R.E.M.: Lifes Rich Pageant

Recorded on July 29th, 2016

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Thirty years ago today, R.E.M. released Lifes Rich Pageant. To my then 15-year-old ears, it captured a sound like a band playing an amphitheater at summer camp. That may be because I associate it with a trip our high school chorus took to a camp with a bunch of cozy cabins in the Virginia mountains. It was so easy to imagine the sound of R.E.M. playing that album outdoors.

I didn’t know until just recently that there’s no apostrophe in the title. It’s just “Lifes Rich Pageant”. Here’s the apparent back-story from Wikipedia:

The source for the title of the album is based on an English idiom. Its use is very old, but R.E.M.’s use is, according to guitarist Peter Buck, from the 1964 film A Shot in the Dark, minus the apostrophe:

Inspector Clouseau opens car door and falls into a fountain. Maria: “You should get out of these clothes immediately. You’ll catch your death of pneumonia, you will.” Clouseau: “Yes, I probably will. But it’s all part of life’s rich pageant, you know?”[12]

The missing apostrophe in the title is deliberate. Nearly all contractions used by R.E.M. lack apostrophes, though “life’s” in this case is a possessive. Peter Buck once stated, “We all hate apostrophes. Michael insisted and I agreed that there’s never been a good rock album that’s had an apostrophe in the title.”[13]

The Web Is Responsive By Nature

Recorded on July 28th, 2016

I just had the good fortune to go to all three days of An Event Apart right outside of Washington, D.C. A passel of smart designers, developers, and strategists gave typically great presentations, as they do every year. Two themes really hit me:

  1. Websites are used by humans, not devices.
    We get so caught up in which devices are going to browse our sites and run our web apps that we forget that people are the ones using those devices. People who are “on the go”, sitting at home with a smartphone, using a desktop computer at work, using a laptop computer in a hotel on a crappy connection, using a tablet wherever. Those people aren’t thinking about the device, or the code running on it — they’re thinking about the content they want to find and the task they need to get done. We fail them when we make assumptions about what they want to do based on the paltry data we can collect about their devices.
  2. The web works on all kinds of devices naturally.
    This one I got straight from Karen McGrane. It’s so obvious that we should be embarrassed to think of it as a revelation. The first HTML page written by Tim Berners-Lee worked as well on the first web browser at CERN as it does on a modern small smartphone or a new widescreen monitor attached to a desktop PC. We only got into trouble when we started introducing complicated layouts and making assumptions about the monitor sizes everyone was using. If we unwind those assumptions and do the work to make layouts more fluid and flexible, we’ll get back to our roots. We only have to joyously embrace the fact that we have no control over device sizes, connection speeds, and input methods anymore. This constraint should be a huge inspiration to us.

Hillary Clinton

Recorded on July 26th, 2016

I don’t know what I could write about music or software or web stuff that would compare to the history we saw made tonight when Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee for a major political party in the U.S. Way to go, lady. You got this. I’m just glad I was alive to see it.