Beautiful World, Are You Legal Tender in El Salvador

A newsletter for both kinds of people.

That are truly only two kind of people in the world: people who are excited that it’s ”Bitcoin is legal tender day” in El Salvador, and people who are excited that it’s release day for the new Sally Rooney novel Beautiful World, Where Are You. Obviously, Today in Tabs seeks to appeal to the widest possible readership, so here’s Kate Dwyer’s New York Times report on the Beautiful World influencer merchstorm, in which Delia Cai says:

“There’s this weird sense of, in carrying [the tote bag] around, you’re fulfilling its capitalist purpose… If you care so much about Sally Rooney, you’d have to be skeptical of that, or at least aware of it.”

…a quote which successfully conveys that Delia is cool enough to be aware of and even have some of the coveted merch, while still questioning the philosophical underpinnings of the whole merch project and implicitly roasting everyone who got the merch and is just straightforwardly excited about it. She followed that triumph today with a Vanity Fair post about the book’s page 69 (nice) “tradwife fantasy” phone sex scene, which makes it clear that she definitely got a galley too. 😎

Not entirely fulfilling its capitalist purpose so far, however, is El Salvador’s “hustle-bro populist” president’s whimsical experiment welding his country’s already struggling economy to a decentralized system of expensive numbers that uses more energy than Finland and has mainly proven useful for doing crimes. According to Sky News the El Salvador national wallet system crashed immediately on launch this morning, as did Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies. Ryan Broderick offered the clearest analysis I’ve seen so far, observing that there is: “a lot happening here!!!

There has also been a lot happening around Sally Rooney in the run up to today’s book release, including a profile in The Guardian where she pointed out that:

…the way that celebrity works in our present cultural moment is that particular people enter very rapidly, with little or no preparation, into public life, becoming objects of widespread public discourse, debate and critique… and it’s in the interests of profit-driven industries to exploit those gifts and to turn the gifted person into a kind of commodity.

This is very perceptive and entirely correct, and The Guardian’s unfortunate decision to package it with Dramatic Author Photos from a four star falconry themed hotel in Rooney’s native County Mayo only underscores her point. I regret that last week instead of saying all that, I made a joke about Rooney’s appearance which contributed to this unnecessary personal “discourse, debate and critique.” It didn’t live up to my standards, and I apologize to Rooney and anyone who noticed it with disappointment. Jokes even tangentially about someone’s appearance should be reserved for only the worst people, such as Glenn Greenwald who really does “look like one of those dogs that eated a bee.”

The Verge’s Mitchell Clark has more updates on El Salvador, but meanwhile, regrettably: NFTs. A coder and generative artist named Lingdong Huang created a javascript library that makes random pictures of fish and released it under the MIT license, which says: “I don’t care what you do with this, and I owe you nothing.” A “team of passionate and experienced builders in the crypto metaverse” took the code and launched generative dot fish, yet another digital beanie baby Ponzi club where users could pay pretend money for pictures of pretend fish in the hopes of finding a bigger suckerfish to buy them later. Huang immediately called it “unauthorized plagiarism, and shameless financial exploitation of my artwork” which is at most half right, but the Generative Fish project shut down anyway, with a Twitter thread that located the disconnect in “the distinct difference between an artist mindset and a programmer's mindset.”

So the generative dot fish saga ended with relatively positive vibes. But have you ever wondered: what if the group text was a corporation? And what if “shareholder value” was measured in vibes? Of course you haven’t, because that sounds dreadful. Here’s an essay on distributed autonomous organizations by Patrick Rivera that includes those and other equally dreadful ideas, along with absolute gems of crypto-gibberish like:

The most common type of Community DAO collects blue-chip NFTs and stores them in a multi-sig. As we’ve seen with Party Bid, people love aping into NFTs with their frens. 

I’m sure they do! The original DAO was “The DAO,” which both launched and dissolved in 2016 and was such a crime-plagued disaster that it forced a hard-fork of the whole Ethereum blockchain; a bad idea that has been a fiasco in practice and is therefore certain to be the next huge crypto fad. Not the next crypto fad: seasteading on the short-lived cryptocurrency cruise ship Satoshi.

What If Reads, But Long?

Anand Gopal’s New Yorker history of forty years of war in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province village of Pan Killay is an utterly compelling story that exposes the twenty year American occupation as the worst Afghan regime of the last half century, at least for the countryside.

Way out on the other side of the content spectrum is Kotaku’s history of the first pornographic video game for the Atari 2600, “Mystique Presents Swedish Erotica,” and particularly the indefensible “Custer’s Revenge,” by “Video Dames” creator Kate Willaert. The story is unsummarizable, but for a little flavor, here’s the crazy wall depicting Willaert’s “current understanding of the labyrinthine web of individuals and businesses behind the Mystique line of pornographic video games:”

Etc.

Ben Smith failed to discover why the new Gawker exists. Hot Pod will be absorbed by Vox, where it will be taken over by Ashley Carman, while founder Nick Quah will go to Vulture, which is also owned by Vox, and start a new newsletter about podcasts. I’m sure this all made sense to someone, but congratulations to Nick. Mamma mia! It’s-a Frodo! 🤌 Seven years after launching, Apple Pay, the only mobile payment service whose name is pig latin for “Papple,” is not being used by anyone. “Everything is a Remix” remixed for 2021: everything reportedly still a remix. Today in spider babies. Today in bees.

Today’s Song: Goat, “Relax”

~ Inside you there are two wolves. One can only tell the truth, and the other can only lie. ~

What a day for everyone.