82 Matching Annotations
  1. Mar 2021
    1. But what seems like high technology to us now might seem like a law of nature to future generations. Having forgotten the origin of the computers that permeate their world, people might take them to be an innate feature of the universe.

      This author seems rather unfamiliar with the amount of labor that goes into conjuring the world-permeating computers.

    2. A mind needs memory. Without it, organisms could only be reactive; they could have no inner life.

      Structure encodes memory, also, though...

    3. Other mammals possess these same brain areas and show analogous behavior.

      Once you're eliding behavior into your definition of consciousness, I'm no longer rooting for you.

    4. Neuroscientists have some evidence for the latter. Consciousness seems to be a specific cognitive function performed by identifiable brain mechanisms that not all species possess.

      I'm not sure if this is true from evidence or from definition.

    5. Modern hardware and software have gotten so complicated that they resemble the organic: messy, unpredictable, inscrutable. In machine learning, engineers forswear any detailed understanding of what goes on inside.

      Haven't technosocial scholars long told us all technological systems, when adequately contextualized, have these properties?

    6. A light might fail to turn on or might go out for lack of motion, or maybe for lack of any discernible reason. The house seems to have a mind of its own.

      I wonder if previous technologies felt less like this because people had greater understandings of them (rather than because they were essentially simpler)

    1. Now “selling out” is tying your online identity to your IRL life and real name.

      [citation needed]

    2. Another key factor is Gen Z’s rediscovery of PoliticalCompass.org, a Web 1.0 site that, via six sets of prompts with which a user is asked to dis/-identify, generates an approximate position on the Political Compass’s X/Y axis of Left to Right, Authoritarian to Libertarian.

      Oh Jesus, really? Poor Gen Z.

    3. an unwitting loyalty to the platform and, by extension, to the shareholders of Alphabet and Facebook, Inc

      This is ridiculous. Actual murder is actual transgression, regardless of subsequent participation in the attention economy.

    4. Actual power is controlling the means by which lesser power can be displayed—i.e., congrats on the 500K likes on your polling numbers, @jack still owns all your tweets.

      Not the means by which it can be displayed, but the means by which it chooses to display itself.

    5. it’s a swarm-led form of para-governance programmed to maximize engagement while obfuscating responsibility for the social and environmental damage it wreaks

      "programmed" -- term implies control and intent. This is nonsense.

    6. the internet, a massively lucrative space of capitalization, profits off the personal expression and political conflict of its users

      Bit of a hand-wave here -- is it "the internet" that profits? Why are we collapsing the Google profit model with the Apple profit model and the AWS profit model? Are they meaningfully the same? Doesn't that need to be asserted?

    1. Writing is a form of communication, without an audience it gets lost and meanders to and fro. Just like music, poetry, a conversation or a tree falling in the forest, without a witness writing doesn't exist. If you write a diary but never read it, you never wrote that diary. If you write an email but it isn't delivered, you never wrote that email. If you write a blog entry but even the Googlebot doesn't visit, then you never wrote that blog entry. Writing is predicated on consumption.

      This doesn't feel accurate to me. I remember furious journaling that was the only way to relieve pressure in my adolescent mind. Verbal trepanning.

      And writing for one's future self has meant so much to me -- no, I don't believe in this view.

    1. And while I do not want to officially dictate how my projects are used, I wish to make things a bit more low profile, and encourage listeners to experiement with other, more personally responsible, controlled, contextual and meaningful forms of distribution and support. In other words, I wished to quietly keep the music acting queerly. Sadly, my actions, which were in some way intended as a gesture of humility and smallness, were transformed into arrogant property claims.

      Again, there is tension here -- the "open hypocrisy". To make things more low profile she must officially dictate how her projects are used, and she does.

      Is this "acting queerly" in a digital context? (Not a rhetorical question meant to suggest the answer must be "no"; a real question to think about)

    2. I could only think of the night before, and how wonderful it would have been to meet someone that excited and curious because they couldn't find any sound examples online, and positioned that absence in relation to something being "underground."

      I knew a guy from his working as a barista in a cafe I visited a lot. His real Thing was his underground rock band. They toured internationally and were still underground. He talked about how they weren't really meant to get big. I have pondered how he spoke about that in my heart for years when I think about art and mass appeal.

