This newsletter is packed because, while I sometimes refrain from posting, I never refrain from being a little content goblin on the internet, finding golden links and putting them in my sack. If you are seeking a New Year's vibe, here are a bunch of collected past posts that will scratch your itch.
There is an Instagram fitfluencer pose that I’ve been fascinated by for a while. It involves a sort of staggered stance plus a twist of the body relative to the camera that, in scientific terms, exaggerates proportions. In straightforward terms, it gives you a huge butt.
Typically, it looks like this:
If you want to understand the general dimensional principle involved, tear a sheet of paper in half lengthwise so that it’s a big rectangle with no curves at all. Now dangle it in front of you and twist the two ends. It’s now virtually an hourglass. Tilt the top part slightly away from you, and it's an hourglass, emphasis on the lower half. That’s how this pose works.
But at some point, this pose got out of hand. The staggered stances became full splits; backs were contorted into certain muscle spasms; upper bodies leaned away from the cameras to the point that we can no longer think about the person’s nice butt because we are worried they may be a fall risk:
This pose is a close cousin (via their shared grandparent, anterior pelvic tilt) of the one where people’s hips tilt backward and up and away from the camera. The most famous practitioners of the latter pose is, to me, the KarJenners, specifically Kylie and Kendall. The second most famous is, amazingly, Donald Trump.
Many have noted that Trump stands like this, and that it's an eminently odd way of standing, but they couldn’t really figure out why anyone would stand like this. Based on my expertise honed by looking at probably millions of Instagram posts at this point, let me tell you: Trump is ashamed of his stomach, and figured out a way to stand that hides it (at least from the front; from the side this pose has been called “centaur with no hind legs”).
I wish I could locate the origin of these poses, but it would be impossible. They are born of millions of people critically analyzing their perceived physical flaws in photos and the mirror, almost imperceptibly tweaking the way they hold their bodies, seeing others do it, imitating them, iterating on them, over and over until it tips suddenly into this realm of “why is he/she standing like that?”
I mean no real shade to posing. We all live in society; we all pose. Posing to flex muscles is a real physical skill that takes practice. I even cherish the people who take it too far, because it reminds us all not to take things too seriously.
But social media favors the grotesque, because the grotesque froths discussion and attention. (cf. once again, The Liver King.) The best way to froth is to thread the needle of the just-barely-plausible.
Around the time of slime videos (remember those?) I realized I will stare longer if I can’t quite figure out what I’m looking at, if the premise is compelling and an explanation, a sensical reveal, is both not immediately obvious and forthcoming. Yet I find myself more and more often bludgeoned about the head by content that doesn't fulfill its promise, and even delights in doing so.
This is captured by the entire genre of cooking videos that started out as simple BuzzFeed Tasty overhead sequences and has now turned into people using familiar tools and ingredients to (sometimes intentionally, for the purposes of “comedy”) slowly spin up an unhinged, heinous, and inedible franken-dish. There are more genres in my algorithmic feeds: Watching an artist produce an ultimately bad painting. Watching renovators complete ultimately very tacky DIY projects. What is really wild is the way that this not-quite satisfied state can keep me scrolling and scrolling for content that does deliver. But when I find a content that satisfies its promise, I just want to keep going . Or I did.
I deleted TikTok from my phone recently. But the last time I was on, I was served an already-viral post from a woman who opened with “Okay, here is a fun game to play with your boyfriend by FaceTime. First, you need a deck of cards,” and then proceeded to take an exceedingly long time to describe the most boring barely-a-game I’ve ever heard of.
I got so frustrated with the presentation that, I am ashamed to say, I left a far-too-mean comment for how innocuous the video was, along the lines of “this fucking game sucks." I do not think this woman made her video with the intention of sucking. But she unwittingly lit up the right combination of neurons in my brain, causing me to comment (if rudely), ringing a bell somewhere in the echoing halls of the TikTok compound signaling that it was time to cascade the video into yet hundreds more people’s For You feeds. It did not matter that I ultimately did not like it; I watched almost the entire thing. I commented. I Engaged. For the platforms and their algorithms, this is the short-term-reward sausage filling that keeps the factory going.
Metrics of attention are stupidly easy to measure. As we all know in our data-driven times, we can’t improve what we can’t measure. But taken another way: We can only measure improvements of measurable improvements. The grotesque stuff is able to betray us because it relies on trust built by content with (somewhat more) earnest intentions. The trust part is not easy to measure.
