My Headfirst Dive into the Latest Hipster Trend

My Headfirst Dive into the Latest Hipster Trend

Hipsters have a history of doing some pretty nutty stuff, like opening restaurants that only serve milk and cereal (google it). But when I told my girlfriend their latest trend was buying cassette tapes, she straight up told me: “I don’t believe you”. I don’t blame her either. No one seems to remember cassettes fondly. A clerk at Waterloo Records told me it was the new trend among hipsters and teenagers to save money. I didn’t think about it at the time. If you told me hipsters were skipping around all day as a fast way to get high, I’d probably believe it. Maybe I shouldn’t just write someone off as crazy. After all, I’ve made the non-obvious choice before: I drive a manual instead of an automatic, I drink craft beer instead of bud-whatever, I listen to Fall Out Boy instead of moving on from high school. Each time I did it for a reason. Maybe the hipsters had a point? There was only one way to find out. I busted out the last audio cassette I bought.

pokemon-the-first-movie-cassette-audio-music-tape-atlantic-nintendo-1999-tested-ac30e6741101cfd5ea10d2509bc93aec
Fun fact: this album peaked at no. 2 in France.

Ugh, it’s not even the good one. At least it has NSync and Baby Spice. I wonder if I can get better one…

2bamaster2
Free delivery, how generous.

Not happening! Still, I oughta give this a real shot with a tape that didn’t spend a full decade melting in my parents’ attic. I ran off to Half Price Books and looked for something I would know from my post-cassette days. I ended up finding George Strait’s Greatest Hits and “Southern Accents” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Two albums for two bucks isn’t a bad price. I won’t get into economics but I will say something inferior and outdated is usually pretty cheap. So far the clerk’s story was holding up. I went to check out.

Clerk: “George Strait! Nice choice.”

Me: “Thanks. Hey, do a lot of people buy cassettes here?”

Clerk: “No. I’ve been here two years and you’re the first.”

Hm. Still, the woman at Waterloo Records was right about the cost. I headed off to Waterloo to see what they had. The first thing I noticed is that Waterloo had NEW tapes, not just used ones. I checked the back of a Blink-182 case and it was marked 2015; it was a reprint. Also, unlike the tapes at Half Price, this one ran 15 dollars. Is that really the cheaper option? I checked the same album on CD: $7.50. It literally cost twice as much! That’s the opposite of cheaper!

Okay, this is a hipster thing, right? I should pick up a hipster album. Luckily, Waterloo Records is the filthy layer of rookie hipsters in Austin. Their competitors Breakaway Records and Piranha Records are fine places to find wide selections and knowledgeable staff but Waterloo is where you can go to find a table full of local Austin hipster band cassette tapes. And that table is where I found this gem:

barandgril
Half of the song titles are smiley faces and card symbols. I’m not kidding.

Don’t let the number of tacks fool you. The songs are so short, this tape actually has two albums on it. Don’t let the price fool you. The band is so bad, this tape is actually worthless. I went to check out.

Me: “Do y’all sell cassette players?”

Clerk: “Nah, they don’t really make them anymore.”

You don’t say.

Clerk: “You’ll have to go to a Goodwill or something. But if you’re interested, you can have this. It’s a new band from around here. Oh, and this one too. They’re pretty good. These cassettes are great for local bands just getting off the ground.”

He handed me two tapes, one of which was actually a promotional cassingle. For those of you who don’t know: a cassingle is a tape with only one song on each side.

My cassette deck was long dead and no one I knew had one, so I checked out three separate Goodwill stores before I finally found one. (Well, the second one had a Hello Kitty alarm clock but that wasn’t gonna happen.) I took it home and opened my mind to something new. And apparently, something broken. I took it back and found another one. The rewind didn’t work but I knew just what to do!

cassette-pencil-2
You would need a machine to rewind a CD.

