"Because I’m Saying So."

via Rappler

via Rappler

 

The CEO of Rappler, a news website critical of the government in the Philippines, has been arrested at its headquarters in Manila.

Maria Ressa said the accusation of "cyber-libel" is an attempt by Rodrigo Duterte's government to silence the publication.

It is the latest in a string of different allegations against her.

The president, who calls the site "fake news", has previously denied charges against her are politically motivated.

Rappler journalists live-streamed the arrest on Facebook and Twitter.

 

This is the top story on the site at my time of writing this. This is a big deal.

A lot of chatter’s going to circulate the next few days regarding this, so I’ll just focus on this one part that caught my attention. Linked in the article is a Twitter thread by Rappler employee Aika Rey documenting the whole thing as it was happening, which includes a brief exchange with what seems to be one of the officers that came to arrest Ressa.

A rough transcript of parts of the exchange:

 

Officer: Come on, be cooperative. Your boss is already talking with us, no need for that… I'm sure you do understand what I'm telling you, right?

Rey: I’m not the only one doing it.

O: Yeah, but I’m talking to you right now. I’ll attend to them later, one by one.

R: Um… can you explain to me first?

O: Because I’m saying so.

R: And what will happen?

O: It’s up to you. It’s a simple request.

R: Can you maybe explain to me first—

O: No. No explanation for now.

R: Why not?

 

It’s like a parent trying to reason with their 4-year-old child.

Frankly, I can’t blame the officer for not knowing what to say. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment affair – this was likely a planned operation. Someone had to have briefed this officer on what to do and what to say, and before that someone probably had to brief that guy, too. However long the chain of command involved here, no one thought to prepare something smart to say in the event of this being documented. At the headquarters of a prominent news publication.

You don’t need me to tell you this. The Philippines is a kakistocracy, and we need to take it back.

Good Music 4

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Over on Instagram, I’ve been using Stories to share songs I dig at the moment, although of course it doesn’t let me go into any depth whatsoever.

So I’m offloading some of that here and changing the format of Good Music. (I was careful to name this series “Good Music” from “Album of the Month” since I knew I’d probably end up wanting to change things up all over again at some point. I wonder if that’s just the nature of blogging about music...)

Album: Gabriel Gundacker – Unofficial Wii Sports Soundtrack

Comedian-musician Gabriel Gundacker of Zendaya is Meechee fame released a collection of tracks that he wrote as “hypothetical Wii Sports songs”. Every track captures a lot of what makes Nintendo music so fun: soft layered synths, soaring melodies, quirky MIDI instrumentation, accordions – he gets it all. Nintendo should seriously consider hiring this dude. (Then again, we wouldn’t be getting projects like this…)

You can download it for free (or whatever price you want) via his Bandcamp page. I’ve had it downloaded for a few days now. It’s great to throw in the background while working, while exercising, while doing just about anything. It’s guaranteed to not just lighten your mood, but shoot it right through the roof.  8.5/10

Live Performance: Muse – Hungry Like the Wolf

I really try to find an out with this band, I swear… then they come out with gold like this.

The band’s in-your-face style and songwriting is a point of contention for a lot of people, but I think one of the few undeniable things about them is that they make stellar covers. (Case in point, if they fancy your interest.) Admittedly, they don’t add a lot to the song, but what they do add – sharp guitars, chaotic breakdowns, glimmering arpeggios – takes this Duran Duran classic to another level.

You can listen to a different recording of this cover on Spotify.


Album: Takuda Kuroda – Rising Son

Once in a while, I come across an album that operates right on my frequency and becomes an instant favorite – Rising Son by Takuya Kuroda is one of those albums. (Nice seeing you again.) The marriage of funk-inspired grooves and crisp production, especially for a contemporary album, makes this a really palatable album for first-time jazz listeners. Highly recommended as a palette cleanser as well.  9/10

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Playlist: Vantage

I feel acoustic ballads are a lost art. Ever since rediscovering Coldplay’s Parachutes, I’ve been seeking out similar songs that explore the same atmosphere – songs that give you the feeling of being alone by a fire in the woods for eternity.

