Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
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New York City, September 29, 2014

weather review sky 092914★★★ The sun came straight along the cross street, hit the mirrored tower, and came back barely diminished, putting a blinding two-way glow on everything. The subway platform was warm enough to raise a sweat, if one was in a hurry and the next train was not. The clouds had been subtly lovely at dawn, then opened up, and now, downtown, closed again. A damp, pearly Hong Kong light lay on everything. Though the day, the brightness through the window right behind the new office seat slowly failed, till it was time to dig into the tastefully recessed wiring pocket and figure out where to plug in the desk lamp. Outside the clouds had gone over to heavy gray, with ugly yellow tinges to the east and west. The air was warm and thick. Sunset was a diffuse and featureless orange-pink glow that spread evenly far up the clouds, then smoothly receding and fading down to purple.

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Cloud Nothings, "Now Hear In"

From Here And Nowhere Else, which came out in April, a video for the album's most energetic track—one of the few that might have fit in on the very fun and very catchy self-titled album, from 2011, which has apparently been reassessed as the product of an "introductory phase" that should now be "eradicated." RUDE.

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Where Should We Bury the Dead Racist Literary Giants?

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H.P. Lovecraft is widely acclaimed as one of the great masters of horror. He created the Cthulhu mythos, a pantheon of hideous eldritch deities lurking outside of time that occasionally peep through into our reality to wreak havoc and drive men mad, is credited with inventing weird fantasy; and was a major influence on everyone from Stephen King to Alan Moore. He was also, like many authors of the early twentieth century, really racist.

In a famous letter from a stay in Brooklyn during the nineteen twenties, Lovecraft described the ethnic diversity around him in the same language he used to describe nightmare horrors:

"The organic things inhabiting that awful cesspool could not by any stretch of the imagination be call'd human. They were monstrous and nebulous adumbrations of the pithecanthropoid and amoebal; vaguely moulded from some stinking viscous slime of the earth's corruption, and slithering and oozing in and on the filthy streets or in and out of windows and doorways in a fashion suggestive of nothing but infesting worms or deep-sea unnamabilities."

Lovecraft isn't talking about monsters or demons there; he's referring to non-white people, whom he sees as "infesting worms" "pithecanthropoid and amoebal." He expresses similar sentiments in the poem below, which doesn't seem to have been published, but which he apparently sent to friends: READ MORE

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Louis C.K.'s 'Dianetics': Inside His Weird and Wild Three-Hour Radio Show

louisckTwenty-six minutes into a three-hour advice show Louis C.K. hosted in 2007, a guy named Blake calls up. Blake says he’s driving solo from Dallas to Oklahoma City that night and wants to know if Louie is going to just keep fucking around, or if he actually has anything good planned. At the end of the three hours Blake calls again, about to arrive in Oklahoma City, and says it’s been an “amazing ride.” I want to argue that Blake is being an understating piece of shit here, because this show is like…well…it’s like… REALLY amazing! It’s like the most Louis C.K.-y thing ever, and on top of that: it’s good. And beyond that, falling where it does in his career, it acts as a near-perfect summation of what makes Louie so unique. Let's call it Louis C.K.'s Dianetics.

What the hell am I talking about? Good question. There’s a block of programming on SiriusXM satellite radio Saturday nights 8-11pm that they use to test out shows that might then be moved to different time slots. Usually a few people host them together, and usually they have a strong idea for what the show will be about beforehand. Louis C.K. agreed to host one night in 2007, but he had neither of those things. I actually couldn’t find the exact date, but he talks about getting his first iPhone that day and then sitting on a park bench trying to figure it out all afternoon rather than preparing anything for the radio show.

