Here’s Why I Refuse to Consider Social Media a News Source

stupidfbnews

I’ve said for years that newspapers and magazines are obsolete media.  By the time it’s in a paper form, I either already know about it or don’t care about it.  I’m not kidding, the combination of caring about news and then getting it from a newspaper the next day seems like a logical disconnect Evel Knievel couldn’t jump over on a rocket bike.  I find the evening television news to be only slightly less untimely.

But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to get my news from social media.  The screen capture above, just taken from my Facebook page, explains why, perfectly.

The fact that some football player’s new tattoo is in a list (of 2 items) with the increasing tension in the Middle East tells me that what I thought was only the funniest movie ever made may also have been an accurate prediction of things to come.

If you want to know where I do get my news, there are three primary sources:

1. Rancho DeNada Times, the real time news aggregation page I created years ago.  I can quickly scan the headlines and see if there is anything I want to know about.

2. My RSS feeds, via Feedly.  I subscribe to Google News, The Atlantic, and NPR.

3.  NPR audio, via XM radio if I’m driving or via my Amazon Echo if I’m at home.

If there’s something major happening, I’ll tune into CNN via the internet or on my TV, but that’s a rare occasion.

American culture is celebrity-obsessed, serially focused on the media created drama-of-the week, and attention deficient.  As such, it’s important to decide where you get your news from.  Otherwise, your experience may start to look like this:

Split View in OS X Photos

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“In the Photos app, there’s a useful button that I don’t think a lot of folks know about.”

via OS X Photos: Using Split View – The Mac Observer.

Count me as one of those folks.  One of the many joys of being a Mac user is the never-ending supply of little tips and tricks you learn.

Apple Music Is Missing Some Notes

brokenrecords

“Apple Music is just too much of a hassle to be bothered with. Nobody I’ve spoken at Apple or outside the company has any idea how to fix it, so the chances of a positive outcome seem slim to none.”

via Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it.

Here’s my conclusion.  Apple Music is geared towards young people who grew up in an era when few of their friends bought, listened to or cared about the entire album experience.  They just want to hear music they like, and maybe save (e,g,. buy, add or steal) a song or two here and there.

That may work out OK for lots of people, but it’s not going to work for people like me who have spent decades compiling, organizing and curating a vast music library.  I find the Apple Music experience to be a jumbled mess (compare just about any screen in Apple Music to the comparable one in Spotify; I gave up on Apple Music when I realized it was going to take more time figuring it out, slogging through its interface and getting things organized the way I want than I would spend enjoying the results).  I’m not interested in “personally curated playlists,” because no persons are curating playlists of the sort of music I like (and, as I noted the other day, no personally curated playlist will ever top Pandora when it comes to finding new music).  Neither am I naïve enough to think the marketing scheme feathered up to look like a way to “connect” with artists is anything more than a new age advertising platform.  America is celebrity-obsessed, so I understand the logic behind it.

But like the rest of Apple Music, it’s not for me.

GoodSongs: The Pollies

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The Pollies, a quintet from Florence, Alabama, is preparing to release its new record, Not Here, on September 25, 2015 via Single Lock Records/Thirty Tigers.  Recorded at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, Mississippi, and produced by Ben Tanner (of Alabama Shakes) and The Pollies’ lead singer and songwriter, Jay Burgess, the record is the band’s first for Single Lock/Thirty Tigers and the follow-up to their 2012 release, Where The Lies Begin.

This is a mighty fine, genre-defying, progressive southern, grab bag of ear candy.  The first song, Jackson, is an early clue that you’re into something good.  As a bearded, southern, country-raised social liberal, it makes my heart sing when other southern musicians take up the progressive flag.  “I’ve always been into revolutions—more specifically thinking about what things would be like if they hadn’t happened,” Burgess says.  “Obviously, a major movement in this country’s history was the Civil Rights movement.  I think about how long that effort took and how great the risk was, and it’s amazing to me.”  Jimmie Lee Jackson, a church deacon, was beaten and shot to death by Alabama State troopers in 1965 during a peaceful voting rights march. His death was one of the inspirations for the Selma to Montgomery marches.  It’s a great sounding song- one of my favorites of 2015, that tells a meaningful story (as an aside, I can’t wait for some southern bands to produce some great songs celebrating the marriage equality victory we joyfully witnessed this year, a movement that traces it lineage back to the Civil Rights movement).

