Tedium

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For decades, it was easier to get a bottle of vodka in Iceland than a pint of beer. The reason says more about Iceland’s politics than its temperance movement.

Of all the things that can get you through this weird time in our lives, one of the most obvious is beer.

Beer is a beverage that should be had in moderation, of course, but these are not moderate times, so it’s understandable if you find yourself enjoying your virtual happy hours more than usual.

But what if your country prohibited beer — specifically, beer, not wine or liquor? …


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“Canned laughter,” a controversial element of most television comedy, feels unnerving in its quarantine-era absence. Its initial creation is downright fascinating.

As our life has been thoroughly disrupted twelve days from Tuesday in ways too numerous to count, I’ve thought about the small ways that this disruption has shown itself.

Perhaps one of the most subtle has been the loss of the live studio audience on late-night TV, the laugh tracks that have come to define that kind of comedy.

Early pandemic episodes of the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon were shot in front of the show’s staff, and soon, after Last Week Tonight With John Oliver set the stage for everyone else doing it, they had no audience at all, thanks to to COVID-19. …


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This was a product that predated the AIDS crisis by more than 40 years, but was taken off the market as a result of it.

The surprisingly true story of Ayds, a diet suppressant candy that was incredibly successful until its name became forever associated with something else. Fans of Corona beer may see the parallels.

The recent COVID-19 health crisis has put a lot of attention around branding concerns, particularly around Corona beer, whose maker recently announced it was stopping production temporarily.

Stories like these create easy parallels that one can look towards in the past.

A few years ago, for example, the wireless industry thought it could win a potentially lucrative game — that of the mobile wallet, which was just starting to get off the ground thanks to the smartphone.

They had all the elements in place to pull it off, including support of most of the major wireless providers. …


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How the milk crate, a commonly stolen type of container, became the target of tough legal regulations — and how those regulations have started to backfire.

Sometimes, it’s possible to create something that’s too useful, that is designed for a niche purpose but is so well-attuned to that purpose that it attracts other people, who find a similar value but different use case than was intended.

And because of the sheer prevalence of said useful tool, it suddenly is everywhere — finding purpose as a cheap alternative to a trip to the local department store. If you’re the maker of that too-useful something, whaddya do?

Well, in the case of the dairy industry, you use your political influence to try to ban all those college students from using milk crates. …


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Pondering the way that the creative process is often directed by rules which, in many cases, stifle creativity. Sometimes, you just have to throw the rules out.

Back in college, possibly the most important book I read during the entire time I was there was extremely short and very opinionated. It wasn’t even long enough to be a novella. But it was compelling nonetheless. It was a short book about design and typography called The Mac is Not a Typewriter.

A svelte style manual in the vein of William Strunk’s The Elements of Style, it basically laid out the essential elements of layout and typography in a way that was simple to understand and forced you to think about what was said. …


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Today’s GIF comes from the inaugural landing of the first commercial flight in St. Helena, which took place in 2017.

Two years ago, a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean got its first airport — perhaps the world’s most obscure airport. It was expensive, but can St. Helena thrive?

Your average flight from Washington, D.C. to St. Helena Island, located in one of the most remote parts of the world, would be a very arduous affair, a flight that would take nearly two full days, and at least three distinct layovers along the way — first in Ghana, then in Johannesburg, then a refueling stop in Namibia — before you got to your destination.

If there’s a delay at any of the three stops, it might compromise the entire trip, because if you don’t make your connecting flight, you’re screwed. And once you’re there, you’re not leaving for a while. …


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From the Night Music intro, as the show was called during its second season.

Saturday Night Live might have had the laughs, but its short-lived offshoot Sunday Night (aka Night Music) may have been the greatest music TV show ever made.

There’s always something to admire about a well-considered touring bill, where the bands on the lineup fit together so well that it makes you want to drop everything and go. (Case in point: Father John Misty and Jason Isbell, two serious musicians who have reputations for being very funny, are co-headlining a summer tour together.)

It’s not easy to put this kind of lineup together in a non-Coachella-style environment, and it’s even harder to have such lineups appear every single week. …


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A clip of a baby playing with a bell, from a child-development film produced by Dr. Arnold Gesell in 1945. Gesell’s work plays an important part in this story.

Pondering the unusual association serious electronic composers had with children’s music in the 1960s — especially Raymond Scott.

It may be the greatest song that most people have heard but are completely unaware has a name.

You’ve most assuredly heard it thousands of times — most likely as a child watching the Cartoon Network or Boomerang, especially during toons well into their vintage.

I promise you, you have heard this song before.

It is called “Powerhouse,” and it is by a composer named Raymond Scott. …


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Vinko Bogataj, doing that thing he does.

The tale of a guy who became famous for falling down once, only to have that fall replayed every single week on a legendary American TV show.

I have fond memories of America’s Funniest Home Videos, particularly the early years hosted by Bob Saget.

It was a show that defined a uniquely American kind of embarrassment — an embarrassment caught on camera. (Or in the case of Papa John, on tape.)

We’re highly familiar with that in the age of YouTube, of course. But there’s something kind of graceful about the woman who gets stuck in her own dishwasher, the above-ground pool that goes kablooey, and (of course!) the classic groin hit.

But I’d like to spend some time thinking about a specific guy whose biggest failure was America’s Funniest Home Video long before that show came on the air — and he wasn’t even American! …


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Pondering the surprising number of musical acts that have official members that don’t actually play an instrument or sing. You know, like Coldplay.

“Look at the stars, look how they shine for you, and all the things that you do, non-performing band member …”

I personally gained a major distaste for Coldplay sometime in the early naughts, when I failed to understand the appeal of “Clocks,” despite having enjoyed Parachutes.

Perhaps it’s for that reason I never realized that Coldplay has five members, that I assumed they were a quartet. Certainly there are four members on stage actually playing the songs, right?

But there’s something weird about this situation that I think deserves discussion. See, the fifth member kind of crawled into place under everyone’s nose, in a way that only Coldplay superfans would actually be aware of. …

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Tedium

A twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail.

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