Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now

My latest for TechCrunch:

E-mail newsletters are so hot right now.

Some of the best known are by Ann Friedman, Alexis Madrigal, Dan Hon and Rusty Foster. There’s a web ring for e-mail newsletters now, but really the best newsletters are secret. The authors encourage readers to share the subscribe link with other people who might be interested, but request that no one share the subscribe link on social media or the open web, creating a sort of darknet of semi-underground dispatches.

But it’s more than just individual bloggers. Two or three years ago every site on the web was doing all it could to trick coax readers into “liking” them on Facebook. Today much of that focus has shifted towards getting readers to sign-up for an e-mail subscription. Just look at the prime screen real estate e-mail subscription forms are given at Mashable, The Verge and, of course, TechCrunch. Upworthy — the most “social media native” publication to date — goes so far as to put a huge sign-up form below the first paragraph of every story:


Quartz has a much loved daily e-mail blast (though the sign-up form is oddly buried in a pull-down menu) and sports news company The Slurve is going so far as to build an entire business off its newsletter. And it’s not quite the same as a digital newsletter, but the likes of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Medium are all sending daily or weekly activity summaries to give people an overview of what’s been going on on those sites, and try to entire people to interact. Just last week Madrigal declared that e-mail is still the best thing on the internet.

So why all this effort to herd readers into a medium that is supposed to be dying? And why are we, as readers, so willing to invite even more e-mail into our lives?

Full Story: TechCrunch: Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now

You can, of course, subscribe to Technoccult by e-mail, in daily or weekly form, here. I’ve even been thinking about making Technoccult an “e-mail first” publication, though I’m not sure a) if that’s just trend hopping or an actual wise move and b) exactly how that would work. But it’s definitely on my mind. I might also do something like make Mutation Vectors e-mail first, though that poses some difficulties with the way the e-mail newsletters are currently generated.

Normcore: It’s Hip to Be Square


Fiona Duncan:

Normcore—it was funny, but it also effectively captured the self-aware, stylized blandness I’d been noticing. Brad’s source for the term was the trend forecasting collective (and fellow artists) K-Hole. They had been using it in a slightly different sense, not to describe a particular look but a general attitude: embracing sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for “difference” or “authenticity.” In fashion, though, this manifests itself in ardently ordinary clothes. Mall clothes. Blank clothes. The kind of dad-brand non-style you might have once associated with Jerry Seinfeld, but transposed on a Cooper Union student with William Gibson glasses. […]

K-HOLE describes normcore as a theory rather than a look; but in practice, the contemporary normcore styles I’ve seen have their clear aesthetic precedent in the nineties. The editorials in Hot and Cool look a lot like Corinne Day styling newcomer Kate Moss in Birkenstocks in 1990, or like Art Club 2000’s appropriation of madras from the Gap, like grunge-lite and Calvin Klein minimalism. But while (in their original incarnation) those styles reflected anxiety around “selling out,” today’s version is more ambivalent toward its market reality. Normcore isn’t about rebelling against or giving into the status quo; it’s about letting go of the need to look distinctive, to make time for something new.

Full Story: New York Magazine: Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion

A simpler explanation is that this stuff is just the latest uncool thing that hipsters have made hip, and that the 90s are the new 80s.

(Though my own typical ensemble of a plain black t-shirt, bootcut blue jeans, black Vans slips and black Marmot rain jacket could easily be described normcore, and I justify it much the way the people interviewed for the story do)

(via Nathan Jurgenson)

The Surprising, Stealth Rebirth Of The American Arcade

insert coins

From Ars Technica:

The arcade industry is dead in the United States—everyone knows it—done in by a combination of rapidly advancing home consoles and rapidly expanding suburbanization in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The only people not in on this bit of conventional wisdom are the ones who happen to be opening a surprising number of successful new arcades around the country.

Adam Pratt, who runs industry website Arcade Heroes when he isn’t managing his own arcade in West Valley City, Utah, tracked at least 12 major, dedicated, independent US arcades opening their doors in 2011, with 10 more opening so far this year. That might not be enough to rival numbers from the golden age of arcades, but it’s a notable expansion from the years before.

“I have missed plenty of locations, but despite that, there really has been an increase over the past two years or so,” Pratt told me. “News occasionally comes along of a place closing, but it is far outweighed by openings.” And almost all of these locations are thriving, based on what Pratt has been hearing.

Full Story: Ars Technica: The surprising, stealth rebirth of the American arcade

The Portland bar/arcade Ground Kontrol was ahead of the curve.

Circus Culture, Or: Why You’re Wearing Feathers Right Now

El Circo

Our story begins almost 12 years ago, in a little town in Oregon, by the name of Ashland, where a group of kids came together to start a circus performance troupe called, El Circo. The group would gain recognition within the Burning Man culture for the extravagant parties they threw at the festival, featuring lavish fire performances, a large, geodesic dome venue, and a top-notch sound system that attracted world-renowned music acts to perform there. In a 2005 San Francisco Bay Guardian article on the effect that the various groups within the Burning Man community have had on San Francisco nightlife — an impact which now extends to the entire west coast’s, and arguably global, dance culture — the writer paid particular attention to the influence of El Circo […]

That same year, just two years out of college, I stumbled into the role of production manager for a newly-formed, L.A.-based vaudeville cirque troupe called, Lucent Dossier. Through that initial involvement with Lucent I would meet many other circus groups, including El Circo, who were by then based in San Francisco along with The Yard Dogs Road Show and Vau De Vire Society. There was also March Fourth Marching Band in Portland, Clan Destino in Santa Barbara, and Cirque Berzerk, and Mutaytor in L.A. As these acts grew, the I-5 Freeway became a central artery of culture, pumping a distinct combination of art, music, fashion, and performance up and down the west coast. A social scene evolved around these circus troupes the same way the punk subculture sprang up around the bands that defined it. For lack of another term, I’ve referred to this subculture over the years simply as “circus.”

