Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ghosts, Everywhere

One thing I love about big cities is the history.

This is the view from my hotel room in San Francisco.

It's not much to look at, so I was disappointed for a moment. Then I looked closer at everything that is there, outside my window, and indeed everywhere in San Francisco: layers of history, starting at the street and stacking up to each level of the looming buildings.

One thing caught my attention: "Hotel Paisley," in faded letters at the top of the building I'm facing, partially covered over by history. The windows below look like they'd crumble if anyone stared too hard through them. The hotel's sorry state hints that it's been there for a long time, and probably has stories to tell. Luckily, those stories are Googlable.

What I found didn't disappoint. According to this article, the place is layered with entities that haunt it, from the woman who's lived there for twenty years, to the man who sees skeletons over his bed and swears the hotel is full of spirits, to Florence Cushing.

In 1911, Florence flung herself from one of those old windows across from me and splattered on the barren concrete below—the view I'd considered so uninteresting a few minutes before.

I'm sure similar stories are all around me. It's almost overwhelming. But I think it's best to wait until after I leave to Google my own hotel's name + "haunted."

Monday, August 03, 2015

Laziness Drives Progress

Via Rinspeed
I think about autonomous cars a lot.

That's partly because I don't enjoy driving. However, a lot of people do. Many of those people promise that they will never buy a self-driving vehicle. I propose that laziness will drive that promise right out of them.

Today, even people who own cars will occasionally take a taxi. To the airport, or out drinking, or when traveling. As taxis become autonomous, they will be even more convenient. Imagine tapping your smartphone, then 30 seconds later a car arrives for you, and you can step inside and keep dicking around on your phone, or have a meal, or get work done, until it drops you off right at your destination. And it only costs a few dollars.

Even people who love driving will take advantage of that once in a while. At first maybe it'll only be to get to the airport. But then it'll be when they have a deadline coming up, or are really hung over, or are just feeling lazy.

As those situations become more common, and driving your own car becomes less common, the per-trip cost of owning a car becomes prohibitive. Is it worth tens of thousands of dollars in purchase price, fuel, maintenance, and insurance just to drive a car once a day? Once a week? What about once a month?

"I'm too lazy to drive, just this once" can quickly become "I haven't driven in a month and I might as well sell my car." As more and more people succumb to laziness and rely on a cloud of autonomous vehicles, houses will gradually lose their driveways and garages, and the thrill of driving will be confined to go-kart tracks.

In short, human laziness will lead to a more efficient, car-ownership-free world.

I think it'll be a good change. The people who disagree will be too lazy to resist it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Creativity is Something Other People Do

There's a tendency to think of art as something others do. Art is mysterious; it comes from a magical place. It's not like going to a day job and pumping out widgets or code or happy customers—all the things you and your ordinary friends produce.

Maybe that's why it's always slightly uncomfortable when good friends create good things. When watching a friend's band, or play, or art show, it may be objectively fantastic, but that's weird, because fantastic acts of creation shouldn't come from the real person you've known for years. They should come from an other.

We've even invented the concept of a muse: an other—real or imaginary—who provides the source of artistic inspiration. No way, it couldn't be a regular person's brain coming up with this stuff. It must originate somewhere else.

It's all bullshit, of course. Art is a result of regular brains and regular hands put to hard work. But the belief persists, for some reason.

I try to be aware of this. As a writer, and a writer of horror, the creepiest art of all, I am conscious of how strange it can be for people around me. Self promotion is uncomfortable, partially for that reason. I'd almost prefer to stand up on a stage and talk about my book to a crowd of strangers—to whom I am an other—than post about it on Facebook.

P.S. Buy my book.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


The problem is, when I have a short thought, I post it on Twitter. When I have a longer thought, I write a book about it. That leaves little room for blogging.

Maybe this should be the place for medium thoughts. Yes, there is Medium for that, but having my own place on the web, which looks crappy but unique, and can't be destroyed if some corporation decides to "pivot," still has value to me.

So, medium thoughts. Snack-sized brain nuggets. The Goldilocks of cognitive output. That's this blog's new purpose. If anyone is still out there, I hope you'll join me for a few minutes at a time.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2014

As usual, throughout the year I tracked what I listened to using Instead of doing something stupid like using my brain, I passively relied on this data to compile my "best of the year" list. Here it is, with occasional comments, and the albums that I would choose as the best, if I did think about it, in italics.

Runners Up:

These are the 2014 albums that were in the top 50, but didn't make the top 10.

Chlöe Howl - Rumour EP: It's an accomplishment for a 4-song EP to make the top 50, since I don't correct for album length here. But I could listen to this weirdly sincere deep 'n dancy pop over and over. Rumour is definitely the best song of the entire year.

