A brief review: Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones & the Six would have worked better, or just worked, as narrative fiction. The interviews in this oral history format overwhelm with minutiae and feel contrived. The format only serves to contrast this made-up rock band history with biographies of real rock bands. Just skip this and read the real thing. There’s a Janis Joplin biography coming out in late October 2019. Or pick up one of the many books about Fleetwood Mac, on which this book is based.

Review: The Warehouse

What would the world be like if Amazon ran everything: From housing to entertainment to food production? Rob Hart’s new novel The Warehouse gives a peak at that scenario with a thriller that explores a world governed with corporate diligence.

The Warehouse [digital galley, Random House] is set in the near future where The Cloud runs most of the economy by employing, housing and feeding workers in an environment regulated by technology. Those who can’t get jobs at The Cloud find themselves living in a dystopian world of chronic unemployment. But someone is suspicious of the corporation’s success and has infiltrated one of its facilities to find out what’s really powering the company’s success.

Unfortunately there are too many holes in the plot and an incongruous ending made me question whether the bad guys were really that bad after all. And if so, what was the point of all of the sneaking around early in the book.

Review: I Like to Watch

The last two decades have seen significant changes in TV — from the quality of production to how it is consumed — resulting in vastly improved entertainment options. In I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution critic Emily Nussbaum explores the television ecosystem in an anthology of essays.

Nussbaum, a Pulitzer Prize winning critic for The New Yorker, has great admiration for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Norman Lear and The Sopranos. Topics that have recurring rolls in her essays. I found myself agreeing with her more than half of the time and questioning some of her conclusions the rest of the time. But that’s understandable, as the best critics challenge our thinking and cause us to question, or at least justify, our own preferences.

I Like to Watch (digital galley, Random House) does read like the loose collection of essays that it is, without a unifying theme. And the collection fails to satisfyingly explore the impact streaming services have had on the quality and quantity of programs available.

If you share her sensibilities you’ll likely find yourself nodding your head in agreement as you read this book. If you don’t, you will still come away having learned something about your own preferences. But the book will help everyone become more critical and informed TV consumers.

Coffee notes for July 30, 2019

What I’ve learned in 20 years of blogging, by Anil Dash: Most people in tech want to do good, but tech history is poorly understood. As a result, many in tech don’t understand how tech can have negative impacts when they think of themselves as good people.”

As much as it pains me to say it, Facebook Marketplace is a better place than Craigslist to sell used household merchandise. Items seem to sell more quickly and some that never sold on Craigslist find buyers on Facebook. My success rate has gone up tremendously. And it’s probably safer than selling on Facebook. I guess Facebook will do to Craigslist what Craigslist did to newspapers.

Every state has an infamous crime — and a book about it.

The 10 best web scraping tools.

I’m working with SimplePie to create a website and it’s working great, but it looks like active development on the code has stopped. SimplePie is written in PHP, so it pretty much runs on any web host without problems. But I’m not sure what the future holds for the application since it seems like the developers have moved on to other projects.

On a related note, I’ve played in the past with David Winer’s River aggregator, but have always found it to be too fiddly. Other people have had success running it, so this probably speaks more to my comfort level with some of the software’s dependencies.

Coffee notes for July 18, 2019

Self-driving cars are way in the future: “Several carmakers and technology companies have concluded that making autonomous vehicles is going to be harder, slower and costlier than they thought.”

Gmail spam filters have gotten worse. They used to be so reliable I could simply ignore my spam filter. Now I have so many false positives my spam has to be reviewed every day. Many of the emails sent to the folder don’t have any obvious spam qualities and clicking “not spam” does nothing to keep subsequent emails from the same sender from being marked as spam.

Despite recycling the same monster and general plot, season 3 of Stranger Things is my favorite so far. It may be because of all the 80s movie references.

Review: Recursion

New York City police officer Barry Sutton gets wrapped up in a time-travel adventure while investigating the mysterious False Memory Syndrome, in Blake Crouch’s Recursion. Along the way he crosses paths with neuroscientist Helena Smith, who discovered the secret held in people’s memories and realizes the danger she has unleashed.

