Who Run Barbietown?
She Navidson on my Record til I House¹
Yesterday Lord Business observed the flagging Barbenheimer discourse and decreed:
So now we have, among other things, Alison Willmore reviews of both ”Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” In the spirit of carefree and unfettered play and invention that suffuses both characters, I combined them to produce the Willmore Barbenheimer Cut:
Barbie is a movie so sprawling it’s difficult to contend with. It’s rich, uncompromising, and borderline unwieldy, but more than anything, it’s a tragedy of operatic grandeur despite so many of its scenes consisting of men talking in rooms — conference rooms, Senate chambers, university classrooms, and emptied-out restaurants, all the prosaic places where the fate of the earth gets hashed out.
But then there’s everything else, beginning when Robbie’s Oppenheimer — known within Oppenheimer Land as Stereotypical Oppenheimer, the one who looks like what you picture when you hear “Oppenheimer” — starts glitching and Weird Oppenheimer (Kate McKinnon) sends him to find out what’s up with the girl who’s been playing with him in the real world. Like the rest of the Oppenheimers, Robbie’s doll believes that “all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved,” but he quickly discovers that outside of their plastic utopia, everything is run and defined by men. If it’s surprising to find Oppenheimer holding forth on the plague of the patriarchy and the contradictory expectations faced by women, it’s more surprising to discover that the movie doesn’t ultimately want to do much more than talk itself in circles about these themes.
But when Barbie does show the Trinity test, it’s a feat of monstrous awe, especially in Imax. A vast column of fire casts an unearthly glow on the faces in the audience, like a mirror of the characters onscreen crouched in the dirt clutching plates of welder’s glass to peer through. It’s terrible and splendid, a weapon meant to be so frightening that it would end the use of weapons forever — though, of course, that didn’t happen. Did Barbie really believe it would, or had she deluded herself in the moment to justify the thrill of invention? Barbie suggests it was unclear even to her until she’s confronted with the stomping feet of an ecstatic crowd cheering her name.
Are Europeans constantly dehydrated? A recent ribbon of discourse twining through the eternal digital braid of “Is Travel Bad, Maybe?” focuses on that topic, ping-ponging back and forth across the Atlantic until everyone is big mad and should probably just calm down and have some water.
Early American ice baron Frederick Tudor, who made millions shipping New England ice to the sweltering Caribbean, mused that once people get used to cold drinks they can "never be presented with them warm again.” That was in the early 1800s, and America’s love affair with ice has continued uninterrupted since then.
For a personal project I have been transcribing the letters of a British naval officer who visited America and Canada in 1905. Dining at Delmonico’s, the Waldorf-Astoria, and at grand dinners aboard American battleships, he remarks dryly (pun intended) that “One is always, on sitting down, immediately brought iced water & it seems to be drunk in conjunction with the other drinks. The 1st thing brought in an hotel is this iced water. I should have thought so much ice injurious.” That could literally be a judgy tweet from an English guy posted like two days ago.
The parched Americans wandering the Mediterranean right now not only have a hundred years of cultural acclimatization to ice cold water behind them, but a historic heatwave amplifying their desperate thirst. Regardless of naysayers on the “Travel DEFINITELY Bad” side of the argument and the Europeans who joke that they are hiding all their water to keep the Americans away, as travel gets more accessible and there is simply a larger, savvier population who wants to partake, more tourists are going to keep going to more places while those places get more hot.
Two hundred years ago the well-heeled young men of the Grand Tour were carried in sedan chairs over the continent to visit and vandalize locations they would’ve known from their classical education. It was an experience available only to the privileged few, a pilgrimage of perhaps a thousand or fewer men per year, but just as much a status symbol and a “thing one does” as trips to the Instagram-famous Amalfi Coast are for today’s Tokfluencer.
The vandalism is still happening, of course, and so are the laments that travel simply isn’t what it used to be. The thriving, American-dominated trade in ice, however, has been made obsolete by electrical cooling and vanished down society’s memory hole. We have swapped our role in cooling the world down for one largely helping to heat it up.
—Ice to meet you, Allegra Rosenberg.
A lot of elderly employees at Random Penguin are taking buyouts to finally retire, or as sentient brandy snifter Shawn McCreesh puts it, “this is like watching a Borzoi be fed to a wood chipper… one final convulsion, the climactic purge before a full generational shift in publishing is complete.” Uh, ok? I don’t know anything about book publishing, I guess, but I do know that if your editor lets you print the phrase “their golden guts,” that editor is not your friend.
Hell Gate 2023 annual report: worker-owned journalism moderately successful so far. Speaking of Hell Gate, Adlan Jackson was not a fan of the “Book of HOV” exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library. “News outlets as glass jars rolling down stairs.” And former Vox developer Casey Kolderup reflected on the end of Chorus:
Today I've seen a lot of weird takes from people who don't actually understand anything about what "digital media" has done, or what value Chorus provided to the people who worked at Vox Media or any of the websites that licensed Chorus during its SaaS period. A couple reactions seemed to indicate a confidence in a simple idea: that leadership retiring it in favor of Wordpress means that the platform was a failure. This is the most bizarre idea to me, that only a platform that survives until the heat-death of the universe can be considered a success.
Everyone loves to claim that if Isaac Chotiner ever called them up to chat they’d immediately smash the glass on the “Break In Case Of Chotining” box on the wall behind their desk, grab the fake mustache and forged passport inside, and never be seen by friends or family again. But most of his interviews are polite, informative, policy-focussed conversations like this one with NYU legal historian Noah Rosenblum, about how Donald Trump could (and will, if elected) warp the balance of power in favor of a more dictatorial executive branch. It’s worth reading on its own, but also as an example of how he keeps being able to book the other kind of interview.
“He Couldn’t Get Past the Herpes.” A “Both sides of a breakup” for the ages. There’s always discourse in the banana stand. Infosec Twitter is quantifiably dead. Damion Schubert: “In Which Elon Pays People To Be His Friend.” Luke O'Neil “asked thirty or so musicians and music writers and other friends I know to be big fans to chime in with their top five [Weezer] songs of all time.” Thirteen of them picked “Only in Dreams,” if you were wondering. Doomsday Fish sighted.
Today’s Song: Weezer, “Only In Dreams”
Music Intern Sam’s Top Five Weezer Songs: