Matt Unicomb: Chasing The Perfect Loop (Resident Advisor)
Why is ultra-repetitive music so special? Matt Unicomb speaks with Robert Hood, William Basinski and more to find out.
For the first minute of Robert Hood's "Self Powered," you might focus on the bassline. But as it loops, your attention may shift to the hi-hats and the subtle ways they're manipulated. A great loop techno track hooks a lister with simple pattern. A listener who allows themselves to fall into the track actively follows the progression, whether they realise it or not. Subtle changes, like a slight filter effect on some bleeps, shifts the sound, bringing the listener even closer. The best producers, perhaps inexplicably, know exactly when and what to tweak, to the point where a simple series of tones and a four-on-the-floor kick becomes intensely powerful.
There seems to be an inverse relationship between the prevalence of great loops and the amount of equipment available to producers.
Brian Murphy: Life, Death, and Dinner (Journal of Beautiful Business)
When our best impulses seem at odds with necessity.
Thursday is shaping up to be a decent night. A bit slow, but decent numbers considering WHO has officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. My sous chef informs me that El Gaucho Steakhouse downtown has closed and laid everyone off. This strikes me as a wildly premature move, although given that they’re so dependent on tourists and client lunches, they wouldn’t have much business now anyhow. Nostrana, my restaurant, is in Southeast Portland, a world away from downtown. Our people are locals, families, regulars.
Helen Lewis: The Coronavirus Is a Disaster for Feminism (The Atlantic)
Pandemics affect men and women differently.
A pandemic magnifies all existing inequalities (even as politicians insist this is not the time to talk about anything other than the immediate crisis). Working from home in a white-collar job is easier; employees with salaries and benefits will be better protected; self-isolation is less taxing in a spacious house than a cramped apartment. But one of the most striking effects of the coronavirus will be to send many couples back to the 1950s. Across the world, women’s independence will be a silent victim of the pandemic.
Jeremy Larson: Why Do We Even Listen to New Music? (Pitchfork)
Our brains reward us for seeking out what we already know. So why should we reach to listen to something we don’t?
The act of listening to new music in the midst of a global pandemic is hard, but it’s necessary. The world will keep spinning and culture must move with it, even if we are staid and static in our homes, even if the economy grinds to a halt, even if there are no shows, no release parties, and even artists sink even further into the precarity that defines a career as a musician. The choice to listen to new music prioritizes, if for one listen only, the artist over you. It is an emotional risk to live for a moment in the abyss of someone else’s world, but this invisible exchange powers the vanguard of art, even in times of historic inertia.
Jeremy Larson: Herbie Hancock — Headhunters (Pitchfork)
Head Hunters states its intent in its name: The music will blow open your skull the second you press play, the instant the bassline from “Chameleon” comes out of the speakers in full stereo sound. And if that doesn’t move you, how about when Harvey Mason comes in with the funkiest drum part in the history of drumming, a groove even Hancock said he had never heard before in his life, that snare hit coming just before the two, the kick drum so dead and relaxed, are you kidding me? Head Hunters rightfully belongs to the Library of Congress as one of our nation's most treasured recordings, sitting there, smoking, untouchable, a factory of winces and hoooos.
Lindsay Zoladz: Learning to Listen to, and Beyond, the Siren’s Call (NYT)
A music critic’s soundscape has been reshaped by the wail of ambulances. But she’s learning to hear in unexpected ways.
Before the virus, there had been so much stimulus that many of us had learned to filter it out of our awareness — subway buskers’ pleas; sudden eruptions of earth-rumbling subwoofers at red lights — in order to preserve the emotional energy required to move through our days. But now in the absence of other sounds like heavy traffic, construction and the springtime shrieks of children on playgrounds, the sirens are all there is to hear. And of course, we cannot turn a deaf ear to what we know their escalating numbers signify.
Peter C Baker: ‘We can’t go back to normal’: how will coronavirus change the world? (The Guardian)
The long read: Times of upheaval are always times of radical change. Some believe the pandemic is a once-in-a-generation chance to remake society and build a better future. Others fear it may only make existing injustices worse.
It’s not just the size and speed of what is happening that’s dizzying. It’s the fact that we have grown accustomed to hearing that democracies are incapable of making big moves like this quickly, or at all. But here we are. Any glance at history reveals that crises and disasters have continually set the stage for change, often for the better.
