The Psalms

A narcoleptic yokel on software and culture.

Star Trek Jowls

A highly-informed analysis.

He named his dog Number One. His eyebag game disastrous. The Romulans are in a Borg Cube. They’re flirting in The Cube. It’s a Sex Cube. Its shields are very loud, now. They’re smoking weed on Weed Road. There is simply not enough runtime for a truly episodic television show anymore, is there? A Borg Romulan Scott. (Imagine Borg snot.) The shear fucking hubris. There’s the F word again. I didn’t know Romulans could be so hot. Jesus Christ. “I never really cared for science fiction – I just didn’t get it,” says Picard. Very funny, folks.

Did he drop something or...? Paradigmatic. CBS’ closed captions are janky and I’m getting older by the second. They are in the Sex Cube again. The Star Trek OS looks like it has annoying notifications. A son? Using the term Quest. This is segregation. The Nightingale was a slave ship. This is not lost on me. Spanish speaking! Nothing about operating these ships is visceral at all. Hey! Jeri Ryan! These CBS All Access ads are absolutely bizarre. Icheb is here!? Jesus what a coincidence. Oh.

Star Trek Jowls

TECHNO FUTURE. That head tilt was sudden. Romulans are freaking out in English, for some reason. Colonel Jane – Sterling’s young wife – is still a bitch. What a surprise. I still haven’t gotten tired of the introductory credits’ theme. Pissant, really? “And now the windmills have turned out to be giants.” I have no idea what that’s referencing. Admirals should not say shut the fuck up. The holograms are just different levels of Scottish according to their class. Did they do this just to make sure Scots continued to be represented in Star Trek? Why does Rios have so many pips? What rank would he be if he put all of them on? God? ALISON PILL. Dr. Pill.

Fear is the great destroyer.

Coordinated bonk. “We’re at a threshold” is not political at all. If I was watching this show by the week, I would be very frustrated by its pace. Very sad about the Orchid deaths. They were cute. They mentioned the Picard Maneuver correctly. Jonathan Frakes directed this. Seven of Nine just said “same,” but we will forgive Brent Spiner for aging and – I hope – for dying.

I think we probably should’ve let ourselves let Picard die.

#television

Kaweco Skyline Sport

It’s very pretentious to talk about pens, I agree, but I believe there’s a level of pen pretentiousness which is worth sharing with the writing masses. I continually encounter people in both personal and professional settings using – and often worshipping – very shitty pens. I'm not going to pretend spending $15 on a pen has not become a novel or ridiculous idea in contemporary culture, but if you're willing, this is one of those areas where some retrospective can lead to real pleasantnesss. Here are some of the tools I've owned. (I'll be linking heavily to The Pen Addict in this post. It's all we've got. Sorry.)

Parker Jotter

Parker Jotter

I believe everyone on Earth should own a Parker Jotter. It's a slim, small ballpoint designed for sketching with a clicking action that just about everyone loves. I have owned and lost many and I will continue to for the rest of my writing life. I cannot even begin to communicate how worth it $16.99 is to never write with another disposable ballpoint ever again. They're tough, light, and beautiful. Sarah Read for The Pen Addict:

If you're primarily a fountain pen user, but you acknowledge the occasional need for a ballpoint, this really is the perfect one. It looks and feels like you're spoiling yourself, but the price is low enough that you'll still have to add a fountain pen to your cart to get free shipping.

Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot Metropolitan

The Pilot Metropolitan has been the entry-level fountain pen for all of time as far as I know. Google for reviews and you'll find praises across the blog spectrum – from Little Coffee Fox to Writing For Pain and Pleasure to The Gentleman Stationer. “I'm not sure there is anything on the market that even approaches a pen of this quality for $15.00,” says the latter. Testimony from the first:

I love how the Pilot Metropolitan feels in my hand. The brass body is cold and weighty while you write without becoming a burden to use. Despite its low cost, the look and feel of this pen will be sure to leave an impression on your friends and coworkers.

The Pen Addict argues for the next pen on my list as The Ultimate Beginner, but I'll stick with the Metropolitan. It's a little unorthodox, actually – it doesn't feel quite as substantial as the other fountain pens I've used in my time, but it's a blast.

Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari

The modern alternative to the Pilot Metropolitan, the Lamy Safari is the coolest instrument on this list to own, but it is generally twice the price. Though I liked being seen with the Safari more than the Metropolitan, and its writing experience is more conventional in terms of what to expect from other composite fountain pens, I still think the Metropolitan is more fun to use. Instead of reading what I have to say, though, check out the only words about any of these pens I spied in a major publication. For The Strategist, David Notis writes:

Fountain pens can be complicated and intimidating, but the Safari was designed to be approachable. (It was apparently originally meant to help teach proper handwriting to schoolchildren). Pen enthusiasts often recommend it as a great “starter” fountain pen, which I’ve found to be spot-on. [...]

Not that I’m suddenly an expert, but there is something special about writing with a fountain pen. The steady flow of ink is so expressive; it somehow makes the weird, messy quirks of my handwriting feel intentional.

To be honest, I feel like I could've done without my Safari, but I did actually write with it quite extensively. Here are two more opinions: The Gentleman Stationer and Little Coffee Fox.

Kaweco Classic Sport

Kaweco

Huge bias here: I adore Kaweco as a company. I first bought a Mint Skyline Sport (the featured image of this post) in 2016 and I fell in love. I love the breeziness of their colors. I love how Germanic their old logo is and how anything you read about their history is inevitably found on a website looking like this. As Susan M. Pigott points out for The Pen Addict, the plastic Sport series can be a bit lacking in refinement. “The Skyline Sport is made of plastic, and it feels rather cheap in the hand,” she says. Unfortunately, my white Classic Sport had the same problem, though I also adored it. From Shashwat Vardhana:

If you have small to medium sized hands and like the screw cap action, you should most certainly go for this pen. While it might not be the best writer of its class, its reliability is absolute and I have never had any complaints with the pen in this aspect.

Kaweco Steel Sport

Kaweco Steel Sport

My baby – my ultimate pen acquisition – was my Kaweco Steel Sport. I bought it in person with cash at Pen Place in Kansas City, and it was by far my favorite writing instrument of all time. As far as I'm concerned, this is as high as pens get. Find yourself in the position to buy one and you will be satisfied forever. From The Pen Addict:

The Steel Sport features a – wait for it – stainless steel barrel. What is it about stainless steel that I love so much in pens? It tends to land in a barrel weight sweet spot that is heavier than aluminum, and lighter than copper and brass. [...]

Stainless steel has a density and warmth that I enjoy in a pen barrel. It is also practically indestructible, which is what I want in a pocket pen.

If you write by hand, you should treat yourself to one of these instruments. If you'd like to write more by hand, you definitely should. A good pen will have you looking for excuses to write.

