Sunday, March 29, 2020
New York Times – "Why Would Anyone Want to Visit Chernobyl?"
"“All the fields are slowly turning into forest,” Igor said. “The condition of nature is returning to what it was before people. Mooses. Wild boar. Wolves. Rare kinds of horses.”
This is the colossal irony of Chernobyl: Because it is the site of an enormous ecological catastrophe, this region has been for decades now basically void of human life; and because it is basically void of human life, it is effectively a vast nature preserve. To enter the Zone, in this sense, is to have one foot in a prelapsarian paradise and the other in a postapocalyptic wasteland.
Not far past the border, we stopped and walked a little way into a wooded area that had once been a village. We paused in a clearing to observe a large skull, a scattered miscellany of bones.
“Moose,” Igor said, prodding the skull gently with the toe of a sneaker. “Skull of moose,” he added, by way of elaboration.
Vika directed our attention toward a low building with a collapsed roof, a fallen tree partly obscuring its entrance. She swept a hand before her in a stagy flourish. “It is a hot day today,” she said. “Who would like to buy an ice cream?” She went on to clarify that this had once been a shop, in which it would have been possible to buy ice cream, among other items. Three decades is a long time, of course, but it was still impressive how comprehensively nature had seized control of the place in that time. In these ruins, it was no easier to imagine people standing around in jeans and sneakers eating ice cream than it would be in the blasted avenues of Pompeii to imagine people in togas eating olives. It was astonishing to behold how quickly we humans became irrelevant to the business of nature."
Friday, March 27, 2020
OK, buckle up. I wanna talk to you about Triscuit.
Several years ago I was at a party (BRAG!), and I spotted a box of Triscuits. I asked everyone, "What does the word 'Triscuit' mean? It's clearly based on the word "BISCUIT," but what does the "TRI" mean?" (I'm great at parties.)
The consensus was that "TRI" means three. Maybe "three layers" or "three ingredients." No one knew for sure, though, so I Googled it. But here's the thing -- Google didn't seem to have an official answer, either. Just more guesses.
So we went straight to the source. We emailed Nabisco. And the response we got a few days later shook us to the core. Here it is:
"The "TRI" does not mean 3." How... how do they know what it DOESN'T mean, but NOT know what it DOES mean? HOW??
Also, "No business records survived"? What the HELL happened at the Triscuit factory? Did the building explode? Did someone run out of the doors and yell "It doesn't mean THREE!" right before perishing in a giant blaze?
I was baffled. And I couldn't stand not knowing. So I did a little sleuthing online, and stumbled on some early Triscuit advertisements. Take a look at these bad boys:
In the early 1900's, Triscuit was run out of Niagara Falls. And their big selling point? Being "baked by electricity." They were "the only food on the market prepared by this 1903 process." Look at the lightning bolts! And that's when it clicked--
TRISCUIT MEANS "ELECTRICITY BISCUIT"
Sunday, March 22, 2020
Literally every celeb and influencer and nearly 80k others are in DJ D-Nice’s IG live dance party rn https://t.co/lsoXGoTdys pic.twitter.com/jHTHYX0xWj— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) March 22, 2020
New York Times – "The Hottest Parties in Town Are Now Online"
New Yorker – "Snow Science Against the Avalanche"
"We think of the snow on a mountain as a solid mass. In reality, it is a layer cake created by serial snowfalls, each layer distinctive and changeable. “The snow cover is never in a state of repose,” Atwater wrote. “It is continually being pushed, pulled, pressed, bent, warmed, chilled, ventilated, churned.” The topmost layer might be evaporating into the night air; at the same time, radiant heat from the ground, or from nearby trees, could be melting the lowest layer. When the temperature differences between the layers are small, snow tends to sinter, or coalesce: the crystals knock off one another’s arms, becoming rounded grains that fuse into a strong, dense snowpack. When the differences are larger—say, between the pack and the ground—snow vaporizes upward and refreezes, creating hollow, cup-shaped crystals. The result is brittle, spiky snow, called depth hoar. (In ice cream, a similar process creates freezer burn.)
Neither settled snow nor weak hoar is dangerous in itself. The problem arises when a dense layer lies atop a weak layer to which it is poorly bonded. Depth hoar is “the eeriest stuff on any mountain,” Atwater wrote; it grows unseen, rotting the snow until it is weak and potted. It is strong in compression but weak in shear. Like a row of champagne glasses slowly loaded with bricks, it can hold a surprising amount of weight until, with the slightest shove, the structure falls apart, creating a slab avalanche.
