Nudging people towards overlooked books with inspired recommendations

Liked How to Decide which Books to Recomend? by Sara Jakša (Blog of Sara Jakša)

But that also means, that if they are not willing to provide the context, I can decide to recommend whatever I want.

One good thing would be, if I could recommend the books, that are not normally read by other people.

It’s so hard to recommend books to people who haven’t read much and don’t know what they like! I love Sara’s perspective to see it as an opportunity to recommend less-read books outside of the usual titles you’d find on a booklist, or that “everyone” has read. And really, isn’t that what people are looking for — a book they can love, a story that really resonated with someone else? Book lists are a shortcut to taste, but have traditionally not been good at including titles written by women, queer folk, and people of color — so that’s another opportunity to point people to more diverse authors than the standard bestseller list too 🙂

(Like Sara, I would usually also recommend Uprooted 😉 My less popular readalike might be Swordheart by T. Kingfisher.)

Culture Featured Technology

Culture companies have forgotten how culture works

Hollywood executives have detached cultural works from cultural meaning, losing sight of the anchor of their business. They’re currently chasing the enshittification cycle down, down, down, dreaming that AI will allow them to cut all their costs (people) while pocketing even more profit because they’ll be able to produce endless “good enough” content.

Ed Zitron writes:

It’s somewhat cliché, but Hollywood is not concerned about creating interesting, or good, or unique content, but more content that can be used to make more things that can be used to make more profit to increase the stock price. It’s not about whether something’s good, or new, but whether or not it is marketable and “good enough” for consumers…

As Tim Carmody highlights, studios are barely entertainment companies anymore as they move into streaming, with the entertainment they make merely the hook for their real profit-centers. They make culture, but they value culture only insofar as it makes them money. The end game they envision is generating content for next to nothing; with an endless supply of content, everyone will find something good enough to watch, letting them maintain a vast customer base.

Towards that future, studios are self-cannibalizing their own industry by destroying career development for writers. They don’t value storytelling or recognize script-writing as a craft needing industry knowledge. As Dave Karpf writes, studios will satisfice their processes and products using AI if they can get away with it, accepting mediocre scripts as the price of profitability.


Business Culture Writing

The creative industry loses when works become tax write-offs


Screenwriters and other creative industry folks lose residuals and portfolio pieces when shows and movies never get released. In the comments it also sounds like health care is connected to residuals?

This practice is another facet of the self-cannibalization that’s happening to the creative industry — which makes sense if studios truly believe AI will save them. If they think audiences will be happy to watch movies starring CGI Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis forever, it’s no problem not to invest in building up a new generation of actors. If they think generative AI will create good enough shows and movies, they can let go of their screenwriters and other technical staff.

Maybe audiences will be fine watching mediocre movies with the same actors and subscribing to streaming services with a huge catalog of nothingness if there are no other options… but I sure wouldn’t stake my entire industry on it. There are plenty of other options for entertainment besides movies and TV. People are already sick of the boring shit studios are making because they will only make guaranteed hits. Netflix is already facing stagnation in subscriptions. The giant library of crap approach worked for Amazon Prime because it was positioned as an add-on benefit to Prime shipping — people weren’t signing up just for the streaming service.

Ironically, I think studios are recognizing these trends… but see AI as the solution. That by switching from human labor to AI, they’ll go from making a handful of boring but reliable hits to releasing a torrent of mediocre content. Maybe that will even make their cruddy feature films seem more attractive in comparison.

See also: Solidarity with the writer’s strike ✊✍️

Culture Music

Nicheless culture

Bookmarked 10,000 Gecs as 2023 Culture by W. David MarxW. David Marx (Culture: An Owner's Manual)

Yet what would have been even more embarrassing in the 1990s is the obviousness of the 100 gecs’s references. Their software prowess and major label budget allow them to sample nearly anything they desire (they got the real THX intro noise!), but for “The Most Wanted Person in the United States,” they rap like sorority girls doing “Paper Planes” at karaoke over the world-famous Sleng Teng riddim, the horse-neigh horn from “Insane in the Membrane,” and lines of dialogue from box office hit, Scary Movie (itself a parody of a pastiche of a tired genre)… 100 gecs are absolutely as clever as Prince Paul, but at least on 10,000 Gecs, they show very little interest in Paul’s old-school obscurity: whether that’s making obscure music for obscure communities or turning previously obscure source material into pop.

Now that “cred” has lost its value as a legitimate form of cultural currency, money is the only marker of success. And where the internet makes everything potentially non-obscure, there is no reason to celebrate esotericism.

