The Poet and His Postcards

"David J. Thompson has been sending me four or five postcards a week since I was eighteen."

The Internet's Wine

Snobbery may be nearly dead: The Brandenburgs are big on YouTube; ballet sells undershirts; and winemaking has been crowdsourced. “There’s no right or wrong way to transform a bucket full of grapes into wine,” Juan Muñoz Oca, the head winemaker at Columbia Crest, a Washington-state vineyard, told me the other night. “There’s just maybe the way that you would like to see them.”

Muñoz Oca, dressed as the aesthete, wore a sharp black suit, a lavender shirt, and a neatly folded turquoise-and-purple pocket square. At his ankles, a more experimental touch: gray socks with orange and magenta squiggly stripes. “When I get talking and really dive in deep to the nuances of the process, I get geeky, like, in no time,” he said. “And people are, like, ‘I really don’t know what you’re talking about!’” Wine is for sniffers, swirlers, tannin inspectors—people with a nose for detail and the funds to support the burden of discerning taste. Those who run the vineyards are the keepers of mystery, enabling the conceit that acquired knowledge—experience itself, one might say—can be sipped upon and make you tipsy with rarefied pleasure. Still: Thomas Jefferson—wine collector, Bordeaux admirer, American president though he may have been—failed to produce Cabernet at Monticello; the feet-crushers have long persisted. So Muñoz Oca decided to share the mantle with anybody who’s got an Internet connection and an opinion: CrowdsourcedCabernet.com is a vote-for-your-vino system that, starting in August, began to call upon the masses to dabble in the domain of the genteel.

Unlock a New App Experience on Your Windows Devices

Brought to you by Windows Store.

Windows Store gives you access to tons of gaming, lifestyle, entertainment and social apps. With so many to choose from, you are sure to find some gems. Here’s a handful of the coolest to get you started:

Facebook: Stay connected with friends, family, coworkers and more

Instagram: Capture and share your favorite moments with friends and family

Fitbit: Track your fitness activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep to stay motivated

WhatsApp: Keep in touch with friends for free! Use the same internet data plan you use for email and web browsing to send messages, video and audio to those closest to you

Vine: Shoot, import, edit and share videos for your friends and family to see

Candy Crush Saga: Make your way through hundreds of levels on a sweet adventure through the Candy Kingdom

Songza: Play the right music for any situation

Even more, apps run smarter on Windows, up to four at a time and side-by-side on the same screen to get more done. Don’t wait, discover and download thousands of apps for phones, tablets and PCs by visiting Windows Store at microsoft.com/windowsapps

The Selfie Aesthetic

Kate Durbin's "HELLO, SELFIE!" Performance Project

Kate Durbin, the Los Angeles-based artist, first came to my attention when I discovered The Teen-Girl Tumblr Aesthetic. Co-authored with Alicia Elar, the article focused on the contemporary adolescent female aesthetic and experience, the adult re-appropriation of said aesthetic, and the hazy lines between IRL, URL, and performance. As a woman barely out of my teenage years, it was SO EXCITING to read a serious, critical analysis of a female-centric online aesthetic that is often ignored for being too feminine.

Recent projects like Women as Objects and Girls, Online, curated collections of female-identifying Tumblr posts, show the Teen-Girl Tumblr Aesthetic in practice as well as theory. The images she pulls from the popular microblogging site are collected to show, as Durbin writes, that “the art ‘object’ extends to the bodies of girls both on and off-line.”

In the same way she validates the lives of teenage girls, Durbin probes pop culture icons to discover their humanity. Durbin is the founder of Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga, an online journal about the “meta-pop star”. She has also published two books, The Ravenous Audience and E! Entertainment, the latter of which is a meticulously transcribed and dissected examination of reality television, such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Hills.

The themes from Durbin’s various works coalesced in her most recent performance piece, Hello, Selfie! The first iteration of the performance occurred in Los Angeles in July, the second in Manhattan’s Union Square in October, and the third was just performed at this year’s Art Basel. Durbin’s piece consists of a group of young women who take selfies for exactly one hour. The women do not interact with their IRL audience; instead, their selfies are uploaded to various social media sites in real time.

When I called Durbin, I was at work on a larger project about Hannah Wilke, an artist who was often criticized for using her own naked body as part of her works. Selfies and other images by women, of women, are critically considered Narcissus’ reflecting pool, a slippery slope into vanity. But for Durbin and I selfies are a tool of empowerment. During our conversation, we talked about owning your own images, the ways Los Angeles is like the Internet, and the selfies we choose to see.

The layoffs of twenty people earlier this week by the New York Times leave the paper without a single black reporter in its Culture section.#

The Best Shortreads Of 2014

002qI used to have misgivings about year-end lists, finding them somewhat self-aggrandizing and maybe even a little desperate, particularly in cases where publications resurfaced their own previous work as if it were some special secret that your having missed upon its original appearance resulted in your becoming desperately deficient in cultural cachet. That said, what with the ever-increasing abundance of content on the Internet in our wonderful data-driven era there is a convincing case to be made that readers are unlikely to have seen the things that might be meaningful to them over the course of the day, or month, or year. Still, everyone seems to focus on the more extensive selections from their output. What about the less verbose efforts? Those tiny essays that say so much in so few words? They deserve even more acknowledgment, don’t they? They almost certainly do. In that spirit and without any further explanation I would like to direct you to a collection of the finest shortform essays we published this year on The Awl. Savor them slowly. Who knows when brilliance like this might come along again?