The word “avalanche” is too graceful for the phenomenon it describes. On slopes shallow enough to accumulate snow but steep enough for it to be unstable—the sweet spot is said to be thirty-nine degrees—the layers will separate, and the slab will crack and slide. Churning violently, the snow reaches eighty miles per hour within a few seconds. A skier who avoids colliding with trees and rocks is likely to be pulled under, then pinned in place by thousands of pounds of snow that harden like concrete. Very few people can dig themselves out; most can’t even move their fingers. Within minutes, an ice mask forms around your face. You asphyxiate on your own exhaled carbon dioxide."
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Saturday, March 14, 2020
New Yorker - "The Aesthetic Splendor of “The Simpsons”"
By Naomi Fry
"By general consensus, whether on Reddit or in more qualified critical assessments, the Golden Age of Fox’s “The Simpsons” began no later than its third season, and did not extend past its tenth—or even, in the view of some doctrinaires, eighth—season. (Beyond the eighth, as New York magazine suggested, in 2006, significant staffing changes and a general creative fatigue led to a slackening of the animated sitcom’s “high-wire mix of hilarity and humanity”). Those classic mid-nineties years of “The Simpsons,” which is, unbelievably, still on air, and in its thirty-first season, served more than anything, for me, as a kind of ideological guide to life. The show’s plots, which followed Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie on a variety of more or less realistic capers in the American everytown of Springfield, were written with a sharp eye, but their takeaway was hardly ever unsympathetic. “The Simpsons” had a million cracks and gags, not to mention exceedingly quick and incisive—and sometimes even slightly mean—assessments of American popular culture, but its tender tenor was just as important. Ralph Wiggum might have been the densest kid in Springfield Elementary, but our hearts still hurt for him when he didn’t receive a single valentine on Valentine’s Day. Watching the show, I aspired to be just half as hilarious and as cutting and as sensitive as it was.
...Recently, however, this wistful feeling has lifted a bit, thanks to a new, pleasurable way I’ve found to reëngage with “The Simpsons.” A few months ago, I began to come across Instagram accounts that post single frames from the show. First, I followed @scenic_simpsons, which, according to its bio line, is “dedicated to showcasing the most beautiful scenes, colours, sets and abstract compositions from The Simpsons. Seasons 1 - 10.” Then it was @psychedelic.simpsons (“A journey through the most trippy parts of The Simpsons”—this one, too, concentrating on “only the good seasons”); @surrealsimspons (“Dreams, hallucinations, imaginations and the surreal in the Simpsons”); @existential.simpsons, which includes a variety of anguished moments from the show; and @simpsonslibrary, which collects any “Simpsons” frame that includes printed and written matter (“Obsessive Bride”; “Modern Fart Denier”; “Zagat’s Guide to World Religions”). There seemed to be a “Simpsons” Instagram account for almost any niche predilection: @homer_feels, which collects the many moods of the family patriarch; @sartorial_simspons, which focusses on Springfield fashions; @simpsons_tech, which gives the history of technical inventions that have appeared on the show, like the FM radio and the karaoke machine; and @springfieldcuisine, which shares images of food that has featured on “The Simpsons.”
...When I happen upon almost any image from one of the “Simpsons” accounts, I am struck by how absolutely visually gorgeous it is. This is, perhaps, especially true when it comes to @scenic_simpsons, with its visions of a violet car, its headlights on, cruising in a darkened parking lot full of silent vehicles; or an abstract thicket of trees, their tops as dense and foreboding as storm clouds; or a digital clock on a bedside table, its face glowing 7:59, next to an orange phone. Though they come to us via our hubbub-filled Instagram feeds, these stand-alone pictures are as quietly stunning as any made by our greatest American artists of alienation and loneliness, from Edward Hopper to Arthur Dove."
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) as The Simpsons
A Written Testimony released March 13, 2020.
Pitchfork - "Jay Electronica Drops New Album, JAY-Z Features Heavily"
Pitchfork - "Best New Track: Jay Electronica“The Neverending Story”"
"What’s more surprising: the world crumbling around us in real time or Jay Electronica releasing a debut album, A Written Testimony, with JAY-Z on nearly every track? I gave up on the idea of a Jay Electronica solo album when I was a teenager trying to perfect the “Call me Jay Elec-Hannukah, Jay Elec yarmulke” section of “Exhibit C” in my bedroom. Yet Jay Electronica’s allure persists to this day, and “The Neverending Story,” the fourth track on the album, put me at ease for the first time in days. Over a soulful groove from The Alchemist, Jay Elec is in top form. “If you want to be a master in life, you must submit to a master/I was born to lock horns with the devil at the brink of the hereafter,” says Jay Elec, weaving myth and reality together. JAY-Z’s victory lap perfectly coexists with this wizardry: “I’m a miracle born with imperial features/I’m a page turner, sage burner, santeria,” says JAY, his swag is everlasting. Watching the two come together at such an uncertain time is cathartic."
