Their refusal to buy the book was based not on my treatment of the theme but on the theme itself, for there are at least three themes which are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned. The two others are: a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106.

Vladimir Nabokov
On Lolita, published in 1955

In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information.

Yuval Noah Harari
Homo Deus, p. 402

(One of) the great sin(s) against Dataism.

When you hear the phrase “free market,” you probably think of “a market that is free from regulation.” But that’s the opposite of the phrase’s original meaning.

Adam Smith used the term to describe a market that was free from “economic rents”: money earned by owning things rather than doing things. Smith recognized that markets attract parasites – “rentiers” – who seek to drain wealth by “investing” rather than building and doing.

(This) meant that, in the absence of muscular state intervention, markets would become less and less free, more and more dependent on the whims of rentiers who used money to breed money by creating toll-barriers between parts of the productive economy.

[…]

For Smith, markets were only free if they were regulated. But that’s the opposite of the way that we talk about free markets today. Today, a free market is a market where you are free to collect rents: passive income from owning things at the expense of people doing things.

Cory Doctorow
Pluralistic.net

Progress thus appears to be based upon economic inequalities and injustice. This defence of unearned surpluses as the incentive and the source of economic progress takes the revolutionary bull by the horns.

John Atkinson Hobson
Incentives In The New Industrial Order (1925), p. 48,

Ari Menthol 10s

Ari Menthol 10s
Ari Menthol 10s and the accompanying marketing accoutrement

Frustrated by Nike’s lack in creativity and New Ports (sic) successes in marketing something that will kill you in this glossy colorful way, he wanted to make a case study in the form of an art piece that posed a question to both these brands. … Made in China, in only 252 pairs, which is what constitutes a sample run, they were released on the 17th of June 2006, sold exclusively via the Alife and Clientele in N.Y., the sneaker quickly became a sold-out cult classic…

“The Story of the Most Forbidden Sneaker Ever Made”
Peter Dahlgren and Andrea Tuzio

(Finally) available on Ebay.

Visit Link: The Story of the Most Forbidden Sneaker Ever Made »

The 2 Funniest Moments On Screen In 2020

Taylor Misiak and Dave Burd In Dave, Maria Bakalova As Tutar In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Taylor Misiak and Dave Burd In Dave, Maria Bakalova As Tutar In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

I don’t laugh out loud much. I wish I did. These two moments made me laugh harder than anything else I watched in 2020.

Dave And The Milk Table

Tutar Swallows The Baby

The Evolution Of Company Leaders Alongside The Evolution Of The Company

Three Phases of a company often line up with the Pioneer, the Town Settler, and the City Planner leadership mindsets
Three Phases of a company often line up with the Pioneer, the Town Settler, and the City Planner leadership mindsets

I’m stealing these three phases. They came from the a16z podcast, “On Fear and Leadership: Product to Sales CTOs and CEOs” (which you can listen to at the bottom of this post). The prevailing conversation concerns a number of topics that growing leaders in growing startups face: trepidation in hiring an external CEO, all-hands meetings, recruiting talent, handling “title fetishization,” existing without CEOs (“never hire an interim CEO”).

But, to me, the beginning of the podcast outlines how the phases of the company align with the phases of company leaders. Martin Casado, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and inventor of software-defined networking, delineates three phases through which every startup goes; Armon Dadgar, the co-founder and CTO of HashiCorp, contributes the simple-but-digestible metaphorThe metaphor was originally proffered by Robert X. Cringely in his book Accidental Empires as “commandos, infantry, and police” and later popularized by Simon Wardley. that helps to explain what the leaders of a company should look like within each phase.

Top 20 Songs Of 2020

Top L, Clockwise: The 1975, The Cool Kids, The Weeknd, Roddy Ricch, Architects
Top L, Clockwise: The 1975, The Cool Kids, The Weeknd, Roddy Ricch, Architects

My only real rule in putting this together was that I could not repeat artists. Playlist at the end.


