Tag Archives: the verge

How ‘International Airbnb Style’ Became the Dominant Aesthetic of Our Time

You’ve seen this room before: bright walls; a coffee table or shelves made out of reclaimed wood; some fabric — a rug, curtains — featuring an abstract geometric pattern; a knockoff mid-century chair. Is it your local coffee shop or craft brewery? A co-working space? Your living room? At The Verge, Kyle Chayka looks at the recent ascendancy of “Airspace” aesthetics — a style of vaguely quirky, easily reproducible minimalism that we now find in Airbnbs across the planet.

In 2011, a New York artist and designer named Laurel Schwulst started perusing Airbnb listings across the world in part to find design inspiration for her own apartment. “I viewed it almost as Google Street View for inside homes,” she says. Schwulst began saving images that appealed to her and posting them on a Tumblr called “Modern Life Space.” But she had a creeping feeling something was happening across the platform. “The Airbnb experience is supposed to be about real people and authenticity,” Schwulst says. “But so many of them were similar,” whether in Brooklyn, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, or Santiago.

There was the prevalence of mass-produced but tasteful furniture, for one. “It’s kind of an extension of Ikea showrooms,” she says. But the similarities went beyond mass-production. The ideal Airbnb is both unfamiliar and completely recognizable: a sprinkling of specific cultural symbols of a place mixed with comprehensible devices, furniture, and decoration. “It’s funny how you want these really generic things but also want authenticity, too,” Schwulst says.

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The Conservative Movement to Get the GOP on Board With Global Warming

That’s not how all hunters approach climate change. Randy Newberg, a hunter and advocate for hunting on public lands, has no qualms about acknowledging the problem. “If you spend as much time in the hills as I do, I don’t know how you could deny that climate is changing,” he says. Deniers exist, “but honestly, I call them the flat-Earth society,” he adds. Many hunters see climate change as a serious threat to the wildlife and public lands they want to protect for future generations. That’s what’s been driving the conservation movement for decades in the US, and it should not be a liberal or a conservative issues, says Newberg, who identifies as an Independent. “Maybe I’m naive and too idealistic for today’s political world,” he says, “but I struggle to understand how is it that clean air and clean water and productive lands are a partisan issue. To me, they’re an American issue.”

For now, the White House hasn’t been very responsive, but it might be just too early to tell, says Bozmoski. Some proposals coming out of Washington — like the carbon tax and the climate change resolution — seem to bode well. “It really stokes our optimism on the Eco Right, that our family has gotten bigger and more powerful,” Bozmoski says. At the same time, he says, it will take time for Republicans to come together and put forward a climate change policy — they will need to get over the divisions within their own party and develop an actual policy. That’s what groups like republicEn are there for, Bozmoski says. And he has high hopes. “The prospects for a coalition of lawmakers moving forward with a solution is better now than it has been in any point since 2010,” Bozmoski says. “There’s no more pussyfooting around climate change out of fear.”

At The Verge, Alessandra Potenza describes conservatives, young and old, who are working to rally Republican voters around the issue of global warming in a way that gets GOP policy makers to finally listen. They’re doing this on multiple fronts, addressing fellow conservatives’ concern for national security, economics, hunting and fishing, and trying to get them on the right side of history.

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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…

Behind the Scenes of Children’s Television: A Reading List

Children’s television programming is always colorful, sometimes educational, and often bizarre. A human-sized hamster wheel? A talking chair? Grown men going to bat for a herd of rainbow-colored ponies? These stories explore the art and economics of making television for kids.

1. “‘It Smelled Like Death’: An Oral History of the Double Dare Obstacle Course.” (Marah Eakin, A.V. Club, November 2016)

Nickelodeon’s hit game show, Double Dare, aired in the late ’80s and early ’90s (with a season-long remount in 2000), and one of its biggest draws was its obstacle course. The A.V. Club spoke to host Marc Summers, the producers and a variety of set designers about the gallons of whipped cream, baked beans and Gak it took to make the messiest show on TV. Pro tip: Don’t eat while reading this. 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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The Early Days of Midnight Movies

Prior to the ’70s, midnight shows were the realm of the occasional horror release and exploitation distributors who used the slot to attract night owls to seedy fare. But the midnight movie as we know it — as a Friday- and Saturday-night staple featuring cult films — came into its own as the ’60s turned into the ’70s.

