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  • feedwordpress 07:09:53 on 2018/01/19 Permalink  

    Have the Hip Hop BBQ 

    I keep having to explain a principle I arrived at a few years ago when I realized the modern conservative movement is grounded almost entirely in a contrived sense of grievance, predicated on a false victimhood of its supporters. (That’s not to say some haven’t genuinely suffered some wrongs, but they consistently focus on imaginary ones instead.)

    The clarifying moment for me in realizing how to deal with this was the stupidity of when right-wig media claimed Barack Obama was having a “hip hop barbecue” at the White House. Obviously, this met all of the signature tropes of such efforts: it was a lie, was a transparently racist dogwhistle, and featured absurdities demonstrating a profound cultural illiteracy — in this case, asserting that Common is a gangster rapper. Forsooth.

    My conclusion then was simple: give them what they want. They’re going to accuse you of it anyway, at least do the right thing and give them a reason to pretend they’re victims. Eventually, Obama did have a Hip Hop BBQ of sorts, and it was glorious. What could the right wing media outlets do, except say “he’s at it again!” Who’s gonna pretend to get outraged twice?

    Now, of course, there are limits. No matter how desperately the right may have craved Death Panels back then, we can’t give them the true version of that lie they created. But for the most part, if the fact-free media and its credulous supporters want to pretend they’re being wronged, we should follow improv rules and say, “Yes, and…” and be sure to double down.

    If they said you had a Hip Hop BBQ, then you damn well ought to have one.

  • feedwordpress 15:27:45 on 2017/12/28 Permalink
    Tags: barryritholtz, mastersinbusiness,   

    Masters in Business 

    A few months ago, I got the wonderful opportunity to talk to Barry Ritholtz, who's best known as a Bloomberg View columnist and for his excellent "Masters in Business" podcast, but whom I've known online for many years.

    We talked about a topic that's incredibly important to me, the ethical challenges facing all of us who create technology. It's a wide-ranging conversation that's over an hour long, but I hope you'll take the time to listen, as this is a discussion we all need to be engaging in.

    There's also a longer story in the BloombergView site covering a bit of what we discussed.

  • feedwordpress 04:34:27 on 2017/12/16 Permalink

    Every Last Jedi 

    This is a spoiler-filled first set of reactions to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

    The ultimate courage of what Rian Johnson has done here, is that he fully embraced what it is to be a director who obviously grew up as true fan of Star Wars, and retconned the whole universe into a new understanding of The Force. It’s the kind of revolutionary rethinking of the most successful pop culture franchise of all time that I would have thought would not be possible by anyone but George Lucas, and certainly not under the auspices of Disney. But here we are.

    Though it’s well-grounded in the first definitions of The Force that we were introduced to in the original trilogy, The Last Jedi presents a radically inclusive new view of the Force that is bigger and broader than the Jedi religion which has thus-far colored our view of the entire Star Wars universe. (This is also why lost-cause diehards will likely always hate this film.)

    On a personal level, it really makes me smile to know that in Carrie Fisher’s last film, in her most famous role, she’d get to know that the vision of what the franchise was about would be broadened to include everyone. Now, every kid who ever picked up a broomstick and pretended to be Luke Skywalker with a lightsaber is canonically one with the Force. It’s a wonderful summation of what Star Wars, at its best, represents in culture.

    It’s also a brave film for its willingness to subvert the expectations of the most hardcore fans. In many ways, The Last Jedi is anti-fan service. Tonally, it’s totally different than the other films in the series. Flashbacks and editing sequences like when Rey first sees the Force feature a wildly different direction style than Lucas ever would have tried. Jokes like the initial Poe-Hux call are completely out of character for the voice of the other films (especially the prequels). And the Jedi are no longer an infallible inherited priesthood, but a religion of self-absorbed, usually short-sighted monks who neglect the beauty of the Force in favor of exploiting it for their own power. Any one of these would antagonize those who were overly invested in the old order; all of them together is rank heresy.

    But for an open-minded viewer, there are wonderful touches throughout. Rey gets to be a whole person, who grounds the film and is brave and grows, without ever being reduced to a love interest or damsel in distress. Similarly, Rose gets to be not just the first Asian American woman to be featured in Star Wars, but the avatar of the theme of the entire film. The porgs porg it up. Lots of stuff is red. The sound design uses silence more effectively than any blockbuster film since Attack of the Clones. There’s not much Threepio. It’s all pretty great.

    Most of all, it sets us up for a third film where, for the first time in 37 years, we don’t know what’s going to happen next with Star Wars. Restoring our sense of wonder or mystery or surprise about the most culturally dominant franchise of all time is one of the toughest challenges any mainstream director could pull off. Succeeding in that challenge makes The Last Jedi a wonderful gift to every kid who ever swung a broomstick lightsaber.

  • feedwordpress 18:20:05 on 2017/11/20 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    Star Wars Minute! 

    In advance of the upcoming release of The Last Jedi, excitement is building for all things Star Wars, so I'm thrilled to share that I got to be a guest on the inestimable Star Wars Minute podcast. The show tackles the world's most popular franchise one movie at a time, one minute at a time, and I was lucky enough to get to comment on everybody's second-to-least-favorite Star Wars movie, Attack of the Clones.

    It was really a joy to be on Star Wars Minute, and every one of these short conversations was amusing the whole way through — please do give them a listen!

  • feedwordpress 17:43:24 on 2017/11/14 Permalink
    Tags: 1999, , funk, ,   

    4th Day of November… 

    I struggled for a long time when the nice folks at the Heat Rocks podcast asked me which Prince album I'd want to talk about on their show. Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes run an amazing podcast, where every episode is a deep-dive into a classic album.

    Ultimately, because of its significance and relative lack of prominence amongst casual fans, I settled on Prince's 1982 classic, 1999. In the finished show, we talk about everything from how Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson were influenced by the sound of 1999 to my own personal revelations about faith, as inspired by discovering that Prince didn't actually write the Lord's Prayer.

    If you ain't busy for the next 45 minutes, please do check out this wonderful conversation!

  • feedwordpress 23:52:41 on 2017/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , ,   

    Speaking at the Obama Foundation Summit 

    I've been fortunate enough to get to speak at a lot of events over the years, in front of an amazing variety of audiences around the world. But I can honestly say I've never been more impressed by the reaction of an audience member than in the panel I hosted earlier today.

    We had an amazing discussion about the tactics and impacts of misinformation in social media, with Joan Donovan of Data & Society and Nabiha Syed of BuzzFeed speaking to the social responsibility of the major platforms.

    But the standout moment was when Barack Obama quietly joined our room, and sat in for half an hour, even taking notes on the discussion. Most of the room didn't even notice he was there until he had to leave a bit before the end, and paused to share a few thoughts with us.

    I encouraged him to look into the work published by experts like Joan and Nabiha, and to truly get a deep understanding of the dynamics in play, since so much of the political conversation around these serious issues devolves into glib and trite discussions of "fake news". Just knowing that a voice of such influence and power is willing to hear what these experts has to say gives me a little bit of hope that we might be able to make things a bit better.

  • feedwordpress 13:07:05 on 2017/09/11 Permalink
    Tags: ,   

    Sixteen is Letting Go Again 

    A couple of times a week, I end up walking by the World Trade Center, either the new train station at the site, or one of the new malls that's sprung up flanking the memorial. It's a normal part of my day now, not a tentative and fraught moment that forces me to catch my breath. It's just part of my day.

    And people are just suspicious of me in public places, like the airport or any place that's got a metal detector. Even if I still resent it, I've stopped wishing it would stop. It's just a normal part of my day, even when it angers me.

    So, like ten years ago, I'm letting go. Trying not to project my feelings onto this anniversary, just quietly remembering that morning and how it felt. My son asked me a couple of months ago, "I heard there waa another World Trade Center before this one?" and I had to find a version of the story that I could share with him. In this telling, losing those towers was unimaginably sad and showed that there are incredibly hurtful people in the world, but there are still so many good people, and they can make wonderful things together.

    It's an oversimplification, of course, but not a false one. I'm trying to let go and accept that that only stories we'll ever have of that day will be our flawed, incomplete perspectives. But at least we can push back against the myth-making by people who never saw the character of New York City firsthand on that day.

    In Past Years

    Each year I write about the attacks on this anniversary, as a means of recording for myself where I am compared to that day. I don't think I'm saying much that's profound or original, but it's a ritual that's helped me fit those events into my life.

    Last year, Fifteen is the Past:

    I don’t dismiss or deny that so much has gone so wrong in the response and the reaction that our culture has had since the attacks, but I will not forget or diminish the pure openheartedness I witnessed that day. And I will not let the cynicism or paranoia of others draw me in to join them.

    What I’ve realized, simply, is that 9/11 is in the past now.

