The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational
If I were the capricious god that could pick the nominees and winners of the Oscars, these would be the ones that would be my picks!!
My personal winner is the one who is bolded.
Note: Anne Hathaway in Ocean's 8 is my number 6.
Note: To think we're in a world where I give neither Dakota Johnson nor Emma Stone a fake Oscar. This is the degree to which Helena Howard rules.
Note 2: Rachel McAdams in Game Night is my VERY VERY CLOSE number 6.
Because the universe is cruel and we don't live in the world where I get to capriciously and unilaterally pick the awards, here are my picks within the world of what actually got nominated.
Should Win: The Favourite
Will Win: The Favourite
Should Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Will Win: BlackKklansmen
Should Win: First Man
Will Win: Avengers Infinity War
Should Win: A Star Is Born
Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Should Win: Black Panther
Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Should Win: Idk, didn't see any
Will Win: Margeurite
Should Win: I guess Bao by default, but I didn't see any others
Will Win: Bao
Should Win: Black Panther
Will Win: The Favourite
Should Win: Shallow (A Star Is Born)
Will Win: Shallow (A Star Is Born)
Should Win: Black Panther
Will Win: If Beale Street Could Talk
Should Win: Vice
Will Win: Vice
Should Win: Cold War (though I never got around to watching Shoplifters so maybe that would change)
Will Win: Roma
Should Win: BlackKklansmen
Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Should Win: ¯\(ツ)/¯
Will Win: A Night At The Garden
Should Win: Minding The Gap
Will Win: RBG
Should Win: Spike Lee (BlackKklansmen)
Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Should Win: Black Panther
Will Win: Black Panther
Should Win: A Star Is Born
Will Win: Roma
Should Win: Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse
Will Win: Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse
Should Win: Emma Stone (The Favourite) ((I haven't seen Beale Street yet so maybe that would change my pick))
Will Win: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Should Win: Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Will Win: Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Should Win: Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Will Win: Glenn Close (The Wife)
Should Win: Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Will Win: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Should Win: A Star Is Born
Will Win: Roma
Of note I can't fairly count "This Is Halloween" because it's purely from a movie musical with no real stage equivalent.
5: "Omigod You Guys" from Legally Blonde
4: "Belle" from Beauty And The Beast (I don't count the prologue.)
3: "Willkkommen" from Cabaret
2: "In The Heights" from In The Heights
1: "Bikini Bottom Day" from Spongebob Squarepants
This is how I choose to spend my sunday nights.
100: God Help The Outcasts (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame)
99: Honor To Us All (Mulan)
98: The Rain Rain Rain Came Down (Winnie The Pooh)
97: Love Is An Open Door (Frozen)
96: A Star Is Born (Hercules)
95: You'll Be In My Heart (Tarzan)
94: Perfect World (The Emperor's New Groove)
93: Whistle While You Work (Snow White)
92: That's What Friends Are For (Jungle Book)
91: Bella Note (Lady & The Tramp)
90: A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes (Cinderella)
89: Up Down And Touch The Ground (Winnie The Pooh)
88: Ma Belle Evangeline (The Princess & The Frog)
87: A Girl Worth Fighting For (Mulan)
86: One Last Hope (Hercules)
85: Heffalumps and Woozles (Winnie The Pooh)
84: Les Poissons (The Little Mermaid)
83: Getcha Head In The Game (High School Musical)
82: The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers (Winnie The Pooh)
81: The Court Of Miracles (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame)
80: Not In Nottingham (Robin Hood)
79: The Three Caballeros (The Three Caballeros)
78: Hellfire (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame)
77: Once Upon A Dream (Sleeping Beauty)
76: We Know The Way (Moana)
75: The Gospel Truth (Hercules)
74: I See The Light (Tangled)
73: Everybody Wants To Be A Cat (Aristocats)
72: Sally's Song (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
71: A Rather Blustery Day (Winnie The Pooh)
70: The Unbirthday Song (Alice In Wonderland)
69: Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride (Lilo & Stitch)
68: Reflection (Mulan)
67: Breaking Free (High School Musical)
66: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah (Song Of The South)
65: Baby Mine (Dumbo)
64: Winnie The Pooh (Winnie The Pooh)
63: Colors Of The Wind (Pocahontas)
62: Why Should I Worry (Oliver & Company)
61: We're All In This Together (High School Musical)
60: What I've Been Looking For (High School Musical)
59: Kidnap The Sandy Claws (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
58: Out There (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame)
57: Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations)
56: Cabin Fever (Muppet Treasure Island)
55: Let's Go Fly A Kite (Mary Poppins)
54: When You Wish Upon A Star (Pinocchio)
53: When She Loved Me (Toy Story 2)
52: Stick To The Status Quo (High School Musical)
51: Almost There (The Princess & The Frog)
50: Just Around The Riverbend (Pocahontas)
49: Down In New Orleans (The Princess & The Frog)
48: Jack's Lament (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
47: Prince Ali (Aladdin)
46: The Bare Necessities (Jungle Book)
45: Something There (Beauty & The Beast)
44: Friends On The Other Side (The Princess & The Frog)
43: Family (James & The Giant Peach)
42: Start Of Something New (High School Musical)
41: Mother Knows Best (Tangled)
40: Where You Are (Moana)
39: A Place Called Slaughter Race (Ralph Breaks The Internet)
38: Hakuna Matata (The Lion King)
37: I Wanna Be Like You (Jungle Book)
36: Step In Time (Mary Poppins)
35: Oogie Boogie's Song (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
34: One Jump Ahead (Aladdin)
33: What's This (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
32: If I Didn't Have You (Monsters Inc)
31: A Spoonful Of Sugar (Mary Poppins)
30: Gaston (Beauty & The Beast)
29: You're Welcome (Moana)
28: Shiny (Moana)
27: Supercallifragiilsticexpialidocious (Mary Poppins)
26: How Far I'll Go (Moana)
25: Circle Of Life (The Lion King)
24: Go The Distance (Hercules)
23: Feed The Birds (Mary Poppins)
22: Can You Feel The Love Tonight (The Lion King)
21: Topsy Turvy (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame)
20: Belle (Beauty & The Beast)
19: This Is Halloween (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
18: You've Got A Friend In Me (Toy Story)
17: I'll Make A Man Out Of You (Mulan)
16: A Whole New World (Aladdin)
15: Strangers Like Me (Tarzan)
14: I Just Can't Wait To Be King (The Lion King)
13: Chim Chim Cheeree (Mary Poppins)
12: Do You Want To Build A Snowman (Frozen)
11: Zero To Hero (Hercules)
10: Be Prepared (The Lion King)
9: Let It Go (Frozen)
8: Poor Unfortunate Souls (The Little Mermaid)
7: Beauty & The Beast (Beauty & The Beast)
6: Kiss The Girl (The Little Mermaid)
5: Friend Like Me (Aladdin)
4: Under The Sea (The Little Mermaid)
3: Be Our Guest (Beauty & The Beast)
2: I Won't Say I'm In Love (Hercules)
1: Part Of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
Podcasts can be hard to get into. Not only can it be hard to find the right a show you like, you also have to figure out how to listen to the dang things.
Well, if you have a smartphone, fortunately there's a whole ecosystem of great apps built to help you do just that! But then you run into another problem: which app do I pick?
This is where this handy-dandy series of questions should help you out. Go from top to bottom and stop when you hit something that applies. Keep in mind, this is all my own personal opinion, and very geared towards iPhones. But I listen to a lot of podcasts, so while I may not know much about most things, I do know a thing or two about podcasts and listening to 'em.
Use Pocket Casts.
Use Apple's default Podcasts app.
I mean, I guess?
And for those curious, my personal podcast app history (ignoring a few days/weeks spent here and there testing out the other apps on the list above) goes roughly:
For posterity, here they all are! And as always, these are my personal top (aka not yours, hence likely differences) and when I say "top" I mean that in the realm of "favorite," rather than "best" (aka there will be some things ranked higher than others despite being Objectively Worse.)
(In no particular order)
* (Counting these as one, given the similarities)
(Aka top 10 not on either podcast list above)
This morning I discovered something interesting: I had set up years ago a handful of redirects with Hover, my domain registrar of choice.
Of course, those have been broken for a long time, entirely because when switching the DNS over to my hosting provider, Hover no longer has control to handle these redirects. Whoops-a-daisy.
And the way Amelie, the engine I built to power this site, handles routing and such, urls like "andrewwhipple.com/xyz" first check if there is a single page (like /about and such) and if there isn't, 404s.
So in order to do forwards like I had in Hover (for example, andrewwhipple.com/youtube forwarding to my Youtube page) I'd need to either futz with the Nginx proxy I have set up in front of my actual app servers, or figure out some way to add more routing rules in the router for pages in the engine itself.
Neither super fun.
So, all it took was making a new markdown page with the filename for the short url I wanted to use (ex,
youtube.md in the example above), and making that page just have a simple
<script> tag, and adding in:
window.location.href = "newUrl";
Voila! Auto redirect at the site level, rather than in the DNS or in the engine. And it doesn't require mucking around with the engine code or the Nginx proxy. Just making a new page with one line of code, throwing it into dropbox, and the redirect is live.
And it's fun because this is the same kind of hacking around and discovering cool features I do in other people's projects, and this time I get to do it in my own project!
SPOTIFY GOSH-DANG YOU why do you have to keep enabling rabbit holes that point me to perfect bands that are destroying my LIFE because I can't listen to anything BUT them GOSH.
Today's version brought to you by the marvelous one-woman (I think?) band "Free Cake For Every Creature," who makes delightfully boppy and miserable bedroom jangle-pop.
Neat right? Even better, there's a song called "I WANT TO MAKE YOU BREAD" (emphasis mine.)
I WANT TO MAKE YOU BREAD.
I'm pretty enamoured with, unconventional is I guess the way to say it(?) voices. Your Lordes, your Grimeses, your Charly Blisses, &c. And I am drawn in immensely by the wildly intimite almost-whisper of Katie Bennett's voice, especially as its contrasted with the kind of bubbly pop that normally would go along with, well, an Eva from Charly Bliss. It's magical and encapsulating and also did I mention there's a song called "I WANT TO MAKE YOU BREAD."
It’s the mid-year, and while we’re many months away from when I write up my eventual end of the year top ten albums posted I’ve listened to many an album thus far and I want to document thoughts.
Below you will find one-sentence reviews of each of the 23 new full-length album I’ve listened to so far in 2017. Enjoy!
Near To The Wild Heart Of Life - Japandroids
Dang Japandroids sound a lot more like Bruce Springsteen than I remembered.
Nothing Feels Natural - Priests
I am categorically too boring a person to get fully into Priests and that makes me sad.
