Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 280 and Scooping

I first started blogging in college because a friend of mine pointed out that I needed to own my digital identity. I had written something about designer jeans in the lesser school newspaper and another student was dunking on me in her personal blog.

Unless I acted swiftly, Google results would be tainted forever he assured me. So I started blogging. Not because I necessarily felt like I was meant to be a writer but because I didn’t want this other girl to scoop my life story. I didn’t want to get “Bad Art Friended” by letting someone else tell my story.

I’m pretty grateful to both my friend James and the “mean girl” Phoebe for launching my social media habits. Every big break I’ve ever had has come from the connections I made on the Internet. If I hadn’t been petty enough to want to own my own digital identity I might have missed out.

Rather like the “Bad Art Friend” piece where one writer uses details from another’s life for her art, whoever is able to own the narrative is the default winner. It’s not terribly fair but it could have been someone else telling my story had I not chosen to write. If the victors write history then there is an incentive to be the one whose narrative wins. And the only way to win in our social media saturated works is to be sure you’ve got the scoop on your own life.


Day 273 and The Newsstand

I used to travel a lot. It seems like another life, but before the pandemic airports were my most important liminal space. Even as a child this was true as my father loved taking us on trips. That emotional weight meant the airport have always had significance to me. This persistent exposure to airports lead to me to developing certain affinities and aversions in my routines around travel. But the one that I liked the most was buying something at the newsstand.

There was a period as a teenager where I thought carrying both the The Economist and Rolling Stone (neither of which I read anymore) was just the height of intellectual signaling. And no place was more crucial to signal than inside an airport. I could meet someone in passing that would change my life and they needed to see immediately that I was both smart and cultured. Yes it’s embarrassing now.

But this signaling was part of a wider ritual I felt was important to ground myself. Even if I felt the unsteadiness of traveling, I could bring routine and ritual into it. I knew no matter how much I anxiety or uncertainty I felt around a given trip I could always treat myself to buying something to read from the airport newsstand.

Generally I would pick up some kind of periodical. I’d leave myself time to browse the newsstands for at least ten minutes so I could adequately cover all the weird genres. Because I grew up in a small town and not a proper city, the only newsstand I ever encountered was at the airport. There was simply no place that held as many magazines covering as many topics.

And while I had the Internet very early in my life, the actual transition away from physical publishing wasn’t as far along. It’s not that I loved magazines so much as it was the only place I could find writing that wasn’t a novel was in newsstand. Now of course I read blogs, email newsletters, forums, Subreddits and my beloved Twitter. But the memories I have of finding new worlds came from newsstands. And while I may have literally been going someplace new, it was never quite as horizon broadening as picking out what I was going to read.

Internet Culture Politics

Day 246 and Culture Bores

Anytime a new conflagration breaks out in the culture war I worry. What if this is the time I finally get information poisoning? I’ll surf the discourse and try to wrap my head around the issue. If it’s just a minor flare up, an outbreak of zeitgeist, my rational antibodies react swiftly and I bounce back from any emotional reactivity without getting sick. But when it’s full blown infection of the entire body politic I am not so lucky. I will succumb just like the rest of the country.

To fight off cultural contagion it will take several days of inflammation. I’ll be hot, bothered and have muddled thinking. It will take all of my energy and focus to see through what is the immune response and what is the infection. And then only then can I begin to consider treatment to get back to an emotional baseline.

Yes I am absolutely torturing a metaphor here but I’ve dealt with several cultural infections over the last year and it’s been a mess. My natural immunity to poor information environment isn’t total. Raging partisans spewing talking points can infect anyone. I’m sick of being infected just because I read the news. No one can be expected to quarantine their entire lives from current events but it sure feels like the isolated forever crowd is winning when someone tells me “just don’t pay attention.”

I encourage you not to be a culture bore. A culture bore is someone who spreads culture war contamination. Sure you might not realize you are infected. But you can take sensible precautions and it makes the informational commons better for everyone

Don’t spread a malicious informational meme unless you are willing to let others get infected. Which you might be. You might be a partisan. I don’t know. That is your right. But then you’ve got to ask yourself if I am sharing some tidbit of bullshit am I doing so because I think it’s beneficial? Or am I an unwitting carrier of some viral nonsense?

Sure I get it. It sucks to consider that your meme hygiene might be bad! I’ve been there. I picked content up from some dive account that only retweets resistance grifters and regretted it later. I’ve liked some kooky tweet from an account who turns out to believe the January 6th insurrection was patriotic. We’ve all done it. But for the sake of everyone else enjoying the information commons and being decent citizens together try not to do it deliberately.

Emotional Work Finance

Day 233 and 927 Hours of Therapy

I’m motivated by media. If I’m in a bad headspace I can take time to read a book or watch a tv and shake myself out of it with a few hours. I’m a voracious consumer of all forms of narrative, it’s how I synthesize.

