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https://www.watch2gether.com
Let's not mince words - we're more separated than ever before. As we've become virtually connected, we're often friends, family, or lovers with people who are further and further apart.

And anything you can do that creates some kind of connection is worthwhile.

Which is why I'm so tickled by Watch2Gether.

It's a free service that lets you watch videos. But it's more than that, really. You can create rooms - temporary or permanent - and invite who you want to be in there with you. (Note that once you give out the URL of the room, though, people can pop in without an invitation.) But unlike a regular chat room, you can watch videos from a number of sources (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion) together... at the same time.





Unlike some other options for this, you can have as many people as you like in there, and it doesn't require a specific browser or any addons. (It doesn't work on mobile, though...)

So, for example, you can get a playlist of videos from Alliteration Ink and put them in a room, and share the URL like so:

https://alliterationink.com/s/aink2gether

and watch the videos together. That particular room is moderated as well; only I can add videos and toggle playback, which is another nice feature.

So if you're separated from your friends, family, or other loved ones, this is a nice way you can do something really together while still apart.
https://userstyles.org/styles/130029/global-dark-style-fork
If you use Stylish (and if not, why aren't you? Get it for Firefox and Chrome) and like dark global themes, you might want to check out my global dark web theme. It's a fork (meaning I'm starting with someone else's template), but I'm slowly making it my own and keeping it updated. And this is also the style I use on a regular basis, so things that are irritating are gonna get fixed.


https://userstyles.org/styles/129763/darker-remember-the-milk-new-ui
You can also exclude sites; I've excluded several by default (mainly Google and RTM) because their UI changes too frequently for me to keep them in track as well. If you're using the new Remember the Milk UI and want a dark theme for that, I've got you covered there as well with Darker Remember The Milk. I also use Remember The Milk for my chores and stuff on a daily basis, so this gets updated when things break.
If you use MPD (Music Player Daemon) like I do to provide whole-house audio or to give you simple command-line music queuing, these two scripts won't look like much, but they're definitely useful.

I wrote a wrapper script to help mp3gain and abe2id3.py do their magic quickly and to allow MPD to accurately and nicely do replaygain. The MP3Gain utility apparently writes by default to APE tags, which aren't used by MPD. But apparently mp3gain has issues corrupting ID3 data if you write directly to ID3 tags, and will just crash and abort if it runs into an error instead of continuing onward.

If you use MPoD or any other smartphone MPD controller, it usually has an option for fetching album covers from your webserver. But the directory tree has to be the same as your music directory setup...and who wants to expose their whole music directory to the internet? I've got a script (using rsync) to help with that as well.
Okay, first, let me put Fallen London in context for you here.

They use the term "browser game" to describe it, which frankly put me off
of it for the longest time. I played Sunless Sea ("Lose your mind. Eat your
crew.") first, and thought it a rather nice quasi-roguelike with an
interesting backstory. But I resisted Fallen London itself for the longest
time.

And then I realized my mistake.

You see, Fallen London is perhaps most accurately described as the most
elaborate choose-your-own-adventure story to date.

London has fallen into the underworld during the gothic era. Hijinks - and
murder, and strangeness - ensue. The artwork is gorgeous, the web design is
a delight (though not particularly mobile-friendly... yet), and it's just a
great way to spend some time every so often.

Sure, it has an amount of multiplayer interaction, but for the most part,
it's all about the story, and what choices you make for your character.
It's free to play in your browser (though there are paid perks for some
bonuses and to unlock some storylines, they are not necessary to enjoy the
game). Give it a day or two to sink its tentacles of story into you, and
you'll find yourself as compelled as I. (Senor Wombat, if you're interested
in sending me a calling card).

And then there's the soundtrack.

Yes, a soundtrack to a freaking browser game. (Though parts of it are used
for Sunless Sea as well). And it's a nice, creepy, steampunky kind of
soundtrack that works well for writing.

It's available on Bandcamp for £7 or better. Take a listen, I suspect
you'll be as entranced as I was.

Fallen London OST by Maribeth Solomon and Brent Barkman
Prisma is a smartphone app (free) that is pretty much the opposite of #nofilter. It's kind of like having some of the "artistic" filter effects of a more sophisticated image editing program without any of the fine-tuning controls.

The end result is that when things look good - they look good...and you may have to try five or six filters that look horrible before you find the one(s) that look good. And because the processing is apparently done server-side instead of on the phone, it is... not fast.

But regardless, it's free, so you can grab it for iOS or Android.
I can imagine the elevator pitch for Stranger Things going something like this:

"Okay, we're going to mash together Escape From Witch Mountain, It, The Goonies, and ET into an eight-episode miniseries with a retro 80's soundtrack..."




The series lives up to its promise (though unlike all but It, I'd give it a PG-13 or maybe even a soft R for occasional language, some teenage sexuality, and some alcohol use, and violence; watch with your kids). While there's "kids in peril", the kids still have agency like, say, in The Goonies, rather than being a MacGuffin that someone else has to save.

But the soundtrack. Oh myyyyy, the soundtrack. Aside from the pop and alternative hits of the time period, the title track (apparently by the Austin band SURVIVE) is just a slice of synthwave awesome.




After watching, I found myself wanting more of that kind of music. And luckily, it exists. And unlike mere nostalgia, where the originals aren't quite as great as you remember Check out these tracks from Droid Bishop (who has more recent work on Soundcloud), Lazerhawk, and Mega Drive to whet your appetite, then devour the full albums for the soundtrack for the future we were supposed to get.


