Friday, April 18th, 2014
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Who Really Owns The Internet?

Why are a tiny handful of people making so much money off of material produced for nothing or next-to-nothing by so many others? Why do we make it so easy for Internet moguls to avoid stepping on to what one called "the treadmill of paying for content"? Who owns the Internet?

The People's Platform, by Astra Taylor, was published this week. You can buy it wherever capitalism allows you to obtain books:

Metropolitan Books

McNally Jackson

Amazon / Kindle

Powell's

Previously in this interview series:

A conversation with Matt Taibbi and Molly Crabapple.

Discussing the labor of sex work with Melissa Gira Grant.

Returning to Marxism with Ben Kunkel.

In her excellent new book The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor thinks through issues of money and power in the age of the Internet with clarity, nuance, and wit. (The book is fun to read, even as it terrifies you about the future of culture and of the economy.) She brings to bear her estimable experience as a documentary filmmaker—she is the director of two engaging films about philosophy, Zizek! And Examined Life—as well as a publisher and musician. For the past several months, she has been on the road performing with the reunion tour of Neutral Milk Hotel (she is married to the band’s lead singer, Jeff Magnum). We spoke over coffee on the Lower East Side during a brief break from her tour.

Can we solve the issues that you talk about without radically reorganizing the economy?

No. (Laughs) Which I think is why I’ve been so active. I’ve been thinking about this in connection with all these writers who are coming up who found each other through Occupy, and why all of us were willing to participate in that uprising despite all the problems and the occasional ridiculousness of it.

But the economy can be revolutionized or the economy can be reformed, and I don’t discount the latter option. That level of social change happens in unpredictable ways. It’s actually harder to think of a revolutionary event that has had a positive outcome, whereas there have been lots of reforms and lots of things that people have done on the edges that have had powerful consequences. Would I like to see an economic revolution? Definitely. But I think there are a lot of ways to insert a kind of friction into the system that can be beneficial.

This book is about economics, and the amazing, probably very American ability to not talk about economics—particularly with technology, which is supposed to be this magical realm, so pure and disruptive and unpredictable that it transcends economic conditions and constraints. The basic idea is that that’s not the case.

To a lot of people this is self-evident, but I was surprised at how outside the mainstream conversation that insight was. When money is brought up, there’s this incredible romanticism, like the Yochai Benkler quote about being motivated by things other than money. But we’re talking about platforms that go to Goldman Sachs to handle their IPOs. Money is here. Wake up! READ MORE

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"In the olden days, nobody even locked their front doors, not in the neighborhood I grew up in. And the choice is either live behind the locked door or don’t. And for me freedom is choosing not to live behind the locked door." —This from a man who posted his usernames and passwords into the Washington Post comment section, asking readers to break into his accounts and do as they please. Nobody bothered to do much at all, which is terrifying in its own right.

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A Poem By Annelyse Gelman

:’)

                                             after Anthony Opal’s cento sonnets

In the wet dreaming room seventeen and a half boys
masturbate on seventeen and a half make-believe beds,
sleeping hands tied round seventeen and a half blue roses
blooming to the organ-grinder’s song.
In every way, they are their sustained melodic breakdown,
un-adorned emotion cast off outside our atonal
scudding. O let me dream not the logic of boats
but of rooms billowing with brackish wine,
you and me lost at sea, reed-deep in the technical journals.
We are a helpless make-believe presence deteriorating
except in alcohol. Do you want me to take off my human
myself? Sailboat, frail boat—ugly and marvelous body!
There is no such thing as a patternless universe.
There is really no such thing as a birdless place.



Annelyse Gelman is a California Arts Scholar, the inaugural poet-in-residence at UCSD's Brain Observatory, and recipient of the 2013 Mary Barnard Academy of American Poets Prize. She has new work in Hobart, The Destroyer, The Economy, Indiana Review, and elsewhere, and is the author of the poetry collection Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone (Write Bloody, 2014). Find her at www.annelysegelman.com.

You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.

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I believe the expression you are attempting to articulate is "OMG." And rightly so. [Via]

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How To Order A Shake

I work in a co-working space. (For all of you who ask me what that is,  I say, "a co-working space is a place where you pay a few hundred dollars a month to share an office space with people, and also, how are you such a genius that you have thus far managed to avoid reading the annoying publications in which you would have learned this annoying term?") In said co-working space, I share a small room with two other writers. We have recently taken to calling our little room The Suicide Suite, because off of it is a beautiful balcony on which we are prohibited from standing as it could easily just snap off the building, like a bad lego. A member of our co-working space's dog once toddled off this balcony,  and as this dog is no longer with us—balcony not at fault here—there is talk of naming it after him. But we'll have to check with the owner first and right now he is in a foreign country, teaching people to do something which I will forget as many times as it is explained to me.