#meta

Face Computer

I don’t want you to think this is just another listicle to mark as spam or ignore completely – though it technically is, I suppose. I know how it looks… because I’ve run into many of them and have been just as irritated as you. In fact, I would be so bold as to presume I’ve run into many many more than you have simply because a primary hobby of mine has always been Just Trying to Do Things On The Computer without any academic authority or hands-on training. This is a way of life for my generation and those proceeding it, yes, but I promise you that I have gone far, far deeper than the vast majority of anyone you know. What I’m ultimately trying to do here is to spare you the hundreds – perhaps thousands – of hours I have had to spend mulling through shitty workflows throughout my childhood and adulthood before I stumbled upon Good Practices (i.e. Better Ways to Do Things.)

I want you to come away from this list feeling as liberated and powerful as I do now when I’m On My Computer without any condescension or tedium. Unfortunately, there’s probably going to be some of both, so please stick with me and don’t take it personally. I do a lot of online reading, writing, and fiddling. I’ve been compelled to do these things in one form or another since very early childhood, and what follows could be described as a list of my favorite tools to accomplish things. Almost all of them are entirely free to use and the vast majority of them are easily and beautifully functional as well. They are what I suggest for my own mother to use, for what that’s worth, and I would argue sincerely for their extreme importance. Don’t waste your life on bad software.

Enpass Password Manager

You Need a Password Manager

In 2020, password managers are no longer optional for digital life. They are mandatory. If you only ever heed a single piece of my advice, ever, please make it this one. Most password managers available are secure, cross-platform, optionally cloud-synced tools that help you generate, store, and organize digital credentials. More likely than not, you’re already using one in your favorite browser. On MacOS and iOS, Safari is linked to a service called Keychain, which is – functionally – a robust password manager. On signup for a given website or service, Safari should prompt you to automatically generate secure, complex passwords to store in Keychain. Generally, it’s pretty smart about knowing when it’s time to retrieve the credentials with Touch-ID, but for when it isn’t, you should know how to manually retrieve passwords from Keychain. If you’re deeply enough embedded into the Mac ecosystem, you can feel free to continue to rely on this process as long as you know how to help yourself when it fails. I’m not going to tell you who to trust, but I do almost actually believe in Apple’s commitment to securing user data, if only because of the way their incentives are aligned (in contrast with those in front of data-funded organizations like Google.)

If you’re using a Windows Home Machine and/or an Android smartphone, I believe it’s more urgent that you find a standalone password management solution immediately. I use a gorgeous app called Enpass to store all of my passwords as well as my bank credentials, credit cards, driver’s license information, and anything else I might need to keep handy, securely. I can use virtually any cloud or file-sharing service to keep my “vaults” synced between all of my devices: Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, Box, etc, and I also regularly create encrypted local backups just in case. I can even share end-to-end encrypted credentials with another device or Enpass installation. I migrated to Enpass two years ago after using 1Password for nearly 10. It was intuitive and virtually seamless, as such things in software tend to be these days, and as a result, I haven’t had to memorize a single password since my adolescence. Enpass allows me to create custom login templates for quick differentiation when creating new entries as well as picturized categories and tags. With one click, even the icon can be pulled from a given URL’s favicon to help keep my vault looking visually itemized. It also includes presets for a hundred services or so – from Google to Wix to Yahoo! Japan.

Total Recall with a Clipboard Manager

Imagine if everything you had ever copied (as in Ctrl-C) were listed in linear order, easily and instantly searchable via a single global keyboard shortcut (Alt-`) and navigable with the arrow keys. Imagine if you could then export an archive of your clipboard so nothing could ever be lost. Imagine clipboard tabs that are easily switchable. CopyQ – an “advanced clipboard manager” – is one of my favorite software discoveries of all time. Some workdays, I use it literally hundreds of instances in my workflow. It is difficult to describe how much more useful it makes the clipboard feature – something we’ve all been using for decades, now. For someone like me who copies a ridiculous amount of links every day, CopyQ’s functionality has truly become life-changing.

Windows 10 Keyboard Shortcuts - General

Alt-D and Other Keyboard Shortcuts

Somehow, I did not discover Alt-D until 2018, which means that I had spent the entirety of my 24 years since triple-clicking to select every single URL I’d ever copied. I built a media company this way, and I can’t believe nobody told me about this shortcut. Open any given web browser, use Alt-D, and your selection will move to the URL in the address bar on top of the page. It’s very possible this will be of little use to you, but anyone who regularly shares or copies links will save themselves so much time. I felt the same way when I discovered text navigation with Alt, Shift, Ctrl + the arrow keys. Most of these are cross-platform, but I am specifically focusing on Windows shortcuts for this piece because that’s what I’m currently using.

· Shift in conjunction with the arrow keys selects text in a document surrounding the cursor.

· Alt in conjunction with the arrow keys allows one to go forward or backward in a browser.

· Ctrl in conjunction with the arrow keys allows one to navigate text by word.

Virtually all of the “Windows logo key” shortcuts are usable in day-to-day workflows. I use Win-D to immediately minimize all windows and show the desktop on the regular. Microsoft is currently testing a feature like MacOS’ spotlight which is triggered with this key.

Designed to replace the existing Win + R shortcut, the new launcher will include options to quickly search apps and files across Windows and support for plugins like calculators, dictionaries, and search engines.

We can only hope this feature will be as useful as spotlight (which is triggered with ⌘-Spacebar for you Mac users,) and will be implemented as standard as soon as possible. If you’re not already using basic shortcuts for functions like closing tabs/windows and cut/copy/pasting text, I’d advise you to begin as soon as possible. It can be hard to commit, but I promise it’ll make your life better. Try printing out a list of shortcuts for your particular operating system to keep by your workspace and/or find or create an image of the list to set as your desktop background for a while.

Learn Markdown Immediately

While we’re on the subject of text – and hopefully without finding ourselves exploring the entire history of word processing – I’d like to evangelize what very well might be the Ultimate Formatting Language for digital text. It’s called Markdown, and it’s something you’ve likely already used in one form or another. Technically, Markdown is “a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers,” but – more importantly – it’s a method of stylizing text which is as simple as possible, easy to universalize, and already quite popular. While Vice argues that Markdown is a “power-user tool,” I’d suggest that it’s one everybody should make use of. Though I am currently writing this in Word (for the first time in a good while,) I’m going to pay for it later.

A Word file is the story-fax of the early 21st century: cumbersome, inefficient, and a relic of obsolete assumptions about technology.

“[Markdown] has all the advantages of plain text, but with the organizational power of a word processor,” says Lifehacker. From Ian Lurie:

I once had to convert a Word document to a web page.

Once.

After spending hours deleting mso-style blocks and cleaning up thousands of lines of crap, I swore (and swore, and swore) that I’d never do that again.

So I moved to Markdown. For a writer who publishes mostly to the web, it’s perfect.

