Dog Gone

I received a set of these six balls as a gift for my dog from my son. They have teeth painted on them and they squeak. My dog has gone bat shit crazy over them, and not in a good way. She whines when she’s around them and even more when she’s not.

She’s never acted like this with any toys I’ve bought before. She’s had plenty of stuff that squeaks, so it’s got to be the teeth.

I think it’s some kind of maternal instinct kicking in, because she could have easily destroyed all of them in minutes after I released them into the yard. Instead she tries to get a couple in her mouth at one time, and bats them around with her feet.

It was kind of cute in the beginning. But after two days of nonstop whining I had to throw them in a bag and hide the bag. I’ll save them for when my son is home and is trying to get some sleep.

The gift

When we first moved to the California, we didn’t know a lot of people. My wife met a woman at her job named Reneé. She too had recently moved from the midwest. So, we started hanging out with her and her husband Mike since they didn’t know a lot of people either.

We didn’t have a lot in common with them, but they were really nice, and we enjoyed their company. Coincidentally, my birthday fell within the short time frame we knew them. Mike found out, and surprised me with a gift and dropped it by the house.

When I got home, I opened it. It was a copy of “Cigar Aficionado” magazine. He got a me an annual subscription. “Shit,” I said. My wife asked what’s wrong. I replied, “Mike thinks I’m an asshole.”

Word Nerd

If I had a chance to do it over again, I would have major in linguistics or etymology. I find language and words fascinating. Also, if someone asked me what I plan to do with that major, I’d say come up with new words for some of the terrible ones we use today.

Such as…

Widower It sounds like the husband did it.

Rapist, Racist, Sexist The “-ist” suffix sounds like a skill, or something you went to school for, and not a reprehensible character flaw. How about an actual pejorative suffix like “-ite” , or “-tard” instead?

Pedophile It’s like saying, he’s a connoisseur, an expert, like a sommelier…if you will. You wouldn’t ask the liquor store cashier about a fine bottle of wine. So why would you talk to just any old child molester?

Sex Worker What was wrong with porn star? That seemed way more flattering. Think about, you don’t have to be a household name to be a star in the porn scene. You’re a star by default. Sex worker, is so lame. It sounds like a boring fucker. Besides, they already have a perfectly good word for someone who treats sex like a job. It’s “spouse.”

Conceived Sounds like something you did with a whiteboard and post-it notes. If it was planned, then I’ll make an exception.

Big and Tall We’re not fooling anyone here. These stores really should be called Big “or” Tall.

Stranger Things

Now that Game of Thrones is over, I can spend more of my energy hating on Stranger Things. I used to feel badly that this kid annoyed the shit out of me. But now I feel vindicated. What a little asshole.

“…people everywhere should be on the lookout for Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo, who has just begun production on an eight-episode Netflix prank series targeting our most laugh-ready of societal victims: People just trying to find a damn job.”

The AV Club

I tried watching Stranger Things in the beginning, and couldn’t stand it. Never mind the blatant smarminess of 80s era Speilberg. It’s the hype around how accurately it captures the times that I think is bullshit.

I lived in the Midwest during the early 80s and so my credentials to nitpick this show are impeccable.

No one under 19 listened to the Clash in Indianapolis, let alone any of the podunk towns outside of it. They still don’t for that matter.

Second, the slang. No one EVER said “chill”. They didn’t even use that word in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” We didn’t call each other “douchebag” or “mouth breather” (no one Tweeted either). In those parts, being a douchebag and mouth breather are socially acceptable. So they’re not insults. If anything, you were a pussy, a fucker, or a dick. Or a butthole, if your parents were in earshot.

Lastly, kids with BMX bikes wouldn’t be caught dead riding with kids on Schwinns and Huffys. You can fight me on this one.

So long iTunes

Last week Apple announced at WWDC that iTunes is going away. Supposedly, it’s core functionality of playing music won’t go away, but the standalone app will no longer exist. Hopefully Apple doesn’t make everyone’s music library obsolete, or a mess like iTunes Match.

I’m bummed to see it go because I was there at the earliest stages of the app’s life.

Back in late 1998, early 1999 I was the technology manager for the desktop line at Apple in developer relations. It was an awesome job because I got to work with some brilliant developers and play with the latest and greatest stuff. I was working on the first generation G4 Mac and in charge of loaning out pre-release machines (aka seed units).

Whenever we released new hardware, developers wanted to get their hands on these seed units as soon as possible. They wanted to test their apps and make sure it didn’t break on the new machines. Managing the seed units was fun. You got to make a developers happy, which isn’t very easy.

