Nowadays, instead of reading to their kids and opening their minds to the wonders of the human imagination, parents hold cameras in their children’s faces and try to provoke them into doing something viral. Case in point is “Sadie doesn’t want to grow up,” which could easily be retitled, “Parents wants tons and tons of views.” In it, young Sadie adorably weeps at the thought of her younger brother growing up and having his cuteness destroyed by stage 4 acne and eventually liver disease. She hugs him as he ignorantly smiles at his big sisters existential pain. You can practically hear her parents high fiving in the background.
It’s hard out here for a smoker. In an ever health-conscious world of kale shakes and morning pilates, cigarettes seem more like a lifestyle throwback than the glowing beacons of cool once idolised in cinema, TV and advertising. Anti-smoking PSAs force users to confront horrific images of blackened lungs and cancerous tumors on a regular basis, and as more and more locations become smoke-free, the small band of stragglers lighting up outside bars and clubs is becoming even smaller. It’s no wonder that many users are choosing to opt out, with the number of American cigarette smokers dropping by 12.6% between 2009 and 2012. A growing number of unsatisfied consumers are searching for a replacement- the same hit without the bad breath or toxic smoke. That’s where the cigarette alternative movement comes in.
Smokeless alternatives like snuff and chewing tobacco have been around long before the advent of the cigarette itself, but the unappealing spitting caused by both products mean neither have caught on with urban tastemakers. Fast forward to 2003, when Chinese developer Hon Lik invented the e-cigarette. Unlike their mainstream counterparts, e-cigarettes don’t actually contain any tobacco. Instead, drawing on the so-called “vape pen” heats up a liquid nicotine solution, creating an inhalable steam.
Some consumers like e-cigarettes because of their cleanliness. They don’t leave a lasting smell, produce no ash and leave no butts once you’re done. As Ryan Sutton wrote for Eater, ‘e-cigarettes are about as disruptive to your sense of smell as half a squirt of cologne on your suit seven days after the squirt’. For those happy to leave cigarette mouth behind, e-cigs are a literal breath of fresh air. Other discerning customers like them because of their infinite customisability. If you’re willing to shell out for more than a $10 pack of disposables, you can mod practically every aspect of your vape, from the nicotine level to the intensity of the hit. A vibrant community of “vapers” has grown up around this modding culture- just check out Vapor Talk, a forum with advice and questions from thousands of American users. While high end vapes can cost up to $240, even the cheapest ones are incredibly economical. A 12 ml vial of liquid nicotine lasts as long as four packets of cigarettes and only costs $12.
It was only a matter of time before vapers developed dedicated spaces to enjoy their favorite brands. Vape bars have sprung up across the States, translating the URL community to an IRL experience. The most well known is probably the Henley Vaporium in Lower Manhattan, where vapers can sample almost 100 flavors of liquid, from banana nut bread to apple frost. The 1,700 square foot location was brought into reality by Talia Eisenberg, the co-founder of major e-cig purveyor Henley. “This was the perfect cause,” she told the New York Times.
But the Vaporium may soon be smoke-free. Local and state governments are looking to put a stop to the e-cig euphoria by banning them in enclosed public places. At the end of April, New York enacted a ban, with similar motions passing in Chicago and St Paul. At this point, consumers are looking for an alternative to the alternative.
A key product in the smokeless movement that’s unlikely to be banned anytime soon is Swedish snus. Despite being more popular than cigarettes in Sweden, snus is still an up and coming player in the American market. The small pouches of finely ground moist snuff have been around since the 18th Century, but only hit the Swedish mainstream in the ‘70s. Within a few decades, the number of male cigarette smokers in Sweden had dropped from 40% in 1976 to only 10% in 2011- less than half the number of male smokers in the US today.
