Nicolas Magand on the internet

Comments about tech, media, nature, &c.

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Filtering by Category: Miscellaneous

The perfect soundtrack for your workday

Last spring, I bought the game The Way for Nintendo Switch, and I absolutely loved it. It was produced as an hommage to 2D platform games like Flashback), and it has the same cinematic, futuristic vibe. As a game, for such a low price (I believe I paid one euro for it), I highly recommend it; but what I liked the most about it was its soundtrack.

Produced by Panu Talus, using all kind of old school Technics, Roland, and Akai machinery, the music of the game is clearly inspired by the 1982 movie Blade Runner. Less emotional than Vangelis' smooth melodies, this soundtrack has become my favourite work companion. You can stream the album for free and buy it here.

The video game industry appears to be mature enough to get the equivalent of the Academy Awards, or does it already exist? I believe Talus should have at least been nominated for best soundtrack.

In the Mojave Desert, the dream city that was never built

Diana Budds, on Curbed, telling the story of California City, a small town which was originally planned to be the pinnacle of urbanism in the seventies, now a strange, arid, and hollow place:

Mendelsohn—a Czech emigre, a sociologist who studied the structure of towns and villages, and a Columbia University professor—was eager to get in on the postwar development boom. In 1958, he bought 82,000 acres of land—about 125 square miles—in the Mojave Desert and dreamed of transforming it into a thriving city composed of neighborhoods for medicine, commerce, industry, and academia.

And it was meant to be a place where families could thrive: A three-bedroom house, purchased on spec, started at $8,700 and Mendelsohn built amenities to sweeten the deal, like a golf course, a 20-acre lake, a swimming pool, and recreation fields. He also carved out a street grid and installed water and power infrastructure, readying the land for buildings that never came.

This article reads like the pitch for a new TV show, I just wish it featured a lot more pictures of the town.*

Like Budds writes, the city "speaks to an enduring and elusive ambition: the search for a perfect place."


* Beautiful photographs from Chang Kim, who has more on a dedicated website.↩︎

When politicians try to sell you congestion and traffic as part of your identity

Arthur Neslen, on The Guardian:

Madrid may be about to become the first European city to scrap a major urban low-emissions zone after regional polls left a rightwing politician who views 3am traffic jams as part of the city’s cultural identity on the cusp of power.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who is expected to become the new Popular party (PP) president of the Madrid region, believes night-time congestion makes the city special and has pledged to reverse a project known as Madrid Central, which has dramatically cut urban pollution.

This has to be one of the most ridiculous excuses ever given by a politician, and that's a pretty high bar to reach.

Saying a problem is part of your city's identity as a way to earn votes from unhappy car drivers is not only hypocritical, but imagine if the same reasoning was applied to the London situation in the 20th century : "The London fog is part of our identity. Yes, it is mostly toxic smokes and poisonous gas causing thousands of deaths but is also part of our identity so we shall keep using coal and save the Smog."

Sidenote, still from the same article:

An estimated 30,000 Spaniards die each year due to air pollution, according to the European Environment Agency.

Whatever you think about low-emissions zone, I would think that politicians in favour of scrapping them can find better ways to justify it, like "We want to put all the money possible into social services, " or even "Traffic is the best way to convince the new generations not to buy a car in Madrid."

Time, thoughts, tools: pick two

The last few days, I discovered a few new tools or platforms from which you can publish blog entries (hat tip to Dense Discovery for most of them). Small Victories, Listed, Blot… All three platforms aim to make blogging easier than ever: by pluging themselves on top of the tools you already use. Whether it is through Dropbox folders or the Simple Notes app, they all seem Template-based and hassle-free. If you are on the newsletter bandwagon, your Substack archive can also be used as a blog.

All of this is probably a good sign that blogging is thriving, or needs to thrive again in the age of platforms (looking at you, Medium.)

Along with the magnificent Squarespace (or Kirby, or even Svbtle which I used before), it probably has never been easier to publish on your own blog. The days of setting up a WordPress just for a personal blog seem over, and I have not seen anyone using MarsEdit for ages.

If this is a golden age for blogs, then why has this one not been updated since February ? As Carl Barenbrug says, well, on his own blog, Twitter may be the culprit :

Although we are starting to see a new wave of blogging, many people use Twitter as a means to express themselves. I still use Twitter, so I can see some value in this platform, particularly to make personal and professional connections through common interests, or to simply share something I like. However, Twitter is also a tool that encourages negative, impulsive, and ill-considered behaviour. It doesn’t really keep our minds healthy—much like all social media—in the sense that we are constantly looking to see who has responded or engaged with what we have published.

When I see something interesting, rather than saving it, digesting it, deciding whether it should appear on the blog or Twitter, I tend to just tweet or retweet right away. Maybe it is lazyness, maybe it is the need to be among the firsts, but time management has become the hardest part of blogging.

When you think of a pencil, you probably picture it yellow: This is why

Another gem of a link that I discovred through Daniel Benneworth-Gray's newsletter Meanwhile. Gabrielle Hick, on Artsy, tells the origin story behind the colour yellow and pencils:

A number of pencil manufacturers, including Hardtmuth, now sourced their graphite from Siberia—the vast Russian province which shares borderland with China. That geographic proximity was key for Hardtmuth as it devised its marketing scheme.

In China, yellow had long been tied to royalty. The legendary ruler considered the progenitor of Chinese civilization was known as the Yellow Emperor; thus, centuries later in Imperial China only the royal family was allowed to wear yellow. Eventually, the shade came to represent happiness, glory, and wisdom.

Great story. I would love to see a list of products and the stories behind a particular colour or a specific shape; I can only think of blue jeans, white earbuds, and possibly the Laguiole knife. If you think of something, hit me up on Twitter.