[I’m still traveling, so today Tim Maly is filling in. Tim’s hobbies include reading, macrame, and living in several conflicting timelines at once. –Rusty]
A man sits at a news desk, lit from above in an otherwise darkened set. He is wearing a bedraggled business suit and clutching a sheaf of papers. The camera cuts to a medium close up. He stares into the camera, looking utterly lost. He glances down at the papers and back at the camera.
”Good evening,” he begins and stops. He stares at the camera again, tears welling in his eyes until he flinches as if prodded or shocked.
“Good evening,” he continues, his voice cracking. “Here are tonight’s Tabs.”
I know Rusty already Tabs’d the Marc Andreessen profile in The New Yorker, but I can’t stop thinking about it so I’m going to Tabs it again. Honestly, I hope someone is writing their graduate thesis on the document; it is such a rich source of poetic but probably facile metaphors for American business and the American press. Consider: the special magic of a journalist from the popular press writing about a VC’s explicit marketing strategy of getting placed in the popular press without talking about why they chose to cover Andreessen and how they got so much access. Or: a tapestry of far-seeing foresight so powerfully woven by Andreessen that when Tad Friend can’t work out how to operate Andreessen’s restroom, he attributes this to Andreessen’s visionary toilet.
The MAD MEN finale really honors the subtlety of the show. pic.twitter.com/nqEkIDU7JC
— Chris Worthington (@SomeChrisTweets) May 12, 2015
It’s a portrait of that quintessentially American hero: the rich and successful huckster. But it is also a portrait of that other American protagonist: the journalist being taken in by the wealthy, the powerful, the spectacular.
Friend spends some time towards the end of the piece talking about failing to get Andreessen to talk about some concerns with the total mess that is Silicon Valley and the VC business model, but the real meat of the criticism is buried in paragraph 22. Venture funding accounts for less than 0.3% of U.S. GDP. To put that in context, Hollywood claims 3.2% and–if the numbers I grabbed from Wikipedia are correct– prisons account for 0.4%.
They huddle around the campfire, their companionship and the heat a bulwark against the cold, wet dark. It is a lonely companionship. They are waiting together. Abandoned together. For a while Anna who Vaults The Fence tries to make light and merry but her voice falters and soon they all fall silent, listening to the black for the reassuring whine of rotors. The Tabs drone is late.
If I seem to have fixated on the 0.3%, it is because it’s one of the few numbers in Friend’s profile that doesn’t come with six to nine zeroes after it. I am a simple man and easily flummoxed by millions and billions. They all seem so big! Figuring out how to communicate about scale in a way that does not just dissolve into dizzying figures is hard. Earlier this week, Deb Chachra and Charlie Lloyd tried to do that around a different Californian problem: the lack of water. Remember when we all hated almonds for a week and then got embarrassed and confused and stopped? It turns out the underlying problem is still going on.
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) May 13, 2015
Alternate timeline version of previous paragraph: If I seem to have fixated on the 0.3%, it is because it’s one of the few numbers in Friend’s profile that doesn’t come with six to nine zeroes after it. I am a simple man, easily flummoxed by millions and billions so it was refreshing to see all of that put into some kind of context. It is all too easy to mistake the frequency of news coverage for a marker of importance rather than a marker of newness. The 0.3% asks us to consider the very real possibility that what happens in Silicon Valley barely matters at all.
The news spreads first as rumour: a fisherman has made a sighting. No it was a navy frigate on patrol. No it was farmers up the cape with a commanding view. By midday, the town is abuzz with excitement and energy. By mid-afternoon, rumour has turned to fact, and a sail is plainly visible on the horizon. The docks are swarmed with villagers, come to meet a treasure galleon, low in the water, laden with Tabs.
were you sad, here you go, here is http://t.co/1RnAXuNtDC you’re welcome
— Ingrid Burrington (@lifewinning) May 13, 2015
Listen. I don’t wanna talk about Tabs anymore. (But Tim, you haven’t talked about Tabs yet. All you did was relink something from Monday. Shush, you.)
Dystopia. Dystopia. Dystopia. #choosehappiness – promoted by Coca Cola. Dystopia. Dystopia. Dystopia…
— Imaginary Cities (@Oniropolis) May 13, 2015
Did you know that the wooden pallets that forklifts use to move around piles of stuff use up 12-15% of all the lumber produced in the US? I did not know this, nor did I know there was an ongoing supply chain war over blue vs white pallets. Did you know that one of the big problem with storing bananas is their tendency to explode? The fridges in our homes represent the end point of a long chain of artificially cooled spaces that keep our food (mostly) safe to eat. Nicola Twilley calls it the Coldscape. Have you ever really looked at your phone? I mean, like, really, looked at your phone?
‘Dahlia Khagrabari, is a piece of India within Bangladesh, which is within India, which is within Bangladesh.’ pic.twitter.com/doAmvf9RHv
— Prasanto K Roy (@prasanto) May 8, 2015
She rounds the corner, breathing heavily. Stops. Surveys her position. It is defensible enough. It will do. She examines the tip of her makeshift spear, the carbon fibre edge of the still-sharp head glinting in the moonlight. In the distance, she can hear them whooping and hollering. She crouches low and determined. Tightens her grip. The Interns are coming, but this will not be her last Tabs.
Today’s Soundtrack: 23 minutes of Blade Runner ambience.
Today in Tabs was written by Tim Maly because Rusty was abducted by nanogoo. Last time I did this I was working on a book with Emily Horne about surveillance and architecture. Maybe you’d like to read it? And yes, I am aware of the foolishness of complaining about too much tech coverage in the hallowed pages of Fast Company. You should consider subscribing to the TinyLetter for irony-free tabs.
PPS: Happy #LawEnforcementAppreciationDay from Nike & Converse.
PPPPS: Happy MOVE bombing anniversary.
Correction: This story initially mis-identified the author of the New Yorker Andreessen profile as Nathan Heller. It was, of course, by Tad Friend. We regret the error and feel very dumb that we didn’t catch it before posting.