Mixed media, Sunday 23 August 2015

I’ve surprised myself by actually having read a few books over the last couple of weeks:

  • High Crimes by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa. Intense thriller. I knew from reputation that it was dark, but it was even darker than I had anticipated. Genuinely classic noir.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir. Great story, well told. Classic “scientist as hero” science fiction that runs at a super fast pace. It’s all action (survival action rather than fight scenes), with no filler.
  • Field of Prey by John Sandford. An excellent episode in the series.
  • Not strictly a book, but Tim Urban’s latest post on WaitButWhy.com, “How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars” is a fun read. It’s essentially SpaceX propaganda / Elon Musk fanfic, but I’m happy buying in to the whole space exploration thing, so I’m okay with that. I would love to personally see the earth from space some day. As far as I’m concerned, Go Elon Go!


  • Maleficent: Slightly sub-meh.
  • Magic Mike: Until recently I hadn’t spotted that this was directed by Steven Soderbergh. It was only when I read a couple of reviews that compared the sequel to the original that I caught on to the fact that – aside from the raucous stripping scenes – this is a melancholy film, reflecting on how easy it is to accidentally give up on your dreams, while you think you’re busy pursuing them. Very good.
  • Fast & Furious 7: Bonkers, but in a good way. Runs too long, though, especially the final sequence in LA.


Limetown is a new 7-part podcast that starts off as investigative recent-historical reportage, but quickly moves into the realm of science-fiction suspense. (It’s fiction, cleverly disguised as reality.) The first episode is very good. Next one due in September.


As well as 99% Invisible, I’ve added the Accidental Tech Podcast to my weekly listening. It’s soothingly geeky.


I’m going to see TV On The Radio at Paradiso tomorrow. They had to cancel the European leg of their tour earlier this year, including a date at Paradiso. For some reason I didn’t get a ticket for that show anyway, but I’m excited to be catching them this time round. I’ve been listening to their latest album Seeds a lot again over the last week, and it really is splendid.

I also remembered that I still have an eMusic subscription, so I plundered that for some new music: Working Girl by Little Boots, The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam by Thundercat, and Rips by Ex Hex — all excellent.

I’ve given up on Apple Music. I still listen to Beats One, but I’ve turned off auto-renewal for the trial subscription, and I’ve turned off iCloud integration to get rid of the tracks I’d “added to My Music” during the short time I was actively trying to use it. My main reason for ditching it is the way that Apple Music tries to blur the line between my music and their music. If I want to download a Apple Music track for offline listening (I spend a lot of time on airplanes and away from wifi and cellular signals; this is a key use case for me), its appearance in iTunes is identical to a track I have bought and own.

The DRM-free track I can back up and do whatever I like with. The Apple Music track is DRM-protected, and will be useless if and when I decide to abandon Apple Music, or when Apple Music decides to abandon me (by locking me out of my account for some reason, or by ceasing to exist). If you don’t download a track, but keep it as streaming-only, you can use the “iCloud download” status to distinguish see that it exists only in the cloud. But once you download it, short of doing a “get info” on the track and looking at its file extension, iTunes offers literally no way of selecting and filtering rented tracks in its UI.

Maybe if they did something about that, I’d give it a second try. Maybe. But for now, I’m getting comfortable with Spotify Premium for music discovery, collaborative playlists (also a key feature I use), and casual listening. iTunes is for the collection of music I own and can do with what I like (software licensing terms notwithstanding). I think that Apple Music is probably fine for many people. It’s just not for built for me. My next concern is that Apple keeps making iTunes worse and worse for the purposes I do care about.