Who wants to look at Facebook without text, I asked, when Instagram was launched. Who wants to look at Twitter with pictures, I asked? Why am I am hobo eating beans out of a can over a tire fire, I’ll be asking next year, because man I am bad at forecasting tech trends. Instagram has taken over the world, literally, with 150 million or so people ignoring their friends and uploading more than 55 million photos a day. That’s a lot of lattes and beach knees.
The company announced a few of their superlatives from 2013 today, including the most popular spots to take photos from. Here’s the list:
Siam Paragon (สยามพารากอน) shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand
Times Square, New York
Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas
Disney World Florida
Staples Center, Los Angeles
Central Park, New York
Your Mom’s Bedroom
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) ท่าอากาศยานสุวรรณภูมิ, Bangkok, Thailand
The High Line, New York
Ok, I made one of those up. It’s Disneyland, who the eff goes there?
Here’s the list of most Instagrammy cities themselves:
New York City, NY, USA
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Justin Biebertown, Canada
São Paulo, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
San Diego, CA, USA
Las Vegas, NV, USA
San Francisco, CA, USA
That all makes sense.
And here is the most popular Instagram of the year, also taken at your mom’s house, with almost 1.5 million likes.
On June 15, a 16 year old Texas man, or boy, depending on how sensitive you are to the travails of growing up wealthy, plowed his speeding pick up truck into four human beings, smashing them to death. This week Ethan Couch was sentenced to 0 years of prison for the crime. Nine other people were injured in the crash.
The judge, instead, opted for ten years probation.
Part of his defense, as supported by psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller, was that Couch was too coddled to be held responsible for his actions. Also he was white. He didn’t say that part but it was sort of implied, right?
Miller said Couch’s parents gave him “freedoms no young person should have.” He called Couch a product of “affluenza,” where his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.
He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Miller said Couch’s parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed, 14-year-old girl.
Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at age 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy.
At the time of the fatal wreck, Couch had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, three times the legal limit of .08 for an adult. WFAA Texas
It’s a pretty shocking, outrageous, and horrifying story, right? Unless you considered the millions of others times throughout the history of the world in which the well-off were held to different standards than the rest of us under the criminal justice system. Let this be a lesson to kids out there everywhere: Drunk driving is bad. But not as bad if your parents are pushovers. (h/t and image via)
Another year, another existential void that we tried to pump fun, engaging, and hopefully interesting content into. Looking back on some of the stories we published in 2013, we’d like to think we succeeded, hopefully.
We All Know Who Invented #GhettoGoth (Hint: It Wasn’t Rihanna)
“Rihanna’s recent adoption of #GhettoGoth is a garish illustrator of this creative shadow economy; it seems strange that anyone who spends time in NYC, wears Hood By Air and tours with A$AP would have no knowledge of GHE20G0TH1K, a party and conceptpioneered in large part by its founder (and DJ) Venus X.”
Going to Coachella? You’re a Loser and Part of the Problem and Probably Fat
“The first installment of the two weekend-long Coachella music-related-music-brand-music-festival-product is approaching, and everyone basic that you know is excited. Did you book your tickets yet? Plan your outfit? Find a place to stay? That’s all super interesting, but here’s something else I’ve been meaning to ask you: Why did you do any of those things? Every single person going to Coachella is a fucking loser, and part of the problem, and probably fat, too.”
Tavi Gevinson: The Like, Role Model or Whatever
“Tavi Gevinson wears voices like she wears clothes: no matter what she puts on, it becomes her. Her range is teenage, spanning from disaffected like Daria to true Belieber, sometimes within a matter of syllables. When she fangirls, which is often, she’ll trill until she’s short of breath.”
