It Became a VERY Exclusive Club

Tech hype cycles can be short or long. One that happened so quickly I missed the downturn was the furor over Clubhouse, the audio only social media app. “Everybody” was hosting shows, invites were being doled out to drive FOMO and excitement, Twitter was going to buy them for $4 billion; and then *blink* nobody gives a shit anymore, big funding and acquisition news dries up, and the company itself is talking down the hype. It’s not quite as hilarious as the hype cycle around the Yo app (a briefly and bizarrely hyped up social app that let people and brands text “yo” and nothing else), but it’s the same pattern. For me, the issue with Clubhouse seems to be you don’t need a special app for audio only. Go on just about any platform’s “go live” option and don’t turn your camera on. Tah-dah, it’s Clubhouse, and the audience you’ve already cultivated is there. This can be dismissed as small thinking or the kind of person who said “eh, the iPad is just a big phone”, but often it’s correct.

Ultimately technologies need to have some kind of support model, whether that’s profitability or a community of dedicated (not trapped) users or something else. And you need enough of it, as the dedicated but unfortunately too small fanbase for City of Heroes could tell you. You can ride the hype cycle, get the VC money, and cash out, but in the end you’re not really doing anything worthwhile, just stirring the money pool for a bit and seeing what rises to the surface. It’s a living, I suppose.

Today in Being Old

I think I get what a vibe shift is, but I legit feel like this article is in another language:

This is to say, not everyone survives a vibe shift. The ones still clinging to authenticity and fairy lights are the ones who crystallized in their hipsterdom while the culture moved on. They “bunkered down in Greenpoint and got married” or took their waxed beards and nautical tattoo sleeves and relocated to Hudson. And by that law, those who survived this shift only to get stuck in, say, Hypebeast/Woke — well, they’ve already moved to Los Angeles to houses that have room to display their sneaker collections worth a small fortune.

I imagine this is how the editors of Spy felt about the “to the 999999s” sentence dissected in this classic piece.

A Lowish Ebb

It’s been an up and down few weeks for me: the depths of winter and ongoing fatigue have made things a bit unreal in an unpleasant way, except when I’m gripped by anxiety. On the one hand it’s a great opportunity to practice some mindfulness and vipassana techniques, but on the other hand it’s hard to focus when you feel just a little bit like you want to die. Just a teeny little bit though.

Speaking of death, listening to a podcast where the hosts are talking about the then recent death of the great Stuart Gordon: how he’d been such a kind and self-effacing friend, and how terrible it was they’d never get to see him again. That made me think of poor Zac Bertschy, the brilliant anime critic who died from loneliness and self-neglect near the beginning of the pandemic; and then, because it’s still an open wound for me, my lovely friend Petra Mayer, who I’ll never ever see again. God, I’m still so angry about that.

Anyway, having a bit of a Roast Beef moment. Bear with.

A depressed cartoon cat talking about how he's having awful dreams

How Can One Person be So Bad at Both Stealing Bitcoin and Rapping?

The Heather Morgan (aka Razzlekhan) story is so damn fun, if you’re a fan of schadenfreude and/or very, very, very bad music.

Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Rhiannon Morgan, 31, are accused of helping to “wash” 119,754 Bitcoin pilfered from Bitfinex and allegedly transferred into a digital wallet controlled by the husband, prosecutors announced…Prosecutors said the pair spent the proceeds from the theft on gold, NFTs, and “mundane things such as purchasing a Walmart gift card for $500.” In a statement, Bitfinex said it is working with the Department of Justice to claw back the stolen Bitcoin…

As her alter ego “Razzlekhan,” Morgan described herself as “like Genghis Khan, but with more pizzazz.”

“No one knows for sure where this rapper’s from—could be the North African desert, the jungles of Vietnam, or another universe,” her website says. “All that matters is she’s here to stick up for misfits and underdogs everywhere. (We do know that she’s descended from a nomadic tribe, though!)”

And yes, her songs are still on youtube . Not as bad as, say, anything in the chap rap genre , but that’s kind of how impetigo isn’t as bad as scabies.

Everything is an Unregulated Security, hooray!

Interesting/terrifying piece by Ian Bogost for the Atlantic, about how NFTs are possibly the tip of the iceberg for a wave of weird financial instruments.

What if that’s just the beginning? There’s almost nothing that exists today that doesn’t also have a digital shadow side—each tweet and text message you send, and every photograph and email. But also: all of the banking transactions you carry out, each phrase you dictate to Alexa, each scan of a UPS package en route to your door, every record of a COVID-19 PCR test in your Labcorp account, every bucket of wings you DoorDashed. Everything we possess or do is digital or can be represented digitally. Even things that aren’t yours, or anyone’s, can be captured as conceptual collateral thanks to digitization. A group of Olive Garden fanatics started selling NFTs of references to individual Olive Garden restaurant locations, for Pete’s sake.

We’ve been here before and it wasn’t good, and from the lay level I don’t see how it’s different.