The biggest subject of the day here at our co-working space is lunch. Lunch is always a problem. There are not many good restaurants in the little town we live in. It's strange, because there are a lot of really good cooks here, but no one seems to want to do it for a profession. There is a grocery store up the hill that makes good pre-made sandwiches, but sometimes they are out of them, and anyway, I am beginning to  wonder if they are a) not very nutritious b) making us fat. Then there are two health food stores, one you drive to and one you walk to. The one you walk to has pre-made sandwiches, too, but they're a little soggy and while I can't recall the exact cost, my mind hovers somewhere around the sum of one thousand dollars.

The health food store you drive to is better, and has a pretty exciting hot food bar. That said, sometimes the hot bar is themed. Today, for example, is Italian day, and if anyone in the world who should not be assembling manicotti it is a stoned white person with 18 pounds of dreadlocks stuffed into a sock and sitting, periscope-like, a top his head. Actually, that's probably exactly who should be assembling manicotti, but probably not manicotti for which I would drive three miles.

One of my co-workers is fairly frugal and often brings her lunch. The other, like me, is more than happy to throw large portions of a modest income away on food. We are partial to a little vegetarian restaurant down the road staffed by an assemblage of generally helpful and friendly but occasionally careless 20-somethings. Our favorite is the one who says "perhaps" a lot. Our lunch of choice from this place is a child's burrito (or, the size a regular burrito would be if Americans were truly serious about portion control) and a shake made of almonds, frozen bananas, dates, and, in his case, almond milk, and, in my case, regular milk. I am partial to milk that comes from animals.

Even poorly made, this is a delicious concoction; well made, it is transcendent.  READ MORE

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The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "She's On It/Jack The Ripper"


Beastie Boys + Link Wray + Friday = play. Solved. [Via]

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"On Sunday pot smokers will gather across the US to mark what has become a hallowed date in their calendar – 4/20, or 20 April – by smoking marijuana, possibly at 4:20pm."

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The Journalist and the Junta

Karaweik

I met Aye Aye Win a little while ago aboard the Karaweik, a two-story barge on Kandawgyi Lake in the middle of Yangon, Myanmar. The barge, like the lake, is artificial: It’s actually a building made out of concrete and stucco, sunk into shallow waters. Inside was a buffet restaurant with a stage, and on it, extravagantly costumed dancers. I hadn’t been sitting at the banquet table for long when a woman with a kind face and elegant cheekbones asked, softly, if the seat next to me was occupied.

Then she told me some of her life story, beginning with her father’s name.

My father’s name is U Sein Win. He passed away four months ago. He was with the AP from 1969. By then he had been jailed twice in his life as a journalist, for the stories that he had done. He had his own paper, but even then, he was jailed. He was arrested again in 1988. He was an A-class prisoner, so that’s not bad. READ MORE

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The Golden Age Of Immersive Theater

This is the last in a three-part series about the history of interactive theater, presented by Heineken. Check out Parts One and Two, which detail the early years of interactive theater and its Twentieth-Century flourishing. In this final installment, we discover where the form of entertainment is headed, with Heineken leading the way.

A few weeks ago Heineken premiered a unique one-night only immersive theater experience in New York City. Watch the video above to see how a few brave guests became The Guest of Honor. This unique one-night-only experience put just one person at center stage and asked them to share their unique talents as actors guided them on a bizarre, dream-like experience.

Immersive theater has really come into its own over the last several years, solidifying its status as a cutting-edge art form that's been embraced across the globe. READ MORE

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What Do TV Shows Want To Be When They Grow Up?

first-look-martin-freeman-fargoHuman reviewers have mostly been apologetic when measuring Fargo the TV show against Fargo the movie, because how can you compare a film to a series? An apple to an orange? And apple to… ten apples? But the machines, who do not apologize, have it settled: According to Metacritic, Fargo the series (Rating: 87% – ‎38 reviews) is better than the Coen brothers' movie (Rating: 85% – ‎24 reviews). We are meant to understand that these numbers don't really say what they seem to say, but could you really explain how? To an alien? READ MORE

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We walk about the streets of this city rubbing shoulders with ghosts, and sometimes they are raised up and flicker in front our eyes, wailing "Remember me," before they are condemned to disappear once again. Then the giant glass towers and frozen yogurt shops move in.

