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Fran Lebowitz on books and reading

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The New York Times Book Review recently interviewed Fran Lebowitz for their By the Book series. She mentions Memoirs of Hadrian as the last great book she read and doesn’t like literary dinner parties.

Q: You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

a: None. I would never do it. My idea of a great literary dinner party is Fran, eating alone, reading a book. That’s my idea of a literary dinner party. When I eat alone, I spend a lot of time, before I sit down to my meager meal, choosing what to read. And I’m a lot better choosing a book than preparing a meal. And I never eat anything without reading. Ever. If I’m eating an apple, I have to get a book.

Her answer to the very last question made me laugh out loud. Buuuuuuurn.

Tags: books   Fran Lebowitz   interviews
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samuel
1 day ago
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Delightful interview. I've seen Fran speak in Berkeley and she was tremendous.
The Haight in San Francisco
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The Best Pillows for Every Type of Sleeper

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Secure some extra snoozing with these 12 fluffy finds.
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samuel
4 days ago
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I just don't know where to begin. I want a pillow that repels beagle fur, that's what I want.
The Haight in San Francisco
StunGod
4 days ago
Good Lord, no kidding! (2 beagles here)
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17 People Share the Most Insane Things They've Witnessed at a Party

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crazy,drunk,Party,stories

Do any of these spontaneous chaotic displays of booze-induced ridiculousness hold a candle to the madness that might've been your St. Patrick's Day last night? Seriously, dude. That was dangerous. A 'holiday' for whatever reason known and praised for offering an excuse to boozehounds near and far to get mindlessly plastered...on a Friday. Anyways. Fair to say these well lit crazies won't be getting the invites back to the next party.

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Tagged: crazy , drunk , Party , stories
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samuel
7 days ago
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Not gonna lie, these were epic, and these days who cares if any of it's real.
The Haight in San Francisco
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The Curious State of Apple Product Pricing

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Another good column from Neil Cybart at Above Avalon:

It is very difficult to find a pair of wireless headphones priced lower than AirPods. In the run-up to Apple unveiling AirPods this past September, the wireless headphone market consisted of the following players:

  • Kanoa: $300
  • Bragi Dash: $299
  • Erato Apollo 7: $289
  • Skybuds: $279
  • Earin: $249
  • Motorola VerveOnes+: $249
  • Samsung Gear IconX: $199
  • Bragi Headphone: $149

Given the preceding list, a strong case could have been made for Apple to price its new wireless headphones at $249, or even $299. The fact that Samsung priced its Gear IconX at $199 seemed to suggest a sub-$200 retail price for AirPods was unlikely. Instead, Apple sent shockwaves pulsing through the market by pricing AirPods at only $159. The action instantly removed all available oxygen from the wireless headphone space. The idea of Apple coming out with a new product that would underprice nearly every other competitor was unimaginable ten years ago.

He makes a strong case that Apple Watch is underpriced compared to its competition, too.

AirPods are still showing a delivery estimate of “6 weeks”. Either demands remains unexpectedly strong or production remains unexpectedly difficult (or some combination of both).

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samuel
8 days ago
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I love my AirPods. I mean dang I didn't think losing the cord was going to be that much of a big deal but I'm now able to listen to music and move about my office with ease.

And now I don't mind having them in my pocket at all times, which is handy when I want to tune out on the bus.
The Haight in San Francisco
lukeburrage
8 days ago
I got some BeatsX and I really dig them. The price and easy connectivity and good battery life have combined to make an almost perfect product.
joelowrance
8 days ago
How well do they stay in when you exercise or are active?
lukeburrage
8 days ago
AirPods or BeatsX? I had issues while juggling but sorted them: https://youtu.be/E7wxvpQSOq0
kemayo
2 days ago
It's weird -- I never realized how subtly limiting that faint drag from the headphone cord was. Now I've experienced life without it, I never want to go back.
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1 public comment
joelowrance
8 days ago
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It is very difficult to find a pair of wireless headphones.... unless you go to amazon where you can get a set of bluetooth headphones for all of $14
kemayo
2 days ago
Those aren't "wireless" in the same sense as the article is talking about, though. It's listing all the ones which are earbuds without any connection between them. The $14 bluetooth headphones I've seen on Amazon have all been connected to each other.