Kendrick Lamar Goes Straight Outta Compton and Into the Spotlight
“For someone who once rapped, “Sometimes I need to be alone,” Lamar rarely is. In person, you’d never know the fivefoot-six, baby-faced kid from Compton has reached stadium status. He’s laid-back, if not lethargic. His eyes always appear either half-closed or half-open. He is polite and speaks in hushed tones. He doesn’t wear the custom gold grills of Lil Wayne, the full-length furs of Yeezy, or the two chains of, well, 2 Chainz. ”
How to Not Die From Taking Molly
“Getting fucked up is great, but turning into a zombie is for losers. No one wants to play Weekend At Bernie‘s with their friends at a dance club. Pull your shit together, because while it may seem like it at the time, blasting off into another dimension is no fun for anyone involved.”
30 Harsh Truths for Bands Who Want to Get Music Press Coverage
“Having been a music journalist for over a decade now for publications great and not so great, there are a few things I’ve picked up along the way that may be helpful for you, a person who is in a band, to hear.”
Aziz Ansari Interviews Aziz Ansari About Being Aziz Ansari
“Aziz Ansari appears to be one of the hardest-working comedians in show business. Between shooting the fifth season of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, he also filmed This Is the End (about what happens when the apocalypse hits during a James Franco house party), lent his voice to the animated movie Epic, toured his Buried Alive show while turning it into a video special, developed new standup material, and turned up in a short film directed by his friend Kanye West. But appearances, as they say, can be deceiving.”
The Pain, the Pleasure, But Mostly Pain, of Fashion Week
“If I’m desperately sad and drunk in New York City, it’s likely because I’ve attended an industry event. Somewhere with an open bar. Somewhere with a crowd whose combinedwealth could send my whole “East Williamsburg” neighborhood through M.D.s at NYU. Somewhere I’m RSVP’d because I may end up publishing press that bolsters this wealth. On nights like these, I travel home alone, sensing the alcohol in my veins like a Venom Symbiote, and all I see is Rist and wrists and Rist and wrists and Rist and wrists.”
Forever 69: F*ck the Commodification of Sex
“I’m looking for someone to help me produce a series of pornographic videos based on high-end fashion brands. Alexander’s Wang, Proenza Squirter, G-Spot Raw, Michael Whores, Reed Jackoff, Rage & Boner, Undressed Van Noten, Chloë Sevigny for Opening Ceremony… Stoya will star in XSL [Extreme Saint Laurent]. Karl will voyeur on a gay gang bang in Caca Chanel. Two petite Japanese lesbians will fuck each other with a black strap-on in Cum des Garçons.”
Three Portraits of James Franco
“Franco’s ego is intrinsically linked to his studied insomnia. There’s simply no time for nightly eight-hour nonsense when you’re trying not only to learn, but to master, every form of creative expression known to man. He is considered many things by many people—an Oscar-nominated actor, an art world darling, a sex-obsessed filmmaker, and a leading voice of the Rx Generation—but who is the person behind the tired eyes? What follows are three portraits of the artist as a young anomaly.”
Jeff Bridges: The Last American Hero
“Life’s a trip, man, all of it. Wild stuff. Everybody floating down the bowling alley of experience. Jeff Bridges is just tripping on a higher plane than most of us. A man of simple pleasure, he’s grateful for the opportunities that have led him to this sunny cafe on New York’s Bowery, where he tucks a napkin into the neck of his T-shirt before laying into a plate of “well-cooked” scrambled eggs he’s doused in an entire bottle of ketchup.”
Miley Cyrus Is Under the Influence and She Doesn’t Even Know It
“Still, Miley (to be precise, “Miley” = the pop star package embodied by this 20 yr old nepotist success, not an individual but a product many, many people are responsible for making) continues to demonstrate a cluelessness w/r/t her pop lineage.”
Inside Macaulay Culkin’s Bizarre Art Collective
“Culkin, now 32, has what he refers to as “Big Syndrome,” a forever-young playfulness that calls to mind Everlasting Gobstoppers, the Lost Boys, and Neverland Ranch. It’s why he recently transformed the living room of his 5,100-square-foot downtown Manhattan apartment into a playground workspace where he creates art with the other two members of 3MB Collective.”
