On Bands Not Seen

We were chatting about concerts today. I realized that while I've been fortunate in who I've been able to see live over the years, there are still many from my youth that remain a mystery. Some of these are likely to come into town, others not. But here's the list, no doubt I've overlooked a couple of obvious choices.

(1) Still active:

Duran Duran
Echo & The Bunnymen
Fields Of The Nephilim
Gary Numan
Howard Jones
Human League
Iron Maiden
Killing Joke
KMFDM
Marilyn Manson
Midnight Oil
Ministry
The Mission
New Order
Pixies
Rammstein
Simple Minds
U2

(2) Still active. Missing key members so I don't really care if I see them in their current form:

Adam & The Ants (Stuart still tours as Adam)
Alice In Chains
Pop Will Eat Itself
Queen

(3) Not active or split. Chances of seeing ever again slim:

Curve
Pink Floyd
Rage Against The Machine
Rush
The Smiths
Siouxsie And The Banshees
Soft Cell
Ultravox
Yazoo

(4) Will never get to see now:

Beastie Boys
The Clash
Fad Gadget
Joy Division
Nirvana
Tangerine Dream

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On Dropping Tech Giants

John Gruber links to an interesting thought experiment from the New York Times, which tech giant would you drop?

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.

But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

Here's my list, from first dropped to last.

1. Facebook. Easy one. I don't, and won't, use Facebook. Nor do I use Instagram. So no tears to be shed if they suddenly disappeared off the planet tomorrow.

2. Microsoft. Almost the same as above. I don't use any Microsoft products these days, so this one is also easy. Well to be fair once a week we have a work conference Skype call. But calls in Slack are great (and actually better quality) so if Skype went away everything would still be ok.

3. Amazon. Unlike almost 100% of the planet, I don't really use Amazon for anything on a regular basis. I'm really an instant gratification person. If I want something, I'll drive an hour to get it so I don't have to wait. Even paying for next day delivery is too much for my got to have it now mind. Although I'd have to say that it is super handy for buying presents for my family in the UK, so I do use it about 3 times a year at most. Work wise, we do have some things on AWS that would be a pain to migrate. But not impossible.

4. Google. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the Goog. They make some good tech, but are still an advertising company first. It's complicated. You'll hear me say I'm not overly keen on tracking and having my data mined. And yet in the next breath I'll say I still use a couple of their tools. The hypocrisy is strong with this one. I don't use Chrome – Firefox on desktop and Safari on mobile. I don't use Search – I switched to duckduckgo a few years ago and haven't looked back. I don't use Android – I can't really see me migrating away from an iPhone any time soon. (And here comes the but) But we do use Google Docs at work quite heavily and it's actually not terrible. And I'm a huge Gmail user. I pay Google to host my kevinspencer.org mail as I haven't got the time nor patience these days to maintain my own mail server. There's something to be said about having something "just work". Gmail has always ticked all the boxes for me – I've used it since it was invite only (remember that?) and can't imagine using anything else now. And YouTube. Who doesn't love a little watch that concert from that band from the 80s nostalgia?

Which leaves…

5. Apple. No real surprise. We're a Mac shop at work, and since 2008 Mac at home too. There's something to be said for Unix with a pretty face. My wife and I have owned iPhones for as long as I can remember. The cameras are so good these days that I don't use my DSLR anymore. My brain is just wired for iOS and I really don't fancy learning anything new. Oddly I find that I don't use any of Apple's other software or services. I don't use iCloud for anything, don't use their Doc suite, don't use their photos app, and the Kevin Spencer of 2010 will be shocked to hear that I rarely use iTunes much these days. But Apple's hardware and operating systems are just second to none and it would be super painful to switch to anything else now.

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20

This week marks a small personal milestone. Somehow I've now lived in America for 20 years. What?

In fact, because Italy was home for 2 years prior to that, I've now lived more of my life outside of England than inside.

I'm forever British, European, and yet American all at once. It's complicated, but somehow it all just works.

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Favorites

I've been a Flickr user since 2004. It's still one of my favorite internet hangouts after all these years. Sure some of the old guard have stopped uploading or moved elsewhere, but the Flickr community is still going strong. I actually have more engagement with my photos now than at any other point since I created my account.

My photography habits have changed dramatically over the years. I've learned a lot, both about what I like, and how I want to shoot it. I almost entirely shoot on my iPhone theses days.

"The best camera is the one you have with you"

And it's so true. The quality of the iPhone camera has increased so dramatically, and the convenience of it means that I really don't miss my DSLR all that much.

I've also learned that I have so much to learn. There are some amazing photographers on Flickr and I find myself bowing and saying "wow, that's clever" on a daily basis. I spend a fair amount of time finding photographers I like and going through their library of shots. I tend to favorite many photos from other people. And this week marked a little milestone as I just passed 100k photos from other people that I've given the favorite click to over the years.

So here's to many more Flickr years, another 100k shots from others I love, and the inevitable change in photography habits all over again.

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80s Music Flashbacks

You ever stumble across something and wonder "how did I not know this was a thing?".

I was listening to my 'Discover Weekly' playlist in Spotify the other week and a song came on that made me sit up and immediately take notice. It sounded just like all those American synth based 80s TV show themes that you used to love when you were a kid. But on steroids.

Convinced it was just a song I had overlooked from from my youth, I was surprised to find it was actually new music. Made by youngsters. Wut? As I went down the rabbit hole a bit further I discovered a few other bands all doing similar. Retro Electro I've seen it labeled as. And I love it.

If this sounds like the kind of thing that would be your cup of tea, run don't walk and have a listen to Carpenter Brut, Dance With The Dead, Timecop1983, The Midnight, Le Cassette and my current favorite Perturbator

"The legend says he's half human, half synthesizer…"

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New Depeche

The new Depeche Mode single is released this week with an album to follow in March. For old time's sake I'll still give it a fair try. The me of 25 years ago would be surprised I'm not more enthusiastic. Depeche albums back then were a glorious thing to behold.

The band are a far cry from the Alan Wilder golden years these days, but I still remain optimistic that this album is 'the one'. I mean, New Order surprised us all last year with a pleasant return to form. So why can't Spirit be that surprise of 2017.

Right?

Update: Where Is The Revolution is the name of the single and I've listened to it a few times now. I don't hate it. One of their more overtly political songs in a while.

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Rogue One

In short, it's fantastic. Go see it immediately. The last 5 mins of the movie worth the price of admission alone.

I'm a lifelong Star Wars fan and must have watched A New Hope 70+ times as a kid. Like most of my generation, I was excited beyond belief when The Phantom Menace was announced. Yeah, about that. Disappointed doesn't even begin to cover how we all felt about those.

With a "fool me once…" mindset I was cautiously optimistic going to see The Force Awakens. And I loved it. Similarities to A New Hope aside, it completely restored my faith in the SW universe. That same optimism carried over to Rogue One yesterday. I was blown away. A darker, more war movie like story that just worked on every level.

How does it rate in the canon?

A New Hope
Rogue One
Rebels
The Force Awakens
Empire Strikes Back
Return Of The Jedi
Clone Wars
Revenge Of The Sith
Attack Of The Clones
Phantom Menace

Update: now with 100% more Force Awakens.

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Year In Music

"Hey I wonder what Kevin listened to most in 2016" you didn't ask.

For the last 10 years I've been scrobbling everything that's come out of my headphones to last.fm. In that time I've amassed quite the treasure trove of listening statistics, habits, and taste. It's interesting to look back at the things you were into over the years. You can pinpoint when an album came out, or when you first discovered a band based on a sudden spike in activity during the year.

This year last.fm have done something cool and added an explore your year in music tool that sums up my year far better than I could. Of the 1,480 artists I listened to in 2016 Killing Joke were apparently my top listen. With their Pylon album coming out tops also. I had a 62 day listening streak, and had IAMX on repeat for an entire day back in February with 120 of his tracks played.

The amount of music I didn't listen to this year is tragic. Unless I listen in my sleep for the rest of the December, this year will mark the fewest songs I've listened to since last.fm became my brain. I still love music but since 2011 there's been a noticeable decline each year. Worrying. Age perhaps?

But it's not all about me. 2016 will forever be remembered as the year we lost so many industry pioneers. Who could have possibly predicted on New Year's Eve last year the planet would be missing Bowie, Lemmy, Prince, and Pete Burns within 12 months. (Of course you were as big a fan of Dead Or Alive's Youthquake album as I was in the 80s)

Next year has to be better. More listening, less death.

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The Independent Web

Remember the good old days of blogging? Or even before that when it was just called updating my site frequently? It was a simpler time without walled gardens or the need to have an account on a service just to leave a comment. Information was free, open, and easily consumable.

(Takes in breath of fresh nostalgia)

Andy Baio recently redesigned waxy.org and penned an excellent post lamenting the state of independent blogging. He puts it far more eloquently than I ever could.

But there a few reasons why I’m sad about the decline of independent blogging, and why I think they’re still worth fighting for.

Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control.

Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.

Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.

Yes. That.

I wholeheartedly support all those that still run their own sites and haven't moved to Facebook/Tumblr/Medium.

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