Social media has given us so many ways to become fans. We have ever more content thanks the streaming wars. Give content a chance to live everywhere online and it will develop a fanbase beyond its intended audience. The internet gives small shows outsized impact.
I’m a fan of a Canadian comedy called a Letterkenny. It’s about a small town in Canada. It’s got people and their problems. It’s a very funny character study and has fundamentally warm and loving humor. I’ve watched every episode and the spin-off. I’ve taken a lot of solace in the very human nature of the show, particularly during the pandemic years when everyone felt far away from each other.
There is a phenomenon that is particularly prominent online called parasocial relationships. Someone creates art or a personality and it develops a fandom. Over time, the fans, through repeated exposure to a character or show, believe they know them like a friend. It is fun to be in the fandom. Enjoying art is a universal experience. I am a stan for Letterkenny. I’m in a parasocial relationship with the Letterkenny crew and it’s universe.
How deep is it? Well my husband and I recently ordered some Canadian chip flavor called all dressed featured on an episode of Letterkenny. The chip is, as the name suggests, every single type of flavor. It is salt and vinegar, bbq, ketchup (weird but crucial), and sour cream & onion. And it is absolutely delicious. As a Twitter friend said to me, it is the Dr Pepper of chips. It’s not for everyone but it’s spectacular.
Because it is Sunday, I am taking a medically necessary amount of THC. I’ve had a gummy. And I thought this was a perfect moment to try the Letterkenny chip.
And it was indeed glorious. All dresseds is a chip made for the munchies. It’s got bite and taste and texture and it all rolls up into an experience. It’s a chip worthy of the extra attention of weed focus.
Now on Letterkenny there is a clique called the Skids. They are the weird kids. They are the hipster ones. They are the nerds. They are small town weed dealers. Asking me to pick a favorite on Letterkenny is like asking me to pick a favorite child. One of the Skids is Roald. He is a loyal friend but his own man. He definitely likes weed. I love Roaldie.
I somehow missed watching the Mandalorian when it came out. My husband isn’t really into Star Wars and I’m a Star Trek person so as just missed it. I started watching it today for the first time and I’m experiencing it somewhat fresh of its original release context.
But I’ve got a vague memory of the culture war issues that it triggered at the time. Somehow Gina Carano got coded to team red and champion of the downtrodden right wing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why except I think she mouthed off on Twitter. She sacrificed her career as a main character on prestige Disney tv show for shitposting. She thought she had social latitude that she just didn’t when working for Big Mouse. Shockingly naive if I’m honest.
That somehow everything has a side in the culture wars is a real tragedy of our time. Because a couple years pass and whatever dumb stunt that got you put on team red or team blue probably gets forgotten. Normal people have moved on and the discourse gets digested eventually into common knowledge. Memory is a fickle thing. Madeleines and Proust or something in that direction.
If you are team red you go into an alternate universe where apparently being a dick with a right wing slant on YouTube gets you 50 million dollar media deals. I assume there are as many opportunities as now being on team red is a real badge of honor and whole media ecosystems arise because it’s an actual demographic. Shocking somehow to some people but I guess I’ve always lived adjacent to team red. I’ve be always known you could make money on that audience.
I suppose the real tell is that if you are team blue you don’t really change ecosystems at all if you pick their side in the culture war. You get to maintain your plum gig at Disney. You do not have Ron DeSantis gunning for you. I hear that woke mobs come to get you but I’ve never actually seen it in action. The worst part of my chaotic evil leftist Twitter bubble stops at Taylor Lorenz though I am aware that a murky left exists beyond Chapo Trap House and I know about Tankies.
It just seems so strange to take sides in any of this nonsense if your aim is to make a living as a performer. Sure maybe you can cater to one niche or another. But really isn’t the whole point finding the things that bind us all in the human experience? I always assumed art was meant to transcend whatever petty shit happened while making it.
Maybe it was the extreme weather. Montana had a temperature swing of 95 degrees over the last week. Perhaps I’ve simply been overdoing it with cortisol and overstimulation, as I’ve had an exciting couple of days online.
I’ve got at least one post I’d like to get done before I wrap up year two of writing every single day. I think it’s important to do a year end “best of” overview. But that will require focus and time to get right. But I won’t be doing it today. Today I will listen to my body and let it recover. 2022 was by all measures a hell of a year. I look back on it and see a huge level up in my personal life across multiple dimensions. So if my body wants a little extra recovery time it earned it.
I spent my entire day on Twitter. I’m not embarrassed by that to be clear. It felt like a vacation day. And even though I live in a majestic mountain paradise, I will spend my time off inside looking at my phone.
Yes it was absolutely gorgeous day in Montana. I marveled at the playful pinks of the sunrise over the mountains in our backyard while drinking coffee. And then I got back in bed and on my phone. And you better believe I fucking doomacrolled.
