• Teenage Engineering's OP-1 is ten years old

    Teenage Engineering's wildly powerful yet tiny (yet beautiful (yet weird)) synthesizer, the OP-1, is ten years old.

    it all started with two prototypes.a clock radio and a synth. well, we decided to go with the synth and i guess we were right.   it was only david, me and jens back then, but we were soon joined by johan and david number two. i remember how we built the first prototype – an empty shell with a screen mounted on the inside. we squeezed into my honda element and drove all the way down to musik messe in frankfurt. and if i remember things right, emil was also with us at this time, but we really didn't have a proper company yet so i guess he just joined the trip for fun.the trade booth was just a blackfabric backdrop and a table where we had placed the OP–1, under a thick piece of plexiglass. a computer under the table processed the graphics on the little oled screen. it looked very real and the illusion even fooled ourselves as we estimated the launch just a couple of months away. (guess it was my fault, i am always a 'super-optimist'). well, it took us another two and a half years to complete it and here we are now, ten years after unit no. 01 was shipped.   the dream was to create a machine that lasted at least 20 years. we are halfway there… so big thanks and hugs to all of you. let's celebrate 'halfway there'!

    10 years! Guess this is about the time you have to have lawyers permanently around just to keep an eye on Behringer.

    If you buy a Teenage Engineering OP-1 from this Amazon link I'll make enough money to buy a Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator.

  • Bernie Madoff, operator of world's largest Ponzi scheme, dead at 82

    Bernie Madoff, the financial manager serving 150 years in prison after the collapse of his $65bn pyramid scheme, is dead at 82. The former non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, Madoff operated the world's largest investment fraud, with his 4,800 clients ultimately disclosing some $18bn in losses going back to the 1970s. The scheme collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis; he was turned in by his sons.

  • US and UK to leave Afghanistan this year

    After nearly two decades of fruitless occupation, the last western forces—a few thousand mostly-American troops—are to leave Afghanistan. President Joe Biden called for the withdrawal to be complete before Sept. 11, the twentieth anniversary of the terror attacks that led to the US-led invasion. Former President Trump had already tentatively agreed to leave the country in May as part of his administration's talks with the Afghan government and its Taliban enemies.

    The official said Biden had arrived at that determination after a "rigorous" policy review and believes the threat to the U.S. emanating from Afghanistan is at a level that can be addressed without a persistent military footprint in the country. The president is expected make an official announcement on Wednesday. "We've long known that military force would not solve Afghanistan's internal political challenges, would not end Afghanistan's internal conflicts, and so we are ending our military operations while we focus our efforts on supporting diplomatically the ongoing peace process," the official said.

  • Maryland State Police trooper shoots and kills 16-year-old in Leonardtown

    NBC News reports that a 16-year-old was shot dead by a Maryland State Police trooper in Leonardtown after "displaying" a knife and a pellet gun.

    A witness reported seeing the subject in a shooting stance with a gun pointed at the trooper, Jones said. The trooper shot and wounded the subject. Another witness said the subject pulled out a knife and tried to get up, Jones said. The trooper ordered him to drop the knife, then fired again. Peyton Ham, 16, was taken to MedStar St. Mary's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

    Whatever the circumstances of this killing, whatever justification might be presented due to the Airsoft gun (which reports claim was visually indistinguishable from a handgun), the media is reporting this very badly. I had to go looking for a headline that was even clear about what happened. Most items blithely repeated the confusing, exonerative language that police spokespeople wanted them to use. Check out this one from ABC News:

    The Associated Press has explicitly told its outlets to stop using the evasive and exonerative language of police press releases. In this case, ABC News packs every form of it into a single sentence.

    It poses the Maryland State Police as "investigating" when it was in fact one of their troopers who shot and killed a child. It describes the shooting as "trooper-involved", a passive convolution that conceals the fact the trooper fired the shots and suggests the possibility the trooper was merely present or even a victim. And "ended in the death" as a euphemism for "killed" obscures the cause of the death and the circumstances: shot dead by the trooper.

    This happens, typically, because reporters get too cosy with their sources at the cop shop, and would rather service these people (usually press officers whose job it is to send out press releases and answer questions) than offend them or risk privileged access. There's also a younger generation of underschooled but overbusy journos who simply don't know any better. Less individually malign, more vulnerable to manipulation.

  • Tattle Life, the latest worst place on the web

    Sarah Manavis wrote about Tattle Life, a surprisingly nasty forum where people gather to insult and tear down UK internet celebrities, influencers, bloggers and other easy targets. It sounds like a smarmy counterpart to Kiwi Farms spun off from British tabloid culture instead of American chan culture, and is "the most toxic place on the internet."

