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Internet Culture Media Politics

Day 482 and Vibe Shift

A month or so ago a piece written by a New York marketing executive titled Vibe Shift went viral among the chattering classes. The premise is that we are on the precipice of a cultural change that is upending everything from politics to fashion. And depending on your perspective, this shift might include crumbling dystopian decay or vibrant fuck it optimism. Or in the case of web3 absolutely both.

I think the Vanity Fair piece on the New Right is chronicling one of the first emergent vibe camps to emerge from the vibe shift. The article is a look at the art, intellectual environment and personalities of the “not quite conservative” new right. And it’s a largely positive even glowing send up.

If you believe the Citadel is a corrupt institution and moral moral crisis then the Vanity Fair piece should have been negative. It’s a surprise that it wasn’t. Not long ago we were subjected to intense narratives about the dangers of nRX neo-reactionaries and it’s infiltration of Silicon Valley. It was a real and urgent issue that the center of so much money and power might doesn’t align with the cultural values of media or academia. If you don’t speak this language the Citadel is code for the left leaning creative and cultural institutions like Hollywood, academia and media.

So why isn’t it a crisis any more that there is a new breed of influential “not quite” conservatives? If anything the right in America has shown itself to be capable of so much more than just boat parades and goofy hats. Some of these fuckers were expanding the Overton window on peaceful transitions of democratic power on January. It might actually be getting worse.

Except now the left fucking sucks too. Now I’m not justifying fascists. These Christian Nationalists are trying to roll back modernity and pluralism. Fuck them. They fuckers don’t even have a demographic majority. So it pains when I say the vibe shift is showing the left as the worst version of themselves while the right is showing a new cultural ascension.

To a lot of normal moderate people the left looks controlling, scolding, frigid, and conformist. Everything from mask politics to gender relations has started to make the left look insane. It’s entirely rational people would be seeking a vibe shift for something more welcoming.

My theory is we are about to see a massive resurgence of affection for all kinds of conservative hobby horses. Especially of vibes that used to be the province of the traditional left. Everyone is sick of being shamed while they go about living their lives. And whoever wins that vibe war will win America.

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Internet Culture Startups

Day 479 and High Agency

A corner of startup Twitter was discussing the relative ease of getting connected to power brokers in different industries today. The debate? Does good talent eventually finds its way to resources? The contention from Roon, otherwise known as Mr. Wordcel vs Shape Rotator, is that networking is less crucial in technology than in any other industry because it’s easier to find a way in.

While one can quibble with how true this is for all populations, it is truer than it’s ever been. A large swath of the startup ecosystem is readily available to anyone on social media. We are less constrained by geography and credentialism than we’ve ever been. This is partially because much of the wealth in the current generation came from building social networks or software that benefits from openness. An excellent overview of this is why good angel investing ecosystems prioritize welcoming newcomers by Alex Danco. Most investors want to be available.

But it’s still a challenge to find high agency and high talent people and there are far fewer of them than you’d imagine. And proving you are high agency and high talent isn’t always an intuitive process. Being able to assess if someone has the capacity to build is one of the hardest job a capital allocator will ever have. Judging markets and products and roadmaps is much easier than discerning if someone has the capacity to execute on their dream.

I personally use follow up as my first heuristic. This is partially because I maintain open DMs so literally anyone can and does reach out to me. If someone is able to regularly show up and engage with me and show progress they are better than 90% of people. Honestly go ahead and try! I really am here to help.

You’d be shocked at how often someone pitches me and then I never ever hear from them again. And it’s not because I missed the boat (this happened once to me this year). It’s generally because people are waiting for someone else to act. And this is where people fail. The first rule of startups is figuring out how to create momentum. If you are waiting for me to cut a check you’ve already lost.

I’d like to do a whole post on this topic but I’ve been struggling to get the bulk of it on paper as I’ve got a migraine coming on. But rather than put the post off, I organized an introduction of the subject and put down my first heuristic. Which is ironically exactly what I look for in founders and builders. Did you make some visible amount of progress no matter how bad? Did you put it out into the world? That’s better than most people!

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Politics

Day 478 and Extremists

Over the past twenty four hours I have spent time in two communities known for attracting extremist viewpoints; immigration reform and education. And I feel a bit demoralized by the level of discourse that I’m having in person.

I attended an event on Friday for an organization I’m excited about as I wrap my head around why the American immigration system is so broken. I wrongly labored under the assumption that our system was flawed and inefficient, but still had the occasional success story. Now I realize it’s a hopelessly broken set of incentives wrapped inside heavy emotional baggage.

I don’t think the average American can conceive of how bad it is until dealing with it personally. And it’s crushing our competitiveness as a country. In twenty years when our population continues to age we will regret not fixing it. It’s actually an existential problem for our country’s future.