    Two years ago, Fourteen is Remembering:

    For the first time, I clearly felt like I had put the attacks firmly in the past. They have loosened their grip on me. I don't avoid going downtown, or take circuitous routes to avoid seeing where the towers once stood. I can even imagine deliberately visiting the area to see the new train station.

    In 2014, Thirteen is Understanding:

    There's no part of that day that one should ever have to explain to a child, but I realized for the first time this year that, when the time comes, I'll be ready. Enough time has passed that I could recite the facts, without simply dissolving into a puddle of my own unresolved questions. I look back at past years, at my own observances of this anniversary, and see how I veered from crushingly sad to fiercely angry to tentatively optimistic, and in each of those moments I was living in one part of what I felt. Maybe I'm ready to see this thing in a bigger picture, or at least from a perspective outside of just myself.

    From 2013, Twelve is Trying:

    I thought in 2001 that some beautiful things could come out of that worst of days, and sure enough, that optimism has often been rewarded. There are boundless examples of kindness and generosity in the worst of circumstances that justify the hope I had for people's basic decency back then, even if initially my hope was based only on faith and not fact.

    But there is also fatigue. The inevitable fading of outrage and emotional devastation into an overworked rhetorical reference point leaves me exhausted. The decay of a brief, profound moment of unity and reflection into a cheap device to be used to prop up arguments about the ordinary, the everyday and the mundane makes me weary. I'm tired from the effort to protect the fragile memory of something horrific and hopeful that taught me about people at their very best and at their very, very worst.

    In 2012, Eleven is What We Make:

    These are the gifts our children, or all children, give us every day in a million different ways. But they're also the gifts we give ourselves when we make something meaningful and beautiful. The new World Trade Center buildings are beautiful, in a way that the old ones never were, and in a way that'll make our fretting over their exorbitant cost seem short-sighted in the decades to come. More importantly, they exist. We made them, together. We raised them in the past eleven years just as surely as we've raised our children, with squabbles and mistakes and false starts and slow, inexorable progress toward something beautiful.

    In 2011 for the 10th anniversary, Ten is Love and Everything After:

    I don't have any profound insights or political commentary to offer that others haven't already articulated first and better. All that I have is my experience of knowing what it mean to be in New York City then. And from that experience, the biggest lesson I have taken is that I have the obligation to be a kinder man, a more thoughtful man, and someone who lives with as much passion and sincerity as possible. Those are the lessons that I'll tell my son some day in the distant future, and they're the ones I want to remember now.

    In 2010, Nine is New New York:

    [T]his is, in many ways, a golden era in the entire history of New York City.

    Over the four hundred years it's taken for this city to evolve into its current form, there's never been a better time to walk down the street. Crime is low, without us having sacrificed our personality or passion to get there. We've invested in making our sidewalks more walkable, our streets more accommodating of the bikes and buses and taxis that convey us around our town. There's never been a more vibrant scene in the arts, music or fashion here. And in less than half a decade, the public park where I got married went from a place where I often felt uncomfortable at noontime to one that I wanted to bring together my closest friends and family on the best day of my life. We still struggle with radical inequality, but more people interact with people from broadly different social classes and cultures every day in New York than any other place in America, and possibly than in any other city in the world.

    And all of this happened, by choice, in the years since the attacks.

    In 2009, Eight Is Starting Over:

    [T]his year, I am much more at peace. It may be that, finally, we've been called on by our leadership to mark this day by being of service to our communities, our country, and our fellow humans. I've been trying of late to do exactly that. And I've had a bit of a realization about how my own life was changed by that day.

    Speaking to my mother last week, I offhandedly mentioned how almost all of my friends and acquaintances, my entire career and my accomplishments, my ambitions and hopes have all been born since September 11, 2001. If you'll pardon the geeky reference, it's as if my life was rebooted that day and in the short period afterwards. While I have a handful of lifelong friends with whom I've stayed in touch, most of the people I'm closest to are those who were with me on the day of the attacks or shortly thereafter, and the goals I have for myself are those which I formed in the next days and weeks. i don't think it's coincidence that I was introduced to my wife while the wreckage at the site of the towers was still smoldering, or that I resolved to have my life's work amount to something meaningful while my beloved city was still papered with signs mourning the missing.

    In 2008, Seven Is Angry:

    Finally getting angry myself, I realize that nobody has more right to claim authority over the legacy of the attacks than the people of New York. And yet, I don't see survivors of the attacks downtown claiming the exclusive right to represent the noble ambition of Never Forgetting. I'm not saying that people never mention the attacks here in New York, but there's a genuine awareness that, if you use the attacks as justification for your position, the person you're addressing may well have lost more than you that day. As I write this, I know that parked out front is the car of a woman who works in my neighborhood. Her car has a simple but striking memorial on it, listing her mother's name, date of birth, and the date 9/11/2001.

