Sheesh, you take a few weeks off and far too much happens in the world to capture. So much is on fire, cities and rainforests both, and we can’t hope to catch up on all of it. Love to everybody suffering, protesting, firefighting, healing, or just getting through the day. Consider this one a lengthy summation of a few things that have stood out over recent weeks.
Oh, and just a one-off reminder in case you’ve forgotten what this email is and why you’re getting it. Buckslip is a weekly(ishhhhh) newsletter from a small gang of friends based mostly in Toronto about the things we’ve read and the sense we try to make of them. There’s a small community of just over 1,000 of you around the world that get this each week, and you seem to like it, so we keep doing it. It’s not about anything specific, other than what we’re interested in, worried about, terrified of, or thrilled by. Recent archives are at buckslip.email, which is also a great website to share. We haven’t figured out any decent way to grow a small newsletter other than through quiet and meaningful recommendations amongst friends, and, well, we kind of like that?
Yes, climate despair and hopelessness causes mental health issues. Of course they do. But does that mean we’re owed hopeful narratives, or that we need to find new ways to talk honestly and unflinchingly, without hype, about what the science is trying to tell us? As ever with a new IPCC report (and yeesh they’re coming fast, as it all will) on the relationship between climate change and land use, Robinson Meyer is your go-to for sensemaking. You probably saw this article shared a lot, but we think it’s critical for what it lays out in a very specific narrative of how we have irreversibly rewired the planet’s natural systems of resource exchange.
The human demand for food, meat, clothes, and warmth now consumes at least 25 percent of the net product of photosynthesis on land. The free-wheeling, far-reaching maw of our material metabolism—that thing we normally call the global economy—devours as many as one out of every three sugar molecules made by dirt-bound plants, on net. Plants are one of the few things in the universe that can work this magic, as far as we know. And we have roughly hooked one out of every four of them into our planetary system of consumption and speculative exchange.[…]How are you even supposed to talk about that? More than 30 years after climate change first became a political issue, it feels like we are still figuring it out. This report gets us closer. It makes clear that climate change isn’t only about coal-fired power plants, or gas-guzzling cars; and it’s definitely not about littering or—God help us—recycling. It’s about the profound chemical and physical specificity of human life. You and I are not free-floating minds that move around the world through text messages, apologetic emails, and bank deposits. We are carbon-based creatures so pathetic that we need a lot of silent plants to make carbon for us.
The age of the automobile is in decline. Cars enabled our transformation in the image of the industrialized world—a mech-suit to expand our senses and translate our fleshy input into a series of controlled explosions. We might learn from interstates, defensive driving, assembly lines, traffic laws, emissions and safety tests to inform our perspective on the internet, webiquette, content farms, privacy policies, and data security standards. The age of the automobile may have raised questions around public space and individual agency, but the shift was so total and overwhelming that we hurtled right past and left them in our rear-view.
Meanwhile, if you want to follow the person who wrote the above paragraph and his amazing partner do some serious DIY 80s muscle car restoration, you can go right ahead and do so! And you damn well should. We can hold many contradictory truths in our hands simultaneously.
Also in the rear-view: eight instalments of the Fast & Furious franchise. But it shows no sign of slowing—the ninth is out this month. While the first films played a big part in shaping the car culture of a new generation, the series’ continuation may be contractually ensured by macho moviestar contracts which use complex combat accounting to guarantee none of the leading tough-guys loses face.
And, in a story we’ve been hoping somebody would write up properly for a month or so now, one of the richest men in Toronto bought literally all the sneakers, possibly due to missing the irony in a Jenny Holzer quote? We hypebeasts have all been there.
It softens our Cap’n Crunch–crispy souls to know that there’s still a world out there full of playful phone phreakers gathering on conference calls. Of course there’s a serious security undertone to Andy Greenberg’s Wired piece about a shared database of dial-in numbers for elevator emergency phones and those who mess with it, but really it’s an account of the rare joy of old school hacking of a sort that’s hard to come across these days. Just please don’t ever Rickroll our lift. The more-modern phone farmers in this Vice piece aren’t doing anything quite so heartwarming – just stringing stacks of cheap phones together to game ad metrics and paid incentive systems while “in reality they are actually off sleeping haha" – but we suppose we salute them too.
“The most important thing to do with your new Bird is to keep it alive.” A moral and ecological argument for hacking share scooters.
Comment moderation on online platforms is an immense challenge. So much so that On the Media included the topic in a mini-series on the rise of progressive prosecutors and restorative justice. Come for the fun experiments rehabilitating forum flame-baiters, stay for the debunking of Kamala Harris’s progressive facade.
Flying anywhere this summer, comrade? Make sure you’re familiar with Boarding Announcements for the Class Conscious by Buckslipper Eli Burnstein.
“There is no Wirecutter for the poor, but if there were, what would it look like?”
With the backing of old-school big booze, big weed is betting a ton of chips on drinkable marijuana products with the idea of a hitherto unimagined recreational drink market that will realign the slices of “the recreational intoxication consumer spending pie”. But, Amanda Chicago Lewis asks at The Verge, does anybody really want to get their buzz on that way? Is this just a case of an old industry thinking the new one has to function in the same way? As she writes, “Everything is still up in the air, and things are moving fast. We can’t even predict all of the industries legal pot will disrupt or fundamentally alter. Sleep aids? Painkillers? Tourism?”
Kyle Chayka’s writes in CJR on Artforum during and after the ouster of longtime publisher Knight Landesman in a mini #MeToo apocalypse. This is extremely inside-art-world-baseball, but it’s also a fascinating account of how a venerable and still powerful institution – what Chayka describes as the Death Star of the art world – might begin to at least try to atone for past sin through genuine and meaningful reform at every level. As he writes, though: “Addressing the institutional culture that sustained years of Landesman’s alleged abuses will require more from Artforum’s leadership than critical essays.” Oh, and Chayka smartly savaging Graydon Carter’s Air Mail is also worth a read – he’s doing the dirty work so we don’t have to.
Megan Greenwell’s no-punched-pulled exit letter from Deadspin could serve as a fine document for all those who want to build a new and more functional online media out of the ashes we’re currently knee deep in. It’s not just a painfully recognisable account of corporate idiots patronisingly doing what they do best (which is to be terrible at their jobs while failing upwards) – somewhere in there are the threads of a manifesto for a better way.
For The Calvert Journal, Owen Hatherley explorers Odesa’s rather radical literature museum. Unsurprisingly, this is a joy to read and behold.
It’s been a few weeks now since the great David Berman died, and we’re still coming to terms. On Tuesday night in Toronto, the night he would have played here with, and for which we received a cold, automated cancellation and refund email that he would have had a really sharp line about, there’s a quiet little charity tribute gig where a bunch of people will try to figure it out together. See you there if you’re here?
Tale is told of a band of squirrels
Who lived in defiance of defeat
They woke up in a nightmare world
Of craven mediocrity
They said, "We're coming out of the black patch
We're coming out of the pocket
We're calling into question
Such virtue gone to seed"