Like American snuff and chewing tobacco, users dip snus in their mouths, but the byproduct can be swallowed, meaning no unattractive spitting. But best of all, snus fulfils the social aspects of smoking that many consumers fear will be lost with smokeless alternatives. Go to the hottest bars in Stockholm and you’ll see chic twentysomethings passing round snus’ signature packets. It’s a buzz that can be enjoyed wherever you are, whoever you’re with.
Swedish Match is the world’s largest producer of snus, and the Swedish brand you’re most likely to find in American stores. General Snus, their number one product, is most commonly available in the States, but unlike American snus brands it has moisture content. For the optimum experience, it’s best to stick to Swedish.
As more smokers migrate away from cigarettes, the smokeless alternative movement is becoming even stronger, but legislation is making some of these alternatives more and more difficult to use. Snus is one product you won’t have to worry about. While it may be hard out here for a smoker, life as a snus user couldn’t get any easier.
*This is a sponsored post.
Vashtie Kola, someone who is cool enough to rename herself Va$htie, is a New York filmmaker, director, DJ, artist and fashion designer. And as she’s managed to use her Swiss Army knife of talents to carve herself into one of New York’s quintessential creatives, there’s no question she’s insanely productive. But how does Va$htie get so much down without evaporating into a million incredibly fashionable particles? Determined to find answers, we recently sat down with her on our talk show, where she announced a billion new projects but revealed no secrets. So where does she get all that energy?
Well, it turns out a different video might hold the key to Va$shtie’s power plant. Here, premium coffee brand illy issimo teamed up with Va$htie to reveal her morning routines, creative influences, and secrets to being the dopest chick in town. Check it out to get a peak into Va$htie’s flawless wardrobe and have her assure you that, “anything that you want to do, you can.”
This is a sponsored post.
There’s a predictably balls-fisted post up today on garbage site Bro Bible called 9 Keys to Hitting on Girls at the Gym. As you might expect it’s filled with goofy, offensive would-be-jokes like “Ever vigilant for a hot to decently-room-temperature slice of poon, I’m perusing the room for talent from the instant I arrive” and “Strategically, I hone in on a single lady who’s splintered off from the herd…With only one, I’m not intimidated the way I would be approaching a harem, their collective shrill shutdowns aching to be voiced at my pickup attempt.”
Unfortunately everything about the post is wrong. Here’s the real way to “hit on” a “girl” at the gym.
1) Go to the gym.
2) Go about your business in whatever normal way satisfies your need for physical exertion.
3) Notice someone you find attractive across the room.
4) Glance in their direction briefly.
5) Go back to whatever it was you were doing.
6) Leave the gym.
7) Never talk to that person again because nobody wants to be hit on at the gym.
8) Die alone.
Va$htie is annoyingly good at stuff. She regularly kills it at everything she does, from DJing, to directing, to designing ,to dressing. She also happens to be impossibly cool, unexpectedly funny, and pretty and smart and *faints*. On the latest episode of Everything Is Embarrassing, “Downtown’s Sweetheart” hung out at the Bullett Shop to help us swat flies, pet puppies, and plan parties.
There’s nothing that feeds my soul quite like racking up a bunch of Instagram likes on a picture. My higher ones usually top out in the low thirties, but that’s because my pictures suck and my life is basic. I can’t imagine then, how many likes I’d get if I took a selfie with a friend, and THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND was there in the background, photobombing her royal face off. That’s exactly what happened to Australian hockey player Jayde Taylor, who was in Scotland for the Commonwealth Games, and saw a rare opportunity to break her Instagram likes record when she saw the 88-year-old monarch in the background. This of course is not a true photobomb, as some people have been pointing out, since Taylor was very aware of her majesty’s not-so-secret presence. At press time, the post is at 733 likes, which in my opinion isn’t enough, considering the novelty here. So let’s all chip in and help Jayde Taylor get over the 1,000 mark, shall we?