Before I committed to writing in Markdown and moved Extratone to Write.As – a wonderfully simple, open-source web CMS entirely based on Markdown – I really struggled with text formatting on our old WordPress-based site, spending hours cleaning up text from Word, Apple Notes, Dropbox Paper, and Google Docs. Now, WordPress natively supports Markdown along with Ghost, Slack, Discord, Tumblr, and more.

Mashable published a formidable list of Markdown editors in 2013, but many are since significantly out of date. Instead, I’d refer you to @awwsmm’s “State of Markdown Editors 2019,” which suggests Joplin as the winning pick. Joplin is open-source and syncs across devices using your preferred cloud service, but it requires that all notes be written in a monospace typeface, which I do not prefer. If you have a MacOS-running machine and/or an iOS-running smartphone, you must download and try an application called Bear. It is quite simply the most beautiful piece of software – aesthetically and functionally – that I have ever seen, and therefore the most beautiful possible execution of a Markdown Editor. From The Verge’s Dieter Bohn:

Bear uses a simple three-paned design. The largest column is devoted to your current note. A smaller column to the left contains your notes in reverse-chronological order, topped by a search bar. The left-most column contains notes that you’ve pinned, as well as any tags you’ve created to organize your notes — #recipes, for example. I spent years trying to sort my notes into notebooks in Evernote, only to learn that what I really needed was a faster search box.

As much as I despise the term “seamless,” everything about Bear is its definition. For someone like me, it, alone, almost warrants a reversion to MacOS. If you have the correct platforms, I require you to try it. Unfortunately, there can be no true Windows or Linux equivalent without the work Shiny Frog has done to streamline Bear’s near-instantaneous iCloud integration, but there is one application that can literally simulate its functionality in every other way. Typora is an infinitely-customizable alternative that spans all three platforms with a well-populated themes gallery (including an actual copy of my favorite Bear theme.) My installation is not nearly as smooth as Bear, but it’s technically more powerful – bad news for users like me who can’t resist fiddling. I’ve downloaded (and attempted to author/modify) a billion themes for Typora. Bear, by contrast, allows just enough stylistic modification (color theme, a choice list of 7 beautiful typefaces, and sliders for font size, line height, paragraph spacing,) without any access to its internal workings. In this way, it provides the perfect blend of customizability and minimalism. If you tend toward the latter, try an ultra-slim solution like WordPress’ Simplenote.

Telegram Desktop

Telegram

I ran a poll on both Twitter and Mastodon yesterday asking “do you still email things to yourself?” Overwhelmingly, my “audience” responded “yes,” which is awfully surprising considering their demographic – young, techish early adopters. Though email is not yet “obsolete” – as envisioned by Inc’s John Brandon in 2015 – it has indeed been replaced by other software in many of its functions, especially the old Mail-to-Self practice. I cannot remember the last time I emailed myself anything – even to transfer photos from my cellular to my computer, as I used to do often. Instead, I use a private Telegram channel to send myself photos, videos, links, text, and any other file up to 1.5GB! There’ve always been plenty of reasons to use the messaging app for general communication – especially since Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014. Though press coverage of the application has all but dried up, I would argue there are now more reasons than ever to make use of Telegram in your day-to-day life.

As of 2016, Telegram had 100 million active users, but it’s certainly experienced its fair share of controversies. I see no reason to be worried about encryption or privacy at all, for that matter, for the vast majority of Mail-to-Self cases. If the files you’re sending yourself are sensitive enough to worry about, you shouldn’t be emailing them, anyway.

Other Stuff

If you’re the sort of person who regularly types out 500+ word text messages (or have to do homework/any real writing) on your smartphone, I have a secret to reveal to you: most smartphones still have Bluetooth keyboard support. It may look strange, but yes, you can use a full qwerty keyboard with your phone. Those of us who’ve livestreamed or used screenrecording software know that OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) is an absolute gift from Gourd, but these days, it’s also easy enough for most computer users to make use of. I’d encourage everybody who can think of a reason to record their screen – to show somebody how to do something, for instance – to download and install it. Finally, I think every Windows user should look into compacting their operating system into just the essentials. “Compact OS” is really just a Windows 10 install without bloatware: the shit you almost certainly don’t need. If you do find yourself in need of default Microsoft apps, you’ll be able to redownload them instantly from the Windows Store.

I’d been meaning to write something like this for a very long time, so I hope you or someone you know has found it useful. I’m not an authority in the technical sense, but I’ve used every one of these suggestions in my own computing life for years, now, to great benefit. If you have any comments/suggestions/feedback/petty insults, please do contact me via email, Twitter, Mastodon, or Discord.

🗎 Print/PDF

#software

When I have to pee too much to actually finish anything.

Anxiety Theme by Max Henderson adapted for The Psalms

I've updated the look of this blog with a theme adapted from “Anxiety” by Max Henderson but I've yet to update the colophon with the new colors (partially because I don't have the energy to name them yet.) Extratone's theme was listed on write.as' new themes project a while ago, of which I am quite proud. I've begun crossposting to Mastodon from Twitter again.

Autos And Such

I'm mostly blogging because I am fairly stuck on the Volkwagen Atlas review I promised to get done this week. (That link is to an online Word doc of my live progress, on which I'd love any comments on if you have them.) I've been playing enough Gran Turismo Sport that I've created a new blog specifically for automotive writing at dieselgoth.com. There, on Titanic day, I made a post including an “exclusive” invite link to mastd.racing, which I would compel any enthusiasts among you to oblige.

Me and Myself

Hanging out with myself trying to get Zoom-bombed.

Listening

This feature on the Bandcamp Daily regarding “Bleep” has really been my shit. Imagine my 70-year-old mother dancing to this.

[Matt] Anniss subsequently went on a local Bristol internet station, penned a blog post, and posted a DJ set of Bleep, as a way to convince those same DJs that his thesis had some merit. He wrote an in-depth feature on the form for electronic music site Resident Advisor—which caused him to think bigger about this formative, unsung moment in UK dance music history. “I found the sound itself alien and otherworldly, but also endlessly fascinating for some reason,” he says. “It seemed so fresh and futuristic still, but also mysterious.”

Software and Stuff

Still waiting on my tax return/possible Corona stipend, I have lost my subscription to Google One, meaning the business Extratone Gmail (ihadtopee@gmail.com) is about to be unhooked(?)/deleted/no longer able to receive mail. As such, I've spent the past few days moving accounts to davidblue@extratone.com including the newsletters I'm most fond of (like Nextdraft.) This has given me a good opportunity to weed out those I don't particularly care about and to try using Outlook as my primary email client once again. Somehow, this has got me reverted into trying to make use of my Microsoft Office business subscription once again – I have (eeek!) not been writing in Markdown. May the Gourd have mercy on my text format-fucking soul.

