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A Visual Guide to the Aztec Pantheon

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An Introduction to Aztec Gods
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cjmcnamara
5 days ago
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Remembering Roger Angell, Hall of Famer

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In the course of a well-lived century, he established himself as the most exacting of editors, the most agile of stylists, a mentor to generations of writers, and baseball’s finest, fondest chronicler.
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cjmcnamara
36 days ago
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The Crypto Crash Feels Amazing

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Updated at 6:10 p.m. ET on May 18, 2022

“What do you think of this company Netscape?” my parents asked. It was 1995, and they had called me on the landline, which back then just meant the telephone. Netscape was a company that made a graphical web browser—the web browser, really—but gave it away for free. Its income statement showed only modest revenue (and substantial losses). The web was new and exciting but unproven, so I steered my folks away from Netscape’s IPO.

Hahaha. Netscape stock doubled its $28 offering price the day it went public, making its founders half billionaires and ushering in the dot-com era. By the end of the year, the stock hit $174, and when AOL acquired the company in 1999, just before the dot-com crash, the deal was worth $10 billion.

A decade and a bit later, a new digital “currency” called bitcoin, meted out by computers that solved math problems, was worth less than a dime. Even that price seemed too high. Bitcoin didn’t really exist, nobody accepted it for payments, and it was almost impossible to create, store, and trade. How stupid, I thought. If my parents had called me up again to ask whether they should buy in, I would have told them no again. But $1,000 “invested” in bitcoin at the right moment in 2010 turned into $625 million last year, when the ur-cryptocurrency hit $50,000. Even now, as the cryptocurrency market recovers from this month’s big collapse, that $1,000 would still be worth more than $350 million.

A special, acid feeling wells up when you realize that you’ve passed up the opportunity to get rich with no effort whatsoever. Denser than jealousy but lighter than regret, it is a nausea of the spirit rather than the gut. Netscape and bitcoin (and GameStop and perhaps even Tesla) are windfall fantasies. In hindsight, only an idiot would have missed the boat had they been on its gangway at the crucial moment.

Now all the losers—the ones like me and my parents (sorry, Mom)—are standing on the shore with our binoculars, wondering if the USS Crypto is about to sink into the sea. This month’s crash occurred, at least in a proximate sense, when a so-called stablecoin named terra lost its peg to the U.S. dollar, an event you don’t really need to understand to continue reading this article. The ultimate causes were more numerous: inflation and rising interest rates have destabilized financial markets on the whole, and tech securities have been especially volatile. Bitcoin’s value has now degraded to just half of what it was last fall. Many of the people who bought in recently have lost their shirts. Many of the people who put their money into other cryptocurrencies have lost a whole lot more.

Alas, but also: hurrah. I have empathy for individuals who are suffering, but in the broader sense, the frustration of “It could have been me” has been swapped for the dark pleasure and relief of “I’m glad it wasn’t me.” It’s the same schadenfreude that arrives when an Antiques Roadshow expert tells some schlemiel that the disposed dust sleeve of a rare book meant the difference between a six-figure auction and a pittance. It’s too bad, really, but it’s also just too good.

You can tell I didn’t buy (and hold) bitcoin at $0.08, because I’m writing articles on the internet instead of polishing the gilded fixtures of my yacht. To live with this folly, I have told myself many stories. For one, I am proud to have been uninvolved in underwriting the scams perpetrated by bitcoin aficionados. For another, I am glad to have avoided contributing directly to the energy consumption required to operate the blockchain. For a third, I am happy to be spared participation in the overall crypto subculture, a community one would, presumably, be tempted to honor had it been the source of massive personal wealth.

[Read: The internet is just investment banking now]

But mostly, I take glee in the certainty that, had I actually figured out how to create and store circa-2010 bitcoins in an online “wallet,” I surely, without a doubt, would have stored that wallet on a hard drive that ended up malfunctioning, or lost the cryptographic key needed to unlock it. To lose $350 million down a storm drain would be far worse than never having had it in the first place.

I’m sorry—also glad—to say that the crypto crash has spread to other online assets, too. Non-fungible tokens are also in distress. The blue-chip NFTs, such as Bored Apes, have lost half their hypothetical value, while other, less popular issues are falling even faster, and trades of these digital goods are slowing overall. Here again, schadenfreude is selling high. Whether all this pleasure taken at the expense of rubes who bought in only to lose out will continue expanding in the weeks ahead—or if it’s just a short-term bubble of its own—remains to be determined. The collapse of cryptocurrencies could reverse into another boom at any moment. It’s happened before. Proponents urge their fellow believers to “buy the dip” and keep the faith, and that faith has sometimes been rewarded.

Whatever happens, though, the jagged history of crypto shows that foolish risk creates its own aesthetics. The crypto-bro investor does not evoke vicarious excitement, like a stuntman jumping motorcycles or a daredevil mountaineer, because his antics at the keyboard don’t appear to take much skill. He’s more like a bettor at the track who picks the winning horse at random, or a country-club jerk who hits a lucky hole in one. Watching him may elicit wonder at his cosmic luck—a mathematical sublimity. But no one would describe his victory as a beautiful achievement.

