From Business Travel, Brevity
Three cities. Two months. One metaphor.
A short edition this week given some business travel. (Remember what that was?) I’ve now done it three times in the last two months and still feel like I’m doing something illegal, if only in that “Am I sure I get to rip off that mattress tag?” kind of way.
While triply vaccinated, a year-and-a-half of a pandemic makes one hypersensitive to the new norms that have emerged in big cities. Worth taking a look, based on my sample of three, through the lens of the pandemic’s pre-emptive metaphor — masks.
Sort-ranking cities in descending order of mask compliance, Las Vegas comes out on top. It’s not even close.
Next is Atlanta. Barely spent 48 hours there, but it seemed that people were mostly okay with donning masks when appropriate without getting too huffy about things. (I observed minor scolding in Vegas. Fair ‘nuff.)
But New York City? C’mon, guys. For a city whose very online, sneer-prone professional class loudly and conspicuously espouses progressive views — presented as less a coherent belief system than a set of practiced shibboleths that one must utter when ceremonially demanded — it seems like The Big Apple manages to get nearly everything wrong on the mask front.
I won’t go into too much depth here but, against the above-described Gotham backdrop, it’s hard to ignore the “only ‘The Help’ wears the masks” ethic, on full display at a conference I attended. (A similar criticism emerged regarding that Met gala earlier that month.) Then, there’s the “Papers, Please” treatment that you get (if unevenly) at sit-down restaurants where, again, only the wait staff are masked.
I’m not one to tut-tut over this kind of thing, generally. But I do manage to get irked when rules and norms are neither evenly applied nor narrowly drawn.
Anyway… On to the recommendations. Nothing in the “Rejection” pile this week. Call me an optimist. Some mailbag stuff in the queue I didn’t have time to get to, but email me at phil[dot]gomes[at][that Google email service] if you want to get into the queue. (Anonymity rigorously preserved.)
Recommendations & Rejections
TECH: “Why Web3 Matters,” Chris Dixon, a16z Future (2021): I sense that a lot of people who became marketing industry royalty during the social media boom are desperately grasping for the web3 vine, Tarzan-style, having long ago exceeded the full arc of the Web 2.0 vine with Newton’s Third Law of Motion around the corner. There’s a lot of bad advice out there, so I encourage people to start with the basics. a16z’s Chris Dixon offers a basic historical framework here.
HISTORY: “The Butcher of Havana,” Tony Perrottet, The Atavist (2021): I manage to find contemporary fetishizing of the Castro regime offensive while perversely enjoying how Ché Guevara’s famous portrait gets slapped on everything from soda bottles to neckties. (If it’s one thing Guevara reportedly hated, it was marketing.) As to the former, this article dives into how a poor boy from the American midwest became an executioner for the Castro revolution. “The American’s ruthless nature had disturbed the Cuban recruits—particularly his readiness to volunteer for execution duty, which he did with ‘an enthusiasm that was unseemly.’”
BUSINESS: “The Secretive Family Making Billions from the Opioid Crisis,” Christopher Glazek, Esquire (2017): Filing the Hulu docudrama miniseries Dopesick in the “Rejections” pile a couple of weeks ago nevertheless inspired me to seek out early source material about the Sackler family and its role in the opioid crisis. This is the best longread I’ve yet uncovered.
TECH: “deMoore’s Law,” Freddie deBoer (2021): When it comes to writing, both in terms of emotive power and sheer length, Freddie deBoer doesn’t do anything small. (Bending to reader demand, he recently promoted “Short Week,” wherein he promised shorter-than-usual posts.) Here, he briefly aims his keen insight at tech journalism and, in particular, coverage of the latest Apple products. (A longtime target of yours truly, in fact.) deBoer writes, “I have no idea of numbers here but it seems strange to me that so many computer reviews fixate on tasks that most people simply don’t need.”
First, if you aren’t listening to Andrew Heaton’s podcasts (!) The Political Orphanage (“Politics minus bile plus jokes”), Alienating the Audience (sci-fi nerdom), and especially Friday Release Valve (the “underserved headlines” of the week), I regret to inform you that your media consumption habits are unforgivably retrograde and deserve to be replaced with an AI trained by Mark Zuckerberg’s grocery list. Only through FRV could I have learned, for example, that you do not, under any circumstance, mess with emotional support monkeys.
As covered elsewhere: