Anna Russell, in Zoom Fatigue and the New Ways to Party:
The socialite Jordan Baker, an expert slinker in “The Great Gatsby,” put it best: “I like large parties. They’re so intimate.” At a Zoom cocktail party, there’s no kitchen, and everything said must be sanctioned by the group. (The chat function doesn’t cut it.) There are no whispered asides and no eavesdropping. You can’t slink on Zoom. You can’t sidle up to someone and say, “Bachelor”-style, “Can I steal him for a sec?” Even a large party on Zoom has no intimacy, and little to no intrigue.
Having a single, universal port on the majority of my devices is a godsend, but it feels like spinning the wheel every time I plug something in: Will it behave the way I expect? If it’s this difficult for me, I’m not sure how the average person will know how to figure out what’s wrong.
In November 2016 I wrote a piece (on this very website!) about how confused I was around USB-C and Thunderbolt.
I have a 12" MacBook from 2015, and a 27" Cinema Display with Thunderbolt. Do they work together? Nope. You know how much bullshit technical jargon I would have had to read to figure that out? An infinite amount, more or less.
Still true, four years later.
¹ Yes, I’ve seen the xkcd comic.
Steve LeVine has an electrifying (cough) story on Tesla in Marker, with some prognostication on what’s to come at the Sept 22 shareholders meeting, aka “Battery Day.” LeVine expects Musk to announce that “the newest Teslas will achieve cost parity with similar combustion vehicles.”
The best answer is that when you add up Musk’s various moves in the electric vehicle space, you get an intention not only to challenge his rivals but to make combustion socially obsolete. That is, he wants every motorist on the planet to believe they have to get rid of their current gasoline-driven vehicle and go electric. And not because they desire to save the planet, because such individuals are relatively few, but for economic or safety reasons.
Amanda Mull, writing in The Atlantic about what’s lost in WingFH…
Workplaces are complex social ecosystems just like all other places humans inhabit, and decentralizing them can obliterate the things that make them satisfying: knowing eye contact with a co-worker when a change you’ve been begging for is finally announced. A slightly-too-long lunch break with your desk neighbor because your boss is in meetings all day. Giving a presentation to your peers and watching them receive it well.
Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Salvage the Bones, writes in Vanity Fair about the death of her husband, the pandemic, and witnessing rivers of protestors. Make time and space for this.
During the pandemic, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house, terrified I would find myself standing in the doorway of an ICU room, watching the doctors press their whole weight on the chest of my mother, my sisters, my children, terrified of the lurch of their feet, the lurch that accompanies each press that restarts the heart, the jerk of their pale, tender soles, terrified of the frantic prayer without intention that keens through the mind, the prayer for life that one says in the doorway, the prayer I never want to say again, the prayer that dissolves midair when the hush-click-hush-click of the ventilator drowns it, terrified of the terrible commitment at the heart of me that reasons that if the person I love has to endure this, then the least I can do is stand there, the least I can do is witness, the least I can do is tell them over and over again, aloud, I love you. …
Dave Pell in top form in today’s NextDraft:
During the final night of the GOP convention, Donald Trump spewed enough bullshit to keep the White House south lawn fertilized in perpetuity. He also made it clear how thoroughly he has mowed down his party and regrown it in his image; the south lawn may as well have been the fairway of one of his golf courses at the conclusion of a convention that featured more Trumps than Republican senators.
In today’s Daily Update, Ben Thompson comments on the hyperbolic coverage re iOS 14, IDFA opt-in, and Facebook’s Audience Network. Subscribers only, but I feel compelled to note this one paragraph because he’s right on the money.
What is so frustrating and disappointing about this approach to Facebook news specifically, and far too many tech stories generally, is that a genuinely interesting conflict between companies worth trillions of dollars that will impact billions of people and millions of apps and businesses is being fundamentally misrepresented and spun as some sort of soap opera.
iA, who make the wonderful iA Writer, have a long post about app pricing and what they’ve learned from Android subscriptions. It’s worth reading in full, but I especially loved this friendly shade thrown Craig Mod’s way, re. his subscription newsletter:
You can try selling your newsletter, but it needs to be a hell of a newsletter. You need to do diabolically unique things, something like walk up and down Japan, and live stream multimedia poetry wrapped in digital washi paper.
Full disclosure: I paid for iA Writer, and I pay for Craig Mod’s newsletter…
One of the top places on our “list of places to visit when we can travel again” is Storm King Art Center, a 500 acre outdoor museum in the Hudson Valley. It’s now open again, with visitors limited to 300 per day via timed tickets. Peter Schjeldahl, the New Yorker’s art critic, visited recently and writes about it in this week’s issue:
In lockdown times, there’s euphoria in going much of anywhere, not to speak of a journey to a tract of paradise. You could say that I was primed for giddiness on this occasion. I noticed unaccustomed intensity in my responses to the art works that I encountered, taking them in like gulps of air after escaping a miasma. It was a gift of refreshed aesthetic innocence, which I think awaits us all when we are set free in even non-curated environs — I’ve been feeling apologetic to certain trees, near my home, for my past indifference to their beauty — and a lesson in joys that we used to take for granted. …
At Strelka Mag, a carbon sequestraion thought experiment. Emphasis mine:
During a workshop on Negative Emission Technologies (NETS), a physicist colleague did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the volume needed to sequester enough atmospheric carbon to keep concentrations at 350ppm (after fossil fuel drawdown). Using the Great Pyramid of Giza as a scalar referent, he determined that humans would need to construct 138,462 of these structures, or roughly 3.79 great pyramids per day for one hundred years. The pyramid occurred rather spontaneously and the physicist might have chosen any number of iconic structures, man-made or natural, for purely heuristic purposes.
(This is pretty much the conceptual opposite of my $1mm Dash Button project installation proposal, which would allow museum visitors to order $1mm of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese; enough to completely fill a small gallery.)
Dan Moore, in The Bold Italic, on why the California wildfires feel more unsettling this time:
But it also feels worse because this fire season’s arrival feels somehow fitting, appropriately dystopic. Our hills burn as our institutions burn, under siege by a mad, tweeting king.
A friend who moved out of the Bay Area last year (too expensive, not enough space for the kids, schools are a disaster) texted me this week, checking in. My response? “We’re living through William Gibson’s jackpot. Good times.”
This piece from Other Internet has big squad energy and is suitable for sharing with your own squad. It is what it is.
A strong social fabric and the right tech stack will unleash a new wave of bottom-up economic experiments: interest-free P2P borrowing, anonymous lending pools, collective insurance, socialized ETFs, DAO-based freelancer unions, rotating savings schemes, revshare guilds, meme venture syndicates, crypto ponzis, exit scams, in-browser miners, upstate yield farms, boy bands, cults, and sovereign vacation funds.
Dorothy Parker, ally:
Her will was plain and simple. With no heirs, she left her literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She’d never met the civil rights activist, but always felt strongly for social justice. … Within a year of her death, Dr. King was assassinated, and the Parker estate rolled over to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. To this day, the NAACP benefits from the royalty of all Parker publications and productions.
Om Malik on the pandemic, the migration out of San Francisco, the impact of wildfires, and being Home Alone…
Many of my favorite places are shutting down. Reality has a porous quality to it now. And like the ash falling from the sky, it is sprinkling a sense of loss. I wonder how many others feel this social disruption that is happening around us. … We all think of home in terms of physicality, but in reality, it is about close connections. What happens when all these close connections are scattered? Who will we be? Nomads, who think they work from home, but they don’t even know what is home.
I’m still floored by Obama’s speech last night. What an indictment.
They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win. … That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all. … This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win.
Steven Levy interviews Bill Gates, who reminds us of the second order effects of the massive investment that’s happening to prevent and treat COVID-19 infections:
[The] innovation pipeline on scaling up diagnostics, on new therapeutics, on vaccines is actually quite impressive. And that makes me feel like, for the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021, and for the world at large by the end of 2022. That is only because of the scale of the innovation that’s taking place. Now whenever we get this done, we will have lost many years in malaria and polio and HIV and the indebtedness of countries of all sizes and instability. It’ll take you years beyond that before you’d even get back to where you were at the start of 2020.
Dan Hon, who used to design and run alternate reality games for a living, has an excellent long read on QAnon and ARGs. Worth every scroll.
The problem is, I don’t see how QAnon ends. QAnon is a meme-directed game in the Dawkins sense. It can be understood as a game about an idea that doesn’t really have anyone running it. There’s no singular author, showrunner or writer. There’s not even really a writer’s room. There’s no game designer, no dungeon master. It can make predictions about the world and those predictions can turn out to be consistently, verifiably wrong. What it can do is just keep going and going and going, consuming more links and more information into one giant morass.
In OneZero, Owen Williams breaks down three potential approaches for MicroTok.
All three of those approaches are insane. …
Matt Levine, in his (excellent) Money Stuff newsletter/column, on the insanity that is the Microsoft / TikTok / Trump threeway.
Historically when the president of the United States says something, that has represented a policy of his administration, but when President Trump says something, that just represents the crankish views of a guy who watches way too much television, and people are continually forced to treat the latter like the former. “It is completely unorthodox for a President to propose that the U.S. take a cut of a business deal, especially a deal that he has orchestrated. The idea also is probably illegal and unethical,” says some poor law professor who was called to comment on this dumb, dumb stuff. …
Highly recommended: Steven Johnson’s new book Enemy of All Mankind, not only for the tale of the pirate Henry Every and the late 17th-century global manhunt for him and his crew, but also for Johnson’s historical contextualization. I loved this bit in particular, about how, as Johnson puts it, “the golden age of piracy coincides almost exactly with the emergence of print culture.”
Every and his descendants had a vibrant media apparatus through which they could broadcast their atrocities: the pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, and books that shaped so much of popular opinion in European and Colonial American cities during that period. Many of the conventions we associate with “tabloid” media — hastily written, often fabricated stories of sensational violence — were first developed to profit off the distance actions of men like Henry Every and the pirates who followed him in the early 1700s. If Every was, in his prime, the descendant of mythic seafaring men like Odysseus, he was also an augur of another kind of larger-than-life figure; the killer that captivates a nation with his outlandish crimes, like John Wayne Gacy, Son of Sam, Charles Manson. …
The Times has a beautifully illustrated feature about what a school experience could like in the age of COVID…from the bus ride to entering school to classroom instruction to hallway transitions.
Last night our daughter’s high school hosted a “town hall” (aka “webinar”) where they walked through their current distance learning plan (aka “Zoom”), and the alternative “blended learning” plan where, given a dramatic turnaround in cases in our county, the school would actually start having students attend classes on a schedule that reminds me of alternate side street parking. …