Two Microsoft Apps on My Homescreen

The other project I've been trying to distract myself from the Atlas review with is my list of poweruser/especially handy Windows/iOS/MacOS applications/tricks that I believe just about everyone should be using. From “Dirty Dave's Poweruser Tips” (working title):

I want you to come away from this list feeling as liberated and powerful as I do now when I’m On My Computer without any condescension or tedium. Unfortunately, there’s probably going to be some of both, so please stick with me and don’t take it personally. I do a lot of online reading, writing, and fiddling. I’ve been compelled to do these things in one form or another since very early childhood, and what follows could be described as a list of my favorite tools to accomplish things. Almost all of them are entirely free to use and the vast majority of them are easily and beautifully functional as well. They are what I suggest for my own mother to use, for what that’s worth, and I would argue sincerely for their extreme importance. Don’t waste your life on bad software.

Fucking Medium

In late March Nieman Lab's Laura Hazard Owen published “The long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium, 2012–present,” which includes the most complete, linear timeline of the website's existence anyone could ever ask for. Naturally – in classic medium fashion – she begins many of her sentences with “But,” which I really hate.

Why spend so much time worrying about what Medium is? Maybe because we wanted to know whether it was a friend or an enemy. The answer is that it’s neither. It’s a reflection of what the media industry has worried about, and hoped for, and not received. But Medium was never something that we would get to define. Instead, it’s turned out to be an endless thought experiment into what publishing on the internet could look like. That’s not much fun for people who got burned along the way, but Medium was never exactly ours to begin with.

Other Stuff

#meta

VW's Jumbo new offering is titanic to live with and genuinely amusing to drive, but is it a condescending German prank on America?

[2019 Volkwagen Atlas SEL w/4MOTION]

Upon meeting an elderly recently immigrated German friend of my mother's for the first time yesterday, she exclaimed He looks German!... and so tall! Both of these compliments were relatively true, but certainly not extremely. I am more German-looking than not, perhaps. Supposedly, I am half a product of a very large family whose elders are only one and two generations from German royalty – my legal last name is on a state sign in front of a small black castle somewhere in Der Vaterland. I slacked through two years of high school German language classes – Frau Rosa once took me aside to ask you’re not going to shoot up the school or anything, right? (Sorry Frau & peers.) Though my much-older half siblings grew up mostly in the town of Schweinfurt, I have never actually set foot in Germany, yet I’ve come to identify with and admire its culture enough to (perhaps unjustly or inappropriately) feel comfortable joking about Deutsche peculiarities as vain self-mockery.

Despite all of this (carefully nationalism-free) affection, the real truth of myself is an American one. I have long since broached the point of no return: no matter how hard I might try, I would never be able to mold the Me another perceives in such a way that I’d become observably German-native. I’m just a midwestern boy with a Germanic name on his paperwork, and therefore have more in common with Volkswagen’s newish entry into the dramatically different full-size Sport Utility Vehicle segment. The Atlas bears a remarkably good name (annoyingly, literally everyone's reviews seem to begin with a comment on how decipherable the new name is for Americans) – especially among new automotive products introduced to market in recent memory. Honda’s Clarity should be clever alongside the definitively 21st-century Insight marque, but violates an unfortunately universal law in the industry: never name a car for a state of being (Introducing the New 2020 Honda Ambiguity [Insolence, Fugue, Debacle, Setback]) ~especially~ one so obtusely irrelevant to the product itself. Insight comes from a chat with a colleague over coffee, but Clarity is a metaphysical, zealous plane that sounds our ever-inadequate platitude alarms in a very unsettling manner. Um... Is Honda doing okay? It not only ends up irritating and off-putting: after Hannah’s season of The Bachelorette, it’s just dumb, lazy, and foul.

After decades of trying to force Yankees into models that many found too small, VW has figured it out: Big-ass SUVs are what Americans want, and the Atlas is designed around the biggest asses you can imagine.

In contrast, the fucking Nissan Kicks ages so swiftly and uncomfortably that it’s pitifully tacky before it even hits the lot, which is particularly disappointing considering the most cleverly bestowed Juke name was. One marvels at the situation Nissan has found itself in: young American black men love our brand, but they also love shoes! Atlas, though, is on par with Honda’s Odyssey inspirationally, though a smidge more grounded through the distinctly Earthen science of topography, just as it should be. Originally billed as a replacement for VW’s Routan minivan, the three-row Atlas is Volkswagen’s newest bid for the Panic Room-loving American parent demographic. Therefore, it’s crucial for us to examine it thoroughly for any signs of condescension from the Germans and their brand “whose business in the US is built on providing small, fun-to-drive cars like the Golf, the Beetle, the Jetta, and the Passat.”

From our perspective, what we have here is a German take on the American family SUV. A Ford Explorer by way of Wolfsburg, if you will. Well, sort of. The Atlas is actually built in Chattanooga, Tennessee alongside the Passat sedan.

Unavoidably, the most notable, remarkable, and extraordinary item to note about the Atlas is simply that it is fucking fat. Just about any review you watch or read will mention this. Even CNET calls theirs “a very broad boy.” After I first read the number – 5997 lbs. – I was never able to escape it throughout the entirety of my time with it. Three tons is unbelievably, inexcusably, violently, hopelessly heavy. Hopelessly not because it stands out in its segment, but that it does not. Obesity is still a problem in America, but it's our automobiles now. While we continue to worship safety and fuel economy together, we skew the triangle (the other side is performance) further and further, and yes – a good portion of the blame can be placed on our obsession with SUVs. I spent 2018 driving a 1976 Lincoln Continental Mk. IV around – the second-longest two-door car ever sold at 228.1 inches from its pointed nose to its massive ass. Despite being a full thirty inches longer than the 2019 Atlas, my 460-powered mammoth yacht weighed some 700 pounds less, and it was filled with real wood. I'm no expert in physics by any means, but I can tell you that every pound has expounding effects on the energy required to move, turn, and stop a vehicle, which just about sums up the ultimate formula to pulverize efficiency. When our friends at the IIHS say that “fuel economy can be improved without sacrificing safety,” they are just... fundamentally wrong, (though technically correct.)

I'm not entirely sure why the Atlas weighs so much, but its mass is inevitably a major variable in just about every facet of its experience as a product. The best potential hoot to be had from it as a driving device should be sought by ordering it to shuffle briskly on curving country blacktops in Sport Mode with all the assists (save for lane-keeping) on. Not to be too crude, but it's fun to make the fat fucker run. Through your ass, you can feel the suspension squirm and struggle to redirect all 266 lb.-ft. of VR6 oomf between 4 wheels beneath an entirely separate war against the physics of such top-heavy body roll.

Scrambling is definitely the correct verb. Pleasantly light steering in Comfort Mode (where I'd advise you leave it in virtually any situation) combined with a supple-ish ride from multilink suspension provide a trace of a past luxury sentiment not unlike the energy exhibited by my old Connie through and through. It's all about the sensation of power. Not in the horse sense, but in the satisfaction achieved from the manipulation of maximum mass with minimum effort. Comparatively, the level of actual ego-stroking is of course quite miniscule, and unfortunately, it is the numbness that is most noticeably left over with very little gain.

