the dust and the dark

March 10, 2020

Welcome to Reality Farm. Over the weekend, I put on GRADE at no less than two different social gatherings and the party people loved it (or so it seemed to me, 10 beers in)

CONTENT CROP 🌾

  1. How to Hedge a Coronavirus || The Wall Street Journal

Universa’s tail risk hedging strategy, representing part of its capital, earned more than 1,000% in a matter of days.

“It was a great month for us,” says Mr. Spitznagel, who declined to disclose a dollar figure on those gains. He did point out, though, that the fund’s positions are “convex to the market.”

note: finally some good news: a few people (not you) are getting very, very rich off of this

  1. Through apps, not warrants, ‘Locate X’ allows federal law enforcement to track phones || protocol

The product, called Locate X and sold by Babel Street, allows investigators to draw a digital fence around an address or area, pinpoint mobile devices that were within that area, and see where else those devices have traveled, going back months, the sources told Protocol.

They said the tool tracks the location of devices anonymously, using data that popular cell phone apps collect to enable features like mapping or targeted ads, or simply to sell it on to data brokers.

note: sometime last fall, a bunch of news stories came out about the amount of “anonymized location data” available for purchase out in the hinterlands of the internet. “anonymized location data” is an oxymoron — it’s virtually impossible to anonymize location data. take one example — who else, besides you, travels between your house and your workplace five days a week? it’s incredible how much your phone snitches on you, though, as my father pointed out, it’s easy to spoof bad data by leaving your phone at home or taping it to your dog

  1. The Inconvenient Truth about Your “Authentic” Self || Scientific American

Although most people would define authenticity as acting in accordance with your idiosyncratic set of values and qualities, research has shown that people feel most authentic when they conform to a particular set of socially approved qualities, such as being extroverted, emotionally stable, conscientious, intellectual and agreeable.

note: on one hand this reads like pop psychology but on the other hand it feels true. inspiring to think that my authentic self may be an introverted, emotionally unstable asshole completely at odds with society

  1. How to Make Money in Your Sleep || The New York Times

“I’ve seen people live-stream their rooftop overnight with 10,000 people watching, or people stream a glass of milk while they’re gone at work,” Mr. Reyes said. “All these people come into the live just to chat and make group chats.”

note: I wonder if zoomers are more comfortable live-streaming themselves sleeping because of the relative emphasis on posting “authentic” content as they grew up navigating social media. I would opine on how millennials grew up posting more “polished” content but I just remembered that my very first instagram ever was a heavily-edited photo of a bucket of pickles

  1. Why All the Warby Parker Clones Are Now Imploding || Medium

Perhaps the original mistake of the DTCs wasn’t in their vision, but in their decision to take the venture capital in the first place. Now under pressure to grow even faster and at greater scale than they otherwise would have had to naturally, they are being confronted with what happens when growth slows down, the cash starts running out, and investors are expecting their returns.

note: I would like to go on record as saying this newsletter will NEVER ACCEPT VENTURE CAPITAL MONEY so don’t even THINK about offering it to me


SUGAR CUBES 📷

The British Battleship HMS Howe Passing Through the Suez Canal, 14 July 1944 | British Royal Navy official photographer

HMS Ark Royal R-09 rendezvousing with the Mayflower replica in the mid-Atlantic, June 7, 1957 | Source unknown

U.S. Army anti-aircraft rockets, mounted on launchers and pointed out over the Florida Straits in Key West, Florida, on October 27, 1962. | AP Photo


WALKING THE FENCELINE 🕸

Okay, now for something a little light-hearted. Remember that scene in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith when Anakin Skywalker marches on the Jedi Temple and kills all the younglings? Well. It’s a terrible turn for our beautiful boy Anakin, but get a load of this soundtrack (specifically, the first 30 seconds in this video):

I am gripped by the unshakeable conviction that this is John Williams’ secret masterpiece — the powerful, true theme of evil, undeservedly overshadowed by that dreadful standard of all middle school band classes, The Imperial March.

Now, every time I watch Episode III or so much as catch a glimpse of people marching, I once again begin googling, “anakin march on jedi temple song marching episode 3.”

And I always end up reading the same stackexchange thread where I, once again, am shocked to learn that this particular theme is bandied about here and there throughout the movies without any discernible logic and certainly without the proper attention it deserves.

