November 13, 2012
Randomized Consumerism

dropouthangoutspaceout:

randomshopper:

Hi. I’m Darius Kazemi. Recently I’ve been making a bunch of weird stuff that randomly generates things. For example, there’s the Twitter account @metaphorminute, which tweets a random metaphor every couple minutes. There’s also OutSlide, which generates a slide deck from an outline that you enter by picking the first Google Image result for each phrase.

I’ve had an idea for a long time now. It’s inspired by one of my favorite feelings: when you order something on Amazon, and it’s put on backorder, and then you forget you ordered it, and a year later it arrives—and it’s like a gift you bought yourself.

Well, I thought: what if I just wrote a program to buy stuff for me? The first iteration of this was going to be a program that bought me stuff that I probably would like.

But then I decided that was too boring. How about I build something that buys me things completely at random? Something that just… fills my life with crap? How would these purchases make me feel? Would they actually be any less meaningful than the crap I buy myself on a regular basis anyway?

So I built Amazon Random Shopper. Every time I run it, I give it a set budget, say $50. It grabs a random word from the Wordnik API, then runs an Amazon search based on that word. It then looks for every paperback book, CD, and DVD in the results list, and buys the first thing that’s under budget. If it found a CD for $10, then the new budget is $40, and it does another random word search and starts all over, continuing until it runs out of money, or it searches a set number of times.

It can’t spend over budget, because it has its own Amazon account, and I give it a gift card. There’s no bank account or credit card info so it can only spend what’s on the gift card. As my friend Daniel Joseph put it: “Here you go, child-bot. Have fun at the mall with the other bots. Don’t spend it all in one place!”

How do I manage to do this? With the magic of PhantomJS, a really neat little program that spawns a virtual web browser that I can control with code. My system is basically an automated browser that buys me stuff.

Today I finally got the system working end-to-end, and it bought me $37 worth of stuff (out of a $50 budget. How frugal!). What it bought, I won’t know until it comes in the mail.

You can stay tuned here, where I’ll be posting a log of what Amazon Random Shopper buys me. I’m going to give it a budget of $50 a month for the next… well, I’m not sure how long, but we’ll see.

Reblogging this because it’s THE BEST. Seriously, Darius has reached new levels of theory application (mainly in the vein of of what Bogost has termed “carpentry”).

Like, this computer just consumes things. Random things. It feeds Empire through code.

(via barthel)

8:06pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZSRIbyXEEvUP
  
Filed under: consuming 
April 2, 2012
Mad Men: “Tea Leaves”

natface:

I mean, I would hope that even people who dislike Betty can admit that storyline (and that fat suit) is an objectively terrible thing to do to a formerly nuanced and interesting character.

NOW SHE’S FAT! NOW SHE EATS TWO SUNDAES!!

It’s embarrassing, Matt Weiner. You’re embarrassing.

Let me elaborate: putting aside any loyalties I have to Betty and the memory of her fascinating character in earlier seasons (because that’s wafted away on the breeze), that storyline served absolutely zero purpose except to hint that Don still has feelings for Betty (calling her “Birdy” for one thing) and vice versa, as clumsily as that was done. (It was mostly just Henry, Don, Megan, and Betty staring off into the distance.)

It’s a weirdly humiliating thing to do to a character who has only ever been about appearances, without giving us really any background as to why she would lose her largely defining hobby. Do you know what I mean? We kept hearing she was depressed or bored, but God, she was that in spades during her marriage to Don, and I didn’t see her getting fat then? And it’s not as if she doesn’t have to “try hard” for Henry, or whatever, because he’s also very handsome, AND, he’s more in the spotlight than Don ever was.

Why did Betty give up her preoccupation with vanity when she would need it now more than ever? Could you, the writers’ room of Mad Men, let us know that? Or did we need just one more scene of Don betraying her confidences to someone because he’s having a boohoo moment with mortality?

I hate this story line. I hate the fat face makeup they have January Jones in. (As a lady who is probably not all that different from Betty size-wise I promise that most women don’t gain all their weight in their chin first; I really feel like she should still have a neck.) I do think that they could have told this story in a way that is true to the Betty we know. I do feel like it is possible that she doesn’t need to “try hard” for Henry because she feels safe with him in a way she never did with Don (which also explains why she’s kind of a jerk to him when he’s the sweetest to her, because she knows he won’t up and disappear the way Don did constantly, but just being married to someone who is less terrible than Don Draper isn’t going to fix all Betty’s shit so all the stuff she bottled up with Don is still coming out). Like, maybe she’s just “fat” because she’s letting herself eat for the first time in her adult life? We’ve seen Betty vomit before but I don’t know if we’ve actually seen her eat? Obviously she believes that all her value lies in her appearance and she’s apparently “given up” (though I really hate the association of fatness and weakness/softness) which is why she’s so hard on herself and why she doesn’t get that Henry still finds her attractive. But all we’ve really seen is “HAHA two sundaes!” 