Redline by Lazerhawk

The Irrelevance of Space & Time by Droid Bishop

Futurescape by Mega Drive
Just listen to me.

In some ways, I'm cheating by including Pontypool, as Alasdair Stuart wrote about it for the "Tropospheric Outlaw" issue of recompose. But it was while formatting his essay for the issue that I first learned about it... and have been an evangelist for this movie ever since.

It's hard to describe this film without giving away the major elements that make it so compelling. So let's just say that the acting is top-notch in what could be almost considered a "bottle episode" of a film.

Ignore the trailer. It makes this movie seem like it's some run-of-the-mill movie.

It isn't.

The challenge I've offered a number of people is this: Watch the opening credits. Listen closely to them. And then, if you want me to turn the movie off, I will.

If you're the type of person who likes intellectual horror, who enjoys a good mind-f##k, who loves the use of language... well, you should plan on watching this film after seeing the opening credits.



If, for some reason, you're unable to watch the film, the CBC re-edited the audio of the film into an audio drama.



Because something's going to happen. But then again, something's always going to happen.
I'm simply stunned by the people who don't follow submission guidelines.

I don't mean vague things like "themes" or genre elements or stuff like that.

I mean basic things.

For example, I've written twice about cover letters (here, and more recently here). The latter post is explicitly linked to from both the guidelines page for recompose and in the actual submissions manager itself. For clarity's sake, here's a screencap of Leslie's example of what she wants to see as a cover letter:



And yet I had reason to make this meme:




Not joking, folks. Seven pages, single spaced.



blurred and anonymized, but otherwise untouched


Contrast those two cover letters, if you will.

On top of everything else, it was a reprint, after we stopped taking reprints. And sent by e-mail, after the submissions manager was put in place.

Did I notice it? Oh yes... but not really in a good way.

Remember, your cover letter serves to introduce your story (or poem), not take the place of it. It gives your contact information, what the work is, and if relevant, what credentials you have for writing the work. Beyond that is the work of the story or poem, not the cover letter.

(And following the rest of the guidelines is probably a good idea, too.)
Much like functionalism and economics, evolution - and especially
evolutionary sociology like sociobiology - is frequently co-opted not as an
explanatory model, but as a justification for someone's own behavior.
You'll frequently hear references to The Selfish Gene followed by some
handwavium explanation that justifies supply-side economics, letting the
rich get away with not paying taxes, or other greedy behaviors.

In these sorts of arguments (yes, we're looking at you, disciples of Ayn
Rand), greed is laudable and praised as the analogue of “fitness”. The idea
is that since the greedy amass the resources, they are then evolutionarily
superior…. with an implication that things should be that way.

That is such rank bullshit, and quickly tells you that the person spouting
that argument is not only one of those greedy people (or desperately wants
to be one of them), but further that they don't even understand their own
argument. They've cast “fitness” into some kind of Puritanical perversion
that simply serves as an excuse for their own greed.

The reason - aside from massive overgeneralizations and a whole hodgepodge
of correlation being mistaken from causation - is pretty apparent when you
start thinking about actual evolution and actual biology.

Take antibiotic resistant bacteria 1 . Pretty scary things, really. We're
less than a hundred fifty years into the antibiotic age, and it might be
almost over. Clearly the antibiotic resistant bacteria - so called
“superbugs” - are the fittest. Clearly they should be the ones eating all
of our flesh.

Except for three huge problems.

First, when placed alongside the regular varieties of their bacteria,
“superbugs” are often crowded out by the “regular” strains. This is called
“fitness cost of antibiotic resistance.” This clearly demonstrates that
“fitness” is not the same thing as better overall, just better in this
specific set of circumstances. When those circumstances change, what counts
as “fitness” does as well.

The second is about time scales. Yes, the resistance to antibiotics has
appeared quickly in evolutionary terms. But it's been generations and
generations and generations and generations and generations (etc) for the
bacteria. Likewise, evolutionary pressures are going to be “selecting” for
long-term persistence of the species, not the success of any particular
member. When resources become amassed too greatly among one strain of a
species - say, one variety of potato - it becomes vulnerable to any sudden
change and may be ruthlessly wiped out. Therefore, any strain of a species
that became too prevalent and amassed too much of the resources runs the
risk of putting the whole species on the chopping block.

Even typing the sentence above kind of hurt my brain, and illustrates the
third major problem: We talk about “selection” and “risk” as if there's
some kind of intent at work in evolution, and there isn't. Evolution,
unlike society, has proceeded without design, plan, or intent for
millennia. Mutations just happen. Species just die out. Some beat the odds.
Some are slaughtered when the odds are with them.

Trying to compare or draw analogs between society and evolutionary
processes is roughly akin to drawing comparisons between a Pollack and a
paint spill. Maybe they look a little similar. Someone who doesn't know
anything might say they're the same.

But they're a hell of a lot different.


1 As with other overgeneralizations, this one is incomplete as well.
There's evidence that the fitness cost of drug resistance isn't universal
after all; regardless, the point distinguishing the difference between the
good of an individual and a species remains.
There's a lot of reasons I like this game, but one of the most awesome ones is seeing people (including groups of friends and whole families) out and active in the neighborhood.

And if you haven't considered it yet, they're also a crime deterrent. At the same time, they're potentially vulnerable to those who would take advantage of them.

So if you see folks walking about with thier phones out at all hours, greet them and ask them what team they're on. Be nice to them.

If you're a player and see something suspicious, stop and call the cops.

This game can be a HUGE source of good for everyone.

A non-players guide is here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/07/11/the-non-gamers-guide-to-playing-pokemon-go/