Tourist In This Town - Allison Crutchfield
I genuinely think every vague sense memory of listening to this album is actually from me listening to the most recent Allison Weiss record last year.
Number 1 Angel - Charli XCX
The only thing better than PC Music is getting PC Music sprinkled and mixed in with another great pop star.
Everybody Works - Jay Som
Suck it Owl CIty, bedroom pop has a new gold standard.
The Navigator - Hurray For The Riff Raff
Let us conquer the world with our melancholy.
Mental Illness - Aimee Mann
Ain’t nobody can paint an image, undersell it, and then have it punch you in the throat two weeks later when you least expect it than Aimee Mann.
DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar
Just because it’s maybe the most conventional Kendrick album doesn’t mean it’s not pretty wild y’all.
What Now - Sylvan Esso
Full disclosure: I remember liking it but not much else, so I should probably relisten I guess?
Humanz - Gorillaz
The kind of mess I can get down with as heck.
After Laughter - Paramore
If this were literally anyone other than Paramore I’d be at least mildly here for these nouveau disco shenanigans but GUYS I LOVE RIOT! ERA PARAMORE SO MUCH AND IT HAS BLINDED ME OKAY???
Pageant - PWR BTTM
I can't lie; I definitely loved it, but no matter how much you "death of the author" it's hard not to take this album in context and frankly impossible to get back to that good feeling I got the first time through.
Harry Styles - Harry Styles
This is an album that my classic-rock loving brother and dad would adore, but will only be heard by my pop-loving sister and me.
Powerplant - Girlpool
I hate being the “I liked the old sound better” guy but I guess I already burned that bridge with Paramore so.
Guppy - Charly Bliss
“AM I THE BEST/OR JUST THE FIRST PERSON TO SAY YES???”
Goths - The Mountain Goats
I genuinely don’t understand why The Mountain Goats have never clicked for me but spoiler: the bizarre trend continued it seems.
Dua Lipa - Dua Lipa
Does Dua Lipa have a “sound” yet, and if not can it please be “New Rules” because Y’ALL.
Melodrama - Lorde
Fun fact: every single memory of high school know has a Lorde song retroactively added as the background music.
Something To Tell You - Haim
MY GALS ARE BACK and the bops are EVEN MORE LUSCIOUS and also “Walking Away” is destroying my entire life.
Split Lip - The Love-Inns
“YELL AT ME/TELL ME I AM JUST A FAILURE IN YOUR EYES/SCREAM IT LOUD/I JUST CAN’T GET IT RIGHT”
Beautiful Mess - Jessie Thoreson
This album is very very good but because I’m a unrepentant narcissist I mostly want to point out I rode the bus with Jessie freshman and sophomore year of high school and had a bit of a crush during the second of those years.
Cowgirl Blues - Katie Ellen
I love Chumped more than life itself and while “Cowgirl Blues” doesn’t have as much to immediately latch on to as “Guppy” above or earlier Chumped albums, I can tell already that this heartbreaker will be with me for a minute.
No Shape - Perfume Genius
Took a few listens but it started to soak in, so hey Bryn thx.
I graduated from college recently. And along with all the usual terrors of being a semi-functioning adult in the real world, I also had this issue: what do I do with all the electronic connections and documents that are tangled up with my old school?(1)
In the time-honored tradition of "I did the Googling so you don't have to," I figured I'd document the stuff I discovered for posterity, and in case future Stanfies(2) have questions. And yes, as a note, this will be geared exclusively towards how to deal with Stanford's system, for undergrads, and I can only guarantee that it was accurate as of the class of 2016. Mileage may vary.
By graduation you're probably very familiar with Axess, the main admin portal for all things Stanford-related. Post-graduation you'll mostly need to interact with Axess (if at all!) for retrieving records and documents, be they 1098-T's or transcripts or housing records or whatnot.
Fortunately, you're fine! Your Stanford login works on Axess no problem. Most features (adding classes etc) are gone but all the document retrieval and such can still be done in the usual, overly cluttered way you've learned to love.
Again, I can only guarantee that my account lived up to time of writing, so there may be a moment when everything is purged from the system, but if so I've seen no indication of when that would be.
So official academic documents and records are out of the way, you probably are starting to think Google. Stanford, at least as of now, is heavily invested in the Google apps ecosystem, so a lot of your stuff (especially the stuff you interacted with on a day-to-day basis in classes and extracurriculars) will be in Google land.
So you have your email address, `sunetID@stanford.edu`. For the last few years you've been using that for all sorts of communication, be it coordinating rehearsal times with your dance troupe, or that one time someone sent a hilariously angry email at 3am to the couple having a very loud amourous encounter in the room above them.
There are two main things you might want to do with your email address:
Both are doable!
Note: This is one of the few things that has a strict timeline, so you want to make sure you take care of any email steps as soon as you reasonably can after graduation.
Your `sunetID@stanford.edu` email account will live on, without any issues, for about 4-5 months (I believe October 15th was the deadline my year?) Up until this point it's exactly the same as it was while you were a student.
After that deadline, your account switches and it will only forward any new mail to an address you specify. That means if me, Andrew, were to email your old Stanford email address, you'd get that message forwarded to a new mailbox! Neat!
However that's it. It's just a forward, and just for new messages. You can't log in to your old email account, can't read or download old messages, can't see your contact list, and can't send email from that old account.
It's like if you move apartments and set up mail forwarding for your old place: if someone sends a letter to the old address, it'll make it's way to the new one, but you can't go dig around in your old mailbox anymore.
This forwarding will happen for two years. I believe that's two years after you graduate, not two years after your account flips to forwarding mode, but I'm not positive on that.
All of this is the only reason you need to do any of this junk, because if you just got to keep your old email that'd be awesome and you could just use it forever. No such luck.
Anyway, remember, two tasks you may want to do:
Let's tackle part 1:
This is going to tell you how to transfer all of your old emails into a new mailbox. Once this is done you can log in to the account you chose and search and find all your old emails as if they had been sent there in the first place. If you don't want to do that (maybe you just want a few key messages, or you want them as downloaded documents rather than emails) feel free to skip or modify this!
Note: At least in Apple Mail, if any action interrupts the transfer of emails even for a second, the whole batch will fail, so if for example your computer falls asleep or the wifi stops working or what have you, you'll have to start from the beginning of the batch. I suggest using batches of 1 month because for me that was the sweet spot between big enough to not have to do a million batches, but small enough that if one batch fails it's not the end of the world, and it was less likely to hit an issue that would make it fail in the first place.
I'm not certain whether this is as time-sensitive as retrieving your old emails, but still I'd suggest doing this before your email goes into forwarding mode.
There are two options for this, depending on one key decision: do you want your emails forwarded to your free `@alumni.stanford.edu` account, or somewhere else?
Note: For convenience I used the same fake name for this as for "Keep Old Emails", but there's no reason they have to be the same. Feel free to split your old and new emails however you'd like!
I believe that you can then claim your alumni email account and it won't override your selection of email forwarding... but I'm not 100% on that. So tread carefully I suppose.
An important note about forwarding: Remember that after two years your old Stanford account will stop existing and the forwarding will stop. If anyone sends an email to `sunetID@stanford.edu` they'll get the nasty auto-response that mailman couldn't find that account and it doesn't exist. So make sure you take whatever steps you need to tell people to stop emailing that account (or go to Mailman and change the email on any lists you care about.)
Sadly, there's no easy way to transfer the Drive stuff from one account to another like there is with email. You could theoretically share every document and such that you have from Stanf to a Google account of your choosing, then transfer ownership (if it's something you own)... but if you used Google Drive enough to care about saving your files you probably have too many of them for that to be a reasonable process.
But fortunately, there is a pretty easy tool to download a version of all the stuff in your Drive. It's called "Takeout."
As a word of warning, this doesn't give you your files as Google Docs or Sheets or Slides: it converts them to another format (defaults to Microsoft Office filetypes, so .docx for Docs, .pptx for Slides, etc.)
If you've ever tried downloading or exporting a Google Doc as a Word document, you'll know that besides losing obvious features (it's a static file now, not a thing on the internet anyone can edit) the conversion can be a little weird, so be on the lookout for that.
But if you want to maintain the content of the files, it's a pretty easy solution!
Lol, I didn't use Stanford's Google Calendar like AT ALL. BUT don't worry, it's still exportable! Follow the steps for Google Drive above, and make sure that Calendar is selected. You should end up with your calendars as a .ics file which you can import into Apple Calendars or the Google Calendar for another account (if you don't know how, search and there's plenty of guides online how to import .ics into calendars.)
Follow the Google Drive steps, make sure the service you want is selected, and then once you get your archive mailed to you do with the data what you wish!
Stanford provides every student with their own AFS account which comes with storage space. Unlike Axess and Gmail and Google Drive, not everyone comes face-to-face with AFS as an undergrad.
If you encountered it at all, it's probably for one of three things:
If you've never done any of the things above, you probably don't need to worry about AFS. If you have and want to make sure any files are saved post-graduation (or are curious and want to check if you've got stuff there) then here's what you can do.
If you're still on campus: Easy! Just grab a flash drive, log into a cluster or library computer, plug in the drive, and copy all your stuff. Shazam.
If you aren't on campus: You're still good! Here's how you grab your stuff through the magic of INTERNETS and SECURE COPY. Although first, as a note, this is gonna be a bit more technical than the other steps, so fair warning. This assumes you can find and use a Unix shell (specifically
ls) but nothing else.
ssh sunetID@myth.stanford.edu(replacing "sunetID" with, well, your sunetID.)
cdaround and see what you've got on your AFS.
cdto wherever you want to temporarily store your AFS stuff and then
mkdir StanfordAFS. That'll give you a new folder to store all your junk.
scp -r email@example.com:~ .What you're doing is starting a "Secure Copy (
scp)," telling to to be recursive (
-r, aka "Keep going down into any folders you find,") and telling it to pull files from your AFS space (`firstname.lastname@example.org:
, specifically the home directory,~
) and bringing it *to* the current one on your home computer (.`) When you hit that, you should get a nice Matrix-y screen of files scrolling by as they're copied.
root. If it's all good, close your
scptab, and type
Now you've got all your AFS files! Hooray!
(As a note, there are other ways you could do this, but this is the way I chose because it doesn't rely on downloading or installing any software like OpenAFS.)
That's all that I remember having to transfer, but I'll be sure to update this post if there's anything that either comes up or that I forgot! And if you went through the graduating process and found something I missed, let me know and I'll update it and credit ya!
Whoo. Go adulthood, I guess.
*Updated 7/19: Just made it a heck of a lot cleaner and easier to understand.*
(1 ⤴️): Lol, bet you thought this article was about something else, huh?
