From The Archives
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Unrelenting Trauma: It's a Living

"So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them—a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook."

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In this Sunday's forthcoming New York Times Magazine—which has been magically sent backward in time, from the future, to the internet of today—I have a short piece on how dynamic, demand-based pricing is probably going to become a staple of supremely popular restaurants as logistics-driven startups, of a piece with Uber and Airbnb, begin looking to disrupt (lol) woefully inefficient restaurant seating systems. In summary: Hope you like eating out on Tuesdays at 9PM. Unless you are rich, then why are you worrying about this, or anything at all? It'll be just fine. You'll be just fine. Everything's fine.

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On the Many Previous Internets

"Falstaff Press and Panurge Press were the best-known of [mail-order smut] publishers, and their books were also the best made. They make up a subgenre in the history of pornography that has largely been left behind: Too titillating to have any real scientific value, they often also had too much deflating scientific detail to be thoroughly useful to the average masturbator."

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Shoe Fit

"Ringo Starr Is The New Face Of Skechers."

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Court Meddles

"A pregnant unwed mother can’t use Facebook alone to notify the father about the baby before putting the child up for adoption, Oklahoma’s highest civil court has ruled."

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Pity the Poor Bodega Cigarette Man

Upon closer inspection of the shelves, he noticed that the rear wall stopped short, a couple of inches from the other side, suggesting a gap in between. He peered lower. There was a pinpoint hole in the rear wall. Below it, a toothpick lay on the shelf. Deputy Davis, 43, stuck the toothpick in the hole.

The toothpick pressed a hidden button that released a large magnet that kept a secret compartment locked. Deputy Davis lifted the front of the row of shelves like you would the trunk of a small car, and inside were rows and rows, all different brands, of contraband. Not narcotics or pills, but unopened packs [...]

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Sounds Enumerated

In 2014, not a single artist’s album has gone platinum. Not one has managed to cross that million sales mark.

One album has managed to sell over a million copies so far this year, but it’s a soundtrack. The ever-popular Frozen soundtrack may slowly be working its way down the charts, but it is by far the best selling collection this year. Though it doesn’t have any marquee names on it—those that are usually expected to sell the best—the soundtrack has managed to move 3.2 million copies so far, and with winter coming, that number is sure to rise.

The most popular album of 2014 that was actually released [...]

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Youth Harnessed

"While some elementary schools no longer have recess, and people like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie argue that school days should be even longer, a few schools are already moving in a different direction. Some are testing out standing desks, and realizing that a little bit of activity can actually improve attention spans. Others, like Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are starting to fill classrooms with exercise bikes, so students can work out while they learn." —Thought experiment: Would the ethical status of this program change, in any way, if the exercise bikes were used to generate electricity? The MOOC machines will need charging.

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Moves Borrowed

"I am the Jonah Lehrer of sex, a serial plagiarist of stunning bravado and insouciance. So are you."

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History and the Modern Presidency

Barack Obama, 2005, to the graduating class of Knox College: The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them. Whether chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams.

Barack Obama, 2009, accepting the Nobel Peace Price: For all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not [...]

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Relief Sought

"The term of choice for its practitioners is BLARPing—business live action role play."

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Ban Cars from Central Park

The mystery of the bear cub found dead on Monday in Central Park is one step closer to being solved: It was revealed on Tuesday that she died after being hit by a car.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the results of a necropsy showed that the cause of death was "blunt force injuries consistent with a motor vehicle collision."

I rest my case.

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Do You Remember the 90s? And Which Parts?

Nostalgia is history viewed through a toilet paper tube.

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The Lessons of Vice

A post-mortem on pre-mega-expansion Vice, by Alexandra Molotkow:

The magazine was a point of intersection for a number of subcultures that started balling together around the turn of the century. It’s hard to say what this scene was about, exactly: clothing-wise, Vice “style” was defined negatively—the Don’ts were always funnier than the Do’s—so it was more about what you couldn’t wear (dreadlocks, sandals, pubes) than what you should. Musically, it was far-flung, though artists like Andrew WK and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were staples, and I remember it as a leading champion of electroclash. Coke was the drug of choice, but in drugs as in all things, Vice [...]

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There Was New York

"Now the energy is different: the underground has almost entirely disappeared. (You hope there are still young artists in Washington Heights, in the Barrio, or Stuyvesant Town, but how much longer can they hang on?) A twisted kind of energy radiates instead off the soulcycling mothers and marathon-running octogenarians, the entertainment lawyers glued to their iPhones and the moguls building five “individualized” condo townhouses where once there was a hospital.

It’s not a pretty energy, but it still runs what’s left of the show. I contribute to it. I ride a stationary bike like the rest of them. And then I despair when Shakespeare and Co. closes in favor of [...]

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Cool Words Properly Historicized

Even the seemingly up-to-the-minute “bae,” a word that means babe or baby and is so new that most of its written use is in personal communications, has a print trail back to the early 2000s, and is probably a descendant of the reduplicative nickname Bae Bae, a rendering of “baby,” which shows up in print in the 1990s. In some cases, bae is older than the people using it. (It also has its own spurious acronymic etymology, “before anyone else.”)

I am convinced that the favorite pastime of linguists, who are, by definition, Olds, is showing up to point out that they knew about words like "bae" before [...]

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'Luxury' Redefined

"What used to be a 650-square-foot studio can now be a very well-laid-out one-bedroom," he said. For new condominiums like 50 Clinton Street, a project on the Lower East Side where WD-50, the restaurant run by the chef Wylie Dufresne, now stands, he said, "I’m dubbing a new term, 'cool luxury,' where the building is super design-focused, but it doesn’t use the most high-end finishes or appliances.”

Real estate developers may be, outside of teens, our most precious source of new forms of language.

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Death Name Difficult

"Two months since war planes first started striking Islamic State targets, operations in Iraq and Syria don’t have a fancy name. One of the generic placeholders found on classified Pentagon PowerPoint slides reads: 'Operations in Iraq and Syria.'

To some military officers, Inherent Resolve didn’t properly evoke the Middle East. Others faulted it for failing to highlight the international coalition the U.S. had assembled. Still others simply found it uninspiring."

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Movie Worse Than Expected

Scott Tobias on Men, Women & Children: Despite a few last-ditch pleas of moderation, Reitman offers a comprehensive portrait of The Way We Live Now, and the overall effect is a mass freakout, like a roomful of grandparents booting up their first AOL CD-ROM. And while there’s no doubt that the Internet age has profoundly transformed the culture, adding new dangers and stresses and altering the nature of how we communicate, blind panic is not a sophisticated adult response. Hiring Emma Thompson to bring her British gravitas to the voiceover narration isn’t sophisticated, either. Nor is opening the movie in outer freaking space. Politicians can get away with such [...]

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"Calm Down," the Movie, Part II

The White House Briefing Room would have been empty if the remaining reporters had anywhere to go. It was the fourth scheduled press conference that had come and gone without so much as a knock on the barricaded door. Before the TVs went out, things seemed to be slowing down. But before the internet went out, there were rumors of infection in the West Wing. By the time the phones went out, there was no doubt.

Among the reporters and low-level aides stuck in this room was a young man. A writer. Others were worried and devastated. He seemed merely preoccupied, his brow furrowed as if he was [...]

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