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 POP LOSER No. 79

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Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth

I’m on the record as mostly hating TED Talks (10,000 Medium reads on that one and a lot of weird emails from people really into TED). It’s not that I don’t like the occasional Talk, I mean, I read Susan Cain’s book because of her talk (and then imagined the conversation with her publisher where they explained that to sell it she should double the length, which led to a book where the second half is just a paraphrase of the first) and Jay Smooth can do no wrong, but I realized yesterday that if there’s one TED Talk (or in this case, TEDx Talk) that has stuck with me, it’s this ridiculous thing about paper towels. This actually changed my behaviour.

As always, I have no greater insight to what that might mean.
 

CONFUSIONS

Matter launches on Medium. Medium buys Matter. Medium shuts down Matter. I’ve been very pro-Medium, but I have some recent concerns, mostly that it’s turning into a never-ceasing assault of personal productivity lists, essential Sketch plug-ins and what-even-is-news-in-the-Trump-era thinkpieces.

Related: The cult of the paranoid Medium post

The Medium posts appear to be a cousin to the Twitter “thread” phenomenon, where speculative analyses of the current state of things are laid out in a long series of tweets instead of in an actual blog post. And they also share a tendency to overstate the certainty of what it is they’re writing about.


Read 1984 online for free. Or buy it; everyone else seems to be. Can’t imagine why people might suddenly think that’s important. You should probably also review the other dystopian classics—Brave New World (which is better and more relevant), Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Road. Shit, The Hunger Games feels instructive at this point.

Also: On newspeak .

In other words, Newspeak isn’t just a set of buzzwords, but the deliberate replacement of one set of words in the language for another. The transition is still in progress in the fictional 1984, but is expected to be completed “by about the year 2050.”

Previously: What it’s like teaching 1984 in 2017 .

Definitely Not Unrelated: In addition to being terrifying, the changes made to whitehouse.gov since Trump took over broke reference links all over Wikipedia .

Wikipedia editors jumped into action. “Links to URLs within http://whitehouse.gov were broken en masse when the new administration changed the main web site,” user econterms wrote on a forum for editors. “I’d welcome advice and correction.”

“My advice is to relax and get used to Trump’s America, which I predict will not be friendly to wikipedia,” another user grumped.


You don’t know Hannah Arendt.

Suddenly, a voice came howling out of the past, highlighted in pull quotes and conveyed in memes. Her stern face is screwed up in contemplation of the profound. Who is she? What is she saying? The words are difficult to make out at first. They’re half-remembered, if remembered at all — Did I do the reading that week of college? A quick Google provides clarity. Of course: The woman is Hannah Arendt, and she has come back from the wilderness to deliver us a message: Fascists are bad news.


The current alt-right meltdown is just like any other message board collapse.

At first, this disarray might seem surprising. After all, the alt-right claims to be an unprecedented political phenomenon that memed a president into office. But if you want to understand what’s happening there, it’s helpful to think about it as an internet-first creature. While it’s possible — and necessary — to view it through the lens of political or social thought that it echoes, the other way of making sense of it is to look at it as a digital community, regardless of its politics. And if you view it as an online community rather than a political movement, its trajectory starts to look very, very familiar.

What we have here is a classic case of “mod drama.”

As someone who has spent a lot of time taxonimizing online communities, from places like Fark to SomethingAwful, 4chan to Facebook groups for moms, I can assure you that one need only look at how other internet groups rise and fall to see what’s happening in the alt-right.

Also: About the black bloc—the protest tactic that led to the Richard Spencer meme—is both interesting and has a glorious opening paragraph.

The transcendental experience of watching Roger Federer play tennis, David Foster Wallace wrote, was one of “kinetic beauty.” Federer’s balletic precision and mastering of time, on the very edge of what seems possible for a body to achieve, was a form of bodily genius. What Foster Wallace saw in a Federer Moment, I see in a video of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched in the face.

Note: ​I swear I’m not trying to make Pop Loser a source of links to all things post-truth and alt-right and anti-Trump, but apparently these are the only things anyone writes about anymore. I’m at the mercy of the links in my RSS reader, folks.


Digital people do love their notebooks and pens. I spent 2016 getting stationery mostly out of my life and I refuse to look back.

A quick scan of social media illustrates a quiet return to the humble charms of stationery and lettering. Many people are using cursive writing and colouring in to help organise their lives or work on certain goals — whether it’s fitness, finances, or fast-tracking their careers. And, despite the proliferation of apps, other back-to-basics ideas have gained popularity online.

Also: The history of the legend of the myth of the Moleskine.

God Himself emblazoned the Ten Commandments on a pair of Moleskines — only the notebooks’ tremendous gravitas made them feel like stone tablets. Moses used to push the books into friends’ hands, saying, “Feel these. No, seriously, feel them. Aren’t they substantial?”


The great media unbundling (or: how we got to where we are).

What is interesting is that scripted TV is turning out very differently than music: instead of leveraging their back catalogs to maintain exclusivity on new releases, most networks sold the former to Netflix, giving the upstart the runway to compete and increasingly dominate the market for new shows. The motivation is obvious: networks have been far more concerned with protecting their lucrative paid-TV revenue than with propping up their streaming initiatives; the big difference in music is that the labels’ old album-based business model had already been ruined. It’s a lot easier to move into the future when there is nothing to lose.

​I’m slowly piecing together thoughts on the media consumption paradigm. I’ll get back to you once I sort it out.


HMV Canada is closing. It sort of feels like nobody told the CEO .

What happened was, generally anyway, was that when people buy music or film it is helpful to everybody because it keeps people engaged, right? If you think about more than ten years ago when iTunes was launched, it re-engaged people in purchasing and owning music.

At that time you felt the restructuring had helped?
Absolutely. While we have seen most of our competitors on the retail side of the business close, [we hadn’t] and I think that’s down to the fact that we have a much better offer and much better people and service-offering in our stores.


BitTorrent is a brilliant technology without a business model.

170 million people used the protocol every month, according to the company’s website. Facebook and Twitter use it to distribute updates to their servers. Florida State University has used it to distribute large scientific datasets to its researchers. Blizzard Entertainment has used BitTorrent to let players download World of Warcraft. The company’s site boasts that the protocol moves as much as 40 percent of the world’s Internet traffic each day.

But transforming this technology into any kind of business has proved elusive. By last spring, BitTorrent had already endeavored to become a media company, twice. There was BitTorrent Entertainment Network, launched in 2007, which was a storefront for movies and music that made no money and shut down a year later. And then there was the BitTorrent Bundle, launched in 2013, which was a competitor to iTunes and Amazon that let artists distribute their work directly to fans at a fraction the cost. In 2014, the company even announced plans to produce its own original series, a scifi show called Children of the Machine. But by early the next year, BitTorrent had given up on this strategy, too.

It feels a lot like RSS, except RSS doesn’t have an owner. Still, it’s the best technology and nobody really gets it. It also has no real business model. I may single-handedly be keeping RSS alive. For the record, I don't BitTorrent very often.


Neo Geo collecting is crazy.

The majority of the Neo Geo game library is freely (if unofficially) available to play online, and SNK has ported many of the best-known and most expensive titles to modern consoles, offering them for a fraction of their original price. This new ubiquity, however, has had no apparent effect on the collectors’ market. Digital distribution has freed video games from their physical hosts, just as it did with music, films, and books, but the craving for tangibility remains.


Drinking In LA” is still the ultimate existential slack anthem. I agree with this post.

