Blog posts

  • The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

    Reading The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens mostly makes me very glad that I first encountered the internet long before the term 'social media' showed up.

    When Pizza reached 100,000 followers on Tumblr, she posted a picture of a pizza box, takeout chicken wings, and an orange soda spread out on her bed: "pizza and chicken wings 2 celebrate." One fan replied, "CONGRATULATIONS GIRL! YOU DESERVE IT!" Another: "MOTHER OF GOD 100K?!?!" An anonymous user was unimpressed: "you only have 100k because of ur url." But Pizza shot that down: "uh no i had 93k before i got this url so excuse u."

    It had taken Pizza more than two years to reach this milestone. In late 2010 she had signed up for Tumblr, the then-three-year-old social network, and secured the URL IWantMyFairyTaleEnding.tumblr.com. At first, she mostly posted photos of party outfits - hipster photos, she thought. They were the kind of images you might find under the "summery" Tumblr tag: poolside drinks, sunsets, sundresses, palm trees, tiny succulents; a shopping list of the things she wanted to buy, if only she had the money. Pizza also wrote some funny one-liners, but otherwise she reblogged jokes, switching back and forth between fashion and comedy. She tried out new names, new personas, changing her URL a few times; after a couple of years, she went all-joke. By the end of 2012, she had amassed 90,000 followers, a respectable number for a Tumblr, a sign she'd earned a certain amount of fame in her circle - the teens who reblogged her jokes. She then changed her domain to pizza.tumblr.com, her followers started to call her Pizza, and her numbers began to climb. That same year, she turned 15. […]

    I can't help but think that one aspect to this story that the article doesn't explore as I'd have liked is the real money issue: not the one about the individual teenagers and the sums their Tumblrs could generate from one month to the next,1 but the one about about how much of the money the various advertising/affiliate marketing/sponsored content schemes that are supposed to generate as payments to bloggers isn't getting paid, especially given that apparently these businesses can so easily fail to pay up just when an inconveniently large monthly payment is due. 2

    Finally, there's a small part of me that wants to build a time machine, go back to 1962, and see if I can get this article published as a short story in Galaxy Science Fiction. I think Frederik Pohl would have gone for it.

    1. Eye-popping as these figures are from the perspective of the individual bloggers.

    2. I suspect that's partly because the story ends up being something along the lines of 'If you don't like it, sue us and see if there's any money left to collect once you've paid for the lawyers.' and that would be a very different type of story, but I'd still have liked to hear more.

  • Christopher Ironside's Decimal Designs

    Reading this piece about Australia's introduction of decimal currency, it struck me that despite having lived through the process 1 I didn't know anything about who had designed Britain's decimal coins. Thankfully there's a web site about the UK's transition, complete with an account of the (very British) process as seen by Jean Ironside, widow of Christopher Ironside who designed the UK's first set of decimal coinage:

    In the end, after months of to-ing and fro-ing, Christopher finally managed to attend a Royal Mint Advisory Committee meeting. I believe this had not been done before as it was feared designers would become tongue-tied in the face of an eminent gathering which included Sir Kenneth Clark, Sir Anthony Wagner and John Betjeman and which was chaired by His Royal Highness Prince Philip. Possibly by now the Mint realised that Christopher's tongue was seldom tied.

    He found the meetings he had with the Committee very helpful. He could pull out a pad of paper and demonstrate what happened to some of their suggestions. Thus time was saved. One recurring problem was Garter King of Arms who had to be satisfied with the accuracy of the heraldry. Christopher used to call on him for clearance from time to time which led to the saying in our house, 'If only Garter could be more elastic'. Year in, year out, the secrecy prevailed. Christopher supposed he was now designing the coins but he did not know. At one point, when answering the telephone to Alan Dowling, I said in desperation, 'Has Christopher won or not?'.

    He paused for a moment. 'You have grounds for great optimism but don't run up a flag. Nothing is certain until the coins are finished and have received Royal Assent'. This exchange sealed our affectionate later enjoyment of Sir Humphrey in the programme Yes Minister.

    1. As it happened, the UK's transition took effect on my 8th birthday. I remember getting a presentational pack of our first decimal coinage as a birthday present.

  • 30 Minutes on: 'The Apartment'

    I haven't seen Billy Wilder's The Apartment in a long time: reading Matt Zoller Seitz's 30 Minutes on: "The Apartment" yesterday on the bus on my way to watch The Big Short 1 reminded me why I ought to rectify that omission. 2

    In the Ordinary Policy Department of Consolidated Life, Premium Accounting Division, Section W, desk number 861, sits C.C. "Bud" Baxter (Jack Lemmon), the twitchy, socially awkward hero of "The Apartment." He's a nebbish who will grow into a mensch someday, after a long period of misery that we later learn is mainly self-inflicted. Bud loans his bachelor apartment to married Consolidated executives who need a place to take their girlfriends. He falls in unrequited love with an elevator operator, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), whose affair with top executive Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) is evidence of self-punishing streak as pronounced as Bud's. It isn't until late in the film that we understand where Fran's emotional masochism comes from - that it's part of a recurring destructive pattern of workplace flings that's gotten her drummed out of one job after another.

    When's the last time you saw two lead characters in a romantic comedy with this much complexity? When's the last time you saw a film that was hard to categorize as either a comedy or a drama, but had something to enthrall any thinking adult? […]

    1. FWIW, ‎my review of 'The Big Short'.

    2. Yay iTunes Rental!

  • The Trouble With Superman

    MetaFilter comment of the day week month year: The Trouble With Superman

    My favorite thing is Justice League interactions where Batman is being all growly and gloomy and Superman is all "I LIKE MILK" and, you know, Parks and Rec, but fighting robots and aliens and natural disasters.

    btw, I said this completely off the cuff, but now I'm thinking about it and it is totally true– Batman:Superman::Ron Swanson:Leslie Knope. They disagree fundamentally about almost everything, but by gum they are going to work together to make the world a better place.

    -Batman just wants to be left alone, has vast hoards of gold (wealth)

    -Batman is constantly nauseated by Superman's love of teamwork, but goes along with it because it isn't worth the effort to get out of it (only to do whatever he was going to do anyway, regardless of the plan)

    -Superman would 100% give Batman a present that allowed him to slam his doors shut

    -Superman often has to save Batman from his scary exes

    posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:04 PM on February 8

    Mind. Blown.

  • Concerning the Bodyguard

    Concerning the Bodyguard:

    Based on the short story of the same name by Donald Barthelme (originally published in the New Yorker Magazine in 1978), and read by author Salman Rushdie, "Concerning the Bodyguard" is a story about power, conspiracy, and the overthrow of a dictator in an unknown Near Eastern country. […]

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