Friday, April 3rd, 2015


That Was Easy

Scheduling Reminder: I'll be out for Spring Break next week. See you back here April 13th.

I used to sit next to a guy who had one of those red buttons from Staples. Every time one of us pushed it, a voice said, "That was easy." Back then, we used the button to celebrate something already completed. Today, I realize that button was actually providing a glimpse into a future wherein technological advances, inherent laziness, and rampant consumerism would enable us to have whatever we want whenever we want it; all at the push of a button. Amazon's one-push ordering system takes us one step closer to that vision. Here's The New Yorker's Ian Crouch on the horror of Amazon's new dash button: "No one wants to live in a stupid home. No one should have to fight with his spouse over who drank the last grapefruit soda. And only a chump would ever run out of toilet paper."

+ If you find the idea of a button that instantaneously orders new products to be a bit ridiculous (or a bit too much work), don't worry. It's only a short term solution. The end goal is a fully automated, consumption-driven utopia where there's not even a button to push. Picture those sensors in your hotel minibar. But everywhere. As Michael S Galpert explains, there will only be a button for anything until there isn't. (There, now that wasn't so hard, was it...)


Pouring It On

Yesterday, I tried to convince my son to shorten his shower because of California's drought. He was unmoved. Maybe because he knows showers are not the big problem. Several of those problems are described by Eric Holthaus in Slate: 10 Percent of California's Water Goes to Almond Farming. (This morning, I caught my son eating almonds in the shower.)

+ Quartz: If Californians want to really conserve water, they should cut down on coffee, rice, and beef. We should also set up a secondary market where California entrepreneurs can exchange startup equity for drinking water.


Weekend Reads

"Most of them, even the ones who concede laws were broken, describe Drexel as nothing less than a triumph of capitalism." Bloomberg takes a look back at Renegades of Junk: The Rise and Fall of the Drexel Empire.

+ "He's Iraq's most famous Shiite militiaman, a fierce warrior whose nom de guerre -- Abu Azrael -- is an archangel of death in Islam. But the 37-year-old has another nickname: the Iraqi Rambo."

+ "He's at the center of everything." The New Yorker's Evan Osnos with an interesting and detailed look at Xi Jinping, China's most authoritarian leader since Mao. And if you'd prefer a chat, Osnos was on Charlie Rose earlier this week.

+ The Atlantic's Rachel Smith on Corn Flakes, American's Immortal Cereal.

+ The definitive oral history of Max Headroom.

+ And Audubon's Mark Jannot takes down Jonathan Franzen.


Fist Bumps

"The fist Iran has shaken at the so-called Great Satan since 1979 has not completely relaxed. But the fingers are loosening, and the agreement, while still incomplete, held out the prospect that it might yet become a handshake." The NYT"s Peter Baker with an excellent look at a foreign policy gamble by Obama at a moment of truth.

+ "Symbolically, it is enormously important, because it means that, after thirty-six years, we can move to something other than just spitting at each other." So says former Iranian hostage John Limbert. From Robin Wright: It's a deal. Almost.



Sunburned and bearded, Louis Jordan was rescued atop his destroyed boat after spending 66 days at sea. According to Jordan, he survived on a diet of rainwater and raw fish. (In California, we pay top dollar for both.)


Words Simply Cannot Express

"Given their resemblance to the stickers that adorn the notebooks of schoolgirls, not to mention their widespread adoption as the lingua franca of tweens and teens everywhere, some people wonder whether grown men should be using them at all." The NYT's Matt Haber dares to ask: Should Grown Men Use Emoji?

+ Let me answer Matt Haber this way. My cat's name is Emoji. I proudly use it. But I only use the good stuff. And the best can be found in my wife's newly updated, and keyboard-ready app called Loly. It's emoji for cool people. And it's already got Passover and Easter emoji loaded and ready for the weekend. It really is great. And the number of downloads I drive will be a key topic of discussion at my house this weekend. So get Loly right now.


With Algorithms Like These

"Once Facebook knows the structure of your social network, it can analyze it to predict (with startling accuracy!) not only the people you're most likely to know now, but the people you're most likely to know in the future." Caitlin Dewey on how Facebook knows who all your friends are, even better than you do.


Mad Props

"Jon Hamm brings to the role of Don a manly handsomeness, charm, plausible wit, aggression and, when other qualities fail, a remarkable ability to conjure an air of bewildered, ordinary-dope innocence." And even with all those attractive qualities, I'll still be sorry to see him leave my living room. James Meek writes about Mad Men: The Shock of the Pretty.

+ Andy Greenwald in Grantland: The Bottom of the Glass.

+ Mental Floss: 8 fascinating fan theories about Mad Men.


Treasure Chest

Gregg Barbanell. You may not recognize the name, but you've definitely heard his work. Meet the man who makes Hollywood's smallest sounds.


The Bottom of the News

The University of Houston is set to pay Matthew McConaughey $135,000 for a graduation speech. That seems fair as long as he admits that "All right! All right! All right!" is a bit redundant.

+ Tonight is Passover, so let's get you ready to totally kill at your seder: Start with Bruce Feller's seven secrets of Passover. Then check out Rube Goldberg's Passover Machine. And, as every wise child knows, Rabbis have green-lighted weed for Passover.

+ Get ready for Groundhog Day. The musical. And Cats is coming back to Broadway. (Don't blame the messenger.)

+ Billy on the Street hits NYC with David Letterman.

+ And, just in time for opening day, the 7 most gloriously disgusting ballpark snacks of 2015. (Dodgers suck.)