    3. I call them assholes, because whenever I play a track they cannot identify they insist I tell them what it is - and get really angry when I refuse... which invariably means as soon as their app identifies another track they are back in my face, smugly, like, "How ya like me now, bitch? Thought you lost me there for a minute, didn't you?" There are no kudos for a DJ finding a special offline track to share with the dancers in that moment. Club goers have increasingly little desire to process the club experience in reality - only via online devices. It's social-media-online-app-smart-phone-always-online-fuck-you-I-own-this-world culture at its most annoying, and ultimately most meaningless.

      I have a lot to say about this chunk that I can't put into words mostly because the ease of finding things digitally that have been brought into my life through social means is very important to me. It's important because there is meaning in "this is a track I heard Terre Thaemlitz play in a DJ set" or "this is a band my ex-boyfriend was really into" that there isn't in "this is a track Spotify algorithmically selected and put on my Discover Weekly." In my life, being able to preserve the experience of the track played at the club is trying to maintain a social context in my general consumption of music. The expectation of ephemerality vs. the expectation of identifiability -- not sure there's a Good Side and a Bad Side to this one.

    4. Maybe because, as a result of the climate they have created, these days my website is to their social media what the 'mom and pop shop' is to the shopping mall.

      This is the quote that dogstar referenced that drew me here. It's a comparison that bears even more fruit when you consider the contemporary decay of the shopping mall and the peculiarly physical aspects that one would have understood to be the mall's advantage over the mom and pop shop.

    5. Rather, they are about an eradication of any specificity of context and audience that occurs when information is shared through populist models of making all information available to everyone.

      Specificity has decayed in digital culture. Can it be rebuilt? Is it inherently unreachable? (If someone mentions crypto-anything I'll find a way to punch you through the internet)

    6. I did not wish to act like an anti-piracy agent

      And yet that's exactly what the behavior is!

      The lack of an economic motive doesn't make what she's doing there magically different. (I would note that when she points to allowing a recording to stay up because she felt it qualified under fair use, she is acting differently than the anti-pirates do.)

    7. I presented them with all of the links on their website that I had followed when filing my removal request, proving that there was no mention anywhere about claimants being publicly named - which they duly ignored. I asked if they could at least remove my name from the copyright claim notices (ie., editing it down to just "no longer available" or "no longer available due to a copyright claim"), but they said they could not.

      This is also interesting. Deletion of material from the internet leaves scar tissue. What are the benefits and costs of allowing such a thing to be anonymous? It seems YouTube's rules are in this one small thing not aligned towards copyright holders, but toward site users... Rare, for them.

    8. replacing removed videos with a statement like, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Terre Thaemlitz." YouTube and the rest are such corporate zombies that they can't imagine there being any other basis for someone wanting content removed

      This is fascinating because it doesn't seem quite right. A copyright claim is the rationale by which she has the right to demand removal, not the basis for such a demand. Later on she speaks of "copyrighting recordings" in a way that also suggests an understanding of copyright that doesn't line up with what I think I understand.

    9. I strongly believe that, in the face of today's dominant internet strategies which emphasize populism, there is a real necessity to cultivate offline forms of digital culture. This means sharing information in more controlled and precise ways than generic upload-archiving, such as through hard formats or direct and encrypted file transfer between known persons. People become so indoctrinated in dominant cultural nonsense about information's value only being determined by the breadth of its distribution, that we have culturally lost skills for understanding secrets, and their protective power. This is even happening in queer and transgendered communities, which historically rely on strategies that step in and out of closets...

      This is something absolutely all of us should be thinking more about. Friction in acquisition of digital content can be constructive as well as destructive. The model of "control" we have is the user account and it's simply not good enough.

    10. What possible reason could there be for continuing to list pages of removed content months after the fact?

      Later in the piece she acknowledges she didn't quite understand how linking here-and-there works, so don't judge her for asking this question to which you might feel there is one obvious answer.

    11. Meanwhile, in my own authorial practices, I attempt to be openly hypocritical.

      "Open hypocrisy" is a phrase I've not heard before and I adore it.

    12. their only real concern was that any content in Wikipedia must be usable for free throughout perpetuity... but in the realm of copyright, aren't 'perpetuity clauses' the first sign of a bad contract? Doesn't the very concept of perpetuity bely one party's desire to unfairly control, and an absence of trust?

