Factual Dispatch 2021.2 - Best In Show (Fall & Winter)
The Best Things We Read in 2021, Part 2 of 2
We realized that hitting you with two of the longest Dispatches of the year, back to back in under 24hrs was maybe not the best plan. So, now that you’ve had a weekend and possibly an Omicron test, we’re back for the rest of the best. July to December 2021, our Fall/Winter favorite reads. After this, we’re shutting down for the holidays, working on an Intermezzo post, and that survey we promised back in August. Stay safe, tell your people that you love them, and turn your alarm off for as many days as the late stage capitalist universe will allow you to.
It’s Time to Talk About US Illiberalism (Foreign Exchanges) The Woo torture memos have been cited by the Chinese justifying their actions in Xinjiang. Given our multi-century addiction funding fascism of all stripes, we really need to not have a forum on Democracy when we’re arming autocrats by the dozen.
NYPD Discipline by the Numbers (NYCLU) & The Global Policeman Turns Off His Body Camera (Discontents) "There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state. The other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people." ~Commander William Adama, Battlestar Galactica
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Luck When It Comes to Success in Business (Harvard Business Review) Sure you worked hard. So did more of your competition than you are willing to admit. Work hard, Be humble, help others that are coming up behind you.
Do You Have Productivity Dysmorphia? (Refinery29) Probably.
Warhammer 40K Tells Idiot Fascists Having a God Emperor Is Bad, Actually (Waypoint) This surpasses the creator of the Punisher having to remind cops that they’re not supposed to consider Frank Castle a hero.
Broken Promises: Mega Mergers & the Case for Antitrust Reform (Writers Guild of America West - PDF) Tangible evidence of the damage media mergers have done to the industry and real suggestions on beginning to repair the damage. A PDF, but well worth your review if you were annoyed about mergers but weren’t sure why.
The Causal Effect of Heat on Violence: Social Implications of Unmitigated Heat Among the Incarcerated (National Bureau of Economic Research) We shy away from posting straight academic papers here, but this is important enough to warrant a mention. We really need to start treating the causes of violence as such. Lead, heat, lack of meditative or yogic breathwork, and a litany of other factors legitimately & provably amplify the risk of human on human violence.
Drug dependence is not addiction - and it matters (Annals of Medicine) Clinical & medical language matters, and this is the best explanation of why we’ve seen in years.
Master’s Degrees Are the Second Biggest Scam in Higher Education (Slate) When the masters degree possessing among the staff were asked about this, the answer was a resounding “Abso-fucking-lutely.” Glad to see those dollars were well spent lads.
Is anything cool anymore? (Vox) Cheugy is hilarious. The youth are bored of our and basically all bullshit. And frankly, they couldn’t be more right.
The Problem with Live Music (Dada Drummer) A veteran touring/gigging drummer explains why going back isn’t an option for so many performers & artists.
I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End (Ryan Johnson - Medium) Stunningly important piece to the inflation and supply chain crises that no one has mentioned. From a 20 year, this is critical.
White Boy Summer, Nazi Memes and the Mainstreaming of White Supremacist Violence (Bellingcat) Bellingcat is the most consistently effective source of commentary & analysis on radicalization, online communities of terror, and tracking networked nationalism. If you’re not into them, change that.
Pandering to the right is lucrative and can make you extremely popular (Carl Beijer) On the other side, want to make a fuck-ton of cash? The Ivermectin game is strong these days. Whatever happened to Diamond & Silk?
The Mess Age (Alex Pareene) On par with writing by David Roth, this commentary on game theory and meta-discourse (discourse about discourse, Facebook didn’t make a new Slack challenger) is hugely insightful, short, and semi-infuriating.
Same Old (Real Life) We absolutely love this piece. The total lack of novel imaginings of the future, largely focusing around office & kitchen improvements, belies a truly cursed ability to create a better tomorrow. Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Liu Cixin, are trying as hard as they can, but they need help.
Building an antilibrary: the power of unread books (Ness Labs) Send this to a book person, they’ll love you forever.
How Music Created Silicon Valley (The Honest Broker) From Napster & warez to Spotify & Bandcamp Fridays. Music remains a load-bearing strut for the internet. Why haven’t artists seen a bigger piece of that pie?
When It Turns Out Your Pandemic Partner Kind of Sucks (GQ) & Digital entanglement is changing the nature of breakups (Psyche) Dating, nesting, and partnering will never be the same. Disconnecting has become effectively impossible without burning things down, and being stuck together for a year probably distorted millions of relationships.
Ask A Fuck-Up: I Got Old (Brandy Jensen - Gawker) Brandy Jensen is one of our favorite writers at large today. Her advice column is unabashedly great and this was the best one for this year. It’s never too late to live the life you were meant to live.
NFTs, Ultima Online, and player-run game economies (Mobile Dev Memo) & The Internet of Grift (Ed Zitron) Gamification & monetization have existed since the beginning of the internet, as anyone who remembers Ultima Online can tell you. The difference is, who makes the cash, and who is left holding the bag when the music stops?