A Vegan Deli & Grocer Has Opened On The Lower East Side

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Vegans in New York City have access to just about every version of food carnivores enjoy, whether that's street food, BBQ, tapas, pizza, cheese, fine dining, burgers, "butcher" shop items...and on and on. And now: "deli." An all vegan deli and food market called Orchard Grocery has debuted on the Lower East Side, selling sandwiches and pantry-stockers crafted without the inclusion of animals. [ more › ]
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samuel
10 days ago
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This makes me want to move to the LES.
The Haight in San Francisco
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Adam Curtis on the dangers of self-expression

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Art

Art is good; self-expression is great. What it isn’t is a substitute for political action to transform the world and challenge power.

Art is a very good way of distilling and describing the world and the mood of a time. Some of the painters who painted the wives and families of the robber barons of the 19th century tell you a great deal about what that world was like.

What happened from the early 1970s on was a shift, which said self-expression is the new politics. Self-expression is the new way of challenging the bad things in the world. But it can’t, because the whole world is actually based upon self-expression.

Maybe there is a new radical way of looking at the world. A new exciting, fresh way which we haven’t seen yet because it doesn’t fit with our preconceptions. Every age has a thing that it deeply believes in that 50 years later people will look back and say, “My God, look how conformist they all were.” You look at photographs of men in bars in the 1930s. They’re all wearing exactly the same clothes and same hats.

We may look back at self-expression as the terrible deadening conformity of our time. It doesn’t mean it’s bad and it doesn’t mean it’s a fake thing. It’s gotten so that everyone does it—so what’s the point? Everyone expresses themselves every day.

We’re all self-expressing. It’s the conformity of our time. They’ll look back and say, “My God! It’s a bit like they all wore the same hats in the ’30s. They were all self-expressing.”

That’s the thing we can’t see. It’s not to say you can’t make art if you want to do it, but it’s not the radical outsider. It’s not the hipster cool outsider. It’s everything. It’s conformity.

Individualism

The history of modern self-expression dates from the hippies. It comes into focus with the collapse of the new left at the end of the ’60s and early ’70s. Patti Smith wrote a very interesting book called Just Kids, which is a memoir documenting her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. She’s very clear that people like her are absolutely fed up with the idea of giving themselves up to marching with groups, because what’s it doing? It’s doing nothing.

Instead what you do is express yourself. You express your anger with the system in an imaginative way as an alternative to the failure of the left. That’s where it starts, and it’s exciting. You can feel the excitement in her book.

I made a series called “The Century of the Self” where I showed that in the ’70s capitalism went through a great big shift. It went away from this idea that it was just selling goods that are all like each other, so everyone looked the same and wore the same clothes. Capitalism reinvented itself and started to sell you a much wider range of products so you could express yourself.

What seemed rebellious to the artists was actually a reflection of something much deeper that was happening within the very power structure they didn’t like. Capitalism was actually becoming like them.

The interesting thing about our time is that however radical the message in your art, if you do your criticism through self-expression, you’re actually feeding the very power structure you’re trying to overthrow. The power structure you’re criticizing also believes in self-expression as the ultimate goal.

Capitalism is about self-expression; art is about self-expression. Art is far from being a radical outside movement. It’s at the heart of the modern conformity. That’s why nothing ever changes, because the radicals have gone to a form of expression at the very center of the power structure they disapprove of. So they’re neutered.

Power

If you want to make the world a better place, you have to start with where power has gone. It’s very difficult to see. We live in a world where we see ourselves as independent individuals. If you’re an independent individual, you don’t really think in terms of power. You think only in terms of your own influence on the world.

What you don’t see is what people in the past were more able to see. When you are in groups, you can be very powerful. You can change things. You have confidence when things go wrong that you don’t when you’re on your own. That’s why the whole concept of power has dwindled. We’re encouraged just to talk about ourselves and our feelings towards others. We’re not encouraged to see ourselves as part of anything.