I came across Kaki King’s Everybody Loves You, also a debut album. It’s completely devoid of vocals and features only acoustic guitar. I feel it’s less like Parachutes and more akin to Coldplay B-sides like I Bloom Blaum and Careful Where You Stand, which manage to sound even more bare than Parachutes and are excellent in their own right.

Below is a short playlist I compiled featuring my favorites from Everybody Loves You and other stripped-down ballads.

 
 

Dieter Rams’s 931 Handbag

via The New York Times

via The New York Times

via The New York Times

via The New York Times

 

Like Mr. Ive, who branched into the luxury lifestyle space with the launch of the Apple Watch in 2015, Mr. Rams, 86, also had a brief flirtation with fashion. Back in 1963, he created a leather handbag as a surprise gift for his wife, Ingeborg. Smooth and boxy, with a short curved strap on the outside but a highly functional and compartmentalized interior, it was never produced or seen by the outside world. Now, 55 years later, the 931 (as the bag has been named by Mr. Rams) is finally coming to market.

 

If ever there was a grand arbiter that decided what the essence of an object looks like, besides God Himself, it’d probably be Dieter Rams. This is, as a far as I’m concerned, the idealized handbag.

Foster + Partners Unveils "The Tulip"

via Dezeen

via Dezeen

via Dezeen

via Dezeen

 

The Tulip – a 305.3-metre tall tower topped with a viewpoint and rotating gondolas designed by Foster + Partners – is planned to be built alongside the Gherkin in London.

Foster + Partners has submitted its design for the tower, which would become the tallest structure in the City of London, for planning permission.

If approved, the tower could begin construction in 2020, with an opening date planned for 2025.

 

I’m a big fan of Foster + Partners and their ongoing collaboration with Apple. Their buildings are as big as “starchitect” projects can get while remaining tasteful.

That said, I hate this. Sure, it’s clever building on the existing lot for 30 Mary Axe, but the way it completely dwarfs it just so it barely makes the tallest building in London is comical. The Tulip is like the crow to 30 Mary Axe’s annoyed bird.

Nevermind that the design is somewhat congruent with the 30 Mary Axe, being bulbous and all – it’s still a total freak show. You can’t tell me this thing isn’t begging for attention, especially with those cars on the side like some space-age cuckoo clock.

I have high hopes this remains a proposal. Goodness.

The Look of Jazz

Vox investigates Blue Note Records, one of the foremost jazz labels, and how graphic designer Reid Miles created typography-clad album covers that gave the genre a brand:

As a design student, thinking about why things are and how they come about occupies a sizable chunk of my mind, at this point even at a subconscious level. So it’s nice to come across a fairly ubiquitous thing in the world that I haven’t yet considered as designed. My music tastes have been leaning recently towards jazz, too, so this is kinda timely.

What struck me about Miles’ work was that it’s minimal, yet so expressive. It really emphasizes how great composition goes a long way.

Good Music 3

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A good album…

It takes a lot for me to listen to something new. Sometimes, though, all it takes is happening upon pretty album art. That’s the case here, and I’m glad this album is in my life now.

This album is an incredible listening experience that’s soft on the ears but full of life: it’s euphoric, with a touch of melancholy, all throughout. While it’s not quite diverse sonically, it doesn’t let up – it’s great from start to finish. At only 32 minutes, the album’s rich sound, almost overwhelming, doesn’t overstay its welcome.

It’s also technically masterful. Everything shimmers, from the instrumentation – which changes from song to song – to the production, to frontwoman Molly Rankin’s hazy vocals which embellish each track beautifully.

While it’s great in that regard, the way all its strengths work together leads to something greater than the sum of them. The result is a collection of songs that’s dopamine shot after dopamine shot, an emotional rollercoaster, and, this being a dream/jangle pop record, instant nostalgia. I can only think of one other record like it.

Verdict

Sorry for keeping things vague and being a tad melodramatic. I just think it’s that great.

At first listen, it’s all nice and pleasant, but expect waves of feels with subsequent listens.

Listen on Spotify. That’s not a request.

 

9.5/10

Tracks I play the most: Everything. Just everything.


