- Today in Tabs
- The Cultural Logic of Late Tabitalism
The Cultural Logic of Late Tabitalism
Who is capital's little meatball?
Yesterday I gave in to my worst impulses and wrote a Barbie take, like some kind of filthy columnist, but rather than being shunned and mocked as would have been appropriate, paid subscribers rewarded me in the Discord with a thoughtful and well-sourced discussion of authenticity in art, the evolution of the (now fully antiquated) idea of “selling out,” and the clearly gendered responses to popular media artifacts in modern American culture. We will all in time come to regret encouraging this sort of behavior on my part, but at least I can share some of what I learned from the chat.
Willa Paskin, the writer of the Times Barbie tab, has also explored the idea of selling out at greater length in her podcast, “Decoder Ring,” mainly by way of the Oprah Book Club Franzen incident, which I thought I understood but it turns out that the book club only existed because Oprah decided not to sell out, and “The Corrections” only existed because J. Franz. decided to sell out. Wild! Paskin sums it up like this:
This is one very real end of the spectrum of the previous generations’ anxiety over selling out: a snobby, often explicitly misogynist gatekeeping on the part of people who are already wealthy enough not to have to choose between “selling out” and “eating.”
But on the other hand, just this past Monday Sara Crow’s 2015 documentary “Never Get Tired” about DIY punk legend Jeff Rosenstock and his band Bomb the Music Industry! finally appeared in full on YouTube. It’s a ninety minute exploration of what “not selling out” means to Rosenstock, which is: only playing all-ages shows, never charging more than $10 for a ticket, and giving all his music away for free online because he simply wants to make music and make sure everyone can listen to it, without employing music industry thugs to be an asshole on his behalf, or “becoming a t-shirt salesman.” It’s the complete opposite of gatekeeping, but maybe predictably Rosenstock’s first band breaks up because of his rigidity, and he and BTMI! labor for a decade as a beloved band with fanatical fans and positive critical reviews, but who can still never afford to quit their day jobs. They finally give up in 2014, right after releasing their best and most popular album, “Vacation.”
If you’re not already a big BTMI! fan I know 90 minutes in the company of a chaotic group of NY punk bros is a big ask, but this movie is one of the best sustained investigations I’ve ever seen of what it means to identify a set of principles and then try to live by them, no matter what it costs you. It also reinforces my long-held belief that some people1 should simply not be required to earn a living under capitalism.
And we can’t talk about authenticity under capitalism without going back to Frederic Jameson’s “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” Long before OpenAI paid Kenyans $1.20 an hour to tag images for AI training, Freddie J. was already worried about:
So is Greta Gerwig “doing the thing and subverting the thing?” Jameson says she can’t be, because there is no longer…
I hadn’t read this in a long time, but it is clearly a primary theoretical source for my own conviction that it’s impossible to subvert Barbie from within a Barbie marketing vehicle, so if you want forty semi-readable pages on the reasoning for that, here you go.
Also, a rogue sea otter is stealing surfboards in Santa Cruz’s Steamer Lane (“when it’s smacking so hard only two dudes paddle out”) and I literally gasped at the twist in the middle of this story. The Times is also On It, but with a structure that kind of robs the twist of its proper punch. Either way, this summer stays land coded.
And Page Six’s Mara Siegler had a pretty good time with “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. press dinner explodes in war of words and farting.”
Talk about local countercultural forms of cultural resistance and guerrilla warfare! Ayyyy.
Wait I’m sorry, since who was the president of fucking what? I’m gonna have to set that information aside for later, when I can find some time to cram a little more hate for that festering ghoul into my already overstuffed heart. But today the screen actors and television and radio artists join a writers’ strike already in progress, largely due to contract terms forged when “streaming TV was mostly theoretical,” as Michael Schulman put it in The New Yorker, leaving actors like the cast of one of Netflix’s first streaming mega-hits “Orange is the New Black” to receive residual checks in the low tens of dollars. As always, Hamilton Nolan is your go-to commentator when a labor thing happens:
Also Today in Soulless Corporations: A late flurry of Threads takes have appeared. John Herrman is at his spiciest, quoting "future former Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino” and speculating that Threads “is distinct from Meta’s previous efforts to absorb and replicate the success of other platforms (Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch) chiefly in that the company is now copying itself.“ Mike Isaac pointed out that an easy onboarding from existing Instagram accounts can give you the illusion of fast growth, but then what? Max Chafkin wondered if we’ve noticed that social media is bad for us, and maybe what should replace Twitter is logging off. And Cat Valente had some feelings to share on the subject of whether or not Mark F***king Zuckerberg is your friend.
Today in Nerds: A group of researchers in Toronto published a new method of text classification for natural language processing:
Their method is 14 lines of python that mostly just calls gzip.
Today’s Song: Bomb the Music Industry!, the “Campaign For a Better Next Weekend / Future 86” footage from their final show in ”Never Get Tired.” Watching this performance close out the movie ruined me. For the record, this is also the Tabs ethos, and why I don’t charge for the daily emails. I’m a helpless product of my time and place. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It’s a good thing it’s Gentleman’s Friday, because re-reading the above, I see we’ve managed to cover Frederic Jameson, “polemic farting,” and natural language processing research in one newsletter. I need to go lie down for three days. If you’d like to debate the deeply cursèd concept of authenticity in the Tabs Discord or get an email about [TKTK something???] from me tomorrow, please subscribe.