I Love Serial Entertainment And So Can You

We don’t binge on television because we like it, we like television because we can binge on it.

New York City, May 4, 2016

weather review sky 050416[No stars] Again the drizzly wind was blowing under the still-gray sky. The drizzle kept coming, falling on the people trudging out the door from the fire drill and around the corner and back upstairs. A tour bus went by with an inverted and broken umbrella sticking out the open top. The drizzle thickened into something more than drizzle. Passing tires dragged damp streaks along the roadway. Little puddles gathered at the curbs. Hoods went up. The clouds got darker, with more visible thick parts. Conditions would change only enough that they couldn’t be ignored or taken for granted.

None of you are grasping the deeply awful repercussion of this tweet, which is that people are now going to be making bad food jokes on the basis of stereotypes of race, sex, age, disability, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics. Enjoy your timeline!

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3D Printing The Void

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Nine months ago, MakerBot’s future seemed tentatively optimistic: the company had just opened a 170,000 square foot factory in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams spoke at the factory’s grand opening, holding up a 3D-printed nut and bolt as he waxed philosophical on the virtues of “a technology that will move the entire globe.” The press release for the event proclaimed, “‘Made in Brooklyn’ will continue to be inscribed on the back of MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers for years to come.”

Last week, the company announced that it will begin closing that factory, with future production outsourced through Florida-based manufacturer Jabil and most likely offshoring to China. Johan Broer, Director of Public Relations at MakerBot, gave the transition an expected timeframe of roughly six months, saying, “we need to embrace a more flexible manufacturing model that allows us to more quickly scale production up or down.” Current trends suggest down as the more likely of the two directions: MakerBot’s parent company, Stratasys, recently released a financial report that revealed a fifty percent drop in MakerBot’s sales from 2014 to 2015.

This comes on the heels of a difficult year for the company, which severed its relationship with maverick co-founder and former CEO Bre Pettis, cycled through a revolving door of top-level leadership, and suffered two rounds of massive layoffs. Johan Broer cast these changes in an optimistic light, saying that the company had “reshuffled the team […] to position us better for the future.” It’s not difficult to read between the lines: the future looks worryingly uncertain for this once-spunky Brooklyn startup.

As the longtime poster child and one-time presumptive standard-bearer of small-scale “additive manufacturing”—the technical name for the process of 3D printing, which adds rather than strips away material—MakerBot’s rapid rise and equally blistering crash has mapped closely onto the public’s expectations of the technology. The desktop 3D industry is far from dead, but MakerBot’s difficulties are rooted in a broader contraction of the consumer market. The gatekeepers of viral tech-hype have largely stopped trumpeting consumer 3D printers as a revolutionary technology. Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the MakerBot saga, it seems like a good time to ask: what was all the hype about?

On The Campaign Trail With John McAfee

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Photos by Simon Zachary Chetrit

I was waiting in the lobby of The Manhattan at Times Square Hotel when I got a phone call from John McAfee. “Zach, I’ve decided that we’re no longer going to the Libertarian Party debate,” McAfee said in his low, Southern cadence. “It’s far too boring. Instead, we’ll be going to a strip club.” I didn’t know yet how seriously McAfee took his presidential campaign, so I grinned, stuttered a bit, and said “Okay.” There was a pause. “That was a joke,” McAfee said. “I’m sending my bodyguard down to get you.”

This was my second day with the eccentric software developer. The day before, in another hotel, booked under a different name by a third-party—McAfee is famously paranoid—we talked for an hour. He wore sunglasses the entire time and sat with his back to the wall, except for when he’d wheel his rolly chair over and jab a finger in my face to make a point. “The number one problem in the world today,” he said, “is America’s decline in its cybersecurity.” According to McAfee, we’re in a cyber war with the Russians, Chinese, and Iranians, and our technology is twenty years behind.

“I think this is the greatest danger that America has ever faced,” he said gravely. “In a cyber war, the first thing we’re going to lose is our power. A month and a half ago, two fifteen-year-old boys hacked into the Ukrainian power grid. Do you think the Russians and Chinese cannot do the same thing with us? And without power, what happens? We have no power, we have no food.” McAfee’s voice rose in the middle of sentences, brimming with energy. “Half of us would survive a nuclear threat,” he said forcefully. “But no one would survive a cyber attack. No one. And if we do, we’re going to be in tatters on the street eating rats.”

Sturgill Simpson, "Breakers Roar"


This is probably the prettiest track from Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, which I will keep insisting that you to listen to until you finally realize I have your best interests at heart here. Enjoy.

Academia 101: Intro To Lab Reports

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I handed in my dissertation a year ago today. A month later, I stood up at the end of my defense and shook a professor’s hand as she smiled and said, “Congratulations, Doctor Livingstone.”

That feels like a very long time ago. This semester, I got my dream teaching position, but when the last class ended a few days ago, the job did too. I was filling in for a professor on leave, so I got to borrow her office and put my books on her shelf. I got to look out her window and talk to my students over a massive wooden desk; it was like living inside a waking dream.

For people graduating with a PhD in the humanities these days, the chances of obtaining meaningful academic employment are really, really bad. The river of university cash flows no more. The opportunities have thinned so drastically that hundreds of equally well-qualified competitors go up for every single position, no matter how rubbish the college or undesirable the location. One recent rejection letter told me that seven hundred people had applied for the two postdoc spots. The letter-writer sounded confused and regretful.

A fog of complacency has enveloped early-stage grad students and tenured professors alike. In the first couple years of a doctorate, the job search is so far off that it doesn’t feel real. The tenured professors are employed for life and busy with their own work, so they don’t have much motivation to warn their students of what’s coming. Both groups pretend nothing is happening, because nothing is, and a whole load of newly minted doctors lose their minds every year. Am I willing to go round after round on the job market like the guy from the movie who slugs the parking meters? No. Do I think this situation is ridiculous? Yes! But do I regret doing a PhD? Not with a single fiber of my being.

A Poem By Lee Upton

An Epic for Mother’s Day

                              Epic: “a poem including history”—Ezra Pound


A poem with history
a history with poems in it
in history with a poem
a history of the needle and wrench and cable
and a pretty dress and a grave
and a pretty dress in a grave
roll the stone from the grave
raise the corpse and breathe into her mouth
take Ovid from the shelf and change shapes in history
in history with a poem on a cushion or in a field
or on a swing or force fed
in a house or a trench
a body that pushes history out.



Lee Upton’s most recent book is Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2015). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

“It’s easier to sell the first two than the entire panel where the dog melts into nothingness.”
—Here’s an interview with the guy behind “On Fire,” the popular comic that you may have seen in many of the meme-friendly environments that our modern age offers up in place of churches as spaces of congregation for the lonely and uncertain. What I particularly appreciate about this quote is how it demonstrates the limits of what we will accept when it comes to laughing about how terrible life truly is: We’ll buy the dog telling himself that everything is okay while the flames burn all around him, but the inevitable results of that act of self-delusion are a little too real to slap on a T-shirt and show to the world.#

Dustin O'Halloran, 'Constreaux No 2.'


Here is something quiet, calm and beautiful to help you start out another morning in our seemingly endless series of days without sun. I hope you are all taking Vitamin D supplements. Enjoy.