(2 ⤴️): Note for non-Stanfies, exactly zero people other than me call us Stanfies. It's demonstrably not a thing. But I like it. Also, why are you reading this if you didn't go to Stanford? Isn't this incredibly boring?
I listen to many a podcast. And I like to make lists. Especially year-in-review type lists. Also, it can be hard to find new podcasts to listen to sometimes, so maybe perhaps this list will help point you to something you end up digging. Idk. The day I need a valid excuse to write thousands of words about nonsense only I care about is the day I demand to be stricken from this earth.
Like with all good dumb lists, it's worth talking a bit about my methodology, as much as there is one. While my music list is far more based on critical opinion and analysis (as far as that goes) my podcast list is based mainly on tastes and habits. Since most of these shows are recurring in some way, and since I subscribe to more podcasts than could ever be listened to, I have lots of opportunities in my ~4-8 hours of podcast listening per day to choose one show over another. Sure, the ones on this list may be the genuine, semi-objective best for whatever reason or another, but they're here because time and again they were the shows I loved listening to, anticipated between episodes, and returned to. They're the keepers.
ALSO as a note, because there are ~30 or so shows listed here, I don't want to do the work to link to every show. But because they're podcasts, they're all at the very least on iTunes and any podcast app that uses the iTunes directory (basically all of them.) So just search for the name, you'll probably find them. That said idk about Stitcher or Google Play or Spotify, but I also don't super care about them. So. Sry about that.
So this year I broke my list in two, partially because I really like to make arbitrary and specific lists, and partially because this year seemed dominated by me trying out brand new shows. This may be because I'm getting old and want variety, it may be because some of my former favorite shows either ended or started to wane a bit, and it may be because gosh darnit there were SO MANY GOOD SHOWS THAT STARTED THIS YEAR. WHO KNOWS?!?!?!
Anyway, here is my list of the top ten podcasts I liked the most in 2016 that started in 2016.
...Although actually, first...
(in no particular order)
Give 'em a try! They're great!
Now, the big guns. It's time for the...
One of the key categories of podcastery for me is the "let's sit down every week and talk about video games for thirty minutes to an hour" show. Seriously, there are several. This year though, one show rose to near the top of the pack, and that was the twice-weekly show coming out of the newest kid on the vidya james website block: Waypoint. Waypoint is a games site that really tackles all the stuff GamerGate hates, diving deep into the politics of games, critical theories, takes on the industry, personal narrative, and the perspectives of marginalized or underrepresented groups and their views and histories with games. In a word: it rules, man.
John Gruber, Apple blogger extraordinaire, likes to call his podcast The Talk Show "the director's commentary for [his site] Daring Fireball." I like to think of Waypoint Radio as director's commentary for Waypoint.zone (or bazinga.zone (or digitalpyramids.com (shoutout Chief Keef.))) The show started with Waypoint EIC Austin Walker chatting with Patrick "Scoops" Klepek, talking games, games discourse, and the creation of their new website. But the show quickly found its footing by adding in other Waypoint staffers, particularly the excellent Danielle Riendeau and Danika Harrod. If you like your games discussed in a way that's inclusive and treats games as a serious artistic and cultural force, you absolutely can't go wrong with Waypoint Radio.
I feel super dumb for not listening to Merlin Mann before last year, because I've slowly realized that he's one of the clearest crystallizations of my ideal rhetorical style. Silly, leaning into weird pop culture references and inside jokes, always playing everything with an almost indescribable mix of hyperbolic energy and old-school radio chill, he (along with some other kids later on down this list) is what pops into my head when I think "podcast ideal."
So combine Merlin with gleefully surly Max Temkin and joy of joys Alex Cox of Cards Against Humanity, give them an hour to talk ostensibly about weird challenges they've set for each other (every week one host picks a thing the three have to Do By the next Friday) and instead catch them just talk about whatever they want and you've got a genuinely infectious and marvelous bit of audio. In my overall podcast listening I most strongly gravitate towards silly chat shows that are loosely themed at best, and man oh man Do By Friday is an excellent new addition to that crew.
I didn't get the chance to meet Gaby Dunn at the XOXO conference in Portland this year (fun how literally everything I write here seems to cycle back to XOXO...) but I did get to later hear her speak and it was marvelous and opened my eyes both to her and her comedy partner Allison Raskin's sketch channel Just Between Us (which also has the distinction of perfectly mirroring my friendship with one of my besties from college, Analyssa (I'm the Allison)) AND her new and excellent podcast Bad With Money.
Dunn makes no secrets of the fact that she's, well, bad with money, and so she started this podcast to reflect on and chart her journey towards financial knowledge, as well as chat with some of her coolest internet creator friends and loved ones about their perspectives, history, and expertise with regards to money. Money is fucking weird and scary as hell y'all, and as a recently minted semi-functional adult this show has been necessary guidance and therapy.
GUYS THIS IS A PODCAST ALL ABOUT TAYLOR SWIFT HOSTED BY THREE MARVELOUSLY FUNNY GALS OUT OF TEXAS. GO AHEAD. DESIGN A BETTER PODCAST, YA NERDS, I DARE YA.
WELP NERDS, YA DID IT, YA DESIGNED AN EVEN BETTER ONE because turns out Karen Kilgariff (rad comedian) and Georgia Hardstark (rad comedian who also hosts one of my longtime favorite podcasts, Slumber Party) MANAGED TO DO EXACTLY THAT. This is a show hosted by this glorious and funny pair where they talk about their love of true crime (a love I've shared literally as long as I can remember.) Each week they bring a new horrific murder to the table to talk about it in an irreverent, but still thoughtful way.
Make no mistake, there's a ton of silly and off-color jokes, and definitely they don't follow any sense of decorum with regards to these terrible crimes. But to me there's value in that, not just because it takes some of the power out of the senseless horror by making it comedic (which it does well) or just provides a safe space where people don't feel ashamed of their semi-taboo fascinations (which it also does well) but they also provide a perspective missing from a lot of true crime stuff: they mourn the victim (albeit in a fun, silly, jazz-funeral kind of way), and they give no respect to the murderer. Unlike literally every other true crime thing you can find. It's not about how scary and powerful and weirdly worthy of deification the murderers are. It's about how weird and gross and worthy of shame and mockery they are. And that's rad.
(But y'all, this is still a show about the absolute worst murders that humanity has ever committed, so keep that in mind as you decide whether to plug in those earbuds.)
Oh, and plus they have the greatest tagline of any podcast, which is exactly the kind of advice we should all strive to embody: "Stay Sexy, and Don't Get Murdered."
The McElroys are the First Family of Podcasting, and so it's unsurprising that just about any McElroy brother show will end up in my list. And while it's dumb to play favorites with real humans, and all three brothers are great, that automatic list-inclusion tends to be especially likely if the McElroy in question is sweet baby brother (and 30-under-30 Media Luminary) Griffin.
So when he started a show with his wife where they recap The Bachelor, y'all of course I gave it a try... despite NOT WATCHING THE BACHELOR. And this podcast is THE BEST. So much the best that I then started watching the show it recaps, and in the process this podcast ended up opening my eyes to not one, not two, but three of my favorite new shows (Bachelor (specifically Bachelor In Paradise), MTV's Are You The One, and Netflix's Terrace House: Boys And Girls In The City.)
The sheer force of silly charisma from this fantastic married duo will make it such that you can love the podcast without watching a single minute of the shows it discusses. But if you do watch the shows it's all the better (and if you already watch the Bachelor Family of Products WHAT ARE YOU DOING LISTEN TO ROSE BUDDIES IMMEDIATELY.) And hey, a new Bachelor season just started, so it's a great time to become a Buddy!
There are many political podcasts that rose up in the waning days of the election, and many of them were very good. I ended up talking for an hour with my rad friend Rachel (in one of several attempts recording pilots for a podcast of our own! #StayTuned) about political podcasts, and we discovered that there were roughly three camps: the genuinely issue-and-policy focused shows like Pantsuit Politics or We The Ppl; the political press shows like NPR Elections, Slate Politics, or FiveThirtyEight Elections; and the straight up talk radio ragefests. Keepin' It 1600 is the liberal poster child of that side and goddamnit was it glorious. It got me through the last several months of the election, and even more so through the months since. And sure they do have some genuinely good insight and bring on interesting guests and give suggestions for ways to actively participate in our democracy. Whatever. Who cares. I'm not proud of it, but tbh I just need my righteous liberal rage y'all.
The reason why Rachel and I are friends is that we agree on many things, but balance a lot in terms of taste. We're both huge podcast fans, but she loves well-produced narrative audio, and I prefer loosely-to-not-at-all-produced 3-hour long chat shows. And we're both hyper-liberal, but she's about the issues and the policies and the real-world ramifications, and I'm about the spin and the story and political game. So Pantsuit Politics for Rachel, Keepin' It 1600 for me. And I'm alright with that.
I deliberated for a long time the ordering of these top three, because when it comes down to it they're all my favorite new shows of 2016. But it's for slightly different reasons. I'll talk more about why I love the other ones, but I'll go ahead and say now that CoolGames Inc was the single hour of content I most looked forward to every week. Period. And not just among podcasts; if I saw that a new ep of CoolGames Inc came out at the same time a new Westworld was out, take a fucking hike Anthony Hopkins y'all gotta wait in line after some good good goofs from these good good boys.
CoolGames Inc is hosted by the above-mentioned Griffin McElroy and Nick Robinson, Griffin's coworker from the video game site Polygon (and personal favorite of mine from the old Rev3Games days.) And the premise is simple, if odd: every week they take suggestions from the internet on titles or ideas for silly silly, stupid, dumb, bad video games. And then they talk through them, and come up with what that game would be like. And sometimes they have a guest on from the world of games or games journalism and pitch their silly silly ideas to them.
Hands down, this is the funniest thing. Seriously. There are about 5 or so shows that I think twice about listening to in public because of how often I laugh very uncomfortably loudly at what's happening in my earbuds, and CoolGames Inc leads the pack. It's just... Nick and Griffin have such a wonderful chemistry and amazing comedic timing, and combine that with an esoteric knowledge of weird pop culture and video games, and the straight-up strangest and wackiest shit the internet can come up with, and you get A+ GOTY material like "Hugh Jackman's Huge Actin'," "50 First States" (a dating sim where you date personifications of all the US states,) "Explain Tumblr To Your Dad Simulator" (whereby Nick did actually call his real-life dad!) and "Tim McGraw's: What If? Fates: Trucks."
Like with all of the top three, I really really really really really really like this podcast. But I'm highlighting it for one reason: it showed me something new.
The show features Rileigh Smirl and Sydnee McElroy (née Smirl,) two sisters who are ~10-13 years apart (I forget the exact difference) talking about what teenagerdom (specifically female teenagerdom) is like in their respective generations. And it's adorable, hilarious, awkward, loving, and rad. Then the show managed to get even better by including Teylor, the middle sister of the Smirl trio. When the show is talking about the stated purpose (teens then and now!) she is the wildcard, sometimes siding with Syd, sometimes with Rilo, and sometimes off in her own perspective. When the show is just three sisters goofing and being excellent, she rounds everything out with her own personal take on life and it's wackiness.
Sydnee happens to be married to Justin McElroy of the podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me (and assorted other McElroy and Polygon projects; this ain't the last time they're coming up) and in many ways Still Buffering could be seen as a "My Sister, My Sister, and Me." But it has very excellently carved it's own niche and provided it's own value in the wide world of podcasting. If you are or were a teen girl, I'd have to imagine you'd appreciate this show, and I say that given how much I've absolutely fallen in love with it as someone who is neither teen nor girl. And it's just further proof y'all that the podcast game needs to be more than white dudes making jokes or talking about video games. I listen to a ton of those shows, mind you, but there's room for more, and when it shows up it's frequently excellent.
So while CoolGames Inc was my most anticipated every week and probably technical favorite, and Still Buffering offered something new from a voice underrepresented in "mainstream" (as much as that word makes sense within a niche medium) podcasting, Election Profit Makers is my podcast of 2016 because it was a podcast of 2016. I'll explain.
This show features David Rees (writer of Get Your War On, host of tv's Going Deep, artisanal pencil sharpener) and his childhood best friend Jon Kimball (professional domain name flipper) going hard into the world of: political prediction markets. That's right, these guys started a podcast all about betting on politics.
First, this show is just great. I found out about it on a recommendation from the aforementioned Merlin Mann, and it's got all of those things I talked about with Do By Friday and Mann's general style. It's silly as hell. It knowingly and winkingly takes itself a bit too seriously. It's full of pop culture references and inside jokes. And like most of my favorite shows (such as Mann's Roderick On The Line, another Mann show later on the list, or the above Rose Buddies) it's got a great straight-man/wild-man dynamic. It's just good good comedy podcasting at its core. That alone would throw it into the top five at least.
But this show did two things that will forever link it with 2016 in my mind: first, it talked about politics (which was the story of 2016) and it managed to talk about our crazy-ass political world in the single most crazy way possible. This was a political podcast whose in was betting on a weird prediction market website, and for a show about political betting it took frequent detours into such topics as which listeners were banned from listening and what the latest news was on David and Jon's secret terrible high school band (as opposed to their non-secret terrible high school band.) That kind of legitimate insanity was the only kind of thing that made sense backdropped against the insanity of actual real life.
Second, this was a limited series. From the outset they always said they would only do the show for the 16 weeks leading up to the election and for one wrap-up show after election night. And they stuck to it. This is a 17 episode show. And so you end up with a perfect time capsule of the ups, and the eventual huge huge downs of this year. If I ever listen back to it (or if y'all decide to give it a try) it's short enough that I could reasonably listen quickly and genuinely relive what this wild-as-hell time was like in all its bonkers reality. And whether or not I actual ever do that though, this show is inextricably linked for me with the overall story of the election. It's as much a part of it as any President-Elect Von Clownstick bullshittery. But like, it's funny.
Of course, it wasn't just new shows I tried out this year. There were still some old favorites that I loved.
For some of these shows they're here because they particularly shone in 2016. Maybe they came into their own, or they tried out a new thing, or tackled a great topic.
And some are just on here because they're my favorites period. Again, this list is based mostly on "which shows were the ones that when they popped into my feed I felt happy and excited?" So a few of these shows may not have a particular hook into 2k16 like the others, but dangit I just loved listening to them.
Like above, we've got honorable mentions first, but unlike above, since there were more oldies I listened to than newbies, I'm giving ten honorable mentions. All are rad. Give 'em a listen if ya want.
(in no particular order)
Alright, here it is, the top ten of the oldies. Let's get the heck into it.
I've loved the idea of roleplaying podcasts ever since the podcast Harmontown started doing a regular D&D segment years ago (which eventually spun off into the rad Seeso show Harmonquest.) Intimate, long-form, on-demand audio like podcasting is already well suited to narrative, and a narrative like a roleplaying game that is based on people talking about what they're doing is even better.
Friends At The Table is a show I only learned about relatively recently, to my shame. And gosh darnit is it good as hell y'all. It's GM-ed by Austin Walker (yes, the same Austin Walker of Waypoint Radio above!) and, as he reminds us every week, it's an "Actual Play podcast focused on critical worldbuilding, smart characterizations, and fun interactions between good friends."
And let me tell ya it delivers on all of those. I started listening with the recent "Marielda" arc and the first two episodes, where they played a game that had them literally building the history of this fantasy town, hooked me so much that I did not sleep that night, I had to keep listening to episode after episode. They built such an incredibly rich world, had a blast doing it and being fun with each other, and dangit built incredible characters as good as you'd find in any written piece (Heddy the Weaver and Aubrey the Cobbin will forever be burned in my psyche.)
Unfortunately, not having listened to the show from the beginning, when they returned after the Marielda arc to the story they were telling from season one, I found it harder to keep as engaged. What I need to do is go back and listen to old episodes and let them hook me the way the Marielda eps did, which maybe I'll do next time I take a vacation: just lock my doors, close my blinds, make hot toddys, and have it be a FatT extravaganza. There are worse ways to spend your time.
I've described this show in the past as sort of a companion show to another podcast on this list, but that doesn't do it justice. Yes Rocket is a tech show that takes the similar format of "three dudes get on Skype and talk about tech for an hour" and instead of dudes has gals. But that ain't it by a mile.
Rocket is not just a new perspective on the tech industry and tech news because its hosts are female (though that is certainly part of it.) It's a new perspective on the tech industry and tech news because Christina Warren (Senior Writer at Gizmodo,) Brianna Wu (co-founder of Giant SpaceKat and future congresswoman we hope!) and Simone DeRochefort (Video Producer at Polygon) are fucking brilliant people with really good new perspectives of their own. Not only do they cover stories that get overlooked by other shows and outlets (whether serious like Oculus' troubling habit of not hiring women, or extremely super serious like which Pokéman you'd bang,) but also when they tackle the stories everyone else is doing, they do it in a way that provides new insight you won't find anywhere else.
If you care about tech and listen to podcasts, Rocket absolutely needs to be in your must-listen list.
This is one of my go-to podcast pitches for anyone wanting to start listening to podcasts for the first time, or who already loves a few shows and wants to try something new. And a big part of why is because it has such a simple and exciting premise: comedians Will Hines and Anthony King talk to all of their awesome, funny, smart, and talented creative friends, but not about what they do.... they only talk about what they love.
Every week a new guest comes on to talk about an obsession of theirs, whether it's the music of Kanye West, dancing in clubs, the Eurovision Song Contest, Southern Gothic Fiction, the city of Pittsburgh, Dogs of Instagram, Robert Kennedy, Shoplifting, or "Bands That Do Their Job" (listen to find out what that means.) King and Hines figured out something universal: it's really fun to listen to people gush over something they love deeply, and even more fun if they're funny and smart performers.
Because this is my go-to suggestion, I'll leave you with the other half of my go-to pitch: go through the episode list and find either a comedian you like or a topic you're interested in, and just listen. Then keeping doing that. Then start listening to new episodes. And chances are you, like me (and my friend Claudia, who was the first person I got hooked on this show!) will fall in love with it.
Okay this is the show that I and others have used in the "Rocket is the female version of X" sentence. And while that's a gross and reductive thing to say, part of it comes from the fact that the Accidental Tech Podcast is, for a certain segment of folks, just about the platonic ideal of a tech show. Three guys with a lot of opinions talk for several hours a week about tech (particularly Apple.) And since they're programmers, sometimes they get in the fucking WEEDS. And you know what? Even when they do it's engaging and great. Many great shows, if you're into chat-style shows, perfectly mimic that feeling of listening in on the kinds of conversations you and your friends have. I've had many a nerd argument about Apple that sound like a much dumber version of what you'd hear on ATP. That kind of organic vibe and intimacy is what makes so many of the shows on this list click for me, and ATP is an absolute perfect prime example of this.
Reconcilable Differences is literally unpitchable. Like, there is no real throughline to the types of topics they cover. Sometimes it's Free Will, sometimes it's Walking Dead spoilers and an obscure 90s anime series that only one of the hosts actually got around to watching, and sometimes it's about how best to organize the Google Doc they use to plan the show. The shows range from an hour to 3+ purely based on how long the hosts go for. There are no guests. They don't touch on current events. It can be funny at times, but it's by no means a comedy show; and it can be deep at times, but it frequently dives into the silly and esoteric.
Put simply, it should be a terrible, terrible show.
And it's consistently one of my favorites, and that entirely comes down to the hosts. Merlin Mann (mentioned for the third time!) and John Siracusa (of ATP above) are just incredible podcasts hosts and incredible minds. The way they talk about things hooks you. At the very worst it entertains you for however long the show goes, and at best it breaks your brain in ways that stick with you for months to come. RecDiffs doesn't always pop to the top of my queue (partially because when a 3 hour episode comes along I know I need to block my gosh-darn schedule) but whenever I do listen I know I'm gonna be in for a great time. And in many ways this is what podcasting can uniquely do. Only in a medium with such a low barrier to entry and such a high reward for cultivating a dedicated (if small) listener base can a show like this that can't be pitched but is beloved by those who find it thrive. It's beautiful.
I've loved We Have Concerns since it launched in summer 2014, and it continues to rock. This is another show I pitch because unlike most of the ones on this list, it's short. Where almost every other show is an hour+, We Have Concerns is deliberately designed to be between 10-25 minutes. It comes in hot, y'all.
The show has Anthony Carboni and Jeff Cannata talking through one story that lives roughly in the world of science and often leads to at least some deep existential panic, and they then fill the discussion out with silly improv skits. It's the first show I listen to in the mornings on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and it's the perfect informative, entertaining, and often deeply unsettling bite-sized chunk to start the day.
I got into this podcast, produced by Seattle's alt-weekly newspaper The Stranger, summer of 2015. It's worth noting at that time I was working and going to school in California. Now I live in Chicago. I have never once listened to this hyper-local show while I actually lived in Seattle. But it's great nonetheless. Part of it is homesickness, sure, but part of it is that the stuff they talk about, even if it's coming from a crazily focused local perspective, has universality. The chats about particular policy issues or interviews with local figures may not have resonance to my own day to day, but thinking about the issues presented and getting the perspectives of the hosts and guests pushes my own thought processes in ways that wouldn't happen if I didn't listen to this show every week. And again, homesickness.
However, the reason this show bumped up to top five this year was because of its election coverage. In the latter half of '16, the show landed on a defacto panel of host Eli Sanders, Stranger theater critic Rich Smith, and sex columnist Dan Savage. And much like the folks on Keepin' It 1600, this trio was who I thought about when each new bananas thing happened during the election cycle. And after the election results, again like the 1600 crew, they helped keep me at least floating at the surface of the darkness, rather than drowning in it. Look, sometimes there's something great about listening to three hyper-progressives from the hyper-progressive city of Seattle argue bitterly about whether one or the other of them are being hyper-progressive enough. I gotta get at least one source of joy in this nightmare hellscape.
Our world is wack as hell. Some of my best friends in the world right now are people I met because I happened to watch a YouTube video about how to vlog, started vlogging, sent in a video to a competition at a Harry Potter convention, got selected as a semifinalist, then got to the go to the convention because of an error in the voting, met and briefly hung out with the other semifinalists, then became real friends with them on Twitter. That's a frankly stupid chain of events and its terrifying to think about how if literally one thing had gone differently I'd never know or never be close with some people who mean the world to me now.
[BRACKET!] is the podcast equivalent of that. I was part of a thing called "The Listserve" (itself a thing I only discovered because I happened to take a class where every day someone happened to have to present an internet thing they dug, and someone happened to present The Listserve on one of those days.) The Listserve is a social experiment started at MIT where you subscribe to a mailing list, and every day one subscriber gets the chance to send an email to the whole list. At the time I subscribed there were ~20,000 subscribers.
And one day I got the notification that I won! And I happened (after much re-drafting) to settle on, surprise surprise, writing a list of podcasts I like. And I asked folks to email me with shows they like.
I got a ton of submissions. One of them was from a person named Greg. Who said "well, I can't not mention that I produce and host a podcast, and it's called [BRACKET!]"
I checked it out, along with many of the shows people sent in, and I fell in love. It's a simple show: Four friends and a guest make a sweet sixteen bracket on a theme (like "Best Cookie," "Best Marvel Villain, "Best Casual Dining Establishment," "Best Place To Get Into A Fight," or "Best Weird Relative At A Family Gathering.") And then they go through the bracket. And they pick a winner.
And it's fucking great y'all. I started listening around episode 8 or so, and now we're well over 100, and it's been one of my absolute favorites ever since. Because, as has become a theme in this list, I love listening to people mix serious with silly. In the case of your My Favorite Murder it's talking about something serious in a silly way, but here it's talking about silly match-ups and rankings and sometimes fucking SCREAMING about which is in fact the "Best Song Of 1996" (a rare episode where they Brack Pack actually got it right.) It's all done with lots of pop culture references and inside jokes. And again, it sounds like what me and my friends do when we try to arbitrarily rate things, just funnier. It's a blast and a half.
This is probably my favorite podcast. Listen to it. It's the best. That's about all I really feel like saying about this perfect perfect show.
...BECAUSE my number one show has the exact same hosts as MBMBaM above. Yep. The Adventure Zone is a Dungeons & Dragons podcast with the three brothers from MBMBaM and their Dad Clint, and they go on a great fantasy roleplaying adventure as a FAMILY. And as much as I absolutely adore FatT and other shows with their dedication to presenting the game in the way it actually is played and, well, for lack of a better word "actually taking it seriously," at the end of the day I'm listening to a podcast. And most of my podcasts are entertaining, and most of my podcasts are funny.
And holy shit guys is The Adventure Zone funny.
Like I mentioned earlier, I first got into the idea of D&D or role-playing podcasts when the show Harmontown had a recurring D&D segment. But here's the secret: it didn't just get me intrigued in D&D as an option for audio entertainment, but as like a thing I'd ever be interested in period. Because what the folks on Harmontown did was show that the rules are only there to help the players. They took the broader philosophical idea that "systems are only valuable insofar as they benefit people, but systems can never be more valuable than the people" and applied it to the world of RPGs. There, a wizard named Sharpie Buttsalot can try whatever he wants, and the rules are only there to figure out if he succeeds and what happens next, not to reign him in.
The Adventure Zone is clearly cut from this mold, with the brothers deliberately simplifying the already simplified 5th Edition ruleset to a core that allows them to prioritize telling an entertaining story and being as funny as they possibly can. One of the three main characters is a wizard named Taako for gosh sakes. Which yes, is pronounced like the mexican food staple. And guess what, he's the fucking best.
But The Adventure Zone goes one step further in it's flexibility with regards to D&D's ruleset: it showed me that literally any world is possible within this framework of simple rules. Yes, D&D is clearly meant for a Tolkien-esque fantasy world, and it works, well, fantastically within that. But Griffin as Dungeon Master has done genuinely incredible things in the campaigns he creates. He explicitly takes the pop culture he loves and wacky ideas he has and forms them into stories that I would never imagine possible in the world of D&D. But they fit, dangit. The first big example, a few years back, was when the second chunk of the show ended up being an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery on a train. Who knew you could do that in D&D?!?!?! Not this kid!!!! It was followed up by a Mad-Max-inspired wagon race in the desert. Then an Alien-inspired exploration of a science lab being overrun by a plague, where they were chased by a giant rock monster and aided by a friendly robot.
All of this is possible in D&D, but it takes someone like Griffen who's willing to play with the mold to make it happen.
...Now okay, all that stuff is rad with regards to the show in general. But here's the real reason why this show is my number one right now: because in this year, it told my single favorite story in any medium. Period. Fuck off movies, books, tv. In 2k16, The Adventure Zone got ya beat.
The show is broken into "arcs" that are 5 to 15 episodes long, each of which are based around a mini-quest (specifically trying to recover a dangerous magical item called a "Grand Relic") in service of the overall quest (finding and destroying all six Grand Relics.) And every arc has been more complex, ambitious, and entertaining than the last one. The train mystery mentioned above was one arc, the Mad Max desert race another, the sci-fi lab another, and so on.
This year featured an arc known as "The Eleventh Hour." In it the boys entered a town that was encased in a magical bubble, and were involved in a race against the clock to try and save the town and its inhabitants. But all is not as it seems. And that's all I'll say because you should listen for yourself. Seriously. If you don't want to start from the beginning, you can just start with the first episode of "The Eleventh Hour" and fucking treat yourself.
The whole "Eleventh Hour" story, with its incredible characters (from both the main players and the NPCs,) intricate mystery, crazy central gimmick, tense moral choices, heartbreaking (in both good and bad ways) ending, and gosh-darn fun was literally everything I want in a longform narrative. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and I have a feeling I'm going to be relistening to the 9 episodes of "The Eleventh Hour" pretty consistently for the rest of my life. Just like Election Profit Makers, The Adventure Zone managed to be a show that was not only incredibly good, but made a mark on my year. And for that reason it's my number one returning show.
There it is. Thousands of words on 35+ awesome podcasts. Plug in your headphones and give 'em a listen (and/or tweet me @AndrewTheWhip if you've got casts of 2016 that you dug that I missed. Fair warning: if it's an NPR-y type show, I probably won't like it. But like let me know anyway.)
Here we go children. Now is the time. The time when every place on the internet with even a tentative thought about anything pop cultural starts creating TOP TEN LISTS!!!!
So of course ya boi's getting in on it. With tunes.
But we ain't just doing an old school top ten list. I mean we are doing that, but not just that. Because where's the fun in simplicity?
So let's start with:
(in no particular order)
Most of these were pretty solid albums, but didn't quite crack the top. But give 'em a listen, and you'll probably find some stuff you dig. And almost all of these had at least a few songs I super super dug. So yay tunes!
(Aka albums that tbh probably would've had a shot at the top ten if I'd either listened to them at all or listened to them more than once. Also in no real order, sorta.)
(^Albums I listened to once, but not enough enough to get a real sense of)
I'll be honest, "Blonde" is the reason for this list, probably with Solange, .Paak, Jeff Rosenstock, and Pinegrove rounding out a top five of the "Whoops" crew. I know I'm wrong. I'll regret it come 2017. Sry.
Fuck me, I got down hard with ten years ago I guess. Anyway, these are the albums that I listened to over and over again this year, and specifically are the ones that sort of came into their own for me in 2016. That's why albums like "Welcome Interstate Managers," "Pure Heroine," "Sam's Town" (also a 2006-er fwiw), "1989," "Art Angels", "American Idiot," "The '59 Sound," and the masterpiece-to-end-all-masterpieces "E•MO•TION" aren't on this list; those are all my favorite albums ever, and I listen to them nonstop (and have for either a year, in the case of the 2015-ers, or 10+, for the old guards.)
Nah, these are the albums that popped up in 2016 for whatever reason, and absolutely hooked me, and are as much (if not more, tbh) a part of my mental musical picture of the year as anything that was released since January. I have stories for each of the ones listed, but like...nope. Again, sry.
Actually, that's an okay lead in for:
Okay, fight time now I suppose, but this was almost a... disappointing year musically when I look back on it? Disappointing is waaaay too strong a word for it I suppose, because there were lots of good and great music released... but that's kinda it. For me personally, there were tons of albums that in previous years would be around 3-10 on an end-of-year-top-ten. But there wasn't really anything that snagged that top slot. And that's demonstrated by the fact that I can't think of a single thing I listened to this year that had it been released in '15 would've knocked those three from their end-of-year top slot.
Now part of it is certainly personal taste, obvi. And part of it may be that I got weirdly into the albums from the "Weren't Released In 2016" list and that took over my listening habits. And it may just be that those three albums are freakishly fucking good and holding anything to that standard is cruel.
And of course, that doesn't mean the great albums of this year aren't great. Just maybe not "all-time faves" like the ones above.
Who knows. All I know is the weird truth that...yeah, I dig my top three of 2015 more than any of my top picks for 2016.
I'm being arbitrarily purist in limiting my real top ten list to just full-length original LPs. Which ends up cutting out the five above for including 3 EPs, 1 compilation, and 1 collection of two EPs.
Okay, finally we get through the gimmicky lists. It's time for the real deal. By which I mean:
(in no particular order)
Three very good albums that were originally in my top ten, but then got knocked to just below it. Ask me on a different day and any of these could find their way in.
...Though if we're being real, "California" has a few too many dumb joke songs to probably ever actually make the top ten. But gosh-darnit the rest of it is A+ skateboard pop-punk so Honorable Mention feels perfectly alright (and if they had cut the dumb joke songs it'd be like #6 easy.)
