The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

No, AOC Should Not Leave

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Froma Harrop argues that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) should leave the Democratic Party because she is not playing nice and stepping in line.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not entirely wrong when she said, "In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party," in an interview with New York magazine.
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Ocasio-Cortez most likely doesn't have the guts to leave the Democratic Party probably for the same reason that Bernie Sanders ensures he has the "D" after his name whenever he runs for office. In the 2006 and 2012 Senate races, Sanders ran as a Democrat in the primary, then refused the nomination when he won so he could run as in Independent without facing a Democratic challenger.

AOC might also want to also have it both ways, using the Democratic designation to get elected in her liberal district while bashing the party that gave her power.

If AOC identified as a Democratic Socialist in 2020, she could conceivably win reelection to Congress, given her celebrity and her genius on social media. And she wouldn't have to be in the same party as Joe Biden. Why doesn't she try it?

To answer her question, that’s what a political party is for. It’s not a hobby; it’s not an association for making friends or hosting stimulating conversations and seminars; it’s not “a 30-year project”. Its purpose is to win and exercise power in the here and now. If AOC can use the Democratic party and mold the party for a new electorate - in my opinion that’s a good thing.

Winners Take All

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Winners Take All is Anand Giridharadas’ 2018 book about how “the global elite’s efforts to ‘change the world’ preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve”.

Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? His groundbreaking investigation has already forced a great, sorely needed reckoning among the world’s wealthiest and those they hover above, and it points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world — a call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.

The RSA made an animated video of a talk by Giridharadas that provides a graet summary of the central theme in five minutes — it’s a good watch/listen. Full talk is available here.

C

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Michael Byrne in a Vice article:

When techno-human civilization has finally collapsed, perhaps the result of a nuclear war programmed in C or the result of a bacterial superstrain isolated by software implemented in C, and we have been returned to our caves to gnaw bones and fight over rotten meat, there will still be a program written in C executing somewhere.

All of this isn't just because a lot of people really like coding in C, though it's been estimated that almost 20 percent of all coders use the language (see below). C is far deeper than what we normally think of when we think of "programming language." There are languages that we consider to be more or less foundational—Java, Python, Ruby, Lisp, etc.—which are the very general-purpose languages. C is also general-purpose programming language, but the difference is that C has become the de facto language of machines themselves, whether it's a five dollar microcontroller or a deep-space probe.

My argument is that I like coding in C. For all its faults, I love C for its simplicity, stability - and for the most part staying virtually unchanged for over a little over half a century. It is in complete opposite to the current trendy fad - JavaScript - where developers are constantly creating new languages to avoid using it.

It is the closest thing we have to a defacto standard in the computer world.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review

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Well, here we are at the end of all things. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the movie billed as the conclusion to the saga/mythology/lifestyle choice that George Lucas launched some 42 years ago with an unassuming little $9 million space opera called Star Wars. That of course was back in those innocent days when not every film carried a subtitle, and not every story choice was fraught with meaning for films yet to even be conceived.

Following the divisive, and at times toxic, debate over the previous installment, 2017’s The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker has been tasked with the unenviable challenge of not just providing a satisfying finale to the current trilogy, but also to the entire nine-film storyline that encompasses the Skywalker family melodrama and a galactic battle between good and evil. It also needs to please a plethora of fans with many different ideas of what this thing is supposed to be.

Does The Rise of Skywalker succeed? Did director/co-writer J.J. Abrams (encoring after setting the whole thing in motion with 2015’s The Force Awakens) make something that managed to answer all the questions and deliver an exciting story while simultaneously honoring and burying the past?

Nah. Not really.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a master class in ticking off boxes, a movie that lumbers to a shaky start but eventually delivers a certain level of surface excitement and rapid-fire pacing that obscures just how flimsily constructed its narrative is. The movie is less a story than a compendium of things that need to happen just to create the superficial sensations certain Star Wars fans want to experience–and those things often work well as they happen, only for the viewer to chuckle afterward over how he or she has been played again.