The argument, in its simplest form, is this: Covid-19 has revealed the political status quo to be broken. Long before anyone had heard of the new coronavirus, people died of diseases we knew how to prevent and treat. People lived precarious lives in societies awash with wealth. Experts told us about catastrophic threats on the horizon, including pandemics, and we did next to nothing to prepare for them. At the same time, the drastic measures governments have taken in recent weeks testify to just how much power the state does have – the extent of what government can accomplish (and quickly!) when it realises it must act boldly or risk being seen as fundamentally illegitimate. As Pankaj Mishra recently wrote: “It has taken a disaster for the state to assume its original responsibility to protect citizens.”
For years, in mainstream politics the conventional line – on everything from healthcare to basic living expenses such as housing – has been that even if the world has its problems, expansive government intervention is not a feasible solution. Instead, we have been told that what works best are “marketplace” solutions, which give large roles to corporations motivated not by outdated notions like “the public good” but by a desire to make a profit. But then the virus started spreading, governments spent trillions in days – even going so far as to write cheques directly to citizens – and suddenly the question of what was feasible felt different.
From this perspective, the task today is not to fight the virus in order to return to business as usual, because business as usual was already a disaster. The goal, instead, is to fight the virus – and in doing so transform business as usual into something more humane and secure.
For anyone making this argument, the contrast between 2008 and the present crisis is striking. Compared to the opaque financial crisis, with its credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations, the coronavirus is relatively easy to understand. It is a dozen crises tangled into one, and they’re all unfolding immediately, in ways that cannot be missed. Politicians are getting infected. Wealthy celebrities are getting infected. Your friends and relatives are getting infected. We may not quite all be “in it together” – as always, the poor are hit worse – but there is more truth to the idea than there ever was in the wake of 2008.
In this, the optimists believe, there is hope that we might begin to see the world differently. Maybe we can view our problems as shared, and society as more than just a mass of individuals competing against each other for wealth and standing. Maybe, in short, we can understand that the logic of the market should not dominate as many spheres of human existence as we currently allow it to.
Although Covid-19 is likely the biggest global crisis since the second world war, it is still dwarfed in the long term by climate change. Yet the two problems have suggestive similarities. Both will require unusual levels of global cooperation. Both demand changes in behaviour today in the name of reducing suffering tomorrow. Both problems were long predicted with great certainty by scientists, and have been neglected by governments unable to see beyond the next fiscal quarter’s growth statistics. Accordingly, both will require governments to take drastic action and banish the logic of the marketplace from certain realms of human activity, while simultaneously embracing public investment. In other words, to think of this new level of state intervention as a temporary requirement is to ensure that we continue barrelling down the path to climate disaster.
The world feels awfully strange right now, but not because – or not just because – it is changing so fast and any one of us could fall ill at any time, or could already be carrying the virus and not know it. It feels strange because the past few weeks have exposed the fact that the biggest things can always change, at any minute. This simple truth, both destabilising and liberating, is easy to forget. We’re not watching a movie: we’re writing one, together, until the end.
Astra Taylor: Bernie Sanders’ Exit Is an Indictment of Our Broken System—Not His Campaign (In These Times)
Voter suppression was stronger than Bernie Sanders' voter turnout plan. And the pandemic has made things worse.
Sanders’ campaign was remarkable, in part, because he was trying to do two things at once: win the Democratic nomination and strengthen social movements. Leftists have long talked about inside and outside strategies as though they were in opposition, but the Sanders campaign made the argument that they can and must be united, difficult though this process may be. The energy and radicalism of the streets needs to be brought to bear on electoral politics and into the halls of power. That remains the needle the Left has to thread.
This election cycle needs to push leftists to engage in voting issues and push the conversation beyond standard liberal talking points like voting-by-mail, automatic voter registration and an end to gerrymandering. We need to talk about safe and secure online voting, turning election day into election month, and more systemic reforms including ranked choice voting, making voting mandatory (as it is in many other developed countries) and experimenting with the use of sortition (random selection of political officials) and citizens’ assemblies.
Find a local Sunrise hub. Start or support a rent strike in your city. Sign up for the ongoing student debt strike. Log on to a local Indivisible meeting. Start paying dues to the Democratic Socialists of America or the Debt Collective. Run for office. As the brilliant labor organizer Jane McAlevey always says, there are no shortcuts to building power for regular people. This is nitty gritty work that has to be done relationship by relationship, day by day.