On Tuesday Slate’s Aisha Harris poked at the persistent depictions of Santa Claus as a white man, writing “…America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?” Her piece was mostly tongue in cheek, suggesting that instead we should turn Santa into a penguin, but there’s truth to what she says of course. Fox News didn’t take it lightly, surprisingly, with Megyn Kelly explaining on her show The Kelly File, which sounds like a secret folder I have hidden on my hard drive, setting the record straight. Talking Points Memo transcribed so we don’t have to listen:
“By the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white but this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa,” Kelly said. “Santa is what he is and just so you know, we are debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”
Kelly said Harris “seems to have real pain” because of growing up around images of a white Santa, but argued the article “goes off the rails” when Harris suggests that a penguin serve as a new, more inclusive symbol of the holiday.
Woh, good save there. Almost accidentally stumbled into empathy for a second. It gets worse though!
“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure. That’s a verifiable fact — as is Santa. I just want the kids watching to know that. My point is, how do you just revise it in the middle of the legacy of the story and change Santa from white to black?” Talking Points Memo
Santa and Jesus, it probably doesn’t need to be pointed out, but who knows with most of the idiots we have out there now, are not real. In fact they are of no color, because they are invisible and intangible. Although, I guess when you think of it that way it’s a pretty good argument that the were people of color after all, at least in the Fox News worldview, where anything that isn’t white doesn’t actually exist.
It used to be that whenever you wanted to send a private message to someone on Instagram, you really had no other options besides a Twitter DM, or a Facebook chat, or an actual email, or using geolocation tags to walk over to the place they posted the picture from and pushing word air out of your ducklips. But that’s all about to change, as the company announced today that they’re rolling out a new feature called Instagram Direct. Users will be able to share DMs and private pictures or videos. [Update: We thought it was coming soon, but turns out they're already here!]
When you go in to post a picture (the same way that you’ve been posting pictures on Instagram), you’ll see two new tabs on the top of the post: Followers and Direct.
With Direct, you can choose a specific friend and type a special message, and that goes only to your friend. Once that friend opens up the photo, their profile picture within the message gets a check mark, noting that it’s been read. Users can also like direct photo messages, and chat can ensue from there.
You can send Direct messages up to 15 people, and Instagram Direct also offers up suggested recipients.
When you receive a photo, you’ll see a little inbox icon on the top right corner of the app, which will send you directly to your new messages. You can chat privately one-on-one or with a group of people
Let’s test it out! Find me at @lukeoneil47 and tell me you think I’m good and that my blog posts are good and that I’m pretty and good.
As soon as you enter the elevator at Chicago’s trendy ACME hotel, you’ll notice they’re trying to do something different. The hotel, located in the Windy City’s bustling, big-box River North neighborhood, is surrounded by chain restaurants and hotels whose specialties do not reside in the personality department. But at the ACME, where said elevator is lined with album covers from pop and rock legends like Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen, personality matters. As you approach your room, you’ll notice another unusual touch: a small chalkboard hangs on the door. This is obviously the hotel’s cheeky way of adding some fun to the normally staid “Do Not Disturb” process. And fun is what my friends and I had. We covered the board with an inside joke that will not be repeated here.
The room itself is another indication that the ACME, located just blocks away from Chicago’s shopping mecca, the Miracle Mile, (the River North neighborhood, to be exact) exists not just to shelter you, but to show you a good time. A painted pop-art lipstick print is smooched on the bathroom mirror (it doubles as a night light), and giant hand prints adorn the wall. The furniture is retro cool, and the technology is state-of-the-art. Just outside the windows, in installation of acrobatic sculptures adds to the hotel’s irreverent vibe.
The ACME itself used to be a Comfort Inn, and it’s as if the new owners have done everything in their power to shroud the hotel from its rather drab past. There are small touches, like the “knock and drop” morning coffee service, which is exactly what it sounds like, to larger overhauls, like the Berkshire Room, a stunning, Prohibition-era craft cocktail lounge that dabbles in Gatsby elegance. To the left of the entrance is the West Town Bakery, a friendly shop that serves the best coffee we had in Chicago. The hotel comes with all the other amenities you’d expect from a place that actively tries to provide its guests with a memorable stay, but where the ACME really excels at is creating an atmosphere that’s both playful and comfortable.