There is a sense of impending doom as reality as everyone knows it begins to unravel and every effort to right the course of history introduces new problems. I don’t want to say more about the plot for fear of revealing a twist, but this is a fast-pace thriller that infuses fresh ideas into the time-travel genre.

Crouch has already written a number of successful thrillers, including Dark Matter and the Wayward Pines series, but this is his best novel yet. Recursion (digital galley, Crown Publishing Group) deals nicely with the many paradoxes that inevitably crop up with time travel and Crouch wraps up everything neatly at the end.

Review: Once More Unto the Breach

During the Allied liberation of Europe Rhys Gravenor, a Welsh farmer, travels to France looking for his son in Once More Unto the Breach. With the help of American ambulance driver Charlotte Dubois he sets off on a roadtrip across the country following clues and encountering one dangerous situation after another.

The novel was off to the races before we ever got to know the main characters or their motivations. And the plot hinges on a too convenient and improbable meeting at the beginning of the novel.

Once More Unto the Breach (digital galley, Polis Books) has promise but is, unfortunately, full of stiff dialogue and it’s not really clear why Rhys is so desperately looking for his son. After all, he’s just one of millions wrapped up in WWII and displaced from their families. What makes this situation and relationship so unique that it was worth commencing a search during wartime?

Tuesday journal

Daniel Milnor posts a thoughtful essay on “competitive travel.” I don’t agree with everything he says, but this should get you thinking about what motivates you to travel. Related: Travel photos are underrated.

The study claiming Google made $4.7 billion from news is incredibly flimsy.

Cory Doctorow says regulating tech companies only makes them stronger. He suggests fostering competition by making it legal for third parties to interoperate with big-tech data.

Every HBO show ranked. Last place is 1st & Ten. First place is The Sopranos.

With the festival just a few days away, here is a list of printable Bonnaroo schedules. This year is supposed to be the first to sell out since 2013. Related is this story from the UCF magazine Pegasus: Why I am a festival kid.

Elspeth Diederix’s photo exhibition When Red Disappears explores life on the seabed of the coast of the Netherlands at depths where the color red begin to vanish from the visible spectrum. The photos resemble oil paintings.

Designed to imitate the look of park signs carved using a router, the National Park Typeface has a clean, retro look. And it’s free.

Too many people want to travel. Massive crowds are causing environmental degradation, dangerous conditions, and the immiseration and pricing-out of locals.

The Atlantic

I continued to wonder what exactly I had done to deserve a woman like Valerie. Nothing, probably. I observe the world as it unfurls, I thought. Proceeding empirically, in good faith, I observe it. I can do no more than observe.

Platform by Michel Houllebecq

Using RapidWeaver to rebuild a site

I rebuilt the Historic Stock website today using RapidWeaver 8. The site isn’t big enough to warrant a full blown CMS like WordPress or Drupal. But manually coding every time I wanted to make a change was going to be a pain. RapidWeaver allows me to periodically tweek or add content without too much heavy lifting. The learning curve wasn’t too great and can be applied to other projects.

When I bought RapidWeaver it was $24 cheaper to purchase through the Mac App Store, rather than directly from RapidWeaver. So be sure to check. And you will need to purchase two addons to get the full benefit of the program. Both Stacks and Foundry are necessary to give you full design control. But with all of those components in place I should be able to publish any design I’d like without too much hassle.

Review: Working with Color

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Working with Color is both instructional and inspirational. The book teaches how to use color to convey mood and emotions in urban sketches and should appeal to anyone looking for guidance and fresh ideas.

The book is packed with wonderful artworks and would be good to keep at hand just for the inspiration they provide. Author Shari Blaukopf does a thorough job of discussing how to pick, create and use palettes and gets into the specifics of mixing colors to create proper tone and emotions.

Working with Color (digital galley, Quarry Books) does not, however, dive into the basic techniques of sketching and drawing. There are other Urban Sketching Handbooks for that. This book is best suited to those who consider themselves to be beyond the absolute beginner level who are interested in improving their use of color.

A history book for comedy wonks

Improv Nation is an exhaustive history of improv, from its beginnings in Chicago in the 1950s through current day. Sam Wasson’s book catalogs the important characters, events and institutions of improve and fluctuates from sharing compelling and funny stories to reading like a textbook. This book will go down as an important work recording this uniquely American art form.