Category: Read Watched Tapped

A collections of things I’ve enjoyed and you might too.

Morning Media

When I wake up, I never know what the world is going to offer up to me. I might laugh I might cry. I might feel emboldened and ready for the day, or ready to retreat to my warm, weighted blanket and hide in a nest of my own making.

This morning was a gut punch.

I ran an errand before work and when I parked in my driveway. I opened Tiktok because of how it feels. As I scrolled through a few things, I landed upon this one.

Now, I’ve seen this question posed before and I love the call-and-response style Tiktok allows for. You never know what the response is going to be. This morning, it was real and it was serious.

Julian Sarafian dropped in to lay down his experience with Harvard Law School and getting out into the world and Making It™. He had the job. The money. The prestige.

But he didn’t have his mental health. He didn’t have a life he enjoyed living. And if you don’t have that, how can you have anything else?

The knockout blow I saw coming. Ear Hustle is a phenomenal show. Ear Hustle is “The daily realities of life inside prison shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration.”

The show started in 2017 and came to prominance when they Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor won the Radiotopia Podquest. At the time Earlonne was still incarcerated and Nigel would go to California’s San Quentin State Prison to see him and others.

The prison has a media lab and has some progressive policies to rehabilitation. The episode I started today was about people imprisoned abroad.

Going to prison in your home country can be disorienting enough. What about when you’re new to the culture, don’t speak the language, and are thousands of miles from family and friends? Three Americans describe their experiences of incarceration in Japan, Thailand, and Iran.

Episode 65: Counting Lines — Ear Hustle

Getting to the part in the show about reading the transcripts is what got me. The reach of this show and the good it’s doing in the world is immeasurable. Giving a voice and hope to people locked away in boxes for next to nothing…

The show continues to impress me. Coming from both outside and inside the prison (when COVID allows) it provides a well-rounded picture of experiences from people of all walks of life. When we found it, my wife and I listened to the entire first season on a road trip.

The music episodes are always a treat.

How TikTok feels

The video is 34 seconds long and the camera follows a cat, who carries a tiger plush doll into a tiny clearing in the forest. I think that video is exactly how all good TikToks feels, like the ones Bourgeois makes about trains. You press play and nothing is explained to you, but everything is following its own internal dream-like logic. Like a portal to another dimension opens up, offers you a brief glimpse of something you never expected, and then closes.

Garbage Day

Ryan Broderick, who writes the excellent newsletter Garbage Day, sums up how TikTok feels perfectly.

I used to browse TikTok from the web site without an account for a few months. I’d go there on and off seeking a hit of joy and randomness. It wasn’t until I downloaded the app and created an account that I saw the true power of the app and its algorithm.

I know apps all use their own secret sauce to group you into buckets by their internal metrics. But I’ve never had an app actively try out different content on me to see what I responded to.

One day it was all ADHD.

One day was Books.

One day was girls dancing.

One portal opens. Another portal closes.

It was never 100% one thing or another but I would scroll through the 30-60 second clips, liking some or sharing with my wife, or just watching and seeing what was served up next. There was a definite theme to each session.

Clearly I was being served a particular set of content to see if I enjoyed it or not. As a result, I find myself in a weird little world that has both been completely built for me, but also broad enough I am consistently amused and delighted by what I see.

It’s not like other places that lumps me into a bucket and serves me the same kind of content all day. The Amazon “you bought socks, so we’re going to recommend to you… MORE SOCKS” problem. TikTok was honing in on my weird enjoyment of weird animal content.

And unlike Instagram where every 3rd or 4th post is an ad, there’s hardly any! There’s an ad when I first open the app I scroll past without giving it the time to finish. If you’re on the site too long there’s a video from Tiktok telling you to take a break. But it’s in the form of other videos. It’s seamless. I’m never taken out of the world Tiktok builds for me. Every now and again there’s a sponsored post from a creator, clearly tagged and obvious by the tone.

Despite being absolutely massive in scale, it doesn’t have the feel of a corporate, professional social network. Even the brands there are weird and wonderful. There’s a tone to Tiktok lacking elsewhere in social spaces at scale. The number of weird logos alone are the work of one creator who plays a perfect deadpan logo designer. The entire site is wrapped in whimsy where nothing is really as it seems and you never know what’s going to happen next.

Open a Portal and step through.