You’d have to be a professional to keep track of more stories than I do just by sheer numbers alone. Maybe journalists, authors or publicists read more than me, but even then I’d bet real money I’m still top decile. I never lose a “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” news quiz.

I’m working though some emotions on risk, punishment, hurt, and fear this week. So I’ve been watching a favorite show on all those emotions: Billions. It’s a show about a hedge fund manager feuding with the US Attorney for the Southern District. It’s a terrific portrayal of finance culture and elite consumption. But it’s real strength is it’s portrayal of therapy. Emotional capacity is the key to coming out ahead in Billions.

While I don’t want to give any spoilers, the second season gives us a character named Taylor who is a prodigy. Not only are they intellectually brilliant but they understand who they are. I’m rewatching the show so I’m noticing details I didn’t process the first go around. Taylor says they have had 927 hours of therapy.

The impression I had on the show was that Taylor was in their twenties as they frame the introduction of the character around an internship and graduate school. I wish I had started on therapy in my twenties. Imagine having over three years of intensive emotional work before you’ve started your career. Honestly I’m envious. When I was in my early twenties I didn’t understand jack shit about my emotions.

Maybe by the time I get 927 hours of therapy I’ll recognize my own traumas and motivations as well as Taylor. I’m getting up there in hours and I am admittedly sinking a lot more into understanding what motivates me now than I ever did when younger. It’s not exactly linear progress. Feelings aren’t facts. That makes it a lot harder to lock down what will or won’t work for you. But I’d rather be finding out who I am now. Some people never do. But still I wish I’d had the good sense to invest 927 hours into therapy when I was Taylor’s age.


Day 227 and Dog Days

I learned today that the dog days refer to the Sun being in the same portion of the sky as Sirius the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major. The Romans believed that Sirius added to the heat of summer as the star and the sun rose and set at the same time.

The period between the end of July and mid August is associated “with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck” which frankly tracks. I do feel like I’m going a little bit mad.

I’m planning on a media consumption fast You’d think we’d be inured to crisis, plague, and politics after the last year and a half but as it turns out it can still hit you.

I’ve been doom scrolling all day watching the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. The war has been waged my entire adult life. Watching it all collapse in a matter of days after 20 years makes me feel ashamed. Not that America is finally pulling out our military but that we’ve seemingly accomplished so little when so many lives have been lost and so much has been invested.

And we cannot even support our allies with visas and refugee resettlement. I’m sick to my stomach seeing that we have 18,000 unprocessed visas. The fuck is wrong with us that we cannot find a way to save our allies. There isn’t a damn thing I can do about any of it. That feeling of shame abs helplessness probably means it’s time to put away the internet.

Finance Internet Culture Media Politics

Day 219 and Crypto’s Publicist

Most industries have interest groups. Publicists, lobbyists, and spokespeople weave together stories, talking points and preferred legislative agendas. Anyone or any group is free to discuss why their preferred business or issue is worthwhile and convince others of their view. We have a marketplace of ideas. Sure, not all interests are good but anyone is free to promote what they believe in. So why aren’t we doing anything for our cause in the crypto community? I say it’s time crypto had a publicist.

Not every country allows for this. The crypto community has an obligation to recognize that when we fight for our own interests it isn’t just we who benefit. The entire world benefits from open, decentralized and permission-less systems. What we do benefits everyone who wants to live in a freer world. It’s time crypto had our own activist DAO to protect and promote our values.

I am proposing the formation of an activist DAO promoting the use of crypto. Our goal is to advocate for positive popular culture narratives about crypto. We vote on our issues, stories and key initiatives through the DAO’s native governance tokens. The DAO will hire publicists and communication professionals to promote our stories in mainstream media along with commissioning content meme-ers and creators to share opinions. Policy is crucial but public perception is faster and pushes the right policy down the right.

As place holder I’ve purchased The Crypto Communication Coalition. I am working on a shared collaboration doc in Google Sheets to collect input, feedback, and priorities. Anyone who is interested can participate in our effort. Email me Julie @ crypto comms coalition dot org or DM me on Twitter.

We need DAO creation specialists, legal experts, memers, streamers, Reddidters, governance folks, publicists, lobbyists, fundraisers and a thousand other specialists I haven’t thought of yet. This won’t be easy but it’s an eating our own dog food moment for crypto. We can use our own tools to advocate in a participatory, transparent and open way for our own interests. If banking and big oil can can afford publicists then so can we. gmi.

Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 167 and the Naughties

I arrived in New York City in January of 2006. The aughts were an interesting time to be in New York. The recovery from 9/11 gave the city a sense of resilience but the Great Recession hadn’t reshaped the financial landscape of the country just yet.