In other words, this is very much a J.J. Abrams movie: expertly made and well-acted (perhaps the best-acted of the entire new trilogy), but with no distinct point-of-view. It’s lots of callbacks and “surprise” cameos, and a narrative that’s very loosely remixed from a previous installment in the franchise. It throws a couple of bones to people who liked The Last Jedi’s deliberate subversion and deconstruction of Star Wars tropes, but make no mistake, it also explicitly and aggressively rejects that film’s concerns, applying a certain amount of retconning to the saga that may try even the hardiest series originalist.

The first half hour of the movie almost derails it entirely, as it bounces from one environment to another setting up both the new plot and reconnecting us with the characters in a clunky, almost random fashion. It is absolutely no spoiler to say that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is reintroduced within the opening moments of the film, but we will leave it for another time (and probably another writer, to be honest) to discuss the whys and hows of his presence here after 30 years. A whole lot of exposition and action follows haphazardly until we finally settle into the bulk of the main narrative.



That narrative follows our core returning heroes–Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac), plus C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and Chewie (Joonas Suotamo)–as they embark on a quest to find the kind of MacGuffin that usually ends up being the result of lazy screenwriting more than any Hitchcockian misdirection. While the search itself is needlessly elongated and convoluted, it does contain some of the movie’s best moments–at last we get to see our heroes mostly together, bickering affectionately and working toward a shared goal.

Meanwhile, back at whatever planet the rebel/Resistance base is now located on, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and her tattered, dwindling troops are trying to put on a brave front in light of the news of Palpatine’s re-emergence on the scene. And of course there’s her son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who still grapples with his loyalties in the First Order’s new role.

Getting any further into the plot would be spoilery, but suffice to say that there are revelations afoot which will do nothing to alleviate the divisions among Star Wars fans–divisions that have sadly been fueled in many ways by pre-existing prejudices that have nothing to do with the story at hand. Some old friends, such as Lando Calrissian (a delighted-to-be-there Billy Dee Williams), are trotted out along with a handful of new characters, but one gets the sense that they don’t contribute much to the narrative overall and are merely there as glorified walk-ons.

As for our main heroes, all of them do their best work in the series to date. Driver’s Kylo Ren is still this trilogy’s most interesting creation, a truly conflicted character whose leanings and motivations are always in question. His final arc, while not entirely unforeseen, is still the most unpredictable of the bunch and Driver can do a lot with steely glares and silent gestures.

As for our central trio of Rey, Finn and Poe, they’ve always felt like a three-way redistribution of Luke, Leia and Han’s characteristics more than three-dimensional beings, but they get to add a bit more nuance here that makes them seem more alive than they have in the two previous adventures. Rey and Kylo also get to share some of their most intense exchanges of all three films, their relationship given a new resonance here, and also engage in one hell of a lightsaber duel atop the ruins of the old Death Star that is as much of a showstopper as the brief clips we’ve seen beforehand suggest.

Carrie Fisher’s much-documented appearance in the movie is, with perhaps one exception toward the end, handled about as seamlessly as it probably could be. Created from eight minutes of existing but excised The Force Awakens footage (and a different plotline entirely), it’s integrated well enough into this story to allow Leia a proper, if diminished, role in these concluding proceedings without simply having to write her out of the movie entirely.

That’s one of those boxes that the movie at least checks off somewhat successfully. A lot of other moments in The Rise of Skywalker play out as curtain calls or “greatest hits” without doing much to serve the larger story. That story itself leads to a very familiar third act: one which doesn’t have the same stakes or emotional pull because we’ve seen so much of it before. A parade of beloved characters walking through and waving as well-remembered scenes are re-enacted around them is not a story, but a pantomime.

And that, in the end, is the biggest problem with The Rise of Skywalker and this entire new trio of Star Wars entries: we’ve seen so much of it before, in slightly different form. That issue itself stems from the very origins of this chapter: a desire on the part of a corporate parent (Disney) to put more Star Wars movies on the screen but a lack of a strong central vision of what story to tell going forward. The result has been a franchise at war with itself, even as its fans go to war against each other: a literal, real-life embodiment of the entire brand’s title–with no clear victor in sight.

We're Going Back to the Moon

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With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with our commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration by 2028. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap — sending astronauts to Mars.