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Harvey's Gainsbourg Comes Back Around


It seems like it is always reissue time, but here is news of a return engagement that is very worthwhile:
"Intoxicated Man (1995) and Pink Elephants (1997) are Mick Harvey’s interpretations of the songs of legendary singer, songwriter and poet Serge Gainsbourg and are the first major works translating Gainsbourg’s infuential work from French to English. The double CD collection will include two unreleased tracks, 'Dr Jekyll' and 'Run From Happiness.'" I was there when this happened the first time, and the claims made for these records are true: They really did inspire interest in Gainsbourg in a lot of people who had never heard of him before. The reissues are out on May 6th. The unreleased track "Dr. Jekyll" is below. READ MORE

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Some of the better coverage of the life of Gabriel García Márquez, who died yesterday at the age of 87, can be found here in the Guardian. The New Yorker also has a few pieces that are worth your time.

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New York City, April 16, 2014

★★ Thin new snow clung to the walkway that led from the construction elevator to the top of the tower, and coated the cars down below. In the cross-street shade, some of the windshield ice lasted into midday. A few daffodils were out in the sidewalk planters, and they seemed to be flinching. A bus lumbered right into a curbside puddle, splashing a stroller. A track fire at Columbus Circle had stopped the 1 trains, but the sun up Broadway, on the forced walk, couldn't help but feel warm. It was no substitute for a genuinely pleasant spring day, though, with more than half of April gone. The afternoon light glowed prettily through new leaves and blossoms, even while bare fingers were going numb.

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Chromeo feat. Ezra Koenig, "Ezra's Interlude"


People always focus on the "guilty" part of "guilty pleasure," but let's not forget that the next word is "pleasure." I mean, pretty much all pleasure contains a certain amount of guilt anyway, right? It does for me at least. Anyway, apropos of nothing, here's a song from Chromeo with the guy from Vampire Weekend.

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Maya Rudolph's Finest Musical Moments

NBC announced that The Maya Rudolph Show, a new variety show special from the comedic actress of the same name, will premiere on May 19th. The Lorne Michaels-produced one-off special, which features guests like Craig Robinson, Andy Samberg, and Janelle Monáe, will serve as a pilot for a Rudolph-fronted variety show for the network.

Rudolph hosting a variety show is no surprise as she's had dual passions for music and comedy for decades now. The daughter of soul singer Minnie Ripperton, Rudolph worked as a keyboardist and backup singer for the band The Rentals before landing at SNL. On SNL and Up All Night, Rudolph sang frequently, goofing on talented pop stars and horrendously untalented singers with equal precision. In 2012, she launched a female Prince cover band called Princess with friend Gretchen Lieberum, a college friend who's an LA-based jazz singer-songwriter, and the group has found acclaim online.

To give you an idea of what to expect from The Maya Rudolph Show's musical segments, here's a collection of her best musical moments, both comedic and sincere: READ MORE

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"In a world where we have this many channels and every channel has a docu-soap about some outrageous personality who lives unapologetically and sort of yells at us, as television viewers… This was just the opposite. This one allows you to watch and just sit back and relax. Not in a boring way but in a really 'that’s different' sort of way. It allows you to breathe."
Will "slow TV" catch on in America? Sure, why the hell not.

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Major Lazer feat. Pharrell Williams, "Aerosol Can"


Now THAT is how you do a lyric video. [Via]

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"Portland, Oregon is flushing 38 million gallons (143 million liters) of drinking water down the drain because a 19-year-old man urinated in an open reservoir early on Wednesday morning, city water officials said."
—There's a much-repeated maxim in the blogging business that, "[W]hen you get to the point where all the 'people in Portland urinating into reservoirs' stories start to blend together, it is time to retire," so while it has been a pleasure spending this time with you I must take my leave, because I have an appointment at the glue factory.

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The Brooklyn Museum of Death

canndeer640
I attended my first rat class on a Sunday afternoon in January. The snow melted overnight, but by morning it had refrozen into black ice, which made the walk between the 4th Avenue-9th Street stop and the future Morbid Anatomy Museum, located in a vacant, pre-renovation nightclub in industrial Gowanus, extremely terrifying. This probably explains why most of the registered students bailed at the last minute, even after paying $185 for a dead rat, scalpel, access to a box of accessories fit for Barbie and expert instruction.

When I arrived, Katie Innamorato, the teacher, was wearing a polyester wolf jumpsuit with pointy ears, a row of white fangs, and a lolling red fabric tongue. She was arranging the rats on a folding table as if setting up a child’s birthday party. The rats, bright white and all the same size, were “feeders,” or mass-market snake snacks. After the three other students who braved the elements—a bearded deer hunter from upstate, his amulet-necklaced wife, and a teenager in a hoodie whose mom dropped her off with lunch money—were settled in, Katie started instructing: massage some warmth into the rat’s limbs, then place its belly flat against the table, and part its fur along the spine. READ MORE

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