I just gorged myself on cheap attention calories. Gimme that dopamine drip. I did not even try to modulate my consumption pattern or prevent myself from going into fight or flight. It was goblin mode. I’m still not embarrassed.
But Twitter is a fucking mess. Watching people go tribal on Elon Musk is worse than people going tribal on the president somehow. Maybe because it feels more personal to me? Don’t get me wrong Trump felt existential, but Elon Musk is personal.
And it’s fucking embarrassing watching people react to him and his decision making. Here it is my industry’s moment in the spotlight. The technology industry showing itself as a keeper of common goods and open discourse right? Absolutely fucking not. We’ve shat the bed. Old management was incompetent sure. But new management is not an improvement.
I went into Twitter being purchased by Elon Musk modestly optimistic. He’s our guy right? He’s one of us. He likes startups and capital and technology. He reads the same science fiction as me. We’ve got friends in common. This is what it’s like to be a fan of the home team right?
Well fuck me sideways it has been going poorly. The site is pretty broken but I’m over that. It’s just the constant mayhem. Dave Kellog termed it adhocracy. Some random bullshit happens and the whole website has to lurch around conspiracy theories and rationalization.
It has frankly not been a fine showing for techno-libertarians. Not sure about showing up for a monarch executive now that you’ve seen your civil rights up for terms-of-service revisions by fiat huh? I’ve always thought the neo-monarchists to be dickriders but that’s a sentence that’s only comprehensible to the terminally online. And yes I should go outside and touch snow. I’ll do that now.
So Elon, this isn’t likely to actually make it to you, but this is my blog, I write every day for myself, so why not, I can give it a try and pretend. If it turns out this is any good I’ll ask a mutual friend to send it to you.
tldr: I feel a (parasocial) connection with you & I want more from you (and maybe also for you). I know it feels cool and edgy to wink at taboos but you’re getting rekt by fuck bois, sycophants and opportunists.
I know we are all Galileo in our own mind shouting “and yet it moves” to narrow minded Papists but you realize being a martyr requires your death right? I don’t want you to die.
You certainly don’t remember this, but we met a number of times in the mid-teens. Times like when a friend of mine hosted a blow out birthday party in New York. We sat next to each other in some awful club and discussed chess with a small group. The same friend had a big wedding. I remember goofy dancing. Your sons made snow angels in the confetti. It was nice.
You seemed as uncomfortable as the rest of us nerds. Your autism didn’t seem any worse than mine though. I remember finding that comforting at the time. It has curdled into alienation over time as your fame far outstripped your origins. And I’m sad to have lost the feeling of love I had for you.
Before we “met” I had slight case of hero worship. I remember thinking here is someone just like me. He likes the same science fiction. He dreams about the singularity. He’s neurodivergent. And he wants to get us off this damn rock. And he’s got more money and power than I do so maybe he is worth admiring. I was young and stupid and hadn’t yet gone to real therapy.
I would tell my friends I wanted to die outside the earth’s gravity well. I thought perhaps you might be the man that got us there. Had I not had a chance to see how much you were just like me, perhaps I’d still be a stan.
What I see now from you isn’t power and happiness, it’s isolation and sadness. But I want you to know it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to listen to the flattering dick riders. They want shit from you. They want their agendas and they see your money and power as a way to achieve it. I know you know this.
It makes me angry to see you coddle the parasites. I’m shocked your mother hasn’t told you to knock it off. She seems like a cold bitch who gets shit done. I’m sure she’s told you that you are better than them. The nerds and autists did not inherit this Earth just to squander it for the roar of the crowd. If it is all bread and circus, remember you are a king and not a clown.
Maybe you think their slavish slobbering attention is a fair trade for some of your magic, I used to be emotionally slutty like that too.
And yes, I am projecting my own insecurities. But maybe I can tell you a story that will comfort you in the big wide universe. Maybe it will comfort someone else. Maybe it’s just to comfort myself.
I read you named your family office Excession. I’m also a fan of Ian M. Banks. Since 2008 or so, I carry around a paperback of Excession with me whenever I vacation. Which isn’t a lot. I normally use a Kindle to read but this paperback has become a kind of totem. It signals to my hindbrain that I am in a sympathetic state of rest and digest. I reread it over and over in 20-30 page chunks. It bounces me out of fight or flight now after much repetition, it’s my comfort book.
Your love for Ian M. Banks all felt very relatable to me as I’ve been dreaming of a post-scarcity world where my AI space ship friends shuttle me around as they pursue their inscrutable intentions. I want to sublime. Maybe not for a few thousand more years though. But I want to make it through the singularity to the other side, or at very least avoid dying in William Gibson’s jackpot. I feel like you get what apocalypses preoccupied my mind.
