What a Pack of Cigarettes Costs, in Every State

The sub-five-dollar pack is back. Should we all start smoking again?

New York City, August 30, 2015

weather review sky 083015★★★ The act of applying sunscreen brought on the consciousness of having to do it again tomorrow, the future obligation draped over the present one. The balance bike went wobbling past or disconcertingly tangent to a drying spray of vomit chunks on a grate, a fresh trickle of dog urine, baked patches of once-runny dogshit raked with finger marks. The hot dog place was uncrowded. The afternoon grew less and less inviting-looking as the blue leached from the sky, but with that the sun’s heat faded too, till there was nothing wrong with being out in it.

The Rise of Armchair Marketing

Here is something worth staring in the face:

Burger King sent McDonald’s an open letter proposing that the two fast food chains team up to create a hybrid “McWhopper” burger to celebrate Peace Day on September 21st. Burger King suggested that the “ceasefire” would take place at a single pop-up shop halfway between the corporations’ headquarters, with all proceeds going to the Peace One Day charity.

Burger King’s marketing campaign included a video, some social media posts, a special website and full-page ads in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. In response, McDonald’s posted this on Facebook:

The campaign took the work of “seven agencies,” including David, which helped Burger King create its “Gay Pride Whopper” campaign. (Someone who worked on that project described the process to me, shortly after the ads ran and between drinks at a party so maybe not precisely, as a difficult fight against extensive market research suggesting many of Burger King’s customers would be unhappy with the concept. A large contingent within the company agreed, but were eventually overruled by the company’s fairly new and unusually young CEO, who insisted he saw a major advertising opportunity. Anyway!)

The campaign seems to have been successful in at least one way. It garnered lots of media coverage, most of which adhered to the spirit of the campaign—jokey, but not too jokey, because there’s a charity involved—and which inherited its legitimizing verbs. “McDonald’s politely declines Burger King’s offer of world peace” is the title of the story quoted at the beginning of this post.

We Are Not Your Friends

FRIENDS

We Are Your Friends, the Zac Efron EDM movie, had one of the worst wide-release opening weekends in history. Bringing in only 1.8 million dollars, it made only four-and-a-half times what Calvin Harris will reportedly make per night at Hakkasan in Las Vegas. It made four hundred thousand dollars less in its debut moment than All Dogs Go To Heaven 2.

This excessive tanking is theoretically unexpected: Efron is bankable (you saw Neighbors, right?); the procedural arts-striver movie (Center Stage, Pitch Perfect, etc.) is an evergreen format; and EDM as an industry is worth a global 6.9 billion dollars a year. But in practice, it makes perfect sense. We Are Your Friends is only good inasmuch as it’s willing to be uncomfortable and embarrassing and existentially complicated, three things that go exactly counter to what a teen who would pay to hear EDM music—which is to say this movie’s target demographic—wants.

Speedy Ortiz, "Hanging Around"

A very fine cover of a very fine song to kick off the last week of the year before things abruptly start mattering again!

New York City, August 27, 2015

★★★★★ A general thrum of the city came in on the fresh air. There was a gag back in college, a premise completely forgotten till now, that the weather and guitar pop could share adjectives: thrumming. Down on Amsterdam, a parking-enforcement cop in short sleeves eyed an insulation-company van. Summer clothes were a matter of welcoming the breeze, not escaping the heat. “Oh, my gosh,” the eight-year-old said, “that cloud is so bright white.” An unnecessary downblast from an air conditioner hit the top of the steps where people were following the cookie smell, one stair at a time, down into the bakery. In the afternoon, out the window, clouds darkened and began to close together. Then, having issued the warning against taking the day for granted, they relented and separated again. The three-year-old argued that it was chilly enough for his Batman costume to be practical for the playground. Some note of solvent on the breeze brought back model paints in Philadelphia summers three and a half decades before. “Super Bad” played out the window of something in traffic, most likely a clean white Land Rover. Home plate was open for wiffle ball; the concrete drinking fountain was being used to fill water balloons. Once the batting was over, Batman shed the costume for the Superman t-shirt underneath. Outside the playground again, a lively wind came along 70th Street and the three-year-old went running off into it.