Lost, the second song on the record, has a wonderful 70s-ish, alt. country vibe with some great harmonies.  I really dig this song.

The arrangements on this record stand-out, on almost every song.  She has a lot going on behind some wistful vocals.  A big shout out to whoever played the piano on this record.  Very nicely done (as another aside, best piano playing on any record ever?  Chuck Leavell on Brother and Sisters).

There’s a lot of range here as well  You Are alternates between a garage rock sound and a Cure vibe, and it works.  Losers is a rocker that would have fit right in on a dBs record.  Lonely Betty sounds like good Ryan Adams.

Like most good records, it changes as you listen to it.  Initially, I didn’t think much of Paperback Books, but then later, as the record was playing while I did other stuff, I though “damn, that’s a great song.”  Now it’s one of my favorites.

This is predominantly an alt. country record, but it has strong elements of folk rock, alternative rock, and the best parts of modern rock.  It’s easy to classify on first listen.  But the details blur the genre in a very interesting way.

Whatever you want to call it, this is an excellent record.  I put most of the songs in my primary playlist.  I suspect you will too.  Buy this record when it comes out.

Dead Flowers

I see you sitting there
In your silk upholstered chair
Talkin’ to some rich folks that you know.

There are a lot of covers of this song, and this is the best one.

Purchase Links:

Amazon
iTunes

Radio Test: Spotify vs Apple Music

oldradio

For the past few days, I’ve been experimenting with Apple Music.  While I am naturally skeptical of anything that involves iTunes, Apple has already proven, with the sale of music downloads, that it can revolutionize an industry.  Can it do for streaming and radio what it did for music sales?  That’s hard to say, largely because there are already a lot of streaming and radio options out there, many of which provide elegant solutions, and all of which have a head start on Apple in the streaming space.

I’m putting together a podcast about my views on Apple music overall, but I thought I’d take a look at one specific part of the music experience: radio.

First, if all you want is streaming, personalized radio, stop reading right now and stick with Pandora.  Pandora is, by far, the most effective and rewarding solution for personalizing radio stations.  Anyone who tells you different is confused or lying.  I have very specific music tastes (alt. country, meaning countryish songs played by rock musicians; as distinguished from Americana, which I view largely as old cats trying to be philosophical or clever), and I know virtually nothing about the artists that play on mainstream radio in 2015.  Nevertheless, Pandora does an excellent job of understanding what I like and providing me with music I’ve never heard that suits my tastes.

But if radio is merely a part of your overall music experience, and you also want the ability to listen to records on demand and to build custom playlists, etc., many of the broader music applications provide radio as a feature.  Let’s compare Spotify, my current primary music service, and Apple Music to see how they do with creating a radio station tailored to my musical preferences.

Again, because I don’t listen to much new, mainstream music, it’s important to pick a good starting point.  Both Spotify and Apple Music let you start a radio station based on a specific song.  Because it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard recently, and because I think the title makes a good name for a radio station, I decided to start with” Blue Light” by Jimbo Mathus.  Let’s see how each service does creating a radio station from that song.

For this experiment, I’ll start a radio station with “Blue Light,” play 15 subsequent songs, thumb the good and bad songs up and down and see what happens.  In the list below, Great means I thumbed up the song, Good means I didn’t thumb it up, but like it, and Bad means it got a thumbs down.  The number is my rating from 1-5 on how well I think it fits the vibe established by the initial song and any prior thumbs up or down.