Most of my fantasies and fears have been touched by my love for science fiction. I saw in you someone who saw the same possibilities as me. You were very much one of us.
I also see someone being used for their dreams. They are harnessing you and your power to drive the rest of us to focus on their nightmares. Don’t let them steer you.
But your posting is reaching people. It’s annoying to some, but it hits. Maybe it hits too hard. But the isolation I imagine you feel isn’t necessary. Power laws can separate just as effectively as they bring us together. You don’t have to be surrounded by reply guys. There is a path to connection even for the most singular among us.
Now of course, I want something from you too. I want you to get us off this rock before it’s too late. I know it’s a big ask.
My best is advice is to go reread Excession and get yourself out of this persistent “fight or flight” cortisol pump. Get focused back on the shit that matters. Maybe find yourself a nice autistic sociopath who will love you for you. Maybe she can protect you from some of the pain. I’m sure you will figure it out.
I want you go to therapy. Mine is pretty good if you’d like an introduction. She’s an aristocratic 80 something Swedish woman, so you might like her. She’s perfect for working through attachment issues. She’s quite good at dealing with poor little rich kids with mommy and daddy issues. Her neighbors are all billionaires so she won’t be impressed by your bullshit. She has a sub-specialty in sex so she can probably help with that dick riding problem too.
And most importantly, she’ll be the only person who doesn’t want anything from you. And you need that more than anything.
Our most brilliant entrepreneur and erstwhile scientist reaching for the stars is now fighting a battle against attention whores. And I guess that’s how we fund things in late stage capitalism. It is honestly very cool even if it is very scary.
I know we have all read Ian M Banks. We love the Culture. Bring on AGI! Fun fact, Elon Musk’s family trust is called Excession. That’s the book I read on vacation every year. Clearly I have a lot of the same interests as the guy. So I get it. We want Elon to win.
But our boy is fighting some fights he might not even be aware he is in. He being used. He’s been recruited for a host of interest groups to launder some of the weirder corners of Reddit.
One narrative that outlines this agitprop civilian targeted skirmish is that Musk is freeing us from the tyranny of wokes. He represents the the real Americans populists who like goodness, dynamism and slightly dehumanizing working conditions.
And also somehow it involves grooming and pedophilia. Meaning that QAnon has come for Silicon Valley. So I’d be going to ground if I were a target, as you don’t want to be found by the crazies at the end of the internet. What Elon Musk just did to Yoel is at best naive and lacking impulse control, but at worst, puts a former employee at direct and extreme personal risk.
Silicon Valley used to be its own culture war. We fought for free information and open source software. We wanted cryptocurrencies and privacy. And now we have instead differing factions fighting for their own inscrutable means. Except maybe getting us to the singularity. I think he’s been clear on that. But beware fringe political movements flattering your ego. They just want your power.
Noblesse oblige. Literally translated from the French as nobility obligates. It’s commonly understood to mean that aristocracy has a responsibility to act graciously towards the civilization which has granted them status.
No one is sure if they are nobility or peasantry. No one is noble or good. Which means nobody deserves anything they get. Which is about as close to the war of all against all as I can imagine. Hobbes would be pleased.
Humanity has always been rather clever at inventing new classes. We need fresh blood from the bottom to keep revolutionary sentiment in church. Every century we are finding new ways to fight it out for new types of status and virtue.
Business values money. Old money values class. The intelligentsia values intellect. Hipsters value taste. The religious value faith. And around we go with status games as we trade social capital for actual capital just so we can get something to eat.
There is always an emerging new game that upsets the underlying order. The printing press destabilized the church and its priestly cast. The internet destabilized the media and it’s editor cast. You know the drill.
Right now there is a massive internecine fight over which order rules over Twitter. And depending on whose camp you fall into you are probably signaling different things. And that lack of shared cultural values is leading to some pretty silly reactions. A lot of dickriding is happening across every major faction.
Which if you take away the reactionary specifics, is totally understandable. If one class of person values money but the competing group values taste than you aren’t really fighting for the same things. Different values are different.
But you’ve got to be careful with your own reactions. Ask yourself if you are responding out of some shared cultural loyalty that is overshadowing your own common sense. Your attention is valuable and powerful people recognize your attention for the commodity that it has become.
Don’t buy into bullshit just because it’s your team. The chance that someone is making a buck off of your attention sure ain’t zero. And America being a free country and all means you shouldn’t be living enthralled to someone else’s priorities.
As chaos continues to unfurl around the world, the tendency towards hero worship is getting out of control. Cults of personality are having a moment absolutely everywhere, even as we are treated to even more spectacular variants of the Emperor Has No Clothes. You’d think the recent flameouts in finance, technology and politics just this week would make us all a bit more skeptical of authority and yet that does not appear to be the case.