But somehow the entire debate centers around comical battleground partisan issues where they argue for the least relatable shit. We will never find common ground if we leave it to the extremes on either side. We are letting a crucial issue get sidelined.

I experienced something similar on the education front as well. Families are arguing over truly crazy shit that you cannot imagine any same adult bringing to a classroom of children. But this manifests in small ways too. We fixate on the purist forms of educational pedagogy instead of being pragmatists about protecting our children’s sense of self.

I only bring this up because sometimes I assume that real life must be better than whatever discourse is happening online. That social media must be reflecting some unnatural tendencies we only see thanks to access. But alas I’m seeing these fights happen in person. In communities that know each other. But we are adopting some of the tenor and habits of “the discourse” with our neighbors. And that worries me a little.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 471 and Masculinity

Much as I cannot stand Tucker Carlson, the man has a gift for getting attention. I came across a truly marvelous advertisement for a new special he produced called “the end of men.” Which, sure, well trod territory if you are extremely online but probably new to his older Fox News audience. The ad is being mercilessly mocked on social media for being homoerotic.

I spent probably an hour this morning discussing the semiotics of this video. It’s just a fascinating cultural artifact of based extremely online masculinity. It claims to be about the decline of testosterone. But what it’s really selling me is an aesthetic about what makes a man.

It’s got the back to the land postlapsarian agrarianism. It’s got raw milk. It’s got meat. It’s got raw eggs being chugged. It’s got blacksmithing and lifting tires. There are ice baths. There are infrared saunas. There is infrared on dicks! Ok that last one was aesthetically out of left field, but it makes for a stunning Messiah image where a guy appears to be charging his dick. He is RISEN! Happy Easter folks.

All of these subculture callouts are speaking to specific niches of men online. There are men who promote raw egg. There are men who promote raw milk. There are the biohackers. There are the Stoics. There are the sun on balls advocates. Being based and pilled is actually an extremely complex signaling exercise.

Much of it in service to reclaiming and owning modern manhood in the face of a feminized world. Testosterone loss is it’s defining through line. I’m sure it could be argued that this obsession is part of the wider discourse on gender identity and the fight between it’s cultural and it’s sexual basis. I just don’t really care because men being pussies is kind of endemic and it’s not a partisan issue.

I myself am sympathetic to the based trad masculinity types. Their aesthetics often overlap in groups in which I’m an enthusiastic participant. The voice over in the ad is discussing hard times that are nearing, giving a little call out to doomer culture. I also believe traditional skills will be necessary in a more chaotic world. I think being prepared is a social good.

I am also a big fan of localism in food and am a drinker of raw milk and eater of pasture raised steak. I use cold therapy to manage my inflammation, which yes sometimes means ice baths. I schedule time in the sun to set my circadian rhythm. And yes I care about my own hormonal balance and rhythms.

I’m not a big fan of fascist curious fan boys like Tucker owning some of my spaces. It’s amusing that back to the land homesteaders have gone from being coded leftist hippies to now being coded as conservative and right wing. Rural living is now contested space. So is healthy living. And honestly that’s really fucked up. Health should be for everyone. But sure let’s laugh at how the video is gay.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 469 and the Discourse

On the one hand, the discourse today is horrible. Elon Musk threatening to buy Twitter is breaking people’s fucking minds. On the other hand, it’s the height of culture to be so singularly obsessed with a topic of such little consequence. The zeitgeist is full on psychotic.

This isn’t about free speech. Fuck that. No one gives that much of a shit about corporate governance that they’d super impose a civilizational problem like free speech onto securities law. This isn’t an episode of Billions. In except that both make me want to scream “that’s not how this works, not how any of it works” into the void.

This is all an elaborate publicity stunt to feed the narcissism driven logic of markets obsessed with celebrity and personality. Because everyone knows what everyone knows, pricing discovery is a function of lurching forward a narrative for the vox popli. Except everyone is convinced they are uniquely brilliant so they can’t possibly also be manipulated by the transparent agitprop. Yeah yeah sure I’m a galaxy brain too. We’re all playing 4D chess. Everyone is winning and the markets only go up.

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Internet Culture Startups

Day 461 and Remora

I saw a headline about how Trump’s social media site is failing. I’ve got no idea if that’s true but the media likes the story. This is playing out in the context of Elon Musk using corporate governance as a public relations stunt with his new Twitter board seat. Everyone wants to be an attention grabbing technology company even former presidents and aerospace billionaires. Because even the stupid stunt stuff in tech can be world changing.