Genius - "A.P.I.D.T.A.Jay Electronica"
"On “A.P.I.D.T.A.,” Jay Electronica and JAY-Z reflect on the death of close ones. The title of the song is an acronym for “All Praise Is Due To Allah”—the phrase is often used by Muslims to express gratitude. Jay Electronica is a prominent member of the Nation of Islam and is thanking God for everything in his life, including the blessing of completing his album and the trauma of losing a loved one.
During the album release live stream on Instagram, Jay Electronica said that the song was recorded on January 26, 2020—the same night that legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna passed away in a tragic helicopter accident.
The instrumental samples “A Hymn” by Khruangbin."
Jay Electronica signs with Jay-Z's Roc Nation (November 2010)
The Livest Rapper Today (February 2010)
Monday, March 9, 2020
Los Angeles Times - "Quibi is reviving kids game show ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’ — for grown-ups"
"“Legends of the Hidden Temple,” Nickelodeon’s “Indiana Jones"-inspired game show of the 1990s, is being revived by Jeffrey Katzenberg’s built-for-millennials streaming service Quibi, giving anyone who failed to assemble the statue in the Shrine of the Silver Monkey another shot at game-show glory.
The new series, however, will no longer be an awkward kids competition: The reboot is getting a “Survivor"-like makeover and will be aimed at adults (and superfans) who will compete in the trivia show and Temple games, Quibi announced Monday. It’s also going to be set in a real-life jungle rather than an elaborate TV studio, to appeal to “grown-up” audiences with scaled-up challenges and bigger prizes.
The company, which plans to launch programming as “quick bite” videos, has been feverishly adding programming. It recently announced a series with filmmaker Ridley Scott, a show produced by “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” stars Kris and Kendall Jenner, and projects from singers Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez and NBA star Steph Curry.
It also will reboot MTV’s dating game “Singled Out” and feature a daily hip-hop news show and a short-form version of “60 Minutes.”"
Esquire - "Quibi Is a Streaming Service Like We've Never Seen Before. Here's What You Need to Know."
Also coming to Quibi:
"Chrissy's Court: In the wake of Judge Judy comes this bite-sized reality series from our favorite highly opinionated model/mom/Twitter legend. Real people with real small claims cases will be subjected to Chrissy Teigen’s ruling.
Varsity Blues: This revival of the iconic 1999 movie has not released a cast yet, but we’re holding out hope that James Van Der Beek will somehow be involved.
Just One Drink: Laura Dern leads this unique Quibi project written by Nick Hornby (Brooklyn, State Of The Union) in which she plays a bartender in a series of stand-alone vignettes between her and the various troubled customers she serves.
Mapleworth Murders: This comedic murder-mystery can’t not be funny with SNL alums producing, writing and acting in it— think Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg and Tina Fey, just to name a few."
The Future of Content
How Many Quibis?
Wall Street Journal - "LeBron James: Steady in a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"
By Jason Gay
"One of these days, James will slow down. He will lose a step, maybe two steps, and it will be jarring and melancholy. We don’t like to see our legends slow down. But all of them slow down. Bodies defy us. Age catches up. Them’s the rules.
It looked like it might be happening last year. James’s first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was a bust; his undermanned, poorly assembled team was staggering toward the finish. James had already lost a chunk of time—17 games—to a groin injury, the longest stretch he’d ever missed. As March wound down, L.A. shut him down for the rest of the season.
Maybe this was it.
Nah. It was not it.
James has not statistically been the best basketball player in the league this season—that is Antetokounmpo, who is now sidelined with a knee injury which hopefully will be minor—but over the past week or so, he has very much re-asserted his grip on the fictional belt of Best Basketball Player on the Planet.
With apologies to Giannis, Kawhi Leonard, James’s teammate Anthony Davis, James Harden and Sabrina Ionescu, that player still very much is James, who is 35 years old and has played more minutes (48,295 through Sunday) than anyone currently in the league and all but seven players in NBA history.