...Actually, while we're on the subject, if "California" is the honorable mention that tbh would never be in the top ten, "Lemonade" is the one that absolutely should be in it...if it was on Spotify. I realized literally like 2 weeks ago that I hadn't heard the album since it came out because I use Spotify and it ain't there! So it never made it into my music rotation! And a week or so of listening snagged it a place in the Honorable Mentions, so I gotta feeling given the months some of these other LPs had it would sneak its way up much farther.
But as is becoming a theme with this list, well... sry.
Anyway, for real though now, and this one is the first list that will be ordered (in reverse) ....
Fuck yeah, Against Me! rules. I'll admit that I don't quite dig this new set of tunes as much as the immeasurably great "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" from a few years back (which I shamefully slept on until last year) but that doesn't mean this isn't a great collection of hard-biting, hard-rocking punk/bar rock music. The world needs more bands that are equally dedicated to breaking down social barriers as they are to sick-as-hell harmonies, but until that day comes Against Me! are our necessary standard bearers.
Also this was the year I realized that The Hold Steady, The Mountain Goats, Drive-By Truckers, and Against Me! are fundamentally all the same band but with difference in subject matter and musical style. And that's fucking great, because all four of those bands are among the best lyricists in the entire rock game by a MILE. The first verse of "12:03" was the moment that clicked for me, thinking "Oh hey, that's a John Darnielle-y type of phrase. Neat." Bless the 2010s for having such a stellar crew to guide us through.
There's lots that can and should be said about Kanye West. And lots of immensely justifiable reasons to not want to support, associate with, or even like him and his music. And for as much as I and others may lean into "death of the author" as an ideal, there's no way to genuinely remove context from art, especially when the art is being consumed as it comes out.
There is also an element to which being a popstar (or any sort of commercial entity) precludes folks from being given the same rhetorical and analytics treatment that other capital-A "Artists" get.
Make no mistake, Kanye is an Artist. And as an Artist who created a piece of Art called "The Life Of Pablo," it's fucking wild and fascinating. It's a mess that goes from impeccable pop in tunes like "Famous" or "Waves," to epics like "No More Parties In LA" or "Ultralight Beam," to clever nods to the past and plays with the hip-hop album form in the skits and intermissions. And for every off-putting act of narcissism, elitism, sexism, harrassment, etc, there's something self-aware like "I Love Kanye." It's enough to give those who require their musicians to be models the branch to reach for and say "Look, he gets it, so it's fine" but not enough to actually rectify his behavior. Which artistically makes it all the more interesting.
And course, it's not just that it's interesting and wrapped in turmoiled context: it is a genuinely pretty good album, which dives headfirst into depression, anxiety, darkness, paranoia, vitriol, revenge, and plenty of other dark sides of the psyche. And wraps it in interesting music.
It's a similar element to the play "Taming Of The Shrew." Because three things are true in regards to that play: it's really really masterfully funny in parts, really really sexist in parts, and Shakespeare wrote shitty plays. It's something that makes a Shakespeare fan like myself think "Gosh, why couldn't a shitty play like Merry Wives Of Windsor be the problematic sexist one, and let Taming Of The Shrew just be funny and excellent." But sadly no, there is the contradiction. Which makes it perhaps bad entertainment but interesting art. I'd argue something similar for "The Life Of Pablo."
This gal makes the grimiest roots rock y'all could find and I LOVE IT. She's got a voice that goes from a fluttery croon to a fucking GROWL and both are excellent and moving. Add to it a fearlessness to write songs about whatever she needs to talk about, fully unafraid to fill her songs with sex and anxiety. And it's underlaid with guitars that growl as good her voice and plodding drums that are heavy, crunched up, and reverbed a la modern-day Bonham. Take that, and you've got a sound that cuts through just about anything else you'd be listening to. Female-fronted country and Americana is in a great spot, with emo softies like Julian Baker and Marit Larsen holding down their end, popstars like Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves killing the radio game, and firebrands like Brandi Carlile and Margaret Glaspy kicking ass and taking names. What a time to be alive y'all.
A late entry that snuck it's way in at the last minute because GUYS POWER-POP IS SO MUCH GOSHDARN FUN. Honeyblood had one of my favorite songs of a few years ago in "Killer Bangs" and "Babes Never Die" is basically a full album of Killers-Bangs-es. Boppy, hooky, sweet 'n snarky, full of hand claps and fuzz guitars and hints of accents Honeyblood has filled my musical roster role of another Scottish Powerpop Icon perfectly.
There are lots of strong arguments to be made for "staying in your lane" and not trying to tell a story that isn't yours. Arguments that I wouldn't be surprised may be kicked up by this album from gods of neo-southern-rock Drive-By Truckers. Because this is an album that runs headfirst into tackling issues like bigotry, gun violence, Black Lives Matter, and others. But, at least for myself, "American Band" makes it work. And I think it's for two reasons:
Songs like "What It Means" do feature a bunch of white southern guys singing about the problems of black teenagers, but they are talking about how white people and the culture of whiteness needs to reckon with this. Similarly they present songs like "Guns Of Umpqua" which takes the southern love of gun culture to its horrific modern conclusion. They point the finger, not just at the "bad" southerners, but at themselves. And this is all while still talking about the things that genuinely make aspects of southern culture great. It's a vulnerable and self-reflective album, and it wraps it all in some of the best southern rock you could ever find.
Look, if this album was just the song "We The People..." and 45 minutes of discordant shrieking, it'd still crack the top ten, because there are few musical moments of this past year that hit as hard as watching Tribe play this song on SNL four days after the nightmare of Nov 8. They managed to call the shot and make the perfect Trump-era album, directly tackling the racism, mysogyny, xenophobia, fear, and hatred represented by the Orange Man and his followers with incredible skill, wit, and bite.
But just politics would be one thing. This album becomes another because of the level of fun on display. "We The People..." is justifiably angry, yes, but it's also snarky and full of pride. "The Space Program" is painfully real, but also kind of silly. "Dis Generation" is pure slinky virtuousic bar-sharing and it's such a joy. And "Solid Wall Of Sound" has an Elton John sample. Tribe is defiant but so goddamn confident in their (accurate) skill and superiority that they just let it ride and are having fun with it.
This is also one of several either posthumous or final albums to come out this year, and all of them share something beautiful: defiance in the face of death. Where Bowie and Leonard Cohen knew they were dying and reckoned with it with either a glamourous middle finger or cold stare and a wry smile, this album was still being made after Phife Dawg's death. And so this album gets to be Q-Tip, Jarobi White, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad crafting a glorious tribute their late brother. And just like Bowie and Cohen, they don't shy away the reality of the situation: by bringing Phife's lines front and center in so many tracks, by calling him out and reacting to his recorded lines in live performances, they are never backing down or hiding the fact that they're down one. They have no problem letting him be a central presence in this record, which is admirable and makes for great art.
There's gonna be a lot of political art over the next few years, and it will take a lot of different forms, and all of it will be necessary. But I'm glad that there are folks like A Tribe Called Quest (and some later down on this list...) willing to blend the personal with the political, the angry with the joyful, the mournful with the triumphant, the brilliant with the silly, and mash it all into one 2016-as-hell album.
There are many a school of pop-punk. One the one end you have your emo-tinted heartbroken shaggy-banged kids like All Time Low and Fall Out Boy, on the other the blissfully scrappy 'n snarky four-chord skateboarders like Chumped (RIP), The Ergs (also RIP), and FIDLAR. Somehwere in the middle you get your bands that pull from both sides, like your blink-182s and Green Days. Also ska is somewhere in there.
Martha is absolutely cut from The Ergs school of pop-punk and it's a JOY. This album is full of gleefully up-tempo garage tunes that make you want to smile as you awkwardly mosh and think about that one girl or guy or nonbinary person who got away. And every song is anchored by incredible hooks and laced with exactly the kind of progressive self-deprecating snark that really hits with the depressed-20-something-artsy-smartsy-kids-floundering-through-adulthood-question-mark? demographic. So I obviously have no idea why I like this album so much.
I've had a peculiar type of love-hate relationship with Angel Olsen over the last three or so years, in that I had no idea if I loved her or hated her. It would genuinely fluctuate not only between songs, but sometimes between lines in a single listen of a single song. Part of it, best I could tell, was her voice never fully clicked for me.
That was, of course, until the first time I heard "Shut Up Kiss Me" and those screeching, overdriven wails. Rock 'n roll y'all. I'm a fan for life now.
This album scratches a lot of the same itches a La Luz album would, and that's meant entirely as a compliment (La Luz fucking rule.) I mention La Luz (an incredibly retro-throw-back surf rock band) because it's crazy how unabashedly traditional and old-school "My Woman" is. Many of the songs on this album from a compositional perspective wouldn't seem at all out of place playing on 1950s radio. And yet that feeling is a lot like a ghost; you only really notice it if you manage to catch the song in an off-angle glance from the corners of your ears. It feels so incredibly modern and incredibly now (partially because its production is the sort of modern-analog-love-child where if you said "Hey this is produced by Jack White and/or Patrick Carney from the Black Keys" you'd probably go "Yeah makes sense." It isn't produced by either of them, but aesthetically it fits.) The album feels now, but if you look at the songs it's simple early rock chords and boppy beats and Buddy Holly melodies.
Taken together it makes for an album that sounds like the present and the past simultaneously and becomes genuinely timeless in the weirdest way. It's not timeless because it could be from whenever, it's timeless because it can't be from anywhen. It's unsettling and destablizing and scary but then you hear the hooks on tunes like "Give It Up" and you say "Fuck it" and just get down with it anyway.
Last year I made a realization that all of my favorite albums of the year, despite being from wildly different genres, all shared a similar quality. They were experiential. They sounded like the inside of the head of the artist who made them. They were albums that you soaked in, and if you soaked properly there was no way they wouldn't put you in a particular headspace. This year there weren't as many albums like that, at least for me. But man oh man if "Coloring Book" doesn't put you in a headspace y'all.
This album, more so than many, really gets the craft of how to build an album from start to finish. The gospel comparison is done to death, but not only does Chance borrow some of the sounds of gospel music, he structures it like a good church service. Invocation into community into reflection into confession into forgiveness into celebration into benediction. The final song is literally called "Blessings" for fuck's sake.
Like with Kanye, Chance is convuluted and complicated and experiential. Like with Tribe, Chance is joyful but real. Like with both Chance puts on some of the best artists in the game to play with him. For whatever reason, the magic seems to catch me more with "Coloring Book" than with the other two. Part of it is certainly that where "Pablo" is negative and scary, "Coloring Book" is jubilant. And part of it is definitely that Chance is poppier than Tribe. But part of it is (and this is a major cop-out for someone trying to analyze music) ineffable to me. It's just goddamn MAGIC and I DON'T KNOW WHY and THAT UPSETS ME THAT I CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT OKAY.