The show that night does start out with him kind of fucking around and insulting callers, even at one point lapsing into doing material (“Newscasters saying 'the n-word' is just white people getting away with saying the n-word.”) READ MORE

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The New Ethnic Media

Taffy Brodesser-Akner on Paula Deen's rapid and basically unfettered comeback, after her brief banishment from public life:

An investment in Paula Deen conveys a deep understanding of America’s political temperature and where we’re headed: that Paula’s comeback isn’t about forgiveness — it’s about standing her ground…

First, there’s the digital network. Then there’s the 20-city tour of a cooking show with the whole Deen family; according to the venues I checked, which were large, the tour sold quite well. She’s out there reminding everyone that she still exists, that she just won’t be subject to the same scrutiny and censorship she once was. She’s gone rogue, she has, and nobody will tell what she can’t say ever again. One man on the boat was not a particular fan of hers even just a year before, but when he heard that Food Network had dropped her, he canceled his Food Network magazine subscription, bought a Cooking with Paula Deen one, and joined her on the cruise, because if you can’t say what you’re thinking, what good is a democracy?

Compare with Sarah Palin's online video network:

The Sarah Palin Channel, which went live on Sunday, bills itself as a “direct connection” for the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate with her supporters, bypassing media filters.

Palin says she oversees all content posted to the channel. This will include her own political commentary. Other features for subscribers include the ability to submit questions to Palin and participate with her in online video chats, she says in an online announcement.

Membership is set at $9.95 per month or $99.95 for a year. Active-duty military personal can subscribe for free.

That last writeup came from the website of The Blaze, which is attached to the video network that kicked off this whole trend—a network that has grown significantly:

[Glenn Beck is] convinced his future is in producing mainstream entertainment — and if broadened appeal is the goal, there are worse tactics than recalibrating your persona from conservative pit bull to loving labrador.

Of course, Beck continues to drive and echo the popular narratives of conservative talk radio: In recent weeks, he has accused Obama of “legimitizing Jihad,” declared a “race war” in America, and tossed around the word “communist” with just as much gusto and frequency as ever. But whereas two years ago Beck was on the forefront of the right-wing conversation — introducing new villains, crafting new story lines, and making headlines with envelope-pushing rhetoric — now he often runs through the talking points like items on a to-do list before moving on to enthusiastic descriptions of his latest project, and feel-good interviews.

These outlets share a basic form—online video network—and depend on relatively steep subscription fees (the comparison that always gets used is "more than Netflix"). They are fundamentally oppositional: to the mainstream media; to political correctness; to godlessness but also a very particular formulation of uptightness. They are nostalgic for a time when certain people could say certain things without worrying about controversy or shame—they feel like public speech is a minefield, so they've made theirs a little more private. Among friends, almost. They long for a wholesome past that they feel has been lost. They are not especially cynical. They are, in effect, a white ethnic media, writing and publishing and broadcasting and performing about the experience of American whiteness as understood by people who genuinely feel that whites are becoming a marginalized minority. Race is not addressed directly in these networks' contents or containers—identity establishment is left to "urban"-style euphemisms and the projection of a sensibility that is neither explicitly nor assertively white, just inherently white, familiar to whites, deemed important or compelling or novel because it is no longer the norm elsewhere. On this point, they might not be wrong: The "mainstream media," as they would call it—the default, the center—has reliably expressed white identity for as long as it's existed. The success of these networks is a sign—a small lagging indicator, maybe—that this is coming to an end.

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Don't Forget These 7 Items While Traveling

KLM_Sherlock

Brought to you by KLM Airlines

Those "if only I just remembered to pack that" moments are the worst. Along with bad hair days, horrible cell phone reception areas, and warm salads. To help you avoid that soul-crushing feeling of ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’, here's a handy list to check off when packing your bag for your next flight.

1) Photocopies of your passport, ID and credit cards. In the event that your bag is stolen or lost, keeping photocopies of your essential ID's and cards stashed elsewhere will help make the recovery process a lot faster.

2) Snacks. Don't be THAT person who spends $10 on a bag of chips on the airport. Bringing some nutritional reinforcement will help you avoid that "hangry" feeling. (hungry + angry…get it?)

3) Phone charger. How hopeless is that feeling when you see that you're in the red on your smartphone and you don't have your charger anywhere near you? Avoid missing important calls and texts by packing your charger in your carry-on. There are outlets all over the airport to help juice up your smartphone.

4) Travel pillow. Avoid drooling on the passenger next to you by bringing a comfortable neck pillow that lets you catch up on your ZZZ's in a socially acceptable manner.