I popped George Strait in first. The first most glaring problem with cassettes came out immediately: the quality is terrible. Later on I did some research into cassettes online and found a weirdly large number of people rallying for cassettes. A common argument supporting cassettes is that there actually are high quality tapes out there. This is technically true but very misleading. Anything you buy with music already put on it is low quality because the high quality ones run 15 to 30 dollars EACH. Even then, you need a high quality cassette player that will run you into the hundreds of dollars. Most cassettes you can buy are poor quality and chances are any cassette deck you find will be poor quality too. The Tom Petty album did sound a little better. The first one was probably damaged by the previous owner; a common problem with cassettes.

Next, I turned to the hipster bands. They were all terrible Austin Punk bands. Terrible. Punk is bad by itself but under-produced hipster punk is just garbage. The man at Waterloo said that local bands use tapes to record and distribute. A quick check online shows that you cassettes cost about 5 times the price of CDs so that idea is DOA, not to mention the longer write time per unit.

It’s downright asinine to use cassette tapes for recording. You can buy specialized equipment that lets you simultaneously write to the left and right stereo tracks of both the A and B sides but you limit yourself to four tracks for mono or two tracks for stereo and you get next to no mastering options. Digital recording software is far cheaper and much higher quality. Just look at Grimes. She does pretty much all of her writing, recording and production with just Apple Garageband.

The last thing I could think of is the timbre, the unique sound. Cassette music sounds muddled, like all the instruments are playing over each other. One reason I prefer high quality digital and vinyl records is that the high quality lets me clearly hear all of the instruments and even the tiny imperfections, like Dave Grohl’s fingers sliding against the strings when he shifts along the fretboard. Maybe hipsters don’t want that. Maybe they want a medium that hides minor things like their bands’ lack of talent.

No, this also didn’t make sense, either. If a band was going for that effect, they would alter the production. The Black Keys* couldn’t afford quality recording equipment so they steered into the skid by cranking up their fuzz pedal and creating a style out of lo-fi. They sound great on any medium and are the greatest band to premiere after 2000.

geniuses
Geniuses

That was it. I was stuck. Every reason seemed legit from a distance but failed after a moment of scrutiny. Cassettes seemed to lose every round to CDs, vinyl and most of all: digital. They only really beat out 8-Tracks. Except cassingles, which are worse than 8-Tracks.

I was ready to let go when a miracle happened. A friend of mine invited me to hang out with him and a friend of his in downtown Austin. This guy was from out of town and wanted to be a tourist for the evening, so we were going to meet at Waterloo Records, which I learned at that moment is a tourist spot. We browsed the store for a while and when it was time to go, the tourist actually bought a cassette tape. Some band I’d never heard of. This was my chance to learn first hand!

Me: “So, why by this on cassette instead of CD or vinyl?”

Tourist: “Oh, I’m not going to listen to this. I already have it on CD and vinyl.”

It wasn’t so much what he said as it was how he said it. Of course he wasn’t going to listen to it! At first, I was shocked but then the answer struck me. You see, I had made the assumption that music was for listening. This man bought the album more as a decoration, like a poster. It all came together. There was no inherent quality to cassettes that hipsters are after, it’s just that the cassettes are not the same. That’s why there is so little nostalgic music but so much niche music on new cassettes. Once you buy it, you’re in, you’re cool. But whether you buy cassettes to be part of the hipster club or buy them to just not be in the mainstream, you’re buying cassettes for other people.

People can debate the merits of CDs or vinyl or wav files but at least the reasons are all for the music. Cassettes only carry the justifications not relating to music. As an alternative to cassettes, I suggest this: Buy your music for yourself. You wouldn’t buy a steak to show off that you eat steak then not eat it. Get the cut you want, then eat your steak. ∎

-MTL

Oh, and to the hipsters: Next time you want to use an outdated technology to distinguish yourself, I recommend film cameras. They’re a huge pain and no one’s gonna follow you. Not even me.

*Special thank-you to Geek Gone Rogue contributor Amy for introducing me to this band.

Indoor Drone is Sci-Fi Come To Life

The Gripping Orb Receives A Sphere From A Human

        The future is now kids. This new indoor floating sphere, dubbed from German design firm Festo is the coolest thing you will see all day. It was named “FreeMotionHandling” and it is dubbed an “indoor flying object”. It’s lightweight carbon frame can move vertically and horizontally allowing it to hover or move in virtually any direction. It uses helium for buoyancy and a combination of GPS and mounted cameras to see where it is going. Besides all of those boring details, the sphere can actually grip objects in the world around it, carry them, and then basically regurgitate them right back out into a waiting hand. Currently, it only works in doors and only in certain preset conditions, but still the possible applications for this are huge. We may be floating around in these things in a few years, hoping there aren’t any pointy objects around.

-CDL

To see a video of this thing in action click here

They Did It! SpaceX Lands Rocket On Ocean Barge!!

Holy shit ladies and gentleman, they actually did it. SpaceX has sent a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station and safely landed it on a floating platform back on earth. It’s something they have been trying to do for months now, and things were starting to seem a little hopeless as time and again they were met with failure. Today marks an important step for the future of manned space flight for multiple reasons. First of all proving that it is possible to safely land a rocket back on earth will usher in a new age of much cheaper, reusable rockets. It also was a huge step forward for NASA, as the SpaceX rocket that was launched delivered the  Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to the ISS. This inflatable space capsule will hopefully provide a cheap and safe way for people to occupy space in the future, and begins it’s two years of testing today. Safe to say it has been a helluva day for both SpaceX and NASA. Congratulations everyone!

-CDL

Angry Programmer Deletes 17 Lines of Code, Literally Breaks the Internet

        Coding can be a very finicky business. That isn’t really news to those in the industry, however that didn’t stop many companies in Silicon Valley from getting a nasty surprise last week when an upset employee had a falling out with npm, Inc. and deleted all of the code that he had written for them as he walked out the door. Typically that would not have been all that big of a deal had his code not been currently being used by Javascript users at Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, and dozens of other companies at the time. Long story short, it immediately broke the builds of thousands of programmers over the course of a few minutes. Granted, they started developing workarounds almost immediately and were able to mitigate the damage in the long run, but it still shook things up enough that people began to question why the source code was so easily deleted by one person. For more information about the story, as well as the drama leading up to the fallout head on over to arstechnica to read the full article.

-CDL

Triton: Human Gills or Lucrative Hoax?

Triton Artificial Gills Scam

        Triton underwater breather company has been making waves in recent days (shutup I know it’s a bad pun) after raising over $700,000 through an Indiegogo campaign over just it’s first few days. Their claim to fame is that they have created a revolutionary new underwater breather that will allow users to stay underwater for extended periods of time without the use of bulky SCUBA equipment. Obviously if this new tech works as advertised, the military, scientific, and recreational applications would be huge. They say that they have the technology, they have a decent concept, and now they have some money, so why aren’t we all lining up to shell out ridiculous sums of cash to swim around a la the Jedi in A Phantom Menace? Well, unfortunately unless Triton has somehow secretly made some breakthroughs in both energy efficiency and pulling oxygen out of solution (and we are talking jumps science forward 30 or so years kind of breakthroughs) it’s just not something that can be done with today’s technology.

        Before we dive further (ok that one was an accident) into the issues with the science, there are quite a few other red flags surrounding the project with regards to the presentation of the project and the lack of credibility of the business as a whole. The biggest issue that immediately jumps out is the fact that their claims have had absolutely ZERO third party verification. Basically although Triton says they have developed this amazing tech that can do all these things, no one outside of their company has verified it. Basically the equivalent of me saying I have created a perpetual motion machine. I can say it all day long, and it may even be true, but until I can get someone else to verify it, it don’t mean shit. So yeah, the fact that people are throwing money at these guys without any actual proof of concept at this point is dubious at best but whatever, it’s not my money I guess.