      The rejoinder is naturally "well, maintaining all those relationships and permissions just won't scale." Scale is depersonalizing.

    13. Part of the blame also lays with copyleft, which uses near fundamentalist fervor to argue that "sharing" only exists outside of the realm of copyright

      This is dead on. A capitalist exchange is depersonalizing; "open source" often no less so.

    14. However, it was not for the usual reasons, such as a fear of lost royalties, or a legal reassertion of authorship rights.

      It absolutely was a reassertion of authorship rights, if not for the reason of protecting their legal status.

    15. you can't keep original or profound meanings intact

      Ignorance of context obviously creates its own profound meanings. I suppose this lament is one of the modern era moving into the post-modern -- am I meant to weep for originality qua originality? I can't, because I am a child of the latter.

    1. this ever-receding past or future in which I am good at talking to people, in which I can love the people I love skillfully and generously and in which I can be loved without condition, in which I have enough money to no longer be worried all the time, in which I am beautiful enough not to be angry at everyone anymore

      Ironically I think I have always felt like the kind of person I want to be is the kind of person who goes to the party, not even the kind of person who does the party well. This seems to be much less anxiety-inducing in this one way.

    2. Lately this is my attitude toward my own life as well, or the one I had before last March, which now appears to me only as a long list of things I took for granted. I feel guilty when I talk about how much I miss parties. I was often terrible at them, nervously failing to make conversation, cancelling plans or hoping someone else would cancel. I felt all the time like an overdue and unfinished assignment, I promise I’ll be done soon, just let me stay home until I am. Let me just wait until I look better, until I have more money, until I’m more successful, until nothing is wrong.

      It's interesting to think about my own awareness of how many ways I've reached my previous wait-untils. I am blessed and grateful and still probably inadequately aware of how free I am, free in ways I was not always free.

    3. Nothing looks like the past so much as the things that were supposed to look like the future. The 1970s thought it was the future; it is the last decade for which I was not alive at all. Perhaps this part of the past seems idyllic and permissive to people my age specifically because we were not part of it; it is a landscape free of ourselves, free of the limits and facts of our lives, our bodies, and our histories. If only we could get back to a place before ourselves, we could shake free of the things that obligate us, that make us petty and small and unkind.

      This is a lovely thought about nostalgia (which is a word Nathalie Lawhead is probably correct in criticizing for being applied one-size-fits-all to the past).

      The world before me was the world before AOL let people onto Usenet.

    1. That scenario has been part of every conversation we’ve had about how all of this is going to go; it’s hideous and very real and we do not pretend otherwise. But if we don’t imagine how it can be different, and how we can actively resist that capitalism’s natural inclination, then we surrender to that vision.

      I feel so bleak about this. How do we stop things from being like those awful gig economy customer service jobs, for everyone, forever?

    2. they’re maintained by the state, aka your company

      well that's depressing AF

    3. most people do still want to see their co-workers in some capacity

      I wonder if this can actually be worked out with free choice. Senior people around me tend to want more unbothered time. Junior people around me tend to want to learn from others. The interests don't align.

    4. When we’re no longer confined to our homes, just think of all the options that will open to you: you can work at a coffee shop, of course, but you can also work…..with your friends? A lot?

      I have been able to imagine more freely what real estate and people's choices about places to live will look like post-pandemic. I don't know why I'm finding the idea of working with friends so stunning.

      Did anyone ever have study parties with friends in high school? We did. Some were very unproductive and some were very productive.

      Intentionality of coming together can ground a window of time.

    1. the camera would cut back to Stewart, his face frozen in some emoji mask of shock: eyes wide, mouth agape.

      One interesting aspect is how much the form relied on pairing the feeling of "is anyone else seeing this??"/"DAE object to this injustice" with a single witty line. The line wouldn't be good enough to justify the joke if it hadn't been the punctuation on the viewer's relief, ah, yes, we are having the same emotional reaction to this together, I am not alone.

    2. TikTok enables, for video and audio, the type of combinatorial evolution that Brian Arthur describes as the underlying mechanism of the tech industry's innovation.

