Molly Lambert

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Here are 50 ungated pieces of wonderful journalism from 2015, alphabetized by author name, which made me consider something new or reconsider old beliefs or just delighted me. (Some selections are from gated publications that allow a number of free articles per month.) If your excellent work isn’t on the list, that’s more my fault than yours.

  • Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans?” (David Amsden, The New York Times Magazine) As private and public sector missions increasingly overlap, here’s an engaging look at the privatization of some policing in the French Quarter.
  • In the Beginning” (Ross Andersen, Aeon) A bold and epic essay about the elusive search for the origins of the universe.
  • Ask Me Anything (Anonymous, Reddit) A 92-year-old German woman who was born into Nazism (and participated in it) sadly absolves herself of all blame while answering questions about that horrible time.
  • Rethinking Extinction” (Stewart Brand, Aeon) The Whole Earth Catalog founder thinks the chance of climate-change catastrophe overrated, arguing we should utilize biotech to repopulate dwindling species.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Don Lemon” (Taffy Brodesser-Akner, GQ) A deeply entertaining look into the perplexing facehole of Jeff Zucker’s most gormless word-sayer and, by extension, the larger cable-news zeitgeist.
  • How Social Media Is Ruining Politics(Nicholas Carr, Politico) A lament that our shiny new tools have provided provocative trolls far more credibility than a centralized media ever allowed for.
  • Clans of the Cathode” (Tom Carson, The Baffler) One of our best culture critics looks at the meaning of various American sitcom families through the medium’s history.
  • The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic) The author examines the tragedy of the African-American community being turned into a penal colony, explaining the origins of the catastrophic policy failure.
  • Perfect Genetic Knowledge” (Dawn Field, Aeon) The essayist thinks about a future in which we’ve achieved “perfect knowledge” of whole-planet genetics.
  • A Strangely Funny Russian Genius” (Ian Frazier, The New York Review of Books) Daniil Kharms was a very funny writer, if you appreciate slapstick that ends in a body count.
  • Tomorrow’s Advance Man” (Tad Friend, The New Yorker) Profile of Silicon Valley strongman Marc Andreessen and his milieu, an enchanted land in which adults dream of riding unicorns.
  • Build-a-Brain” (Michael Graziano, Aeon) The neuroscientist’s ambitious thought experiment about machine intelligence is a piece I thought about continuously throughout the year.
  • Ask Me Anything (Stephen Hawking, Reddit) Among other things, the physicist warns that the real threat of superintelligent machines isn’t malice but relentless competence.
  • Engineering Humans for War” (Annie Jacobsen, The Atlantic) War is inhuman, it’s been said, and the Pentagon wants to make it more so by employing bleeding-edge biology and technology to create super soldiers.
  • The Wrong Head” (Mike Jay, London Review of Books) A look at insanity in 1840s France, which demonstrates that mental illness is often expressed in terms of the era in which it’s experienced.
  • Death Is Optional” (Daniel Kahneman and Noah Yuval Harari, Edge) Two of my favorite big thinkers discuss the road ahead, a highly automated tomorrow in which medicine, even mortality, may not be an egalitarian affair.
  • Where the Bodies Are Buried,” (Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker) Ceasefires, even treaties, don’t completely conclude wars, as evidenced by this haunting revisitation of the heartbreaking IRA era.
  • Porntopia” (Molly Lambert, Grantland) The annual Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, the Oscars of oral, allows the writer to look into a funhouse-mirror reflection of America.
  • The Robots Are Coming” (John Lanchester, London Review of Books) A remarkably lucid explanation of how quickly AI may remake our lives and labor in the coming decades.
  • Last Girl in Larchmont” (Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker) The great TV critic provides a postmortem of Joan Rivers and her singular (and sometimes disquieting) brand of feminism.
  • “President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation, Part 1 & Part 2” (Barack Obama and Marilynne Robinson, New York Review of Books) Two monumental Americans discuss the state of the novel and the state of the union.
  • Ask Me Anything (Elizabeth Parrish, Reddit) The CEO of BioViva announces she’s patient zero for the company’s experimental age-reversing gene therapies. Strangest thing I read all year.
  • Why Alien Life Will Be Robotic” (Sir Martin Rees, Nautilus) The astronomer argues that ETs in our inhospitable universe have likely already transitioned into conscious machines.
  • Ask Me Anything (Anders Sandberg, Reddit) Heady conversation about existential risks, Transhumanism, economics, space travel and future technologies conducted by the Oxford researcher. 
  • Alien Rights” (Lizzie Wade, Aeon) Manifest Destiny will, sooner or later, became a space odyssey. What ethics should govern exploration of the final frontier?
  • Peeling Back the Layers of a Born Salesman’s Life” (Michael Wilson, The New York Times) The paper’s gifted crime writer pens a posthumous profile of a protean con man, a Zelig on the make who crossed paths with Abbie Hoffman, Otto Preminger and Annie Leibovitz, among others.
  • The Pop Star and the Prophet” (Sam York, BBC Magazine) Philosopher Jacques Attali, who predicted, back in the ’70s, the downfall of the music business, tells the writer he now foresees similar turbulence for manufacturing.