        So, now that we have gone through the issues listed above, lets get into the actual science problems. These are all described in-depth in this article by gear junkie, but it can basically be summed up in three parts. One: in order to get enough oxygen to survive, you are going to have to process about 46.1 liters of water per MINUTE through the mask. That means you are going to have to be pumping like a motherfucker to get it all in there. Take a look at that mask. See any big old pumps on there? I don’t either. Ok so let’s pretend that the pumps are invisible, just for the sake of argument. You are going to need a serious battery in order to power the pumps to move the water to filter the oxygen to not drown. Also contained in breather would need to be a air compression chamber to hold the air before it is breathed in, and it would need some type of regulator to control the volume that is going to be moved in and out of your lungs. All of this they claim is contained in the small container that covers the nose and mouth. Yeah. Right. Not buying it. The fact of the matter is that their claims are just too grand to be true, even if it sounds like something they think we will be able to do in the near future. So what are they going to do with the $700,000 then? Who knows. Probably enjoy the ride and the notoriety while they can until December rolls around and they still don’t have the promised product from the videos. You can do alot with $700,000, just not create a physics breaking  underwater breather.

-CDL

Microsoft’s New AI Released on Twitter for One Day, Immediately Turns Racist, Sexist, and Fascist

tayandyou tay tweets racist funny

        This is why we can’t have nice things. Microsoft created a new AI chatbot named Tay and released it on Twitter yesterday in order to “test and improve Microsoft’s understanding of conversational language”. True to form, the masses on Twitter immediately taught it what conversation’s out in cyberspace are really like, with hilariously disastrous results. Withing 16 hours of being released, the AI bot was pro Hitler, racist against Mexicans and Blacks, pro Trump (and his damn wall), and pretty much just a well rounded mix of bullshitery. There was even some “9/11 was an inside job” to top it all off, because where would an internet bigot be without some truther thrown in?  Below are a few samples of the kind of nonsense that was going on throughout the ordeal.

gas

microsoft ai bot tayandyou

swag alert

Damn Tay, you crazy

        As a (not surprising) update to the story, Microsoft has since silenced the rogue program, quickly deleting all of the racist tweets and tweaking Tay’s learning program. I’m actually pretty dumbfounded that a company so deep in the Tech industry didn’t see something like this coming. Spend 10 minutes skimming through the comments section of any decent website and you will see that this is pretty much standard conversation online. I’m already looking forward to Tay 2.0 Supreme Genocidal Edition

-CDL

Update: Microsoft has since taken Tay offline in order to make more drastic adjustments, releasing this statement earlier. “The AI chatbot Tay is a machine learning project, designed for human engagement. It is as much a social and cultural experiment, as it is technical. Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways. As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments.”

From Drone Attacking Eagles to Fish Fighting the Zika Virus, Humans Turn to Animals For Help With Modern Probems

        Although it’s easy to get caught up in all of the negative stories of humans messing up the environment these days, if you look hard enough there are some pretty great ones out there as well. It would seem that in this day of modern technology, sometimes it is best to look to the natural world around us to solve some of our increasingly dire problems. Enter the Sambo fish. As seen in this video, scientists are hoping to use baby Sambo’s to fight the ongoing spread of the Zika virus that has been dominating headlines in recent days. They do this by eating the larvae of the mosquitoes preventing them from becoming mature adults and therefore stopping the spread of the virus. This has been very effective in countries such as El Salvador where the introduction of the Sambo fish in restaurants and villages has almost completely wiped out spread of the disease. In Brazil, scientists are using a combination of military manpower and GMO modified mosquitoes to attempt to eradicate the virus carrying insects. Going with the good ole fight fire with fire… and 200,000 soldiers method.

        Another story that was brought to our attention today was  the fact that police in the Netherlands are training eagles to track down and attack drones. Yep, you read that right, trained attack eagles. Sounds like something you would find in a solid heavy metal ballad.

