Month: March 2021


An experiment

Matt Webb is running an interesting little experiment on his site, aiming to build an awareness that someone else is reading a given page at the same time as you are) and letting readers highlight a portion of the content on that page for other readers who happen to be around at the same moment (e.g. participants in the same meeting, looking at the same document at the same time):

There’s no reason that Social Attention shouldn’t a one-liner to add to any website, or part of the browser itself. Maybe it should be part of a suite of social tools to make the web a well-lit, neighbourly place – with, naturally, good privacy-preserving fences.

That being said, I’m trying and failing to think of a circumstance where this would be useful to me. Given that the meetings I attend online generally lack an agenda or any minute-taking and mostly don’t involve everyone accessing a common document simultaneously to discuss/critique/pick apart, perhaps I’m just not the audience for this.

Doesn’t mean that the experiment isn’t worth doing.

Cold Calls

After watching this week’s instalment of For All Mankind early this morning1 I found myself dipping into the first half dozen episodes of new Apple TV+ show Calls before starting work for the day, then picked up on the final three episodes this evening.

I was aware that this show was coming, but had deliberately not gone out of my way to find out more. I realise that goes completely counter to the modern trend that pushes viewers to try to find out as much as possible about forthcoming programmes and speculate endlessly online about what’s to come2 but I’m here to tell you that you definitely want to watch Calls with as little foreknowledge as possible of what you’re about to hear.

Yes, I said "hear" not "watch." Calls is a TV show, but it could as easily have been a podcast or a radio drama. We never see any of the cast, and while the on-screen graphics do help viewers visualise what’s happening and who is talking to who, the audio is sufficiently well-produced that (IMHO) it’s perfectly possible to get what’s happening without visuals.

No, I’m not going to say anything more about what happens in the story: all I’ll say is that if you have any interest at all in a well designed and delivered piece of speculative fiction then Calls is a very worthwhile experience.

Apple TV+ probably won’t get the credit they deserve for pulling it off, and given that Apple TV+ is very much the runt of the litter3 of modern streaming TV services Calls might be destined to be looked back on as an interesting failure. I do hope not; it’d be good to see more experiments like this.


  1. No, I wasn’t sitting there trying to catch For All Mankind once it dropped on Apple TV+, I just happened to be awake at 5am and realised I wasn’t getting back to sleep so decided I might as well fill the time until the sun came up by watching something to keep my brain occupied until it was time to prepare for the old working-from-home-office-job
  2. Contemplate Disney’s recent WandaVision multimedia extravaganza for a prime example of how that can go. 
  3. Also, to be fair, I suspect Apple TV+ isn’t pulling in the sort of viewing figures that Apple would have hoped for, though I’m not sure they’d want to admit that publicly just yet. When the most critically-acclaimed shows you have – Ted Lasso and The Morning Show – are between seasons Apple TV+ just isn’t exactly the focus of much talk in social media, once you look beyond the more Apple-centric corners of the internet. 

Packages

I’m the Package You Impulse-Ordered Three Days Ago and No, I’m Not Going to Make You Feel Any Better:

It’s hard being a package. Sometimes we’re out in the cold for a really long time. Sometimes someone puts a bomb in us. Sometimes someone thinks there’s a bomb in us, so 90 people in green suits show up and talk to each other on the phone for 11 hours only to discover we’re just a litter of kittens in a duffel bag.

But for a long time, it was worth it to see the smile on your face. […]

So true.1

[Via Memex 1.1]


  1. Next package is due for delivery on Wednesday. As it’s disposable face masks, I can safely predict it was never going to put a smile on my face. 
, 15 March 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

Romulans

Star Trek: Picard season one showrunner Michael Chabon has been sharing Some Notes On Romulans and I am eating this up with a spoon:

Traditional Romulan compounds — Romulans live in kinship units — are built at the center of a kind of hedge maze whose outer perimeter is often contrived to look like a “natural” grove of trees, as if, within, there were no houses at all. Once you reach the house itself, you find a false “front entrance”; all Romulan houses are entered from the back. Even in big cities, modern housing megastructures have false front entrances, and are surrounded by some kind of token or symbolic maze, often a pattern in the paving stones. No visitor to a Romulan compound must ever arrive uninvited — it’s unheard of — and all visitors are asked to don a ceremonial blindfold (often of the finest materials) and are guided by their hosts into the compound, after being turned around the ritual three times. It is the height of rudeness to ask a Romulan for his address. It’s rude to ask a Romulan almost anything remotely personal. […]

I’ve not been following rumours about Star Trek: Picard season 2 so I have no idea whether this is a sign that we’re due to spend some time with the Vulcans’ cousins in season two, or simply a case of Chabon clearing out notes from season 1 so he can move on to the next project now he’s not being showrunner for the show’s second season.

Either way, this is impossible to ignore if you’re remotely interested in the continuing journeys of Admiral Jean-Luc Picard.

(For the record, it’d be good to have Picard reunite with his two Romulan "domestic staff" who we met back at the family vineyard on Earth, before he headed off-world in season one. They seemed to have stories to tell, not that they ever would, and who knows where that could lead?)

[Via @hondanhon]

Grandmother-Starship FAQ

From Marissa Lingen’s1 So your grandmother is a starship now: a quick guide for the bewildered:

What is happening, seriously, what is even happening?

Your grandmother is becoming a starship! She has gone through many phases in her life already — infant, child, teenager, young adult, student, worker, in many cases spouse, parent, retiree. She has had hobbies like knitting, volleyball and carbon mitigation. She has travelled in planetary atmosphere whenever her circumstances allowed. Now she is uploading her consciousness into a starship! The circle of life is beautiful. […]

Competently done, heartwarming, wise even, yet oddly unsatisfying. Perhaps I was just not in the right mood when I read it?

[Via sibilatorix, posting to MetaFilter]


  1. FWIW, this is the same Marissa Lingen whose Present Writers feature I linked to last month. 

Irresistible

I’m indebted to Tim Bray for the pointer to jwz’s They Live and the secret history of the Mozilla logo, which I must have read at the time but which I don’t think I posted about here:

I’m going to draw a line through 1930s agitprop, Ronald Reagan, methane-breathing zombie space aliens, the Mozilla logo, Barack Obama and the International Communist Conspiracy. It’s a long walk, so please stick with me. […]

It’s a longish read, but it’s about ancient history about important software and one of John Carpenter’s best films: how could I resist?1

[Via ongoing]


  1. Also, a commenter pointed to a collection of essays on They Live by Jonathan Lethem that I bought sight unseen.