      Short-form, though! We can't underestimate how bound up TikTok's whole thing is with the fact the videos just aren't allowed to be that long. It's possible for everything to iterate at a very different pace; your audiences don't mind a bad recommendation when it takes seconds to get past it (something quite different than "you need to watch a couple of seasons of this show to get into it").

    3. Someone told me that if you watch TikTok for over an hour it posts a warning asking you to consider taking a break. I'm not sure if that's the case

      lmao it is not, ask me how I know

    4. I find some comfort sometimes when I find some TikTok that feels so catered to my tastes that it must be a micro-niche and then see it has millions of likes.

      Pretty hollow relative to actual social connection over such things, right? Striking up a conversation at the plant nursery or such.

    5. I still think Instagram is a more welcoming home for pure thirst trap content than TikTok, where, if you want to honeytrap the simps, you're going to have to dance for it.

      YMMV. See: POV content.

    6. it's staggering to ponder how many more videos TikTok would have if its video editor were more usable.

      Instagram makes it very hard to get a picture and timelapse from Procreate, a very popular digital painting app, into a single post. This is because it would deform the careful ephemerality of its more social interactions--remember how long it took before you could post any prerecorded anything to a story?

    7. TikTok is the modern MTV because (1) it increases consumption of music tracks that go viral on its platform as sounds and (2) any number of songs will forever summon the accompanying meme and visual choreography from my memory.

      The thing I find most interesting about this for TikTok is how it can bring back an old song with new visuals. The scene kid revival, Fleetwood Mac's Dreams, etc. Music of youth endlessly young.

    8. Until later in life, children think you should know exactly what they're feeling, and it takes a bit of coaxing to tease out their inner emotional state.

      I don't know exactly where this is going for him, but it's interesting to me that in order to identify what was going on in my own emotional life I consumed media (books, really) by/for adults, with greater depth than I had. Is there some degradation in how we are able to find media matching our inner states provided by people just like us, without any greater understanding? Connection without insight.

    9. What Ricky Desktop talks about above is a different process in which he scores to visuals that only exist in his imagination, generic dance tropes like "pretend to play the flute".

      How does it impact culture when mechanisms of collaboration are so indirect? Do the connections have to thus be very generic?

    10. TikTok's "OODA loop" is collective and distributed, and it spins thousands of times faster than that of big media.

      Uncomfortably connected to its sidelining of copyright: it spins uncompensated.

    11. TikTok's needs to improve its search ranking algorithm. Trying to find popular TikTok's I remembered seeing back in the day was much harder than it should have been using TikTok's native search. A couple that I wanted to use I just couldn't locate, and even Google and YouTube didn't turn them up (a thing you realize after trying to do it more than once is how hard it is to create a comprehensible search query for certain TikTok's).

      This you can be sure it has no reason to do. Remember, it's a company store -- why would they want you to take control over your discovery?

    12. Another feature I wish TikTok would add is the ability to sort by descending popularity on any grid of videos, like on sound or profile pages. Please.

      Why should it? It could rank them by how likely it thinks you are to like them. Objective popularity is not relevant in the little bubble world it creates for us.

      I don't think I mean that disparagingly. I like my TikTok bubble world. It has lots of houseplants and otters and lesbians. I don't like the TikTok dance videos, so I don't engage with them, so it doesn't matter how massively popular they are -- they don't have to exist for me.

    13. Of course, we're all just in our FYP feeds, which just scrolls up endlessly, so it isn't an actual space. But we trust the visible view counts as evidence FYP is doing its job getting many of us with the same tastes in front of the same videos, and so this evidence of common knowledge creates a liminal third place that exists [waves hands at the air in front of me] out there. I’ve tended to think of social networks as being built by people assembling a graph of people bottoms up, but perhaps I’ve been too narrow-minded. TikTok might not qualify by that definition, but it feels social, with FYP as village matchmaker.

      Terrifying, terrifying, terrifying! Why? Because the app points you to just let the algorithm make your choices -- there's no nudging-nudging-nudging to follow creators you like when it can detect you like them and serve them up to you anyway. Which then means the parasocial relationship you would have on a platform like YouTube now exists, but is entirely mediated by the discovery algorithm. If it's a village matchmaker, it's a matchmaker who has to come along on every date you ever have together. If it's a third place, it's a third place to which TikTok owns the title.