Tove Lo - Queen of the Clouds: Meg plays this over and over. I've probably heard that Habits song 100 times this year. It is one of the best pop songs of the year, but only because there wasn't much competition.

Pink Floyd - The Endless River

Mogwai - Rave Tapes: Okay, but I was even more impressed by their soundtrack to the French TV show The Returned (it's awesome, and on Netflix!).

Kiesza - Sound of a Woman: Ooo! Ahh!

DragonForce - Maximum Overload: As you'll see, my cheesy metal intake increased a lot this year.

Jack White - Lazaretto

Sam Roberts Band - Lo-Fantasy

Die Antwoord - Donker Mag: I think I miss a lot of the South African subtext of this stuff, but that just makes it all the weirder. Weird is good.

Amaranthe - Massive Addictive

Lights - Little Machines

La Roux - Trouble in Paradise

Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers

Poemss - Poemss

Avenged Sevenfold - Hail to the King

Royksopp - The Inevitable End: Supposedly their last album, but hopefully that just means they'll be working with Robyn full time now.

Die Mannequin - Neon Zero

Ingrid Michaelson - Lights Out

Warpaint - Warpaint

Michael Jackson - XSCAPE: This is surprisingly good for a dead dude.

The Crystal Method - The Crystal Method

Charli XCX - SUCKER: This album came in late to almost single-handedly restore my faith in pop music in 2014. In a year dominated by stupid boring songs about anacondas, "that bass," and whatever the hell Ariana Grande is, Charli XCX is a foul-mouthed breath of fresh air.

Skrillex - Recess

Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow

In This Moment - Black Widow: Holy fuck I love this album. Its intensity borders on sappy, but I couldn't get enough of it. Maybe it's just me, but it was a good year for metal and hard rock bands fronted by women.

Brody Dalle - Diploid Love: Everything she's ever done has been amazing. No exception here. Plus, now I know what a diploid is. Educational!

Kongos - Lunatic

The Glitch Mob - Love Death Immortality

Album that would have been here if not for the artist's lack of connection with technological reality: Taylor Swift - 1989. I love all the singles, but Swift pulled the album from streaming services like Rdio, and I'm not going back to importing MP3s into iTunes like a god damn caveman. It's not even about paying less for music. It's just that Rdio is where my music is now, and if you're not there, I'm not listening. Sorry Taylor. I still love you.

And here it is. The top 10. I'm sure you're just leaking with excitement.

10. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence: Every aspect of Lana Del Rey's music, voice, appearance, and lyrics fit together into a moody whole. None of the songs stand out on their own, but as part of the overall aesthetic of her, it's pretty cool.

9. Foxes - Glorious: Honestly, I don't remember listening to this that much. I couldn't name or hum a single song from it. Maybe I was drunk?

8. Phantogram - Voices: Fall in Love is probably, I'd say, the best song of the year. What genre is this even? Who cares? It's good, and unusual, and also good.

7. Pharrell Williams - G I R L: Basically a continuation of Daft Punk's Get Lucky. But have you seen the guy's hat? It's large. Damn! That's a large hat. LOL.

6. Alt-J - This Is All Yours: This is mostly self-indulgent bullshit, but the moments of brilliance make up for it. Every Other Freckle is the best song of the year, in my opinion. They even make sampling Miley Cyrus, if not listenable, at least interesting.

5. RAC - Strangers: Bouncy and playful. It's pretty hard not to like this guest-star-fueled debut. RAC should stand for, uhh, Radical / Awesome / [Can't think of one].

4. Future Islands - Singles: Seasons (Waiting On You) is a mind-blowing song. Probably my favourite of the year. Wait, have I already said like 5 songs are the best of the year? I forget. TBH I didn't sleep much and I think my body is already getting itself drunk in anticipation of New Year's Eve.


3. The Pretty Reckless - Going to Hell: I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas the other day, and it was a bit odd to see the kid who played Cindy Lou Who, who grew up to front one of 2014's best rock bands. And be hot as hell. Where I'm going.

2. David Guetta - Listen: Wow, this just came out, and it's already near the top of this list? It's just so easy to "listen" to. Guetta brings together a bunch of guest artists for a diverse set of pop songs that somehow feel cohesive as an album too. I suggest you "listen" to it. ("Listen" is the name of the album).

1. Hozier - Hozier: Taaake me to church, I worship blah blah blah. Try getting that shit out of your head after hearing it on the radio. Best song of the year for sure. The rest of the album is equally catchy and confident, weaving together pop, rock, and blues for a set of songs that grab attention without gimmicks. Good job, Hosher ... Hozer ... Hozyay ... hooowever you pronounce it. Good job.

See also: