Another day at home, because it was cold. Friday it’s supposed to be 21 below. Right on schedule. What’s odd is the lack of the dreaded new phrase: Polar Vortex. Previously, it was just cold, because it was January. Then the Vortex was introduced into the discussion, and people nodded sagely: ah yes, the air does have a certain antiseptic clarity, with notes of polar bear dandruff.
A good day to visit the Metaverse, then! It’s always warm in the Metaverse. Actually, there’s no temp at all, because it’s a false place with no attribute.
Yes, I got an Oculus Quest for Christmas. Things are not as crisp as I would like, perhaps because I wear glasses and have different levels of correction. I’ll probably order some prescription inserts so I can spent some quality time in the museum programs. They’re remarkable. If you want to study a painting, finding a digital version online is better. But the replication of the museum experience is dang nifty-spiffy, and makes me think: if this was better - and it will be - I would spend so much time here.
No, that’s not pathetic, he said, defensively. It’s not like I can pop ‘round the British Museum whenever I want. If I had the choice between packing, leaving the house, driving to the airport, flying to England, staying at my favorite hotel, walking four blocks to the British Museum, or slapping on the VR set, of course I would say “Can we make that the National Gallery? I like that one better. I don’t know why I started this hypothetical with the British Museum.” And then I would add “I will sell my VR headset for the ticket if I have to. When do we go?”
Absent that option, walking around looking at the paintings in VR is fantastic. (By “walking” I mean “hovering about two feet above the ground, lurching from hotspot to hotspot.”) It’s a nice break.
I investigated the meeting rooms, the social spaces. They’re just what you’d expect. Lots of solo dudes with flattering avatars whizzing around. No one wears pants. No one has legs. You encounter a group of people who’ve met up from distant locations, and are having a fine time, unaware that everyone can hear them. I went to a comedy club and some woman kept talking out loud, and we had to turn and shush her. You can make the shushing gesture. Worked about as well as it does in real life.
My default home is a spacious modern living room in a forest. It is a prison as well. If I attempt to move out of my defined area, a series of blue crosses appear, warning me that I am about to step outside of the imaginary place I am allowed to inhabit. When you turn on the headset, you get a grainy grey version of the world that warns you about objects in your VR space. It looks like what a ghost might see when peering through the veil at the real world.
I prefer the Amazon version of the Metaverse: it is intentionally false and blocky, low-poly. I think this is a transitional aesthetic, but big money is going into virtual Metaverse land purchases. I mean, millions of dollars in NFT sales.
Confession: I understand most of this NFT stuff, but barely. The fact that it strikes me as ridiculous, and makes the tulip craze look like a sober man placing an order for Microsoft stock in 1985 suggests I don’t know enough. There are interesting philosophical notions of ownership and existence and all that, but on the other hand, we are talking about Bored Ape drawings, which are stupid. Each and every damned one of them.
Anyway. It’s blurry, but that’s probably my fault. Perhaps the progressive-lens demographic isn’t the target market. The headset isn’t heavy, but it isn’t light as a Tom Thumb donut, either.
Apple will release its own version this year, I suspect. It will be lighter and sharper, expensive, and bespoke. It will have less content, at first, and will tie you to your Apple media accounts, with all your music and movies. It will not have big rooms where Lego minifig torsos zoom around saying hello is anyone here hello who wants to go private.
It will be grown-up. I suspect it will not be a separate place, like the Metaverse, but an extension of the real world. At least that’s how I’d design it. The Metaverse home-room options are CGI houses, spaceports, and the like. If I was king of the forest, I’d make the Apple version offer photo-realistic places with location-specific ambient details. As I said, I’d love to strap on the headset and go to London. I’d love to have 15 options for my room, in various parts of the city. Local radio stations. A desk with a computer that shows the local news.
It’s a marvelous idea and a terrible one. I want it and I don’t. (And we all know how that usually works out.) What you think about it doesn’t really matter, alas. When the tech is as portable and seamless as iPhones - think everyone wearing glasses that can switch in a second to a VR environment - it will be perfectly natural to tell someone “hold on, I have to take this” and tapping the bow of your glasses to transport to your London home to have a chat with someone else’s digital manifestation. It will be ordinary and unremarkable. The VR rigs of today will look like console televisions sets, or crystal radio apparatuses.
It was too cold to go downtown the days I usually take pictures - not that there's anything new to shoot, to be honest. But! Here's what we'll be doing this year.
They're finally filling in the last plot by the stadium. This one has been in the works for a long time. The original proposal was smaller. This looks more "residential," because it has those brick portions. I am not a big fan of the brick hue here.
Then there's this monster, going up by Target Field.
Wouldn't be Friday without him, would it?
Solution is here.
I'm running out of music cues. This entire project has been my way of spotlighting incidental and library music, because . . . well, I'm sure I had a good reasom. It turned into a rambling, disconnected, scattershot snippage of an old medium, mostly for those who hadn't dipped into the vast library of surviving shows. Now I'm just going to put up anything I find interesting. One per week.
Here's a clip from a 1949 Lum & Abner. I sat up when I heard this: good heavens, did he do every show?
A note: the first person you hear is the Ben Withers character, the most successful of the show's few additions. The character was played by Clarence Hartzell.
A "boodler" is, or was, a hobo.
How long did it take to recognize him?
Most of his mannered voices were unconvincing, if you ask me. They all sound like a bad disguise.
This year we're counting down the top hits . . . of 1922. Why not? We'll get back to thift store records some other time, but why not use Fridays to educate ourselves on the pop music of a hundred years ago?
In the top 100 of 1922, this charted at #50.
Bert Williams (November 12, 1874 – March 4, 1922) was a Bahamian-born American entertainer, one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He is credited as being the first Black man to have the leading role in a film: Darktown Jubilee in 1914.
He was by far the best-selling Black recording artist before 1920.
I suspect we'll hear him again.
And of course we have to have an ad, just to end the week with a cheery commercial snippet. I'll be leaning heavily on 1970s Sears ads this year, because I've been to hell and back listening to them, and I want to share the pain. But first: just your everyday South African 1968 clothes-cleaning substance.
G'wan, name another one-man operation that gives so much! Just try! Okay besides that one.
There: one week of 2022 in the bank. See you on Monday when we start it up again.