An Open Letter To David Byrne from Radio Paradise

Radio Paradise is one of my go-to online radio stations. Much of my music discovery in the last five years has come from its thoughtful and eclectic feed. The music scene in this country would be truly impoverished if these small niche stations were shut down because of unsustainable

licensing charges. Apparently David Bryne is one of the people who decides these things. Let’s hope he supports musical diversity and quirkiness. 

An Open Letter To David Byrne – RAIN News

Distant signals from the future

radioI was in early high school when I got my first alarm clock radio. My parents were a bit older so the LPs in the back of our hall closet were musical soundtracks like South Pacific and West Side Story. My brother had brought the Beatles into our house but he had moved away for college and adulthood years before and the only trace of his musical influence was a Simon & Garfunkel greatest hits 8-track my mom had bought for a penny from the Time-Life record club.

In my bedroom late at night I explored the sounds inside my new radio. I would bury myself underneath my Star Trek sheets, pull the radio inside, and listen with volume barely perceptible. Three was no reason for the secrecy. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have particularly cared but I was a private kid. I didn’t want to let on that I was curious about the adult world.

I had had a shortwave radio in middle school and brought the thrill of long-distance discovery to my radio explorations. Geography and sound had more mystery in those days before the internet. On a cold, clear night, I could tune in AM powerhouses half a continent away.

One particularly cold night, one of these distant signals played a song I had never heard or even imagined. There was static. The signal drifted in and out in waves but I listened mesmerized. To a introverted kid in a sleep Philly suburb, this song was a key to a yearned-for future. I was instantly certain that that no one around me had ever heard this song. If only I could make out some words, maybe I could spend the next year scanning the distant radio bands to hear it again. As I got older, I could go into the city to scour bins in the seediest of indie record stores. This song no one knew would be a touchstones to a new adulthood I was constructing in the secret of my bedroom.

As the fade came, I barely caught the DJ’s words through the static. “Hotel California.” I vowed to myself that someday, somehow, I would find this song and hear it again.

Some thoughts on the Twitter expansion

Twitter has always been a company that succeeds despite its leadership. Many of its landmark featured started as hacks by users. Its first apps were all created by third-party designers, whose good will to the curb when it about-faced and killed most of them by restricted its API. Top-down features like Twitter Music have come and gone. The only interesting grassroots innovation of recent years has been users using image attachments as a way of going past the 140 character limit.

I’ve been getting less patient with Twitter in recent months. Then-CEO Dick Costello acknowledged their failure handling abusive situations early in 2015 but nothing much seems to have changed. Having co-founder Jack Dorsey come back this in Jobsian fashion has been encouraging but only to a point—there’s a lot of weird ego involved in it all. Twitter’s inability to promote diversity and the tone-deafness of hiring a white man as diversity chief last month makes me wonder if it’s just finally going to do a full Yahoo and implode in slow motion.

But today something new: we’re looking at doing away with the 140 character limit. My initial reaction was horror but if done well it could be interesting. I’ve always wondered why they didn’t partner with blogging platform Medium (founded by another co-founder, featuring similar core principles). The key will be keeping the feed at 2-3 lines so we can scan it quickly, with some sort of button or link to expand past 140 or so characters.

One could argue that these “fatter tweets” is Twitter’s way of building the popular long-text picture hack into the system. Could Twitter management be ready to look at users as co-creators of the wider Twitter culture?

Toynbee Tile “Stickman”

As a Philly native the so-called Toynbee Tiles crept up so slowly in the built space that they blended in with the natural city streetscape and I missed Resurrect Dead, the 2011 documentary of the mystery. It’s in my watching queue. In the meantime I’m going to start photographing any I see. Here’s the figure the Internet has dubbed Stickman in the intersection of 13th and Arch in Philadelphia.  

You go to a book club for one book, learn of a dozen more…

Jane-JacobsI’m just coming back from a book club (adult conversation? But… but… I’m a parent… Really?). The topic was Jane Jacob’s 1961 classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The six of us gathered in a Collingswood, N.J., coffee shop were all city design geeks and I could barely keep up with the ideas and books that had influenced everyone. Here is a very incomplete list:

Update: And also, from Genevieve’s list:

  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams, for its absurdist humor around the bureaucracies of planning
  • Green Metropolis. David Owen,
  • What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse,” an article by Adam Mann in Wired on the phenomenon of induced demand.
  • Vision Zero Initiative
  • The Pine Barrens. John McPhee, the classic which I brought up.
  • The Power Broker. Robert Caro.
  • The Ecology of Commerce. Paul Hawken
  • Organizing in the South Bronx. Jim Rooney
  • Re: race: Dalton Conley’s Being Black, Living in the Red and When Work Disappears by William Julius Wilson.
  • Re: bicycles: Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips. Dave Glowacz

Excuse me for the next six months while I read. :)