Back in September, when Popular Science announced they would be disabling the comments section of their website, they became the envy of editors at many publications who’ve long wished they could do the same. Comments aren’t just a confounding hive of trolls and villains, they argued, they actually have an effect on the way readers process information. They pointed to a widely circulated study from earlier this year that found that uncivil comments, the bread and butter of any sub-article scrum, distorted comprehension negatively. It’s a study that gave voice to a suspicion that many in the media have long held: that opening up the channels of communication to two-way traffic is, in fact, dragging us all down into the muck.
That way of thinking is exceptionally misguided, and anyone who filters out comments, either actively or passively, is robbing themselves of an important counterbalance of opinion, not to mention a riotous source of entertainment. Always read the comments, I say.
The revulsion toward the comments section is commonplace throughout all corners of the web. The popular Twitter account Don’t Read Comments is a consistent source of black humor on the matter. “Whatever kind of day you’re having, you can make it just a little bit better by choosing to not read the comments” reads one typical tweet. “We like to think that we’re smarter than dolphins, but no dolphin has ever bothered to read online comments. Dolphins: 1, Humanity: 0” another. Only a fool would wade into the gurgling cauldron of racism that boils under any local newspaper’s articles, and YouTube comments section are the Wild West – no rules, no law, although Google has made efforts to curb that recently. A typical piece on the subject on Salon from last year quotes writer Caitlin Moran summarizing the outlook succinctly: “Never read the comments. It’s where all the world’s unhappiness dwells.” I could link you to dozens of similar articles expressing the same idea, like this one for example, but it would be unnecessary. The idea that comments are inherently bad is so entrenched and so thoroughly internalized it hardly needs outside support.
The fact that so many of these arguments against comments come from professional members of the media is particularly troubling. It’s a descriptivist stance toward the sharing of information, one that confines the way we communicate to a sneering, top-down one-way flow. Granted, as a writer, it can be frustrating to put hours or days of effort into a piece only to have someone waltz into the mix and declare all of my hard work invalid with ten seconds worth of hasty spittle, but to dismiss comments because most of them are dumb is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Yes, most comments are dumb, but so are most articles. Most everything is dumb. Why single out this one tiny subsection in the vast diaspora of boneheadedness? As everyone who’s been piling on the story about Buzzfeed’s “no haters” book review policy has pointed out, like Tom Scocca’s piece “On Smarm” in Gawker recently, filtering out scathing critics out of hand makes for a poorer intellectual climate. Every article in existence already comes with its ready-made army of Dorothy Parkers-in-waiting. And as we’ve seen with the recent rash of Twitter hoaxes, we’d do well to pay attention to commenters, so often the first ones to smell something rotten when they see it. Granted there will be a lot of “FAKE” false positives, but that’s better than the alternative that we’re heading toward, blindly accepting every other viral share that comes down the pike, especially for members of the media who should know better to stop and ask if something is real before we share it.
Besides, absconding from the scene of the thought crime is a sort of dereliction of intellectual duty, I’d argue. It’s an opinion-maker’s job to sort through slush, isn’t it? For every fifteen comments arguing that I’m an idiotic cretin who’s probably engaged in sexual relations with my own mother at this very moment, I’ve found one that might challenge the way I’ve thought about something I’ve written. Isn’t that a good thing?
Who’s going to tell me I’m wrong if not the commenters? Presumably my editors and regular readers already agree with me. That’s not the type of feedback that’s healthy to hear. It creates a vacuum in which writers are sealed off from the rest of the world, and leads to, well, exactly the type of echo-chamber most of us operate in now.
At a time where so much of our media habits are condensed further into pre-ordained confirmation bias boxes, shutting yourself off from dissent, even in its more banal and reactionary forms, seems short-sighted. It’s for that reason that I’ll regularly find myself rolling up my sleeves and forging through the comments section of my hometown’s tabloid, The Boston Herald. like Sun Tzu heading off to battle. Remember: “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” How else are we supposed to know what we’re arguing against if not deliberately seeking out the voices of our opponents?