See, I get to keep my hipster cred. I'm giving the number one slot to a DIY artist out of my hometown of Seattle. To be fair, I'm giving it to her because "Adult Teen" is INCREDIBLE. Lisa Prank is a solo artist who makes the kind of bubbly pop-punk that would perfectly fit with the teen-fashion inspiration for her stage name. And as a solo artist she blends her crunchy-as-hell guitar, marvelously wobbly voice, and faux-blank-eyed snark with a drum machine, making one of the most genuinely unique sounds in the pop-punk game. I found her in 2015 because I was searching for artists who use drum machines in neat ways, and since then it's been a joy to see her blow up a bit in the DIY scene, blossoming under the welcome arms of fellow Seattle punk darlings TacocaT.
"Adult Teen" is her debut full-length, mixing beefed-up versions of songs from previous EPs with a bunch of new songs, and the result is a delirious dive via impeccable 2-to-3-minute pop songs into a world of glitter, booze, stickers, grimy guitars, posters of punk gods and boy bands on the wall in equal measure, humanly sloppy instrumentation over machined perfection of the artificial drums, deep sorrow hidden behind shallow smiles, and youth and all the brilliance and stupidity that entails. It's clearly inspired by a lineage of female rockers going from TacocaT to Sleater-Kinney to The Runaways to the Ronettes. At the same time, it's a sound unlike anything else in music. And it's all done by a gal doing this shit on her own (though with the help of a crew from the raddest musical scene in the country; the forever contradiction of "DIY" and "Independent Creators.") And every single song is perfect little pop gem. There's not a dud among 'em.
Listen to "Adult Teen." It's amazing, and at the very least hey you'll be helping out a cool indie artist. And you'll get to feel like someone who knows their shit, which yes is overrated but also kinda fun.
Check out "Starting Again," "Luv Is Dumb," "Jumper," and "Baby, Let Me Write Yr Lines" (and every other song on the album seriously trying to pick just four is damn near impossible the whole album is gold.)
One of the fantastic perks of Spotify is that it takes the month of December to spit back your yearly listening habits back at you. It's a fun chance to reminisce and learn.
Sometimes though, they present you with fun facts of how you compare to other listeners.
FUCK YEAH THAT'S RIGHT GET REKT EVERYONE.
Hi y'all. I made a music thing. It is here, if you want to listen to it on Soundcloud.
And it is here, if you want to listen to it on Bandcamp.
And it is free both places. Yay!
I was going to write a different sort of post wrapping up a rad weekend in Portland, a post that was going to be way more sappy and comprehensive. But then I ended up writing nearly 2k words on just one night, so I figured let's limit the scope a bit.
So. Let's talk for a bit about "XOXO."
Before that, I should give a brief explainer of XOXO as a thing, rather than as four letters that may not mean anything to you (1). XOXO is a conference and a festival, held in Portland, OR, organized by two Andies, and loosely structured around independent creatives on the internet.
After a week of having to explain to co-workers why I went to Portland last weekend, that seems to be the best answer I can come up with, but if ya got something better, I'll take it. Also, worth mentioning that it's not, in fact, an EDM festival, as Netflix and my manager seemed to believe (2).
This was my first year attending the festival, and in short I'd say it was amazing, and you should absolutely go to it... if they ever have it again. Which is a mighty big if. Sorry. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Again, I could write a longer post full of sappy reflections and such, especially given the wide-ranging and hard-to-define nature of the festival. But there's one thing that keeps tumbling around in my brain since this past weekend, that seemed to have an impact on me, and that I really want to congratulate XOXO on.
This is a festival of independent internet creatives, and almost everyone I talked to/read hot-takes from about the festival has said how inspiring it was. How much it changed people's perspectives and made them want to get up and do something.
And I agree wholeheartedly. It absolutely was a huge inspiration. But, especially in the liberal, progressive, educated, techie, and (primarily, though not exclusively) affluent circles that are drawn to XOXO, there's often a particular type of thing that is inspiring. Things related to changing the world in some Big-with-a-capital-B and Important-with-a-capital-I way. Things like equality, social justice, economics, technological progress, etc etc.
Those things are rad as heck and awesome and deserve to be celebrated forever. And XOXO absolutely celebrates them, including talks (3) this year by Jenn Schiffer on challenging sexism and inequality in the tech world, Lucy Bellwood on the challenging economic realities facing artists, Heben Nigatu on creating safe spaces for black women, and Esra'a Al-Shafei on basically how to be the coolest person ever.
XOXO celebrates the Big and Important stuff, and celebrates it well.
But XOXO also celebrates the stuff that is neither Big nor Important. And this year, I think one part of the festival in particular showcased this really well:
On Saturday night of the festival, there was a track of curated screenings/Q&A's of/about film and animation, from a bunch of creators. And this night absolutely included some excellent Big and Important stuff. We had Anita Sarkeesian and the Feminist Frequency team premiering their new show, "Ordinary Women," about awesome women largely ignored by mainstream history. That's Big. That's Important.
We had Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos from Every Frame A Painting talking about the creative bankruptcy in modern movie scores. Maybe less Big and Important, but still presented in an incredibly detailed and thoughtful and analytical way. It was like watching a very well-done film thesis essay. Decently Big. Decently Important.
We had The Brothers Chaps from homestarrunner.com, (a series of charming, weird, and unique flash cartoons from the early 2000s) Lindsay and Alex Small-Butera from Baman Piderman (a series of animated shorts about Baman, an off-kilter version of Batman, and Piderman, an off-kilter version of Spiderman, and their grotesquely adorable friendship and adventures), the guys from Auralnauts (a pair who use their sound design skills to make silly redubs of movies and pop culture), and the folks from Don't Hug Me I'm Scared (not gonna explain it to you. Just watch, although if you're severely not into blood I can't quite in good conscience suggest it.)
None of their stuff is Big. None of their stuff is Important. And all of it fit perfectly right along the stuff that was.
It would be enough if the Andies just created this venue that allowed it all to be shown together. To give the silly as much of a stage as the serious is an awesome enough end goal.
But a weird thing popped up during this event: we got to see the ways that even the silly side of the evening was still big, and still important (note the lack of caps.)
The Brothers Chaps, in showing off their Two More Eggs series, showed how valuable it was to have talented, artistic folks making truly great comedy for kids. That's big, and that's important.
The Auralnauts, in talking about the legal challenges they've faced in remixing popular works, showed off the flaws in an archaic copyright system that can often prevent geunine expression from flourishing, and the ways in which the internet brings those flaws out into the mainstream. Definitely big, definitely important.
Lindsay and Alex showed how making silly things their own way allowed them to carve out a career in animation that followed their own unique path outside of Los Angeles, and how they were actively trying to help other people follow their path. That's big, that's important.
The Don't Hug Me I'm Scared folks even managed a (possibly unintended) meta-commentary about film festivals and Q&As, by bringing their same level of silliness, darkness, and opacity to their post-show talkback as they did to their series. They kind of broke down the entire structure and idea of the night, for a few brief minutes. Pointing back at us the silliness of this whole festival endeavor every once in a while is certainly big, and certainly important.
XOXO is a festival curated around the taste of Andy Baio. Whenever anything is all passing through one filter, there will be elements that are unique to that filter. It seems to me, whether intentional or not (4), part of the Andy Baio filter is to realize the bigness and importance of the stuff that isn't Big or Important. And thanks to that Andy quirk, we got a weekend that celebrated that.
A weekend where John Roderick's freewheeling talk about grunge and German television was just as impactful (to me at least) as Lucy Bellwood's about economic survival. Where Sarah Jeong got to talk primarily about the ethics of ad-blocking, a seemingly niche concern. Where Nina Freeman, designer of the awesomely fun and feminist (Big, Important) game Cibele got to show off her new passion project: an insane wacko 8-bit party game about silly teen car dates.
The Big and Important stuff was no more, or no less big, or important, as the rest.
At one of the semi-formal social meetups on Friday, specifically the #podcasts meetup (which if you know anything about me, you know obviously I went to the #podcasts meetup) I got into some great conversations with fantastic people. And all of them were kind of like me: loved podcasts, and wanted to make ones of their own. And these conversations all had a throughline which I've struggled with for years: one of us would say they "don't have an idea" for a podcast, then when pressed would inevitably say "well, I do have an idea, but it's not original enough, or it's not something I know enough about, or it's not Important enough."
Because I'm writing a reflection on XOXO 2016, I have to include this tweet:
The #podcasts conversations perfectly showed that. Everyone at our table had major imposter syndrome over whether they deserved to be a podcaster. We all had definitions of what that meant in our heads, and none of us seemed to live up to them.
But then, the weekend happened, and at least for me, getting to listen and speak to incredible people, from all ranges in the Big and Important spectrum, did a little bit to beat the imposter syndrome out of me.
I say a little bit because, lol, duh I still have horrific anxiety about creating anything ever. One weekend ain't about to change 22 years of Feelings and social conditioning. The imposter syndrome isn't gone... but I know, especially looking at the speakers and attendees, and especially-especially the Film and Animation track, that what seems to matter more is to find the thing you want to do, and do the thing. And if it's good, even if it doesn't seem Big enough or Important enough to spend your time on, it may just end up being more than big enough, and plenty important. There's still plenty of reasons to feel impostery (will people like my thing being chief among them) but this weekend chipped away at one of them.
I'm in the process of starting two podcasts, both of which are really really dumb ideas and which never even scratch the surface of the Big and Important work being done by other podcasters and creators. But I like them, and after XOXO I want to do them. So I think I will (5).
-Andrew "Hugs & Kisses" W.
I do want to make it absolutely, positively clear that just because this is focusing on the not-Big-and-Important stuff, isn't meant to slam the Big and Important. This post is based on the assumption, especially in the can't-call-it-left-leaning-because-it's-so-far-left-everyone's-sideways XOXO community, that awesome stuff like Ordinary Women/Jenn Schiffer/Lucy Bellwood/Heben Nigatu/Esra'a Al-Shafei are getting deserved love for being, for lack of a better word, "obviously" awesome? And this post, being semi-focused, mainly praises other people. But again, Big and Important is awesome as well 🙃
(Also also, anyone not mentioned in this post, if they spoke or performed at XOXO, you're pretty fair in assuming I think they're rad as heck, even if they aren't in this recap. So again: 🙃)
(1): Or maybe, like me, your first thought is along these lines:
(2): Though fun fact, apparently my manager plans RAVES in his spare time, so if anything it was a disappointment to explain that no, it's not related to the Netflix movie, it's mostly nerds trying to get over social anxiety while talking about art.
(3): Note: a rad thing about XOXO is that they post the talks on Youtube after the festival, and so this post will be updated to include links to the mentioned talks. Until then, ya get Twitters.