The duck (and friends). Pablo and his friends! (@lilquackers)

And the fish guy? Seriously, the first time I heard Bubba I lost it laughing. My wife stared at me like I had lost my mind. The ballad of Bubba and Brad is pure joy. The Goldfish Guy (@lukesgoldies) Poor Bubba. Brad always gets the best of him.

For a dose of comforting, warmth on a cold day, you should meet this buddy. Fritz and Donnybrook (@oldtimehawkey) He’ll make you a treat, share a pop with you and settle down for a movie or campfire.

There’s Stage Door Johnny (@stage_door_johnny) who deconstructs the English language and all of its weirdness. He also has a very pleasing accent.

I love the storytelling of Andrew (@andr3wsky).

Every time Kendahl Landreth (@kendahllandreth) comes up with her mom impression I lose it laughing.

Stacey ❤️ (@stacebookspace) delivers unhinged affirmations with a dose of book recommensations.

Ever seen a man feed humming birds out of his hand? Watch birdperson666 (@birdperson666) greet Hector.

For your Gen X news, look no further than Corrbette Pasko (@corrbette).

For wild and wonderful monologues, run, don’t walk over to Musings of a Crouton (@mr.mosebys_lefttit).

I love people talking about their process and have fallen in love with Jordan Hexem (@jordanhexem). He shows you the location vs. the shot. It’s wonderful!

When I need my Sports Ball news, I turn to Sports-ball news with Taylor! Taylor Page (@trashprince522)

This is a smattering of the accounts I follow and bring me joy. I don’t post. I’m here to watch and enjoy. There’s a culture on Tiktok of showing your work and explaining how videos were made. The ability to stitch (reply within the video) and duet (play multiple videos all together) open up a world that lacks the pristine polish of most social spaces. This allows for “conversations” between separate videos, a group of musicians to perform “together”, and getting to see multiple sides of a story.

The ability to interact with video within the video gives the entire site a more organic and feel. If Instagram is walking into an art gallery, then Tiktok is showing up at a pop-up art exhibit in the middle of a busy city with people on their way to work, stadiums and running out for coffee.

Portal opens. Portal closes.

If you’ve seen mention of a Bones Day / No Bones Day. Yup. The messiah is a 13 year old pug names Noodles who dictates the days.

Disliking Songs in Spotify?

I emailed Spotify this morning. That was an endeavor in frustration in itself. But after coming across no way to hide/dislike a song or artist in Spotify on either the desktop application or Android phone app, I had to ask for help.

I found two help articles, but neither reflected what I was seeing in the application. And I keep them updated like it’s my job. So I emailed support and we’ll see what they say. But maybe you, dear reader, know how to tell Spotify I do not care for this song or artist, please stop showing it to me.

I want to:

  1. Tell Spotify I don’t care about an artist so they will stop showing up in Release Radar/New Release lists.
  2. Remove a song/artist from Spotify-generated playlists.

I use Spotify on:

  • Android
  • Linux (Ubuntu)
  • Mac OS

I found these help articles: Improve playlists made for you – Spotify – There is no button to dislike/hide on Android/Linux. Didn’t check Mac. Maybe it’s there but nowhere else?

Then I found: Undo disliked songs – Spotify. Since I figured if I could undo disliking a song, there must be a way to dislike the song… but I can’t dislike a song… so I can’t undo it. I tried searching for “dislike song” but it returns no results.

I’m lost. How is it not possible to tell Spotify “I do not care for this song/artist.”

I’m tired of artists showing up in release radar and playlists without a way to give input to about them.

December Movie Marathon

I would make a terrible movie critic because I enjoy most movies. I’m very forgiving in my ratings. If it’s a movie my wife hated, I’ll give it 3 stars because it is the movie it promised. Maybe it wasn’t good, but it was exactly what I had expected so I give it credit for that. There’s always more credit awarded for offering something beyond expectation.

I’m on Letterboxd as peroty. Let’s be friends! I’m enjoying the “what your friends are watching” list to see what other people are watching. There’s so many places to watch movies and TV these days. My wife and I joke our favorite thing to watch is “trying to decide what to watch.”

Since the pandemic started, I have time off work so it’s time to light a fire, break out the whiskey and settle into a movie marathon. Over the past two days we’ve watched a pile of movies. I enjoy movies. My motto for 2020 has been “I miss going to the movies.” There is nothing better than getting a treat and escaping the world into the land someone else has created for me.

