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The Poem and the Stink and the Grating Noise

Last week I threatened to tweak the format and this week I’ve gone and done it, though I’m not sure it’s better. I think the goal is to get you to the end faster, but I’m not even sure. Probably I’m bored.

The headers are sort of back again, and that went really well for me in 2016 when I realized I was trying to come up with a clever pun for a link that involved people dying. We’ll just avoid punning death this time and see how it goes. “Confusions” is basically the same, just tighter and featuring less quoted material. “Interplays” isn’t gone. Don’t go emailing me that it was the only thing you liked (you know who you are). I’ve just re-distributed those links elsewhere. “Propaganda” is still there, but we all know that’s just long reads, right?

This opening bit will still be random and mostly skipped over.


Everything is creepy. You can no longer trust things people say on video and there’s no way that’ll be used almost exclusively for evil and Star Wars movies. Also, your Roomba is going to map your home and sell the data.

Maybe that doesn’t unnerve you, but it probably should. This is all part of the larger quest for a few major companies to hoover up every bit of data about you that they can. Now, they want to know all about your living space. Going through the iRobot terms of service, you can see just how much data is already being collected on a daily basis just by clicking like on a Facebook page or visiting a corporate website. And that data will likely be just as insecure tomorrow as it is today.

Also: Google Glass is back.

iPhone operating manual. For the sake of your phone, stop force-quitting apps. For the sake of your sanity, turn off your notifications.

I get notifications when an acquaintance comments on a stranger's Facebook posts, when shows I don't care about come to Netflix, and every single day at 6 PM when the crossword puzzle becomes available. Recently, I got a buzz from my close personal friends at Yelp. "We found a hot new business for you," it said. I opened the notification, on the off chance that Yelp had finally found the hot new business I've been waiting for. It did not. So I closed Yelp, stared into space for a second, and then opened Instagram. Productivity over.

Also: Use your phone as Steve Jobs intended it—to date verified Twitter users.

Literary pursuits. Maybe you should write a book. But probably you should not.

If the internet is responsible for one recent, disturbing trend it’s this: The idea that everyone can and should write a book. Entrepreneurs should write books. YouTube stars should write books. Quit your job and become a Kindle author. There’s even one service that specializes in helping enterprising pastors turn their sermons into books, “without having to leave the pulpit.”

It seems inspiring and democratizing, but the truth is that not only has this bit of self-help internet feel-goodery sucked up thousands of hours of the time of otherwise productive people, it has flooded the world with crappy books.

Also: A lament for the card catalogue and “Hills Like White Elephants” from the woman’s POV.

Alan Freed never played a record he didn’t like. Digging into Spotify playlists, where payola is alive and well.

Spotify is currently striving for a never-before-seen level of authority over how music is distributed, discovered, and paid/not-paid for. Its ultimate goal is seemingly to build brand loyalty in the “magic” of Spotify, to embolden that authority. Playlists are the top tool they are currently employing to expand their platform empire. To interrogate the world of playlists is to interrogate the world of Spotify and its unprecedented grab for power and control in music.

McSweeney’s thing of the week: I am a new meme.

Suddenly – I am split by a new Carrier. But this one is different, somehow. This one has a Blue Check Mark. She is a god amongst gods, and I am her chosen one! Now I am Big Time, the Real Deal. Before I was languishing in a mere tide pool – but now I have been swept out into the vastness of the sea!

Who ranks the rankings? A ranking of rankings of Christopher Nolan movies. Better yet, click through and read all of them. They are so wildly varied and intensely justified it calls into question the entire practice of arbitrarily ranking things on websites oh my god the Internet is pointless.

This week, perhaps coincidentally, eight rankings of Nolan’s nine films were published. Though I don’t respect Christopher Nolan’s stances on Netflix, which are ill-informed and kind of rude, I do love his films, and so I read every list.

Also, a bunch of trailers: *Ready Player One*, *Escapes*, *The Pulitzer at 100*, *Person to Person*, *England Is Mine*, *The Shape of Water*, *Death Note*, *Rebel In the Rye* (which I think we can all agree is the worst title), *Bright*, *Stranger Things* and *Wonderstruck*. The number of these that are Netflix exclusives is notable (as is the news that Matt Groening is working on a Netflix show).

Thinkwriting about TV. Game Of Thrones supports its own cottage of industry of thinkpieces, which might matter but might not. I don’t know. But I’m very interested in looking back at the women of Mad Men, which wasn’t a show about advertising or men. What’s it mean that I spend more time reading about TV than watching TV these days?

To state the obvious, we now know far more about the opinions of a much larger segment of the population than we did pre-internet, which in turn provides much more data for writing that responds to the kinds of questions dear to the heart of academic theory regarding representation of femininity, class, or labor. The fact is, if you read nothing but Game of Thrones–related pieces from its 2011 premiere to the present... well, you would be insane, not to mention missing out on much better work. But you would also be in possession of a coherent cultural history of the last six years, as they unfolded side by side with Game of Thrones’s last six seasons.

Some things, good and awful. Alice Cooper forgot he owned a Warhol. Canadian media has a right-wing bias. PETA ruined a man’s life defending a monkey’s right to copyright. Google’s McLuhan doodle. Someone buy me Kurt Vonnegut’s anus doodle shirt. Big Bird does “Sabotage”. A history of Calibri scandals. Microsoft Paint is not dead, but Flash is. Snopes needed money so Snopes got money


The Dirtbag Left and the Problem of Dominance Politics // New Republic
Trump insulted his way to the White House. Now, Chapo Trap House is trying to insult Democrats into moving left—a strategy that's doomed to fail.

The Bleak Left // n+1
It’s no secret that the collapse of international communism from 1989 to 1991 forced many Marxists into defensive positions. What’s less well understood is why so many others took the opportunity to abjure some of Marxism’s most hallowed principles.

The TV That Created Donald Trump // The New Yorker
Rewatching “The Apprentice,” the show that made his Presidency possible.

Creek Theses // The Paris Review
Because the dream of the nineties is still on life support in Portland (seriously, check our real-estate listings), yesterday I walked over to the independently owned brick-and-mortar music-and-video emporium near my house to buy a used copy of the Dawson’s Creek season 6 box set for $6. They had a second copy going for $8.50, which I assume meant it was in slightly better condition, but I’d decided beforehand that $6 was my price point.

Tom Stoppard’s Heartfelt High Jinks // Prospect Magazine
The playwright’s works might be dazzlingly cerebral, but they are surprisingly moving.

“How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise— the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream— be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book— to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves.”
John Steinbeck

Pop Loser is a weekly newsletter of innumerable confusions collected and written by Tyler Hellard.

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