5) Sweater or sweatshirt. If you tend to get cold easily, don't forget to pack a sweater or sweatshirt in your carry-on so you can have a line of defense against your co-passenger's AC-blasting habits.

6) Sunglasses. These are probably one of the top forgotten items when traveling, so make sure to pack your sunnies, especially if you want to snooze during a daytime flight.

7) Headphones. You'll want to give yourself an award for remembering headphones when you hear a baby start to cry somewhere on the flight. Goodbye adolescent screaming, hello Beyoncé.

At KLM Airlines, we have your back as a traveler. KLM offers a unique Lost & Found service at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. A dedicated team is now on a mission to return items, found by cabin crew on board or by KLM airport staff, to their legitimate owners — as soon as possible. Very often the Lost & Found team is able to surprise passengers by returning their personal belongings before they have even missed them. Despite the challenge of locating the owner, first results show that over 80% of the found items can now be reunited with their owners.

To show how far the Lost & Found team and their tail-wagging secret weapon go, check out this video below.

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The Anthem of the Working Stiff

I don't know what men are made of, though a song I love begins: "Some people say a man is made out of mud." Perhaps the dust of Eden got wet with the kiss of the Lord and made mud, and from that Adam was made, but that's not what Tennessee Ernie Ford meant when he sang "a poor man's made out of muscle and blood."

"Sixteen Tons" is the anthem of the working stiff. Ford didn't write the song and he wasn't the first to record it, but his version from 1955 has worked its way into the assembly-line-addled ears and labor-worn hearts of workers ever since. Whatever a man is actually made of, saying he's made of "muscle and blood and skin and bones, a mind that's weak a back that's strong" is acknowledging that's what the world has made him into, and that righteous lament is why the song's still so popular.

I thought of "Sixteen Tons" the other day while listening to Lorde's "Royals." READ MORE

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Carry That Weight: The Revival of Feminist Performance Art

Degas_Intérieur_Philadelphia_Museum_of_Art_1986-26-10
Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight began nearly five weeks ago. Throughout the performance the artist Emma Sulkowicz, a 22 year-old Columbia University senior, will carry a boxy blue mattress everywhere she goes on campus. Weighing in at fifty pounds, the mattress stands in for the mattress on which she was raped by a fellow student. Sulkowicz’s work is profoundly simple: a young woman visually manifests the psychological weight of the crime committed on her body and demands recognition of that burden. Carry That Weight is a purely visual performance, one so piercing it resists language.

Like most performance art, Sulkowicz’s piece has clearly defined parameters, what she terms “rules of engagement.” They are: the performance will last until her rapist has left campus. The mattress will only be carried on campus. She cannot ask for help, but can accept it once it is offered. Once a person helps her carry the mattress, they enter into “the space of performance.” By quite literally bringing the site of the crime (in this case an ostensibly “safe” domestic space) into public sight, Sulkowicz’s performance relocates its subject in between the shifting grounds of public and private, personal and political.

Carry That Weight implies that within the discourse surrounding rape, the separation of these categories are meaningless. The public and private cannot be separated. The discourse of rape inhabits the public, private, personal, and political simultaneously. Carry That Weight’s poignant acknowledgment makes Sulkowicz’s performance one of the most salient pieces of feminist performance art produced in recent memory.

Carry That Weight has a revival quality, renewing a 1960s tone of radical consciousness-raising: defiantly political, resistant to silence, and deconstructive of cultural definitions of rape. And since Sulkowicz’s performance has easily been one of the most discussed artworks of the year, I want to revisit some of the women who have tread in ugly discourse of rape culture; to return to a long artistic project that, like Sulkowicz, sought to dissect aspects of that culture and expose vernaculars of terror. READ MORE

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Uber Optics

teacherppreciation

As communities are heading back to school, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the educators who are also our Uber partner drivers. Whether it’s an afternoon shift or a summertime gig, partnering with Uber provides teachers with the flexibility and opportunity they need to continue creating a foundation of excellence for students across the country.

Every day teachers are asked to do more with less, constantly faced with new challenges and limited resources. Uber opens the door for more possibilities and delivers a meaningful impact to the communities we serve.