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Grantland has many fine writers and reporters, but the twin revelations for me have been Molly Lambert and Alex Pappademas, whom I enjoy reading as much as anyone working at any American publication. The funny thing is, I’m not much into pop culture, which is ostensibly their beat. But as with the best of journalists, the subject they cover most directly is merely an entry into many other ones, long walks that end up in big worlds. 

Excerpts follow from a recent piece by each. In “Start-up Costs,” a look at Silicon Valley and Halt and Catch Fire, Pappademas circles back to Douglas Coupland’s 1995 novel, Microserfs, a meditation on the reimagined office space written just before Silicon Valley became fully a brand as well as a land. In Lambert’s “Life Finds a Way,” the release of Jurassic World occasions an exploration of the enduring beauty of decommissioned theme parks–dinosaurs in and of themselves–at the tail end of an entropic state. Both pieces are concerned with an imposition on the natural order of things by capitalism.


From Pappademas:

Microserfs hit stores in 1995, which turned out to be a pretty big year for Net-this and Net-that. Yahoo, Amazon, and Craigslist were founded; Javascript, the MP3 compression standard, cost-per-click and cost-per-impression advertising, the first “wiki” site, and the Internet Explorer browser were introduced. Netscape went public; Bill Gates wrote the infamous Internet Tidal Wave” memo to Microsoft executives, proclaiming in the course of 5,000-plus words that the Internet was “the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981.” Meanwhile, at any time between May and September, you could walk into a multiplex not yet driven out of business by Netflix and watch a futuristic thriller like Hackers or Johnny Mnemonic or Virtuosity or The Net, movies that capitalized on the culture’s tech obsession as if it were a dance craze, spinning (mostly absurd) visions of the (invariably sinister) ways technology would soon pervade our lives. Microserfs isn’t as hysterical as those movies, and its vision of the coming world is much brighter, but in its own way it’s just as wrongheaded and nailed-to-its-context.

“What is the search for the next great compelling application,” Daniel asks at one point, “but a search for the human identity?” Microserfs argues that the entrepreneurial fantasy of ditching a big corporation to work at a cool start-up with your friends can actually be part of that search — that there’s a way to reinvent work in your own image and according to your own values, that you can find the same transcendence within the sphere of commerce that the slackers in Coupland’s own Generation X4 eschewed McJobs in order to chase. The notion that cutting the corporate cord to work for a start-up often just means busting out of a cubicle in order to shackle oneself to a laptop in a slightly funkier room goes unexamined; the possibility that work within a capitalist system, no matter how creative and freeform and unlike what your parents did, might be fundamentally incompatible with self-actualization and spiritual fulfillment is not on the table.•


Lambert’s opening:

I drove out to the abandoned amusement park originally called Jazzland during a trip to New Orleans earlier this year. Jazzland opened in 2000, was rebranded as Six Flags New Orleans in 2003, and was damaged beyond repair a decade ago by the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. But in the years since it’s been closed, it has undergone a rebirth as a filming location. It serves as the setting for the new Jurassic World. As I approached the former Jazzland by car, a large roller coaster arced into view. The park, just off Interstate 10, was built on muddy swampland. I have read accounts on urban exploring websites by people who’ve sneaked into the park that say it’s overrun with alligators and snakes.

