This week, Day Of the Girl—and of Beyonce. A zillion Harvey stories for a zillion untold others. Amazon Studios’ Roy Price is next. Ivana, the true and only First Lady. Fires in weed country. And say goodbye to chubby-making, rock hard avocados. F$*k those things.
Navneet Alang at Real Life on what was lost as Twitter’s original ambient intimacy gave way to apocalyptic hellscape, and the subtle but profound shifts that take place as that intimacy now quietly hides out on the ephemeral plane of the Snapchat or Instagram story. Despite the oftentimes cantankerous tone of this newsletter, we’d rather be searching for these hideouts than dwelling on, lamenting, and dissecting the hellscape, as fun as that can be.
There is little point in attempting to catalogue the billions of minutes of content that people put into stories. Much of it is of a particular sort, though: minutiae of the day, food and drink, time at the gym or on public transit, wry visual jokes. Like tweets, stories are also a solitary unit, but one that only makes sense in terms of a broader feed. In the aggregate, they form a constellational arrangement of the social, a kind of horizon peppered with a vague awareness of what the people we follow are up to. Flipping through them, especially on Instagram where they flow from one into the other, feels a bit like switching through cameras in a hotel, seated in a security room you weren’t really supposed to have access to.
For the perpetually lonely, this intimacy carries a particular significance. Ambient intimacy can only be ambient when it straddles a once-clearer line between private and public, the compulsion to watch arising out of the very act of blurring the division between the two. And in the collapse of the boundary, the everyday, visual dimension of the story can act as a kind of proxy for a lack of daily intimacy.
A few weeks back we were musing here about Estonia’s experiments with blockchain-based digital citizenry and wondering whether they would amount to much beyond a new mode of tax dodge. Turns out it does become interesting when you look at that project, and its foundation in profound distrust of the old Russian masters, as a hypothetical model for a potential Catalonian government in exile, as Wired do here: a suite of tools for a repressed or clandestine state to operate beyond the reach of the boots that would crush them.
Adam Greenfield has something to say about that:“So this is not in any way a trustless architecture, as it is so often claimed to be. It merely asks that we repose trust in a different set of mediating agencies, institutions and processes: ones that are distributed, global, and are in many ways less accountable. And above all this is because the blockchain and its operations are even more poorly understood by most people than the operations of state that they purport to replace.” We should get around to reading his latest book, Radical Technologies— The Design of Everyday Life.
If multi-level marketing schemes—shaped like triangles but not pyramid schemes (they promise)— are as compelling to you as they are to us, behold this juicy expose on the world of essential oils. Not against oils, btw. Against pyramids, the ultimate manifestation of an exploitative patriarchy.
This week in “mind the seductive research”: remember all those reports from a couple years back that butter is great and fat is the best? We loved those! Turns out, at least according to one recent paper, that the meta-analysis those reports relied on might have been pretty broken (though the new paper was hardly from an unbiased source). The moral? Either “we can’t have nice greasy things”, or “goddamit why is reading or reporting about science never easy?”
Interesting multi-institute academic study we’re going to chew through later: A Field Guide to Fake News.
If you’re not the sort to be cursed with a brain that gets easily addicted to the chemical rewards offered by simple torture games like Cookie Clicker, you may have missed a certain corner of the internet becoming addicted to the manufacture of paperclips this week (an evil piece of genius from the great Frank Lantz). But if you are that sort, you’ll recognize yourself immediately in this lovely piece by Emanual Maiberg at Motherboard, even if it hurts to do so. But please join with us in not linking to any bullshit think pieces about what the paperclip game says about our AI-overlord future. Just make the paperclips. They’re not going to make themselves. (Also, turns out in checking that link, our Cookie Clicker factory, unattended for years, was still baking cookies at a rate of 1.396 billion per second - please send help or at least buy some cookies).
Three great pieces of music writing: Helena Fitzgerald on why it’s finally ok to admit you like The National, even if you try to laugh it off with dadrock cardigan jokes, Geoff Dyer on The Necks, one of the greatest live bands on the planet, and Bjork on Bjork.