I moved to Manhattan because I wanted to work in fashion. I didn’t have any relevant experience. I’d studied economics. But I was a blogger and that turned out to be enough to find a way in.

I met a man in the comments section of our respective fashion blogs as back then back links were an acceptable form of socializing. We both moved to the city the same week. He would become my cofounder on a fashion media startup and also my boyfriend. Yes it’s as dysfunctional as it sounds. Don’t worry we are still friends.

We’ve got a lot of fond memories of the Aughts. New media was just coming into its own. The possibility that it might change industries like fashion seemed exciting and democratic for style. No one had figured out how to grift by “influencing” yet. Which meant actual influence was still possible.

That first generation of bloggers was more influential in moving industries like culture than the commercial milieu we have now. Less lucrative certainly but the impact was significant. Good stuff actually emerged from living instead of someone imitating living.

My friend (the ex and cofounder) are considering writing a chronicle of our time. Partially it’s an exercise in nostalgia. It was a lot of fun. Maybe it’s a bit of an ego trip to think we could’ve even write some fiction that ties together the ethos and the aesthetics of that moment.

Back then we hadn’t cracked up the media industrial complex into algorithms and big automated ads dollars. A lot more got done in restaurants, bars and parties. The city itself hadn’t turned over into the complete plutocracy that dominates now. The kleptocrats needed the financial industry to implode and get bailed out for that kind of real estate takeover. Before the bailouts maybe the rest of us good maintain the delusion that we too could strike it rich. Now the distance is too great.

It was an era when Condé Nast mattered. Finance was a thing the cute guys with ambitions for money did, not yet a space that was entirely populated by Hedge Fund guys set on moving to Planet Billionaire.

And holy fuck the parties were great. Classes mingled more without the stratification that came out of the Great Recession. You could be someone even if you lived in a shitty barely heated no hot water squat loft on Bowery. It still cost $1600 but better than the 16K a month I saw it go for recently. You could get into club if you had some style. Instead of convincing people you mattered because you had a bunch of followers you had to convince someone you were cool.

I know this all sounds like bullshit old person nonsense mumbling about past good times. So if we do write about the Aughts it will take a lot better writing to make it compelling. I think it’s possible as I still retain a sense of place that I think is worth sharing. I’ve got ridiculous stories that could make for a fun read. So I’m putting the energy into the universe that I’ll capture those moments and share.

Aesthetics Chronicle

Day 116 and Taking Up Space

I take up a lot of space. I spend time on social media because there is so much space you can literally be the President or a celebrity billionaire industrialist and there are still corners of the web you don’t penetrate. There is a lot of room for loudmouths, so much so that even someone like me still has plenty of room. I barely rate on the Elon Musk attention scale. Even when I’m screaming at best I crack into D-list zeitgeist. It’s like the privacy that comes with living in New York City. You can have some notoriety but the web doesn’t care. I like how you can feel alone.

The irony of course is that I think no one is paying attention to me. I think I’m an average Joe nobody that no one ever notices. This despite the fact that I am paid to be an expert in getting attention. No literally I cost a fortune (I’m worth every penny) but I’m somehow convinced I’m invisible personally. I can feel lost in a lonely world where I’m not even sure the people that love me the most can see me. I’m stuck in some lonely portion of my childhood where I felt abandoned so I’m replaying it out now as an adult. It’s not great but I get something from it.

Except this is a fantasy that is not true. I’m not that child anymore and I know how to get attention. I’m not alone. Even when I’m not consciously drawing energy to myself, people do see me. I can simply be myself and be seen. I command attention. It’s who I am.

You always think as a kid you will get some cool superpower like laser eyes or flying but nope you are going to get a super power like public relations or brand marketing. And honestly, when I’m not a self pitying victim I know those to be awesome super powers. You can make money and direct business and politics with those super powers. I just though I’d get something a little more aesthetic you know? It’s dope but also like adult superpowers are a letdown for your inner child.

I just need to remind adult me that I am seen. That even my normal personality not exerting her will force onto the universe is actually still quite visible. I can just exist and I’ll be holding space for myself. And it’s a good space with plenty of room for all of me. And still intimate enough to feel the love around me.

Internet Culture Media

Day 111 and The Attention Economy

I like media. When I first moved to New York I had big dreams of getting hired to work at Condé Nast. This was almost immediately crushed by the reality that I was of average financial wealth (I moved to the city with about $500 and lived in a women’s SRO), not from a noteworthy family and notoriously poor at respecting authority.

But I was lucky enough to arrive in the media capital of the world just as blogging was turning into a cultural phenomenon. So it turns out I didn’t need to work for some bitchy queens to get a toehold in the industry! I was also wise enough to realize there was absolutely no fucking money in media early on so I watched many of my peers climb the ladder in new media jobs without being a member of the media myself.