Teachers are among the most dedicated, passionate and hardworking professionals – a few of the qualities that make the best Uber partner drivers. Throughout the year, we’ll continue to invest in providing opportunities for educators in cities around the world – recognizing the need for more income options on their own terms.

This post on Uber's blog almost feels like a parody. Surely, no modern, wealthy society—say, one in which an app-powered "your own private driver" service might thrive—would force professional, full-time teachers to also drive cars in order to make a living, nor would anyone celebrate that it was happening. Certainly you wouldn't expect corporations to rush to attach themselves to the phenomenon. And yet. Something, something, teachers, free markets, living wages, man. READ MORE

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Inherent Vice, Awkward Mood

If the options for an Inherent Vice movie were Joaquin Phoenix reciting Pynchon's best lines in a grave tone OR Joaquin Phoenix slipping in and out of mania while falling down a lot, physically, this seems to have been the right choice. It's just barely apparent in the trailer, but here is something that I'm curious to see in practice: Robert Elswit, longtime Paul Thomas Anderson collaborator, is listed as the movie's cinematographer. Elswit's all BIG SKIES and SYMMETRY and LINGERING SHOTS and MUSCULAR ACTION. There's not a whole lot of comedy in his credits! And certainly nothing quite like this: "It’s a stoner detective film so overstuffed with visual gags and gimmicks that the filmmaker said he was inspired by slapstick spoofs like 'Top Secret!' and 'Airplane!'"

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New York City, September 28, 2014

★★★★ Stepping out into the late morning air was like settling into a bath that had been waiting for a while—an enfolding, relaxing tepidness, not at all hot. Clouds softened the shadows on the playground. Children bored with chalking the concrete camel tried chalking other children's faces. The sun that got through was warm on bare ankles. The lid of the exhaust stack on a pony-sized Parks Department garbage truck clanged rhythmically with a sound of toy cymbals. By the afternoon, when there was no reason not to go to the playground again, the light had sharpened, but a haze still glimmered around the low-flying airplanes. The breeze was cooling, though it was barely strong enough to stir the dangling flags a little back and forth. Day's end brought wild pinks flaring one either side of the glass apartment tower, but the seven-year-old, unmoved, declared it a normal sunset.

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That audience-measuring company Chartbeat has "gained accreditation from the Media Rating Council for attention-based measurement of both content and advertising" is important to advertisers and therefore to all the people whose work and internet time-wasting activities depend on them. This metric, the apparent next metric, after page views and "uniques," is perhaps harder to trick but still easy to optimize for, especially if you're one of the new formless internet publishers—a relatively straightforward video, a quiz, or some as-of-yet unknown demanding media object that can hold you still, if not keep you truly engaged, will, in time terms, usually beat out a written story that takes a long time to produce and read. People are already hashing this part out.

What they're not yet hashing out what this means for another type of company: The read-later apps. So let's start: Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, Longform—the apps that take links and make them into clean little ad-free phone pamphlets that you can read on a plane—have been criticized, celebrated, but mostly tolerated. They help people read your work, which is encouraging; they also, at some point in the copy/clean process, at least give you a click, which is what you, or your editor, or your publisher, ultimately needs. Now, imagine a world in which "attention minutes" or some such measurement is how your employers measure the success of your work—a world in which its measurable value is connected to the time people spend with it. In that world, read-later apps, as they function now—giving you a click, but siphoning all of your time—are theft. Well?

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My Summer As a Housekeeper

8109773442_037bb4723a_zThe summer I was 18, I worked at an amusement park hotel as a housekeeper. The system worked something like this: every morning, we picked up our clipboards from the front desk with our list of rooms for the day, color-coded by what kind of service they needed. Pink was for occupied rooms that just needed a little spiffing, or “makes,” and green for just-vacated rooms that had to be cleaned for guests the following day, or “turnovers."

I liked to see a nice long sheet of green—a turnover meant that everyone’s crap was gone and I could haul out soaking wet towels and twisted-up sheets and vacuum and dust and start fresh. Makes were awkward; if the guests weren’t in the room, I had to tiptoe around their piles of toys and shoes and hilariously inappropriate lingerie while trying to make the bed and fluff the pillows. If the guests were in the room, I sometimes had to make small talk with them, the worst torture possible for my 18-year-old self.