I am, of course, grateful to such netizens as can deliver me such useful bits of information like:

In Attack of the Clones, the theme is used only during the planned executions of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Padmé Amidala in the Petranaki arena on the planet Geonosis, though here the majority of the theme is cut out, except for the moments scoring Poggle the Lesser announcing the start of the executions up until Skywalker tames the reek. It is also used in one of the DVD's main menus. The theme is used again in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith to introduce the planet Kashyyyk prior to the battle there, and again when Darth Vader attacks the Jedi Temple on Coruscant during Operation: Knightfall.

And, always, I end up plugging this four-minute youtube loop titled, “Jedi temple march loop [marching sound edit]” into my living room speakers turned up to 11 and harassing my roommates to the sound of its empowering and subversive rhythms.


THE GOVERNMENT OBSERVATORY ON THE HILL ABOVE MY FARM 👁

I was going to write about the coronavirus here but instead I advise you to go outside, find a nice pile of dirt, and stick your hands in it. Then just kind of rub your hands around in the dirt and mull things over until you feel better.


THE BOOK BARN 📖

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

(Fiction, 2000. Fifteen dollars.)

There are people who think contraception is immoral because the object of copulation is procreation. In a similar way there are people who think the only reason to read a book is to write a book; people should call up books from the dust and the dark and write thousands of words to be sent down to the dust and the dark which can be called up so that other people can send further thousands of words to join them in the dust and the dark. Sometimes a book can be called from the dust and the dark to produce a book which can be bought in shops, and perhaps it is interesting, but the people who buy it and read it because it is interesting are not serious people, if they were serious they would not care about the interest they would be writing thousands of words to consign to the dust and the dark. There are people who think death a fate worse than boredom.

Back in 2018, New York Magazine named The Last Samurai the best book of the 21st century (so far). I put off recommending this book because I didn’t want you all to think that I’m at all influenced by or beholden to lists like “100 Best Books of the 21st Century” by New York Magazine, but of course I am, so here we are.

As a book, The Last Samurai is the equivalent of Oscar bait — ambitious and unconventional in form, yet filled with the right kind of characters drawing the right kind of conclusions. It was published in 2000, the same year as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and, like House of Leaves, I found it almost improbable that anyone was capable of writing such a book.

It certainly isn’t the best book of the 21st century but it’s worth a read.

THE RIGHT’S WING 🦇

T̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶n̶o̶ ̶n̶e̶w̶ ̶d̶e̶v̶e̶l̶o̶p̶m̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶p̶o̶l̶i̶t̶i̶c̶a̶l̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶.̶ ̶T̶h̶e̶ ̶v̶i̶r̶u̶s̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶u̶n̶i̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶s̶e̶r̶v̶a̶t̶i̶v̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶l̶i̶b̶e̶r̶a̶l̶s̶,̶ ̶p̶o̶s̶t̶-̶l̶i̶b̶e̶r̶a̶l̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶l̶i̶b̶e̶r̶t̶a̶r̶i̶a̶n̶s̶,̶ ̶c̶l̶a̶s̶s̶i̶c̶a̶l̶ ̶l̶i̶b̶e̶r̶a̶l̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶l̶i̶b̶r̶a̶r̶i̶a̶n̶s̶.̶ ̶W̶e̶ ̶l̶i̶v̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶p̶e̶r̶f̶e̶c̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶r̶m̶o̶n̶y̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶f̶e̶a̶r̶.̶ ̶

I should have covered this a week or two ago, but Oren Cass, the domestic policy director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, recently started an organization called American Compass.

The mission of American Compass is to restore an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity—

American Compass is the coagulation of an emerging consensus on the right, previously covered here, that conservatives have to move past the free-market fundamentalism that dominated right-wing politics for the past several decades. There is a particular emphasis on “sustaining vital social institutions.”

It’s a smart move for Cass and comes at a fortuitous time. Potential candidates jockeying to lead the GOP post-Trump are signaling that this conversation will be a major part of the 2024 contest.

Nikki Haley, widely considered to be one of front-runners in the race for the next Republican nomination, firmly staked out a side on the issue with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “This Is No Time to Go Wobbly on Capitalism.

In it, Haley rails against “those who are pushing a watered-down or hyphenated capitalism, which is the slow path to socialism.” Clearly, her strategy is to brand anyone not firmly on board with free-market fundamentalism as undercover socialists. I don’t think it’ll work, personally, but more power to her.

You can expect players like Senators Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio to align with American Compass’s vision. While the rhetoric for this movement is established (and effective), Cass clearly hopes to sustain it with research and policy proposals.