But the computers know the truth. They see us as a group. We’re actually quite similar to each other. We have the same desires, ambitions, and fears. Computers spot this through correlations and patterns.

Computers can see us as large groups, but they’re glum and only aggregate us to sell us stuff. In reality, the computers give great insight into the power of common identity between groups. No one’s using that. What’s sitting with the computers is a way of seeing new groups, new common identities between people.

Freedom

Collective self-expression is what was politics. You express your unity with people by surrendering yourself up to it. The most recent powerful example of it in the US was the Civil Rights Movement.

In the 1950s, young white activists went down to the South, worked with the young black activists for years. Many of them were beaten up; some of them were killed. They surrendered themselves to something, and they changed the world using that power.

There are different definitions of freedom. The contemporary idea of freedom is very much an individualist one. I, as an individual, want to be free to do what I want to do.

There is another definition of freedom which simply says, “In whose service is perfect freedom.” By giving yourself up to the Lord, you free yourself of the narrow cage of your own desires and your own selfishness. You become bigger. You become a bigger person and part of something.

The idea of individual self-expression—whilst feeling limitless because the ideology of our age is individualism—looked at from another perspective is limiting because all you have is your own desires. There are other things that could free you from that. It’s a different kind of freedom.

Myth

I was reading a sociologist called Max Weber the other day. Back in the 1920s, he was predicting that we would all be taken over in a bureaucratic age. It could be left wing or right wing, but we would enter into what he called an iron cage of rationality. It would be a wonderful world where everything was managed, everything was rationally done. But what you would lose was enchantment. It would become a disenchanted age. You would miss the sense that there are things that are mysterious and wonderful in their mysteriousness. He said, “The price you pay for going into the iron cage is you become disenchanted.” I sometimes wonder whether conspiracy theories are an attempt to re-enchant the world in a distorted way.

It’s like religion knocking on the door and trying to come back in a strange and distorted form. A sense of mystery beyond our own understanding of the world. If you ever talk to conspiracy theorists, that’s the sense you get from them. A sort of almost romantic sense of awe that there is this dark mysterious thing that a rational thing could never penetrate. That’s sort of religious.

Maybe what’s trying to get back into our world is enchantment, and the only way it can come back in is in these strange distorted ways. The downfall of capitalism is that it’s become appropriated by rational technocratic disenchantment. It’s become an iron cage. It’s trapped us. Some new form of enchanted myth is going to have to come back in.

A myth that tries to explain the things you don’t understand and gives you a sense of consolation beyond your own existence. I think that’s really good. We’re missing that. Take a mythical force like religion and talk about things like power that normal, boring, limited, rational technocratic journalism can’t. It dramatizes them beautifully.

Melodrama is the next thing. The heightened sense of things as a way of jumping out of this failed rational technocratic cage that we’re in where finance says you’ve got to do this, or austerity says you have to do that. It’s so limited. It’s so dull.

The trick has to be that it allows you still to feel you are an independent individual. The hyperindividualism of our age is not going to be going back into the bottle. You’ve got to square the circle. You’ve got to let people still feel they’re independent individuals, yet they are giving themselves up to something that is awesome, greater, and more powerful that carries them into the future beyond their own existence. That’s what people are yearning for.

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samuel
11 days ago
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"You would miss the sense that there are things that are mysterious and wonderful in their mysteriousness. He said, “The price you pay for going into the iron cage is you become disenchanted.” I sometimes wonder whether conspiracy theories are an attempt to re-enchant the world in a distorted way."
The Haight in San Francisco
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duerig
11 days ago
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It is hard to understand exactly what this article is arguing. Is it that self-expression is ineffective? Or that it is unsatisfying? Are myths good because they provide emotional satisfaction? Or is it a flawed desire which leads us into the whackoland of conspiracy theories? Does the iron cage of the modern world lead to disenchantment because it rationlizes everything and makes it known, or is it because it fails to try to explain the unknown and provide consolation beyond the self?
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