We were paid $9/hour, an amount that seemed enormous to me then (and still does—it remains the highest hourly wage I’ve ever been paid). Yet you’re not going to go very far with $9/hour if you’re not a student whose basic needs (housing, food, orthodonture) are already paid for, especially since hours fluctuated based on occupancy. Because the hotel was attached to the amusement park and the amusement park was seasonal, a lot of high schoolers and college students did work there. But there was also a mother-daughter team who cleaned rooms with the efficiency of German train conductors. There was an older woman whose daughter was incapacitated by a Lyme disease infection that had spread to her nervous system; this woman was always the first one offered extra shifts, though it made little difference in the face of her gargantuan medical bills. A lot of the other hotel employees were teachers, working during their summers off to supplement their salaries. Point being: we weren’t all just students working to pay for our beer and gas. A lot of people needed the money.

After we cleaned a room and signed off on it being ready for habitation, we filled out a card with the name of the amusement park printed at the top in blue ink. HI, the card read, WELCOME TO DARIEN LAKE THEME PARK RESORT. MY NAME IS _______ AND I WILL BE YOUR HOUSEKEEPER. READ MORE

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The Useless Crap You Find When You Move

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, BuzzFeeᴅ Executive Editor Doree Shafrir tells us more about the pitfalls of packing and unpacking and constantly moving from one apartment to the next.

Doree! So what happened here?

When I moved out of the apartment I shared with my then-boyfriend in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in 2009, I got rid of my huge file cabinet and threw everything that had been in there into two storage boxes. They sat in the back of the closet TB and I shared in Carroll Gardens; when TB and I broke up, they moved into a closet in a different apartment in Fort Greene; when New York and I broke up, they found a home in the back of a closet in my new apartment in Los Angeles. It wasn't until last week, when I was packing up my apartment to move in with my current boyfriend, that I decided it was time to excavate whatever was in those boxes. READ MORE

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Stars, "No One Is Lost"

If you told me that this song was by Stars I would say, oh yeah, obviously, that voice, yeah, I hear it. But if you didn't, I would hesitate to assume. If you told me it wasn't, I would absolutely believe you. Anyway: This is not a new song by some new band from LA or Berlin or The Playa. This is a new song by Stars.

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Publishing's Best Worst Friends

The leaders of American "literary culture" are worrying, gathering and organizing:

The Wylie Agency has about a thousand clients. Many have not yet responded to Mr. Wylie’s query about Authors United, because they are traveling or are inattentive to email. But about 300 Wylie writers have signed on, as well as the estates of Saul Bellow, Roberto Bolaño, Joseph Brodsky, William Burroughs, John Cheever, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller and Hunter S. Thompson.

“Every single response without exception has been positive,” Mr. Wylie said.

There is no reason to doubt that the responses experienced by Andrew Wylie, an extremely powerful agent, have been uniformly positive: His fight on behalf of the publishing industry, against an obviously imperious Amazon, is one that his peers and clients, living and undead, have been itching for. In the process of mounting it, he will likely provide an easy target for Amazon's defenders, who claim that the old publishing world is stale and elitist and unadaptable, and that it overestimates its own value.

Neither of these parties will reach the most valuable readers, who generally appear to be sympathetic to Amazon in their use of e-readers but who are probably mostly concerned with two things: The impossibly daunting number of books that they haven't yet read (to enjoy reading is to always feel literally one million books behind); and the price and availability, on dirt-cheap e-readers, of way more than enough of these books to keep them buried and happy. To put it another way: The point at which the death of Wylie's vision of literary culture becomes an effective cudgel is the moment that an avid-but-otherwise-unaware reader picks up an e-reader, browses the selection, and realizes that, among the thousands and thousands of could-reads and should-reads and what's-thats, something has gone missing. Not a single book, or a well-known writer, but some beloved tier of work that was previously allowed to exist by an industry that, at this uselessly distant future time, is long gone. Wylie's famous authors are more than worthy foes for Amazon. They're also probably better advocates than their industry, which will misapply their talents on dead-end antitrust cases and dissonant pro-publisher crusades, deserves.

Image by Hope for Gorilla.