You can find out the full details on NASA’s Artemis site

Teaching a DeLorean How to Drift

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A group of Stanford engineers has built an electric self-driving DeLorean that they’ve taught how to drift through a fairly complicated kilometer-long course “with the agility and precision of a human driver”. The car only needed to “see” a GPS course in order to successfully complete it.


As Doc Brown would say “The way I see it, if you’re gonna teach an autonomous car to drift, why not do it with some style?”

Finland Gifts AI Course

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Finland built a 6-week online course for its citizens to learn the basics of AI. Now it’s open to the rest of the world.

There are already quite a few sites for people looking to learn the basics of AI, but Finland’s offering seems worth your time if you’re interested in such a thing. It’s nicely designed, offers short tests at the end of each section, and covers a range of topics from the philosophical implications of AI to technical subjects like Bayesian probability. It’s supposed to take about six weeks to finish, with each section taking between five and 10 hours.

The Finnish government said it originally designed the course to give its citizen an advantage in AI. Finland has always punched above its weight in the tech and education, so it seems sensible to marry the two strengths. Megan Schaible of the tech consultancy Reaktor, which helped design the course, said the motivation was “to prove that AI should not be left in the hands of a few elite coders.”

You can start your course here

Mr. Robinson Is Back!

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Things have changed in Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood. The white people came and changed everything. His crack cooking friend Franky down the hall has left - flipped his apartment for $1.2 million to Damian and Mikka. And thanks to 23AndMe - he has found family he never knew he had.

Hey kids, can you say “gentrification”? It’s like a magic trick. White people pay a lot of money, and then poof, all the black people are gone. But where do they go, boys and girls? Back to where they come from, of course. Atlanta.

Why Are TVs So Cheap?

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Because the product is not the TV anymore – its you. As explained by Noah Kulwin :

For many big companies that make physical products, the business of making stuff isn’t sufficiently lucrative anymore. Automakers, for example, can now expect to see bigger profits from the loans they make on selling cars than from selling the actual cars. And like the TV manufacturers and car companies, even ad-unfriendly tech giants like Apple know that their real margins won’t come from hardware anymore — it’s why Cupertino is spending massively on content to shore up its growing “services” revenue.

The trade-offs for cheap TVs is that customers are themselves becoming the product for TV makers, which reflects the grandest Silicon Valley innovation of the last ten years: the digital ad business that catapulted Google and Facebook to their present-day stratospheric market valuations. It is, generally speaking, less labor-intensive and more exploitative of both workers and consumers. For something to be as cheap as a great TV, people have to give something up — whether they know it or not.

Time's 2019 Person of the Year: Greta Thunberg

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From John Gruber at Daring Fireball :

Superman is an inherently goofy premise even among the goofy premises of nearly all comic book superheroes. Most superheroes have limited powers and some sort of balanced weaknesses. Superman has nearly unlimited powers and just one very specific, very narrow weakness. And that weakness makes no sense whatsoever — how in the world would chunks of the planet Krypton make their way anywhere outside the Krypton solar system? And don’t get me started on the way no one notices Clark Kent looks like Superman because he’s wearing glasses. I mean come on.

But when I was a kid the thing I found most bothersome about the whole premise was the idea that if a scientist determined and had evidence to prove a severe global calamity was imminent, the public would simply ignore the warning. Here on real Earth, scientists are the ones who warn us of incoming hurricanes and who told us that vaccines could keep us from contracting terrible diseases, and we listened to them.

But here we are with climate change. The Krypton parable no longer seems funny. And with climate change it’s not just one scientist — it’s as close to expert consensus as science ever gets. I’m sure it never even occurred to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to have not just Jor-El but 99 percent of Krypton’s scientists arguing that the planet was doomed — and still having the leaders of the world respond with inaction. That Thunberg has been able to nudge the world in the direction of action — to move the needle even a little — is remarkable.

Amazon New York City Expansion

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Amazon agrees to open in Hudson Yards in a deal without any financial incentives from New York City or state.

"It’s clear the main reason Amazon wanted to be here was the availability of a skilled tech workforce plus the synergy with related industries,” said James Parrott, an economist at the New School. “And New York City still retains that attraction.”

Exactly - and our politicians need to understand that. There is no place on earth like New York City. Our government should not be paying and pleading for the big multi-nationals - they need NYC more then NYC needs them. And they should be paying brunt of the cost of construction/support structure - not the residents. And good for AOC, one of the few politicians who truly gets it.

After the Journal reported on Amazon’s new lease, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), a vocal critic of the HQ2 effort who represents neighborhoods near the proposed site, tweeted, “Won’t you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway - *without* requiring the public to finance shady deals, helipad handouts for Jeff Bezos, & corporate giveaways.”

The Die Is Cast

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The House Judiciary Committee approved the articles of impeachment against President Trump, putting into motion the official vote by The House this week. You can read the articles of impeachment with analysis by Peter Baker.

It will pass on bi-partisan basis, and the Senate will have to run the trial to see if the President should be removed from office. Trump will be only the third president to be impeached.

The Economist in a great article, succinctly lays out the argument for them:

The pressure put on Mr Zelensky, on the other hand, has risen to that level; Mr Trump’s main aim was to undermine a political rival. It is true that the aim was not achieved. Ukraine has announced no investigations, and the military aid that was withheld while those announcements were under discussion was in the end mostly released. In the absence of direct testimony as to the motives for the hold, conditionality might have been easier to prove if its release had followed the achievement of Mr Trump’s aims, rather than Congress and the public finding out what was going on.

But just as the Watergate burglary was a crime despite the fact that the burglars did not accomplish their purpose, so an abuse of power in pursuit of personal political benefit is an abuse of power even if the benefit is not, in the end, forthcoming. The House investigation shows that Mr Trump bent American foreign policy to improve his electoral chances. And he has taken extreme measures to stop Congress from investigating how far the bending went, something which the constitution gives it every right to do.

Caroll Spinney, Puppeteer, Dies

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Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who is responsible for Big Bird and Oscar the grouch has passed away.

From the Economist:

A puppeteer since childhood, he also operated Oscar the Grouch, the sour to Big Bird’s sweet. Oscar, who hoarded junk and lived in a rubbish bin, gave children permission to be cranky once in a while. Mr Spinney’s own childhood was tough. His father was exceedingly frugal and sometimes violent. His mother encouraged his love of puppets and art. He spent a decade working in children’s television, but wanted to do something “more important”. A chance meeting with Jim Henson, the Muppets’ creator, gave him that opportunity.

Big Bird became ubiquitous, the man inside remained unknown. In his memoirs Mr Spinney wrote that it was only the bird that was famous. But ensouling him was instructive. Among the chapter headings were “Find your inner bird”, and “Don’t let your feathers get ruffled”.

Rick Beato - Where Is the Funk?

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Nate Sloan writes in the New York Times about how the Jonas Brother’s song “Sucker” has “drum brake of stupefyingly funky proportions.”

Ahem. No. It does not. What is stupefying is that Sloan compares the drumming in “Sucker” to Clyde Stubblefield - James Brown’s drummer. As Rick Beato in the video below brilliantly explains:


So being funky is not about sounding like a drum machine and having perfect time - its actually being Funky

Most Popular TV Series 1986-2019

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Timeline history of the most viewed TV series from 1986 to 2019. I had no idea that some of these TV shows were as popular as they were - specifically ER and Desperate House Wives. The most surprising is that The Simpsons never really cracked the top…

NYC Subway Map

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The New York Times has a great interactive history of the Subway System.

The primary designer assigned to the 1979 redesign, Nobuyuki Siraisi, was a trained sculptor and painter. He prepared for the task of representing the subway lines using an unconventional method.

He rode the length of every train line with his eyes closed, feeling the curve of each track and then drawing the path he perceived in his sketchbook.

Rock Albums You Should Own on Vinyl

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They say whats old eventually becomes new again. Can’t be truer then the current audio scene. While everything is available at your fingertips on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music - the music they pump out of your speakers is castrated.

MP3, by definition compresses the hell out of the digital stream. In order to save ever precious time to download, it strips the treble that you probably won’t hear. It’ll drop the bass that your speakers couldn’t possibly reproduce. And the mid range, well the little 1s & 0s just turn them into indistinct mush. You are not hearing what the Artist intended you to hear. You are getting a cold, harsh digital representation of what an algorithm is calculating for you.

Sure, you can make the arguments that you can’t really hear what the MP3 drops. What they don’t tell you is that you can feel what they are leaving out. The bass lines that just hit you in the gut. Every nuance that comes into a wailing guitar riff. Its just not sound, its a feeling. And the only format that has captured that feeling is Vinyl.

But what vinyl albums should you have in your collection? Well here are my top 10 in no particular order:

AC/DC - Back In Black (1980, Albert/Atlantic)

In 1980, AC/DC looked to be on their way up. They had released a series of successful records, finally broke the US with their album Highway To Hell, and were set to record the album that would eventually become Back In Black. However, in February 1980, the band’s original singer Bon Scott was found dead in London. After Scott’s funeral – and with some encouragement from his parents – the band went straight to finding a new frontman, and Brian Johnson was announced as the new singer for AC/DC in April 1980.

The band pay tribute to their former singer with the album’s black cover: it was meant to be entirely black with embossed lettering, but the record label insisted on including grey for the band’s logo. The album also starts with bells ringing for Bon Scott. Apart from that brief opening, there are no reflective, mourning or sad songs. In general, the band stuck with what they knew: simple, hard-hitting rock and roll.

Back In Black is full of riffs that every novice guitar player will attempt to learn at least once, and has solos that experienced players wish they could emulate. Songs like You Shook Me All Night Long have infection choruses that suit the massive arenas they would eventually fill, and Shoot To Thrill is an adrenaline-filled rock anthem that would be used on film soundtracks years after its release. Back In Black’s catchy riffs and quotable lyrics are so synonymous with rock music that they are known by even the casual listener, and are still staples in AC/DC’s live performances to this day.

Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970, Vertigo/Warner Bros)

As anyone who likes unsociably loud music will tell you, heavy metal is popularly thought to have been born in 1970 when Brummie headbangers Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album. Let’s go one further and suggest that heavy metal really hit its stride for the first time with Sabbath’s second album, Paranoid, a heavier, more threatening and more nuanced collection of songs.

The one-two opening shot of War Pigs and Paranoid itself simply cannot be bettered in the metal world. The former, a critique of warfare and in particular of the American government’s policies regarding Vietnam, sees lyricist and bassist Geezer Butler on peak form – even if he can’t find a better way to rhyme ‘masses’ than with itself in the couplet ‘Generals gathered in their masses/Just like witches at black masses’. The latter, a zippy paean to mental instability, is probably Sabbath’s best-known song, executed at a rare, non-doomy tempo. The album then moves on to the sensuous instrumental Planet Caravan, a beautiful, landscaped song, before the pulverising hammer blow of Iron Man. It’s not sheer power that makes Paranoid a unique album, although it has that to spare: it’s the keen awareness of songwriting dynamics displayed by Butler plus singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and Bill Ward, all still in their very early 20s at the time of recording. That a record such as this was written and delivered by such young musicians is nothing short of miraculous, albeit in the infernal rather than heavenly sense.

The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers (1971, Rolling Stones)

No record collector wants sticky fingers on vinyl. Sticky Fingers on vinyl, however, is a different story. Recorded over two years in three locations (Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, frontman Mick Jagger’s own country home and Olympic Studios in London), Sticky Fingers was the first LP by The Rolling Stones to be released on their own Rolling Stones Records. The album is also the first to feature Mick Taylor, who replaced guitarist Brian Jones in 1969. Amongst the handful of guest musicians to appear on the record, The Who’s Pete Townsend is perhaps the most notable, believed to have contributed backing vocals to Sway.

As well as being revered as one of The Rolling Stones’ best, Sticky Fingers boasts one of the most classic album covers in rock. The artwork – concepted by renowned artist Andy Warhol – was photographed by Billy Name and features a fully-working zip on most original pressings. Due to the LP’s unique construction, hidden underneath the cover art is a second print of presumably the same model stripped down underpants embellished with Warhol’s name and the curious line: “This photograph may not be – etc.” The model was widely believed to be Jagger himself upon the record’s release, though is now known not to be the case. In fact the identity of the crotch’s owner remains a mystery. And though only small on the reverse of the record, Sticky Fingers was the first time The Rolling Stones’ now iconic tongue and lips logo had been used.

Def Leppard - Hysteria (1987, Mercury/Phonogram)

If 1983’s Pyromania had Def Leppard dipping their toe into pop’s waters, Hysteria was a cannonball at the deep end. From the beginning, the album’s concept had remained the same – to be a hard rock version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, on which every track could be a hit single (and indeed seven of the 12 tracks were, one more single than Thriller). At just over 25 million copies sold worldwide, Hysteria remains the band’s best-selling record.

Def Leppard’s turbocharged fourth record infamously took almost four years to produce and at a cost just shy of $5 million. At a run time of around 63 minutes, Hysteria really stretched the limits of how long a standard album at the time could be – unfortunately for audiophiles, to the detriment of the vinyl pressings. Over an hour’s worth of music is way too much to squeeze onto a single platter and retain a high standard of audio quality. More recent vinyl releases of the album remedy this by running over two LPs, most notably the 30th Anniversary gatefold vinyl re-issue, featuring fully remastered tracks on a strikingly translucent orange 180g wax.

Neil Young - Harvest (1972, Reprise)

When Neil Young released Harvest in ’72, he was elevated to the status of household name, largely because of the hugely-acclaimed songs Heart Of Gold and The Needle And The Damage Done. The former is more easily digestible and catchier; the latter is darker, more gloomy in tone and production because it was recorded live, and also better. The Needle And The Damage Done, recorded in concert at UCLA the previous year, was a paean to those of Young’s friends who had succumbed to heroin overdoses, in particular his previous bassist Danny Whitten. It ends suddenly, halfway through a chord sequence, lending this otherwise slick album a threatening edge.

Critics didn’t give Harvest particularly good reviews at the time of its release: some felt that he was repeating the After The Gold Rush formula a little too readily. However, in years to come the album was recognised as an all-time classic – even by the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose song Sweet Home Alabama was written in response to some anti-Southern sentiments expressed by Young in the song Alabama.

Eagles - Hotel California (1976, Asylum)

“Welcome to the Hotel California.” On the Eagles’ fifth studio album, they conjured up the allegorical hotel as a means to convey their disillusionment with the supposed ‘American dream’ – just the beginning of a wider commentary on the self-destructive nature of the rock music industry at the time, the United States and the wider world. Indisputably one of the most iconic rock albums of all time, Hotel California won the band a Grammy Award (Record Of The Year for the album’s title track) and has sold over 30 million copies (the Eagles’ second highest selling album of all, after the success of Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975).

Hotel California marked guitarist Joe Walsh’s band debut, whilst also the final LP with bassist Randy Meisner. The album was recorded at Criteria Studios, Florida and Record Plant Studios, California with producer Bill Szymczyk who had also worked on the Eagles’ previous record, One Of These Nights. Recording sessions at Criteria Studios were often disrupted by the noise from Black Sabbath working on Technical Ecstasy in the studio next door.

Led Zeppelin - III (1970, Atlantic)

In reality, Zep were guided by Page and no-one else – which explains the direction Led Zeppelin III took. While Zep’s debut album and the follow-up, both released in 1969, had essentially been LPs of hard rock songs with a few acoustic parts here and there, III was mostly unplugged. A calmer, sweeter, more relaxed vibe permeated the record as a result, itself aided by the fact that Page and Plant composed the songs in a remote Welsh cottage called Bron-Yr-Aur. With no running water or electricity, the twosome pulled out acoustic guitars, began writing – and in doing so established the great rock tradition of ‘getting it together in the country’.

Sit back in your beanbag, slap some headphones on and immerse yourself in the opening cut, ‘Immigrant Song’ – the heaviest song on the album. Page’s classic octave-based guitar riff chimes in, while Plant delivers the wail for which he had already become famous. Friends is a deeper song, despite being largely acoustic: where it excels is with its unusual orchestration of Indian-sounding strings.

We all agree that III is a splendid album nowadays, but critics just didn’t get it at the time. Neither heavy enough for headbangers nor progressive enough for Jethro Tull fans, it fell between two stools, it was thought. How wrong they were, and how wonderful hindsight is.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1977, Warner Bros)

On their 11th record, Fleetwood Mac crafted a bittersweet masterpiece fuelled by perhaps one of rock’s most infamous melodramas. Released in 1977, the intensely personal Rumours has become the seventh highest-selling studio album of all time with over 45 million copies sold worldwide. Also winning the five-piece a Grammy award for Album Of The Year in 1978, the iconic record not only features Fleetwood Mac’s best work but some of the best songwriting of all time.

The seminal LP featured the fifth incarnation of the band - the duo of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks joining Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie and John McVie two years previous following the departure of Bob Welch. A transition triggered on 1975’s eponymous release, Rumours completes Fleetwood Mac’s progression from a band of blues cliches to one of bright pop singles and immaculate songwriting.

Among the plethora of official and unofficial rereleases over the past 40 years, audiophiles will revel in the 2011 version that was released for US Record Store Day, which was cut at 45rpm on heavyweight 180g vinyl and remastered from the original analogue tapes to achieve maximum audio quality.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced (1967, Track)

Often considered one of the greatest albums of all time, and cementing Jimi Hendrix’s status as the original guitar hero, Are You Experienced remains a significant milestone in the history of rock music over 50 years since its release.

Recording for the album was done in between a busy schedule of live performances, though the trio notoriously laid down entire tracks with minimal fuss. Most notably, ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ was reportedly recorded in a single take having only been written the night before by Hendrix. It’s estimated that the album cost no more than £1,500 to produce.

The original UK release of the LP in May 1967 featured a mono mix, but a stereo mix was also produced when the record made its way to the US in August of the same year. There are several differences between the two mixes, including a drumroll on May This Be Love and the sound of Hendrix turning pages of lyrics which are not audible on the mono mix.

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987, Geffen)

To this day, Appetite For Destruction is the best selling debut album, and one of the best selling albums of all time. Guns N’ Roses brought an edge to rock music inside and outside the studio that hadn’t been seen since the Rolling Stones days.

Appetite For Destruction features the singles ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘Paradise City’, which all made it to the top ten in the US charts. The opening of ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ perfectly captures you by teasing with light echoing guitar before building and then exploding into the blues-grooving main riff. Rather then having a Side A and Side B, Appetite For Destruction has a G and R Side, with the Guns side featuring the songs on drugs and life in Hollywood and the Roses side comprised of songs on love and sex.

The original vinyl release had a different cover to the iconic Celtic cross with the skull of each band member. The first release of the record featured artwork by Robert Williams of a woman being sexually assaulted by a robot and a monster about to attack the robot. Stores refused to stock the album and the record label replaced the artwork with the one we all know. The version with the banned artwork isn’t hard to find if you look through online auction sites, but you should expect to pay at least double what you would for the same album with the reissued artwork.

The Who - Quadrophenia (Track/MCA, 1973)

Entirely written by Pete Townshend, Quadrophenia follows teenager Jimmy: a misfit kid struggling to work out his place in the world – until, that is, he discovers the mod movement and The Who. Fed up of his life at home, his dead-end job and relationships with friends and family, he moves from London to Brighton. Jimmy suffers from schizophrenia and has four personalities, which explains the album title. Each of the personalities reflects a member of the band, and explores a theme which reoccurs in the album. Quadrophenia spoke to teens of the time who could relate to its teenage angst.

On the vinyl release, inside the gatefold is a summary of the plot of Quadrophenia as well as a booklet of photographs showing Brighton and London during the mod scene, when then album was set.

Queen - A Night At The Opera (EMI/Elektra, 1975)

A Night At The Opera cemented Queen as a household name and – pardon the pun – music royalty. The album features Queen’s normal variety of genres, as well as experimentation of sounds and recording techniques. There are tracks that are all-out rock but the band doesn’t seem to take themselves too seriously in their music. Take for example Seaside Rendezvous, where Mercury imitates woodwind instruments using just his voice.

However, they have the occasional serious moment such as in the opening track Death On Two Legs, which is said to be a hate song directed towards Queen’s original manager. Love Of My Life was written by Freddie Mercury about his then-girlfriend Mary Austin, but Brian May would later rearrange the song and after Mercury’s death, dedicate it to him when playing it live.