That’s why we end up feeling nauseated at the crypto bro’s success: It’s so unearned, it makes us sick. But our schadenfreude is a product of the same illusion. We’re not reveling in our prudence, so much as we’re indulging in an even lamer form of grandiosity. “It could have been me” was a lie from the start: Sure, we might have profited 10,000-fold—and then lost everything a few years later—but probably not. If my folks and I had purchased Netscape at its IPO, we wouldn’t now be plutocrats. We’d have put a few thousand dollars in, at most, and then sold off our stocks when their value had tripled or quadrupled. We’d have made a little money and been glad. As for crypto, I bought a thousand bucks’ worth a while back and am down by half. Whatever. The fantasy of failing to achieve a massive gain, and then also of averting bankruptcy, flatters us twice over. The truth is more banal: It could never have been me.


This article originally stated that the crash occurred when a stablecoin called tether lost its peg to the U.S. dollar. The crash had more to do with another stablecoin, terra, that also lost its peg.

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cjmcnamara
39 days ago
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Nobody Plays Guitar Like Bill Frisell

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A visit with the legendary musician at his home in Brooklyn.
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cjmcnamara
41 days ago
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Ironic Sans makes the case for adding “keming” to the dictionary

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he coined the term in 2008 and has tracked its adoption ever since #
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cjmcnamara
47 days ago
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A Lotta Y'all Still Don't Get It

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I took yesterday off because… it was raining? It was Wednesday? *Gestures vaguely at the moon*? So you may have missed the news that ape holders can use multiple slurp juices on a single ape. As Kapie explained:

Let’s say you own only one Astro Ape, but you have, say, three slurp juices. Yes, you can use each slurp juice on that same ape! That means you now have three new apes.

Y’all still don’t get it? Master Shake put it even more plainly: tonight’s slurp juice mint event is essentially a minting event for both Lab Monkes and Special Forces.

UPDATE: “we regret to inform you the slurp juice is racist.”

Eloi, Eloi, apes sabachthani? In Motherboard, Maxwell Strachan confirmed that “it would be correct to say that ‘the Vatican is entering the metaverse and the world of NFTs.’

But Motherboard didn’t want a demo of Sensorium smart AI-driven virtual beings (unrelated to the Vatican project). We wanted to talk about the Vatican’s entrance into the metaverse, thanks to former Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov

As a giant beetle awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into Starbucks founder and prospective Clinton administration Labor Secretary Howard Schultz, who knows exactly what his rapidly unionizing workers really want: “a series of branded NFT collections, the ownership of which initiates community membership, and allows for access to exclusive experiences and perks.” Who needs paid sick leave when you could be initiating community membership with “the treasure trove of assets that Starbucks has, from collectibles, to the entire heritage of the company?” “Some time before the end of this calendar year, we are going to be in the NFT business,” Schultz communicated to his baffled minions via otherworldly clicks and hisses, before rolling offstage atop a huge ball of dung.

If I say Justine Calma has a story in The Verge that involves ExxonMobil, Bitcoin, and excess methane, you might assume it adds up to bad news, but you might be wrong! I mean, you’re not wrong. But in theory you might be. We should all try to stay humble. And the be-Apèd CEO of Cameo fired “87 beloved members of the Cameo Fameo,” ’right-sizing’ a quarter of the staff into funemployment and stealth insurance.

Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you? Parker Molloy collected a lot of responses to the thing in The Present Age. Kelly Conaboy collected the worst tweets about it in Gawker. People do be searching. Dear Bret Stephens, please fuck all the way off, absolutely no one needs to hear from you right now. Vox’s Ian Millhiser follows a long and persuasive argument for lighting the Supreme Court of the United States on fire with the disclaimer “of course I do not believe that we should literally light the Supreme Court of the United States on fire.” Kelsey McKinney and Laura Wagner do seem to believe we should literally light the Supreme Court of the United States on fire. After much internal consultation, the Today in Tabs Editorial Board calls that “a good start.” Alex Pareene: “The legitimacy crisis is that our institutions are illegitimate.” And Neal Katyal sat down for a perfunctory Chotining, secure in the knowledge that there will never be a price to pay for anything he does.

Right, and I know you are a fan of Coney Barrett. You said she was “brilliant” and a “lovely person” and so on.

Can we go off the record for a second?

I’d rather stay on the record.

[Goes off the record.]

Did you know: Olivia Rodrigo is also covering Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” on her current tour? The Eve 6 Guy has some new advice, including what to do about a Twitter crush, who I assume is me. #Lifehack: Assume all crushes are you. Marin County wine-sipper roasted. Erik Hinton’s Dirt post about permadeath as a game mechanic in roguelikes was unexpectedly beautiful:

Roguelikes work in the strange medium of love, in which something happens by chance and, for no reason, you decide that it’s your reason for going on, that you would risk everything for this coin flip of fate…

Screenshot of a Guardian headline: “I’ve no fewer than 17 wooden spoons. But I have a favorite and I’d miss it forever if it went missing.” by Adrian Chiles. I swear this is real.

Finally, William Kennedy wrote a thoughtful and provocative essay “In Defense of the Single-Page Application.” Much to consider here.

Today’s Song: “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne, I mean what else could it be?

~ uh huh, uh huh, tabs like this ~

I appreciate the concern of potentially dozens of you who wrote to make sure I was ok yesterday, and regret that all but one of your emails mysteriously failed to reach me. Anyway I’m fine, I just took yesterday off to focus on tweeting. I don’t know what to tell you about this week except that if you have multiple slurp juices, all you need is a single ape. If you subscribe, I’ll send you something else tomorrow. If you don’t, what else can we do but try again Monday?



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cjmcnamara
51 days ago
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