Also unfortunate: I did not end up making the opportunity to truly test whatever offroad capabilities the Atlas may posses in any sort of formalized test. My example came with Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, and I was able to find a small hill just steep enough to trigger the former. I cannot say I'd put my money on the Atlas winning the Dakar as it is, but we now know it can handle wet grass on a mild incline. What about county road gravel? Realistically, these are the two extremes 99% of Atlas' will ever face in their usable service lives. I found an entirely quiet section of back rock road and walked through the steps to disable all of the traction and stability control assists before stomping on the throttle, but was unable to provoke any significant wheelspin. In an episode of Autoline After Hours, Michael Loveti (Vice President, Product Line Mid/Full-Size, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.) confirms the drivetrain really is all-time all-wheel-drive, (though the dual exhaust ports in the rear are unfortunately fake,) and that the Atlas is actually based on the MQB platform, which is astonishing. Prospective buyers should definitely have a listen.

This theme of “thoroughly German, yet somehow distinctly Americanized” occurs over and over and over and over again in the Atlas' story. Its horizontal lines match both the Jetta and Ford's Explorer. In that way, surely it is a success. I cannot imagine a better execution of its marque's directives as stated by Mr. Loveti than what I drove.

Cover the Volkswagen logo and you might think the Atlas was made by someone else. The hard lines and boxy shape are a sharp departure from the rest of the VW lineup. But look at its competitors here in the states, especially the Ford Explorer. It’s almost like Volkswagen tried to build its own Ford with the Atlas.

Even though it has been on the market for only a year, the Atlas had become VW's second-most-popular car in the German automaker's lineup in March 2018, showing that the American car-buying public's thirst for crossovers and SUVs remains unslaked.

Place in The Segment

The only other modern SUVs I've spent significant time with was the Range Rover Evoque I crashed and the VW Tiguan I reluctantly borrowed (and had absolutely nothing to say about,) so my authority in comparing the Atlas with its competitors is severely lacking. However, I can at least send you the way of Regular Car Reviews' Roman reviewing his mother's Ford Explorer, Business Insider's direct comparison between their long termer Atlas and the Explorer, or Cars.com's vs. the new Subaru Ascent. Car & Driver also compared the Atlas to the intriguing Kia Telluride.

In the splitting of already fine hairs, it's the new Telluride that makes a stronger case over the Atlas, thanks to its price advantage, its plush and thoughtful appointments, and its slightly more comfortable third-row.

The Passive Safety Fairytale

Define: Active safety

Freedom through security. In truth, neurotypical people are naturally driven to minimize risk, yet also to romanticize the sick, inhibitionless madmen – to envy them both internally and externally (in a most restrained way.) Collectively, our authority in (or mastery of) risktaking remains pathetically irrational. If we were to itemize our ability to asses risk into a sixth physical sense, it would rank just as poorly against the rest of the world's creatures (or perhaps neck-and-neck with those of the squirrel or the deer.)

So many struggles of the too-often-cited “Human Condition” are grounded in the incompetence of this sense. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that risktakers in general are a very special topic amid The Middle Class – those who occasionally find themselves atop just enough excess to call it “capital.” This equates in day-to-day life as only the most potent – yet almost entirely inert next to the cushion of multi-millionaires – subject, catalyst, and indicator of dire fret. By far the most widespread affectation of this petty affliction spreads like divine wrath over the upper forty percent of this Middle Class. Thus, we must ask ourselves how safe doth the Atlas make me feel?

Volkswagen Atlas Digital Dash

Inside

My Atlas’ interior was finished in Titan Black Leatherette, which sounds both grandiose and a bit like a kink. “Volkswagen is known for good build quality and tight-feeling interiors,” writes Danny Geraghty for Auto123, “but I found I was encountering just a bit too much hard plastic, making for a somewhat dated feel.” Perhaps my loaner was less worn in because neither I nor my girlfriend found anything wrong with the Atlas’ interior quality – even after bombing gravel roads to the point of sustaining a left-rear puncture, we did not encounter any annoying squeaks or rattles. She spent an entire afternoon sleeping in the passenger’s seat reclined and described it as “comfy.” For The Car Connection, Senior Editor Andrew Ganz writes:

It’s not much to behold, with a chunky shape as conservative as they come that is not offset by a distinct lack of flair inside. Instead, the Atlas is quietly competent and exceptionally good at carrying seven humans—even seven adults.

Standard with the SEL trim is Volkswagen’s “Digital Cockpit” instrument panel, which I like much more than I expected to, though its color options are already dated and unfortunately unchangeable. Ageability is an inevitable issue with these sorts of bespoke graphic design decisions automakers are making now, but at least you’ll be able to tell your friends that your Volkswagen has a digital dashboard “just like the Rolls-Royce Phantom,” which is, of course, the ultimate Queen of timelessness in the industry. Perhaps it’s telling that the only layout I found acceptable for the digital dash was the one with simulated analog needles for the tach and speedo, and how often do you really use a compass in day-to-day driving? For that matter, how useful could a digital compass in the speedometer’s center hub really be in an “offroad” situation? It’s a bit petty, but I also really despise the typeface shared across the instruments and infotainment system. It’s just… bad.

2019 Volkwagen Atlas SEL w/4MOTION

Outside

In Platinum Gray Metallic, the Atlas looks authoritative enough in a very ordinary way. Unless you’re on the lookout for one, you’d hardly notice it, and you certainly wouldn’t expect what you see to cost as much as it does. That is why I’d prefer any one of the other exterior finishes, especially (in order): Pure White, Tourmaline Blue Metallic, Pacific Blue Metallic, and Fortana Red. The real wonder is how VW managed to execute a seven-seat SUV with its existing design language. Though the Atlas is by far Volkswagen’s largest vehicle, it fits neatly within their lineup.

Road Rage

My only authentic Road Rage experience in some 5000 miles of rideshare driving occurred on All Hallow's Eve when I stopped – no more illegally than usual – on the opposite corner from a popular downtown Mexican restaurant called The Nap with hazards and all courtesy interior lights shining. The car immediately behind me hesitated no more than necessary, but the Biggest Big Infiniti behind them (a QX80 – the Atlas' competitor) just... stopped. There was honking and frenzied, hoarse screaming of what the fuck are you doing? and such.

I responded with pleasantly amused but relatively-encouraging glances at the impersonal black mass of the Infiniti's windshield through my mirrors. I rolled down the Atlas' driver's side window and politely gestured that they go around me, but failed to coax any movement whatsoever from the ugly behemoth through at least two full cycles of the nearby traffic light. There must be some aquatic authority in the bulbous black ass of the QX80, for no one behind it seemed willing to pass either. The driver waited significantly longer than you'd imagine before emerging, huffy. She was wearing a classic poofy black North Face vest some sort of slate gray turtleneck. Nothing below these were stimulating enough to retain any memory of. Uggs?

