We thought we’d go more upbeat this week, so here’s Tom Scocca’s “Your Real Biological Clock Is You’re Going To Die”, a swift and brutal little essay on having children, or not having children; now or later, or never, whichever.
From certain angles, this breeds disdain—penniless millennials eating avocado toast, forty-year-old men skateboarding in sneakers and t-shirts, slovenly and undisciplined generations refusing to commit to lives and careers. But the complaining is halfhearted, a way for the older cohort to convince itself the younger cohort might be safely held at bay. And to point out the shortcomings of adult-aged people is, at bottom, to argue that maturity is something rarefied. The figure of the kidult exists as a warning that you should not move on to the next step until you’re certain you’re ready.
But this idea of certainty is a sham, a distraction, something to turn your attention away from the only truly certain thing, which is that your time will run out. If you intend to have children, but you don’t intend to have them just yet, you are not banking extra years as a person who is still too young to have children. You are subtracting years from the time you will share the world with your children.
So yeah, you probably heard that Facebook juked its video stats, a deeply frustrating piece of news not just for all the good people who lost their jobs during the pivots forward and back from video as media companies realised they’d been played, but for all of us who’ve had to listen to people endlessly try to tell us that nobody reads anymore. We’ll give the definitive word on this to one of our favourite writers, Brian Phillips, one of the highest-profile victims of this when MTV fell for the ruse:
Meanwhile, let’s check in with a corner of tech journalism that’s currently gnawing its own arm off in despair. As the lead of Mat Honan’s Buzzfeed review of the new Google Pixel puts it, “We are captives to our phones, they are having a deleterious effect on society, and no one is coming to help us. On the upside, this is a great phone.” Over at Gizmodo, Brian Merchant is utterly broken as he covers the launch of the great seductive con that is Magic Leap, and that unshakable “sensation when it feels like everyone around you is participating in some mild mass hallucination, and you missed the dosing”. As he slowly zooms out, he does something we’ve rarely seen an outlet like Gizmodo do before – to place the understanding of the technology squarely within the social, political and ethical contexts of its creators and those who’ve come before them. No new platform is a blank slate, no matter how many gushing Wired profiles argue otherwise, and you don’t get a free pass from complicity just because you’re not the one taking the Saudi military money:
- Given the toxicity of those past mediums, maybe it’s worth considering another approach: Let’s examine who’s asking for “spatial reality,” really, besides the engines of capital and a handful of science fiction aficionados and men with dreams of coexisting in the Star Wars universe. If the breakdown and chaos of internet culture has taught us anything, it’s that new platforms are exceptionally prone to abuse and misuse, and it’s beyond important to understand and trust who is behind the wheel.
“I forced a bot to watch over 1,000 hours of TED Talks and then asked it to write a TED Talk of its own. Here is the first page.”
Speaking of, this review by Will Meyer has us extremely keen to read Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All, a book-length skewering of TED talks, Aspen Institute-style “ideas festivals” and a particular bubble of elitist “we can change the world!” thought-leadership culture that we’ve become far too painfully familiar with over the years.
Anand was a recent guest on Recode Decode, where host Kara Swisher has long called for—and led—greater, more direct scrutiny of Silicon Valley. It’s been a while coming, but the masses seem to have finally warmed to her way of thinking since the Facebook hearings. She’s even been anointed to the NYT Opinion section, where she introduced the Internet Bill of Rights. But it’s on her podcast, Recode Decode, where she’s been positively gleeful (in her own way)—whether grilling the Zuck himself back in July, or vibing with Giridharadas—she’s out of her crouch, out for blood, and pouncing on every opportunity to keep the industry on its back foot.
Kara stands back to back with Peter Kafka, who hosts the other Recode podcast Recode Media, which rounds out the Recode perspective with the—yep—media angle. Together, they’re an oddcouple bubble-bursting duo, but maybe that’s just a delusion I’ve arrived at after months of listening at double-speed as the days get shorter… Anyway: check them out wherever fine podcasts are sold!
Even if you don’t watch the show regularly, do yourself a favour and watch s05e06 of BoJack Horseman (“Free Churro”). Maybe it’s because we’re at a greater remove from cartoons than live-action figures that pain can be presented in so raw and unsentimental and even humorous a form.
We may want you to think we mourn the great translator Anthea Bell for her translations of W.G. Sebald and Stefan Zweig, but The Guardian gets it: it’s her translations of Asterix that are probably her greatest work.
Another one for the linguists out there: the incomparable Green’s Dictionary of Slang is going to be entirely free as of next month. Not, its creator Jonathon Green, says, because he’s giving up, but simply because he wants it to be read: “one does the work, one wishes it to be seen and used. Otherwise one becomes nothing more than an ever-older old man, sitting in a small room, tracking down new words for, inter alia, masturbation.”
This week’s edition of The New Yorker is The Money Issue, and you can tell because (at least) two articles include the quotes like “it’s math” or “that’s just math.” The former feels a bit familiar after reading Adele M. Stan’s piece on Sinclair Media in The Baffler over a year ago, but it’s a topic well worth a refresher. Money never sleeps, and neither should you.
The werewolf is coming. So sayeth the Slip.