    14. That's why opening the comments and finding that one of the first few comments perfectly encapsulates your reaction, then seeing it already has tens or hundreds of thousands of likes, is so comforting. This confirmation of a shared response creates, asynchronously, a passing score on a form of the Voight-Kampff test. It's a checksum on your humanity.

      Again, really interesting because I have always hated this feeling when I've experienced it on Reddit or what-have-you.

    15. Reading the comments on TikTok serves a communal function. It's like hearing the laughter of the crowd at a comedy show.

      It's interesting to me how much he emphasizes this because I hate reading the comments. Swiping through TikTok emulates the quick dopamine bursts of Twitter content without making me feel like I'm in a Comments Section as do Twitter, Facebook, etc., providing the same "just the videos, ma'am" experience as seeing a film in a theatre. When a comment is picked out for a video response that I end up seeing, four times out of five it feels like it was a staged / fake comment to begin with, so it doesn't bother me.

    16. One measure of a platform's power is the number of things people make with it that you had never been made before. Every week, I find videos on TikTok that I can't imagine having been made on any other app.

      This is a really excellent insight, and inextricable from the power of the platform is the power of the cultural context that incentivizes this creation.

    17. TikTok comments are a form of distributed annotation.

      But terribly unsemantic, unlike the video combinations. This is probably for careful reasons mortals outside Bytedance have no ability to understand.

    18. a mix of a centrally planned economy and a free market

      Only if we are entirely disregarding the actual economics of what TikTok is, though, right? The economy isn't one of video game gold, but attention -- and the attention economy of the app is something in which the market's manager has an extreme interest.

    19. The Discover page acts as the Fed in the central economy of memes on TikTok, while the FYP algorithm is the interest rate on meme distribution.

      This doesn't feel like the right comparison to me. The Fed is an entity operating for the public interest and engaged in a careful balancing act. The TikTok discovery algorithms are the gatekeeper for most consumption on the app and have no counterbalancing interest beyond maximizing consumption.

      Also, if I'm wrong about its interests, no one has any way to know because it's entirely private.

      I think I'm saying something like: TikTok is a company town with a company store where all economic activity takes place.

    20. This is why TikTok's network effects of creativity matter. To clone TikTok, you can't just copy any single feature. It's all of that, and not just the features, but how users deploy them and how the resultant videos interact with each other on the FYP feed.

      I wonder if this is true. Don't users experience the internet on a meta level with topics popping up on Tumblr screenshots on their IG feed, tweets screenshotted for Facebook groups... Is the micro-zeitgeist of a moment limited to an app's walled garden? How do group chats fit into the answer to that question?

    21. a form of assisted evolution

      I know some people would argue they're essentially the same, but I'm more comfortable thinking of TikTok in terms of a market than in terms of evolution. For one, it makes it clearer which parts are agents and which aren't. For another, saying "assisted" glosses over some of the most interesting ways in which the design decisions of the app have their influence.

    22. at least on TikTok there is a chance, with time stamps and some of the literal links the app creates between videos, to trace the origin of memes more easily.

      This shouldn't be in a sidebar because I think it's one of the more interesting aspects of the whole piece. By making its remix functionality first-class within the app, no semantic relationships need to be lost. This is huge. Soundcloud can let me hear remixes and works built from samples, but doesn't let me navigate through those relationships. Photo editing apps can let you overlay one thing on top of another, but good fuckin' luck getting back to the original ingredients. Mixel, mentioned, has that semantic aspect within it -- but probably a better example would be browsing memes ("no you mean image macros") from a particular format within a meme making tool. Maybe the reason why Mixel and sampled music don't have the equivalent is that artists seeking out ingredients don't benefit from these semantic paths in the way that someone trying to follow a conversation through a path of responses does.

    23. Given we know innovation compounds as more ideas from more people collide, it's stunning how many tech firms, even ones that ostensibly tout the value of openness, have launched services that do a better job of letting their users exchange ideas than any internal tool does for their own employees’ ideas.

      There is a particular internal thing with which the author may be familiar that I desperately want to talk about but can't. Gah!

    24. Most of the best ideas in tech first appeared in science fiction books in the 1960s, and many of those are still waiting for their time to come

      This makes me queasy to read for reasons I think ought to be more or less obvious. Is it true that those are the best ideas?