The Poet and His Postcards

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i ask only that you treat my postcards as you would a frayed string of rosary beads…

David J. Thompson has been sending me four or five postcards a week since I was eighteen. I was beginning my undergrad at Purdue, obsessed with small-press poetry the way a child gets obsessed with dinosaurs or construction equipment. He didn’t know me at all, but I knew and loved his poems; they appeared regularly in the little fold-and-staple journals I devoured at the time, magazines like Nerve Cowboy and Staplegun and Barbaric Yawp.

While most writers in that scene were doing bad Bukowski impressions, bumbling around drunken esoteries and humble-bragging about adventures in casual misogyny, Thompson, who lived and taught in a small town near Detroit, wrote poems that were more indebted to William Stafford or Raymond Carver or James Wright. The pieces were rural, domestic, and ribbed with an almost ecstatic desolation. His speakers were down-on-their-luck divorcees, paunchy factory men at their high school reunions, drunk friends marveling over Mexican death masks. I sent him a note saying how much I loved his work; the postcards started arriving soon after, and they’ve never stopped.

“New research suggests a strong link between being disenchanted by work and depression. City College of New York psychology professor Dr. Irvin Schonfeld studied more than 5,500 school teachers to estimate the prevalence of depressive disorders in workers with burnout. He discovered 90 percent of the subjects identified as burned out met diagnostic criteria for depression.”#

Dollar Guilt in the Land of the Collapsing Ruble

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I’ve gotten a 100 percent raise. Not as a reward for hard work or long-term loyalty to my employer, but as a gift of timing. This windfall isn’t a one-off like a bonus, nor is it evenly spaced like paychecks after a promotion. I get richer at random. Almost every time I visit the ATM, what I take out is a smaller slice of what I make than it was the time before. I’m paid in dollars, but I live in Russia, where the currency is currently collapsing; as the ruble loses value, I effectively get a raise. This week alone, at the time of this writing, my salary’s worth has increased by 20%. It’d be a gross simplification, but you could say my raise comes courtesy of Vladimir Putin.

As the ruble falls, I think back on a night in late autumn of 2007 when Moscow’s streets were windswept, but not swept clean of ice, and I decided to spring for a taxi. The gypsy cab I hailed was an old car of Russian make, not rickety, but the kind you can feel laboring at getting you where you’re going. Its fenders were obscured by a rich paste of chemical salt and mud, as were the peripheral views from the rear window, which were covered by the gathered pleats of burgundy polyester curtains. These, the smell of the car’s interior suggested, were sometimes drawn so that the driver could stretch out for a nap in the back seat.

That year, 2007, Moscow had been named the world’s most expensive city for expatriates to live in for the second year running by a cost-of-living survey produced yearly by American consulting firm Mercer, which provides websites like the Huffington Post reliable slideshow fodder.

My driver heard my foreignness in the way I pronounced my address. He inquired, and I told him where I was from. He spoke heatedly, then, about terrorists and democracy and empires and fate. Mainly, though, he laughed. All the way home, he was taken with a scary hilarity, and as he sped along the 10-lane highway that crawls with traffic during the daytime and forms a racecourse around Moscow’s center at night, I wondered if my Americanness would be both our downfalls. Russians’ savings had repeatedly been reduced to nothing by economic calamity during the 1990s; if my driver himself had not been impoverished by capricious shifts in the currency’s value, surely many he loved had. Now that the tables were turned—or shifted—he had every reason to relish the moment.

“Americans, what do they think in America now that it’s 25 rubles to the dollar!” he demanded.

15 Things From The 90s That Should Be Made Into Emojis

From plastic see-through phones to J.T.’s bleached head of hair, the 90s is a colorful decade full of awesome (and terrible) ideas that’d provide the perfect inspo board for the next batch of Emojis. Check out some proposed ideas below for Emojis based on the best decade EVER that will make you realize just how weak your Emoji game truly is without these tiny little cartoons at your disposal.

Brought to you by VH1’s Hindsight.

1. Michelle Tanner from ‘Full House’

Michelle
Her little OMG face is just adorbs (you know, the same OMG face with both hands on face that Kevin from Home Alone mastered as well) and everything you need in your Emoji portfolio right now for all those OH MY GOSH moments in your life.
2. A Lisa Frank unicorn

LisaFrank_Unicorn
Move over, ordinary pig, cat and dog – a Lisa Frank unicorn would just shut down the use of any other animal Emoji with its rainbow color palette alone. There’s a reason why only carried our art creations from Kindergarten in Lisa Frank folders.
3. Tamagotchi

tamagotchi
We mean… why wouldn’t you want a Tamagotchi Emoji? It’s only the best toy of the 90s and think of how great it would be to share the joy of a Tamagotchi over text.

Petite Noir feat. Yasiin Bey, "Till We Ghosts"

A relieving stylistic mismatch for 2014, this song was originally recorded two years ago. Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def, joins this time around.