“Drinking in LA” is you during the third trimester of a night out. It’s the sound of empty bottles clanging into a bin as you tumble out of a club to be greeted by the sun coming up. It’s the collection of hard, listless bastards still at the house party at 10AM, chatting shit before they start racking up more lines. It’s every misty-eyed retrospection on raving in the 90s, every “do nothing” university student stereotype throughout the ages, and the cotton-padded clarity of every comedown rolled into one song. During the second chorus someone literally shouts “BEER!” – that’s how drunk it is. As if to hammer home its commitment to getting fucked up, the video is a playfully obvious acid trip-looking collage of people sinking beers, shifting equipment around and having a generally pleasant time in boiler suits and assorted fancy dress. It’s like that film Hackers had it been about regular people who aren’t particularly good at anything.


Falling in love with robots is probably inevitable.

Not only are we one of the few species that attempts to be monogamous, but we deliberately circumvent nature’s true purpose with rubber sheaths, we engage in same sex relationships, we substitute people for expensive phallic toys, or opt for the company of inflatable dolls with what look like expressions of shock.

And this is without going into detail about some of the strange personal preferences we have while in the sack.

Well, all this stands to pale in comparison with what’s around the corner.

​Previously: Please don’t have sex with robots.


Two unrelated oral histories: the Fox glowing hockey puck and Homestar Runner, the greatest Internet cartoon ever.


I hit my ten-thousand-step goal and have now achieved total self-actualization.

Last Wednesday, after fifteen months of wearing a Fitbit, I reached my daily goal of ten thousand steps for the first time. The circumstances were fraught, but proved physically and mentally rewarding: My normal pho spot was closed, and, instead of turning back and ordering pizza, I marched on to this new place that will put literally anything in a crêpe.

It was while I was in line for my pulled-pork crêpe that I heard my wristband beep, informing me that I had achieved the previously unthinkable. I believe that I experienced what is sometimes referred to as a walker’s high. The euphoria was so overwhelming that I can barely remember the Uber ride home.
 

INTERPLAYS

Obits: Masaya Nakamura and John Hurt. Video: Astronaut, The Making & Mythology of Twin Peaks and Paper Cut London. Audio: Kurt Vonnegut interviewing dead people and CBC Ideas: The Truth About Post-Truth. Trailers: Kuso, Colossal and Santa Clarita Diet. Design: Goudy & Syracuse: The Tale of a Typeface Found and The Web Field Manual.
 

PROPAGANDA

Ezra Levant: The Rebel’s Unrepentant Commander // Maclean’s
How Ezra Levant built The Rebel: the angry, hate-filled, unapologetic and surprisingly successful ‘Breitbart North’.

Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich // The New Yorker
Some of the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond—are getting ready for the crackup of civilization.

The Tragic Death of Mark Baumer, a Prolific Poet and Environmental Activist for the Social-Media Age // The New Yorker
The writer and activist Mark Baumer, who died this week, at the age of thirty-three, was a compulsive social-media diarist. He produced tens of entries each day on a mess of online platforms, posting poems, photographs, videos of prank calls, minutes-long collages of his daily activities.

The Lost Royal Rumble and How a Signature WWE Event Survived Despite Early Failure // CBS Sports
Vince McMahon hated the concept of the Royal Rumble match from the moment he heard it. And when Vince McMahon hates something, it will likely never see daylight in WWE, especially on television.

Brit Marling’s Impossible Dream // Vulture
Brit Marling’s ethereal series The OA is the year’s first sleeper hit. Which is funny, given that a few years ago, it likely never would have gotten made.

The Atomic Origins of Climate Science // The New Yorker
How arguments about nuclear weapons shaped the debate over global warming.

Politicians Cannot Bring Back Old-Fashioned Factory Jobs // The Economist
The vices are what strike you. The Mercedes AMG factory in Brixworth, a town in England’s midlands, is a different world from that of the production line of yore. Engine making was once accompanied by loud noises and the smoke and smells of men and machinery wrestling lumps of metal.

"One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years, thought Bernard Marx, who was a specialist on hypnopædia. Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots!"
Aldous Huxley


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

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