Link Roundup: December 2021

Just a couple videos in today’s roundup, and that’s probably it for me this year.  See you in 2022!

Disney’s FastPass: A Complicated History | Defunctland (video, 1:43 hours) – A detailed exploration of the virtual queue systems used in Disneyland and Disney World, explaining their advantages and disadvantages.  I grew up in Los Angeles and we had annual passes during the paper FastPass era… I didn’t realize how good we had it.  Although it is true that we had the routing problem of walking to the ride to get a FastPass, and then returning again an hour later to ride.  And the result is that my memories of Disneyland are strongly associated with listening to my parents bicker about optimizing the routing all the time.

I Found the Worst Christian Show | Big Joel (video, 37 min) – Joel watches episodes of Dream Motel, explaining how it often comes close to telling a decent story, but frequently veers off, defying conventional narrative logic.  A fun video, it feels like it provides insight into the American Christian mindset, although it’s hard to put into words what that insight actually is.  I wonder whether the show actually makes sense within the expectations of its target audience, or if it would just be perceived as bad writing.

Reviewing “outsider” music

In past years, I’ve made lists of drone and xenharmonic music. This year, I’d like to review examples of “outsider” music. Also called “naïve” or “incorrect” music, it’s frequently defined as music made by people who lack formal training, or who come from outside the musical establishment. I think the definition is a bit bogus though, because many of the most famous examples don’t actually fit. I would describe it as music with unconventional appeal, often standing diametrically opposite to what is considered “good” in music. And usually there’s a narrative (true or not) about how the artist is leveraging their lack of skill or experience in order to produce something especially unique or authentic.

This is not the sort of article where I praise each and every artist, or advocate for the value of the outsider genre. Rather, my goal is simply to listen to outsider music and give my honest opinion. This list was compiled by looking through other people’s lists (such as this list on RateYourMusic) and selecting those who were most frequently cited. I also threw in a personal favorite.

I think it’s easy to form a self image of being Not Like Other Music Fans, where your favorite music is the weird stuff, and the weirder the better. And that’s me, I have been that guy. But this is hardly a coherent preference, because there are just so many different ways to be weird. And one thing I have learned from writing this article, is that the outsider genre spans quite a large range. What I personally find valuable about the outsider genre is its ability to reveal where one’s preferences actually lie.

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A history of ranking Dominion cards

In “Review scores: a philosophical investigation“, I pointed out all the weird things about review scores that we tend to take for granted. More broadly, I have questions not just about review scores, but also ratings and rankings. What do they mean, what purpose do they serve, and how do we produce them? Here I examine a case study: the Dominion fan community’s many ways of rating and ranking Dominion cards.

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Origami: Stairway leaf

Stairway leaf

Stairway leaf, a design by me

You can make some pretty things with relatively simple patterns in origami.  This model is the result of some experimentation with pleats.  It has two parallel sets of pleats, which meet along a zig zag line.  This is one of those models that when I stare at it for long enough, I start thinking about more things I could do with this.