Tag Archives: casey newton

To Be an Instagram-Ready Restaurant, Don’t Forget Your Selfie-Optimized Lamps

Image by Paulo Valdivieso (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Back in the 1970s, memorabilia-heavy restaurants became popular as they facilitated the loosening-up of sexual mores. These days, colorful tiles, bold wallpaper, and the occasional (ironic?) taxidermy piece can all trace their origins to our need to capture and broadcast our well-curated pleasures. As Casey Newton shows at The Verge, Instagram is the driving force behind the current vogue for easily reproduced, sleek-kitschy idiosyncrasy — including adjustable lighting that allows diners to take the most flattering selfie possible.

Few restaurants have taken photo-friendliness as seriously as Bellota, a Spanish restaurant that opened in San Francisco last year. The entryway is enclosed, creating a pleasing shadowbox effect as you look into the dining room. The kitchen is open, and encourages patrons to take 360-degree videos of the space. Many Instagram posts feature pictures of “the ham wall,” which is just what it sounds like: a window that looks into the temperature-controlled room where Bellota stores $50,000 worth of Spanish jamón ibérico.

The most striking thing about Bellota may be the custom lamps at its 25-seat bar, which let patrons adjust the lighting in order to get the perfect shot. “I’m probably the most avid Instagram user of the group, so I kept bringing it up,” says Ryan McIlwraith, Bellota’s chef. He wanted the lighting to do justice to the restaurant’s tapas plates and signature paellas. “It turned out these lamps we got were just perfect for it,” he says. The lamps can be tilted or turned 180 degrees, and the light’s intensity can be adjusted up and down. An “advanced feature” allows patrons to rest their phones on the lamp’s neck so as to take a selfie. (I did, and must admit the lighting was lovely.)

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Longreads Best of 2016: Arts & Culture Writing

We asked a few writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in various categories. Here, the best in arts and culture writing.

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Tobias Carroll
Freelance writer, managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn, and author of the books Reel and Transitory.

Michael Jackson: Dangerous (Jeff Weiss, Pitchfork)

Earlier this year, Pitchfork began publishing Sunday reviews that explore albums released in the time before said site debuted. This, in turn, has led to a whole lot of smart writers weighing in on the classics, the cult classics, the interesting failures, and the historically significant. Jeff Weiss’s epic take on “Jackson’s final classic album and the best full-length of the New Jack Swing era” is the sort of narrative music writing that’s catnip for me, the kind of work that sends me deeply into my own memories, and leaves me rethinking my own take on the album in question. Read more…

Speak, Memory: Can Artificial Intelligence Ease Grief?

Roman Mazurenko and Eugenia Kuyda

“It’s pretty weird when you open the messenger and there’s a bot of your deceased friend, who actually talks to you,” Fayfer said. “What really struck me is that the phrases he speaks are really his. You can tell that’s the way he would say it — even short answers to ‘Hey what’s up.’

It has been less than a year since Mazurenko died, and he continues to loom large in the lives of the people who knew him. When they miss him, they send messages to his avatar, and they feel closer to him when they do. “There was a lot I didn’t know about my child,” Roman’s mother told me. “But now that I can read about what he thought about different subjects, I’m getting to know him more. This gives the illusion that he’s here now.”

When Roman Mazurenko died, his friend Eugenia Kuyda created a digital monument to him: an artificially intelligent bot that could “speak” as Roman using thousands of lines of texts sent to friends and family. Read Casey Newton’s story at The Verge.

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Why the Uber and Lyft Battle Turned So Ugly

Uber’s aggressive tactics reflect the fact that ridesharing is largely a zero-sum game: a driver picking up an Uber customer can’t simultaneously pick up a Lyft customer. (Drivers are allowed to drive for both services, though the companies discourage the practice.) Having more active drivers on the road creates a virtuous circle that improves geographical coverage, increases demand, and allows services to lower prices by taking a smaller cut from a growing number of rides. Uber and Lyft are competing to become the first app you think of when you need a taxi, and the service with the most drivers likely stands the best chance of winning.

That helps to explain why competition between the two has become so vicious, with Uber and Lyft both offering hefty bonuses and other perks to drivers who switch services. For a time, Uber lost money on every ride to help spur demand. And Lyft has itself aggressively recruited Uber drivers, offering cash bonuses for joining, and hosting free taco lunches at its driver center. The Spy-vs.-Spy nature of their competition was revealed again earlier this month, when Uber caught wind of Lyft’s multi-passenger ridesharing offering and preemptively announced a nearly identical offering the night before Lyft made its announcement.

Casey Newton, in The Verge, exposes internal Uber documents showing how it planned to sabotage its ridesharing app competitor Lyft and steal its drivers.

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Photo: bootleggersson, Flickr