I’m at the big Bitcoin conference in Miami. It’s a lot but it’s not fundamentally any gaudier than any other industry event I’ve attended in twenty years being adjacent to startups. Before my current stint as an investor I worked in fashion and beauty so I’ve seen a lot of excess. M I was raised in a boom time Web1 startup family. But also my family went bankrupt. I’ve seen the dark sides. I still work in tech. Like Trump and Elon I too just want a piece of the action.

It’s because startups change the world. Even stupid weird dopey absolutely cult adjacent shit can and does change the world. All these prestige television takes on frauds and crashes and the cult of personality nonsense miss that sometimes those freaks actually do it. Sometimes they change the world. Ok most of the time they don’t. See the current unraveling of Fast. 99% of the time shit goes bad. But to have even a little bit of the action of the 1%. It’s fucking dazzling. It’s worth being adjacent to all the bullshit.

I hold in high esteem the folks who work at the flameouts. Anyone who takes a chance and has it go bad has my admiration. I’ve been one of them. I’ve failed a lot. I’m lucky I don’t get punished for it. At least not much. I’ll never know how much shit like my gender or my ridiculous social media personality factor into that shit. Because I am always allowed to get right back into the action and make shit. Making shit is our currency.

I think this is why even the most powerful people gravitate towards startups. You actually get to make shit. At the earliest stages you get to be personally responsible for so much. Your actions have meaning. You contribute. You know how rare that feeling of community and camaraderie is in peacetime?

It’s a commodity so precious we let ourselves be led by girl bosses and fast talking celebrity thought leader venture capitalists. We tolerate a lot of assholes and psychopaths so we can be in a community of people that make things. It’s the American dream and the most basic human need all rolled up into one.

That ought to give you a sense of the cultural power and vitality of startups. That’s loyalty on par with religion. That’s move history big dick energy. And I think some people hate it I find the hate inscrutable but I’m sure it’s probably legible to those who feel left outside.

So yes boom time early energy big money hanger on remoras are part of any thriving ecosystem. And as far as I can tell Bitcoin has the manna to go the distance. Because everyone wants a piece of the action.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 450 and Editor Pants

I was chatting with one of my favorite girlfriends about this and that today when we stumbled into a strange revelation.I was bemoaning the lack of serious writing on style and she was sharing good TikTok accounts that get into the type of fashion analysis I might find enjoyable. You know, shoot the shit with girlfriends texting. And somehow we stumbled onto how we both became fashion girls. And well I’m just going to share it.

On my way to become a fashion girl I had some awkward phases but none more awkward than when I was quite sure that Express was actually stylish.

And nothing did more to convince me of this than their absolutely iconic Editor Pants. If you are an elder millennial you know this pant. Black and mid-rise with a mostly straight cut, it’s form fitting hug was the definitive silhouette of its era.

Now mind you they were polyester and not terribly high quality. I once set a pair on fire in my dorm room by attempting to try it on a lamp so I didn’t have to go to a fraternity party in damp pants. Couture this was not. But in my teenage head these were the kind of pants that serious professional women wore.

Now this has some consequences for the trajectory of my life. I absolutely thought being an editor was a serious job based on the marketing of these pants. Sure Banana Republic tried to convince us that architect was the sexy creative job. But for me it was the Editor Pant that inspired my imagination. It put the idiotic notion that I could work at a magazine right as magazine publishing culture was at its zenith. I remember standing outside of Condé Nast on a visit to New York and telling myself I’d work there one day.

So yeah fuck those pants. Being an editor is a grueling shitty line of work where you are constantly in financial jeopardy. Thank fuck I god over it when Condé Nast wouldn’t hire me after college. They rightly told me I wasn’t qualified having done something asinine like study economics at Chicago.

And to be fair I had an amazing career in fashion and I owe a lot to those pants. They were a generational staple and Express deserves a place in fashion history for it. I hope someone with actual skills in this space writes something serious about it and published a back catalog of their advertising. Maybe I’ll do it one day. And if you’d like a lovely internet friend my friend is Alexis Hyde. We have similar tastes though she’s much more visually literate than me. She’s an art curator in Los Angeles and if you ever want to buy art look her up.

Categories
Internet Culture Media

Day 431 and 9 Lonely Hours

I was excited for the time difference working in Frankfurt. It’s GMT + 1 which makes it six hours ahead of New York and a whooping nine hours ahead of San Francisco. I had this idea that I would enjoy getting in a full day before any of my American collaborators. Imagine the productivity gains!

But I’ve actually found it lonely. The silence of my social media has felt anything but, well, social. I adjusted immediately to the time difference without any jet lag. I woke up at 7am with the sun on my first day. And then I realized my California compatriots wouldn’t be awake till 4pm my time. Shit.