Spotify

1. The Black Lillies – The Soul of Man (Good; 4)
2. Patterson Hood – 12:01 (Good; 3)
3. Otis Gibbs – When I was Young (Great; 5)
4. Slaid Cleaves – Horseshoe Lounge (Great; 5)
5. Catherine – The Black Lillies (Good; 3)*
6. Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel – Justin Townes Earle (Great; 5)
7. Tillamook County Jail – Todd Snider (Good; 3)
8. Moving On – Lauderdale (Great; 5)
9. Come Back Little Star – Patterson Hood (Good; 4)*
10. Gulf Road – James McMurtry (Good; 4)**
11. By the Wayside – The Black Lillies (Good; 3)***
12. Where Only the Graves Are Real – Otis Gibbs (Good; 5)*
13. Smile When You Call Me That – Jakob Dylan (Bad; 2)
14. Cemetery Road – Fred Eaglesmith (Great; 5)
15. Black T Shirt – Slaid Cleaves (Good; 5)*

* I didn’t thumb this down because I didn’t want to confuse the algorithm, but I consider it a fail if a station plays too much of the same artist.
** This excellent song would warrant a thumbs up, but I’m not generally a McMurtry fan, so I didn’t thumb it up because I thought that would result in more of his songs than I prefer.
*** 3rd song out of 11 gets a thumbs down on principle.

Summary: Spotify did a decent, but not fantastic, job with a pretty obscure song as a starting point.  Clearly, it has a harder time with a more narrow genre, which is a little surprising since there are a ton of songs on Spotify that fit within my target, including those on Rancho Radio, my hand-curated playlist.

Apple Music

1. Lonely Days – Deadstring Brothers (Great; 5)#
2. I Don’t Wear No Sunglasses – Watermelon Slim (Bad; 2)
3. Knockdown South – Jimbo Mathus (Bad; 2)
4. Ballad of Henry & Jimmy – Paul Burch (Good; 4)
5. Fightin’ – Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm (Bad; 1)
6. Goin’ Down South – North Mississippi Allstars (Bad; 2)##
7. Asked My Captain – Jimbo Mathus (Good; 3)###
8. Only Time Will Tell – The Better Angels of Our Nature (Great; 5)
9. John Henry – Furry Lewis (Bad; 2)####
10. Loose Diamonds – Jimbo Mathus (Good; 5)#####
11. Shotgun – Ashes and Angels (Good; 4)
12. Wild Bill Jones – Luther Dickinson (Great; 5)
13. In My Time of Dying – Alvin Youngblood Hart (Bad; 2)##
14. Self – Jimbo Mathus (Good; 5) #####
15. Goin’ Down South – Jake Leg Stompers (Bad; 2)

I have to add a 16, because it’s a great cover of a great song…

16. They Don’t Know – Lydia Loveless (Great; 5)

# Great, great start.
## This is an awesome jam of a song, but nothing like Blue Light.
### I didn’t thumb this down because I didn’t want to confuse the algorithm, but I consider it a fail if a station plays too much of the same artist.
#### Very clearly, Apple Music incorrectly made this a blues station.
##### 3rd or more song out of 11 gets a thumbs down on principle.

Summary:  Apple Music also struggles mightily with an obscure starting point.  I don’t like the excessive artist repetition, or the fact that it somehow decided I was making a blues station.  On the other hand, Only Time Will Tell  by The Better Angels of Our Nature was the best new song I heard on either station.

Conclusion:  As noted above, if you want radio, use Pandora.  As a part of a larger music service, neither Spotify nor Apple Music covered itself in radio glory, but Spotify is currently the better of the two.

This Was Going to Be a Review of Blogo

The desktop blogging app for Macs.

Until, after writing my test post, I tried to “preview” it, and without warning this happened.

blogonogo

And this.

blogonogo2

I have my WordPress.Com account connected to my Facebook and Twitter accounts (though I don’t always automatically share posts to Facebook), and when I previewed the blog post, the app apparently published the post to Facebook and Twitter.  And to my email subscribers.  Thankfully, I subscribe to my own email feed, and was alerted by an email that a new post had been (prematurely) published.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

Interestingly, the non-post did not publish to my blog, only to the sharing locations and my email feed.

Blogo looks promising based on the screenshots and app store reviews.  But an app like this needs to be written in a way that it will not publish anything anywhere until you are completely and clearly ready to do so.

I may take another look later, but for now Blogo is a no go.

Update: Blogo tells me the app warns you to turn off auto-sharing during the setup process.  I was moving so fast, I didn’t read the entire message.  My bad.

blogonotice