Mutually Assured Content

In 2015, the illusion of audience ownership is becoming harder to sustain.

New York City, July 30, 2015

weather review sky 073015★★★★ Clear sun from the east met charcoal-gray clouds in the west. A short while later, the first shower had already wetted the streets and gone. A wheel of the scooter ran through a little clump of smoldering tobacco fibers on the damp sidewalk; a tiny rooster tail of water flared when the scooter crossed a decorated Con Edison manhole. The air felt pre-sweated into. The breeze off the river made a brave roar in the ears but carried less than one block inland. Ambient vapors made the phone’s touchscreen finicky. In the unfinished office, every crackle of the plastic sheeting sounded like driving rain. Real rain came again and left again, with the sun behind it. There was enough time to walk to lunch, but a lunch companion running a few minutes late came in rain-spattered. That rain passed too, and it began to feel as if the showers were being personally obliging, even as flood warnings thrummed through the 1 train—an illusion that lasted up to 66th Street, where exiting passengers cleared the turnstiles and stopped in shock, with audible exclamation. Rain was hammering the stairways, exploding into whiteness, the splash on each step going higher than the tread. A train pulling away drew the spray after it, over the crowd. People came down the stairs utterly drenched, clothes saturated and drooping. After a few minutes, the cataract seemed to have subsided to a mere downpour, enough to tempt escape. But if what was falling had diminished at all, it was fully offset by the swirling waters underfoot. Two blocks was enough to flood the shoes, while a renewed deluge soaked through the shirt and left hair wet to the scalp. The day-camp pickup would require a detour: dry t-shirt, dry socks, rubber-bottomed boots, and the rain jacket, with the child’s boots and rain jacket in a bag. In the minutes it had taken to pull the gear together, the barrage of rain had ceased. The sun began to burn through, and the waterproof equipment became pure encumbrance. What was running down the face now was sweat. Another cycle—or two?—would pass, with lightning and pelting water, before a compact but vivid sunset certified it was over.

"Good" Coffee Shops in New York City

Enjoy coffee, any coffee, while it lasts because coffee rust combined with climate change means you're going to be drinking Monster Energy for caffeine lololololSeven years ago, literally no one in New York even drank coffee, which was exclusively consumed and commented on by snobs on the West Coast, before the Cascadian Subduction Zone and drought forced everyone to move to Kansas. Now, through the miracle of trade, there is fancy—or fancy-seeming—coffee in every neighborhood in New York City, and even in some of its most miserable suburbs. Some of this Fancy Coffee is very good*! Most of it is not, although a number of diplomatic guides to good coffee in New York might make it seem otherwise. What follows is a proper categorization of most of the city’s “good” coffee shops—whether they are Actually Good, Perfectly Okay, or In Fact Bad—listed in no particular order.

Very Good Shops

Everyman Espresso (but the West Broadway location is the best)
Budin
Joe (Pro Shop only)
Hi Collar (if you pick the correct coffee, anyway, which, hint, NOT Porto Rico)
Culture Espresso (usually, but always if you get a cookie)
Parlor Coffee (I think so anyway!)
Boxkite (it was, anyway, though I haven’t been since its founding manager left, so ymmv)
Sweetleaf (at least, before it started roasting its own, so ymmv right now)
Abraco (not because of the coffee, though, which ranges from fine to bad)
Blue Bottle Siphon Bar (Chelsea location only)
Variety (uuuusually but it is only okay or even bad with enough occasion for me to remark upon it)

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Haiku Salut, "Bleak and Beautiful (All Things)"


The weekend, she is so close! You can see her and you don’t even need to squint! But beware: Suddenly it will be Sunday night and you will say to yourself, “Why, just a moment ago I was carefree and filled with anticipation, yet now all I hold in my heart is dread and regret.” It is inevitable. You will waste this weekend like you waste all weekends, particularly the summer ones. They set you up for failure and you don’t go out of your way to make it any harder for them to win. But right now, at this moment, all you are is promise and potential. Let’s pretend that this time you’re not going to fuck it up. Enjoy.

So You Want to Write a Shipwreck Song

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 5.53.26 PMI collect songs about shipwrecks and other maritime disasters, including mutinies, desertions, ghost ships, naval battles, pirate attacks, and as in one prototypical Decemberists song, murdering your nemesis after being swallowed by a whale. So far, I’ve compiled a list of more than fifty songs (with many variations on each). The best shipwreck songs contain some universal elements, which you would do well to include in your own maritime disaster tune.

1. Select a maritime disaster. The most popular era for singable shipwrecks is 1830-1910. The most recent wreck on my list is the Captain Torres, which went down in 1989. James Keelaghan’s song of the same name is tremendous, yet the fact that the grieving families are still alive today compromises the guiltless thrill of romanticizing the distant dead.

2. Your song should be named “The Wreck of” followed by the name of the ship. Don’t get creative.

3. Take the name of the place the ship is heading, then add the suffix -town. The Bay Rupert was on course for Melbourne-town; in “The Wreck of the Caspian,” Boston-town.  In “The Wreck of the Ellan Vannin,” one of the very greatest disaster songs, “Her hold was full and battened down/As she sailed towards far Liverpool-town.”