20

“40 Roll – Instrumental”

Chris Turner

19

“911”

Lady Gaga

18

“ooh la la”

Run the Jewels feat. Greg Nice and DJ Premier

Best Albums Of 2020

Best Albums of 2020
Best Albums of 2020

5

RTJ4

Run the Jewels

I can’t let the pigs kill me
I got too much pride
And I meant it when I said it:
Never take me alive

Killer Mike
“yankee and the brave (ep. 4)”

4

Twenty/20 Pyrex Vision

Jeezy

Ask me what I do, I say I hustle for a livin’
Plus I got that 20/20 Pyrex vision

Jeezy
“Twenty/20 Pyrex Vision”

3

Imploding the Mirage

The Killers

Her mama was a dancer
And that’s all that she knew
‘Cause when you live in the desert
That’s what pretty girls do

The Killers
“Caution”

Milken often spoke to students at business schools. On these occasions he liked, for dramatic effect, to demonstrate how hard it actually is to put a large company into bankruptcy. The forces interested in keeping a large company afloat, he argued, are far greater than those that wish to see it perish. He’d present the students with the following hypothetical situation. First, he’d say, let’s locate our major factory in an earthquake zone. Then let’s infuriate our unions by paying the executives large sums of money while cutting wages. Third, let’s select a company on the brink of bankruptcy to supply us with an essential irreplaceable component in our production line. And fourth, just in case our government is tempted to bail us out when we get into trouble, let’s bribe a few indiscreet foreign officials. That, Milken would conclude, is precisely what Lockheed had done in the late 1970s.

Michael Lewis
Liar’s Poker, p. 267-268

The Time Horizon Shortens

That headline is a fancy way of saying you’ve probably felt like you’re missing out on something, that you need to move on to the next thing every other minute of your waking day. It’s most oppressive in media consumption.

“TikTok now has over 850 million users – I have not yet seen anyone try to quantify the billion of minutes viewed/week that converts into, but it’s quite likely that it dwarfs Netflix’s weekly minute view count (which has 195mm users).”

Elena Burger
Is This Profitable?

That quote is taken from Burger’s essay on “what we talk about when we talk about eyeballs,” her exposition on the ever-evasive attempt to ratify the true number of viewers in the streaming wars. That bit was tucked away in the coda to her work; it’s where I found the piece to be the most revelatory: when she compared Netflix to TikTok.

As the companies are branded, one is a streaming service, the other a social network. But they’re competitors. It’s an apples-to-apples comparison that shirks the companies’ colloquial characterizations. So much so, Burger also implies in a nearby sentence that Netflix had to adjust their metric of a view from “watching 70% of an episode” to watching “the first two minutes” – and that it might or might not have happened shortly after TikTok exploded in Q1 of 2020 as lockdown force-fed everyone their phones.

Netflix, via their shareholder letter announcing the change, claims the adjustment to the view metric is to internally level the playing field between long-form works (like The Highwaymen, a two-hour-plus movie) and short episodes (like the 15-minute-long episodes of Special). They buttress the move by leveraging the social equity of the New York Times, YouTube, and the BBC: “But this is how they do it!”

They’re not wrong. But it’s also exactly how TikTok does it. Make it short enough and 70% becomes irrelevant. Two minutes becomes irrelevant. You just watch 100% of the video. It’s how Twitter got you to read 100% of a sentence. It’s why some online publications put a hard return at the end of every sentence. (Paragraphs are hard.)

The casualty in all of this is the preimminent, sustained feeling of schizophrenia created as the moments between your A actions and your B actions are becoming infinitely compressed. Burger quotes David Harvey from his book The Condition of Postmodernity (released in 1989!):

As space appears to shrink to a ‘global village’ of telecommunications and a ‘spaceship earth’ of economic and ecological interdependencies … and as time horizons shorten to the point where the present is all there is (the world of the schizophrenic), so we have to learn how to cope with an overwhelming sense of compression of our spatial and temporal worlds.

David Harvey
The Condition of Postmodernity, p. 240

That’s the fancy way of saying FOMO because we don’t actually cope with that “sense of compression.” Instead, it’s that abiding feeling when your attention span has shrunk to the time it takes you to watch a TikTok video and your brain already feels like it needs to move on to the next, causing a wake of mental pollution and a guilt of wasted time – you can remember 30 minutes ago when you aimlessly opened TikTok but now your legs have fallen asleep from sitting on the toilet too long. (And, in a previous life, that same amount of time would have been eight minutes longer than a cable-ready sitcom. But cable is already dust.)

I present it without subjective opinion, more so because, for me, it has realized the link in the chain from America’s pasttime of going to baseball games to going to the movies to sitting around a television set with dinner to binging Netflix to sharing a :15 second TikTok video. I don’t like to fight progress; objectively, this is how humanity will move forward. Your mind is your own personal world, but it’s likely you have felt that same forward movement compress so rapidly and felt it overcome so many “spatial barriers that the world sometimes seems to collapse inwards upon (p. 240)” you.