If you are not familiar with the term, being a dick rider means praising absolutely every move of someone you perceive as having more power than you. Dickriding is a particularly uncomfortable form of reply guying wherein you praise absolutely every move of the person whose dick you are riding.
It’s especially virulent among regular people without personal expertise or exposure to the problem at hand. Not knowing any better is not however a prerequisite for dick riding. You can lend your credibility to someone else by using your expertise to rationalize just about anything.
Humans love power and hierarchy. I guess it makes us feel safe to believe that someone knows what the hell they are doing when we are afraid. But the sad reality is that we are all human. Even the most accomplished and brilliant among us are still saddled with bias, self doubt, insecurities and blind spots. If you are inclined towards the religious, we are all sinners. Though I’d recommend you combine that with a side of grace as I don’t mean this to be judgmental.
I realize it’s pretty funny to bring up the redeeming power of grace in the context of sexually explicit slang. But I do think it’s helpful to remember that even the worst of us have redeeming qualities and even the best of us have flaws.
I went for a haircut today. I’d been riding a haircut since May so it was a little embarrassing. I’d let it go from princess to dirty hippie.
Joking with the hairstylist a bit about being a bit weird we ended up commiserating over how much we enjoyed Twitter. She agreed that Twitter always felt like it was more real. Like people let it all hang out. And recently we all collectively realized that everyone is just winging it.
Nevertheless it can still be kind of a shock when it goes from “oh anyone can become one someone with hard work” to “oh fuck everyone is a fraud.”
I am I’ll admit a little shook about Sam Bankman Fried. I’ve got minimal exposure but I have interests that have been funded by funds that do. And that is really distressing to me. It always feels like at the center of the bullshit in this industry lurks some traditional finance fuckers not doing their math. And I do admit that chaps my ass. Sets us all back.
I do think plenty of the world is just winging it with a good faith and open heart. But for the sliver of sociopaths who know enough about governance and fiduciary duty and still decides that nah I’ll mix up some assets and ownership. Fuck you that’s regular old fraud and it sucks.
And what’s worse is you bring this on to our house. The people who do want to build a Plan B and who sincerely believe that a fairer more open accessible financial system is a global good. The people with shitty passports and communist governments actually need access but go ahead and you do some light self dealing. This isn’t important enough to you. Cool. Whatever. Nothing was riding on this.
I cannot tell if I’m absolutely utterly sick of watching Elon Musk take over Twitter or if I’m having fun watching it all.
Like Musk I am a Twitter addict. I’ve been a power user for the last several years as it was the hottest ticket in town as the media circus around America’s partisan emotional meltdown fomented in the wake of Trump’s presidency. If you were interested in news then Twitter was the place to be from about 2016 onwards.
The funny it is that I’ve had access to Twitter since basically day one but was never a consistent user. A friend was an early employee (so early he went to work for the podcast company) while I got to watch it all play out from the start it didn’t really capture my personal usage for sometime.
I absolutely wasn’t a power user in the early years. I was much more interested in blogging at the time. I ran an advertising network for bloggers and was absolutely obsessed with media. Media was much more interested in WordPress and subsequently Tumblr than it was in Twitter. And I wanted to be where media spent it’s time. Media took a while to really cotton into Twitter.
I was so disinterested in Twitter I didn’t even keep my original handle. I went for years without really being an active participant on the platform as a user. Which was ironic as I did quite a bit of advertising on Twitter.
When I sold my advertising network Coutorture, I decided I needed a corporate job to level up my skills. I ended doing advertising buys and heavy integrations with Twitter as I first went to an agency and then eventually brand side as an advertiser. I was no joke the first brand to live tweet the Super Bowl.
I was a director at an agency that ran digital for Pepsi and I ended up as the voice of Sobe. I was embarrassingly Lee the Lizard during the Super Bowl. At the same time I was also running a second Twitter account for Pepsi based on an SNL skit called PepSuber. We thought it needed to be live tweeted for maximum effect. No joke I was on a conference call with Lorne Michaels at 2am the night before the Super Bowl. The absolute coolest thing I did on Twitter though was probably the first Twitter aggregator. Through my friend I got access to the Twitter API and built a dashboard called Tweefreshing for Pepsi. It was Pepsi integrating all the best tweets of the day for you. It lasted like a day before it got abused. I know simpler times right?
Twitter has gone through a lot of ups and downs as an advertising destination and as a nexus for power and users. It’s always been a circus. It’s never really managed to grow up as a destination for advertisers. I don’t know where it’s going and this is clearly a nostalgia post for me. But over time it won me over. I went from a bystander to an advertiser to a power user. And I remain hopeful it will find a way to remain the greatest show on earth.