Was it Kimye or was it Rilke who predicted that someday, here at the crossroads of the death of print and the resurrection of Polaroid instant film, the moment would come when low-brow would look high-brow in the eye with the entitled, moneyed pride that only market share can bestow? Gone are the days in which The Great Gatsby, or even The Big Lebowski, trumped Big Brother in dinner-party conversations, not just in Portland but in Paris; these days all units of cultural currency are measured by the least common denominator. Nowhere is this more apparent than on television, nowhere is television at its boundary-breaking best than in reality television, and nowhere, but one European country, would dare to combine the upscale pretentions of a few aspiring writers of literature with the deluxe apartment in the televised sky itself, an American Idol-style competition with judges. And the country that has pulled it off, answering a publicist’s prayers and a purist’s nightmares, is Italy.
A new study lists Italian as the fourth most studied language of the world after English, French and Spanish. What’s its secret? It’s native to barely 60 million people, occupying a land mass roughly the size of Arizona, with economic and political problems the size of all of history. Hardly an imitable prospect. Linguists point to diffuse answers: 600 years after il Sommo Poeta Dante and 400 years after the invention of opera, Italy’s cuisine will never go out of style, the musicality of the language rivals any other, and Italy still boasts contemporary novelists, poets and essayists that the world envies.
Interestingly, if depressingly, this positive, passionate international perception of Italy-as-cultural-mecca does not extend to Italian citizens themselves, whose cultural consumption has been on a measurable decline since at least 2011. According to the latest National Report on Reading and Book Buying Habits, only 43% of the country read a book last year and of those, only 37% bought the book they read. The average annual expenditure on reading is now less than the price of a pizza at a restaurant, bringing every major player in Italian book publishing into serious crisis, including bookstores, publishers, printers, distributors, and writers. Minister of Economy and Finance Giulio Tremonti declared flatly that “one cannot eat off culture” while slashing funding for the arts in 2012. It was time for new ideas. Desperate to bring people back to buying and reading books, the powers in place thought about two crucial factors: what Italians did do, and what they didn’t do. Even if Italians weren’t consuming, they were still enterprising: Italy is full of singers and soccer coaches. And even if they weren’t reading, they all write. Thus the idea of a talent show was hatched.
The plan began as something in between The X Factor and Masterchef. Three cool judges, some posh intellectual guests, a futuristic studio set and quirky borderline-aspiring writers as competitors. And when Rai 3 (Italian Public Television), FreemantleMedia Italia (producer of The X Factor) and RCS Libri (one of the biggest Italian publishing conglomerates) publicized the concept behind Masterpiece, the world’s first writing talent show, 5,000 manuscripts promptly landed on the desks of the ill-prepared slush readers and producers. Novels that had been waiting patiently in drawers for years to see the shining light of national (and, who knew, international) fame. The first episode aired November 17, 2013, capturing a 5.14 share, which equals 700,000 viewers. While impressive for a Sunday late-evening slot, this turned out to be the best rating for the series, which stabilized at a 3.5 share, or 500,000 viewers.
In the preliminary round, aspirants read a portion of their novels in front of three judges, with moral, editorial, and presumably performative support from “Coach” Massimo Coppola, a young, smart independent publisher and former MTV host. The jury consisted of three well-known writers: Giancarlo De Cataldo, Andrea De Carlo and the British-African author Taiye Selasi—this last to give the show a touch of international authority, as the British-Lebanese performer Mika did for the Italian X Factor. Selasi told The New York Times that she had misgivings about appearing on Italian television—notorious for featuring women only when they were naked, dancing, and dumb—but she loved the idea of turning the convention on its head by connecting women to literary fiction through the mass media.
To enter the second round, each brave literary gunner had to obtain at least two of three thumbs-ups from the judges–just like in any proper talent contest. Round Two of Masterpiece focused on the Elevator Pitch, in which, after a 30-minute writing session, the remaining competitors had to pitch their work to a literary celebrity inside the elevator of the Mole Antonelliana building in Turin, which takes exactly 59 seconds to reach the top. A terrific combination, a metaphor for all of modern life itself: suspense and self-promotion in a time crunch. The final round of the show was entirely live, in which candidates underwent four tests: practical writing, storytelling, speed writing and finally an original short story.
