Stay True

Still working my way through this and it's been a great read so far. Here I am, a Taiwanese-American living in the East Bay reading about another Taiwanese-American's memoirs about living in the East Bay.
One thing that struck me early on is how little things seem to have changed from the late nineties (besides Berkeley real estate no longer being cheap, I guess). Politics: race relations (specifically around Asians and affirmative action), progressives pushing against political apathy, socialists crying to tear everything down. Culture: geeks obsessing over the various obscura of their chosen subculture, chasing the thrill of discovering things ahead of the curve, worrying about authenticity and phoniness.
On phoniness: here is an excerpt from an interview Hua gave to Pitchfork that still rings true (it definitely does unpleasantly remind me of myself at a younger age!)
When I was younger, I thought being true to myself meant sticking to a sense of rigid principles: that there was only one way to be interesting or cool, and everyone on the other side was lame and wrong. But allowing others into your life—people who ask you why you’re the way you are—it changes you. This is an incredibly obvious thing, but it wasn’t to me then. And it expanded my sense of where I located myself, how I wanted to understand what I valued or wanted to believe to be true about myself.
Especially appealing is Hua's musings on identity, especially on the false premise of individuality being fundamentally exclusionary:
Everybody likes something -- a song, a movie, a TV show -- so you choose not to; this is how you carve out space for yourself. But the right person persuades you to try it, and you feel as though you've made two discoveries. One is that this thing isn't so bad. The other is a new confidant.
I also really appreciate how Hua actually created an accompanying playlist for the book, to allow the reader to really immerse themselves in Berkeley at the turn of the century.
A difference -- Hua's wardrobe, which he goes to great attention to describe, would be considered aggressively trendy today rather than countercultural (carpenter jeans, mohair cardigans, band tees, turtlenecks). It really is all cyclical.
2022-11-20: Just finished. Would recommend to anyone interested in: coming of age in the Bay Area at the turn of the centory through the eyes of a third-culture hipster kid; philosophical segues about friendship, subcultures, and loss; generational divide and understanding.
One other thing that stood out to me is the amount of attention Hua spends describing consuming and analyzing new publications from intellectuals of his time. Back then, thinkers would travel the country giving lectures, eventually collecting their thoughts into textbooks that would be assigned in college classes. Today, they self-publish on Youtube, Substack, and Twitter, all for free.
There is more information readily available today than ever before. And not only that, all subtext, all esotericism, is immediately stripped away. Hua describes the sleepless nights his friends spent dissecting and debating every fragment of new knowledge that they unearthed. Today, new knowledge is instantaneously and publicly analyzed by other experts online. Albums and movies are reviewed within hours of release. Bloggers analyze other bloggers' analysis of other bloggers, condensing novel ideas into handy listicles of takeaways. Readily available nuggets of insight, like shrink-wrapped premade meals you grab off the shelf. Informational fast food: just heat and serve.


Vaporwave is not trying to offer a detailed deconstruction of late capitalism or consumer identity by the same method as a postmodernist work; itis instead engaging in some kind of creation. So, by using motifs of a bygone era, the genre has managed to foster a new fantasy world, or a world of simulacra, a term developed by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard to describe “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” In other words, Vaporwave presents a recreation of an object that never existed.
I remember at the tail end of college I couldn't decide if vaporwave was sincere or an elaborate parody... and then I heard Skylar Spence and Macross 82-99 and was like dang this actually owns. And nowadays this chilled-out, vaguely funky, lo-fi style is everywhere. Filthy Frank of all people is topping the charts. (Soundcloud rap feels like it similarly penetrated the mainstream, but seems a little past its expiration date by now.)
Lately I've been noticed this Web 2.0 style increasingly appearing on "hip" internet publications, like SAMMYSWORLD or the previously posted Blackbird Spyplane. I feel it's only a matter of time before this aesthetic becomes fully mainstream and is entirely neutered.



Love the perspective of how advancement in any domain is contingent in the ability to discuss things at the boundary of one's own understanding.
I often oversimplify and think about expertise in terms of tiers: clearly worse than myself, about the same, and clearly better. What differentiates someone "clearly bettter" than me from myself is that I usually cannot even articulate how they are better than myself other than saying "they do things that I can't do." I don't understand how they are better than me. I don't even know the vocabulary.
This post provided me with a more concrete framework for something I've been loosely thinking about for a while.
Note that the vocab point isn’t mastery — it marks, I think, the beginning of advanced proficiency. I think this makes it a good stopping point, because you are now able to see the shape of the expertise that lies above you; you are better able to evaluate if you want to go further.



Part of our affection for places like this has to do with ‘90s nostalgia — a relatively recent past that feels extraordinarily distant. And it has to do with our interest at BBSP in identifying the moment when aesthetics that were prevalent, only to become passé, round the corner of reappraisal and somehow become more popping than ever.
Digging beneath that, our affection is also about the modest, chill and non-corporate ethos that these places embody: “Come pay a few bucks for a big cookie and a big coffee served in a weird Garfield mug, sit a while with friends or a great book, maybe f**k around and do a puzzle, take a d*mn gander at the bulletin-board fliers and tear off a phone number so you can LINK & BUILD with a local ceramicist!” a> That’s an ethos that sits in striking contrast to the new high-efficiency, low-humanity kind of eatery where you point yr phone at a QR code and do contactless payment before eating a room-temp grain bowl under a pink neon sign that says “Living My Best Life” in cursive… the kind of dystopian place, in other words, that exists substantially as its own watered-down image, which people can enter into — dazed and automaton-like — and maybe take a BLEAK selfie in front of the neon sign.
And the pandemic has only accelerated this dismal impoverishment of gathering spaces!!