It’s fascinating to think about what will happen when our minds either a) break down, or b) catch up to those gaps in the time horizon and slow it down.

U.S. Election Graphics from CBS News, 1972

Designers love trying to emulate classic graphics but almost nothing comes close to the real thing.

1972 Text
1972 Pattern

Visit Link: 1972 U.S. Election Graphics from CBS News »

Innovative Leadership

AP Images/Ringer Illustration
AP Images/Ringer Illustration

(T)he Rockets barely went over the luxury tax (just $3.65 million over) in their one season (2015-16) as a taxpayer. The Warriors spent $49.63 million in penalties over the last five seasons, while even the small-market Thunder spent $33.73 million. There was no excuse for Houston to not open up the checkbook. This is a franchise located in the fourth-biggest metro area in the U.S. that has had a superstar in the prime of his career. Alexander sat on his hands while Houston’s rivals went all in, counting on Morey’s ability to use advanced statistics to turn water into wine.

Jonathan Tjarks
The Ringer

Humbled to have been tangential to the man who quite literally changed the game forever. R.I.P. the Daryl Morey era in Houston.

Photo by AP Images/Ringer Illustration

Visit Link: Daryl Morey Found a Way to Succeed With One Hand Tied Behind His Back »

Culture Defines Momentum

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Illustration by Eleanor Taylor via The Observer Effect
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Illustration by Eleanor Taylor via The Observer Effect

“Algotorial,” a portmanteau created by Spotify’s leadership, defines the intersection between machine learning and algorithms with editorial content and oversight. Insight: culture defines momentum, and algorithms can’t proactively determine that.

Longer insight, from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek:

“We try to be thoughtful about how we program content for the listener. We don’t have the data to determine the signals to measure sentiment, as an example, on a mass scale. This can only be determined by how we see culture reflected on our platform via users creating their own playlists or saving songs. A concrete example is the Black Lives Matter movement. How can an algorithm detect that momentum and figure out the most culturally appropriate way to create playlists celebrating Black Culture? The simple answer is: it can’t. At Spotify, that’s an editorial decision. Now, the algorithmic decision is: who sees the content? Is that the right content fit for everyone globally? Is it appropriate that someone who doesn’t even speak English, but lives in America is served this content?”

Daniel Ek
Spotify CEO

The Observer Effect
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Illustration by Eleanor Taylor via The Observer Effect

Fear and Loathing in New York

My autobiography begins: “Wanting to make it up to Fear, who had now become his friends, Belushi decided to pull some strings behind the scenes on SNL for their Halloween special which ended up being total carnage. What ensued was total chaos.”

Jack Whatley

Nihilist Hiring

Malcolm Gladwell's Hamlet Was Wrong
Malcolm Gladwell’s Hamlet Was Wrong

I’ve often wondered if I was alone in my thoughts about hiring people and the hiring process. Take, for example, the NFL Draft whereupon millions of dollars in salary and millions more as a football organization are at stake as teams select amateur athletes to become professionals in the first round.

The process is absolutely grueling and, I promise, unlike any job interview you’ve ever had. After being picked over near-naked in a public venue in front of hundreds, you are tested in every aspect of your athleticism and physical body at the NFL Draft Combine. (X-rays, blood tests, EKGs, MRIs, drug tests…) You are interviewed in person for hours, but, with so much on the line, organizations have also taken to interviewing nearly everyone you’ve been associated with since you were old enough to throw a football. It’s a process a private investigator would drool over.

And yet?

Of the 223 first round picks over the past seven years, 120 have averaged an AV (Approximate Value) of 5 or more for their careers so far; that’s good for a 53% success rate.

Vincent Richardson
“First Round Picks Only Have a 53% Success Rate And Other Troubling Draft Thoughts,” The Riot Report

“Hamlet Was Wrong”

The phrase that Hirschman and Colorni would repeat to each other was that they hoped to ‘prove Hamlet wrong.’ Hamlet shouldn’t have been frozen by his doubts; he should have been freed by them. Hamlet took himself too seriously.

Malcolm Gladwell
“The Gift of Doubt,” The New Yorker

Your final decision is a coin flip. It turns out Malcolm Gladwell has a similar belief in hiring.

Photo via Revisionist History, captioned by Gladwell: “Hiring nihilism in action.”