 

A good live performance…

John Frusciante, Josh Klinghoffer, Flea & Chad Smith - Live at Federation Square 2007

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a great example of a band that’s more than just its frontman, as charismatic as Anthony Kiedis is.

Case in point. Great spacey vibes here, which you don’t get much of from RHCP. It gets loud but remains great all throughout.

Facebook Approaches Misinformation in the Most Facebook Way Possible

Facebook, in a series of tweets (funny how that works), defends their decision to let blatant misinformation remain on their website:

Facebook is just gutless.

  • They act so high and mighty as if they care, when really they're just protecting their targeted ads business.
  • They think they're like a public space, when really they're more like a shopping center letting some lunatic with a megaphone disturb shoppers and feed lies to their children. It’s entirely within the rights of Facebook, a private company, to give these guys the boot.
  • Whoever gets to run this account gets to sleep at night while I just got a measly 3 hours going into a 13-hour day.

Lessons from DIY + Design

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– 5 minutes –

Last June 2-7, I participated in something called a “DIY + Design” workshop.

The first half was a design thinking workshop in which students collaborated with partners in the local community to create solutions for them and their businesses. The second half was a woodworking workshop that taught the students and community partners how to work with scarcity of materials – only three sizes of lumber (2x2’s, 2x4’s, and 2x6’s), screws, and nails were available.

What resulted was an experience I’ll never forget.

 

About the organizers

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Ishinomaki Lab handled the woodworking workshop. It was spawned from the wreckage created during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's east coast. They began running workshops for the local community to restore businesses in Ishinomaki, Miyagi. They’ve since taken their workshops across the world.

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Hub of Innovation For Inclusion, or HiFi, is a space for students of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde to capitalize on their ideas to create social good in their community. They helped connect us with the community partners.

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The design thinking workshop was handled by Habi Education Lab. They exist to educate people, from students to professionals, about the design process, design thinking, and how design can benefit businesses and communities.

 

Managing expectations

The first lesson I learned was one that was learned collectively. The community partners, most of them being street vendors, expected that we were going to be making food carts. Even I expected food carts – it wasn’t until we started woodworking, and finding that there were no wheels available, that we realized that wasn’t the case.

Thankfully, nothing spiraled out of control. Earlier in the workshop, we defined a design statement and design principles, which acted as a set of parameters that made sure that we were solving the right problems with our product, regardless of its form.

Our group aimed to create an environment that encouraged people to stick around rather than leave immediately after purchasing. The community partners we teamed with remarked that when there’s a place for them to stay, people become more attracted to buy their products. I liken it to the business model of coffeeshops.

 

Working within constraints

I mentioned already our constraints with materials, which was entirely the point of the workshop, but we were also pressed for time. We didn’t know that there was another batch of participants for the woodworking workshop, so that cut our total working time by about 4 hours. This is partly why making food carts became a blurry possibility.

On top of that, not all the community partners could be there for the whole duration of the workshop, and one of the later batches of lumber was significantly thicker than the previous ones.

Our team had to focus on what could be done, rather than overshooting expectations and ending up being constrained by insufficient resources, whether that be by a lack of materials or time. We settled on a design that was simple enough to exist within all our parameters.

 

 

We designed a bench and table that could be quickly taken apart and stored in a light, compact form.

 

 

 

Total number of parts for the bench.

Total number of parts for the bench.

 

They’re easy to repair. They each have a small number of parts that are easily replaceable.

 

Designing with purpose

To me, design without the end user in mind is vain and vacuous. I’ve always thought this, but it seems much truer having been a part of something like this.

Beyond the catharsis of coming up with an idea and seeing it through, or the enjoyment of working at wood with various tools, or even the excitement of working with people I’ve never met before, what I’m really glad about is that our product won’t be sticking around at some exhibit somewhere for the rest of its lifespan. It will be used and enjoyed by people.

It puts things into perspective. It makes an obvious notion like design itself – bringing about something new into the world to achieve a goal – a lot more real to me.

 

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Thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War

– 6 minutes –

Warning: This is as spoiler-filled as a spoiler-filled write-up on Infinity War can get. Please, watch the movie before reading.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first...

