Phil Elverum and his wife’s passing

An elegant, desperately sad piece by Jayson Greene in Pitchfork about Phil Elverum (The Microphones, Mt. Eerie) and his wife Geneviève’s death from cancer last year.

On the effect of the disease on their mutual creative outlook:

The sickness cast a similar pall on Geneviève’s creative urges. “When she lived, our house was very much taken over by both of our projects all the time,” Elverum says. “Neither of us had real jobs, so we just stayed up late and spread our crazy art things all over the place. But when she got sick, it all seemed so shallow all of a sudden. She didn’t care so much about her previously sacred practice of drawing all those hours. Music and art was very far from our minds for the past couple years. It still is. This new album is barely music. It’s just me speaking her name out loud, her memory.”

Elverum began writing and recording only two months after she passed away in their house. His work is traditionally hushed and introspective—albeit often punctuated with extreme noise—and his new work, unsurprisingly, continues in this vein:

The resulting album, A Crow Looked at Me, sounds like an Elverum work. The music is low and murmuring. His voice is hushed and conversational. The theme of impermanence can still be felt. But the difference between this album and everything else he’s done is the difference between charting a voyage around the earth and undertaking it. It is a profoundly detailed dispatch from grief’s rawest place—the moments still inside the blast radius, when your ears are ringing and you feel the shock of mortification slowly spreading to new corners of your existence every day.

Unlike many works about grief, though, there is no glance towards redemptive larger meaning, which makes it all the more bracing. “Your absence is a scream saying nothing,” Elverum sings on a song called “Emptiness Pt. 2,” drawing the word “scream” out until it is a more like an ambient hum, the buzz of a newly barren existence. Listening to it is like pressing your hand against ice and leaving it there.

On Elverum’s new life with his two-year-old daughter:

“My default mode right now is to throw open the doors and windows. I don’t know where to draw the line. Even just having you here, upstairs, showing you Geneviève’s journals: Is that over a line? But that’s how the songs are written, too: ‘Here’s everything. Look in here. Look at me. Death is real.’”

“My daughter is like a tether back to the functional world, and I’m aware of how helpful that is,” he says. “I have to cut up the broccoli; I can’t be weeping. And yet, sometimes I am weeping, and she’ll come up to me and say, ‘Papa crying!’ And I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I’m crying right now, I’m sad. It’s fine.’ And she laughs and goes back to her Legos.” With that, he heads upstairs and goes to sleep. He needs a full night’s rest, because tomorrow is another full day.

I’m yet to listen to the new album (if this were a Kottke post, it’d be tagged with ‘crying at work‘). Some of Elverum’s earlier work had a pronounced emotional effect on the younger me, particularly the album The Glow, Pt. 2:

Grief and trauma have always been themes in Elverum’s work. The lyrics of the song above stand out to me, some 10 years after first hearing them:

I could not get through September without a battle
I faced death
I went in with my arms swinging
But I heard my own breath
And I had to face that I’m still living
I’m still flesh
I hold on to awful feelings

My friend Kevin has the right idea:

Beyond personal hygiene

1: Reclaiming social: Content strategy for social media

This is one of the best things I’ve read about content strategy or social media. Terrific.

“We want to go viral!” says the chief communications officer. “Can’t help you” used to be our standard answer. But by doing this, we’ve left social media in the hands of marketers and self-appointed “gurus” more concerned with Klout than user needs. It’s about time we reclaimed social media.

2: Please be patient–this page is under construction

‘Under construction’ GIFs rescued from Geocities by the Archive Team.

3: Sad Topographies on Instagram

Places on Google Maps with desperately sad names.

4: What’s really hot on dating sites? Proper grammar

Dating site Match asked more than 5,000 singles in the U.S. what criteria they used most in assessing dates. Beyond personal hygiene—which 96% of women valued most, as compared with 91% of men—singles said they judged a date foremost by the person’s grammar. The survey found 88% of women and 75% of men said they cared about grammar most, putting it ahead of a person’s confidence and teeth.

