gen x, jeff bezos in space, digicore bops

off brand: june 14 roundup

Alright lads. June is here, and it brought the sun, and the roses have opened in the garden and there’s this layer of yellow pollen on everything and I’ve got one Pfizer jab coursing through my body and I’m even attempting a tan, or at least to soak up every possible bit of serotonin the sunlight has to offer. Here’s the month so far.


Headlines

The Sky Pool opened to residents in London, a glittering blue symbol of everything that’s wrong with this city. I’d highly recommend Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright’s longread on the luxury tower that houses it and Nine Elms’ ‘regeneration’. You can read a short fiction piece I wrote inspired by the Sky Pool by following the link at the bottom of this newsletter.

Etsy bought Depop, the gen-Z dominated resale app, for $1.6bn. Forgetting the fact that a platform that sells ‘I’m a Hufflepuff!!!’ merch had that kind of cash lying around (their share price was recently boosted by an Elon Musk shoutout), that figure shows the sheer value of TEENS. It’s the market everyone is desperate to crack, for better or for worse.

Someone has paid $20m to go into space with Jeff Bezos. For 11 minutes. This makes me think about two things: 1) how much Jeff Bezos’s life insurance must be, and 2) Reagan’s infamous speech on the 1986 Challenger disaster. The speech rationalised the tragedy that traumatised every schoolkid in America who watched it live on tv by speaking to the idea that the astronauts who died on board, or “(touched) the face of God”, were “pulling us into the future”. I’ve been thinking… what does the future represent today? Space travel was that final frontier of the 20th century, a symbol of human and scientific development – and Commie-beating nation-building. In 2021, it’s a tourist destination for the mega-wealthy, a kind of intergalactic dick swinging… a new space (🥁) to be privatised, colonised, a way to spend some of the spare millions you accumulated during the deadly pandemic that swept the globe. For the rest of us, the future is cancelled.

The NFT market ‘has imploded’ to the tune of a 90% collapse in transactions, and there are charts to prove it. In the last roundup, I wrote about Christie’s NFT auction – which happened, and achieved just under $1m across 19 lots. Gucci’s NFT sold for $25,000. Over $400k went on this. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m no technophobe. And I want money to go to artists. But this whole thing felt like a goldrush from the start. A new asset class you don’t even have to keep in a freeport? The super-rich were laughing all the way to the electricity-draining Crypto mining facility. Anyway, this is a really interesting piece from back in April by one of the inventors of non-fungible tokens and why they weren’t supposed to end like this. (If you want to understand the contemporary art market, watch The Price of Everything. And read Boom by Michael Shnayerson.)


Reading

The Club King by Peter Gatien

This autobiography tells the story of Gatien, eyepatch-wearing French Canadian owner of New York’s iconic clubs the Limelight, Palladium, Club USA, and Tunnel, frequented by everyone from Prince to Tupac. It’s a story that shows you a halcyon era of nightlife that seems unimaginable now (panthers prowling beneath glass dancefloors, anyone?) and not just because of the pandemic. It’s also a story about Trump’s lawyer and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and what happens when the United States Government decides to come after you, working with a notorious club kid killer as an informant in the process. Would recommend.

Generation X by Douglas Copeland

Why do we always forget about Gen X? There’s a tendency to think of anyone over 40 as a boomer, which is a lazy, half-serious categorisation but also one that demonstrates the extent to which Gen X has gotten away with being forgotten. Copeland’s 1991 novel, which I found in a charity shop and have been trying to read, is the blueprint: friends, fed up with Boring Desk Jobs in Corporate America and Boomer Bosses, flee for the liminal space of the California desert. I haven’t given up, but its self-awareness coagulates into a kind of smug pomo quicksand so thick it’s pulling me under. Is that the whole point? Am I supposed to read this with the same knowing smirk that you watch drawling Valley Girls being obliterated by an alien in a Gregg Araki movie? I feel like maybe this book is the literary equivalent of Girls – which I never watched, because I thought it looked insufferable – in that it’s become such a symbol for an entire generation that its reputation is more important than its content.

I think this is the fatal Gen X flaw: disaffection breeds nihilism. And those generation X-defining traits of irony, self-absorption, and nihilism feel entirely out of step with a world, or a generation, that Cares: about the planet, about police brutality, about access to healthcare, about people in ICE detention centres. Of course, Corporate America (which is now run by Gen Xers) knows this well. Have a Pepsi! 


Listening

Originally mixed in with hyperpop, the more recently dubbed digicore is probably the most interesting genre going. It’s a disaffected, abrasive but melodic rendering of what it’s like to be a perpetually online teenager in a world of pandemic, Capitol storming, and climate crisis. It’s CATCHY, like a MySpacecore descendent only much, much better. Anyway, glaive is a teenager from North Carolina in an Online Ceramics ‘We’re All Gonna Die’ longsleeve who only started making music at the start of the pandy. And this song absolutely slaps, all 1.43 of it. “Only sixteen, surprised I ain't die yet”.


Watching

RHOBH. That’s literally it. Plus the final series of Keeping up with the Kardashians, albeit halfheartedly. The reality show that changed celebrity culture beyond recognition has come to a close, at least in its current form – America’s first family has since signed a multi-year deal with Disney. Read this LA Times oral history on the reality show that reshaped…. Well, reality. Enjoy picturing Kris Jenner pulling aside a producer at an early meeting and promising them: “Shit will happen.”


Wearing

This week my optician asked me if I had any hobbies (I told him I did not) but then I thought that maybe obsessively searching for second-hand clothes on the internet is a hobby. The 1999 Miu Miu wrap skirt (above!) found its way through mail purgatory and arrived, only it’s three sizes bigger than I’d thought it was. I can make it work though. The best thing about it is that it has this hidden pocket for a card or your keys. This is why I love Prada. I’ve been wearing a grey pinstripe skirt with camo tape from one of my favourite Comme collections, SS01, aka Optical Shock, that I bought a year ago and never wore. I’ve figured it out: it just needs to be worn low on the hips and with small tee. Sometimes you just have to wait for clothes to make sense. Other highlights: green Needles velour track pants, a pink and red surfer girl Roxy bucket hat, and 00s Juicy Couture t-shirt that says ‘sunset couture’ that makes me laugh.


Thinking about

I loved this piece on Bookforum by Christian Lorentzen about American literature / politics over the last few years, and the pull between the gothic and the sentimental, from Trump and Obama to Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. “The pandemic with its murky rumors of origins in bats and pangolins or foreign laboratories; incessant episodes of police violence and mass shootings; a still-raging opioid epidemic: all these partake of the gothic, not to mention the ensuing end of the world via climate change,” he writes. “We have been yearning for a return to the sentimental...What the sentimental and the gothic have in common is that they are both at root children’s literature, delineating good and evil, marching away from ambiguity.”

That’s it for now. C u soon xx

Read the Sky Pool fic here. Just enter the password ‘offbrand’.

this was off brand, by emma hope allwood. if you enjoyed it, consider forwarding to a friend. sign up here. follow me here. thanks for reading.