The Idle Brain Is The Devil's Playground

A damp, drizzly November of the soul? In this economy?

I took yesterday off from Tabs because of my hypos, but today I find the undefeated Jenn Schiffer perfectly capturing a big part of what has me growing so grim about the mouth:

the places we grew our careers and social circles on have all been damaged beyond repair by men who, despite having billions of dollars, look like they have the suds and the emotional intelligence of a paper straw 5 minutes after it has entered my iced latte. they're surrounded by yes-men with less-money who are about half as smart as the character i played in my early satire days. i truly hope they all find the immortality they seek, and also that they then get trapped in quicksand, respectfully.

And the biggest paper straw in our collective iced latte is Elon Musk, whose shallows we’re apparently still condemned to splash around in. See for example Christopher Cox’s NY Times Magazine story on Tesla’s frequent autopilot crashes and Musk’s “appetite for destruction,” which is a perfectly decent piece of reporting and writing except that it makes the fatal mistake of acting like Musk isn’t just lying all the time. The day after it published, Reuters reported that a Tesla engineer admitted a 2016 “Tesla video promoting self-driving was staged” in a deposition:

When Tesla released the video, Musk tweeted, “Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot.”

Has Musk consistently lied for years about what Teslas can do, because it sells cars, pumps up the company’s stock value, and adds hundreds of billions to his personal wealth? Or is it, as Cox wonders, that “…what looks like [Musk’s] self-obsession and poor impulse control might instead be the fruits of a coherent [utilitarian] philosophy…?” Is it, in fact, good to test glitchy software controlling thousands of pounds of fast-moving metal supervised by untrained randos on the unconsenting wheelchairs users and baby carriages of American streets?


In other regrettably Musk-related tabs, the Platformers Zoe Schiffer and Casey Newton and The Verge’s Alex Heath wrote a comprehensive roundup of what has happened at Twitter since last April. There’s not a ton of new info here, if you’ve been compulsively following this story already, but it does add some detail on what it’s like to be in a technical meeting with Musk (terrible), how he treats even his most craven sycophants (terribly) and has a cute Elon net worth-o-meter that you can watch drop as the article’s timeline proceeds (delightful).

Toot by, which reads “The vlampire slayer,” above a picture of a road sign that says “Bluffy.”

Slay, Papa: In an improvised speech in December, Pope Francis reportedly went off on “f***ing careerists who f*** up the lives of others” and “those who climb to show their a**.” George Santos, whose very name is a lie, is now accused of stealing $3,000 raised for cancer surgery for the service dog of a disabled veteran. How does he have the time for all these scams? It’s a good month if I manage to wash my bedsheets once, and George Santos is out there literally stealing from disabled veterans and babies 25 hours a day. Anyway Semafor also reports that “Santos was named by House Republican leadership to two committees in Congress: Small Business and Science, Space, and Technology.” Congratulations to us all. With the three grand that Sapphire died for, Santos could almost have afforded Sony’s newest MP3 player, which is loaded with oxygen-free pseudoscience and gold-plated bullshit ($3,699, sold out). But is it legal to sell blue checks to the Taliban? DOJ busts a tiny Russian crypto exchange no one has ever heard of.

The UK plans to make it illegal to host “video footage that shows people crossing the Channel in small boats in a ‘positive light’,” so delete “Dunkirk” from your Plex, I guess. Axios’s Sara Fischer reports that the stock trading app Robinhood has hired Josh Topolsky to start “an independent media brand called Sherwood,” so keep an eye out if you’re looking for a job for the next 10 to 18 months. NY Times book critic Molly Young is publishing her friend’s novel? Futurism’s Jon Christian checked up on the accuracy of those bot-written CNET articles. I asked ChatGPT to explain all the mistakes it made in basic financial concepts, but it just told me “look, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.” Nick Cave didn’t think much of the song ChatGPT wrote though:

Mark, thanks for the song, but with all the love and respect in the world, this song is bullshit, a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human…

Toot by Josh “cortex” Millard: “TIRED: dying of cringe. WIRED: anaphylactic schlock.”

Today’s Song: “Ya Got Trouble,” by Robert Preston from the Original Broadway Cast recording of “The Music Man” (via Alan Siegel’s oral history of the Simpsons Monorail episode).

~ Libertine men and scarlet women, and ragtime, shameless music ~

We got trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P but it stands for T-shirts. There are maybe a dozen left? I haven’t counted in a bit. Intern applications for Season Eight are open. And Today in Polly is still looking for your questions to semi-competitively answer. Email me and we’ll see what we can do.

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