5: When I’m gone

Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. Not even terminal patients think they are going to die in a day or two. In a week, maybe. But only when this particular week is the next week.

6: Lessons From Five Years in Mobile News Apps: #1 Don’t have a news app

I spent five years working on a mobile news app — first as an editor helping curate and package content and then as a product manager shepherding it through a complex visual and technical redesign.

And here’s the #1 lesson from my experience: If you are a small or medium sized publisher don’t have a news app. If you already have one, shut it down. Use your resources to make your mobile web site better. Kudos to The Atavist for making this decision.

7: Think the floppy disk is dead? Think again! Here’s why it still stands between us and a nuclear apocalypse

When was the last time that you used a floppy disk? While still used as the save icon in modern software packages like Microsoft’s Office suite, it’s unusual to see one out in the wild. Given that a typical floppy disk offers up a minuscule 1.44MB of space — not even enough to house a three-minute pop song in MP3 format — there’s seemingly no reason for these disks to stay in circulation.

But while the average user might not have any cause to use a floppy disk, there are those out there who can’t settle for anything else. They’re in dire need of the disks, which most manufacturers have stopped producing. The floppy disk might seem like something better left in the 1990s. Instead it’s a product that’s alive and well in the 21st century.

8: Uncovering the secret history of Myers-Briggs

Not one article details how Myers, an award-winning mystery writer who possessed no formal training in psychology or sociology, concocted a test routinely deployed by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, the US government, hundreds of universities, and online dating sites like Perfect Match, Project Evolove and Type Tango. And not one expert in the field of psychometric testing, a $500 million industry with over 2,500 different tests on offer in the US alone, can explain why Myers-Briggs has so thoroughly surpassed its competition, emerging as a household name on par with the Atkins Diet or The Secret.

Piano faces

1: Can Wikipedia survive?

A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years. This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code.

2: Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and the gendering of martyrdom

The way media dotes over its tortured male artists while undermining the personal struggles of women who suffer the same is nuanced, but a look into the archive suggests the phenomenon is well documented across race, genre, and generation. When Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970 the New York Times called her a “misfit” whose “behavior was explosive” and remembers her as “drinking from a bottle at her concerts” and “screaming obscenities at a policeman in the audience”. Two weeks prior when Jimi Hendrix died— also at the age of 27— the same paper’s headline referred to him as a “Top of Music World Flamboyant Performer Noted for Sensuous Style” above an article that failed to highlight his fabled and widely-acknowledged affinity for mixing drugs with alcohol, even as new evidence emerged that he was wildly out of control during his final days.

3: Headline writing with NYT guru

Podcast: Kyle Massey on what catches readers’ attention, and why the “paper of record” never would have written, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.”

4: Tobias Jesso Jr. stars in new Pitchfork.tv documentary

Tobias Jesso Jr. is the subject of Pitchfork.tv’s latest documentary, “Goon”. Directed by Jon Leone, the film follows Jesso around New York City and Hollywood as he prepares for the release of Goon earlier this year. He discusses why he makes those “piano faces,” covers Ray Charles with help from his manager’s dog, and performs with Danielle Haim, Ariel Rechtshaid, and a string section on “Conan”.

One of my favourite albums of the year so far.

5: Why I answered my dad’s gay sex ad

In the Christian parenting books my dad wrote, we were always the most perfect devout family. When I found out he was secretly trolling for gay sex online, I became obsessed with unmasking the truth.

6:. A linguist explains how we write sarcasm on the internet

In context, sarcastic typography is part of a larger ecosystem of ways to convey emotional nuance and textual tone of voice — and it’s anything but random. Compared with all these subtle distinctions, a single sarcasm punctuation mark is too blunt an instrument: it defeats the entire saying-without-saying part of sarcasm that makes it engaging in the first place. Using a a percontation point or a SarcMark™ is like explaining why a joke is funny — if you have to bother, you’ve just ruined it anyway.

6a: See also: Welcome to Night Vale: where even “not” isn’t what it seems, and What part of “No, totally” don’t you understand?.