The Birds are in Full Song Edition
I hope this message finds you well. That sounds a cliché now but in the past it would have made a lot more sense. A good few weeks might pass between X sending Y a letter and receiving their response. It was not that implausible to think X might have been kicked in the head by a horse or contracted tuberculosis in the interim. Anyway, I hope this message finds you well.
Obligatory shilling. This week I wrote about the Nerd-Hack war over Silicon Valley for the Spec USA, and about how health conditions other than coronavirus are being tragically neglected for Arc Digital. I also wrote some advice for budding opinion commentators for paid subscribers to this newsletter. As always, if you're interested in receiving an exclusive weekly article and accessing the archives, do consider a subscription.
The gimmick. Speaking of subscribing to my newsletter, this week I came across a fine essay by Tara Isabella Burton on the economic realities of online performing. Of course, all of us who earn money as commentators, podcasters, YouTubers et cetera are playing characters to some extent. (Though people might be surprised and disturbed by how real my dependence on Monster Energy drinks is.) Still, I don't think this applies only to people who have financial incentives. In the “attention economy", “attention" is to some extent its own reward. We are that insecure.
Six lane highways and Chinese buffets. I really enjoyed this exploration of urban sprawl by Addison Del Maestro. I live in the Katowice Urban Area, where cities have slowly expanded till their borders are in question, so it seemed alien and familiar at the same time.
Thatsthepoint.gif. A Guardian article defends the flying in of thousands of seasonal workers to pick fruit in Britain because the work is too difficult for Brits. Steve Jones writes:
Every person has a quota, and in many places you’re only paid by how much work you get done. There’s a minimum wage, true, but if you don’t hit the targets repeatedly you’re likely to lose your job, and to meet those targets you have to work at full speed, all day.
Trying, to be sure. But would the bosses get away with maintaining such standards if they could not depend on the labour of hard-up Romanians?
Lib-Con warfare. All it took was for Charlie Peters to make a joke about the lighter side of an Islamic caliphate in his American Conservative article on OnlyFans and the libertarians were up in arms. To paraphrase Russell Kirk, at least Russian anarchists had a sense of humour. As happy as I am about this ideological beefing, one sentence in Elizabeth Nolan Brown's huffy response to Peters for Reason stuck out to me:
Platforms like OnlyFans—which give sex workers more control over their own boundaries, clientele, and earnings than the porn world has traditionally offered—appear to be especially triggering to conservative anti-porn activists, who have long insisted their biggest concern is stopping sexual exploitation, not controlling what women can do with their bodies.
Explicit sexual exploitation is of course rampant in the porn industry – a whole studio was shut down for tricking women into doing porn last year – and that is grotesque. But I don't think our opposition to it should be founded only on its criminal aspects. I am sure that many adults genuinely want to “work”, and we surrender too much to liberalism if we cannot accept that and still oppose the phenomenon. There is an inherent ugliness to its mangling of human desires that makes its ubiquity sad in a far broader sense and we should not be afraid of planting our flag in that ethical territory.
Hardcore histories. I should be careful lobbing words like “exploitation” around when I watch young men hurling themselves off the roofs of buildings through light tubes and tables for a hundred dollars and a beer but somehow that is different.
There was once a sad attempt to fuse hardcore wrestling with hardcore pornography. Rob Black's Xtreme Pro Wrestling fused the worst of both worlds in a product so sleazy that even people who got a kick out of watching men fall through barbed wire were disgusted. The sleaziness culminated in suspicions that Black was behind a sadistic real-life assault on one of his former wrestlers, the Messiah, in an attack that led to the Messiah having his thumb cut off. (The case was featured on America's Most Wanted.)
It is funny how pornographers were once openly sleazy, morbid, iconoclastic people but now flaunt their socially conscious, progressive pretensions. Once about as counter-culture as people could be, they have slunk into the mainstream. I’d like to write about it but I unironically have no desire to do the research.
World Waugh. I enjoyed this entertaining essay about Evelyn Waugh in America.
TFW No GF. A sympathetic documentary about incels, featuring half of Frog Twitter.
Home front. I've decided that as Poland opens up again I need to do more to support small businesses. Small, local bakeries! Small, local bars! Small, local bookshops! Small, local newsletters! (What was the last one? Never mind.)
I hope you have a lovely week,