On the Black Order

Marvel Studios had a ton of things to juggle, in this movie more than ever: not just the 20+ superheroes from previous films, but all the new characters as well. (I’ll include Thanos in there, since all we really know about him is that he’s big and OP.) Even with two and a half hours of screen time, it remains a tall order, if not the tallest in cinema history, perhaps after what Star Wars Episodes I and VII had to do.

Among the new characters are the members of the Black Order, aka “Children of Thanos”. Whatever they were, they weren’t much of it.

Now, by-and-large, Marvel did a tremendous job, but the poor treatment of the Black Order kind of sticks out. To a non-comic-book fan like myself, the Black Order were just a little band of tough, but run-of-the-mill, henchmen: there was the big tough guy, the wizard tough guy, the tough ninja girl… and their dog army. That’s about all I can remember. 

Sure, the MCU’s had plenty of forgettable villains. I’m not even one to complain about underdeveloped villains, as long as they give the heroes a legitimate conflict. But my particular issue with the Black Order was that, given their almost non-existent introduction into the universe, none of them were tough enough that it felt like they had influence over any of the events onscreen, but they were tough enough that it was annoying how they could let up a fight against the freaking 10-years-of-movies’-worth-of-battle-worn Avengers. Then of course comes the “Where were they this whole time?” sentiment for new characters that only grows as the MCU progresses.

On the MCU TV shows

Although that pales in comparison with how egregiously left-out any acknowledgement or influence the TV shows should have had in the MCU by now, much more at this point where everything is supposed to culminate, much much more where one of the epicenters of the chaos is New York City. Isn’t this where the TV shows take place or something?

Case in point: I haven’t watched a single episode of any MCU TV show. Not one. Avengers: Infinity War did the worse possible job at making me feel left out in any way.

On deaths

That about does it for negatives. This is an otherwise amazing roller coaster of a film – it’s the biggest crossover event in cinematic history, how could it not?

The deaths in this movie takes everything up a notch. It’s what the fanbase has been clamoring about for years now – it really does drastically raise the stakes – and I’m glad Marvel held off until now to kill off major characters.

Loki’s demeaning death – after simply being choked out by Thanos, before which he’d totally laid out Hulk – was an excellent start and set-up for the movie. From this point on, every scene with Thanos interacting with someone is like playing roulette.

The deaths come one-by-one, each one heart-wrenching in its own way, then all of a sudden half of all life in the universe – heroes included – simply turns to dust. Then comes the somber credits sequence – a stark contrast to previous ones… It’s one of the more artful moments in the MCU arc of movies. I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

On Thanos

Coming into Avengers: Infinity War, I already knew that Thanos had it in him to simply flick off any offense and annihilate the heroes where they stood. But after having seen the movie and having mulled over his story arc… I realize that there’s a surprising amount of it with just him simply letting things happen rather than him forcing things to happen.

He was slow to speak, methodical, and never dealt his best hand, at least not immediately – and still got the job done. Thanos, the godlike villain and soon-to-be decider of the universe’s fate, was the quiet eye in every storm. He was so scarily calm that even talking at all risked wasting motions. He knew, just as much as anyone did, how insanely powerful he already was and was to become.

Giving his character the history that they gave him, and his arc those emotional beats, particularly having to sacrifice Gamora for the Soul Stone, just did that much more for him. Thanos, in my book, is one of the best movie villains already, and the best – definitively – in MCU.

It’s hard to articulate about him further... I’ll probably have to follow up after watching again.

How Drumsticks Are Made

Jared Falk of Drumeo interviews Pro-Mark and D’Addario on their manufacturing process for drumsticks – a great crossover of interests:

Some interesting tidbits:

  • It’s incredible how much waste product is produced even at the very beginning of the process. (Well it isn’t really “waste” in that it’s immediately repurposed.)
  • The use of pitch in a QA task – yeah, as in sound pitch.
  • Even the mere fact that the process is this complicated for making literal sticks is remarkable. I’ll never complain about drumstick prices again.

Sidenote: I’ll be back soon, I promise.