The winner of the first season of Masterpiece turned out to be Nikola Savic, a tall Serbian, aged 36. Bompiani published his book in May, announcing a print run of 100,000 copies, foolhardy for a seasoned performer, unheard of for a debut novelist in any market, and yet another taste-annihilating measure of confidence in the power of the mass media to fix any and all cultural illnesses. As it happened, the book sold less than 10,000 copies–again, not bad for a literary debut, but nothing like the results that the producer-publishers had so desperately anticipated. Score one for the Italian reading audience-indolents, zero for the literary talent show-vulgars–a reminder that in some races, you just don’t know whom to root for. It is certain that Savic attained a level of publicity that very few novelists achieve over a lifetime, and even if this show does not revolutionize the Italian publishing scene, it was certainly an interesting attempt to renovate it, not to mention a new way to unite pretention with ambition, aspiration with execution, and high brow and low, for the dinner-chair and the armchair pundits alike. For the moment, the verdict is still out on what it takes to “succeed.”
Additional Reporting by Amber Qureshi.
Ernest Hemingway was born today in 1899. Unlike most of his later works, some of his earliest stories, like “Up In Michigan”, written in 1921, have fallen into the public domain, so we’ve shared it below. The story, set in a remote town in northern Michigan, is one of rigid gender roles, unsurprisingly, and is told in Hemingway’s characteristically terse style. But, atypically, it’s told from the point of view of a female character, as we watch a young woman by the name of Liz Coates, who falls for a blacksmith, have her notions of love crushed by the brute indifference of masculinity.
Up In Michigan
Jim Gilmore came to Hortons Bay from Canada. He bought the blacksmith shop from old man Horton. Jim was short and dark with big mustaches and big hands. He was a good horseshoer and did not look much like a blacksmith even with his leather apron on. He lived upstairs above the blacksmith shop and took his meals at A. J. Smith’s.
Liz Coates worked for Smith’s. Mrs. Smith, who was a very large clean woman, said Liz Coates was the neatest girl she’d ever seen. Liz had good legs and always wore clean gingham aprons and Jim noticed that her hair was always neat behind. He liked her face because it was so jolly but he never thought about her.
Liz liked Jim very much. She liked the way he walked over from the shop and often went to the kitchen door to watch for him to start down the road. She liked it about his mustache. She liked it about how white his teeth were when he smiled. She liked it very much that he didn’t look like a blacksmith. She liked it how much A. J. Smith and Mrs. Smith liked Jim. One day she found that she liked it the way the hair was black on his arms and how white they were above the tanned line when he washed up in the washbasin outside the house. Liking that made her feel funny.
Hortons Bay, the town, was only five houses on the main road between Boyne City and Charlevoix. There was the general store and post office with a high false front and maybe a wagon hitched out in front, Smith’s house, Stroud’s house, Fox’s house, Horton’s house and Van Hoosen’s house. The houses were in a big grove of elm trees and the road was very sandy. There was farming country and timber each way up the road. Up the road a ways was the Methodist church and down the road the other direction was the township school. The blacksmith shop was painted red and faced the school.
A steep sandy road ran down the hill to the bay through the timber. From Smith’s back door you could look out across the woods that ran down to the lake and across the bay. It was very beautiful in the spring and summer, the sky blue and bright and usually whitecaps on the lake beyond the point from the breeze blowing in from Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. From Smith’s back door Liz could see ore barges way out in the lake going toward Boyne City. When she looked at them they didn’t seem to be moving at all but if she went in and dried some more dishes and then came out again they would be out of sight beyond the point.