Kaia Sand: 3 temporary campsites to open next week for more unhoused people to shelter in place (Street Roots)
Forty-five tents are slated for each of the campsites which should begin opening early next week — one in Old Town and two campsite in the Central Eastside. A minimum of 135 people will have access to these shelter-in-place camps. Partners who already share tents could increase that total.
Since the city began to shut down over COVID-19, unhoused people wandered a suddenly quiet city of shuttered services and boarded-up doors. Gone are the libraries where people would spend days, the Starbucks where some unhoused people would splurge on coffee and use the restroom. Drop-in spaces limit the number of people who come in. At Street Roots, people wait on duct-tape lines spaced 6 feet apart to access mail, income, and sinks with soap.
I’m no fan of the idea that the new coronavirus helps the ecological cause; it brings death, and will bear down on the most vulnerable the hardest. But in the kitsch viral stories about drunk elephants and smug swans, there is undeniably a seed of longing for a post-virus world more full of life. There is something to nurture in the idea that this big global hurt came from a big global overexploitation of nature, and so maybe a big global healing could come in its wake.
Isaac Chotiner: The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration (New Yorker)
This fucking libertarian crackpot has blood on his hands.
Richard Epstein, a professor at N.Y.U. School of Law, discusses two articles he wrote, on the Hoover Institution Web site, entitled “Coronavirus Perspective” and “Coronavirus Overreaction,” and his views of the pandemic.
Epstein: Admit to it. You’re saying I’m a crackpot.
Chotiner: I’m not saying anything of the—
Epstein: Well, what am I then? I’m an amateur? You’re the great scholar on this?
Chotiner: No, no. I’m not a great scholar on this.
Epstein: Tell me what you think about the quality of the work!
Chotiner: O.K. I’m going to tell you. I think the fact that I am not a great scholar on this and I’m able to find these flaws or these holes in what you wrote is a sign that maybe you should’ve thought harder before writing it.
Epstein: What it shows is that you are a complete intellectual amateur. Period.
Chotiner: O.K. Can I ask you one more question?
Epstein: You just don’t know anything about anything. You’re a journalist. Would you like to compare your résumé to mine?
How one Swedish teenager armed with a homemade sign ignited a crusade and became the leader of a movement.
Thunberg’s face was controlled fury. This was the persona: an adolescent iron-willed truth teller. The Davos one-percenters clapped and rattled their Rolexes. It has become a disconcerting pattern for Thunberg appearances that would be repeated at the European Commission: Greta tells the adults they are fools and their plans are lame and shortsighted. They still give her a standing ovation. A few minutes later, she was gone and the audience dispersed into a fleet of black BMWs and Mercedes, belching diesel into the Alpine sky.
The irony of the Greta Age is that we now have options, but refuse to take them. Clean-energy technology has evolved to a point where old arguments that fossil fuels remain the cheapest way to create energy are now obviously nonsense. The cost of clean energy is no longer a barrier to change. Over the past decade, it became an obvious truth: Burning fossil fuels no longer made economic sense anywhere, anytime. What remains is the power and influence of the energy conglomerate superpowers to maintain the status quo. No politician has the courage to face them down. By 2018, it became even clearer that politicians could not be trusted. Talk was wasted. Companies would continue to put profits before nature. We were on our own.
And that’s when Greta came along.
“I’m very weak in a sense,” says Thunberg quietly. “I’m very tiny and I am very emotional, and that is not something people usually associate with strength. I think weakness, in a way, can be also needed because we don’t have to be the loudest, we don’t have to take up the most amount of space, and we don’t have to earn the most money.”
A great start-to-possible-ends overview of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus, hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19 cases. None of that happened. Instead, a health-care system that already runs close to full capacity, and that was already challenged by a severe flu season, was suddenly faced with a virus that had been left to spread, untracked, through communities around the country. Overstretched hospitals became overwhelmed. Basic protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, began to run out. Beds will soon follow, as will the ventilators that provide oxygen to patients whose lungs are besieged by the virus.