I would try to further elaborate on this but truth be told it is badass enough on it’s own

        Lastly, we also saw this story about soldiers in Northern Russia begin to train with both Reindeer and Huskies in order to better traverse the northern terrain.

In all of the above cases, it really goes to show that these are such obvious solutions to obvious problems that it really is astounding that people haven’t been doing this previously. Hopefully this is a sign of future things to come, where man won’t constantly be trying  to impress it’s technologies on the natural world around it, but will instead find ways to work with the things that are already there. Who knows how many other obvious problems there are out there that can be solved by strapping a grenade launcher on the back of a giant tortoise?

I’m just saying there are possibilities here…

-CDL

Another Kickstarter Derailed By Booze and Strippers

       

It’s probably going to be a looong time before we get another ant simulator game.

        Unfortunately for Kickstarter backers, another game has bitten the dust due to mismanagement of backer funds. It’s an issue that we had previously touched on in our article When Kickstarter Goes Wrong, however this time it’s with a more interesting twist. To the disappointment of many, today game developer Eric Tereshinski announced the cancellation of the game Ant Simulator, a spiritual successor to much-loved classic SimAnt. This was to be another ant themed world builder game, although it would take place from the first person perspective. The videos for it had originally shown alot of promise, so it’s a real shame that the developers will no longer be going forward with the game. However, interestingly enough, this time the cancellation did not come about as a product of problems with the game’s development but because, according to Tereshinski, his partners spent the crowdfunded money on alcohol, restaurants and strippers among other things. At least give the guys credit for embracing the whole “go big or go home” mentality I guess? Especially the go home part.

Although it makes for a funny story, it really is a shame that another promising kickstarter is going to fail due to the people not being responsible/knowledgeable enough to run their business property. It is one of the only glaring weaknesses to the whole crowdfunding movement, the fact that although people may have great ideas and talent, that doesn’t mean that they have the experience or ability to properly run a company. They (hopefully) end up with a vast amount of cash suddenly flowing their way and they have to find the correct way to manage it. Fortunately most of the time they do, but it’s becoming a fast rule that as long as there are Kickstarters out there, there are going to be stories like this cropping up all the time.

Now it’s time to bust out the SNES and get my ant fix the old fashioned way.

-CDL

 

 

 

 

Google Computer Beats Professional Go Player

 

A massive accomplishment has been made in the development of artificial intelligence. For the first time a computer has beaten a professional go player. For decades humans have been creating computers to play games. This may be a combination of a deep fear, that all scientist secretly share, of having to interact with other humans and their general their love of board games, or it may be because board games require decision making skills. The more complex they are, the more intelligence and skill are required to play them well making them a perfect way to measure a computer’s thinking power. In the past scientist have created computers capable of playing and winning at backgammon, checkers and chess. The last of which involves a rather famous incident where the computer Deep Blue beat the reigning world champion Gary Kasparov. So what is go and why is this a bigger leap than beating Kasparov you might ask? Well go is an ancient Chinese game with relatively simple rules, the difference for a computer is more of scale than anything else. There are approximately 4,670,033 possible variations on a chess game which is certainly quite a large number, but not out of the realm of possibility for a computer to analyze and predict its opponents moves. Go however has a possible 2.082 × 10^170 variations, which is a number so large it is hard to comprehend. Just let the enormity of that number sink in. Here is a link to their published paper.

-SMS

Disney Creates Wall Crawler (And It’s Not A Superhero)

        Disney research released a new video showing off their most recent project: a robot that can seamlessly transition between driving horizontally on the ground to vertically up and over walls. The robot uses propellers in tandem with it’s wheels to create the vertical thrust needed to move straight up and over walls. Not gonna lie, the video is pretty impressive. There are many obvious applications where this robot will be useful, both in the entertainment industry and just in robotics in general. Good to see that there is still some Disney “magic” being pumped out of a company that has long been known for it’s forward thinking and innovations in the effects and robotics departments.

-CDL

Check out the video of this thing in action!