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Target shooting

If you get The New Yorker you might have noticed that discount retailer Target bought all the ad space this week. Seems like as good a method as any for the retailer to buff up its middlebrow bona fides. Bryan Curtis was inspired to write this account of Target's rise on Slate, detailing how carefully it cultivated its upscale image and its dedication to pointless stylization of mundane household objects, the kind of thing that gets shills like Virgina Postrel all excited. They basically cajoled celebrities into promoting the store on TV and managed to get Style sections of newspapers to run fluff pieces about their stores under the guise of trendspotting, a la the current fascination with the iPod.

It's interesting to read how an ideological ediface is built and interesting to consider how commonplace it is for people to pay to participate in ideology, the idea that there is some mark of distinction to buying toilet paper at Target rather than Wal-Mart or a bodega. In a consumer society, buying in is the only socially recognized way to exhibit your values, so it makes sense, I guess. But Target's popularity also suggests the sheer pleasure of participating in ideology -- people are willing to pay for the privilege of duping themselves about their social status. (One of the problems in marginal utility theory seems to be its inability to account for a shopper's pleasure in wastefulness. People are eager to spend, not reluctant, because they are led to believe that spending is the best way to exhibit power and have fun.) Ultimately the problem I have with Target is that it promotes the idea of destination shopping, investing consumption with even more ephemeral symbolic resonance than it already has. Target would like you to believe that coming to its store signifies more than the fact that you need socks and a saucepan. Social symbolism may very well be a zero-sum game, and the more resonace various aspects of consumption have, the less potency is left for non-commercial aspects of culture; in fact, when Target openly cannibalizes fine art for its commodities, its destroying the arts' ability to stand independent of consumption -- what happens is the only reaction to art and design we have is, Wow, I'd love to own that.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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