Posts Tagged ‘the Internet’
June 13, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- In the grim aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando, Richard Kim pays tribute to gay bars as institutions: “My first gay bar was Crowbar. Like all great gay bars, Crowbar was a dump: dark, low-ceilinged, shitty sound system. It was off Tompkins Square Park and Avenue B, when Tompkins Square Park was still a place you’d go to to buy drugs. It smelled like mildew, urine, cheap vodka, and Designer Imposters body spray. It’s long gone—made extinct like too many wonders by gentrification and Giuliani—but for a hot moment in the ’90s, it was the single most fabulous place in the galaxy. Dance moves were invented there. People went in, and when they came out, they weren’t just drunk—they were different people. That’s how powerful its juju was … Gay bars are therapy for people who can’t afford therapy; temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can’t go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression.”
- The language of the skies is like the language of the road, but less profane … more altitudinous. Mark Vanhoenacker, a pilot, calls it Aeroese, and has a longstanding fondness for it: “We’re instructed to pronounce three as ‘TREE’ and nine as ‘NINER’, and 25,000 as ‘two-five thousand’ (more specifically, ‘TOO FIFE TOUSAND’), not ‘twenty-five thousand’, because experience has shown that these modified pronunciations are less likely to be misunderstood. Or, when a controller knows you’re waiting to speak, they won’t say, ‘go ahead’, because that could indicate approval of something they didn’t hear you ask for. Instead they’ll say: ‘Pass your message.’ If all this sounds prescriptive and rigid, it is. Our exchanges are almost purely transactional. There’s no fat in the system, because it would take up precious airtime, and at worst it might introduce confusion. ‘The excessive use of courtesies should be avoided,’ warn our dour manuals.”
- Today in British people and their zany British pastimes: let us not forget that in centuries past they pursued an obsession with follies, i.e., pointless, decorative buildings: “Follies could take many forms. An occupied hermitage, of course, but ruined castles, kiosks, cottages, pyramids, altars, temples of virtue, alcoves, sepulchers, labyrinths, pavilions, pagodas and towers were all part of the repertoire … Follies had to be eye-catching. That was the whole point … Perhaps the last great folly was built in the mid-1930s at Faringdon by Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson, Lord Berners … Berners understood his business: he explained to the planning inspectors, ‘The great point of the tower is that it will be entirely useless.’ Maybe not: today you can find a notice that says, ‘Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.’ ”
- Just when you start to believe that you know what you like, you use the Internet, and come to see that your preferences are as illusive as anything else about you. Louis Menand writes about the havoc that algorithms have wrought on taste: “Taste is not congenital: we don’t inherit it. And it’s not consistent. We come to like things we thought we hated (or actually did hate), and we are very poor predictors of what we are likely to like in the future … Understanding how traffic works is made exponentially more complicated by the fact that it’s not just one person who is barely paying attention; all the drivers on the road are barely paying attention, and they’re also reacting to each other. The same is true of taste. The reason stuff you don’t like is out there is that other people do like it.”
- They made a movie about Maxwell Perkins and Thomas Wolfe, and they called it Genius? Oh, this can’t miss! Except that the film “depicts creation via furious montage. Tom stands at the refrigerator scribbling. Max jabs and plucks at pages of typescript. Bourbon and martinis are consumed. Cigarettes are smoked. Women come and go … Genius sighs with palpable nostalgia for a supposed golden age of masculine artistic potency and paints the struggle for self-expression in familiar sentimental colors. For Tom, writing is the unbridled expression of the life force, something [Jude] Law indicates by hollering and gesticulating and allowing a stray lock of hair to fall just so across his brow.”
May 31, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Hot take: There’s a new miniseries adaptation of Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, and it’s not good. Just follow Laura Miller’s lead and read the book instead: “Seemingly everything that happens today has already been covered in one of [Trollope’s] books, albeit in a less technologized form … The resemblance between particular current events and Trollope’s fiction is like the weather: however much it changes from day to day, in one form or another, it’s always there. His novels amount to a compendium of every recurring pattern of human behavior as observed by a wise, amused, and tenderly exacting deity. He sees all our little self-delusions and vanities, but he loves us just the same. In fact, sometime they make him love us more.”