As Michelle Dean’s noted this is a storyline with a lot of potential to explore the politics of diet in the period (and by extension, now!) but we really didn’t see this. Maybe things will get richer and the show will do more with eating and fatness than making it a symbol for sadness and weakness. In season one Peggy’s pregnancy weight gain never seemed this simple even before we knew what it was. (At the time it kind of seemed like the sexual attention she was getting freaked her out so much that she was gaining weight as a way to stop being perceived as a sex object and just be allowed to do her job; in the end it wasn’t the case, but the fact that it felt possible made the pregnancy-plus-denial storyline so much more interesting.) One thing I loved about the early seasons of Mad Men was just how unlikable all the characters were - the acting was great and they were all so beautiful, but these were not people you’d want to be friends with. They were complex, messy, ugly people who were shaped by the society and the time they lived in; you felt for them and were interested in them but you didn’t always like them (except maybe Joan but I think that was mostly Christina Hendricks’ unstoppable charisma). I feel like the turn came when the whole gang founded SCDP (link is to a thing I wrote about it then) and they were a lovable ragtag renegade team of…advertisers? The only person who didn’t come out that well is Betty. I always thought that it was a pretty brave choice to keep Betty unlikable, to show how ugly oppression and abuse can make somebody; but at this point I’m not sure what they’re doing. 

March 9, 2012

There is a shift once she returns to Vienna, from girl Lisa to woman Lisa, that is marked by the look. Girl Lisa is constantly gazing, almost invisible. She she’s peeking in windows and hiding in staircases, and the camera really follows her eye. Her perspective is overwhelming. But woman Lisa is constantly, aggressively visible. She actually works as a model in a dress shop; it’s during this time when Stefan finally looks back. But of course he doesn’t really see her. He just sees a pretty girl who’s making it easy for him.

I watched Letter From an Unknown Woman, and then I got all excited about it, and wrote a blog post about it, and I Love Dick, and Window Shopping, and female gazing, and consumerism.

There is a shift once she returns to Vienna, from girl Lisa to woman Lisa, that is marked by the look. Girl Lisa is constantly gazing, almost invisible. She she’s peeking in windows and hiding in staircases, and the camera really follows her eye. Her perspective is overwhelming. But woman Lisa is constantly, aggressively visible. She actually works as a model in a dress shop; it’s during this time when Stefan finally looks back. But of course he doesn’t really see her. He just sees a pretty girl who’s making it easy for him.

I watched Letter From an Unknown Woman, and then I got all excited about it, and wrote a blog post about it, and I Love Dick, and Window Shopping, and female gazing, and consumerism.

March 2, 2012
thenewinquiry:

“Don’t you see? Capitalism allows us to communicate, it makes the whole  process worth something to somebody. Without it we would be bereft.  (What would we talk about without consumer products anyway? Pinterest  would be so boring!) Thank goodness the advertising industry and its  skip tracers in the data-tracking field are finally learning to monetize  more of our everyday life and our social being; finally sociality has  some real purpose. Knowing I am being followed reassures me that I am  actually going somewhere.”
Rob Horning on Alexis Madrigal’s recent Atlantic article.

This is mostly good, but using Pinterest as a reference is probably unnecessarily gendering consumerism.

thenewinquiry:

“Don’t you see? Capitalism allows us to communicate, it makes the whole process worth something to somebody. Without it we would be bereft. (What would we talk about without consumer products anyway? Pinterest would be so boring!) Thank goodness the advertising industry and its skip tracers in the data-tracking field are finally learning to monetize more of our everyday life and our social being; finally sociality has some real purpose. Knowing I am being followed reassures me that I am actually going somewhere.”

Rob Horning on Alexis Madrigal’s recent Atlantic article.

This is mostly good, but using Pinterest as a reference is probably unnecessarily gendering consumerism.

1:20pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZSRIbyHLRZ2Y
  
Filed under: consuming 
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