At the Place Where It Happens to Be
There is a song I have never heard and, in fact, had never even heard of until it was in the conversation for most watched YouTube video of all time. I knew people were using YouTube for music, but I hadn’t tried it until I was deep into a second bottle of whiskey at 2 AM with some old friends from high school a few weeks ago. We didn’t play the most watched video in YouTube history, but instead went on a nostalgia-fuelled trip through YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. And it was great—like a sloppy musical choose your own adventure as we picked from the handful of videos YouTube recommended for what to listen to next. Eventually we settled into Burt Sugarman clips and passed out.
It can’t be said enough—YouTube is a real treasure and probably the best thing the internet has given us.
But those pre-roll ads are fucking awful.
This is as good as it gets. Twitter was fun while it lasted, but it looks like the party is over because ABG: Always. Be. Growing. Which Twitter isn’t. This is probably fine, though. Twitter is fucking awful.
You know what I’d rather read than Twitter? Literally nothing, as in—I’d be much happier and more at peace staring into a blank wall than looking at everyone’s tweets. I’d also rather read a million Twitter obituaries, and then not feel bereft at all that I don’t have somewhere to argue about what this one misses versus what that one overlooks, screenshots and all. This is not entirely related to waking up each morning and loading up the app with great trepidation, “Oh God, what’s he saying today”—and worse—“what is everyone saying about what he’s saying?” But it’s not unrelated either. ➜
The Evolution of Trust is fascinating, but will take you like half an hour.
Making things out of other things. Shockingly, the Emoji Movie is bad. Very bad. And emoji, which are absolutely a part of modern language, deserve better.
Why the patronizing attitude? It is partly because emojis are relatively new, but also because they are unapologetically fun. However, their sunniness does not connote an innocent simplicity; in fact, they serve a real psychological purpose, which is to soften the harsh edges of internet life. ➜
And while we’re here: the trend of turning any old IP into something else that might make money isn’t going anywhere.
Death of the iPod. 15 years ago, all we wanted was an iPod (my first was a silver iPod Mini, and I think I ended up having four over the years, though I don’t think I paid for any of them—“it's a miracle and no one cares”) and now there are no more real iPods. The iPod Classic was a classic.
What used to feel like a moveable feast of sonic delights now seems like the trickle of water in a hamster's cage. I listen to music when I see it posted on Twitter. I listen to music when I remember to update my library. Often, I just stare at social media and don't listen to anything. Sometimes, though, I still listen to music on my phone just because I want to feel a particular way. It's special and oddly private.
This feeling's been lost with "smart" devices for music, most of which are phones. A lack of on-device storage space, plus internet connectivity, equals a reliance on streaming, which is embedded in a money-making web of likes, follows, comments, hype, curation algorithms, and social sharing. The ecosystem prioritizes the new and hot, like in the case of SoundCloud, or the library is determined by what's economical to pay for the rights to, in the case of Spotify. It turns me off. ➜
This isn't a thing. Digital natives do not exist. That’s okay, it’s not like we’re designing education around the idea that they are.
The digital native is a myth, it claims: a yeti with a smartphone. […] Many schools and universities are retooling to cope with kids and young adults who are supposedly different. From collaborative learning in the classroom to the provision of e-learning modules in undergraduate courses, the rise of the digital native is being used as a reason — some say a justification — for significant policy changes. ➜
Things that are awful but probably appealing to digital natives. Cluttered desktops, Arcade Fire’s sold-out $109 USB fidget spinner album and Mistral, the best worst font.
“What started as a typeface that was meant to amalgamate the autographs of the most sophisticated men of the 20th century had instead evolved into a font most commonly used, at least subconsciously, because it looked as if it had been angrily sprayed by a teenager out of a can.” ➜
The penis mightier. PEN America launched a digital archive of audio and video that make TED Talks look like one of those days in grade school where kid’s parents come in an explain their jobs. (I honestly stared at my screen for two minutes to come up with that terrible metaphor.) *Open Culture* and *Electric Lit* both have some good picks. I started here.
The PEN America Digital Archive captures more than 50 years of cultural programming at the intersection of literature and freedom of expression advocacy. With generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the digital archive makes available long-inaccessible but valuable public and private programming featuring the world’s foremost writers, intellectuals, and artists in candid and often heated discourse about the most relevant cultural and political issues of our times. ➜
Also: Sam Shepard died. He’s in there too.
But: Hunter S. Thompson is not in there, though this week me and friends in my Baseball Slack were digging into his ESPN Page 2 column archives.
It’s not just for perverts. Virtual reality porn’s role in fertility.
Jerking off in a cold, hard, fluorescent clinic is not exactly sexy. Reddit is full of men recounting the awkward experience of trying to finish at a clinic or sperm bank, which are typically only equipped with outdated porn magazines and videos.
In an effort to make this mandatory masturbation smoother, VR Bangers, a virtual reality porn company, is beginning a program to bring VR headsets to fertility clinics.
Dave Letterman on Norm Macdonald’s podcast or YouTube show or whatever is good.
Are you gonna eat that? Restaurants are being designed to maximize your Instagramming of them. (They aren’t the first to think of something like this. Fucking marketing types.)
For years now, Instagram has sat at the center of trends in food and beverages. Rainbow-colored “unicorn foods” are often designed with Instagram in mind, and entrepreneurs responsible for popular treats like the galaxy donut and Sugar Factory milkshake often see lines around the block after images of their products go viral. Firms like Paperwhite Studio specialize in turning restaurants into Instagram bait by designing twee sugar packets, menus, and coasters bearing slogans like “hello, my sweet” and “hug more.” ➜
Is the New York Times vs. The Washington Post vs. Trump the Last Great Newspaper War? // Vanity Fair
Breaking story after story, two great American newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, are resurgent, with record readerships. One has greater global reach and fifth-generation family ownership; the other has Jeff Bezos as its deep-pocketed proprietor and a technological advantage. Both, however, still face an existential foe.
Pearl Jam’s ‘Jeremy’: The Untold Story of Video Star Trevor Wilson’s Fascinating Life & Tragic Death // Billboard
Trevor Wilson was the most iconic face of grunge who wasn't actually in a band. Not even Spencer Elden -- the naked baby on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind -- was as immediately recognizable a stand-in for the angst and alienation of an entire generation as Wilson became with his first, and only, starring role: as the troubled teen in Pearl Jam's unforgettable 1992 video for “Jeremy.”
The Rise and Decline of the “Sellout” // Slate
A history of the epithet, from its rise among leftists and jazz critics and folkies to its recent fall from favor.
A Chess Master with an Unpredictable Style and the Hopes of a Nation // The New Yorker
Armenia is chess’s perennial overachiever, and Levon Aronian, its greatest player, is a swashbuckling throwback.