After the natural disaster the area wasted no time in returning to its primeval state: a genuine Jurassic World. It was in the Jurassic era when crocodylia became aquatic animals, beginning to resemble the alligators currently populating Jazzland. I saw birds of prey circling over the theme park as I reached the front gates, only to be told in no uncertain terms that the site is closed to outsiders. I pleaded with the security guard that I am a journalist just looking for a location manager to talk to, but was forbidden from driving past the very first entrance into the parking lot. I could see the ticket stands and Ferris wheel, but accepted my fate and drove away, knowing I’d have to wait for Jurassic World to see Jazzland. As I drove off the premises, I could still glimpse the tops of the coasters and Ferris wheel, obscured by trees.

I am fascinated by theme parks that return to nature, since the idea of a theme park is such an imposition on nature to begin with — an obsessively ordered attempt to overrule reality by providing an alternate, superior dimension.•


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Speaking of pornography: You can’t really trust an industry in which everyone is a star. 

In the gradual mainstreaming of porn into American life, which has pretty much reached full saturation, technology has enabled anyone to achieve such stardom from the comfort of home, making it debatable whether an actual centralized industry is even necessary anymore. But the annual Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, the Oscars of oral, still serves one purpose: As it did with David Foster Wallace for his 1989 pieceBig Red Son,” it provides a sharp-eyed journalist with a fun-house mirror of America, our soul visible by way of our holes. In a new Grantland piecePorntopia,” Molly Lambert brings her customary insight and wit to this year’s gathering of the vibrators.

(Wallace, by the way, wrote one of my favorite sentences ever in his AVN Awards article, a description of the comedian Bobby Slayton who served as the show’s emcee that year: “A gravelly-voiced Dice Clay knockoff who kept introducing every female performer as ‘the woman I’m going to cut my dick off for,’ and who astounded all the marginal print journalists in attendance with both his unfunniness and his resemblance to every apartment-complex coke dealer we’d ever met.”)

From Lambert:

The first AVN Awards took place in 1984, held in Las Vegas at the same time as the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The CES-AVN connection began because the adult industry’s main source of revenue was video tapes, and CES-goers were early adopters of new tech like VCRs. The interaction between the two created the fan-star dynamic that dominates today. “If you had a CES badge we’d give you a free badge to the AVN show,” explains Paul Fishbein, a founder of AVN. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights follows the industry’s early-’80s shift from film to video; on Marc Maron’s podcast, Anderson compared his film’s plot to that of Singin’ in the Rain, which depicts mainstream film’s move from silents to talkies. The video experience changed the way customers consumed porn. Allowing audiences to watch at home rather than brave a theater broadened the market, which prompted Fishbein to found Adult Video News magazine in 1983 as a consumer guide for sex shops stocking tapes.

As Fishbein and I walk through the Hard Rock casino looking for a place to sit down — there are no places in casinos to just sit, by design — a female performer approaches and chastises him for missing a “clown orgy” the night before. “I’ve been to a clown orgy before!” he tells her.

“Each one is unique and special!” she persists.

“I know they are,” he says consolingly.

Fishbein, gray-haired with blue eyes, is affable and warm. He wears a pink gingham shirt with a green Ralph Lauren logo. I like him instantly. Fishbein sold AVN in 2010 and now produces content under a shingle called Plausible Films. AVN, he says, “isn’t quite what it was when CES people were in town.” He lights up talking about some of the first adult classics, which were plot-oriented and couldn’t afford to have endlessly long sex scenes because film stock was so expensive.5 Video made it possible to prolong sex scenes, but the form was still shaped by practical concerns. “If you try to watch 20-minute sex scenes in real time, you’re gonna fast-forward. You can’t do it. In real life you have sex for a long time,” Fishbein says. “Visually, as a stimulant, you need it to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Five minutes is the right length for a sex scene, in my humble opinion.”