About one in five people in the United States have lost working hours or jobs. Hotels are empty. Airlines are grounding flights. Restaurants and other small businesses are closing. Inequalities will widen: People with low incomes will be hardest-hit by social-distancing measures, and most likely to have the chronic health conditions that increase their risk of severe infections. Diseases have destabilized cities and societies many times over, “but it hasn’t happened in this country in a very long time, or to quite the extent that we’re seeing now,” says Elena Conis, a historian of medicine at UC Berkeley. “We’re far more urban and metropolitan. We have more people traveling great distances and living far from family and work.”
Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just about masks, vaccines, and tests, but also about fair labor policies and a stable and equal health-care system. Perhaps it will appreciate that health-care workers and public-health specialists compose America’s social immune system, and that this system has been suppressed.
After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19, attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical supplies. Expect pandemics to top the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly.
One could also envisage a future in which America learns a different lesson. A communal spirit, ironically born through social distancing, causes people to turn outward, to neighbors both foreign and domestic. The election of November 2020 becomes a repudiation of “America first” politics. The nation pivots, as it did after World War II, from isolationism to international cooperation. Buoyed by steady investments and an influx of the brightest minds, the health-care workforce surges. Gen C kids write school essays about growing up to be epidemiologists. Public health becomes the centerpiece of foreign policy. The U.S. leads a new global partnership focused on solving challenges like pandemics and climate change.
In 2030, SARS-CoV-3 emerges from nowhere, and is brought to heel within a month.
Ezra Klein: The debate over ending social distancing to save the economy, explained (Vox)
President Trump wants to cut short social distancing measures to save the economy. Is the cure worse than the disease?
So let’s put this clearly: Comparing the cure and the disease is a false choice in both directions. If you let the disease rage, you don’t save the economy. But if you lock down the economy, you don’t cure the disease. It is understandable, in the initial panic to slow the disease, that public health messaging has emphasized the importance of social distancing, but in order to keep people bought into that strategy, it’s necessary to be clear about what comes after.
The grim truth, for those of us living under tight lockdowns right now, is it’s not clear that the time we’ve bought is being used well. Social distancing is likely slowing disease transmission, but there’s little evidence that the country has been sufficiently swift in surging health and testing capacity. Indeed, governors of key states are saying, daily, that they’re not getting the support they need.
Rather than make the country’s sacrifices count, Trump is telling Americans we’ve already sacrificed too much, for too long. This is a moment that demands social solidarity, but all Trump knows is fracture. This is a moment that requires long-term thinking and sacrifice, but Trump acts on the timeline of the cable news segment in front of him. It is perhaps the most stunning and dangerous abdication of presidential leadership in the modern era.
Ed Pilkington and Tom McCarthy: The missing six weeks: how Trump failed the biggest test of his life (The Guardian)
The president was aware of the danger from the coronavirus – but a lack of leadership has created an emergency of epic proportions.
The White House had all the information it needed by the end of January to act decisively. Instead, Trump repeatedly played down the severity of the threat, blaming China for what he called the “Chinese virus” and insisting falsely that his partial travel bans on China and Europe were all it would take to contain the crisis.
This week Fauci was asked by a Science magazine writer, Jon Cohen, how he could stand beside Trump at daily press briefings and listen to him misleading the American people with comments such as that the China travel ban had been a great success in blocking entry of the virus. Fauci replied: “I know, but what do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?”
Masks, more room, and passing etiquette: The new rules for riding (Bike Portland)
Many Portland bike riders are already wearing masks. (Photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland) The Age of Masks is upon us. The deeper we get into this pandemic, the more apparent it becomes that we need a much more radical approach to cycling outside than simply saying “ride alone”.
Nathaniel Popper and Taylor Lorenz: GoFundMe Confronts Coronavirus Demand (NYT)
Americans are turning to crowdfunding to cover coronavirus-related costs while the government prepares to deliver on its stimulus plan. But most campaigns aren’t meeting their goals.
Between March 20 and March 24, the number of coronavirus-related campaigns on GoFundMe shot up by 60 percent, from 22,000 to 35,000. The stories told on those fund-raising pages convey the breadth of destruction that the new coronavirus has wreaked — grieving families facing costs for funerals that few will be able to attend, food pantries stretched thin, and unemployed artists, bartenders, substitute teachers and manicurists simply trying to survive.