Perhaps you’ve had your fill of political demagoguery online. Comments sections have more to offer than just that. The sheer unpredictability of any given comment section makes it a treasure trove of unexpected hilarity. Consider this gem I just stumbled across on a Rolling Stone article about how “Blurred Lines” is the worst song of the year. “This is coming from the magazine that has Jann Wenner keeping Chicago out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Please. There isn’t an ounce of credibility here.” What in the good holy hell does that have to do with the article in question? Nothing at all! And yet it’s blowing my mind with its absolutely perfect randomness. Is Jann Wenner masterminding a scheme to undermine the rock band Chicago? I have no idea. I don’t particularly want to know either, but the fact that someone, somewhere out there is stewing with frustration over this plot is the type of beautiful look into human psychology I never would have considered had I not scrolled further down on this particular page.
The human mind, as anyone who has read the comments can tell you, is a scary place. It’s also often a delightful and surprising one as well. That’s probably why Gawker has been trying to yoke the harness to the hivemind of the hoi polloi for so long. After years of constant fiddling with the comments sections, the roll out of the Kinja system has turned the commenters into the content-creators. We may end up regretting unleashing Pandora’s comment text box unto the world someday, but it’s just another example of how one would be wrong to dismiss readers out of hand. Websites that disable their comments aren’t only cutting themselves off from a community building around the content, they’re also cutting the rest of us off from a boundless source of information.
I regularly find myself skipping ahead on articles on sites I frequent, like the AV Club, for example, simply because I know there’s an engaged, informed, and yes, often frustratingly banal group of commenters I can rely on there, who might take the conversation in directions I never would’ve imagined. Too often with online writing there’s a predictable formula to a piece’s rhythm, where you come to expect the beats in all the familiar places. Digging into the comments allows you to explore the fringes, to think, in other words, outside of the box, even if it’s coming from inside the comment box.
And as for readers, claiming to never read the comments is disingenuous. What’s Twitter besides one consolidated comment section? It’s where we go to publish our own opinions, yes, but also where we hope to hear from everyone else. You can’t dismiss the commenters anymore than you’d dismiss your own opinions. The commenters are us. And if you don’t agree, then feel free to tell me all of the ways I’m stupid in a comment. I’m sure at least one of your will hit the nail on the head.
For all of the strides we’ve made here in America in recent years regarding matters of same sex marriage, still not enough you could easily argue, it’s important to remember how much worse off people throughout the rest of the world still have it. (The map above, via the Washington Post, breaks it down.) Just today, homosexuality was ruled illegal, once again, in India, by the Supreme Court.
The ruling reverses a landmark judgment by a lower court, which in 2009 decided that an 1861 law that forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal” was unconstitutional. The law, passed by the British, makes homosexuality punishable by 10 years in prison. Only Parliament can change that law, the Supreme Court ruled. NYT
So what do their conservatives in India sound like on the matter? A lot like ours, actually.
S. Q. R. Ilyas, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which had filed a petition in the case asking that the lower court decision be reversed, praised Wednesday’s ruling.
“These relationships are unethical as well as unnatural,” Dr. Ilyas said. “They create problems in society, both moral and social. This is a sin as far as Islam is concerned.”
Dr. Ilyas can go fuck himself. Unless that’s illegal too.
So what can we do? I don’t know, man. I really don’t. Naz, a gay rights and HIV prevention group, are the people on the ground there leading the fight. Supporting them would be a good place to start.
What a world. Here’s a picture of President Obama with British Prime Minister David Cameron and what appears to be Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt posing for an impromptu selfie at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Is nothing sacred anymore? (It is not).
Wait! There’s more drama afoot:
This Obama – Danish PM thing has quickly become a real-time soap opera: pic.twitter.com/bHExijwgeG
— Karl Sharro (@KarlreMarks) December 10, 2013
Heads of state. They’re just like #teens.
Photo by Robert Schmidt AFP/Getty