How positive are you that the truth has absolutely zero consequence: contrasted silver-beige eyeliner and little eye contact, dirty-ish straight blonde hair over a spray-tanned face, exhibiting zero anxious tics or hesitation. She was obviously the New Matriarch, and she was obviously much more of an authority on traffic law than I. As she approached, she scanned the street as one naturally does when they enter a busy one... except it was completely empty, thanks to her blockade. She first informed me that I was “not supposed” to be stopped there. I tried to listen and respond with as much sincerity as possible as I realized all at once that my behavior had genuinely perturbed this woman – that her choice to leave the huge hideous warmth of the guppy wagon to speak as humans to one another required great courage.

2019 Volkwagen Atlas SEL w/4MOTION and Prius-C

I inserted the next logical question which I'd been screaming telepathically: can you not get around me? I began to pity her when I then saw in her face the distinct possibility that going around as a concept had not occurred to her whatsoever. She stuttered a wee bit in retorting “I could go around, but I don't want to get a ticket.” Here, one of the most fascinating avenues of suburban psychology is explored: Guppy Mom is not being ingenuine with this expression, nor has she had an untoward experience with law enforcement, ever. Guppy Mom did know her excuse was bullshit – nobody has ever been written a traffic citation for carefully circumventing an obstacle in the road. Given the opportunity to interrogate this kernel of entirely uncompromising obedience to utterly delusional traffic law superstitions, I think we'd simply discover a life of unnaturally positive interactions with LEOs. We must conclude, then, that the source of her fear was either myself or the Atlas.

Granted, to her I am still a Young Man, and am therefore instinctively programmed to believe myself more informed than literally everyone – even the very foundational architects of modern civilization. Her Stucco Highness may have felt a representative of these builders (edgy take: she is in fact their servant.) Her own folks surely complain regularly about their distaste for disrespect, and my gig-economy, Austin Powers-looking ass was somehow disrespecting the order laid down by her would be (entirely fantastical) forefathers. Though her expression of her quaint fear of such “ugliness” (if you will) is hard-headed, an ugliest decision of hers (or her kin) idled behind me, its giant seafood-looking mouth gaping, unhinged. It'd almost be more redeemable if it was a hardcore, chronic mouthbreather. (The QX80 is actually powered by a comparatively oldschool V8.)

Freedom from fear is the sum desire of all the most primitive compulsions we share. Ultimately, the only efficient and reasonable response to Mrs. Guppy's kind in such a situation is to very kindly oblige, which I did, of course, with great respect and great pity. In the months since this encounter, I'd been wondering what was missing from the outline of this Atlas review. I recently realized that it is this analysis of fear as a factor for the American carbuyer.

Though it has been disproven over and over again for decades, consumers often cite safety as their primary motivation for buying full-sized SUVs. Mrs. Guppy's Great Guffaw led me to realize why this particularly disconnected supposition/folktale continues to thrive so uninhibited by the truth: the brand image, physical presence, and actual driving sensation must communicate and “feel” safe – these are far more integral to buyers' perception of a product than the testable reality. Even the people of the world's most Christian nation do not have faith – they trust not unless they see with their own eyes; feel with their own asses. They entrust their souls to the Word of the Lord, but not their lives to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (I recently gave both of mine to NHTSA for All Eternity.)

2019 Volkwagen Atlas SEL w/4MOTION

The Collegiate Take

The two or three nights I spent Uber/Lyft driving around my college town shuttling Halloween party traffic in the Atlas were expectedly uneventful. I had to create a preset text message to send immediately upon connection with a rider to communicate as succinctly as possible that I was not going to be arriving in the Jetta Sportwagen on my profile but instead in the Atlas, and to transparently try to make sure that was okay. (No, drivers are not supposed to do this and you should reserve the right to bail on a ride should you find yourself opposite my own position in this situation because nobody refused me.)

Hello! Just a heads up: My Jetta is in the shop so I'm driving a gray 2019 Volkswagen Atlas

(It's VW's largest SUV and has 7 seats.)

License: FATLAS

If this is inconvenient or uncomfortable for you, please let me know.

Thank you!

I made a point to try and ask most of the riders if they had any thoughts on the Atlas without sounding like I was just desperately fishing for compliments on my own car, but I don't remember any significant thoughts being imparted whatsoever – certainly nothing negative. Folks here are just too polite – they won't speak up no matter how many times you insist that you do not own the car. We experienced this phenomena years ago when we tried to interview people on the street regarding the horrid Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Regardless, there's no reason to expect young people to have anything to say about the Atlas – it is neither extraordinary nor cheap.

If you are an American carbuyer, you might give a shit about the sort of awards manufacturers love to quote in their television commercials like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's “TOP SAFETY PICK,” which the Atlas won for 2017. For 2019, it won MotorWeek's Best Large Utility Driver's Choice award. How about Cars.com's 2020 Family Car of The Year? How quickly can this story turn into churnalized commercial copy? From Scott Keogh, Volkswagen Group America CEO:

[Atlas] was designed and built specifically for American families, and buyers and critics alike are letting us know that we’re hitting the mark with this seven-seater SUV.

It's immediately evident from the outside that the Atlas is the most Americanized product in Volkswagen's lineup – indeed, in its entire history. For Car Magazine's review, Ben Barry notes “the square-jawed front, Jeep-like wheel arches, and the suggestive utilitarianism of the stampings in the bonnet and roof” before remarking on just how much more you can spend on the Porsche Cayenne's cousin, the beloved Touareg.

Ultimately, the Atlas is far from a dynamic, agile machine, but it feels comfortable and unintimidating to drive, and perfectly at home on US city streets and the slower-paced driving of California highways.

2019 VW Atlas V6 28 mpg

2019 VW Atlas V6 28 mpg

Efficiency, the Other Fixation

Surprisingly, the Atlas carries a rare and precious jewel of automotive history under its broad, satisfying hood. The VR6 “zig zag” arrangement is actually one of Volkswagen legend – defining icons like the Corrado. As Dan Prosser explains for Evo magazine:

‘VR’ stands for V-Reihenmotor, which translates to V-Inline, describing both vee and inline cylinder layouts. That is, of course, contradictory. The unit is actually a very narrow-angle V6, displacing 2861cc, with two offset banks of cylinders at 15 degrees to one another. Unlike a conventional V6, but exactly like an inline six, there’s just one cylinder head. The result is a six-cylinder engine that’s both much narrower than a typical V6 and shorter than a straight six. In fact, it’s more comparable in size to a four-cylinder than a six, which meant it could slot easily into a Golf floorpan. A creative and borderline ingenious engineering solution.