- Plenty of novelists love cinema. The rarer thing, Adam Thirlwell writes, is the filmmaker in love with literature. It’s just Whit Stillman out there: “Stillman has never been shy with his literary provenance. Stillman’s cinematic innovation—in his 1990s trilogy of high bourgeois melancholy, Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco, and his 2012 film Damsels in Distress—has been to bathe cinema in a literary tone, a charmed artificiality. (Like his characters, Stillman admires the value in apparently outmoded things.) The atmosphere of his films owes as much to Henry James as it does to Truffaut or Max Ophüls … Stillman’s characters are monsters of literary conversation … People talk syntactically, at high speed, with absolute artistry (one comparison, in a different register, but at a similar pitch of artificiality, is Tarantino). Stillman uses dialogue the way Matisse uses color: it does not necessarily correspond to anything in the real world.”
- In the Middle East, realism is out of fashion—to take on the political moment, writers have had to get weird. “Five years after the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and elsewhere, a bleak, apocalyptic strain of postrevolutionary literature has taken root in the region. Some writers are using science fiction and fantasy tropes to describe grim current political realities. Others are writing about controversial subjects like sexuality and atheism, or exhuming painful historical episodes that were previously off limits. In a literary culture where poetry has long been the most celebrated medium, writers are experimenting with a range of genres and styles, including comics and graphic novels, hallucinatory horror novels, and allegorical works of science fiction.”
- If you’ve lately been avoiding the comments section of your favorite site, fear not—it’s still a wasteland of misogyny, racism, and homophobia. Dawn Foster cites a new Demos report that “analyzed comments over a three-week period, using an algorithm to determine whether tweets that used the words whore and slut were sexist insults or conversational. They found that 6,500 users were targeted by 10,000 ‘explicitly aggressive and misogynistic tweets’ … Has the internet made people more hateful? Perhaps. Or it may simply have made it easier for people to express their hate … Quite often men will tweet photos of their erect cocks to me, in response to nothing at all, and their profiles show they do this to as many women as possible, several a minute, before their accounts get shut down. It must be an easy way to get a kick without leaving the house.”
- When next you encounter a group of med students, be sure to grill them on how they memorialize the cadavers in their lives: “According to Cynthia Klestinec’s book Theaters of Anatomy, Italian students in the fifteenth century felt guilty about their part in ‘defiling’ the human body in the name of scientific advancement … After the demo, students prepared and organized the final ritual: a funeral … A body ‘carried into the anatomical hall, and the cover of the box in which it had been transported was returned to the executioner, who remained at some distance for this purpose,” Roswell Park writes in the 1903 book An Epitome of the History of Medicine. ‘If the corpse was one that had been decapitated, during these solemn ceremonies the head was placed between its legs.’ The proceedings were not always so solemn, though; sometimes there were performances. ‘Finally, an entertainment with music, often furnished by itinerant actors, was given.’ ”
May 27, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
It is a strange thing to monetize your emotions. Anyone who writes or creates knows this. And the work one does on the Internet feels insubstantial, even by the flimsy standards of intellectual property. Any body of digital work is a funny mixture of ephemeral and immortal, and it’s hard to know how to feel about such an archive.
Today marks my final column as the Daily’s correspondent. When I started writing these casuals, in January 2014, I thought of them as a challenge: to try to do something small, well, and consistently. There are certain kinds of writing—good writing—that are actually better suited to this medium than to print, and translating the personal and fleeting into something public seems to me one of the Internet’s primary gifts. The challenge comes not in finding inspiration, but in trying to strike the balance of confidence—that one’s observations have merit—and humility: recognizing that they’re not inherently interesting. Read More »
May 25, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- After he published the Tractatus, Wittgenstein traded philosophy for gardening, and developed a fixation on home design that may have led him back into philosophy’s embrace: “To details like the door-handles, in particular, Wittgenstein accorded what [the biographer Ray] Monk calls ‘an almost fanatical exactitude,’ driving locksmiths and engineers to tears as they sought to meet his seemingly impossible standards … Monk argues, more than once, that this design project brought Wittgenstein ‘back’ to philosophy … But I doubt that the return to philosophy was prompted by social connections, which were always a mixed bag for the antisocial Wittgenstein. I prefer to believe that the prompt was in the handle. For when Wittgenstein returned to philosophy, the idea that drove him beyond all others was that the nature of language had been misunderstood by philosophers … Words did not, he had come to believe, primarily provide a picture of life (the word “snake” representing, or sounding like, an actual snake); they were better conceived of as a part of the activity of life. As such, they were more like tools.”