The G4 was different than previous hardware. The supply was extremely limited and because Steve Jobs was obsessed with secrecy, he didn’t want to seed developers at all. But, Steve wanted something shiny and new to show off the G4 at launch, so we had to make sure a few cutting edge developers got units.

As the gatekeeper of G4 units, I had to decide who would and wouldn’t get one for testing. It sucked because a lot of people’s livelihoods could be upset with broken software. And yet, there was political pressure to give ones to all the big companies – Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia – or they’d threaten to drop Mac support. This left about 10 units left for hundreds of developers. I had to prioritize developers who could show more than just faster versions of their latest app.

There were these two guys, Jeff Robbins and Bill Kincaid and they had one app that wasn’t even released. Bill used to work at NeXt, so I think he used some of his own connections to reach me (coincidentally, we were neighbors and didn’t know it).

They created an app called SoundJam. It was an MP3 player that also ripped CDs. This wasn’t new, there were already apps like WinAmp on Windows, but it was the only option for Macs at the time.

Bill wanted a seed unit because he thought it would significantly speed up ripping. The G4 processor had a built-in DSP which could give a 10-20x performance boosts for a limited number of functions.

I couldn’t loan him a unit because they weren’t even the kind of developer we supported when we had enough, but I didn’t want to be a dick. So I told him I’d try it on my personal seed unit. Sure enough, it was a lot faster. Bill kept me fed with updates to SoundJam and I got hooked. I started ripping my personal CD collection and made a jukebox out of a spare all-in-one G3 (aka “the Tooth”). Bill gave me copies to share with colleagues and soon we were all hooked.

The G3 Tooth. When Steve was evaluating the product line, he saw this one and said, “Looks like I missed one.”

Eventually, I snuck Bill a seed unit, because he had a feature he wanted to add to show off the G4’s processing power. It was a cool realtime visualizer that responded to the music you were playing. This became the thing that got Steve’s attention. When we launched the G4, SoundJam was one of the apps they demonstrated in the keynote.

I left Apple to go work for a startup called eMusic because I believed digital, downloadable music was the future. I was right, but I bet on the wrong horse. Apple would buy SoundJam a month or two after I left and rename it iTunes. And the rest, as you know is history.

iTunes is one of my all-time favorite pieces of software. Not only because I love music, but because it was unlike any other program Apple owned at the time. It didn’t atrophy or languish at some dot release for years. It was always evolving and changing, mostly for the better. In the end, maybe it is time for it to go away.

Concert file: Jason Isbell and Father John Misty at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA

Last Saturday we took our daughter to see one of hers, and our, favorite acts – Father John Misty at the Greek. This was the second time all three of us saw him there, and the third time my wife and I saw him. The first was in LA at the Wiltern on tour for “Honey Bear, I Love You.”

Of the three times we’ve seen him, this last concert was more subdued and shorter. He had some fun new twists on his older songs. For example there was a guitar solo instead of horns in “Chateau Lobby #4”, and an explosive surprise in the middle of “Holy Shit.”

Missing was the great light show, and time for more of his songs. I still think he put on a great show, but this wasn’t just his tour. He’s out on the road with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit alternating between headlining and opening. Both acts split their time evenly, so it’s neither is really an opening act.

I’ve been wanting to see Jason Isbell for a while. He comes through here at least once a year, and with other interesting acts. Last year, he opened for Aimee Mann at the Greek. In some ways he’s more of an anomaly than Father John Misty. He looks and sounds like he should be doing straight-to-Ford-F-150 commercial country. Instead his stuff is more about American shittiness than exceptionalism. He’s definitely a woke white king, which must be hard in the circles he travels in outside of Berkeley.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was Blake Shelton from where I was sitting.

Not only is he a pretty deep and thoughtful songwriter, he plays a pretty mean. He took the lead on many of his songs including a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell Me All the Things You Do.”

The only minor disappointment of the evening was neither played my favorite songs. Every time the guitar tech got out his Les Paul, I thought, finally he’s going to play “Super 8” but nope. Father John didn’t play “Idea Husband” either, which I was expecting in his encore.

As much as I think it’s cool these two artists seem to be touring as buds, I’d rather go to two separate concerts and hear more of each artist’s deeper catalog.

UNTUCKit Undone

I was shirt shopping the other day at J. Crew and couldn’t believe my eyes. Someone had finally cracked the code on what has to be the biggest innovation in men’s apparel since the cargo short. They now sell shirts that are several millimeters shorter and can be worn untucked and yet, be socially acceptable.

For years, I have been seeing ads on social media for UNTUCKit shirts. I could never put my finger on what made these shirts so different? But someone did and that someone managed to raise $30M in venture capital.