It’s not as if I have no one to talk to during these hours. I have founders in Europe and collaborators that are in these central time zones. But Twitter and my media news diet is strangely quiet in the early hours. It’s almost eerie. There is something disquieting about waking up before the news roundups hit my inbox. Like the world isn’t awake yet. Except obviously in Europe everything has stashed already.

I had no idea just how much my information environment depended on American filtering. It’s not that I was unaware that I was consuming a heavy diet of American media, but most of my news diet enters my feed through the East Coast media centers and is propagated through the lens of Silicon Valley. The Twitter friends I spent the most time with were clearly mostly American.

This is clearly an opportunity for me to branch out my information diet and my social circle. I’m grateful for the reminder. But I can’t help being a little sad that for a month I’ll be so offset from what I know and love. But it’s also exciting.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture Travel

Day 424 and Meltdown

The zeitgeist is getting stupid and panicky. Which means I’m feeling stupid and panicked. We’ve got folks speculating on nuclear war. It’s all very productive (that’s sarcasm) so don’t be surprised if regular people are on edge for no rational reason. I was surprised to find myself on edge as I know I’m being impacted by propaganda. But knowing isn’t enough to stop the emotional response.

I’m traveling to Europe for the next month and while I’ve got some concern about escalations in the Russian war in Ukraine, there is nothing I can do about it. If things get hot and a real nuclear meltdown happens, I doubt I’ll be any safer in Denver than Berlin. But rationally knowing something and emotionally being integrated on it are two different things. I’m on edge even though there is no point to it. And I am determined to continue living my life no matter the external chaos. I’ve had enough of putting life on old. But that choice has emotional consequences.

I realized how on edge I was when a daily drug I take for longevity and metabolic health, Metformin, was out of refills. I leave tomorrow for a month so I needed to check in with a doctor today to get it fixed. I found myself on the call explaining a bunch of unnecessary extraneous detail to the poor assistant about how I needed a refill immediately but I couldn’t get blood work tomorrow to prepare for a telehealth visit next week as I’m traveling so could I schedule bloods and the visit for April and still get a month refill?

Somehow this simple errand just completely set me off and I felt myself welling up with tears and anxiety. How had I missed this small detail and why couldn’t I communicate it normally? Why did I sound like some flighty woman who can’t communicate effectively? I felt shame and embarrassment overtake me.

I ended up asking my husband for help as I just sounded so loopy and stupid. The assistant didn’t need my entire travel itinerary and the logic for when and why I couldn’t get bloods done. I just needed the refill and to schedule my next visit.

I think we underestimate just how much chaos impacts our daily lives and routines. You can be a zen Big Lebowski type but you are still surrounded by friends who are ready to lose their shit over nihilism or Nazis or bowling Jesus. The world is increasingly complex and our little reactionary parasympathetic system is leaning on evolutionary hacks that are outdated for our current moment. Tigers in the grass are not the same as willingly doomscrolling social media to absorb someone else’s propaganda. Sure they both use pattern matching but it’s kind of an order of magnitude issue.

So be kind to each other as we’ve all been living through two years of chaotic pandemic angst. And now we are asking folks to dig back up Cold War fears. If someone has a little meltdown over a basic choice cut then some slack. And give them a hug. And yes I’m talking about treating yourself better. This shit is wild and scary and stupid for all of us.

Categories
Internet Culture Preparedness

Day 423 and Hot Takes

I am a prolific shit poster. I am a haver of takes. I am a full fledged member of the discourse. But Jesus Christ I never thought I’d see the day where the galaxy brains are feeling good about having nuclear war takes. Literally the hottest of takes.

I am in a preparedness Discord with a number of very level headed people. There are people that I would trust to help me think through surviving a disaster. But none of us are foreign policy experts or plugged into the state department. Nevertheless we are speculating on the possibility that Ukraine’s invasion by Russia could take us there. But we are just speculating!

Now I’m not a Bluecheck media personality on Twitter but I do know what it’s like to have an influential opinion. I’ve got a small platform and I try to use my voice responsibly. Or at least make clear when I’m shitposting. Because people will take you seriously. So you have to occasionally do a double take on your takes.

It doesn’t feel like most people are being particularly careful today. There are a few voices that have got things right in the past that are working though thought experiments. That’s valuable. But the bulk of folks are engaging in some terrible information hygiene. Opinions are being had. But also propaganda is being circulated and disinformation warfare is being waged. So far the West is being clearly won by the scrappy Ukrainian narrative. But who knows what will stick. So he careful out there. We are literally at war. Don’t rush to conclusions or to share shit that looks too good to be true. You don’t want to end up pushing an agenda that isn’t your own.