All the time now Liz was thinking about Jim Gilmore. He didn’t seem to notice her very much. He talked about the shop to A.J. Smith and about the Republican Party and about James G. Blaine. In the evenings he read The Toledo Blade and the Grand Rapids paper by the lamp in the front room or went out spearing fish in the bay with a jacklight with A.J. Smith. In the fall he and Smith and Charley Wyman took a wagon and tent, grubs, axes, their rifles and two dogs and went on a trip to the pine plains beyond Vanderbilt deer hunting. Liz and Mrs. Smith were cooking for four days for them before they started. Liz wanted to make something special for Jim to take but she didn’t finally because she was afraid to ask Mrs. Smith for the eggs and flour and afraid if she bought them Mrs. Smith would catch her cooking. It would have been all right with Mrs. Smith but Liz was afraid.
All the time Jim was gone on the deer hunting trip Liz thought about him. It was awful while he was gone. She couldn’t sleep well from thinking about him but she discovered it was fun to think about him too. If she let herself go it was better. The night before they were to come back she didn’t sleep at all because it was all mixed up in a dream about not sleeping and really not sleeping. When she saw the wagon coming down the she felt weak and sick sort of inside. She couldn’t wait till she saw Jim and it seemed as though everything would be all right when he came. The wagon stopped outside under the big elm and Mrs. Smith and Liz went out. All the men had beards and there were three deer in the back of the wagon, their thin legs sticking stiff over the edge of the wagon box. Mrs. Smith kissed Alonzo and he hugged her. Jim said “Hello, Liz,” and grinned. Liz hadn’t known just what would happen when Jim got back but she was sure it would be something. Nothing had happened. The men were just home, that was all. Jim pulled the burlap sacks off the deer and Liz looked at them. One was a big buck. It was stiff and hard to lift out of the wagon.
“Did you shoot it, Jim?” Liz asked.
“Yeah. Ain’t it a beauty?” Jim got it onto his back to carry it to the smokehouse.
That night Charley Wyman stayed to supper at Smith’s. It was too late to get back to Charlevoix. The men washed up and waited in the front room for supper.
“Ain’t there something left in that crock, Jimmy?” A.J. Smith asked, and Jim went out to the wagon in the barn and fetched in the jug of whiskey the men had taken hunting with them. It was a four gallon jug and there was quite a little slopped back and forth in the bottom. Jim took a long pull on his way back to the house. It was hard to lift such a big jug up to drink out of it. Some of the whiskey ran down on his shirt front. The two men smiled when Jim came in with the jug. A.J. Smith sent for glasses and Liz brought them. A.J. poured out three big shots.
“Well, here’s looking at you, A.J.,” said Charley Wyman.
“That damn big buck, Jimmy,” said A.J.
“Here’s all the ones we missed, A.J.,” said Jim, and downed his liquor.
“Tastes good to a man.”
“Nothing like it this time of year for what ails you.”
“How about another, boys?”
“Here’s how, A.J.”
“Down the creek, boys.”
“Here’s to next year.”
Jim began to feel great. He loved the taste and the feel of whiskey. He was glad to be back to a comfortable bed and warm food and the shop. He had another drink. The men came in to supper feeling hilarious but acting very respectable. Liz sat at the table after she put on the food and ate with the family. It was a good dinner. The men ate seriously. After supper they went into the front room again and Liz cleaned up with Mrs. Smith. Then Mrs. Smith went upstairs and pretty soon Smith came out and went upstairs too. Jim and Charley were still in the front room. Liz was sitting in the kitchen next to the stove pretending to read a book and thinking about Jim. She didn’t want to go to bed yet because she knew Jim would be coming out and she wanted to see him as he went out so she could take the way he looked up to bed with her.
She was thinking about him hard and then Jim came out. His eyes were shining and his hair was a little rumpled. Liz looked down at her book. Jim came over back of her chair and stood there and she could feel him breathing and then he put his arms around her. Her breasts felt plump and firm and the nipples were erect under his hands. Liz was terribly frightened, no one had ever touched her, but she thought, “He’s come to me finally. He’s really come.”