Snow White and the Huntsman ⭐⭐

Synopsis: After the Evil Queen marries the King, she performs a violent coup in which the King is murdered and his daughter, Snow White, is taken captive. Almost a decade later, a grown Snow White is still in the clutches of the Queen. In order to obtain immortality, The Evil Queen needs the heart of Snow White. After Snow escapes the castle, the Queen sends the Huntsman to find her in the Dark Forest.

This was a beautiful movie. The cinematography was breath-taking and the sets were gorgeous. The acting and story left much to be desired. Before we started it, I looked it up on Letterboxd to see what the overall rating was. It was a 2.5 and this bit of information paid off.

white horse shows up at the perfect time  “Oh. Right. 2.5”

girl screams at troll and stops it from attacking another charaters “2.5”

“I guess the 2.5 is for the cinematography. It is a beautiful movie.”

A Nasty Piece of Work ⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A mid-level corporate employee finds out he’s not getting the Christmas bonus he was expecting, but his boss invites him to earn a promotion by beating his professional rival in a violent competition.

This movie was a Blumhouse film. Their general movie theory is “make a lot of films. They won’t all be hits, but enough of them will do well to pay for the others.” And this one is a lot of fun. It’s been awhile since I saw a good use of title cards between scenes. I enjoyed them and this film.

Anna and the Apocalypse ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.

Move over Elf! Out of the way Kevin! There’s a new queen of Christmas movies. Ella Hunt sings and smashes her way through this film. This movie had:

  • Unecessarily sexy Christmas school song

  • Rap song about fish

  • Zombies

  • The saddest “Merry Christmas” ever captured.

  • Candy cane melee weapon

I absolutely loved it and would rewatch it every year. The film feels authentic. Each one of the characters were an archetype I could place from my high school. They’re making decisions I would make. They’re not heroes. They’re impulsive and live the day one moment at a time.

The songs are fun and catchy. This one has been stuck in my head.

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Happiest Season ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A young woman’s plans to propose to her girlfriend while at her family’s annual holiday party are upended when she discovers her partner hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents.

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie David (took my while to place her from Halt and Catch Fire) are the focus while Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie are relegated to minor characters. It was a romantic comedy with an excellent cast. Dan Levy is the friend we all hope we have when we need them most. Maybe without the tracking.

“Any luck on getting a man’s permission to take ownership of an adult female woman?” – John (Dan Levy)

Black Christmas (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: A sorority house is terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders the sorority sisters during Christmas break.

The algorithm kept pushing the 2019 remake of this film that wasn’t well-reviewed. However, the 1974 film has excellent reviews and was the first(?) slasher movie.

The plot partially centers around a series of obscene phone calls and boy are they. It also gives us the spectacular line:

No, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir calling with their annual obscene phone call.

This fits the category of “horror movies that could have ended very quickly with competence.” Every character is unique. There’s no interchageable pieces. This entire film is a mood. It perfectly embodies the loneliness of being alone at Christmas (a theme that runs through every holiday film we watched.) I’m curious to watch the remake now to see how they handle certain parts and how sensibilities have changed between 1974 and 2019. Those are some obscene phone calls.

Surviving Christmas ⭐⭐

Synopsis: Drew Latham is an executive leading an empty, shallow life with only wealth on his side. Facing another lonely Christmas ahead, he revisit his old childhood home in the hope of reliving some old holiday memories – but he finds that the house in which he was raised is no longer the home in which he grew up.

Ever been so lonely on Christmas you paid the family who lives in your childhood home a quarter of a million dollars to spend a few days with them?

What about if that family was James Gandolfini and Catherine O’Hara? They amost make the film watchable. Almost.

Ben Affleck is so unhinged and manic throughout. I saw this review and thought about it. A lot.

It was never quite clear if Affleck’s character was meant to be mentally challenged. – Review by fizzybenilyn

It’s hard to know where being an absolute dick ends and mental issues may begin.

Into the Woods (2014) ⭐⭐

Synopsis: In a woods filled with magic and fairy tale characters, a baker and his wife set out to end the curse put on them by their neighbor, a spiteful witch.

This movie may have had potential. But it just kept going…

This is a pretty good 90 minute movie. Unfortunately it was 125 minutes.

When Rapunzel and her prince leave, you should too. The first hour or so is solid and enjoyable. But then it just keeps going to the point we groaned at every new song. And when we thought it must be nearly over, there were 45 minutes left!