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Culture

Integrity and Entitlement

The new connections between goods and the meanings for things people create can be expropriated while the individuals themselves can be monitored in terms of their overall economic performance

Eventually I'll post about something other than Facebook. But here's one more.

It's impossible to take what Mark Zuckerberg says about publicity and serving Facebook users' needs at face value. His mea culpas have always seemed like disingenuous Nixonian exercises in posturing, damage control for various overreaches, transparent attempts to make what is good for Facebook seem like humble efforts to provide what the customers really want. In trying to decode what the company is really up to, my assumption has been that Facebook wants to trade trumped-up convenience in exchange for our data, which they then will sell to marketers in order to "enrich" our online experience of ourselves with appropriately targeted ads. The company has been pretty successful in selling friendship back to us as mediated online self-production, in part because we like the attention its service facilitates, and in part because it does engage us with a broader spectrum of people in a genuinely novel way.

But I hadn't considered that Zuckerberg might be in earnest, which is actually worse. Dara Lind makes an interesting point in this post that Zuckerberg may not be merely masking his greed in his public pronouncements but is instead pushing a conservative moral idea he genuinely believes in: that surveillance is good for us as a society, basically because it keeps people in their place.

I suspect that while Zuckerberg spins publicity as a social good, he actually believes it’s a moral one. It’s a theme that’s become pretty common among execs of data-collecting, data-publicizing companies: making it so that anything anyone does can be seen by anyone they know is a way of keeping them honest.

Lind offers the example of his already notorious claim that having more than one online identity shows "a lack of integrity."

This is a morality that few people actually seem to share, including the so-called digital natives -- as this Pew study that both Lind and Danah Boyd point to shows. Lots of people want to keep various aspects of their lives separate, if not altogether private. That's not a lack of integrity; that's generally basic conscientiousness.

But the Zuckerberg ideology is highly favorable to business, combining maximum accountability with maximum mediation, yielding a data trail that can reveal bad-apple workers and be strip-mined for useful marketing data and potential branding innovations and whatnot. The new connections between goods and the meanings for things people create can be expropriated while the individuals themselves can be monitored in terms of their overall economic performance.

Lind argues that Zuckerberg's ideas about integrity are, among other things, those of "someone who’s familiar with the world of white-collar 'networking' in which bosses are expected to have semi-social bonds with their employees rather than the world of enforced hierarchy in which bosses are on the lookout for off-the-job indiscretions to punish or exploit." Which is another way of saying he is boss talking to other bosses, comfortable with the entitlements that have moved them beyond the mundane concerns of identity, which has become the gladiatorial field of combat for the rest of us consumers/supplicants.

Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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TV

'Curb Your Enthusiasm' S9 Couldn't Find Its Rhythm

Larry David and J.B. Smoove in Curb Your Enthusiasm S9 (HBO)

Curb Your Enthusiasm's well-established characters are reacting to their former selves, rather than inhabiting or reinventing themselves. Thus, it loses the rhythms and inflections that once made the show so consistently, diabolically funny.

In an era of reboots and revivals, we've invented a new form of entertainment: speculation. It sometimes seems as if we enjoy begging for television shows to return more than watching them when they're on the air. And why wouldn't we? We can't be disappointed by our own imaginations. Only the realities of art and commerce get in the way.

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6

Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting. A surprising common tool in this collection? Humor.

The name of the game is "normal or abnormal". Here's how you play: When some exceedingly shocking political news pops up on your radar, turn to the person next to you, read them the headline and ask, "is this normal or abnormal?" If you want to up the stakes, drink a shot every time the answer is abnormal. If that's too many shots, alter the rules so that you drink only when things are normal—which is basically never, these days. Hilarious, right?

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