Content for humans, selected by a human. Mass communications-focused with a universal lens. Mid-week is usually for the articles, weekend is usually for the links. Not your thing? Unsubscribe below.
Quick housekeeping note: Context Collapse is going offline for the rest of 2021. I’m taking some time off for family stuff, running the first 5K of my life on Sunday, doing a bit of travel and generally living life without any screens involved for a few weeks if I have anything to say about it.
Anyway, 2021’s been a ridiculously busy work year. I liked that! But it also means I need time to rest. On a personal note, I took an extended break from drinking back in July1 after a health scare and took up exercising again right after for the first time in years. I finished Couch to 5K, lost more than 30 pounds, had a thyroid issue resolve itself and got my blood pressure and a few health metrics to improve. All good things. The plan now is to keep all that up in 2022.
I just typed a whole bunch of words AND committed the golden sin of writing about myself in a work-centric newsletter. Therefore, let’s shift gears with a Hank Scorpio GIF.
Now on to the links.
An inside look at what it’s like working at the first unionized US Starbucks location. (Jaz Brisack/Twitter)
Allstate’s selling their corporate headquarters in the Chicago suburbs for $232 million for conversion into a logistics campus (Disclosure: I moderated a SXSW panel organized by Allstate several years ago). This is a preview of what’s going to happen to a lot of massive suburban office campuses as employers either move to urban cores or embrace sweet, sweet hybrid work. (Robert Channick/Chicago Tribune)
Jack in the Box is acquiring Del Taco and creating a west coast fast food megamonster. (Chris Wack/Wall Street Journal)
Yuval Noah Harari speaks with the New York Times Magazine about lots of stuff, all of which is worth reading. (David Marchese/New York Times Magazine)
I think that the reason that there is so much political heat around debates about transgender people and nonbinary people and so forth is because people maybe subconsciously feel that debates of the future will be about what we can do with the human body and the human brain. How can we re-engineer them? How can we change them? The first practical place that we come across these questions is gender. You can say people are bigots and are always sensitive when you talk about sex or gender, but I think that subconsciously people realize this is the first debate about transhumanism.
And finally, a contrarian take on the late David Graeber and David Wengrow’s (excellent) The Dawn of Everything. (Robert Henderson/City Journal)
In many small-scale societies, it is indeed taboo to deny food to another who asks. Yet reports also exist of members of these societies who relentlessly ask others for food and contribute nothing in return. As a consequence, others secretly arrange to have the requester killed. Presumably, this is a form of freedom, too.
Everything is marketing, especially the monetization of vaccine misinformation. (Allyson Chiu & Razzan Nakhlawi/Washington Post)
Don’t let anyone ever, ever, ever tell you that packaging does not matter. Human psychology is real and product packaging absolutely f**king matters. (Amanda Mull/The Atlantic)
Josh Spector has 11 secrets for writing a successful newsletter. (Josh Spector)
The best recap of the Peloton and the Sex in the City reboot marketingate2 that I’ve read yet. (Christi Carras/Los Angeles Times)
Netflix launching a public-facing content house to promote Netflix content because effective marketing communications depends on the “communications” part of that equation. (Mia Galuppo/Hollywood Reporter)
Chuck Wendig looks at why authors really, really need to promote their books on social media. (Chuck Wendig/Terribleminds)
Social media is a raging brushfire. It’s an apocalyptic stock ticker of news and rage and memes and condemnation and indignation and dunks, so many fucking dunks, dunks upon dunks upon dunks. (This is a harsh take on it, and I recognize there is a lot of vital work done there, too, and a necessary platform for social justice. But it’s also a platform for shit that masquerades as social justice, too, which is tricky. But that’s a whole other conversation.) We view social media — or, at least, publishers view social media — like it’s an audience-in-waiting. But it’s not. Everybody on social media is equal parts performer and product. We’re all on the platform, and the platform is a stage, and we’re dancing for the social media companies. So, it’s hard to get above all that and actually let people know about your books. This is an attention economy, and the way to get attention isn’t… y’know, a link to your book. I wish it was. But it’s not. And it’s not, in part because Twitter doesn’t want it to be.
And here’s what NASA’s planned talking points for when we discover extraterrestrial life are all about. (Tim Marchman/Motherboard)
Freddie DeBoer reveals the business model and financial details of running a successful pundit Substack. (Freddie DeBoer)
How do you know when you’re middle aged? (Mudhooks/Twitter)
The writer alignment chart. (M.K. Lobb/Twitter)
I have an intense personal dislike for the term “stopped drinking”—but, if that model works for you, GO FOR IT! It’s more of an extended period of not drinking where the goal is not to pour a whiskey rocks because it’s the night after a long day at work and you feel it’s the only way to relax, basically. So these things go.
Holy hell I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the first emails were sent between the And Just Like That people and Peloton. “So we’re planning for a beloved character to pass away while using your brand’s iconic bike…”