Zeynep Tufekci: Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired (NYT)
To help manage the shortage, the authorities sent a message that made them untrustworthy.
As the pandemic rages on, there will be many difficult messages for the public. Unfortunately, the top-down conversation around masks has become a case study in how not to communicate with the public, especially now that the traditional gatekeepers like media and health authorities have much less control. The message became counterproductive and may have encouraged even more hoarding because it seemed as though authorities were shaping the message around managing the scarcity rather than confronting the reality of the situation.
It is of course true that masks don’t work perfectly, that they don’t replace hand-washing and social distancing, and that they work better if they fit properly. And of course, surgical masks (the disposable type that surgeons wear) don’t filter out small viral particles the way medical-grade respirator masks rated N95 and above do. However, even surgical masks protect a bit more than not wearing masks at all. We know from flu research that mask-wearing can help decrease transmission rates along with frequent hand-washing and social-distancing. Now that we are facing a respirator mask shortage, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that surgical masks are “an acceptable alternative” for health care workers — again, obviously because some protection, even if imperfect, is better than none. In the face of this, publicly presenting an absolute answer — “You don’t need them” — for something that requires a qualified response just makes people trust authorities even less.
Since the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. do say that masks lessen the chances that infected people will infect others, then everyone should use masks. If the public is told that only the sick people are to wear masks, then those who do wear them will be stigmatized and people may well avoid wearing them if it screams “I’m sick.” Further, it’s very difficult to be tested for Covid-19 in the United States. How are people supposed to know for sure when to mask up?
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Patrick Sisson: What your landlord thinks about rent right now (Curbed)
The landlord-renter relationship is inherently unjust and part of our completely broken housing situation, but—judgments aside—this is what they’re dealing with.
Property owners juggle a widespread struggle to pay rent with their own mortgage responsibilities.
Will Oremus: What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage (Marker)
Around the world, in countries afflicted with the coronavirus, stores are sold out of toilet paper. There have been shortages in Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In short, the toilet paper industry is split into two, largely separate markets: commercial and consumer. The pandemic has shifted the lion’s share of demand to the latter. People actually do need to buy significantly more toilet paper during the pandemic — not because they’re making more trips to the bathroom, but because they’re making more of them at home. With some 75 percent of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, Americans are no longer using the restrooms at their workplace, in schools, at restaurants, at hotels, or in airports.
Talk to anyone in the industry, and they’ll tell you the toilet paper made for the commercial market is a fundamentally different product from the toilet paper you buy in the store. It comes in huge rolls, too big to fit on most home dispensers. The paper itself is thinner and more utilitarian. It comes individually wrapped and is shipped on huge pallets, rather than in brightly branded packs of 6 or 12.
In theory, some of the mills that make commercial toilet paper could try to redirect some of that supply to the consumer market. People desperate for toilet paper probably wouldn’t turn up their noses at it. But the industry can’t just flip a switch. Shifting to retail channels would require new relationships and contracts between suppliers, distributors, and stores; different formats for packaging and shipping; new trucking routes — all for a bulky product with lean profit margins.
Even a modest, reasonable amount of stocking up by millions of people in preparation for stay-at-home orders would have been enough to deplete many store shelves. From there, the ripple effects of availability concerns, coupled with a genuine increase in demand due to people staying in, are sufficient to explain the ongoing supply problems.
Matthew Abrahams interviewing Dan Deacon: Sitting with Dan Deacon (Tricycle)
Dan Deacon discusses how meditation inspired his new album, Mystic Familiar, the music of Philip Glass and John Cage, and what happens before you’re born.
I realized I wasn’t even relaxing enough to know why I was meditating. I was meditating with an end goal in mind, but I didn’t know what that end goal was. I thought the sheer act of meditating would bring it on, if that makes any sense. Then, I started realizing that it wasn’t a capitalist exchange of meditation for inspiration.
Noam Scheiber, Nelson D. Schwartz, Tiffany Hsu: ‘White-Collar Quarantine’ Over Virus Spotlights Class Divide (NYT)
Child care options, internet access and extra living space leave a gulf between rich and poor in coping with disruptions to school and work.
Still, a kind of pandemic caste system is rapidly developing: the rich holed up in vacation properties; the middle class marooned at home with restless children; the working class on the front lines of the economy, stretched to the limit by the demands of work and parenting, if there is even work to be had.