    In 2007, Six Is Letting Go:

    On the afternoon of September 11th, 2001, and especially on September 12th, I wasn't only sad. I was also hopeful. I wanted to believe that we wouldn't just Never Forget that we would also Always Remember. People were already insisting that we'd put aside our differences and come together, and maybe the part that I'm most bittersweet and wistful about was that I really believed it. I'd turned 26 years old just a few days before the attacks, and I realize in retrospect that maybe that moment, as I eased from my mid-twenties to my late twenties, was the last time I'd be unabashedly optimistic about something, even amidst all the sorrow.

    In 2006, After Five Years, Failure:

    [O]ne of the strongest feelings I came away with on the day of the attacks was a feeling of some kind of hope. Being in New York that day really showed me the best that people can be. As much as it's become cliché now, there's simply no other way to describe a display that profound. It was truly a case of people showing their very best nature.

    We seem to have let the hope of that day go, though.

    In 2005, Four Years:

    I saw people who hated New York City, or at least didn't care very much about it, trying to act as if they were extremely invested in recovering from the attacks, or opining about the causes or effects of the attacks. And to me, my memory of the attacks and, especially, the days afterward had nothing to do with the geopolitics of the situation. They were about a real human tragedy, and about the people who were there and affected, and about everything but placing blame and pointing fingers. It felt thoughtless for everyone to offer their response in a framework that didn't honor the people who were actually going through the event.

    In 2004, Thinking Of You:

    I don't know if it's distance, or just the passing of time, but I notice how muted the sorrow is. There's a passivity, a lack of passion to the observances. I knew it would come, in the same way that a friend told me quite presciently that day back in 2001 that "this is all going to be political debates someday" and, well, someday's already here.

    In 2003, Two Years:

    I spent a lot of time, too much time, resenting people who were visiting our city, and especially the site of the attacks, these past two years. I've been so protective, I didn't want them to come and get their picture taken like it was Cinderella's Castle or something. I'm trying really hard not to be so angry about that these days. I found that being angry kept me from doing the productive and important things that really mattered, and kept me from living a life that I know I'm lucky to have.

    In 2002, I wrote On Being An American:

    [I]n those first weeks, I thought a lot about what it is to be American. That a lot of people outside of New York City might not even recognize their own country if they came to visit. The America that was attacked a year ago was an America where people are as likely to have been born outside the borders of the U.S. as not. Where most of the residents speak another language in addition to English. Where the soundtrack is, yes, jazz and blues and rock and roll, but also hip hop and salsa and merengue. New York has always been where the first fine threads of new cultures work their way into the fabric of America, and the city the bore the brunt of those attacks last September reflected that ideal to its fullest.

    In 2001, Thank You:

    I am physically fine, as are all my family members and immediate friends. I've been watching the footage all morning, I can't believe I watched the World Trade Center collapse...

    I've been sitting here this whole morning, choking back tears... this is just too much, too big. I can see the smoke and ash from the street here. I have friends of friends who work there, I was just there myself the day before yesterday. I can't process this all. I don't want to.

  • feedwordpress 16:18:14 on 2017/06/16 Permalink
    Tags: anamariecox, ,   

    The bar is so damn low. 

    It's always great to reconnect with old friends, and that especially holds true for old Internet friends. That must be why it was such a delight to spend some time chatting with Ana Marie Cox, as a guest on "With Friends Like These".

    (And, as we reference in this show, this is my 2014 piece on why I stopped retweeting men.)

  • feedwordpress 16:05:19 on 2017/06/12 Permalink
    Tags: developers, devrel, glitch,   

    The Importance Of Interaction 

    Developer relations and tech evangelism is one of those fields that just doesn't get enough respect. Having done the work for years myself, I think it's a wildly under-examined field and very few businesses do enough to properly invest in this critical part of the tech ecosystem.

    That's why it was a real thrill to get to guest on the Community Pulse show, discussing exactly these topics. I hope you'll give it a look.

  • feedwordpress 20:36:57 on 2017/05/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , stackoverflow,   

    We’re just trying to be non-terrible! 

    This was so fun! I got another chance to host the Stack Overflow podcast, and this time did it in fine style with Jess Lee and Ben Halpern of the Practical Dev joining in for the festivities. Do give it a listen!

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