Obligatory shilling. I wrote for the Spectator World about the tragic death of Gabby Petito and the strange interactive nature of true crime.
I wrote for the Spectator about the “metaverse” - an idea that could somehow make the Internet more weird.
Xinalogy. Tanner Greer discusses Xi Jinping's war on cultural decline (video games, fan culture and so on):
That is the thread that ties all of these crackdowns together. Each targets an industry that seems to strip people of their agency and rob them of their dignity. Each seems to hijack healthy behavior with a set of short term incentives whose end results are self destructive and degrading.
I can sense my more reactionary readers grunting with approval. Well, can't blame ‘em. But where is the cultural ascent going to come from? The art. The ritual. The fun. I know that sounds a bit pompous but you can’t stop people from doing X and Y without giving them Z. I hope the answer does not turn out to be militarism.
Salman's Sea of Stories. I had heard that Salman Rushdie was going to launch a Substack but had completely missed that he was writing one. I haven’t signed up for the serialised novel, but I have enjoyed his little rememberances of Italo Calvino and V.S. Naipaul, and I liked this little astronomically inspired short story. I suspect that Mr Rushdie's writing has flown under the radar because he is not angrily polemicising about cancel culture, vaccines and transgenderism. All of those things are important, mind you, but so is much else that could be overlooked because there is no particular reason to fight about it.
Contemporary bromides. Oliver Traldi is distinctly unimpressed with Amia Srinivasan's widely praised book The Right to Sex:
Though she is refreshingly honest about the tensions among the progressive stances she considers in the book and seems herself to hold, Srinivasan never entertains the idea that any of these contemporary bromides might be incorrect, nor shows how they can be reconciled with each other. Her conclusions usually amount to mere prodding—“we” need to think more about this; “we” need to consider that—rather than suggested solutions. In a way, the book is simply the result of layering anxieties: a professional anxiety (the fear of having nothing new to say); a philosophical anxiety (the fear of self-contradiction); a political anxiety (the fear of deviating from consensus).
Demographically descending. Ed West reflects on the past and future of conservative politics with his usual optimism and lusty good cheer:
But time is not on their side, for the least Tory social categories are now the most demographically ascendant – the young, the single, ethnic minorities and renters. The youth problem might be alleviated by housing reform, but it also reflects a significant generational shift in values.
I don't disagree with Ed about these trends. On the other hand, if you believe, as we do, that the values in ascendance are based on falsehoods then their staying power is necessarily limited.
Digital grublishing. The collapse of Ozy, which, as this analysis details, felt like a bad parody of digital media trends, has been funny to watch:
I really can’t think of a more perfect encapsulation of the last 10 stupid and wasteful years of bloated VC-funded digital media than a constantly-pivoting digital publisher launched by two Goldman Sachs employees abusing underpaid staffers, dangling useless stock options in front of them, and possibly committing fraud to help prop up a weird and wildly unpopular YouTube talk show hosted by the site’s founder. You did it! You broke digital media down to its bare essentials!
I only knew the place existed because at one time they employed the hilarious punk singer/author/martial artist Eugene S. Robinson. But that's it. One compelling personality is worth more than a glitzy brand, snazzy offices and celebrity interviews.
Native son. Aubrey Child considers country music, agency and America:
But it seems to me that there's another important division among people, maybe even more important than race, class, and gender: the division between those who see themselves as real political actors and those who see themselves only as acted upon.
Interiors. Angela Nagle reflects on incels, online culture and film:
…the Internet has created a fundamental and possibly fatal dilemma for cinema: namely, if real people today live their lives in an entirely internal way, scrolling on phones and staring at screens, where little to no observable physical action is taking place, what is there for cinema to do?
New arrival. Chris Arnade has a Substack! I'm a sucker for posts about walking.
Have a lovely week,