    Although Tattle Life is relatively unknown among the general public, for the individuals whose lives are constantly scrutinised by its users – or "gossipers" – it is a daily nightmare. You'd struggle to find a UK influencer who hasn't looked in horror at their own thread – which are, in some cases, updated every couple of minutes. Of the influencers I spoke to, none was willing to have their real name shared (and some asked not to be quoted), fearing the inevitable backlash they'd receive on Tattle Life. 

    "I'm sure they'll work out it's me in the end," one influencer, who asked to remain anonymous, told me. "But at least [anonymity] is a measure to stop them from realising and tearing me apart."

  • People over 55 are fastest-growing market for games

    The marketing research company Global Web Index reports that the number of "gamers" over 55 years of age has grown 32% in the last three years. The Covid pandemic accelerated but did not create the growth, with grandparents seeing game time as family time.

    "Gamers are often portrayed in the media in a certain way, but as with many stereotypes, they aren't necessarily who you think they are", David Melia, VP of sports and gaming at Global Web Index.

    The data tracked 19,500 people in "multiple regions."

  • Matt Bors quits political cartooning

    Portland-based artist Matt Bors is one of the essential cartoonists of the 21st century, penning 1600 cartoons over 18 years. But he's ending his weekly strip and will focus on journalism, fiction, and running The Nib, the satirical website he founded.

    I want to do more nonfiction cartooning at The Nib— the interviews and journalism I have only been able to do in between the cracks of my deadlines— and I'm actively preparing pitches as a writer on some fiction comics. It's time for me to work in longer formats and dip into all the kinds of comics I love and want to create. I'll also be serving as an Advisor for Tinyview, a promising new comics app, where I'll be bringing in an array of comics across many genres. (You can download it here.)

    Here's his last one, an appropriate ending.

  • Social networks are roach motels

    Here's Cory Doctorow on the legally-backed technical interoperability barriers that social networks use to maintain and enforce their walled gardens: "we focus too much on network effects, and not enough on switching costs."

    New proposals from the UK Competition and Markets Authority, as well as the EU's Digital Services and Digital Markets Act and the US ACCESS Act of 2020, all contemplate some form of interoperability mandate – forcing the dominant platforms to open up the APIs they already use to let various parts of their own business talk to one another. These mandates are a great floor under interoperability, but they can't be the ceiling. That's because they would be easy for big companies to subvert: if a lawmaker forces you to open a specific conduit to your competition, then you can respond by moving all the interesting data away from that conduit. You're still providing a jack that competitors can plug into, but you've moved all the important stuff to another jack.

    A network effect is just a switching cost with a TED Talk.

  • CDC recommends pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccine use after six blood clot reports

    The Centers for Disease Control today proposed a pause in the use of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine, following six reports of blood clots. One person died, reports the New York Times, of the seven million who have so far received the J&J vaccine in the U.S.

    "We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution," Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement. "Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare."

    Similar reports have beset the AstraZeneca jab in Europe.

    Out of 34 million people who received the vaccine in Britain, the European Union and three other countries, 222 experienced blood clots that were linked with a low level of platelets.

    It seems this spring's pile of unvaccinated corpses is going to be a lot bigger than the pile of blood clot corpses. I wish the decisionmakers here were not subject to constant armchair interference from politicians and pundits.

  • Ahegao bodysuit

    Today in "not a wonderful thing, but certainly a thing of wonder" we have this bodysuit noted to be available from Ali Express. I can't find it, myself, and suspect that if I do find it, it will be following me around the web for months in retargeting ads.

  • Zooming into the moon with the "world's sharpest" tele lens

    Enjoy Markus Stark's zoomy video of the moon, shot with a Leica 400mm F2.8 lens (about $10k, used) attached to a Panasonic GH4 with 1.4x, 2x, and 2x Leica APO focus module extenders. [via Leica Rumors]

    The video clips were filmed in August 2015 at only 290m above sea level (camping side in Germany). Some zooming in and out and spinning in post-production with Magix VDL 2016. Panasonic GH4 and a modified Leica 2.8/400mm + 1.4x + 2x + 2x Leica Apo Extender. I wanted to make the viewer feel like observing the moon from a spacecraft. I made some tests with a "Siemens Star" this summer, resolution = 1mm at 480m (0.43 arcsec)! This means 1200 lines/mm, of course wide open!

  • Cop fired after footage of him pepper-spraying uniformed U.S. Army lieutenant goes viral

    A police officer in Windsor, Va., has lost his job after footage of him pepper-spraying a uniformed U.S. Army lieutenant went viral. Caron Nazario, who is black, was pulled over in December 2020 by officer Daniel Crocker on the pretext that his new SUV, with dealer tags in the rear window, had no license plate. Another officer, Joe Gutierrez, turned up shortly thereafter waving his gun around sideways like a b-movie gangster. Nazario was sprayed while seated in his vehicle with both hands in the air. The footage contradicted the cops' version of events and supported Nazario's, but Gutierrez was only fired after it went viral months later.