Travis Kalanick on The Uber Endgame

IMG_0304 Earlier this week, the Awl posited how Uber might metastasize into mass transit and potentially privatize public transit along the way, at least in some cities. That piece found its way into Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s Facebook Newsfeed, where he commented on the post of the person who shared it; a screencap of his comments was shared with us. We’re presenting it here because even though his comments were made in a limbo between public and private—someone’s Facebook wall—which makes us feel not a little weird to share it, Kalanick is possibly the single most important person in the world with respect to the future of transit, so we think people should be aware of his thinking on the matter:

IMG_0304Points one and two speak for themselves—we agree! although it seems like many people who need public transit but are ill-served by it also probably can’t quite afford Uber yet, either?—but it’s worth looking more closely point three (which our piece didn’t really discuss, but anyway). Kalanick’s point is that Uber pays, on average, four times the taxes that a yellow cab does on a per trip basis. This is a very specific word choice! (The implication though, I believe, is that Uber is in fact better at funding public transit than yellow cabs.) That assertion, which the Uber NYC Twitter account also made a few days ago, is based on two things: a fifty-cent surcharge on every yellow cab ride, and the approximate eight percent sales tax on every Uber trip, which, according to Uber, averages out to two dollars per ride.

What a Pack of Cigarettes Costs, in Every State

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Every summer since 2011, The Awl has divined the price of a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes by calling a convenience store in every state in America because—here’s a definitive fact for you—cigarettes are cool. Certain editors at this publication may currently be inclined to say otherwise due to old age, but cigarettes are amazing. They look great dangling from your lips outside a party, they feel smooth and comforting between your fingers on the long walk to a final exam, they taste amazing after two drinks. (I will concede that I once tried to smoke a cigarette after breakfast and almost threw up. Nobody’s perfect!)

Cigarettes are also expensive, especially in New York, where they are the most expensive. They are cheapest in Virginia, where the price has once again dipped below five dollars per pack, so you are welcome to uproot your life and move there, where you can smoke sixty cigarettes a day and die gasping in the Great Dismal Swamp instead of shelling out for juice cleanses.

According to a recent report from New York’s Independent Budget Office, smoking rates in New York have steadily increased since 2010, “in tandem with declines in spending on tobacco control programs.” This suits me fine, as New York has always hovered in my mind’s eye as a perpetually steaming metropolis, haunted by smokestacks imprisoned in human bodies. Also, vaping sucks.

As always, YMMV.

Everything Is Bullshit: Study

• “A major investigation into scores of claims made in psychology research journals has delivered a bleak verdict on the state of the science. An international team of experts repeated 100 experiments published in top psychology journals and found that they could reproduce only 36% of original findings. The study, which saw 270 scientists repeat experiments on five continents, was launched by psychologists in the US in response to rising concerns over the reliability of psychology research,” the Guardian reports.

• “The vetted studies were considered part of the core knowledge by which scientists understand the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning and memory. Therapists and educators rely on such findings to help guide decisions, and the fact that so many of the studies were called into question could sow doubt in the scientific underpinnings of their work,” notes the New York Times.

Percussions, "Digital Arpeggios"


Summer leaves easy. It leaves when you’re not paying attention. It leaves before you get a chance to spend the kind of time together you’ve been promising since May. While you’re busy or distracted or taking “just a couple of minutes” to focus on something else—something that is not and will never be more important—summer is on its own, growing older, growing without you, getting ready to go, and then summer’s gone. Summer goes and leaves you alone, with only a few memories and a sense of regret that you will never quite shake no matter what you do with the rest of your life. Summer leaves easy and now there’s only a week before it goes. Chances are you’re going to screw that up too. Here’s a track from Kieran “Four Tet” Hebden. Enjoy.

New York City, August 26, 2015

★★★★ In the shade, the early temperature was somewhere between relatively cool and absolutely so. The sun established itself, and established some heat with it, provisionally. There in the open and down in the still-choking subway were summer’s redoubts; by late day, with the sun up in the treetops and the heights of buildings, scattering window reflections, there was only the subway. A plain straight railing atop a walkup building was a streak of fire. The tiresome rumble of the air conditioner could be turned off and the windows opened, to let in the breezes and sirens of night.