Social Creature: Why You’re Wearing Feathers Right Now

(via Coilhouse)

Now is as good a time as any to plug my wife’s tribal fusion boutique, which sells many hand-made, cruelty free feather accessories: Siphonophoria.

Jillian modeling tribal fusion head piece

OK, so this headpiece doesn’t have any feathers on it, but you get the idea…

Note: I’m on vacation until August 22, so I may be slow responding to comments or making corrections.

Global poverty down between 1970 and 2006

We use a parametric method to estimate the income distribution for 191 countries between 1970 and 2006. We estimate the World Distribution of Income and estimate poverty rates, poverty counts and various measures of income inequality and welfare. Using the official $1/day line, we estimate that world poverty rates have fallen by 80% from 0.268 in 1970 to 0.054 in 2006. The corresponding total number of poor has fallen from 403 million in 1970 to 152 million in 2006. Our estimates of the global poverty count in 2006 are much smaller than found by other researchers. We also find similar reductions in poverty if we use other poverty lines. We find that various measures of global inequality have declined substantially and measures of global welfare increased by somewhere between 128% and 145%. We analyze poverty in various regions. Finally, we show that our results are robust to a battery of sensitivity tests involving functional forms, data sources for the largest countries, methods of interpolating and extrapolating missing data, and dealing with survey misreporting.

National Bureau of Economics Research: Parametric Estimations of the World Distribution of Income

(via Overcoming Bias)

The Swift Fox – accessories for urban mobility

Just in time for the holidays, I’m joining the ailing retail business with my online store, the Swift Fox. The Swift Fox sells accessories for urban mobility – laptop bags, iPod cases, etc. We’re just getting started, expect more soon.

The Swift Fox (featured above: Axio Tekno hardshell backpack)


And if you’d prefer to buy hand made items, be sure to check out my girlfriend’s business, surrealestate crafts – knitted cats, hats, iPod socks, and wallets.

Outlier: Tailored Performance Clothing for Cycling in the City

OG Pant 4Season Black Lotus

My old friend Abe Burmeister and his business partner Tyler lauched their line of high tech bikewear this month. Outlier: Tailored Performance Clothing for Cycling in the City. Their first product is the OG Pant 4Season Black Lotus What makes them special?

The base 4Season fabric is a blend made in Switzerland by Schoeller Textiles. A durable tech fabric with a great handfeel worthy of our old school New York garment district construction. It stretches with you as you ride your bike, but drapes like a pro as you walk indoors. It’s abrasion resistant and wicks moisture away from your body. In light rain, it’s water resistant and raindrops bead up and roll away. In a downpour? Well… nothings perfect. It’ll saturate eventually. But once you are in the clear, it’ll dry out in no time (10-20, usually.)

As for the Lotus, that’s our name for what the Schoeller people call “nanosphere” or “self-cleaning”. It’s a nano tech fabric treatment modeled after the surface of a lotus leaf, no lie. What that means is that the surface is a fractal with no repeating surface structure upon which oil or stains can bond. We’ve been known to pour coffee and red wine straight onto our pants. Usually it just rolls off. Occasionally a bit might actually dry down, but it too will roll right off if you splash some water over it.

We aren’t too comfortable with that phrase “self-cleaning” but this is some pretty nice fabric. It wears harder and needs way less cleaning than your average fabric. It’s extremely comfortable, resists wrinkles, fading and odors too (just a bonus). In other words, a seriously versatile fabric for all 4 seasons.

To top it off, it’s made to the bluesign environmental standards of Switzerland. The fabric is woven and dyed in a manner which minimizes waste, reduces emissions and avoids the toxic chemicals common in much of the textile industry. In other words, it’s a start, and we at Outlier are committed to pushing our suppliers to do even more and rewarding those that follow through.

Coilhouse: Daily Mail Posts Striking Images, Condescending Text

Out of Africa: The incredible tribal fashion show inspired by Mother Nature

More photos and images: Coilhouse

Daily Mail

Life goes on in Tehran

cafe tehran

A former LA resident photo documents his new life in Iran.

When I was leaving Los Angeles, many of my friends were worried for me. They thought I was jumping into a war zone. Soon after moving to Iran I shared a few photos with them and assured them that all is safe and normal. But I soon realized how little they knew about Iran. Their fears and lack of knowledge about Iran is justified and a result of negative portrayal of this country in the Western media — as well as sound bites from a certain controversial President. So I decided to start a site to remind them (and the rest of the world) that life goes on in Tehran and elsewhere in Iran.

Life goes on in Tehran

(via Dark Roasted Blend)

Casulo: entire living room furniture set that fits in a single box

All of that fits into this:

casulo modular furniture

More info: Tree Hugger

See also: Birth of the Nuppie

This is apparently only a prototype, they are not available commercially yet. And I expect them to be rather expensive when they do become available. So how might we be able to build our own compact living solutions?

Update: Here’s a video of “unboxing” Casulo.

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