Fishbein recently spearheaded the making of a documentary called X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time, which premiered last month on Showtime. X-Rated assembles a canon of representative adult films organized by decade, starting with 1971’s Deep Throat. It was a passion project for Fishbein; he has a point to prove about the ability of porn to stand alongside mainstream film. “Some of these movies were unbelievable; they’re so outrageous and they have these strange sensibilities,” he tells me. “But when you watch them in context of when they were made, they’re a perfect reflection of what’s going on in American society in the ’70s and ’80s.” As for today? He’s pessimistic. During final cut, he realized X-Rated has a downer ending. “It sort of feels like it’s a eulogy … Even our host, Chanel Preston, says at the end, ‘Well, we hope that this isn’t the end of the adult industry,’ but who knows what’s going to happen in the future?”•

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We’re dying people on a dying planet in a dying universe. Time itself will eventually collapse. That infuriates me. I’d like every beautiful person to live forever, and I want the same for most of the assholes as well. But, alas.

My unfair kneejerk reaction to cryonics enthusiasts is that they’re delusional, even a little selfish. But if you’re going to be selfish about something, shouldn’t it be lifespan?

One person who wasn’t selfish at all, just a dying 23-year-old neuroscientist who wasn’t ready to go, was Kim Suozzi. She dreamed of somehow continuing, because the alternative was so cruel and pointless. From Molly Lambert of Grantland:

Suozzi posted a video blog about her situation and canvassed Redditors for help fulfilling her dream of being cryonically preserved. “My prognosis looks pretty bleak at this point,” she wrote, “and though I am hoping to exceed the 6-10 month median survival, I have to prepare to die.” Suozzi’s interest in futurism was sparked by reading Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines in a cognitive science class at Truman State, which prompted her to also read Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near. Kurzweil’s books, beginning with his influential tome The Age of Intelligent Machines, forecast “the Singularity,” a hypothetical future event when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence. Kurzweil predicts 2045 as a soft date for that happening. Kurzweil is currently a director of engineering at Google.

Silicon Valley has become a hotbed for futurology, with adherents ranging from Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX has the long-term goal of colonizing Mars, to the founders of the nutrition substitute Soylent, whose winky slogan is “Free Your Body.”1 “Futurology” is an umbrella term that encompasses the beliefs of both kooky conspiratorial types with hilariously janky web domains and actual geniuses like world-renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. Futurists share a common belief that the bleeding edge of science exists in a zone that might seem crackpot now but will prove prophetic later. Believers refer to such successes as splitting the atom as proof that all big scientific leaps were once considered impossible science fiction. Some credit sci-fi author H.G. Wells with founding the discipline because of his turn-of-the-20th-century predictions about the year 2000, some of which even came true. Futurology lumps together a wide array of disciplines, many of them related to the idea of transhumanism — the process by which humans will be integrated with AI through nanotechnology, cybernetic implants, and thought-controlled robotics. Some of the fields are in primitive stages, while others are moving along at a surprisingly rapid pace. The desire to overcome one’s meatbody and be uploaded into a permanent robotic avatar is part of transhumanism; “Free Your Body” could be the slogan. Merging with the machines seems a little like a Revenge of the Nerds fantasy about defeating the jocks by getting your superior intellect uploaded into a sweet new mecha. But not all futurology is optimistic — some predictions are for disaster. The hope of extending life is a central tenet, though.

In a sense, life extension is like a nonbeliever’s version of heaven, an atheist’s dream of eternal life facilitated by scientific innovation. To the faithful, death is just another disease that will eventually be overcome by the power of science and the intellectual capacity of the human mind.•

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I don’t want to be around anyone who’s an asshole, male or female, but it’s clear that it’s mostly men who can get away with such poor behavior, even be celebrated for it. For proof, look no further than the technology sector. On that topic, an excerpt from “The Difference Machine,” some of Molly Lambert’s typically excellent thinking and writing at Grantland:

When computing was considered drudgery, women played a significant role. They were hired to be “human computors” who carried out math problems and solved equations before machines that could do so existed. During World War II, women were drafted into theElectronic Numerical Integrator and Computer program, where they worked as human “computers.”The women of ENIAC — including Betty Jean Jennings, Kay McNulty, Betty Snyder, Ruth Lichterman, Fran Bilas, and Marlyn Wescoff — were drafted into service as programmers. Snyder wrote SORT/MERGE, the first generative programming system. The women of ENIAC did much of the work but received little credit for it; the Army downplayed their involvement. Once programming became seen as a creative art rather than a rote secretarial one, women were not as welcome. (The Innovators also covers the women of ENIAC in detail, and discusses exactly how programming evolved from being seen as rote flip-switching to an intellectual endeavor.)