J. Crew isn’t the only other company doing this. Now pretty much everyone from Kohl’s to Nordstrom is selling their own version of these shirts. This must be devastating to the investors and inventors of UNTUCKit because they just started opening all their own retail stores – a bold move in a climate where retail stores seem to be closing at a record pace.

I’ve done a little research and it turns out the UNTUCKit guys may very well have been accessory in their own undoing. If you go to their website, and scroll down. You will see someone has literally published their trade secret right there on the website for the whole world to see. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but this looks like it could be an inside job, perpetrated by some disgruntled employee.

There it is! Out there in broad daylight. No wonder everyone else was able to come out with their own versions so quickly!

I don’t know if UNTUCKit will make it, let alone deserve to survive. They have been milking this one trick pony while other breakthroughs like no pockets or reversible cuffs come from other guys. I think their founder may be asleep at the switch, too busy wine tasting in TriBeCa.

You Will

Remember those AT&T commercials back in the early ’90s that predicted a techno nirvana just around the corner? They were narrated by Tom Selleck who asked a question like, “have you ever renewed your license…from an ATM?” Then he’d answer his question with, “You will.”

They showed everyday situations in the not-too-distance. There weren’t any flying cars or people in jumpsuits. See, nothing to fear here. If anything, their vision of the future was…mundane.

In hindsight, that’s why those commercials were so sinister. It’s 26 years later, and many of their predictions came true, though they missed the one about AT&T going out of business.

One of the commercials asked “have you ever had a meeting…at the beach?” They show a guy in linen pants joining a video call. In 1993, that seemed like an awesome idea. Today, it is a horrible reality. I have had plenty of trips ruined by some asshole insisting on having a meeting despite knowing I was on vacation.

What if they had dialed up the realism in those ads just a little bit more? It might go something like this…

“Have you ever gotten into a pissing match…with the president of the United States? You will.”

“Have you ever sent your mom flowers…from the toilet? You will.”

“Have you ever seen…a goatse? You will.”

If only we knew then, what we know now. I don’t think any of us would have gone so willingly into the abyss that is the hellscape we live in now.

Thanks AT&T. You did.

Juice Cleanse

My wife and I have been married a long time, so we thought now is as good a time as any to stress test our marriage. So we tried a juice cleanse this week. At the same time we are experiencing an extreme heat wave (105 degrees) and our old house doesn’t have air conditioning. We rarely need any, but when you do, oh boy.

I never thought something that’s supposed to feel so healthy could feel both bad and good on so many levels. First of all, I feel like I’m logger deforesting old growth forest for sport. A whole bag of kale produces a teaspoon of juice, and it takes 2 bags of carrots to get even a half cup. Each juice I make generates about a pound and a half of vegetable detritus. The good news, our town has a decent composting program and all the waste won’t, go to waste.

After trying to subsist on juice for a day and a half, I feel physically terrific. I haven’t really lost any discernible weight, but I feel lighter. Meantime, mentally, I’m an insufferable grouch.

At this point, I think I’m going to have to make a major life decision. Do I go on the rest of my life fat and happy, or healthy and hangry.

Dead to Me

This week’s theme seems to be watching shows with “dead” in the title. We just finished binging Netflix’s “Dead to Me”. It was recommended to me by a friend whose taste I trust.

I loved the show. It’s the best thing Netflix has put out, besides the John Mulaney specials. The story reminds me of “A Simple Plan,” with Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda. Both stories are about covering your ass, only to have it blow up in your face later.

“A Simpel Plan” is one of my favorite movies and books and yet it makes me really uneasy. Most of the time, when you see a flawed protagonists, you think, “ah, those are extraordinary circumstances, I’d do things differently.” But with “Dead to Me” and “A Simple Plan”, I can’t say with any certainty that I would have done anything differently than the main characters. A lot of the bad choices make sense in the heat of the moment.

“Dead to Me” is a dark dark comedy. There are no jokes in it, all the laughs come from the stark reality of watching Jen, Christina Applegate, go through one fresh hell after another. Linda Cardellini’s Judy character is an interesting twist because she always plays someone serious and thoughtful (even in “Scooby Doo”).

It’s so well written and full of plausible plot twists. They wrapped up season 1 really well, so waiting a year doesn’t feel so bad, unlike “Barry” on HBO.

Lastly, I love the cast choice for Jen’s mother in law played by the actress on Seinfeld George calls pretentious. It is one of the all-time greatest moments of that series. It’s from the episode “The Truth” from season 3. Who hasn’t wanted to do exactly this at some point in their life?