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Completely and Openly a Mess

Things I actually do for self improvement:

1. I do 30 pushups every time I go to the washroom (washroom size, cleanliness and privacy permitting).
2. I set timers and alarms for everything, including when to work and when to eat and when to check my email (and I only ignore about half of them).
3. I only watch TV after 10 PM (excluding baseball and Survivor).
4. I do not angry tweet (unless I absolutely can’t help myself).
5. I walk a lot (listening to podcasts about pro wrestling).
6. I try to read more than 50 books each year (and, yes, I count the books I read to my kids in my total).
7. I don’t drink alcohol on weekdays (unless I absolutely can’t help myself).
8. I don’t eat candy (unless it’s Gummi Bears or I’m at the movies) and I don’t drink pop (except for Dr. Pepper from a fountain, which is shockingly difficult to find).
9. I attempt pointless small talk with a least one person each week (and try very hard to give the impression that it isn’t the worst conversation of my life).
10. I never write without a qualified editor (except on my free email newsletter, where typos are authentic and charming).


The tech industry, where everyone works very hard

The fetishization of hours clocked in the office is nothing new for this crowd. Silicon Valley’s sense of self-worth is deeply tied to the idea that hard work is a prerequisite for success. Why else would mild bromides about burn-out strike such a nerve? For the rest of the business world, “working smart” is a time-management cliche, not a call to arms.

…even if they don’t do hard work.

Rule of thumb: If it’s hard you’ll have trouble finding people who want to do it. There’s no shortage of people who want to be programmers, designers, strategists, social media consultants, entrepreneurs, investors, etc… But try finding people to work the farm. Hard work is doing the work other people don’t want to do.

Also, all your hard work probably helps someone else way more than it helps you.

It’s not hard to understand why such a mythology serves the interest of money men who spread their bets wide and only succeed when unicorns emerge. Of course they’re going to desire fairytale sacrifices. There’s little to no consequence to them if the many fall by the wayside, spent to completion trying to hit that home run. Make me rich or die tryin’.

The entrepreneurs who sign up for such pressures may have asked for it. If you, knowing their sentiments, ask Rabois or Suster for millions to fund your venture, then you probably should expect to have your vacations, weekends, hobbies, family time, or outings with the kids questioned.

But the pressures don’t stop with the person who signs the term sheet. That shit trickles down.

I do not do hard work. I do not work very hard.

Google, truth and the information war that’s ruining everything.

That’s right: Trump is being followed by 15 million robots.

The Washington Post just ran a pretty cowardly piece about Trump’s bot following. They titled it “Something Fishy Is Going on with Trump’s Twitter Account,” but didn’t say why this fishiness mattered in the first place. Who really cares if his followers are fake? So what if he wears a Twitter toupee? (A Twoupee, if you will.) We’re used to that from Trump.

Here’s where WaPo wouldn’t, for some reason, go: those bots aren’t just digital codpieces. They’re attack vectors for weaponized information.


I’m not going to get into the weeds of SEO (search engine optimization). But I am going to say something that sounds completely insane, and warn you that we’re in the middle of something we’ve never experienced in America: a full-on psychological war. And Google, of all places, is a main battlefield.

Medium may not have had a great business model, but they did built a pretty good content ecosystem, which they are now pissing away. Backchannel, one of the better tech publications right now, is taking their game over to Wired.

Starting June 21, we will begin publishing Backchannel as a weekly digital magazine on As players in a news cycle that’s rapidly approaching light speed, we believe our work will stand out more as a weekly event — an occasion — than as yet more fodder for the daily churn. And now we’ll be hosted on Wired’s site, rather than on Medium.

Previously: The Ringer moves to Vox Media.

Pinboard bought Delicious and ten years ago that would be an insane thing to type. Actually, it’s still kind of nuts.

If you’re a Pinboard user, nothing will change. Sad!

If you’re a Delicious user, you will have to find another place to save your bookmarks. The site will stay online. but on June 15, I will put Delicious into read-only mode. You won’t be able to save new bookmarks after that date, or use the API.

Twitter is terrible.

Far more fundamental is the way Twitter intensifies and amplifies pathological social tendencies among those who act within, report on, and write about the political world. It turns politicians, political staffers, reporters, editors, pundits, and analysts into petty, vain, childish, showoffy, hostile, vindictive, dogmatic, impulsive, careless versions of their best and most professional selves. This makes Twitter horrible for our politics and equally bad for journalism. The single best thing for both politics and journalism would be for Twitter to go out of business tomorrow.


As anyone who makes it out of high school alive knows very well, the cafeteria is not a psychically, emotionally, or intellectually healthy place to be. And neither is Twitter.

Previously: Me, a few months ago.

On the morning of the U.S. election last November, I logged onto Twitter and spent several hours arguing about privilege—mostly white, but also male—with someone who believed the entire concept was, itself, racist and sexist because he “judges people individually,” systemic issues be damned. As often happens, the discussion devolved to me calling him “willfully obtuse” and 20 minutes later, “fucking stupid.” I’m not terrific at debating, but I am fairly certain of two things: privilege is real and nobody has ever been convinced of that on Twitter, even without name calling.

Tackling the great issue of our time: Notifications.

When they first came out, app developers rejoiced at the prospects of engaging their users outside of the app, anytime they wanted to. But we were left with a noisy, random, and border-line abusive user experience where notifications have become a tactic to steal our attention rather than enhance our lives.

Learn how to call bullshit in the age of big data.

​How apps are changing food.

Generally, predictive services are not predictive so much as reliant on someone else having been in your position before — if you search for the contents of your fridge, odds are someone else will have previously cooked these items together, but you will have sift through their results yourself. The appealing complications of actually cooking a meal remain messy, inconvenient, and human. Apps encourage us not to improvise and trust ourselves, but to undertake the process of itemizing and analyzing our ingredients as data for machines to process; to think of ourselves as a component of the machine itself. These tools simplify our lives on the condition that we simplify ourselves for them.

The tilde is the punctuation mark of our times.

The tilde is 3,000 years old, but is there any grapheme that’s more ~of the times~? The little traveling worm, originally designed to convey approximation (and used in Spanish and Portuguese to denote certain sounds), expresses so much more: strangeness, emotional and physical distance — but perhaps most importantly, sarcasm.

Old, But Related: SarcMark.

2 Girls 1 Cup turns 10.

What really put 2 Girls 1 Cup on the map though was not the video itself, but the videos about it. 2G1C pioneered a specific kind of video genre that would come to define sites like YouTube in coming years: the reaction video.

Copyright, going viral and who owns ideas on the Internet.

Over the last two decades, the web has pushed every creative medium — print, film, music, even art — into brand-new territory. Creators can now take nontraditional paths to traditional success, and mainstream industries have stretched to accommodate these new digital economic models. A musician like Chance the Rapper no longer needs a record label to win a Grammy, and a comedian like Quinta Brunson can use Instagram and YouTube to land a job producing and starring in videos for BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. And the internet has also allowed for the creation of new types of cultural products, even as we struggle to recognize them as such.

Life after a website’s fleeting viral fame wanes.

Sites like these continue to exist in their own tiny corner of the web, long after their moment of viral fame as part of the “useless internet” — a term that extends beyond a simple spinning pupper or foodstuff. As a genre, useless internet isn’t even limited by form. It could be a standalone website, an abstract Flash game, a forgotten soundboard. It’s almost always a punchline with no setup.

Daily Motion has some Max Headroom episodes, which you should binge before they get pulled.

Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter.

“I’m going to sell copies of my wand at an enormous markup,” Harry said, “and you can buy one like everyone else.”

Voldemort had been defeated.

“He hated us for our freedom,” Ron said.

“No, Ron,” Harry said. “He hated us for our free markets.”

Hermione ached with desire for the both of them to master her, but nobody paid her any attention. They had empires to build.

Be bored, be boring. Amen.

Once we of-the-moment phone-heads appreciate fully that boredom is driven by extra-psychological factors, factors that are beyond the purview of the individual qua individual, we can begin to see the relational, dynamic lines of influence from our screens to our states of mind. This should be obvious but is still denied, or ignored, by those who set undue store by the idea of mental self-control. Since we all have ample evidence of the weakness of the human mind, in particular of the will, when responding to mental excitement this amounts to denial. Thus the most vivid portrait of boredom from our own day is the familiar picture of someone, maybe even several people apparently sitting together, with eyes glued to a smartphone screen and fingers flicking, flicking, flicking. What do those people want? What do they not want?