Women in tech today are taking a more direct approach to confronting issues of gender inequality. Rooting out the exact causes and conspirators who keep women on tech’s sidelines is difficult, because most forms of prejudice are deeply ingrained and subtly enforced. The solution, at least in part, may come from increasing the visibility of the issues. Tracy Chou, a Pinterest programmer and rising star in tech, has begun asking companies to release the data on their own internal makeup so that it can be tracked. The dismal statistics — women making up 17 percent of the workforce in technology- or engineering-related jobs at Google, 15 percent at Facebook, 9 percent at Mozilla — demonstrate that female engineers and programmers who felt alienated and underrepresented were not imagining things. To combat the concept of the tech bro, there must be a tech sisterhood. Tech history is not a chain of command, it’s a crazy quilt — no machine is ever really built by one person alone. It would be a mistake to consider Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper as just lone geniuses — the same way it is a mistake to think that way of the men.•



Here are 25 pieces of journalism from this year, alphabetized by author name, which made me consider something new or reconsider old beliefs or just delighted me.

  • Exodus” (Ross Andersen, Aeon) A brilliant longform piece that lifts off with Elon Musk’s mission to Mars and veers in deep and mysterious directions.
  • Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid” (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic) Nobody speaks truth to race in America quite like Coates, and the outrage of Ferguson was the impetus for this spot-on piece about the deeply institutionalized prejudice of government, national and local, in the U.S.
  • The Golden Age of Journalism?” (Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch) The landscape has never been more brutal for news nor more promising. The author luxuriates in the richness destabilization has wrought.
  • Amazon Must Be Stopped” (Franklin Foer, The New Republic) Before things went completely haywire at the company, Foer returned some sanity to the publication in the post-Peretz period. This lucid article argues that Amazon isn’t becoming a monopoly but already qualifies as one.
  • America in Decay” (Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs) Strong argument that the U.S. public sector is so dysfunctional because of a betrayal of meritocracy in favor of special interests and lobbyists. The writer’s idea of what constitutes a merit-based system seems flawed, but he offers many powerful ideas.
  • What’s the Matter With Russia?” (Keith Gessen, Foreign Affairs) An insightful meditation about Putin’s people, who opt to to live in a fairy tale despite knowing such a thing can never have a happy ending.
  • The Dying Russians(Masha Gessen, New York Review of Books) Analysis of Russia’s high mortality rate suggests that the root cause is not alcohol, guns or politics, but simply hopelessness.  
  • Soak the Rich” (David Graeber, Thomas Piketty) Great in-depth exchange between two thinkers who believe capitalism has run amok, but only one of whom thinks it’s run its course.
  • The First Smile(Michael Graziano, Aeon) The Princeton psychology and neuroscience professor attempts to explain why facial expressions appear to be natural and universal.
  • The Creepy New Wave of the Internet” (Sue Halpern, New York Review of Books) The author meditates on the Internet of Things, which may make the world much better and much worse, quantifying us like never before.
  • Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming” (Stephen Hsu, Nautilus) A brisk walk through the process of genetic modification, which would lead to heretofore unknown brain power.
  • All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere to Go” (Elmo Keep, Matter) A sprawling look at the seeming futility of the MarsOne project ultimately gets at a more profound pointlessness–pursuing escape in a dying universe.
  • The Myth of AI” (Jaron Lanier, Edge) Among other things, this entry draws a neat comparison between the religionist’s End of Days and the technologist’s Singularity, the Four Horseman supposedly arriving in driverless cars.
  • The Disruption Machine” (Jill Lepore, The New Yorker) The “D” word, its chief promulgator, Clayton M. Christensen, and its circuitous narratives, receive some disruption of their own.
  • The Longevity Gap(Linda Marsa, Aeon) A severely dystopian thought experiment: Will the parallels of widening income disparity and innovations in medicine lead to two very different lifespans for the haves and have-nots?
  • The Genetics Epidemic” (Jamie F. Metzl, Foreign Affairs) Genetic modification studied from an uncommon angle, that of national-security concerns.
  • My Captivity(Theo Padnos, The New York Times Magazine) A harrowing autobiographical account of an American journalist’s hostage ordeal in the belly of the beast in Syria.
  • We Are a Camera” (Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker) In a time of cheap, ubiquitous cameras, the image, merely an imitation, is ascendant, and any event unrecorded seemingly has less currency. The writer examines the strangeness of life in the GoPro flow.
  • A Goddamn Death Dedication” (Alex Pappademas, Grantland) A knowing postmortem about Casey Kasem, America’s deejay when the world was hi-fi but before it became sci-fi.
  • In Conversation: Chris Rock” (Frank Rich, New York) The exchange about “black progress” is an example of what comedy does at its best: It points out an obvious truth that so many have missed.
  • The Mammoth Cometh” (Nathaniel Rich, The New York Times Magazine) A piece which points out that de-extinct animals won’t be exactly like their forebears, nor will augmented humans of the future be just like us. It’s progress, probably.
  • Hello, My Name Is Stephen Glass, and I’m Sorry(Hanna Rosin, The New Republic) Before the implosion of the publication, the writer wondered what it would mean to forgive her former coworker, an inveterate fabulist and liar, and what it would mean if she could not forgive.
  • Gilbert Gottfried: New York Punk” (Jay Ruttenberg, The Lowbrow Reader) Written by the only person on the list whom I know personally, but no cronyism is necessary for the inclusion of this excellent analysis of the polarizing comic, who’s likely more comfortable when at his most alienating.