(4): Though from my read of Andy, I'd put more money on intentional.
(5): Stay tuned, I guess?
...which is strange as heck.
Yeah. I now work at a neat tech company as an Associate Technical Project Manager. Meaning I try real hard to get people to do stuff, and do it on time. It should be interesting.
And that job has me in a new city: Chicago, Illinois. In a real-life apartment with real-life roommates and real-life leases and utility bills stuff.
Though fun quirk: this new city is actually kind of an old city for me, in that this is where I was born! And lived until I was two. So I'm getting to explore a hometown I never really knew, and call it home for a bit.
Adulthood y'all. Yep. What a concept.
-Andrew "I Could Use A Little Fuel Myself (GET IT? GET THE REFERENCE???)" W.
WWDC, aka Apple's World Wide Developer Conference, happened this week! And with it came a whole bunch of news about a whole bunch of Apple stuff coming down the pipeline. I was originally going to write some quick thoughts on all of it, but it quickly ballooned into a giant monstrosity, so I'm going to split my thoughts up into (hopefully) several articles each talking about one chunk of info Apple shared.
Before we begin, let's all get one thing super-dee-duper clear. I am not a tech journalist, or analyst, or columnist, or any other particularly relevant or qualified -ist. I am not an Apple developer (I mean, I've made a hello worlds and a coffee timer, but that's it.) All I am is a 22-year-old who was arguably more excited to watch the WWDC than his own college graduation (which was on Sunday.) Moral of the story, my opinions, grains of salt, cool.
Anyway, the first thing I want to talk about is the improvements and additions Apple made to the Apple Watch platform, in the form of its new operating system for the fall "watchOS 3"
I'm a big fan of the smartwatch as a device; for the past nine months I've been wearing some combination of the original Pebble watch and the original Moto 360, and loving the utility it provides in terms of notification triage, information gathering, media controls, and alarms on the wrist (which is the only way to be woken up, I've determined.)
I love both my Pebble and Moto 360, but there' son question that they are limited devices, especially as a member of the Apple ecosystem. They are old devices not meant to hook into my iPhone the same way a first-party device would. So while I love them both, be assured that I want an Apple Watch... I just want it to be good. And as of right now, it doesn't seem to be.
But man, did the watchOS 3 presentation damn near convince me otherwise.
Fundamentally, as I see it there are three big categories of changes to watchOS. Performance, UX, and Accessibility.
Performance comes about with an acknowledgement that the Apple Watch is sloooooooooow. There was even a demonstration in the Keynote presentation on Monday showing the loading times of a third-party watch app, and it was painful. But Apple is not a company prone to admitting a problem, unless it has a solution in store, so the follow-up to the demonstration was loading times under watchOS 3, and it was instant.
Now of course, what remains to be seen is whether these loading times will bear out in actual daily use. Because this is a demo, and the OS is in beta, and there was no announcement of a hardware upgrade to match the software. This is the thing that gives me pause; I'll admit I'm very very skeptical that Apple can pull off the loading times it's claiming without a commensurate bump in hardware ability.
It may be possible, though. They did explain that a lot of the performance improvement is coming through smart prioritization of background data loading for apps. Aka, your favorite or most recently used apps will get more resources dedicated to them so that they will load faster. As a smartwatch user, I've found that in contrast to another product category in this presentation, in many ways the future of watches is not apps. My Pebble and Moto 360 work great, and are very useful at a few select tasks. Notifications are great, media controls are great, and the occasional app (almost always timers) can be very useful. But by and large, I don't find myself diving into applications that often. On the Moto 360, because of the limitations of running Android Wear on iOS, there simply aren't many apps (and none that aren't built-in and made by Google) available to an iOS user. On the Pebble, there are plenty of apps, and they could be useful... but I never find myself using them. This could be a recognition on the part of Apple that users primarily use a few key apps, and the OS can be clever about spending all of its limited computing resources on those few apps, and it will make for a better experience.
Additionally, Apple has revealed that battery life was the number one priority in the first iteration of the Watch, and that they think they may have been overly conservative with using system resources in general. The read is that Apple cares about making sure the battery lasts throughout the day, and at the moment it does so with plenty of battery to spare, so they can afford to be more proactive about using power for computing and keeping apps in memory. This is a rationale that I'm slightly less stoked about, as having a battery buffer is a nice mental security blanket. But as long as a watch can reliably last a full day of moderate usage, that checks the required boxes. And I'll willingly make a trade of battery peace of mind for usable watch apps.
This performance bump, if it pans out, would probably be enough to get me to buy an Apple Watch when watchOS 3 launches in Fall. In fact, I'm debating getting a watch now and loading the beta on it, since I have two backup watches I love already. The only worries are that Apples claims are overly optimistic, and that it seems likely that there will in fact be an announcement of new Apple Watches at the iPhone event in September. I'm optimistic about new hardware both because it would fit the iOS paradigm of new hardware launching contemporaneously with the now OS, and also because it'll have been over a year and a half since launch come September. I don't think the Watch will ever be on a one-year upgrade cycle like the iPhone, but I could see them syncing up with iPhone this fall and then switching to a two-year cycle. And while the launch of a whole new product category last spring was enough to merit its launch separate from the flagship devices, I'm not sure an upgrade merits the same fanfare. Nor do I think it is so routine as to be buried in a press release like most new Mac announcements. Basically, sitting side-by-side as a the little sibling of the iPhone fits the Watch's stature nicely, so I expect the hardware increase then.
I dunno. We'll see. Early indications suggest that the performance claims are bearing out, which is great news. Regardless, I'm not buying one tonight, so I can think about it.
The second category of UX behaved a lot like Performance did: Apple in so many words admitted that they got the fundamental design of how watch interactions should work wrong. They removed little-used or clumsy features like the Friends screen, Glances, and the honeycomb app screen (though the honeycomb is not gone completely, just buried as a last resort) and replaced them with things that not only are more functional, but are more familiar to iOS users: an app-switcher that is modeled after a combination of the macOS dock and the iOS app switcher, and a control center modeled after the one in iOS.
These improvements are great and necessary, and take care of a big part of the my other reservation with the Apple Watch. Even trying to futz around with it in the Apple Store, I get lost continually. watchOS 2 is just plain confusing from a UX perspective. It doesn't have consistent actions mapped to its gestures or hardware buttons, or if it does, it's for little-used features. It doesn't follow paradigms that are well-established on iOS, which is important since 100% of Apple Watch users by definition must use iOS. Some touch targets are flat-out unusable on the tiny screen. It doesn't use the clear hierarchical structure of either Pebble's or Android's watch OSes, where you know you are either diving into an app, or popping back out of it, with the watch face as home base. In watchOS 2, where things like the Friends view and even the watch face live in the hierarchy of the OS is nebulous and changing depending on the context you access the views from.
watchOS 3 makes sense, streamlines things, and like with Performance improvements, seems to be inspired by actual watch usage patterns, which I commend.
Finally, Accessibility. The big news was announcements about improvements to the fitness apps for wheelchair users, which is awesome. And like mentioned above, this is a classic Apple move to make: the amount of money, time, and promotion given to this feature is likely not commensurate with an improvement in sales. But goddamn it, it's the right thing to do Apple. And so they did it. And they want everyone in the audience to be thinking about it too. They want people like me who get a flash thought in their head along the lines of "why are they spending so much time on this" to reconsider and think "wait, why shouldn't they be spending so much time on this, they just said they made their products functional for a whole group of people for the first time, that's a thing that is really important." Apple has cash to burn, and I'm glad that they choose to burn it in the right places from time to time.
Similarly, Apple announced a new feature called "SOS" that is activated by a three-second long press on the side button. Once activated, SOS will use either its connection with the phone or wifi (if connected to a known network) to call whatever the local emergency services number is where you are, regardless of your own country of origin. So if stupid American me had an Apple Watch while studying abroad in Paris two years ago and got in an accident, it would call 112 automatically and my stupid Americanness wouldn't result in a Darwin-like culling. It also will notify your pre-set emergency contacts that SOS was activated and with a link to your location, and will display your pre-set Medical ID on the watch face.
This feature is cool, and I would absolutely argue also counts as an accessibility feature. The fact is, I'd be willing to bet that most of the male developers in the room at the Keynote at first thought "oh, that's kinda cool, but they're really talking about it a lot." Or maybe they were, like me, enamored with the idea of automatically calling the right number in foreign countries. That's how it played: as something that will be used exceptionally rarely, but when it is used it'll work great, and you'll be glad to have it.
But for women, the feature is less of a "maybe once or twice in your life, while in a foreign country, you'll use this nifty thing." It's a safety feature that could have potential use cases every day. I'm a guy, and I don't want to wax poetic about experiences I haven't had, so instead I'll pass the mic to Katie Notopoulos at Buzzfeed:
For women, safety while walking down the street is something we think about pretty much daily, most times we leave the house. Women have long adopted their own safety measures for walking in public: holding their keys a certain way to use as a weapon, carrying pepper spray, checking the backseat of a car before unlocking it, taking a longer route because the streets are brighter and more crowded. This isn’t an afterthought or a minor convenience; it’s a core user experience of being a woman or person vulnerable to violence.
While certainly emergency calls are made by people of all genders, adding in an emergency alert feature to the wrist feels very obviously designed with women’s safety in mind.
Just like with the wheelchair users example, we have a case of Apple designing things for their users, even when those users don't fit the increasingly inaccurate picture of an Apple user that may fit in our brains.
A few other odds and ends:
Overall, the watchOS 3 announcements were some of the most exciting things from the week for me. Like I said, I'm firmly pro-smartwatch and very pro-Apple, so I suppose this shouldn't be surprising. Overall, it's exciting as an Apple fan to see them admit fundamental mistakes, with regards to the first outings with the Watch. They could have been filled with hubris and kept down the bad path, but they chose to course-correct, and even poke a little fun at themselves along the way. That's a great sign.
I'll keep y'all posted if I get an Apple Watch I guess?
-Andrew "Buzzy Wrists" W.
This is (I think) the 5th iteration of this website. andrewwhipple.com's history is as follows:
The reason I switched from 4 to 5 are numerous.
So that's what this is.
I'll probably open-source the engine once I make a clean copy that doesn't feature all the specifics needed for me (because hey why not learn about open-sourcing too?) But for now we'll call it "closed source," in that the code is all living on my github, and if you wanted to use this garbage for your own purposes I probably wouldn't get that mad, but like wait a bit and let me clean it.
But yay. Whoo. A site that works. That's a fun thing yo.
The design is pretty bare-bones, so I'll probably update that over time. But for now, it works.
-Andrew "Hey, I built a CMS, that's neat!" W.