Monday, December 1st, 2014


This is So Hot

The tush. You know what I'm talking about. Serial. You've heard all about it. True Detective. You remember the memes. This is the viral era when a nice piece of pop culture can earn a place around our water coolers at an unprecedented pace. And often -- even usually -- the content we talk about the most isn't really all that popular. It's part social media. It's part a desire to be the first to share something cool. And, in this age of digital compartmentalism, I'm convinced it's part of an increasingly desperate desire to be talking about the same thing at the same time. Slate's Willa Paskin on the new age of cultural manias.

+ 40 million people saw the new Star Wars trailer within 72 hours of its release.


TMI Fridays

Here's one thing we know shoppers aren't buying this Cyber Monday: Stocks. That's partly because of falling oil prices and partly because Thanksgiving weekend sales fell as much as 11%. (It's still unclear whether sluggish Black Friday sales are an indication of a declining economy or an increasing intellect.)

+ Wired's Marcus Wohlsen provides a look at the robots that power Santa's real workshop inside an Amazon warehouse. And Bloomberg has some video of the robots at work.

+ Every year, the holiday shopping hype gets bigger. So what happens to last year's stuff? Welcome to the self-storage industry boom.


Freeze (and Say Cheese!)

Washington has approved funding to provide body cameras for up to 50,000 police officers. From the NYT: "The video footage from these cameras could help clarify disputed incidents like the deadly encounter between the teenager in Ferguson, Michael Brown, and the police officer, Darren Wilson."

+ Mojo: The science of why cops shoot young black men.


Get a Piece of Chris Rock

In NY Mag, Frank Rich interviews Chris Rock about race, comedy, and lot more: "So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he's the first black person that is qualified to be president. That's not black progress. That's white progress. There's been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship's improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, "Oh, he stopped punching her in the face."


Betting on Content

A few years ago, investors wouldn't touch content sites. But times have changed and now publishers like Vox and Buzzfeed are raising big money at valuations that suggest investors see them as much more valuable than many media stalwarts. My guess is that content wasn't as worthless as we thought five years ago. And it's not as valuable as we think it is right now.

+ Capital New York: "The number of full-time U.S. daily newspaper journalists has plunged to 36,700, according to the American Society of News Editors, down from around 55,000 before the 2008 economic downturn."


The Joys of Getting Old

Memory loss. Aches and pains. An inevitable slide into the pit of nevermore. Growing older is no fun. At least that's what we thought. But according to the WSJ: "A growing body of evidence indicates that our moods and overall sense of well-being improve with age. Friendships tend to grow more intimate, too, as older adults prioritize what matters most to them." Why everything you think about aging may be wrong. (Seriously, get of my lawn with all these new theories...)

+ If getting older is so much fun, then why do we spend so much money trying to look younger? From Reuters: Demand for U.S. plastic surgery rises in selfie era.


Class Dismissed

"Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you're both in those awful teen years, but you're a part of the First Family, try showing a little class." That was the opening salvo in a Facebook rant that just cost Hill staffer Elizabeth Lauten her job in what amounts to one more piece of evidence that trying to tell teens what to do never ends well.

+ Wired: The teen brain shuts down when it hears mom's criticism. (And dad doesn't even get that much of a response...)


Fear Factor

‘If you could have sex with your wife right after you got mugged, it would be the best sex of your life." (If I make a joke here, getting mugged will be the easy part.) In Aeon Magazine, Sy Montgomery explains what she learned about fear, sex, desire and dread from the peculiar pleasures of diving with great white sharks.

+ Speaking of fear, I invented an acronym over the holiday weekend: FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. FOBIA is the Fear of Being Included Again.


Spinning Vinyl

Over the weekend, I set up my new turntable, scored some records, and rocked out to vinyl for about 30 hours. In other words, I'm part of the trend. Vinyl sales are still a small part of the overall music business, but they are growing. "In the last six years, vinyl sales have tripled; in the first part of 2014, Billboard counted 6.5 million units sold. Currently vinyl makes up 3.5 percent of overall music sales, according to music tracker Nielsen SoundScan; a decade ago, that figure was 0.2 percent." And large retail chains like Urban Outfitters (and even Whole Foods) are trying to capitalize on the movement. Great. So I'm now catching onto new music trends just after Whole Foods...


The Bottom of the News

"When I handed them back, of course they smelled bad. I wore them every single day for six months. Literally." From The Guardian: The people who are paid to break in your designer jeans.

+ "I haven't eaten with my parents, at least without earplugs, in over a decade." If you are sensitive to certain sounds -- like other people eating -- you might have newly identified condition called Misophonia.

+ The Girl Scouts get with the program. You can now buy cookies online.

+ You ate a lot over the weekend. And chances are, you wasted a lot too. For example, "Americans throw away 31 percent of all tomatoes they buy." The Atlantic on the leftovers we toss.

+ According to some passengers, at least one airport security line reached a mile in length over the holiday weekend.