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There are no good pimps, no batterers with a heart of gold, and while artists are welcome to plumb the depths of their dark fantasies, supposedly rebellious American music, from blues to rock to rap, has often been merely a perpetuation of a patriarchal system, an attempt to not subvert oppression but to win a piece of it, a right-wing rally with riffs and rhymes. From another excellent essay by Molly Lambert of Grantland:

“Rap is not only still a youth culture, it’s still a predominantly male culture. It feeds off of the need some men have to assert their dominance and masculinity by targeting vulnerable people. The very existence of women is a threat. Anyone who challenges traditional conventions of sexuality is a threat. Poverty is emasculating, and Eminem’s obsession with asserting his masculinity feels like a possible reaction to his upbringing in a run-down section of Detroit. Bullied in school, he honed his verbal put-down skills to a blade. In his early career, it didn’t feel like he was a bully. The pokes at public figures, the jokes about ripping Pamela Lee’s tits off and smacking her around in his debut single, didn’t feel done to death at first, which is why they were written off as irreverent. He didn’t invent the idolization of pimps or the glamorization of violence against women. Like most people do, he was just participating in a system that already existed, without questioning it. As a white rapper in a traditionally black musical culture, he aligned himself against the systemic oppression of black men in America. But he failed to make the parallel connection to the systemic oppression of women of all races. Maybe this was because his deepest fear was that, like horrorcore icon Norman Bates, he would turn into his mother: dependent on drugs, neglected by the state, aging, invisible, and feminized. Oddly, Eminem reserved little of his overflowing ire for Marshall Bruce Mathers Jr., his father, who absconded to California when his son was an infant and never responded to numerous letters that the younger Marshall wrote him as a teen. Eminem chose to mostly project his rage onto those who remained around him, particularly women, including his mother, Debbie, and his on-and-off girlfriend/wife, Kim.”

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The cumshot heard ’round the world, the celebrity nudes leak that rocked the Internet this past weekend is, sadly, just the beginning. It’s going to get much worse, and not just for the famous and shapely. Eventually, and not too long from now, the crudeness of an actual phone hack will seem laughable. Currently there are drones the size of large insects that the military can control remotely to take photos. As Moore’s Law continues to kick in, there’ll be cheap and readily available drones stateside the size of mosquitoes. Consider it a dubious war dividend. Buy them by the dozen, and get to know the neighbors. And it will be really difficult to legislate what can barely be seen. It’s the new abnormal.