What the fuck is a toxin?

Once upon a time, “detox” used to mean “a treatment for substance abuse or addiction.” Now it means spicy lemon water. These days you see the word “toxin” everywhere. On wellness blogs, in GOOP newsletters, in Instagram ads for clay face masks that will detoxify your face. Infrared saunas that will detoxify your fat deposits. Bullshit websites that tell you, “Any physical activity that gets your heart pumping is a great detoxification option.”

How I learned to stop worrying and love the fidget spinner.

Soon after I bought my first fidget spinner, I stopped making eye contact with loved ones during conversations. After my second, I went weeks without showering. Thirty-nine spinners and a divorce later, I can comfortably say that this is mankind’s greatest distraction since loose change in pockets.



Obits: Pat Pope, Denis Johnson, Glenne Headly and Adam West. Audio: Planet Money on the history of Spreadsheets and Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture. Video: New official videos for “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man” and “Bennie & the Jets,” and Bobcat Goldthwaite on Dick Cavett in 1992. Trailers: Blood Drive. Websites: Apology Simulator, Where’s Wallace and Deleted City. Design: The Web Design Museum, MST3K Font References, Redditors design terrible volume sliders and Posterati (which I think I’ve linked to before). Miscellany: Don Delillo’s Cereal Boxes and The Erotic Lithographs of John Lennon.



Twelve Seconds of Gunfire // The Washington Post
In tiny Townville, S.C., first-graders are haunted by what they survived — and lost — on a school playground.

Is Socially Responsible Capitalism Losing? // The New Yorker
When companies prize investors above all, they’ll do anything to increase their stock price, and that’s not good for workers.

How the Self-Esteem Craze Took Over America // New York
In 1991, a children’s book called The Lovables in the Kingdom of Self-Esteem was published. Written by Diane Loomans and illustrated by Kim Howard, The Lovables imparts a simple, nurturing message: You, the tiny child reading this book or having this book read to you, are very special.

A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction // The New Yorker
What to make of our new literature of radical pessimism.

New Life for a 125-Year-Old Literary Journal // The New York Times
Adam Ross was more than 100 pages into a new novel about a child actor in 1970s New York when a rare opportunity came up. The Sewanee Review, a 125-year-old literary journal that published some of the 20th century’s greatest American writers, was seeking a new editor.

Take a Look: An Oral History of Reading Rainbow // Mental Floss
For students, the summer months represent freedom from the shackles of regimented learning. For educators, they were becoming a problem. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was growing concern that children were becoming so captivated by both television and warm weather during their summer vacation that they had abandoned reading altogether. When they returned to school in the fall, their literacy skills had noticeably plummeted.

Inside the Sell Off of Canada’s Literary Heritage // Maclean’s
A new book by Elaine Dewar illuminates the curious sale of iconic Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart — and what it means for Can Lit. 

Goddamned Sputnik // The Outline
Sputnik Monroe understood the purchasing power of black people and transformed Memphis’ pro wrestling fanbase at the height of segregation.

Norm Macdonald on Why He’s Tired of Trump Satire and the Joke He’ll Never Tell Again // Vulture
Norm Macdonald is one of those rare and captivating public figures to whom you can raise a subject and safely know that the conversation won’t promptly be squashed with a pat or predictable response. The 56-year-old stand-up’s uniquely skewed, deceptively laconic approach is both the source of his comedic gift and often held up as some sort of built-in brake on his success. 

The Horrors of Getting Hit by a Pitch // ESPN
A baseball is a wondrous little thing. It weighs 6 ounces – the same as an apple – and is the perfect size and shape for the hand. It is the ideal home for the proudest autographs, so white and pristine, resting on the mantel or in the trophy case. A shiny new baseball is known as a “pearl”; pearls are so elegant and romantic. It is what brings fathers and sons together in the backyard for a joyful, peaceful game of catch. It appears in springtime, like flowers and warm sunshine.

How Lego Clicked: The Super Brand That Reinvented Itself // The Observer
The revival of Lego has been hailed as the greatest turnaround in corporate history, ousting Ferrari as the world’s most powerful brand. 

“No more pretending for him! He was completely and openly a mess. Meanwhile the rest of us go on trying to fool each other.”
Denis Johnson

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

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