Internet culture is a mashup of everything, except not really because there’s no point in referencing things that people don’t recognize. Everything is vibes, and vibes means drawing on emotions imbued in other works — and when many people associate their identities with popular franchises, mass culture is what most people have feels about.

Culture Food

Food fairness, or the validity of vegetarianism

At my old work, several times a year there would be barbecues and potlucks — but no one bothered to provide vegetarian food until a vegetarian Hindu woman joined the org. Her religious foundation for her dietary restrictions was treated more seriously than my personally chosen vegetarianism.

I saw a thread on where someone called out a similar example — that a meat-only barbecue isn’t an inclusive event just because the vegetarians were invited if there’s nothing for them to eat. Someone countered that most vegetarians wouldn’t bother to make meat dishes available at their events.

Am I wrong to believe this isn’t equivalent?

Culture History Political Commentary

Reason 5379 we need better statistics education

Replied to Gun Violence Is Actually Worse in Red States. It’s Not Even Close. (POLITICO)

America’s regions are poles apart when it comes to gun deaths and the cultural and ideological forces that drive them.

Using raw numbers / absolute values instead of per capita data is so misleading. I know that data don’t actually change minds, but some skepticism around statistics couldn’t hurt 🤷‍♀️

Art and Design Culture

AI serves up vibes

Quoted No Art, Just Vibes by modiggs (Cross Current)

…art may be dead but vibes aren’t. Arguably all we can expect from AI is vibes.

My guess as to why: it’s all content and it’s all background.

Culture Featured Technology Writing

Mining intellectual value

Liked Television writer on fight with studios, networks: “We’re looking at the extinction of writing as a profession” (World Socialist Web Site)

The executives, the management and their attorneys have taken the Writers Guild minimum basic agreement [MBA] and they’ve gone through it with a fine-tooth comb looking for every conceivable loophole, and exploiting those to the hilt. Basically, these companies would like to view us as Uber drivers.

But when you go into this mini-room and commit to this time, you don’t have any guarantee that if the show does go ahead, you’re going to be on the show, because those kinds of commitments are part of the “old model.”

The companies are saying: we’re not going to do that anymore; we’re not committing to you. We’re not promising you anything. We’re just saying, come in, we’ll pay you like piece workers, give us your best ideas and then get the hell out.

This is all part of the same business perspective that rejects artistry, rejects art, rejects the value of teamwork, rejects originality. This is the mindset that cancels once-flagship shows before their final season because the profit margin’s not high enough (Westworld) and writes off completed movies for tax reasons (Batgirl). There is no respect for the human creators who contributed to the show; they got their money, isn’t that enough? As Doctorow calls it, this is the enshittification of the entertainment industry, and in this case of culture itself, all for short-term shareholder value.

Culture History

Watched The History of Super Mario Bros 3 100% World Records

Watched The History of Super Mario Bros 3 100% World Records from YouTube

I have no interest in video games but this oral history is told in such a compelling way I kept getting sucked in over what I was reading. For an hour and a half! The amount of research done is incredible. This is the type of cultural record that should be archived somewhere official, it’s that well done. And it’s made by some person funded by Patreon supporters — exactly what crowd funding is meant for, to create niche things like this that probably wouldn’t have been made otherwise.

Art and Design Culture Places

Carcinization of the built and visual environment

Bookmarked The age of average by Written By Alex Murrell (

This article argues that from film to fashion and architecture to advertising, creative fields have become dominated and defined by convention and cliché. Distinctiveness has died. In every field we look at, we find that everything looks the same.

Welcome to the age of average.

Like so many body forms converge on the shape of the crab, under the selective pressures of capitalism and efficiency, so too do buildings become the same, cars become the same, movies become the same.

When independent actors are all operating under the same selective pressures — aerodynamics and regulations and manufacturing constraints for cars, zoning and building codes for architecture, attracting a certain demographic for AirBnBs — convergence seems nearly assured. When a formula works, whether that’s the design of a coffee shop or the makeup techniques for a particular look, there’s little incentive to expand beyond that assurance of at least mediocrity.

Familiarity is another selective pressure. It’s as if there are a handful of uber-“brand” aesthetics that companies merely need to hitch themselves to — mimicking existing successful design becomes a shortcut to tie that business into the entire ecosystem marketing to that demographic. From that perspective, standing out could be bad.

See also:

What do Places give us?

The Homogeneity of Millenial Design