She held herself stiff because she was so frightened and did not know anything else to do and then Jim held her tight against the chair and kissed her. It was such a sharp, aching, hurting feeling that she thought she couldn’t stand it. She felt Jim right through the back of the chair and she couldn’t stand it and then something clicked inside of her and the feeling was warmer and softer. Jim held her tight hard against the chair and she wanted it now and Jim whispered, “Come on for a walk.”
Liz took her coat off the peg on the kitchen wall and they went out the door. Jim had his arm around her and every little way they stopped and pressed against each other and Jim kissed her. There was no moon and they walked ankle-deep in the sandy road through the trees down to the dock and the warehouse on the bay. The water was lapping in the piles and the point was dark across the bay. It was cold but Liz was hot all over from being with Jim. They sat down in the shelter of the warehouse and Jim pulled Liz close to him. She was frightened. One of Jim’s hands went inside her dress and stroked over her breast and the other hand was in her lap. She was very frightened and didn’t know how he was going to go about things but she snuggled close to him. Then the hand that felt so big in her lap went away and was on her leg and started to move up it.
“Don’t, Jim,” Liz said. Jim slid the hand further up.
“You musn’t, Jim. You musn’t.” Neither Jim nor Jim’s big hand paid any attention to her.
The boards were hard. Jim had her dress up and was trying to do something to her. She was frightened but she wanted it. She had to have it but it frightened her.
“You musn’t do it, Jim. You musn’t.”
“I got to. I’m going to. You know we got to.”
“No we haven’t, Jim. We ain’t got to. Oh, it isn’t right. Oh, it’s so big and it hurts so. You can’t. Oh, Jim. Jim. Oh.”
The hemlock planks of the dock were hard and splintery and cold and Jim was heavy on her and he had hurt her. Liz pushed him, she was so uncomfortable and cramped. Jim was asleep. He wouldn’t move. She worked out from under him and sat up and straightened her skirt and coat and tried to do something with her hair. Jim was sleeping with his mouth a little open. Liz leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He was still asleep. She lifted his head a little and shook it. He rolled his head over and swallowed. Liz started to cry. She walked over to the edge of the dock and looked down to the water. There was a mist coming up from the bay. She was cold and miserable and everything felt gone. She walked back to where Jim was lying and shook him once more to make sure. She was crying.
“Jim,” she said. “Jim. Please, Jim.”
Jim stirred and curled a little tighter. Liz took off her coat and leaned over and covered him with it. She tucked it around him neatly and carefully. Then she walked across the dock and up the steep sandy road to go to bed. A cold mist was coming up through the woods from the bay.
BEWARE: the post-punk band of boys called Eagulls aren’t what they seem! Their music is intense, their videos are dark, and their shows are chaotic, but in person they’re sweet and sincere (unless they’re making fun of us and we just can’t catch it through their delightful accents). They glamoured us on the new episode of Everything is Embarrassing, which is more embarrassing than usual, since we got locked out of our own set (the dearly missed BULLETT Shop). We spent several sweaty hours scouting the city for a shady tree to film underneath, until we realized trees don’t have outlets. Luckily, Black Tree NYC does and let us film there instead. (The Black Tree folks are as generous as their sandwiches are delicious).
Four years ago today Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom posted the first picture to the site. Can you guess what it was of?
OK, have you registered your guess? Have you printed out and signed your official guess form, had it notarized and sealed? Are you confident in your guess? There are a few different directions you could’ve gone here. Maybe rethink it? No. It’s too late for that now. You’ve walked down this path and there’s no turning back. It’s a metaphor for life, really. We make choices and we like with them, for good or ill, and we grow and learn. Or, more likely, we do not. We go on making dumb choices until the final choice we’re given in our odd eighty years or so on earth: we choose to stop living. We die.
Anyway, the first Instagram ever? Was it a plate of brunch? Was it hot dog legs on the beach? Was it someone’s dumb-ass face?
It was not.
It was a dog. Also a foot. Thus setting the tone for Instagram for years to come.