    The Windsor, Virginia, officers pointed guns at, pepper sprayed, and pushed a Black US Army officer to the ground during the traffic stop last December. During the stop, the police officers believed the Army officer was missing a license plate on his new SUV. Second Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, is suing over the incident, claiming the two officers violated his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments. One of the officers, Joe Gutierrez, has been fired, Town Manager William Saunders confirmed to CNN late Sunday evening.

    Beside showing the plain fact of police misconduct, footage of cops gleefully humiliating a uniformed soldier tickles the fears of people who couldn't care less if cops are racist. The dominance hierarchy shown isn't what they expected, so they no longer know where they stand.

  • Substack, Ghost and the revenge of the bloggers

    The New York Times' Ben Smith wrote a great article about Substack and Ghost, the newsletter platforms that have attracted many old-time bloggers who found themselves adrift after founding startups, taking traditional media jobs, or losing them. There is some controversy—Substack is financing star authors and many perceive an overly libertarian1 leaning to its incipient A-list—but Smith focuses his article on Danny Lavery, one of my favorite writers, and his wife Grace, a professor at U.C. Berkeley, who have just been contracted by Substack. Substack has competition of its own to contend with, too: Ghost is also taking off, is open-source, and unstressed by the demands of investors.

    This new ability of individuals to make a living directly from their audiences isn't just transforming journalism. It's also been the case for adult performers on OnlyFans, musicians on Patreon, B-list celebrities on Cameo. In Hollywood, too, power has migrated toward talent, whether it's marquee showrunners or actors. This power shift is a major headache for big institutions, from The New York Times to record labels. And Silicon Valley investors, eager to disrupt and angry at their portrayal in big media, have been gleefully backing it. Substack embodies this cultural shift, but it's riding the wave, not creating it. And despite a handful of departures over politics, that wave is growing for Substack.

    One thing Smith doesn't address, unless I missed it, is that Substack's VC funding means it is for sale. And you can't sell a business without selling its principles. If Twitter buys Substack, God help the Substackers who went to Substack to get away from it. If Verizon buys Substack, God help everyone on it.

    P.S. Another point worth making is that Smith rather avoids the promise of his headline, "why people are freaking out about Substack". Whether true or not, fairly or falsely, the freaking out is mostly to do with accusations of transphobia on the platform. Smith doesn't really address this, despite clearly having spoken to everyone involved, instead letting the specifics of that discourse be subsumed in nearby abstractions.

    1. A lot of people have trouble pigeonholing the "substackerati", which only refers to a few people anyway, and end up saying silly things2 about them. "Libertarian" doesn't quite capture it because it is is both too specific and too freighted by association with prominent right-wing U.S. institutions and thinkers. "Alt center" is an interesting but indistinct complaint about tone and appeal, whereas "Sorelian Left" is too cute by far. I think the term "Reactionary Humanism" is the most useful. The humanism is the most-shared ideal across the spectrum of authors at hand. The reaction is against radical ideologies they perceive as corrupted by totalitarian or illiberal impulses. Reactionary humanists are formally opposed to the establishment (and to traditional reactionaries) but tend to drift to its and their side in a twitter-brained quest to oppose competing radical ideologies. This is where we're at in the discourse.
    2. I hope you enjoyed mine. QED.
  • British media struggle to make Prince Philip an object of national mourning

    Royal consort Prince Philip died last week, and UK media immediately dropped normal programming in favour of wall-to-wall Philip content. But the famously irascible 99-year-old is failing to generate mourning at the hoped-for scale, as Queen Mother or Princess Diana once did. TV bosses are instead finding that relatively few cared for the old duke and viewers would rather watch their soaps. The BBC has already cancelled a tranche of scheduled grief porn to avoid further complaints.

    The BBC declined to comment on the number of complaints it had received about its coverage [but] set up a dedicated form on its website after complaints about its coverage. On the form, it said it had received "complaints about too much TV coverage" of the duke's death, and urged viewers to enter their email address to register a complaint.

    The Independent reports that the ratings for Philiparama coverage are simply dire: "BBC and ITV viewing figures plummet amid wall-to-wall royal coverage".

    The earliest available overnight ratings, provided by Barb, saw ITV's Friday night (9 April) audience decline by 60 percent in comparison to one week previously. BBC One suffered a similar, if less dramatic, loss of average viewers. In the wake of the Duke of Edinburgh's death, the BBC pulled the entirety of its programming on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four. It has since set up a dedicated complaints line after being inundated with backlash over the move, which saw the final of MasterChef, along with episodes of EastEnders, The Graham Norton Show and Gardeners World, pulled off air.