James’s numbers are impressive—25.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, a league-leading 10.6 assists—but once more, his impact is his command, his ability to seize big games at critical moments. On Sunday versus Kawhi and the Clippers, on Friday versus Giannis and Milwaukee, versus recent opponents like Boston and Zion’s Pelicans, James continuously has, at critical junctures, asserted his will on the game, looking as dynamic and physical as ever. When James is at his best, basketball bends to accommodate his talent. And it’s been bending for him, a lot, lately.
Even if James isn’t your favorite, you have to shake your head and marvel at it. While it’s true the addition this season of Davis—a top NBA star, by every metric—gives the Lakers a massive and sometimes superior second threat, this very much remains James’s team. He is playing second chair to no one.
There’s also this: he’s doing this amid what is a surreal and stunned Lakers season due to the tragic death of franchise legend Kobe Bryant in late January. Such an event has the potential to undo a club, but the Lakers have continued to roll, using their grieving of Bryant as fuel. It’s here where James perhaps shines the most: as a leader, as the wizened veteran, as the rare high-profile athlete who is unafraid to think out loud."
Sunday, March 8, 2020
The Cut - "The Tyranny of Terrazzo Will the millennial aesthetic ever end?"
By Molly Fischer
"Consider a previous youth-style shorthand: the hipster, preeminent cultural punch line of the aughts. Both hipster and millennial were terms that drifted away from strict definitions (hipsters being subcultural, millennials being generational) to become placeholders for “whatever fussy young people seem to like.” It is strange, now, to remember a time when chunky-framed glasses were understood as a hipster affectation; today they just look like Warby Parker. The hipster aesthetic harked back to a grimy past: Its spaces were wood-paneled, nostalgic; perhaps they contained taxidermy. Behind lumberjack beards and ’70s rec-room mustaches, there was a desire for something preindustrial or at least pre-internet.
No account of the millennial aesthetic could fail to address pink: For the better part of a decade, millennial pink bedeviled anyone a color could bedevil. When Facebook rolled out a corporate rebrand last fall, the lead image in the press release showed the new logo — breezily spaced sans serif — in a muted shade somewhere on the ham-to-salmon spectrum. Samuel keeps wondering when people will get sick of the color, but they don’t; almost every client asks for pink. She thinks this is because it’s soothing. They want houses that remind them of vacations, suggest Mediterranean idylls.
Pink is not the only soft color in the millennial palette. There’s green, often in the form of plant life — it has a wholesome appeal next to the pink — and then an expanding array of colors simultaneously saturated and chalky, muted even when not actually pastel: seafoam, terra-cotta, lavender, and (especially) ocher. In explaining the appetite for colors that soothe, we might gesture vaguely in the direction of Now More Than Ever, anxiety, the news. A more direct explanation would probably be that other stalwart of millennial pop sociology: the phone, now the basic tool with which we view, record, and disseminate images of the world. All that time spent staring into a glowing screen makes the prospect of something gentle — something literally easier on the eye — enticing. The millennial palette is the opposite of glare; onscreen or off, it’s color softly veiled.
Instagrammable is a term that does not mean “beautiful” or even quite “photogenic”; it means something more like “readable.” The viewer could scroll past an image and still grasp its meaning, e.g., “I saw fireworks,” “I am on vacation,” or “I have friends.” On a basic level, the visual experience of a phone favors images and objects that are as legible as possible as quickly as possible: The widely acknowledged clichés of millennial branding — clean typefaces, white space — are less a matter of taste than a concession to this fact.
It is hard to imagine ourselves growing old — to imagine the time, nearly upon us already, when “millennial” no longer means “young.” Likewise, it is hard to imagine how the millennial aesthetic will age. Its blank, clean surfaces aspire to a world without clutter or scuffs, unmarked by the passage of time. In this aspiration, the millennial aesthetic is somewhat democratic — anything can be new, for a while. It is a style that looks, in its ideal state, like a purchase.
What the millennial aesthetic sells, it sells through the promise of novelty. This is true even when the product on offer is not appreciably novel: cat food, Dutch ovens, and generic drugs are repackaged, redesigned, as if millennial buyers required a version all their own. Jessica Walsh, a graphic designer and founder of the creative agency &Walsh, dates the style to the last five years and sees its expiration date approaching already. “Everyone wants to look like the Casper, Warby Parker, or Aways of the world,” she explains, which has made branding increasingly interchangeable. “People are tired of the sameness and already craving something new.”
When the time comes — when smooth pastels start to feel a little tacky, when brown starts looking good again — what will be saved? As in any era, most of our belongings will be lost, but fewer than ever seem worth trying to preserve. In her article “Why Does This One Couch From West Elm Suck So Much?,” author Anna Hezel asks employees in a West Elm store how long that “Peggy” couch was, ideally, supposed to last. One to three years, they inform her.