The ‘60s saw a flurry of activity in underground film as Jack Smith, Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, and others made movies way outside the Hollywood system, films that took avant-garde forms and featured content too extreme for the mainstream. That didn’t mean there wasn’t an audience for them, though. Warhol’s 1966 film Chelsea Girls played New York for months, for instance, and in the latter part of that year, Mike Getz of Los Angeles’ Cinema Theatre — after having success in Los Angeles playing experimental films at midnight — hit upon the notion of sending a package of films on the road under the name “Psychedelic Film Trips #1.” They played at midnight across the country in theaters owned by Getz’s uncle Louis Sher, and they did well, making Getz something like the Johnny Appleseed of the midnight movie.

Keith Phipps, writing for The Verge about the rise of midnight movies as cultural institution, and the tradition’s uncertain future. For further reading from an unlikely source, the Wikipedia entry for “Midnight movie” is surprisingly great.

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I Ship It: Six Stories About Fanfiction

Photo: Karen Roe

OTP: You and this reading list. I’ve wanted to share writing about fanfiction for some time. Fanfiction is often ridiculed (Why can’t the authors keep from inserting themselves into the story? Why is everyone having sex? Why does 50 Shades of Grey exist?!), but it’s a legitimate creative outlet. Fanfiction has played a small but significant role in my own life, and I’ll elaborate in my list. If you’re totally lost right now, check out Vulture’s beautiful, if patchy, primer (#3 on this list), and then plunge into these funny, fascinating stories about the world of fanfiction.

1. “Stories are Waves.” (Michelle Nijhuis, Aeon, July 2014)

I love–love–this essay from Aeon about a mother who gender-bends classic characters (meet Girl Bilbo!) at her daughter’s request. It’s advocacy for diversity and equality in literature, as well as the power of seeing yourself in a story–which fanfiction often provides. Read more…

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

How a San Francisco Startup Dies

“In meetings on Sand Hill Road, Latour says, nearly everyone expressed enthusiasm for Everpix’s product. But one by one, they turned him down. After two meetings with one well-known firm, a partner sent Latour an email. ‘You guys seem to be a spectacularly talented team and some informal reference checking confirmed that, but everyone here is hung up on the concern over being able to build a >$100M revenue subscription business in photos in this age of free photo tools.’ Said a partner at another firm: ‘The reaction was positive for you as a team but weak in terms of whether a $B business could be built.’

“As time ran out, hopes diminished. ‘It succeeded in every possible way,’ said Jason Eberle, who built the web version of Everpix, ‘except for the only way that matters.’”

Casey Newton, for The Verge, on the life and death of Everpix, a beloved product that failed to stay afloat. Read more on tech.

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A writer meets with “grinders”—people who are obsessed with human enhancement through the manipulation of their body with technology—and then decides to implant a magnet in his finger:

I chatted with Warwick from his office at The University of Reading, stacked floor to ceiling with books and papers. He has light brown hair that falls over his forehead and an easy laugh. With his long sleeve shirt on, you would never know that his arm is full of complex machinery. The unit allows Warwick to manipulate a robot hand, a mirror of his own fingers and flesh. What’s more, the impulse could flow both ways. Warwick’s wife, Irena, had a simpler cybernetic implant done on herself. When someone grasped her hand, Prof. Warwick was able to experience the same sensation in his hand, from across the Atlantic. It was, Warwick writes, a sort of cybernetic telepathy, or empathy, in which his nerves were made to feel what she felt, via bits of data travelling over the internet.

“Cyborg America: Inside the Strange New World of Basement Body Hackers.” — Ben Popper, Verge

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