POP LOSER no. 95

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The thing about writing a book, at least in my limited experience, is that it’s basically busy-work. It’s a thing you can work on when you have (or make) time to work on it. The manuscript for my novel is just over 54,000 words. It’s short. That shit took me five years to finish. 

The thing about editing a book with a publisher is that it’s a job. There are deadlines and expectations and a very thick, legally binding contract. I have to finish that shit in the next three months. (Related: My novel now has a release date set for this fall. So that’s fun.) 

But, it’s the new year! Which is when we all get overly ambitious about our ability to manage time and be our most productive selves. At some point in the last month I convinced myself that I can keep sending this email most weeks. 

Expect it to be smaller and more focused, which is probably better anyway—it does have a habit of getting a bit unruly. I’ll also probably post more links on Twitter. And, despite all metrics telling me that sending on Fridays is terrible for open- and click-rates, I’m going to do that anyway.


I had some things published during the extended break. I wrote a thing for This called “The Shape Of Water” (the online headline is more SEO-friendly, less cleverly tied into a new movie) and I wrote a thing about the vast awfulness of Facebook for The Walrus. I’ve got another thing coming in the new issue of This as well, which should be on newsstands now or very soon.




I don’t pretend to understand what “fame” even means anymore. Logan Paul’s modern Stand By Me bit makes that painfully clear—who is this guy, how does he have a bazillion followers and are there really two of him? We shouldn’t be surprised that a 22-year-old with little life experience beyond content churning has a fucked up decision-making paradigm, but that his followers number in the tens of millions and his YouTube views are into the billions? That seems… bad. Maybe I’m just old. (I am.) And this whole thing only serves to bring him more: more views, more fame, more money


“The things that make Paul repellant to some and enticing to others may be the exact same qualities: He’s a hot doofus who gets away with doing stupid shit. He is wish fulfillment personified: At 22, he’s managed to become very wealthy, famous, and successful while hardly doing anything at all. His fame, at this point, feels like a self-propagating mechanism. If you hate him, it’s likely because he represents what you’ve always resented about the world — that someone so utterly thoughtless and lacking evident empathy could still thrive, and worse, become wildly famous. If you like him, it’s likely because there’s something inspiring about all that success. Maybe you think he’s cute, and boy, wouldn’t it be great if you got to join the Logang and move into his $6.55 million Encino estate?”


Between this and KFC parodying the President of the United States’s tweet to kill millions in order to sell chicken products, well, the new season of Black Mirror seems kind of quaint, doesn’t it? (I kid. The new season is Black Mirror is fucking great.) 




Twitter-friend Nav thinks the framing around the net neutrality debate is all kinds of wrong. Nav is very smart (and has another thing linked to in the long reads). 


“The net neutrality debate, however, has a problem: It discusses the social and cultural effects of the internet almost entirely in terms of the free market. In this narrow scope, it appears that only options for ensuring internet freedom are letting the market work, or limiting what large corporations can do. And in constraining the conversation to these terms of the companies who operate on the internet, we obscure the real threat to freedom in general: those companies themselves.”




If you use Uber, are you bad? Yes. 


“Why not take Uber? Because you care about sexism, worker treatment, corporate ethics, the law, or consumer privacy. Any of these would be reason enough to avoid the company, especially when alternatives—namely Lyft, but sometimes other car services like Via or Juno—are so readily available. Moral outrage is a strong motivator, as Uber learned in January, and the company has generated a lot of it in 2017. It should be no surprise if some of that translates into account deletions.”


Similar to the net neutrality link above, this feels like it’s focused on the wrong thing. Sure, you can hate Uber for being awful, but are we just going to ignore that the model—which is also Lyft’s model—is inherently problematic and possibly bad for the world? 




The most interesting part of this look at Amazon’s hold on books and e-books is that it recognizes that Silicon Valley isn’t going to save books because books don’t need saving and, on a long enough timeline, they also can’t be saved.  


“But there’s nothing novel about the cultural content that Amazon has pumped into the marketplace. Genre—romance, sci-fi, and other forms of commercial fiction—reigns supreme in Kindle Direct Publishing, making this revolution similar, in many ways, to the pulp explosion of the early twentieth century. Some of these authors are wildly successful in ways that never would have been possible before the Kindle; many have an even harder time finding an audience in such an oversaturated market. But expensive, labor-intensive publishing—non-fiction and much of literary fiction—is still largely being produced by publishing houses. The Kindle, in other words, has helped create a new set of winners and losers in book publishing, but it hasn’t changed the books being produced.”




An oral history of Epicurious, which just turned twenty. TWENTY! 


Mark Michaelson: As far as a launch party for the public? It might have happened. I might have been there. I might have had a great time.

Jeff Jarvis: The launch was anti-climactic. There was no way to get discovered. Apart from showing up on Yahoo, you had to be recommended. People had to link to you. Until Google came, really, you didn't purposefully go in and search for things. It was just meandering. It was links. Everyone would tell stories of wasting three hours the night before going to site after site after site after site.

Joan Feeney: It's a good point. How do you throw a launch party if no one cares or knows you exist?



📰 Every Modern Processor Has Unfixable Security Flaws

📰 The Library Of Congress won’t save all the tweets

🕹 Robot Finds Kitten 

🎥 The End of the Fucking World

📰 MailChimp is killing TinyLetter

🧠 Anatomy of the Urban Dictionary

📼 Format-Specific Easter Eggs

📰 Spotify is Going Public

🎥 Mortal Engines

😂 Updated Rules for Settlers of Catan




I’m a big fan of Charlie Rose’s interview with David Foster Wallace, which is an increasingly problematic thing to be a fan of. In it, they talk about David Lynch and it’s great, but I’d never actually read the DFW piece about Lost Highway until this week. It’s very Wallace (in a good way). 

Weekend Reading

Emotional Overdrive // Real Life
The crisis of modern news is not just an excess of data but of affect. 


Inside Silicon Valley’s Dark Side // Vanity Fair
Some of the most powerful men in Silicon Valley are regulars at exclusive, drug-fueled, sex-laced parties—gatherings they describe not as scandalous, or even secret, but as a bold, unconventional lifestyle choice. Yet, while the guys get laid, the women get screwed. In an adaptation from her new book, Brotopia, Emily Chang exposes the tired and toxic dynamic at play.


This is How a Woman is Erased From Her Job // Longreads
After taking over from George Plimpton, Brigid Hughes was pushed out as the editor of The Paris Review and omitted from the magazine’s history.


Searching for the Self-Loathing Woman Writer // Hazlitt
Did these women hate themselves, or did they write about a world that hated them?


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

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