Last year, the interior-design start-up Homepolish collapsed; last month, Casper made its disappointing IPO; last week, Outdoor Voices CEO Tyler Haney stepped down amid reports that her company, based on tastefully colored leggings, was losing cash. Design created an astonishing amount of value in the last ten years, and increasingly that value looks ephemeral. I remember visiting WeWork corporate offices in early 2016 and telling a friend that the space already felt period — larded and spackled with efforts to look designed ca. 2016, which now sounds like a very long time ago. Of course, I can also look around my apartment and see what threatens to wilt: boob poster, pink blanket, plants. We have lived through a moment in which design came to seem like something besides what it was, like a business model or a virtue or a consolation prize. The sense of safety promised in its soft, clean forms begins to look less optimistic than naïve."
New York Times Magazine - "Hideo Kojima’s Strange, Unforgettable Video-Game Worlds"
"After my interview with Kojima, I spent much of the next few days sequestered in my tiny hotel room in Tokyo, playing Death Stranding on the cheap TV. Once I started guiding Sam along his journey, I found Death Stranding to be not as radically unfamiliar as Kojima’s prerelease hype had suggested. In many ways it hews to the popular conventions of the “open world” genre — a term that arose to describe titles like Rockstar Games’s famed Grand Theft Auto series, which tossed aside the linear levels of older games in favor of endlessly explorable virtual environments. As in the Grand Theft Auto games, I controlled a character from a third-person perspective and roamed free over a vast landscape. I advanced the plot by taking on mandatory missions, but I also could complete various optional secondary quests for additional rewards. I assembled an arsenal of weapons and gadgetry that slowly built my character’s abilities and opened up new ways to interact with the world. To someone watching my screen, it would have been possible to conclude that Death Stranding was basically a sci-fi version of Rockstar’s wildly popular recent open-world cowboy epic, Red Dead Redemption 2.
But there was something fundamentally new, I found as I continued to play. Death Stranding manages to transform an act that most open-world games take for granted — the act of traveling from one point to another — into a complicated and meaningful experience. Although you eventually gain access to vehicles, much of the time walking is your only mode of transit. In most games, walking is a mindless chore: You can watch the scenery go by, but there’s not much to do besides push the joystick forward. But in Death Stranding, traversing the terrain comes to feel like the core of the game. Walking Sam across the rugged landscape with a load of cargo teetering over his back requires a level of skill and concentration rarely found in games outside of combat."
Wall Street Journal - "‘The New Kale’: Cauliflower Becomes a Bestseller"
"The vegetable now outsells cabbage and garlic, but still lags behind lettuce and onions. Kale, which rose to prominence in recent years, is experiencing a decline in sales and remains less popular than cauliflower.
Farmers have expanded cauliflower acreage to meet the fresh demand, said Curt Epperson, who manages the produce and floral sections at Publix Super Markets Inc. Cauliflower grows in 30 days, he said, compared to the 70 to 100 days that produce such as tomatoes and peppers need to reach maturity. Cauliflower, like many vegetables produced in the U.S., is mostly grown in California."
Sunday, March 1, 2020
New York Times – "Kanye, Out West"
"There Kanye West is at the McDonald’s, the Best Western and the Boot Barn. He hangs out at the Cody Steakhouse on the main drag, where he met one of his intern videographers, a student at Cody High School. His ranch is close to town, and to get where he needs to go, Kanye drives around town in a fleet of blacked-out Ford Raptors, the exact number of which is a topic of local speculation. Gina Mummery, the saleswoman at the Fremont Motor Company dealership, would only say that she sold him between two and six.
Kanye started taking trips to Wyoming regularly in 2017, shortly after he was hospitalized for what was characterized on a dispatch call as a “psychiatric emergency.” He spent lots of time making music in the state in 2018, holding an incredible listening party for his album “Ye” in late May in Jackson, a town famous for its skiing, fishing and ultrawealthy residents.
Cody was brought into being by Buffalo Bill Cody, another bombastic showman who was, in the second half of the nineteenth century, the biggest celebrity in the world. More famous in his time than Theodore Roosevelt and better-traveled than the Grateful Dead in ours, Buffalo Bill basically invented the fantasy of the American West through his touring Wild West Show.
Founding a town in Wyoming was just one of Buffalo Bill’s many late-life enterprises. It has proved, in some ways, to be his most concrete legacy."