    25. Gossip litigates and fleshes out the boundaries of acceptable behavior within groups. Whereas gossip used to be contained, social networks now give it global distribution.

      A historian should weigh in here. Scandals of the past fascinate me because of how they were important as opportunities to publicly litigate moral boundaries, the boundaries people more privately encountered (violated?) in their own lives.

    26. Yes, there's no reason you need to react to everything. But it's human nature. This is the social contract of the social media era. If you dare to shout your opinion or publish your work to the masses, the masses can choose to shout back.

      I don't think you can call this human nature when app creators spend so, so, so much thought / effort / time / money on training people to engage in this way.

    27. This is another of the nested feedback loops within the global feedback loop that is the FYP talent show. Once one example of this went viral, then the entire community adopted this as one of the norms of the community.

      (more or less obviously) thereby increasing one's inclination to engage in the comments if you believe you might be deigned with Interaction. Senpai, notice, etc. etc.

    28. Knowing that TikTok has a Stitch feature, you can also post a question in a video and expect that some number of people will use Stitch an answer to your question and distribute that as a new video.

      One interesting thing about the opacity of the attention algorithms is that you are always posting for no one and for everyone. On Tumblr it might have a tone of self-importance to survey a small group of followers in some vague way. On TikTok your vagueness can be justified: you might be talking to millions, after all.

    29. By network effects of creativity, I mean that every additional user on TikTok makes every other user more creative. This exists in a weak form on every social network and on the internet at large. The connected age means we are exposed to so much from so many more people than at any point in human history. That can't help but compound creativity.

      I am idly curious if it would be possible to measure how much the availability of content to consume detracts from one's inclination to create. "I wanted to write the kind of story I didn't get to read" -- a motivation to prompt new creation even if that "kind" had existed inaccessibly.

    30. This piece is long, but if you get bored in any one section, you can just scroll on the next one; they're separated by horizontal rules for easy visual scanning. You can also read them out of order. There are lots of cross-references, though, so if you skip some of the segments, others may not make complete sense. However, it’s ultimately not a big deal.

      One interesting thing about this is that experimentation with form is limited by reader habits. If years of university made me uncomfortable skimming I'm not going to engage in the intended way. I am remembering something apocryphal about Erik Satie's furniture music, the audience attending politely and having to be encouraged to treat it as the background sound it was intended to be. Apps and interfaces are scary when they cue us with dark patterns, but it's also possible to use that power to coax your audience into new forms.

  2. Feb 2021
    1. The notion that scientific theories vie with one another in open competition overlooks the fact that research ambitions and funding choices are shaped by both big-p and small-p politics. There is a reason why more scientific progress has been made in drugs for the treatment of diseases of wealth than of poverty.

      It is also interesting that when you try to explain why science matters (the positive motivation as above) you wouldn't make the case with purely disinterested facts floating apart from the world. It's only when your back's against the wall, epistemologically speaking, that these abstractions are deployed.

    2. science was a special example of the general liberal virtues that can be cultivated only in the absence of tyranny.

      I'll admit that this strain of historical interpretation has been pretty prominent in what I've read.

    3. if a scientist explains nuclear technology to a bellicose despot, but leaves the ethical choice of deployment to the despot, we wouldn’t say that the scientist had acted responsibly.

      I feel like there definitely are people who would defend this

    4. A darker way of rendering the Popper vs Strangelove story is to say that falsification offers moral non-accountability to its adherents. A scientist can never be accused of supporting the wrong cause if their work is not about confirmation. Popper himself declared that science is an essentially theoretical business. Yet it was a naïve scientist working during the Cold War who didn’t realise the significance of their funding source and the implications of their research.

      An essentially theoretical business! I wonder how this relates to the mushy public understanding of the division between science and engineering.

    5. Strangelove struck at the heart of Popperian ideals, an unreconstructed Nazi operating at the military-industrial nerve-centre of the ‘free world’. As such, he reflected the real-life stories of Nazi war criminals imported by Operation Paperclip to the US to assist in the Cold War effort – a whitewashing project uncovered as early as 1951 by The Boston Globe. Against such a backdrop, the epistemic modesty of Popperian science was appealing indeed. Real scientists, in the Popperian mode, abjured all politics, all truths. They didn’t attempt to know the atom, still less to win wars. They merely attempted to disprove things.