I found ways to make money on marketing, branding, e-commerce and new media businesses. It was a lot more lucrative. Consequently I now have a large number of media friends (disclosure time) without any of the cultural baggage of being in media. Unless you count the time I was the first person to livestream fashion week. Which I didn’t technically have credentials to do but it got covered in Women’s Wear Daily.

I’m really grateful I never got suckered into actually being in media as I’d probably be broke, miserable and exhausted. And then if I admitted I was exhausted I’d have a bunch of the older generation of media folks dunking on me for saying that. Which is how I got into a shitposting thread with Glenn Greenwald today. Who I think might actually be in on the joke about grifter click culture.

If you don’t work in media I think you’ve got an inflated sense of their power and independence. It’s actually hard to make any money so you are always living at the whim of executives and editors. Most of them got into the business to tell crucial stories (naive but like good) and are stuck living at the mercy of a business that isn’t that lucrative.

A lot of bad faith arguments get made equating institutional power to individual power, and while it’s true having the power of the New York Times behind you matters, it’s also true that any random blogger like me has more freedom to pursue ideas than a staffer at a newspaper. So I think it’s sort of a reflection of insecurities anytime anyone gets worked up about media power. Especially if you know better as some of the older media folks like Greenwald do. These beat reporter exist in hierarchies with bills. They don’t have the freedom to shitpost like me or Glenn Greenwald. We are wealthy and independent. Beat writers are fighting constant turf wars just to stay employed.

It can also be true that beat reporters have to fight a constant battle for attention and clicks in order to stay employed. This means we get culture warriors and posturing. But both sides of each debate are engaged in a kind of elaborate attention grift. So when Taylor Lorenz or Glenn Greenwald or Matt Taibbi sucker you in with a position on who is most virtuous the answer is whoever pays them. And guess who is paying? You and me. Our attention is getting monetized into all kinds of nifty revenue streams. I know this because that’s how I make my money. So next time you get worked up about the evils of media asking yourself why you are paying attention and who is benefiting.

Chronicle Internet Culture Media Startups

Day 84 and The Thursday Styles Problem

The Thursdays Styles problem is about zeitgeist, wealth perception and power. The New York Times publishes its “styles” section on Thursdays and Sundays. Generally speaking if you work in media, public relations or culture you are aware of the general trends that will emerge on Thursday ahead of time. For the sake of argument let’s say I know directionally on Tuesday what will be featured on Thursday.

If you know “what everyone knows everyone knows” ahead of time there is a lot of money to be made a Tuesday person. For more on the second derivative issues in zeitgeist I highly recommend Epsilon Theory. If you can sense the zeitgeist ahead of time & move to take advantage of it you can be a Tuesday person. Alas it’s not as lucrative as you may imagine to be a Tuesday person. A Thursday person who lives exactly on the zeitgeist can take advantage of the moment culture moves. Good entrepreneurs do this well. Most consumer companies hit “right on time.”

This is why venture capitalists will ask “why now” as they may have invested in a Tuesday Person who hit the zeitgeist too early and couldn’t capitalize on it. It really pisses off the founder who knows “but I was first.”

As a Tuesday person I hate when this happens. I loathe seeing people I perceive as less capable or intelligent than me hit a zeitgeist moment exactly on Thursday. The trouble is they are right. They won. They got the timing right. I didn’t.

And yes being a Thursday mover is good. But it’s crucial to understand who can win this game. The only way to win the Thursday Styles problem is to be in finance, media or culture work that can place a call option on the Thursday future on Tuesday. You have to be able to hold an opinion on the future zeitgeist long enough for Thursday to get published.

If you cannot hold your zeitgeist long enough for Tuesday to become Thursday when “everyone knows everyone knows” being right early serves no benefit. You need diamond hands. And yes you will be wrong 9 times out of 10. If the New York Times cuts a piece and it takes another week can you hold out? If the markets don’t make a Tuesday idea hit can you wait till it becomes common knowledge on that metaphorical Thursday?

It requires patience to be a Tuesday person. Knowing you will look wrong for a bit. That you will lose money when Tuesday knowledge takes longer to become Thursday Style’s common knowledge. If you can hold it’s the ultimate form of future leverage. That’s alpha.

And better yet it’s “possible” to manipulate. Publicists make their clients on Tuesday shine on Thursday. And capture the upside. Folks who are extremely online spot how market makers make zeitgeist hit. Cathie Wood at ARK Innovations has been playing the media in exactly this way. The largest experiment in making Tuesday thinkers hit before Thursday is Margit Wennmachers at a16z. Centralizing zeitgeist and monetizing it with future calls with narratives they tell on platforms they own stakes in has massive potential. The smart money is turning their Tuesday zeitgeist into Thursday Styles and taking it to the bank.