Image for post
Image for post
Stanley Kubrick knew some things.

As we head to the polls tonight for what will be the most contentious and delirious election of my lifetime, I’m strangely distanced from it all. I’ve sworn off red and blue and I don’t see either party as more, or less, of an existential threat. Instead they form a uni-party with buffoonish figureheads. People screaming that “You must pick a side! The fate of our nation depends on it!” have either been living under a rock, or are willfully ignoring what is right in front of them: a farcical “choice” between what amounts to two actors in the same theatrical production. A rigged pro wrestling match. …


Image for post
Image for post
On June 8, 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four was published. Seventy years later, Orwell’s warnings still ring true.

Orwellian. Not many people can claim an adjective, and I’m sure if George Orwell were alive today he’d have mixed feelings about it. “Orwellian” has become synonymous with “dystopian” — humorless, drab, authoritarian, all-seeing, all-disrupting, anti-human. We see references to Big Brother — the surrogate God of Nineteen Eighty-Four — all the time in pop culture. We even have a reality show unironically named after it. The whole premise of the show sets the viewer up to spy on a household full of people with conflicting personalities. The more drama that erupts in the household, the higher the ratings. As we watch the equally complicit cast members of Big Brother feud with each other, the more we feed the ad revenue machine of the television networks. More drama, more ratings. …


Fifty-five years ago, on this day in 1963, Aldous Huxley passed through a psychedelic portal to the other side. His death was overshadowed by the assassination of JFK on the same day, but the legacy of his most popular novel, Brave New World, lives on.

Image for post
Image for post

Even fifty-five years after his death, Aldous Huxley’s best-known work, the satirical dystopian novel, Brave New World, has a message which resonates. It was published in 1932, a tumultuous epoch between two world wars, when totalitarian ideologies gripped the world’s nation states and intellectual elite. The idea of utopia didn’t seem too farfetched for many living in his time. However, from our historical perspective, it may seem absurdly earnest to strive for utopia because we know how those 20th century experiments turned out. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image credit: Fightland — Vice

It may seem strange to start a story about my encounter with Anthony Bourdain with an anecdote about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but if it weren’t for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — BJJ for short — I don’t think I’d ever have appreciated him in the way I do. Because of BJJ I met the man first, then discovered his art, and really the only way to make sense of this is to start from the beginning.

In late 2014 I joined a BJJ gym in Los Angeles under the Renzo Gracie banner. It was opened a few years earlier by one of Renzo Gracie’s first American black belts, Shawn Williams. I had dabbled in martial arts all my life, doing some karate as a kid, aikido, kung fu, boxing and old school jiu jitsu, and I was fully cognizant of my lack of skill, having never completed anything beyond orange belt. Years ago, like in 2000, I attended a BJJ school in Queens for about five months with some of the toughest dudes I can remember. I’d only gone on a whim since a roommate of mine was also going. Having always had an affinity for martial arts, and a totally delusional sense of my own fighting prowess, I thought I’d be able to handle myself with ease. Until I got my ass handed to me by some genuine baddasses. In a class comprised of cops, construction workers, a former gang banger and various other characters from the hard walks of life, I was the lightweight. The middle-class kid whose biggest obstacles in life had been of the existential kind. For five months straight I was smothered and strangled by some strong mofos who also harbored a supreme and mysterious technique. …


Social media allows us to monetize anything. But should we?

Image for post
Image for post

Warning: the video below contains explicit content.

The video starts with a close-up shot of a woman’s bare torso. She’s in the passenger seat of a moving car, being filmed by the driver. As she faces the back seat, screaming and moaning, it soon becomes apparent she’s about to give birth. The driver (male voice) says:

“Can you wait like two minutes?”

She sputters out something unintelligible. More screams and moans.

“Hold on, hold on… she’s coming out?”

It’s hard to understand the woman in between her heavy breathing and cursing, but she seems to be asking him to pull over.


How The Real World, OJ Simpson and Kim Kardashian paved the way to our tabloidized lives on social.

Image for post
Image for post

Kim Kardashian once described taking photos of herself as the “the purpose of life.” From the reality show which she helped launch, to her sisters following in her footsteps, the tabloid-like buzz the Kardashians create about themselves has penetrated our culture. Millions of their followers aim to do the same on a micro-scale.

Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which has just launched its 15th season, wasn’t the first reality show, but its enormous influence has massified what can only be called the “tabloidification” of popular culture. As hired camera crews and co-conspiring paparazzi document their every move, millions tune in to watch the mundane minutia of their lives. Inter-familial drama, a trip to the salon, clothes shopping or just lounging about their palatial Hollywood Hills homes. It’s supposed to look spontaneous, but we know it’s staged. The audience obliges, only too happy to suspend their disbelief. The show, and their massively-followed social channels, serve as blueprints to millions of fans who want to get rich — billionaire rich — by just doing ordinary things and documenting it. …


Image for post
Image for post

A small change to an algorithm is at the heart of fake news, tribalism and extreme behavior on social media.

In October 2009 Facebook made a fateful change to its algorithm which has had profound and polarizing effects on society. It’s a lesson in unintended consequences — for, on the surface, this tweak to the platform was made to improve user experience. However, it was really a strategic shift towards hyper-monetization, and this drive to turn the free social network into a money-printing machine also ended up exacerbating the worst human tendencies.

What happened was a decision to change the news feed from showing chronological updates to a new order, based on the popularity of a post. Popularity was quantified by a new algorithm which favored engagements. The more engagements a post received, the more chances it had of rising to the top of a newsfeed. …

About

Drew Minh

Author of NEON EMPIRE, a near-future thriller about influencers, coming out in September 2019 (CCB/Rare Bird Books) http://minhim.al/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store