internet dictated but not read
1. I would be remiss at this point if I did not mention my Audioscrobbler neé last.fm profile, which has chronicled roughly 80-90% of the music I have listened to for nearly 10 years. Probably not valuable information, but at least I can claim to have been a Kings of Leon fan back when they had beards and were cool.
2. This is probably a blog post for another time, but right now my favorites are Rdio and Google Play All Access. Even though both those services are great, though, I feel like I could throw something together between Pandora and Plex that would do even better for a lower price (and I even got the early bird price on Play).
3. They are still kind of cool, but also kind of sold out. Another blog post for another time.