      The schism in the scientific self-image is, I suspect, that no one really derives their positive motivation from falsification. Drive originates from something grander.

    1. A fan favorite is when she soups up the classic vanilla custard filling with a torched crème brûlée ($4) on top of the doughnut, a smoky, sugary sheen to go with a creamy filling with flecks of vanilla beans.

      To be ordered exactly two days ahead! Compared to Blue Star, but I'm more hopeful

    2. Their less-sexy lineup is a better catch: apple-cinnamon pound cake with a dollop of brandy cream, the puck-sized apricot Stilton financier and the pâté à choux with Earl Grey cream for starters.

      SUSU in the international district...

    1. I think it’s true for so many commercial spaces that beautiful women add value, by virtue of adding beauty into the logic of styling things and selling things. In the idea of ‘parasexuality’, a concept that Bailey came up with when he was looking at barmaidens in nineteenth-century England, he was thinking about how, even within strict norms of sexual morality, the presence of beautiful women in a commercial setting would raise all kinds of titillating prospects that might violate those codes of what was sexually appropriate. That is how ‘parasexuality’ works – it is not fully deployed sex like ‘sex work’, but there is something about their sexual availability that gets put to work in these commercial settings. You can see it in what in sociology today we would call aesthetic labour: the uses of women, and men, but especially women’s bodies, in everything – hotels, Hooters, you name it.

      Horrifying and, of course, familiar.

    2. Veblen was inspired by these anthropologies of what was called the ‘potlatch’: nineteenth-century Pacific Northwest tribal societies in which there would be elaborate feasts, and nobles of tribes would compete with each other to see who could hold a bigger feast, who could waste more food, who could burn more blankets or other kinds of rare goods. And by going through that potlatch ritual a noble could assert his rank. It had lasting consequences: in humiliating a rival, claiming one’s title and gaining respect in the community.

      Was the potlatch about waste, or about influence?

    3. what they say is how they want to be perceived (and perhaps how they want to perceive themselves), but what they do – in the moment – can be very different. So if I’d just done observations, I could have just said that these were clueless rich jerks. And if I’d just done interviews, I would have concluded they were actually very thoughtful, very reflective people who want to be good people.

      How different would my interviewed and observed selves be?

    1. a liberating, nonjudgmental permissiveness

      Can we write on this topic without comparison to the crowdsourced Am I The Asshole equivalent? Aren't a lot of letter writers looking for their own absolution or condemnation, or that of the letter's subject?

    2. We’ll settle for electability, for hand sanitizer, for something less than violence in the streets.

      I am both curious to know what an advice column advocating violence in the streets would look like and also unsurprised at the short shrift given to the domestic here. How do we recognize the spiritual in people's boring lives? The questions of ethics that wrack us with guilt and their public porings-over -- I somehow resent that the author makes them seem so small.

    3. He often reminded readers that they were more than individuals; they were, in fact, pieces of a society.

      But if a millennial does this with language of -isms, how dare!

    4. Lavery, who was raised evangelical, is morally firm and comically decisive, chiding and scolding like a fresh-faced Judge Judy. A husband who refuses to use enough soap on the dishes is committing “an insult to your dignity and your personhood,” and a crazed DVD reviewer is “behaving like the majordomo of a small European country on the precipice of World War I.”

      Daniel Lavery is one of the great ironists of our time and I will not stand this. That someone might try to be funny in their "scolding" -- unacceptable to the New Yorker!

    5. Sugar suggested, in the mold of Montaigne—or perhaps psychotherapy—that the solution to your problems lay within you, provided you confront them with honest introspection and brutal clarity, if not the force of revelation. The goal wasn’t proper napkin etiquette or resolving a dispute with your mother-in-law. It was saving your soul.

      This whole piece feels dishonest in that it cannot compare these to sermons except to vaguely disparage Daniel Lavery or fail to identify the strongest aspect in King's advice writing. Our new religions are perilously unexamined.

    1. questionably cute animal videos

      Questionably cute? Au contraire! (This is mostly just a test annotation to see how they work)

    2. Dorset, England

      Why does England not have all the laws against messing with animals/birds that the USA does? Where did those come from?