Fitting read now, 7 years down the line.


Would NATO’s door remain open to a Russian-dominated Ukraine? Probably, but it would be similar to claiming that NATO’s door is open to North Korea or Iran (which it theoretically is). All of the consequences that are likely from this conflict—growing conventional force buildup on the NATO-Russia border, higher levels of defense spending in the United States at the expense of domestic programs, an end to efforts to draw down U.S. military posture in the Middle East, and fewer resources for strategic competition with China—would still be a better outcome than the alternative, in which nuclear weapons have been used.



[Airplanes and films]

These days, I seem to do the majority of my movie-watching on planes. I have an exceptionally poor attention span, and being trapped in an airborne aluminum tube for five hours is just about all that motivate me to commit to a movie. Recent standouts:
  • The Green Knight. I'm a fan of slow burns, so this didn't bore me like it seems to have many critics. I also vibe heavily with the understated writing and the surreal, magical realism atmosphere.
  • Dune. I actually saw this at a movie theater as well, but the direction is stunning enough to be worth watching on an 8-inch screen.
  • Another Round. An exploration of midlife crisis, marital conflict, ennui, and the temptation of aalcohol as an escape? A little too real, but the movie was beautifully executed.


Meeting strategy

It seems that the optimal structure and participants of a meeting depends on whether the agenda is suited for a one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many structure.
By default, meetings tend to be many-to-many or one-to-one. One-to-one meetings are their own can of worms, but are generally efficient with respect to peoples' time. Many-to-many meetings, on the other hand, can be enormously wasteful.
When approaching an agenda item, one should consider what the desired goal of the item is. Is it to solicit feedback? In a many-to-many structure, this can degenerate into an unstructured brainstorming session. Many people may have ideas, but only one person can talk at once -- and worse, others may "thread" a conversation, making it hard for people to raise other ideas. Consier a one-to-many approach instead: raise the proposal to a group, but request feedback asynchronously. You may receive some duplicate feedback, but frequency is a valid signal to consider when feedback is concerned. Why take valuable group time to raise the proposal instead of doing that asynchronously as well? In a non-remote-first environment, good luck getting your idea on others' radars.
What if the goal is to determine consensus? A many-to-many structure may indeed make sense. (Note that determining consensus is not the same as making a decision! Group-based decision making tends to be unwise.) Ensuring that everyone is aligned is psychologically powerful, and synchronicity can amplify that.



Tinybase: a JavaScript library for structured state

(By "structured state," what is meant is tabular state.)
Interesting contrast to the functional approach taken by much of the React world (and notably Redux). Achieves many of the same goals (and several other unique ones) with a philosophical foundation in database design rather than in functional programming.
The idea of relationships and checkpoints seem the most powerful to me. Redux has had a lifelong issue with handling relational changes to denormalized data, and the common way to track undo/redo with Redux feels like a more primitive version of checkpoints.
(With that being said, I think there's still unexplored territory for Redux undo/redo. Rather than tacking something on to existing reducers, what if a reducer were designed from the bottom up to be undoable? Imagine if every action had a meta: 'up' | 'down' like for database migrations, and reducers knew how to undo each action. Now there is no need to store an undo stack.)


NFTs have not only opened the door wide open for the crypto bros’s capital to finally have something to buy, speculate, and fight over; they have shown that no matter how “decentralized” or “transparent” the whole blockchain infrastructure (or “protocol”) is, it is still a capitalist jungle, though with the delusion that the jungle is a playground. What happened with Beeple’s record-breaking sale at auction, which was bought by two crypto billionaires to inflate the value of crypto, is no different than what collectors do to inflate the price of their Andy Warhols by up-bidding new lots on the auction floor, which is illegal but nonetheless still happens. But no one in their right mind would ever say Beeble’s works are good Art, while we can argue differently with Warhol, Koons, and Hirst.
NFTs (art, Deviant, memes, and otherwise) will end up in the same place as everything else on the internet, which is the same place as everything else in late capitalism: controlled by a few mega corporations, which the government (the state) will assist in their exploitation, surveillance, and censorship of the small/individual players. Just as the Democrats ruined social media. Signs of clashes already abound from sports stars/channels producing collectible “celebrity NFTs” that feed upon the “little guy” making Deviant/burner art NFTs, while Hermès is suing an artist for its MetaBirkins NFT on grounds of trademark infringement.
Related read to the second quote: Report: The Diminishing Marginal Value of Aesthetics
I was watching some old runway shows after catching up with the latest of PFW 2022. Anrealage 18AW 'Prism' inspired this CSS micro-interaction. Specifically, the logo.


Good reads lately

Resonated with me not only because I find the points spot on, but also because the culture Charity describes at Honeycomb fits my own personal ideal of a model culture to strive for, and seems like a more mature form of the culture we're trying to foster at Persona. Even the timeline of Honeycomb's evolution as an organization tracks with us.
This is a fun one for sure. I've believed the conclusions described here for a long time, but admittedly that belief was based on my personal view of what was likely given the landscape (media-driven price + presence of large "whales" + lack of regulation) rather than hard evidence.
On -Cores
Long treatise on aesthetics. I find the writing style an interesting blend of fairly unrefined prose, deep technical knowledge (of film, cinematography, art history, culture, and philosophy), and references to modern-day memes. Undecided if it's an idiosyncratic writing style or an intentional "high-low" mixing to match the subject matter (a "high-level" analysis of the "low-level" phenomenon of youth/internet culture) .