I Collect Cashflows (Reformed Broker) & Who Goes Crypto? (Mother Jones) Strictly speaking, penny stocks, or even retirement portfolio value is just as notional and “it’s what you get when you sell it” as NFTs, Dogecoin, or RadioShack’s new coin (Editor’s Note: We are so sorry we’re not making this up). When a generation has seen two market collapses, gigantic tax cuts for the rich, and are staring down the barrel of climate change, why wouldn’t they take their avocado toast money and bet on ShibaCoin?
Stop Telling Me Trust-Fund Kids Are Financial Wizards (Daily Beast) Conversely, let’s stop with the “purchased the house at 24” articles, entirely. They all have some “with a down payment from grandma” or “getting a job at my mom’s friend’s law office” clause four paragraphs in. They didn’t hit a home run, they were born on third, and auntie sack bunted for them.
Roblox, Explained (The Verge) Conversely, kids are making (up to) a few mill a year building games on Roblox. If you really hate video games, we strongly recommend reviewing the educational, design & coding potential of Roblox & Minecraft.
New Brain Maps Can Predict Behaviors (Quanta Magazine) Your brain isn’t a computer, it’s not a really complex circuit. The more we accept & support neurodiversity, the faster our society advances.
Dreams are a precious resource. Don’t let advertisers hack them (Aeon) Can we please not sell Coor’s Light in dreams please? However, if Red Bull can create a “Fly correctly at super high speeds” dream simulator, we’d check it out. Much better than those dreams where you can almost fly but never quite get there.
How animal uses of fire help to illuminate human pyrocognition (Aeon) Besides pyrocognition being one of the best words we encountered this year, a fascinating exploration of how non-humans interact with fire.
The Great Organic-Food Fraud (New Yorker) Infuriatingly needed.
How Beijing Influences the Influencers (New York Times) Follow the money. In the case of influncers, this is like Radio Free Asia, but in reverse & on Instagram.
The Rise and Fall and Rise (and Fall) of the U.S. Financial Empire (Foreign Policy) Every few years “dollar will crash!” rears its ugly head. It remains a bar & chat room conversation.
Walking America: Breezewood (Intellectual Int-ing) & Why school lunches feel like they’re frozen in time (Vox) The Breezewood article remains our singular favorite thing we read this year. It illustrates “what should be” vs. “what is required to make that,” better than anything we’ve ever encountered. The lunch article is just nice frosting on that cake.
Why most gas stations don’t make money from selling gas (The Hustle) What happens when a critical mass of electric cars show up? Do gas stations flip, shutter, or pivot to something else entirely?
The ‘melancholic joy’ of living in our brutal, beautiful world (Psyche) Psyche has done some wonderful work this year. This piece reminding that the optimist & pessimist need each other, is a fantastic example.
Capitalism Is Making You Lonely (Tribune UK) Same reason why we can’t get rid of Daylight Savings Time, and why we’re not getting masks & test kits sent to us weekly.
‘I am not gonna die on the internet for you!’: how game streaming went from dream job to a burnout nightmare (Guardian) Video game streaming turned into a grind in our adult lifetimes. This job went from amazing to a death grind so fast, you think you were playing Counter-Strike.
An Inconvenient Truth About AI (IEEE Spectrum) General AI is very, very hard. No no, harder than that. Keep going. Harder still.
The Microwave Economy (David Perell) Interesting thesis about the creation of a “sort of good” tier of products. Semi-privileged perspective, but the reminder about how automation & scaled production solves certain problems much better than others is nice to see.
Consolation Prizes (The Baffler) Conversely, if you’ve ever been pissed off watching someone go “they’re not poor they have a big TV and AC!” this long-form is the most comprehensive obliteration of that argument and the concepts around it we’ve ever seen. Spectacular work by Alex Pareene.
Misunderstanding the Taliban (Foreign Exchanges) The only piece on leaving Afghanistan that should be consumed.
Albert Einstein, the Pro-Palestinian Socialist (Current Affairs) We’ll just leave this here.
Lies, Damn Lies and 'Self-Censorship' Statistics (Confirm My Choices) & Speaking Freely Has Never Been Easier (Gawker) ‘Cancel Culture’ is a marketing playbook to move units to specific marketing demographics. Do not come for us on this.
We Found Rage In A Hopeless Place (BuzzFeed.News) Fantastic explanation of why everyone seems so utterly angry these days.
For a Clean Ocean, Just Add Oysters (Reasons to be Cheerful) So, oysters everywhere they’re safe to be?
How to rest well (Psyche) Systematic guide and FAQ. For serious, we were doing it wrong too.
The most popular posts on Facebook are Plagiarized (The Verge) Social media feeds are regurgitation factories at this point, with Facebook at the bottom.
This Is All Exactly What It Looks Like (Defector) Because it’s paywalled, we’ll just leave you with one of our favorite paragraphs from David Roth, our reigning champion writer these days. It truly is a fantastic summation of our stupid, stupid year.
The hucksterish utopian rhetoric and blustering ambient scuzz of the broader cryptocurrency thing as it exists in this moment—the clammy slew of posturing experts, the open mendacity and barely concealed rube-running bad faith, the actual criminality and simple goonery that define its day-to-day—do the idea at the center of it no favors, but that is, more or less, the thing that always happens to any idea once people get ahold of it. Again, this is something that most people understand without really understanding how they understand it. At some point, when you are being lied to all the time and everywhere, you just know when it’s happening.