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Pop Loser No. 108


Pop Loser

May 25 · Issue #108 · View online

A newsletter of innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair collected and written by @poploser.

No intro this week—I’ve been finishing a couple things off so I can do as little as possible this summer. 
Housekeeping: If you’ve been waiting for my book to show up on Barnes & Noble before pre-ordering, have I got good news for you

The new big thing. How and why Fortnite turned into a game that matters. “Game fads come and go: Rubik’s Cube, Dungeons & Dragons, Angry Birds, Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Pokémon Go. What people seem to agree on, whether they’re seasoned gamers or dorky dads, is that there’s something new emerging around Fortnite, a kind of mass social gathering, open to a much wider array of people than the games that came before. Its relative lack of wickedness—it seems to be mostly free of the misogyny and racism that afflict many other games and gaming communities—makes it more palatable to a broader audience, and this appeal both ameliorates and augments its addictive power.”
Twitter’s new dumb thing. Twitter, which is dumb and bad, has made the dumb and bad decision to cut off access to features for a bunch of third-party apps. This includes getting push notifications in apps like Tweetbot. I’m pretty sure I’m going to just keep using Tweetbot anyway, just without alerts. That sounds… healthy. The move is also killing Favstar, which wasn’t great anyway.
If you’re happy and you know it. How the Clapper defined home automation. “Clapper manufacturer Joseph Enterprises was also an unusual, if effective, corporate steward. Better known for a device called the Chia Pet, the company was masterful at selling commodity products through the boob tube. Its founder, a man named Joseph Pedott, didn’t invent products, but was brilliant at both selling them and manufacturing them. He was so brilliant, in fact, that his personal papers are housed in the friggin’ National Museum of American History—a set of records.”
Internet killed the cultural critic. What even is criticism in 2018? “True, critics rate and recommend; but most of all, they critique, which is something very different. A good review tastes the cultural air, sniffing out the stench of hypocrisy, the sweet smell of truth, the scent of things to come. A good review is generous, or cruel, but never vacillating. A good review is, in its mind at least, every bit as artistically worthy as its subject.”
Face the future. Amazon built some pretty cool facial recognition software and now they are actively shopping it to law enforcement. “Many of the companies supplying the technology are security contractors little known to the public, but Amazon is one of the first major tech companies to actively market technology for conducting facial recognition to law enforcement. The efforts are still a tiny part of Amazon’s business, with the service one of dozens it offers through Amazon Web Services, its cloud computing division. But few companies have Amazon’s ability to effectively push widespread adoption of tech products.”
Twitter-friend Nav looks at why this shit is problematic. “The adoption of cutting-edge technology by police forces and other arms of government isn’t new, of course. But the reports about Rekognition come on the heels of revelations about a broader involvement by the tech world in creating instruments of surveillance and tools for the military, almost like a new "military-technology complex” to replace the military-industrial complex of the 20th century. As technologies like AI and machine learning become more commonplace and sophisticated, consumers are going to have to ask whether they want to support companies who dabble in the business of war and law enforcement.“
Data rock. Nielsen is pushing a new music thingy that will help classify songs better, though it will likely still fall short to "human curation” (i.e., making a “mixed tape”) because computers don’t have taste and are bad at context. “This will allow services making use of Gracenote’s data to for instance compile a playlist of all of Taylor Swift’s dance pop hits, while keeping anything that sounds too much like country out of the mix. Or combine The Clash’s old-school punk tracks without adding some of the bands new wave fare.”
Mad men concede to math men. Data are more important than creative, though this ignores that Harry Crane kind of won on Mad Men. “This preoccupation with Big Data is also revealed by the trend in the advertising-agency business to have the media agency, not the creative Mad Men team, occupy the prime seat in pitches to clients, because it’s the media agency that harvests the data to help advertising clients better aim at potential consumers.”
📺 Twitch will stream 500 episodes of classic Doctor Who starting on May 29.
📰 12 great articles by Tom Wolfe.
📫 BuzzFeed’s new Fake Newsletter is good.
🎲 Vintage board games.
Interview over. They are shutting down Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. “With its striking style, Interview had long wielded outsize influence in the industry, inspiring the look and feel of many other publications. But questions about the magazine’s fortunes have lingered for years, as it faced ever-thinning ranks and churned through staff.”
Why Interview mattered. “Under editors like Bob Colacello and Ingrid Sischy, Interview, nicknamed “The Crystal Ball of Pop,” chronicled several decades of cool—or, more accurately, filtered whoever was floating around in the culture through its own prism of cool. Like everything Warhol touched, it could turn mass culture into counterculture, and vice versa, just by squinting.”
Waxing nostalgic. The first full-length movie to stream online was Wax, Or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees and it’s batshit. “There’s a very basic and unpretentious gag at the heart of Wax: despite deploying so many traditionally trustworthy narrative forms (memoir, travelogue, ancestry, testimony, Burnsian archival montage) the narrative grows more and more untrustworthy, and increasingly meaningless. If one uses all the right utensils and all the right ingredients for the world’s best meatball sandwich, how does one end up with a turnip? For the sake of argument, I’m employing the turnip as an example of something meaningless (don’t be angry turnip lovers), but of course by doing so I’ve now given the turnip meaning. I guess it is a pretentious gag.” 
The Last Days of Time Inc. The Last Days of Time Inc.
Inside the Final Days of Robin Williams
The Bankrupt Ideology of Business School
Tom Wolfe, 88, ‘New Journalist’ With Electric Style and Acid Pen, Dies
Philip Roth, Towering Novelist Who Explored Lust, Jewish Life and America, Dies at 85
Margot Kidder, Actress Who Found Movie Stardom in ‘Superman,’ Dies at 69
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