The greatest trick the algorithm devils ever pulled was convincing all their financial backers that attention and enjoyment and meaning were all the same thing. It is brain-melting to remember that the whole world witnessed Mark Zuckerberg, of all people, making an algorithm that would supposedly highlight what things and persons are cool and interesting to look at and said, “I bet that guy knows exactly what he is doing.”
~Discord Pick of the Week: In the spirit of the New Year and Equinox claiming it “doesn’t speak January,” please enjoy these two absolutely weirdo Equinox ads from years past that don’t bother to communicate in any way what Equinox does. This man is covered in bees?:
This woman is [deep breath] tandem-breastfeeding twins, in full makeup as well as designer clothes and jewelry, in a fancy restaurant, in front of an uneaten plate of steak tartare?:
I don’t get it, but I guess I speak January! ~
This has become a trendy thing to say in recent years, but it bears repeating: The best New Year’s resolution might not be to start something new, but to let something go.
Related, this oldie but goodie webcomic: You don’t have to love your body.
The Washington Post has been running a great and sobering series on the dark side of bodybuilding.
Ragen Chastain wrote about the ghosts of diet culture past, present, and future.
The reason people watch the NBA but don’t watch the WNBA has nothing to do with basketball.
This profile of big boy Dave Bautista. Anyone who does Marvel movies and doesn't treat it like being a member of the royal family is a hero to me. Also, take notes Joe Rogan, this is how you come for The Rock should you choose to do so:
Instead, he’s spent the last decade carving out the weirdest, most artful filmography of any WWE alumnus, working with a murderer’s row of Letterboxd-approved directors: Denis Villeneuve, Rian Johnson, Sam Mendes, James Gunn. “I never wanted to be the next Rock,” he puts it plainly. “I just want to be a good fucking actor. A respected actor.”
For my NYC heads: A standing ovation for Tammie Teclemariam’s “Year I Ate New York”; there are very few restaurant critics whose judgment or integrity and overall zest for life I trust more than hers.
I don’t know if the Waffle House Avenger lifts, but I admire her still.
The Titanic “Could they both have fit on the door?” debate made the rounds for the hundredth time over the holidays, but this is the first time to my recollection that it prompted Kate Winslet to speak her truth: she was not fat. This feels perhaps like an inane thing to say now, but at the time, everyone really was looking askance at “fat” Kate Winslet, and I remember because this discourse was hitting my 10-year-old brain like a tsunami. I even remember her actual size number at the time (4), so indelible was this so-called “news cycle.” The ’90s were absolutely deranged, and don’t let anyone tell you different! Turn away from the light of the low-rise pant!
God bless this influencer:
Barry also said that ab workout videos were always guaranteed hits for views, but she personally never actually did the workouts herself.
“Ab workouts are posted solely for engagement,” she said. “I know that’s so s***ty to say, but it’s also so true. Ab workouts actually don’t even build abs whatsoever. Do your heavy squats, your deadlifts, do your heavy compounds [instead].”
In Jesus’s name we pray!!
The existence of the “social omnivore,” who never eats meat at home, only in social settings, implies the existence of the “closet omnivore,” who pretends to be strictly plant-based yet inhales burgers in the dead of night.
Oh good, we are turning menopause into a gold rush now.
No, you’re not imagining it, your stuff is actually worse now.
In this house, we devour White Lotus episodes, and I too was obsessed with Mia and Lucia: the purity of their relationships and goals, their hair, their outfits. But the whole show was just bar after bar, and in its final weeks we were actively counting down the days to the next episodes and gaming out what might happen.
In the past couple weeks, I lamented to a friend that I’ve been having such a hard time finding books I want to read, and her literal response was “Don’t worry, Elisa Gabbert’s list is coming out in a few weeks.” (It’s out now.) Gabbert’s book The Unreality of Memory was a huge standout for me last year.
I loved this Read Max recap of the best class-action lawsuits he was involved in this year. Max Read is shedding light on the moment when the press coverage fades and we come into five, sometimes tens of dollars of riches. I even learned about a new suit I was eligible for by the skin of my teeth, via an All-Clad pan I purchased in April 2015.
That’s all for this week! I love you for reading, thank you, let’s go—