The Atlas' 3.6L VR6 makes 276 hp and 266 lb-ft. of torque. Though other reviews cited highway mileage figures of 23-25 mpg, I was able to coax a whole twenty-eight miles-per-gallon on a live Periscope stream without air conditioning or cruise control through a two-way simulated 20 minute commute, through which I suffered for the hard data. My average before resetting the odometer for that feat, though, was 14.7mpg. “Good range and miles between trips to the gas station are criteria I look for in a good car, and the fuel-gulping Atlas rates low in this department” may be the blandest statement of all time, but MotorTrend does have a point – with the same 18.6 gallon fuel tank shared between the four and six cylinder models, the latter realistically has 250 miles of range between fillups, which is pitiful for a modern vehicle in just about any segment. Crossing one State is not enough.

2019 Volkwagen Atlas SEL w/4MOTION

An Attempted Conclusion

So, is the Atlas indeed just a lucrative German prank on Americans? If it is, the subtleties are beyond even me. In the time since I drove the Atlas last year, Volkswagen has unleashed the Atlas Cross Sport on American roads. Apparently, it is the ideal SUV for “dual incomes, no kids,” or “DINKS” (surprisingly, not a homophobic slur.) MotorTrend, on the other hand, argues the ideal buyer has “teenagers who are growing faster than dandelions.”

It's a straightforward conversion from Atlas to Atlas Cross Sport. In the name of perceived sportiness, out goes that most minivan of things: the third row of seats.

Normally, I'd be disgusted with such a thing, but from where I'm sitting, the Cross Sport appears to be what the Atlas should've been all along. The third row seats in my example wasn't any more comfortable than that of a 10-year-old minivan, so removing them for the sake of the second makes perfect sense. According to Car & Driver, the 2021 Atlas will “adopt” the Cross Sport's styling, though there are some technologies – like road sign recognition- which are exclusive to the Cross Sport.

Instead of getting 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row in the Atlas, you get 40.3 behind the second row. Fold that down and it becomes 77.8 cubic feet to work with. And that’s from an SUV with the same wheelbase as the upcoming 2021 Atlas at 117.3 inches, yet it is 5.2 inches shorter and 2.2 inches lower to the ground.

There was even a one-off concept Atlas pickup called the Tanorak, and no one seems to yet know whether or not it (or something similar) will be put into production. As far as longevity and extended livability is concerned, enough time has passed since the Atlas' release for long-termer conclusion posts to be published from the likes of Car & Driver, Cars.com, and MotorTrend. The last of these reported an odd turning radius issue which was eventually fixed by Volkswagen.

Once we got the steering fixed, my opinion of the Atlas did grow sunnier, though it's still not perfect. Maybe it's not fair to compare the driving experience to my previous long-term vehicle, the slightly smaller Mazda CX-9, but in my opinion the Mazda still sets the ride and handling bar for the competitive set. Setting the Mazda aside, if you hop behind the wheel of one of the newer competitors like the Kia Telluride, there's a noticeable disparity in the refinement in ride quality and body control in the Atlas... Volkswagen should have made the GTI of three-row SUVs, not just another minivan alternative.

This pullquote from Andrew Ganz’s The Car Connection review is as good a summary as I could ever come up with:

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas does little wrong, but it's light on personality and a little low-rent inside—and it guzzles fuel. It's worth a look, but mostly rivals do more for less.

Volkswagen’s first substantial entry into the SUV market is well-named, relatively well-endowed, fairly bland for its price tag, and very, very heavy. Also, Start/Stop is still unbearable – thanks Obama – but the Atlas is not a scam.

🗎 Print/PDF

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL 4Motion Options as Tested

Further Reading

Volkswagen traditionally tuned its suspensions closer to the European ideal, firm but well-damped, which incidentally made even non-enthusiast Volkswagens more pleasant than average to drive (with a few recent exceptions). But Volkswagen made a conscious decision to soften up the Jetta for American tastes, beyond what softening Volkswagen traditionally applied, and it seems like this philosophy scaled up to the much larger Atlas. Maybe the soft ride impresses on test drives, but a firmer setup would likely make life nicer for occupants over the long haul.

#auto

David Blue Sleepy Transit


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The Crossing Auditorium

Askeptical spectacle in the day-to-day typhoon of Faith’s modern enterprise.

The year I was given my first generation iPhone was the last of 14 through which my mother was still comfortable enforcing my obligation to attend Sunday morning church service. She and my stepfather had migrated 18 months or so prior from [Suburban Church of Mediocore Dope Christ-Appropriated Lukewarm Dilluted Prog Rock and The Occasional Teachings of Protestant-ish Side-Glances at The New Testament] to the New York Times-appointed champion of Columbia Missouri’s 20-Year-Long Quirk the Church! Soverignty Crusade: The Crossing. Like its competitors (of which my parents’ previous church had ranked quite poorly,) the blatantly death-cult-sounding House of God includes its own artisanal, latte-equipped coffee shop (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually a Starbucks affiliate at this point,) a regularly-replenished catering table full of doughnuts immediately to the side as one enters, and a sophisticated childcare operation staffed no less thoroughly than my public elementary school.

Since 2007, the church has been expanding from its first home (as a functional place of worship, anyway,) which lies within 1) line-of-sight from one of Nancy Walton’s properties, 2) a mile of the southernmost exit off US-63 – mid-Missouri’s primary North⟺South roadway – and includes a powered pump-arrogated pond, though the majority of the acreage is blackened by pragmatically-arrayed big box store-caliber multi-rowed parking. Ye, by night, it is flooded in coordinately-distributed cold white light suspended by the same uniform steel poles which guard long-term airport lots. Naturally, the entry and exit points for the asphalt spread are arranged deliberately opposed so that four figures’ worth of God’s children may be fed, digested, and evacuated through their weekly appointment with Christ as efficiently and hassle-free as possible.

God’s ~white~ children become especially sensitive to entirely-trivial delay or other perceived deviation from Their Expectations when inside an automobile thanks to a rampant misconception that simultaneously allows them a renewed sense of control over their environment. Psychoanalytic observation has suggested it is catalyzed by delusions of physical anonymity, exemption from civic responsibility, and a titanically-inflated perception of their personally misattributed contributions to the perpetuation of the universe. This vehicular component of the customer experience is a fundamental ingredient in The Crossing’s stellar member retinenance record – the single metric above all quantifying a Christian organization’s overall effectiveness in accomplishing the faith’s (mostly cross-denominational) evangelistic Prime Directive / General Order Number One as abridged by Christ himself to the Pharisees after his resurrection: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of [The Holy Trinity].” I did not take the opportunity to sample The Crossing’s baptismal services, but I’m sure sufficient combing of the church’s Yelp! page would yield as qualitative an analysis of such a “service” as you could possibly imagine. (Notably, it would appear the “lowest” review is the singular 4/5 star entry.)

I do not mean to disparage The Crossing, specifically nor even organized religion, generally, but instead to emphasize the absurdities which have leapt just as readily into what I’d specifically call The Business of white protestant Christianity over just the course of my own maturation as it has into any other aspect of our lives. The difference, of course, is the universal set of exceptions – and the particular age of said exceptions – which religion maintains, societally. The perspective formed by my own experiences having grown up wholly embedded across the spectrum of white midwestern Christianity – including two years of vigorous and quite academic study of the Bible in a tiny private school headquartered in the basement of a Lutheran church – lends to a particular skepticism, amusement, horror, offense, and existential astonishment that latches my fascination into a not-entirely-voluntary hold.

