My Long Links blog fragments curate long-form pieces that I think worth an investment of time, acknowledging that most people with jobs and lives and so on can’t read all of them, in the hopes that one or two will reward, Dear Reader, an intrusion into your scarce free time. Here’s another offering. But first, why haven’t I written any since December 2022?
[Hmm, there’s a problem here; too many of these links are to the New Yorker. I will pay attention to this issue in future outings.]
One reason for the Long Links hiatus is that I’ve been Workin’ for The Man. Another is that Social Media has been consuming a whole lot of my time. I don’t regret that time, because we’re at an inflection point, what with the implosion of Twitter and the emergence of multiple aspirant successors. The future of Social Media is teetering just now and nobody knows which way it will fall. Online written communication has strongly shaped my life, and it bids fair to impinge on the lives of a monotonically increasing proportion of everybody in the world. I care a whole lot and I’m not embarrassed in the slightest.
Having said that, this Long Links is going to be a social-media-free zone. I’ve shouted enough, on each of my (many) output channels, and (sorry) fully plan to shout more. We all deserve a break.
But before I give you that break, drop by CoSocial, our member-owned co-op Fediverse instance. I think something like it is the future. Now the break starts.
In recent months I’ve on two occasions had personal contact with the member of the “TPOT” (or “postrat” or “incrowd”) faction and boy, is it ever hard to figure them out. But a good place to start is to mention that “postrat” means “post-rationalist”, and visit The Wide Angle: Understanding TESCREAL — the Weird Ideologies Behind Silicon Valley’s Rightward Turn. I’m gonna say that all you really need to know is that Peter Thiel is mixed up in it and there’s no recovering from that.
If you look away from Social Media, you’re probably looking at some aspect of the ongoing AI/ML frenzy. Can anything new be said about it? From last April, here are Ten Things about AI by Stephen O’Grady and There Is No A.I. by Jaron Disclosure: I like O’Grady but have long had negative feelings about Lanier — he was a practitioner of disdainful Internet Contrarianism, which for some years was a cheap way to get published on prestigious pages. Still, both of them offer unique angles. Some, I agree with. Are they right? I don’t know. Nobody knows anything about the future of whatever it is the AI/ML people are cooking up. Including the AI/ML people.
Let’s look at the Middle East, where Israel has been tearing itself apart for months and months, under a government that seems corrupt and racist on the face of it. Israel Turns Seventy-five as a Nation Divided is, again, from April, but I just revisited it and the exact same people are having the exact same arguments in my newsflow, so it’s effectively up-to-date. Israeli politics are closely watched by many; those of its Palestinian adversaries hardly at all. Isaac Chotiner offers a really useful look in The Future of Palestinian Politics.
Now let’s have some fun, by which I mean Weathering Software Winter, by Devine Lu Linvega, also known as @email@example.com, easily one of my top-5 Mastodon follows. Not going to try to summarize it; follow the link and if it’s not for you, you’ll know right away.
And now for something completely different: Why aren't women having more babies? We should ask them. This is from The Line, a conservative-leaning but sane (can’t remember the last time I combined those adjectives) Canadian newsletter. Despite my frequent despair at the state of the planet, I think that new humans coming into being is generally a good thing, and that if people want to have children they should be able to. This piece offers data showing that women are having way fewer children than they say they’d like. The piece doesn’t answer the question in the title, but rather grumbles that governments seem to think that if they’ve made contraceptives widely available and cheap (obviously good policy) they think they’ve done everything needed to address women’s reproductive health. But anyhow, the reason I’m posting the link is the first graph in the article; the data shocked me. I wonder what equivalent US data would say?
Let’s hop across the Atlantic to Britain, and turn to the reliably-excellent Laurie Penny, who offers Dancing on the picket lines in broken Britain. It opens: “Desperate times call for Gloria Gaynor”. The UK’s right-wing governments have been shredding its social services every year for quite a few years now; it’s hard to appreciate how desperate things are getting from over here in the New World, but Ms Penny paints a compelling picture.
Now in the summer of 2023, larger and larger swathes of humanity are being subjected to the leading edge of the climate catastrophe. The environmental news is horrifying, whichever direction you look. So this is a good point to offer you, from last October, Beyond Catastrophe: A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View. Summary: Yes, it’s horrible, but the very worst cases are looking less likely. Doesn’t mean we should sit on our asses; what are useful things we might do? Well, David Klein over at Truthout has an idea: Sabotaging Oil and Gas Infrastructure Is an Act of Climate Heroism. I quote: “In this context, we need to ask ourselves whether the destruction of planet-killing machinery is necessarily an act of violence.” And so on. I’m not actually recommending you go blow up a pipeline (although I totally recommend How to Blow Up a Pipeline, the movie, it’s excellent). But I sense an Overton window on the move here and we should be paying close attention.
My readership is pretty geeky, so let’s quick-visit a few software blogs: The disproportionate influence of early tech decisions, illustrated by experiences at Stripe. In The cloudy layers of modern-day programming, Vicki Boykis offers an amusing, erudite, and irritated trip through building a modern cloud-hosted application. In ‘Go get your swag!’: Five days living large at a giant Vegas tech-fest, a non-technical Kiwi journo goes to re:Invent and his mind is unsurprisingly boggled. Dear Readers, I cannot lie, I loved the intensity and all the cool people at re:Invent but words cannot express my loathing of Vegas, so I miss it but don’t.
And now for something completely different. My twenty-something son is a fairly serious Smash player; enters and volunteers at tournaments, watches the big ones on streaming, will talk your ear off about the arcana of playing Marth. The Smash community is large-ish and self-made. Nintendo apparently hates them, because they tend to spend their time competing on decades-old games, and more generally, control-freakery around their brand. The loathing between Nintendo and the Smashers is mutual: Smash World Tour canceled after TOs blindsided by Nintendo cease and desist
The title speaks for itself: Why Are So Many Guys Obsessed With Master and Commander?
From the high-end audiophile press, a beautiful little essay about not listening to music: Why Not Listen to Everything?
From the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies (no, really), Chrome and Black and Dusty: Robert Pirsig’s Motorcycle Heritage. Pirsig, of course, wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was a damn important book in the days of my youth and don’t you forget it. I think its standing has fallen over the decades but it enriched my life and taught me useful things. The article is what it says; look past the Zen at the motorcycles. I’ve never owned a bike but I still enjoyed it.
Feel like a blast of healthy, cleansing, rage? Try The Haves and the Have-Yachts, an exploration of super-yacht culture, at a time when children in my well-off home-town show up to school hungry.
If you read what I write, you will already be used to me shouting at the world that E-bikes are wonderful things, life-changers, and you should get one. Craig Mod thinks so too: Electric Bike, Stupid Love of My Life.
Joyce Carol Oates is great. You already knew that, but also: Joyce Carol Oates Figured Out the Secret to Immortality.
That’s all, folks. Another reason I finished this up and hit “Publish” is that I already have a thriving new crop of tabs that needed to herded into the Long-Links slaughterhouse. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.