- Jacob Harris was scoping out some nineteenth-century newspaper ads (don’t judge; this is how some of us get our kicks) when he stumbled upon an ad for the Brooklyn Furniture Company composed entirely of typography—a direct predecessor of the ASCII art that would come more than a century later. “The face resembles modern ASCII art, but it was published at a time—March 20, 1881—that seemed impossibly early,” he writes: “In many newspapers, these early examples of text art vanished not long after they arrived … Apart from the two advertisements I had found, the style apparently never caught on in the Times. But why not? To answer that, I looked more at the Eagle where I found the earliest ads—and where they survived for several decades longer than everywhere else. They are there in 1881, when one bold advertiser filled an entire page with ASCII text. They are there in 1888, when the Eagle advertised its election night almanac in the familiar large letters. They are there all the way up to July 3, 1892, a day the same Brooklyn Furniture Company again ran a half-page ad with their address in large ASCII letters. And, then, on July 5th, they were completely gone, replaced by modern layouts and fancy typography. Those upgrades likely explain, at least in part, what happened. ASCII art flourishes most when technology is limited; you don’t need Print Shop anymore when you can do digital layout on your computer and have an inkjet printer.”
- “The gift and curse of American hyperbole, truthful and otherwise, has lately been distilled in a single omnipresent word. In 2016, everything is ‘everything.’ That’s what the Internet is telling us, at least. Or yelling at us, in capital letters, with blaring hashtags attached. ‘@Beyonce’s #MetGala dress is EVERYTHING,’ Self magazine proclaimed recently on Twitter … Internet one-upsmanship is a definitively 21st-century art form, but ‘everything’ carries a hint of yesteryear—a whiff of the hot air that once swirled through medicine-show tents and carnival grounds … The Internet has a way of placing all of us—you, me, the online peddler of counterfeit Viagra, the editor of The Paris Review—in the undignified position of those touts who haunt the sidewalks outside bad restaurants in tourist-trap neighborhoods, thrusting menus in the faces of passers-by.”
- In which Edward Docx attends the 2016 British Esperanto Conference: “There are few times in your life that you can be certain that you are doing what nobody else in the world is doing—or has ever done—or will likely do again. This was one of them. I was sitting at a table of six, with a Catalan, a Brazilian, a Belgian, a Londoner and a Slovakian, while they munched and guzzled their way through their kareos and had what I can only describe as the most kinetic, exciting and involving conversation in Esperanto that Spice City (of Stanley Street, Liverpool) is ever going to witness. The animation. The jokes. The asides. The soliloquys. The antanaclasis. Oh, if only I had known what they were talking about I could have … I could have told you. But I was converted. The whole idea and application of Esperanto was so obviously amazing, so demonstrably persuasive, so self-evidently practical that I forget all over again about English; English; English.”
- The Internet is a fine place to find good writing. But it’s the best place to find moronic writing—just try. It’s such an effective moronic-writing delivery system that print media got jealous: “There are too many people filling every possible orifice of the Internet with their idiot opinions and comical prejudices and poorly constructed arguments … But: Have you seen what’s not on the Internet? You would think, what with the supposed influence of those who man the precincts offline, away from the free-for-all of our type-and-post world, that there would be safety in the smooth, heavy paper and creamy finish of print … And yet: THEY ARE NOT ALL THAT MUCH BETTER … It turns out most people don’t have anything very interesting to say and they’re actually a lot worse at saying it than we previously anticipated. Also, what no one expected is that shit flows upward, splattering the finer precincts we once looked to for wisdom with the same awful patina of chatty, ‘relatable’ garbage whose ultimate goal is to be passed around without anyone mentioning how gross your palms feel once you hand it off. We were warned and we didn’t listen and now we’re all paying the price.”
April 13, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
The first time I remember lying about why I was crying was in second grade. I’d burst out sobbing in the middle of social studies and, rather than admit I’d been thinking about the plot of “The Little Match Girl,” I claimed vaguely that there was some problem at home, prompting a humiliating private lunch with my teacher and a parent-teacher conference. You’d think that would have cured me.
But being upset about nothing is galling. It’s hard to explain to a stranger on the subway that no, tears are actually rolling down your cheeks because of an episode of The People v. O. J. Simpson, or a piece of music you’re not even listening to. Read More »
March 30, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
And why is it, thought Lara, that my fate is to see everything and take it all so much to heart?
I’ve always liked the term morbid sensitivity, which seems to suggest not just something unhealthy but actually dangerous. To be morbidly sensitive is to wallow, to dwell unwholesomely on slights real and perceived—to ping-pong between solipsism and a feeling for others’ pain that results in a Saint Bartholomew–like sensation of emotional exposure.
The term is usually used as a descriptor, an observation, but I think that those of us who suffer from the condition, even occasionally, know full well when we’re being MS. The knowledge does not change the feeling, which is one of the most frustrating human conditions. Read More »