(Before I go on, I suppose I should also note that it’s been at least two or three years since I last set foot inside the church building at all – my only recent experiences/engagement with The Crossing has been with their digital content from a relative distance.)

Apple Leadership Headshots

The ludicrous parallels between Apple events and services at The Crossing, especially, come immediately to mind every single time I watch one (live or otherwise,) as they did just weeks ago when I first engaged with this summer’s WWDC keynote. Pastors Dave Cover, Keith Simon, and Shay Roush all look, dress, speak, and photograph exactly like Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Scott Foristell, Jony Ive, and just about any public-facing leadership figure we’ve ever seen giving an Apple Keynote. They’re hilariously interchangeable, as are other explicit aspects of the typical Sunday morning service at The Crossing. As far as I can tell, the church as a whole only uses Mac computers and the projections in the main auditorium/worship hall – mostly sing-along hymn lyrics and referenced bible verses – are exclusively created through Apple’s office presentation software, Keynote, just as the company itself does for its “Keynotes.” This was immediately obvious to me upon first entering that space because they both use the default theme – typography, color palette, transition animations and all. Indeed, during the sermons, the three pastors would take command of the slides by fairly inconspicuously clicking what I’d imagine must be a very sweaty Apple Remote in the exact same manner in which Tim Cook and his underlings still do.

I JUST REMEMBERED DAVE EXPLICITLY USING MENTION OF APPLE PRODUCTS IN HIS SERMONS

The Crossing on WordPress

Nay, the likenesses do not diverge when comparing the fundamentals of the two organizations more broadly: The Business of the faith is very much a volume business, which also describes Apple’s contemporary strategy with perfect precision. It’s been a few years since “ecosystem” ceased to be an exhaustive buzzword in tech media discourse, perhaps because the term falls very short in expressing the change in global Apple scale. My recollection of high school biology has failed to produce a scientific substitute, but I find Matt Honan’s “very lovely swamp” exceptionally said in 2014, but the fact of the swamp’s becoming generally lovelier in the interim – in a less linear fashion than would have been ideal, mind you – leaves ample room, I think, to fear and respect whatever it was that we then called The Apple Ecosystem in 2014 as a ruling deity or daemon (just as Google’s sought to be, recently.)

The church live streams every fucking keynote sermon in HD on Vimeo, not YouTube. (I had no idea Vimeo offered “professional streaming services” until this moment.) They have a fucking iOS app (apparently developed by an outfit called Subsplash, who had the audacity to include analytics meta tags following the root of their website within the in-app attribution button) which features a calendar-bound tool containing full-text preparatory reading material from scripture, on-demand audio and video recordings

I genuinely wonder quite often if the individual who set the digital template for the sign in front of our Portland neighborhoood’s Episcopalian church paused to look at the text he was arranging: “PRAYER REQUESTS BY EMAIL.” I'm not sure any of this really means anything, but it's sure spectacular to look at.

#software

Mablis Festival Dot no

A not altogether-cohesive review of July reads and research.

In case you're similarly long overdue for a reminder that beautiful things are still being made on the internet...

After nearly a year of relative sobriety from my old, once-severe addiction to Web Site hunting, it occurred to me just yesterday that some explicit wandering as I once did for days at a time – through the clever, innovative, and uniquely tasteful projects through which an astonishingly-original few give their whole thinking (and often physical) selves in obscurity despite how little financial (and often professional) incentive is maintained by those who unknowingly need it the most – might be the best feasible remedy to my current, most perplexing state of faithlessness and bafflement toward the ambitions of trades and cultures I feel I once so thoroughly understood. A great portion of you are surely undergoing your own manifestations of the same hopelessness – I cannot ever remember a time in my life when global events were so utterly discouraging so relentlessly.

Design and The Open Web

In this present when every element of American reality is so much more incessantly ugly than we could’ve ever imagined, let’s take at least a momentary respite to look at some visually irresistible and/or super sick Sites on the truly-resolute Open Web to assure our existential selves that yes, beauty shall not cease to exist. For better or worse, my #1 goto source to find innovative, delicious web design has always been Typewolf, who announced last fall that he will not be continuing his “Site of the Month” section, though his relentless “Site of the Day” roll will continue, unhindered.

Zeff Cherry

Recent Discoveries

Poolside.fmPoolside.FM is a retro digital oasis for your summer” | The Verge

Audio

Those of us for whom the Podcast medium became a trusted and relatively regular one in our lives long before anyone figured out how to make a real business out of it – certainly eons preceeding the original startup podcast-only (apparently HBO-like publication – Gimlet Media – to be successfully launched. Now, though, your mom – perhaps even her mom – listens to podcasts, and what was once a The single Missouri alumni at The Verge, Ashley Carmen, explored the proliferation of podcasting and the process by which it became profitable.

In 2009, only 11% of the U.S. population had listened to a podcast in the past month.
How podcasts became so popular | The Verge on YouTube

Whilst trying out Garageband for iOS’ new sample packs, I sampled the accompanying video to the article and produced the best “track” I’ve ever made with the app (for whatever that’s worth.)

Speaking of Gimlet Media: the latest episode of my longtime favorite of their podcasts, Reply All, is a sort of condensed remake of my favorite podcast episode of all time (of any show, not just this one) in which hosts Alex Goldman and P.J. Vogtmaintained an open telephone line for 48 hours and spoke with a whole bunch of people (mostly Americans) about... whatever. The result was beautifully human, if you’ll forgive my use of the cliche. I tend to revisit it when I’m feeling particularly isolated from and/or confused about the general ambitions of the people around me. I’ll be honest: I didn’t pay much attention to my first listen through the new episode, but I can tell you that it is worth your time, at least.

I was distraught when Spotify bought both the aforementioned Gimlet Media and the social audio turned podcasting app Anchor – both of which I (rather ridiculously) felt a special personal ownership over. (The latter, especially, because they reached out to me early on to feature Extratone’s channel on their music section.) However, it appears that both are being treated fairly well in the 18+ months since their acquisition – probably because they’ve been making Spotify money.

Further Reading

Other Favorites

#software

Yes, I am still managing to waste my time digging up and re-arranging some very old content, but I just couldn't resist. Somehow, it didn't occur to me until yesterday evening that I could sort through the original video files of my old vines fairly easily in fucking Google Photos and blast them through iMovie for iOS into a full montage relatively easily.

Some of these are very cringey...

Yes, I'd love to finally get around to my ultimate romantic editorialization on that most dearly departed social network, but things are way too jumbled right now, obviously.

#meta

You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so illequipped are we all to envision one another's interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you.

#quote

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