Easily the best thing I’ve read about the hack-and-fap flap and its psychological underpinnings is Molly Lambert’s article at Grantland. An excerpt:

“The Lawrence nudes went viral because of the same impulse that spread with the ISIS beheading video: A morally reprehensible piece of media circulates, and curiosity overwhelms common sense. I looked, because I am an asshole, and I justified it to myself as research for writing this piece (but deep down I knew I was being an asshole). My takeaways were that everyone looked great, that Kate Upton and Justin Verlander are kind of the new Pamela and Tommy Lee for having their cute intimacy (and naked bodies) exposed to the world, and that the world is kind of a terrible place to be female. Women have always had to double-identify to view media, pornographic and otherwise, that is framed for a straight male POV. This was especially clear during this scandal, when it was possible to identify simultaneously with the women in the photos and the anonymous bros thirsting to look at them. At a certain point, a mob mentality kicks in: Everyone else looked at them, why shouldn’t I? They can’t arrest everyone, right? Nothing about the images themselves is degrading to their subjects, just that they were stolen and illegally distributed. And if the ripping-away of consent is a major part of the thrill, well, that I just can’t identify with, because it makes me feel sick.

Even though the web has progressed beyond its image as a haven for social outcasts and adult virgins, there is a very real way in which it remains a conduit for our ids. Human consciousness is compartmentalized by necessity, but the Internet does allow for the relegation of deviant impulses to a specific nonphysical zone, protected by anonymity. But there is no anonymity; it’s as imaginary as the false security you feel while driving in your car, a sense of detached invulnerability that can inspire road rage. Even as a nonbody floating through the web, we are indeed very much traceable to the physical location where the floating gets under way. But it’s the physical bodies that can turn Internet usage into the Milgram experiment. There is no researcher standing behind you intoning, ‘You have no other choice, you must go on,’ but the hive consciousness of the web takes their place. The ease with which morally questionable impulses can be instantly gratified overrides that inner voice that says maybe it’s wrong to do so. There is a feeling that nobody is watching, that all these bad impulses and feelings are plummeting into a garbage disposal or black hole from which they will never return, but that’s a lie we tell ourselves. The Internet is a record, and once information has appeared there, it never really goes away, whether you’re the hacker or the hacked.”


Writer Ève Curie (daughter of Madame Curie) graced the cover of “Time” in 1940, as she did her part to fight the scourge of Nazism. Ève did tons of work for UNICEF and lived to 102.

As the magazine industry founders in the face of a media paradigm shift, Molly Lambert and Alex Carnevale at This Recording have published a smart piece called “15 Best Print Magazine Runs of All Time.” They pinpoint spans of time when a magazine thrived creatively and transcended all the other rags on the rack.

It’s a really great list, though I have some nits to pick. The heyday of Premiere isn’t represented at all. And some of the time spans seem stingy (Life wasn’t great just from 1940-1965 but until the end of its original run in 1972; Mad was amazing for a lot longer than 1958-1963). But I quibble. Below is an example of some of the entries.


12. Might (1991-1995)

Dave Eggers’s San Francisco magazine was known for rambling essays on provocative topics. Some have cited their “Are Black People Cooler Than White People?” as the first recorded LOL. They also did an issue that was entirely about cheese, and let David Foster Wallace make the argument that AIDS was going to make sexual pursuit better and more rewarding by making it more difficult. If you write about all the things you find interesting it is possible that somebody else will also be interested, or better yet become interested just because it’s written well.



Patti Smith performs in Copenhagen in 1976. In between gigs, she contributed articles to “Creem.”

6. Creem (1971-1980)

Cooler than Rolling Stone, Creem featured articles from a dream roster of counterculture writers like Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer, Patti Smith, and Cameron Crowe, all of whom made or embossed their names here (plus countless other staffers who did all the work). The original arrogant confrontational blog, indier than thou when it still meant something, Creem articles expose all other music criticism as falsity. Our favorite kind of snobs, Creem touted the MC5 and ABBA equally.


2. Time (1939-1945)

Before Time became the absolute mess it is now, two men made this venerable institution the most well-written compendium of critical thought ever to enter the public sphere at the time. Whittaker Chambers joined Time in 1939; soon enough he and James Agee were the primary composers of the arts section of the magazine. Chambers ascended to the magazine’s editorial board, and kept writing. It only got better from there.

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