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'SNL' Review: A New Hope with Chris Pratt

The seasons have certainly changed at Saturday Night Live. The show's 40th season began with an episode that hardly resembled a season premiere, with little pomp or circumstance over SNL's impressive four-decade lifespan, and in its place a straightforward night of comedy that reflected a show well adjusted to its new lineup. Nerves did occasionally get the better of the performers—especially first-time host Chris Pratt, who coasted on his signature goofy charm, flashing that Andy Dwyer "oops" face a few times—but overall the episode charged forward with a leaner (and more colorful) cast, and a greater confidence in its sense of humor.

We aren't out of the woods just yet, though. SNL's live sketches suffer from the same issues that plagued them last season: those low-hanging fruit gags, punchlines overwhelming the premise, the tendency for characters to randomly walk out of a scene without the sketch actually ending, etc. Also, the show has yet to reclaim its satirical edge, and with John Oliver so thoroughly setting us straight on Sunday nights, it's doubtful progressive America will look to SNL for its comedy any time soon.

But for the first time in a while, we have reasons to look forward to the future. Pete Davidson's masterful Weekend Update set gave SNL the newcomer starpower it seemed unable to locate last season. Michael Che and Leslie Jones' frequent on-camera appearances suggest the show might actually try to embrace its diversity, rather than use it as a quota. And a few clever sketch setups found their way into the set list, giving us hope that SNL can still do comedy outside of the format of a talk show parody.

If those little "40"s in the opening credits and interstitials become the only on-air milestone celebrations we see on the show over the next months, Season 40 may be a year SNL steps proudly into the next generation, rather than again be overshadowed by its glorious past. READ MORE

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The Ads We Deserve

Facebook has made a great many terrible promises to a great many terrible people about all of the terrible ways that those terrible people—and Facebook!—can make a lot of money using the incredibly personal data extracted from users to sell them terrible products. Not all of those promises have panned out. But one can get an approximate sense of how genuinely anxious one should be, as a Facebook user, by how genuinely excited the terrible people become at the prospect of one of these promises. (It's a roughly inverse relationship: The more excited they are, the more unnerved one can choose to feel. It's like when somebody guffaws loudly on CNBC, the appropriate response is a deep, guttural sensation of sickness. Anyway.) Here's what some terrible people saying Facebook's new advertising platform, Atlas, which will let them track users and display ads based on their Facebook data not just on Facebook, but e v e r y w h e r e:

"Mobile has been a very hard thing for us to do,” said Jonathan Nelson, chief executive of Omnicom Digital. “This Atlas solution is a huge step forward in making mobile marketing more effective."

"Nobody else besides Facebook has the depth of data about individuals," said Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at the research firm eMarketer.

"Facebook has deep, deep data on its users. You can slice and dice markets, like women 25 to 35 who live in the Southeast and are fans of 'Breaking Bad,' " said Rebecca Lieb, a digital advertising and media analyst at the Altimeter Group, a research firm. The new Atlas platform, she said, "can track people across devices, weave together online and offline."

They seem quite excited. How do you feel?

Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife

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"We rarely fight, but when we do, we’re forced to choose our battlegrounds carefully. My place is usually out and the dumpster doesn’t work either–it’s impossible to take anything seriously in a one-room box that doesn’t even have a proper door. If a fight needs to be had, we usually end up hashing it out in the relative privacy of a car in a parking lot. I’ve cried my fair share of tears parked between two yellow lines." —The world's most performative dater (previously) on cohabiting in a dumpster.

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New York City, September 25, 2014

weather review sky 092514★ Morning arrived in dimness, with a soaking rain, perfect for not having to send anyone off to school in. The rain went away and came back and went away; the sky brightened a little and more drops streaked the windows. Clouds blew along from north to south. Late in the day, blue and white appeared in the west, just above the buildings. It was warm and close inside the elevator, getting more warm and more close as the doors refused to open, minute after minute. Outside, after too long, the avenue was still gray as ever, but clear light was up on the tops of buildings. In the time it took to realize the nearest parsley wasn't worth buying, the gray had become blue. Bright pink clouds raced by underneath it, and yet another lurid sunlight bloomed.

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