You can’t mention a Night At The Opera without bringing up ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the best-selling commercial single of all time in the UK and one of the band’s most well-known songs. It was also the most expensive single to produce at the time of its release, being recording in multiple studios and taking over three weeks to make. It was twice the length of most singles and received only mixed reviews at the time, if you can believe it. Now it is one of the most well-known rock songs of all time; it has topped charts around the world and remains to be a popular choice with drunk karaoke singers everywhere.

Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic, 1971)

Led Zeppelin IV sounded amazing in 1971 and it sounds amazing now. It has an essential purity, four towering musicians locked together, making music that is setting their spirits free. It arrived at a moment in pop history when rock was reconfiguring itself. The Beatles had broadened the scope of popular music to such an extent that it is not really possible to consider them purely as a rock band but, in their wake, there were a lot of bands trying both to get back to the more primal drive of the original electric music that had inspired them and to carry it into bolder, more adult places. Jimi Hendrix was pushing the guitar towards the sonic outer limits, Pink Floyd were concocting lush space age soundscapes, The Who were adding keyboards and sequencers to their gobsmacking hard rock crunch, The Rolling Stones were digging down into the music’s bluesy roots, David Bowie and Mick Ronson were waiting in the wings with their glam sci-fi inventions. But when it comes to the absolute essence of power, sexiness and rhythmic attack of guitar, bass, drums and voice, Led Zeppelin were the band in the driving seat. They had essentially already invented the genre of heavy rock and were at the height of their confidence, creativity and youthful ambition. Led Zeppelin IV threw down the gauntlet for a whole generation. Even when punk came to knock down everything that came before, this album was left standing.

Many bands preceding Zeppelin rocked everybody’s socks off, and there are absolutely classic albums from The Who, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and Hendrix. In the years since, The Sex Pistols, U2, Nirvana and Radiohead are all guitar bands who have had musical moments that shook the whole world. But even their best albums cannot stand up against Led Zeppelin IV. It is, quite simply, the greatest rock album ever made.

Amazon 2019 Cyber Monday Deals

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Here are the best deals for Amazon 2019 Cyber Monday:

Apple MacBook Air - Save $300 on an silver 8 Gb, 128GB SSD MacBook Air. The best laptop to travel with and with performance to just about everything most people will need to do.

SimpliSafe Home Security System - Easy to install and including a base station, keypad, 4 entry sensors, 2 motion sensors, a SimpliCam and a free month of monitoring, this bundle is a good choice for those looking to implement a new security system.

Airpods Pro - Best wireles headphones for iOS users. Down to $235 - saves you $14 dollars. The best price I have seen.

Ancestory DNA Kit - Save $50 on if you want to gain insight on where you came from.

Fitbit Inspire HR Heart Rate & Fitness Tracker - A great alternative to the Apple Watch if all you want is a fitness tracker. Save $30

We Don't Have Power

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Richard Morgan writes in the Washington Post:

What is most galling about this economy is that we are supposed to proffer compliance and complicity as companies profit amorally off of us. Facebook unveils supposedly robust privacy protections on the same day it launches a service to connect you with your “secret crush.” You’re supposed to pay whatever rent landlords want, whatever bills hospitals charge, whatever price surge the car-share makes up. From Apple to John Deere, digital-rights-management technology has made us “tenants on our own devices.” The terms of service turn us into the servants. And what recourse do we have? We ask to speak with the manager, vent to Yelp, endure the hold muzak and hack our way to rival bargains. But let’s be honest: We don’t have power.

Tim Cook Appears Alongside Trump

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Donald Trump visited an Apple factory in Texas last Wednesday and tweeted the following:

No President Trump, you did not open the factory today. Apple has been making Mac Pros there since 2013.

Jack Nicas reports for New York Times:

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump called Mr. Cook a “very special person” because of his ability to create jobs. He turned to Mr. Cook and said, “What would you say about our economy compared to everybody else?”

Mr. Cook replied, “I think we have the strongest economy in the world.”

“Strongest in the world,” Mr. Trump said.

The president then took questions on the impeachment inquiry and launched into a tirade against “the fake press.” Mr. Cook stood silently nearby.

Mr. Cook stood silently nearby.

This will be a part of Tim Cook’s legacy - and will overshadow his work on many other progressive issues. I hope the tax cuts and avoiding tariffs was worth it.