Ritual and Fashion

Žižek on "radical" academics

This excerpt from a 2008 article by Slavoj Žižek has been sitting in my notebook for a while, and I thought I’d post it. My personal experience is that practically all of the “radical” academics silently count on the long-term stability of the American capitalist model, with the secure tenured position as their ultimate professional goal (a surprising number of… read more

Top 10 Ways Bartenders Screw Up My Old Fashioneds

Plus, how to make one properly.

The Old Fashioned is one of a few common cocktails for me, both when I’m at home and when I’m out. However, when ordering one at a bar, the likelihood of something going mildly to terribly wrong is disturbingly high. That in mind, I present the Top 10 Ways Bartenders Screw Up My Old Fashioneds, followed by instructions for how… read more

Taste the Feeling 12

Things You Can’t Talk About in a Coca-Cola Ad

A “Profanity API” for a user-generated marketing campaign censors vulgarity, Pepsi, belching, and murder—but also Bill Cosby, capitalism, the Book of Genesis, and tacos.

When Daniel Joseph, a York University doctoral student studying labor and technology, found out about Coca-Cola’s GIF the Feeling promotion, he knew exactly what he wanted to make with it: a Coke-branded critique of capitalism. An accessory for Coke’s newly launched “Taste the Feeling” global ad campaign, GIF the Feeling is a website that allows visitors to fashion Coke ads by combining… read more

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In the Habit

A Review of Michael W. Clune's Gamelife

I am on an airplane reading Michael W. Clune’s Gamelife, a memoir about growing up playing computer games in the 1980s. I’ve just finished eating the smoked salmon and kiwi on the “fruit plate” I was offered by the flight attendant but had initially declined. Just like I had declined to review Gamelife for this publication, initially. For reasons, too. Michael… read more

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The Internet of Things You Don’t Really Need

Smart devices turn every industry into the computer industry, and dupe consumers into thinking their lives are better for it in the process.

Atlanta turns yellow for two weeks in April. Streets, driveways, terraces, cars—everything cakes with pollen. It’s the trees that cause the worst of it. Pine, oak, sweet gum, sycamore, mulberry, hackberry, birch, willow. Prolific itching, sneezing, and car-washing ensue. Grilling season officially begins when the pollen subsides. This year’s was particularly grievous, and perhaps that’s why I was so eager… read more

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A Master Key to the Ultimate Dumb Device

The future of the iPhone could be a way of tethering people to Apple products even when they don't want them anymore.

Lock-in. That's what we call it when you're dependent on a specific vendor for particular services. When you buy a single-serving coffee machine boasting convenient, mess-free coffee inserts, like Keurig K-Cup or Nespresso, you're bound to its brand of coffee pods. When you purchase digital music on iTunes, proprietary formats and digital rights management (DRM) make it difficult to listen… read more

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The End of the Big Mac

The burger's demise won’t be marked by a declaration in a quarterly report, but by a collective appreciation for the comfort it offered America.

If you like to lunch on two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, you’d better act fast: McDonald’s has announced plans to phase out the Big Mac. Okay, not really. But social media ate up the news of its axing, published by the satirical site Daily Buzz Live at the end of last… read more

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The Cathedral of Computation

We’re not living in an algorithmic culture so much as a computational theocracy.

Algorithms are everywhere, supposedly. We are living in an “algorithmic culture,” to use the author and communication scholar Ted Striphas’s name for it. Google’s search algorithms determine how we access information. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms determine how we socialize. Netflix’s and Amazon’s collaborative filtering algorithms choose products and media for us. You hear it everywhere. “Google announced a change to… read more

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FYI, See Below

The purpose (and the sorrow) of the worst kind of email—the passive-aggressive forward

Email is the worst, but some emails are worse than others. The worst emails are forwards. And the worst forwards? Not the jokes your uncle sends you from his AOL account, but the ones your boss or your coworkers send along from some obscure corner of Administrivistan. Most work emails are purely defensive missives. They seek to shift effort, hide… read more

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My Phone is Dying

On elderly iPhones

Everyone knows that iPhones are manufactured with planned obsolescence built in: processors and RAM allocations that can’t keep up with operating system upgrades purposely designed not to account for earlier models. Apple makes too much of its profits from hardware sales, so handsets have become akin to fashion seasons. Hardware upgrades entail power and capacity. The new activities made possible… read more