4. But aren’t you really going—to hell? In “The Wreck of the C.P. Yorke,” “though ’twas the mate stood watch at her wheel/’Twas the devil that guided her way.” In “Whaler’s Cove,” an otherworldly whale conspires “to send us whalers straight to hell.” In “The Wreck of the Ellan Vannin,” the line “this little ship was bound for hell” is absolutely thrilling, and Richard Hawley really nails it on the delivery, too.

5. What is the ship’s mission? Be very specific here. The Edmund Fitzgerald was “coming back from some mill in Wisconsin” and “concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms/When they left fully loaded for Cleveland”—“with a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more/than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.” The Ellan Vannin was delivering the mail. Other doomed ships were carrying cargo, exploring the poles, or ferrying emigrants. But the absolute best reason to go a-sea is to hunt whales, because now your song has whales in it.

The Awl Podcast: Laura Olin

Laura Olin, who ran social for Obama 2012, tells us what the political internet is going to be like in 2016. Presidential Twitter feuds. Snapchat gaffes! Hundreds of reporters with no idea what their jobs are anymore.

We’ll also talk about her newsletter, Everything Changes, and the strange and incredible advice exchange she hatched in thousands of inboxes earlier this month. Subscribe here.

How to listen:

Subscribe in iTunes
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Or just search for The Awl in any popular podcast app.

Finally, The Awl podcast is extremely sponsored by the delicious Williamsburg Pizza.

The Ring Tone Variations


“The audio logo of Deutsche Telekom has been part of Germany’s mobile phone culture from the very beginning so it acted as a starting point to question the usual concepts for ring tones. Using Christian Kellersmann’s idea of the »Pocket Symphony« ten artists were invited to come up with adaptations of Telekom’s audio logo…. As you will hear: The short motif, as simple and unforgettable as it is, is ideal musical material. Everyone knows it, everyone has some sort of connection to it and these ten different versions, these ten different positions, open up the most varied possibilities for associations. It is time that we take the ring tone seriously again. As the most reduced musical form that is the most-widely available in the whole world it contains enormous and unrealised potential!”
—Your tolerance for this one will, like your metaphorical mileage, vary, but then I have heard the argument that part of what makes life so interesting is the astounding level of variety to it. I do not agree with the argument, but people do make it, so I am just putting it out there to provide a possibility of unexpected delight on your part. I personally find this to be terrific and the most I can hope for is that you are also entertained, but even if that turns out not to be the case I assure you that there will be more music on the way and you are bound to find some of it pleasing, so hold on just a little bit longer. The rest of you are urged to enjoy. Related: some history.

New York City, July 29, 2015

weather review sky 072915★ “What am I smelling?” the three-year-old said, out in the noisome morning. “I think I’m smelling W—’s dirty feet.” The heat was not so bad, for a minute, on the walk toward the river, but on the way back, facing into a sun a few minutes higher, it was. Lane markings and crosswalks and crushed garbage had been added to the blank fresh new blacktop of Amsterdam Avenue. The day would stay as it had been: brutal but weak-willed. In the afternoon, a shady avenue seemed bearable; rounding the corner onto a cross street in full sun and grill-cart smoke was like stepping off an elevator into Hell. The evening was not too hot for trailing a scooter back and forth, but it was too humid for it. A stranger on the plaza held forth on how miserable his own day had been, bicycling around and stopping off to change.

The Ungentrifiers

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 2.33.54 PMIn 1959, the Cooper Square Committee formed to organize against Robert Moses’ plan to tear down the twelve blocks in the East Village, which was at the time a low-income neighborhood, from Delancey Street to 9th Street, from Second Avenue to the Bowery, thereby displacing some twenty-four hundred tenants, four hundred and fifty furnished room occupants, four thousand homeless people, and five hundred businesses. The buildings would have been replaced with nearly three thousand units of cooperative housing, which have been affordable to just seven percent of the people living in the neighborhood at the time. In 1961, activists like Walter Thabit and Frances Goldin formulated the Alternate Plan for Cooper Square. “A renewal effort has to be conceived as a process of building on the inherent social and economic values of a local community. Neglecting these values through programs of massive clearance and redevelopment can disrupt an entire community,” the plan begins. “The physical improvements which will attract a higher income group must—first of all—benefit those affected by the program, not cause them to suffer from it.”

Thirty-five years later, after many legal and legislative battles, the Cooper Square Committee incorporated as a community land trust and mutual housing association. Basically, what this does is remove a given parcel of land (and the housing built upon that land) from the wider real estate market, thereby preserving its affordability. The land trust and the housing association are two separate, legal entities comprising building residents and neighborhood stakeholders. A community land trust is a non-profit organization that treats land as a public good; a mutual housing association is a non-profit organization that manages the housing that is built on that land. John Davis of the National Housing institute explains the dual-ownership model thus:

One party holds the deed to a parcel of land; another party holds the deed to a residential building located upon that land… Although CLTs do not resell their land, they provide for the exclusive use of their land by the owners of the buildings located thereon. Parcels of land are conveyed to individual homeowners (or to the owners of other types of residential or commercial structures) through a ground lease. This lease typically runs for ninety-nine years, unless a shorter term is required by state law. The lease is renewable and inheritable, giving homeowners (and their heirs) an exclusive right to occupy the land on which their homes are located.