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Alex Balk

Alex Balk

Most Recently: Book Tells You What Money Is

The "quiet" one.

Book Tells You What Money Is

"Rising inequality is not a law of nature – it's not even a law of economics. It is a consequence of political and economic arrangements, and those arrangements can be changed," writes John Lanchester. I'm a cynical fuck who thinks hope for a better world is futile since we're all doomed to toil as servants for the thin and calcifying slice of the upper class that runs everything and there's no way we're ever going to get it together enough to change things, particularly with all the distractions and sedatives this modern world has to hey is that a new iPhone? But Lanchester, who is always a joy to read, has a new a book coming out that purports to make money understandable even to fiscal illiterates like myself; if you're at all interested in learning what the people with all the cash are doing to you it might be worth picking up.

Escape Artist Tells All


Awl pal Mary HK Choi managed to make a certain kind of dream come true: She left New York. And now she has a thing she wrote about it, a thing that you can and should buy. Let’s learn more! READ MORE

Fall Preview

Autumn will start off with a series of false beginnings and vague feelings of dislocation as summer lingers longer than everyone expects, even though summer here always easily extends into the end of September and sometimes beyond. When the days draw down and the sun starts to set earlier and earlier you will increasingly develop an overwhelming sense of opportunities missed and chances wasted as each event you had hoped to attend or goal you had your sights set on achieving becomes yet another adventure you opted out of under the empty promise that there was something better going on, and this endless buffet of poor choices will eventually lead to a fatigue so heavy that you will soon stop making choices at all, relying on the default option of doing nothing and hating yourself for it. Suddenly it will be winter, and all around you will fade into darkness and depression and bitter, pitiless wind. You will realize just how empty everything is. The grave beckons. The grave beckons. The grave beckons. Look for a Saints-Broncos Super Bowl. READ MORE

When Lights Are Low In London

"SCARED residents are snapping up stab proof vests and protective clothing to shield themselves from attacks during the street light switch-off, an Essex defence company boss claims."

Thomas Berger, 1924-2014

"More than anything, the paradoxical logic by which Berger unfolds his scenes connects him to Kafka. Too many contemporary writers kowtow to Kafka in mummery: ostentatiously dreamlike settings, Shadows and Fog-ian Eastern European atmosphere or diction. Berger engages with Kafka's influence at a more native and universal level, by grasping the way Kafka reconstructed fictional time and causality to align it with his emotional and philosophical reservations about human life. Berger's tone, like Kafka's, never oversells paranoia or despair, and the results are, actually, never dreamlike. Instead, Berger locates that part of our waking life that unfolds in the manner of Zeno's Paradox, where it is possible only to fall agonizingly short in any effort to be understood, or to do good." READ MORE

Preview: 'Lucy'

“The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%,” is the tagline for Lucy, the new Scarlett Johansson speculative thriller, but isn't it just as likely that the reason our average brains max out at around one tenth of their dimensions is due to an abundance of caution? Given our transcendent abilities to do damage to ourselves and those around us with that mere sliver of cranial capacity it seems probable on an evolutionary standpoint that the other 90% of our head-stuffing chooses to remain fallow from the firm conviction that exercising even another couple percentage points would result in destruction on such a massive scale that this species and all others which come in contact with it would perish from the face of the earth leaving not even the most rudimentary of traces, and while the prospect of such a planetary cleansing seems admittedly appealing—particularly on a hot day when the streets of our major metropolises are filled with putative adult males trundling around in shorts and flip-flops (and t-shirts bearing terrible double entendres suggesting specific sex acts their wearers would like to have performed on them) while they drink from plastic bottles filled with sugared water and careen about the sidewalks like clueless oversized babies, a group whom they additionally resemble in their utter disregard for anyone else walking alongside them—one supposes the brain is doing its part to prevent our speedy extinction and is instead hoping that by keeping the cap at the ten spot enough of us will muddle through somehow that the dumb shit we do won't be immediately fatal, but will just hurt a lot until it's all over, at which point it will be some other brain's chance to fuck things up and hurt and be hurt and do everything it can to keep itself from feeling that sorrow that it has brought upon itself, not to mention the sorrow that has been brought upon it by the brains nearby. The more I think about it, the more it would make sense if our brains managed to drop their usage number down by about half—something at around five percent seems both more manageable and less lethal. Think about how happy everyone would be in a world which worked that way. Even if it's impossible it's at least the kind of movie I'd like to see, I guess. Lucy is in theaters July 25.

Tove Styrke, "Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking to You"

Should you find yourself at some point today overcome by torpor, perhaps due to climatic conditions in your area or simply the prevalence of complaints concerning climatic conditions on social media, this song may provide a brief burst of energy before the fatigue inevitably takes hold once more. Yes, it's going to be hot. The sun will scorch your pasty skin and lethargy will lay its heavy hand upon your sweaty shoulders as it implores you to join it on the couch. But consider: We are barely past June's midpoint here, people. Don't waste all your whining just yet; think of how disappointed you'll be with yourself come August when folks are spontaneously combusting in the streets and Twitter is full of photos showing New Yorkers literally melting onto the sidewalks below their feet. And gentlemen? Please don't even think of asking me if you can wear little-boy pants just yet. STILL JUNE. Wait, where was I? It's like I have forgotten how to do this already. Oh, right. This song is pretty catchy. I tapped my feet at least, and, really, on a day like today, you can't hope for all that much more. I mean, you can hope, but I think we both know how that usually works out. Anyway, enjoy. [Via]

Stop Blaming The Internet For How Horrible We All Are

Awl pal Matthew J.X. Malady weighs in on what the cognoscenti refer to as Balk's Law, or the idea that everything you hate about The Internet is actually everything you hate about people.

Whose Nothing Is It Anyway?

"Art star Marina Abramović and London’s Serpentine Gallery have become embroiled in a row over 'nothing'. A prestigious group of curators and art historians have written to the gallery questioning why Abramović’s latest performance piece – due to open 11 June and about which she has repeatedly emphasised the importance of 'nothing' – fails to acknowledge the influence of another contemporary artist who has also made 'nothing' central to her work."

Euthanized Bear In Better Place Now

"Albany's celebrity bear has climbed its last tree." READ MORE