What I take from writers I like is their economy — their ability to use language to very effective ends. The ability for somebody to paint an entire landscape of visual imagery with just sheets of words — that’s magical. That’s what I’ve been trying to strive for.
I highly recommend Red Notice for anyone interested in hedge funds, geopolitics, or even crime drama. This book has it all. I would not be the least bit surprised to see a Hollywood film in the coming years about what is written in this book. A fantastic read.
My life is half complete now, Mark and I are good, better even, but I still terribly miss Bea. It’s too bad that spring break is over, school is going to be so painful without talking to her, and I told Mark we should stop seeing each other after class now that she knows why I stay almost every day. Seeing me and Mark together won’t make things better, that’s for sure. As I open my locker to get my economy book before the next period, my eyes ghost over the picture of me and her I stuck just above my cheer bag. I sigh. I can’t possibly believe our friendship is over like this.
“Hey.” A voice says next to me and I turn around to meet Henry. He is as blond as ever, and his eyes just as blue as in my memories. He cut his hair, he looks great, like a curly John Travolta in Grease. “Hi.” I smile at him, closing the door of my locker.
“You’re not with Bea?” He asks me, and I shrug sadly.
“Did you guys fight?” He asks me, and I nod.
“Why?” He asks, incredulous.
“It’s complicated.” I sigh.
“Explain to me then.” He nods his head to the side, and I follow him in the hallway. I make a grimace. I can’t tell him I’m dating Mark. I know he won’t tell anyone, but still, I should be careful. How can I explain it to him without telling the truth about Mark and I?
“You can tell to me, you know?” He says.
“I know.” I reply.
“You’ll tell me at lunch?” He proposes.
“We’ll eat by ourselves, I’ll give you my expert advice.” He says, and I raise my eyebrow at him.
“Expert in what? Girls problems?” I snort.
“Don’t underestimate me.” He says as we arrive in front of my classroom.
“See you at the cafeteria.” He says.
“Okay.” I reply, and he ruffles my hair before leaving. After the next period I meet Henry in the queue in the cafeteria. Today’s menu is chicken and fries, and there are apple pies for desert. Bea is eating with alone with Max, and my heart sinks a little. We used to eat with half of the cheer team. Henry and I sit at a table far away from Bea’s.
“Water pot.” Henry says, lifting his tray from the table. I don’t even have time to react, he thought about it first, I have to get the water. But it’s not fair, we’re only two of us.
“You’re an idiot. You could be a gentleman and go get it yourself.” I sass, getting up from my seat. Henry realizes he’s being a complete boor and gets up. He freezes, thinks for a moment, and sits back down.
“Nah, go get it.” He says, shaking his head. That bastard! I laugh, shaking my head at him. Ruffling his hair as I go, I walk across the cafeteria and go to the fountain. I take an empty pot and start filling it up with water. Suddenly, Mark appears next to me.
“Why are you eating alone with Henry?” He hisses, and starts filling his pot at the same fountain as me when there are two. I gasp and nervously glance around.
“I told you Bea couldn’t see us together!” I whisper-yell. “You didn’t tell me about that tête à tête.” He replies. Geez! Couldn’t he wait? I look for Bea in the cafeteria, and she’s watching us like a hawk. Crap! “What does he want?” Mark asks me.
“You don’t know when to stop, do you?” I hiss before turning on my heels and leaving with my water pot. I’m probably going to be in trouble for this, but I don’t care. As I walk back to our table, Henry gets up from his seat. He pulls my chair for me, and I frown at him.
“What are you doing?” I ask him, and he politely waves towards my chair.
“Being a gentleman?” He says. Oh, what an idiot. I crack up but sit down.
“Thank you.” I say, and politely bows. He’s such a comedian.
“So? What’s the problem with Bea?” He asks, sitting down in front of me.
“Did she tell you anything?” I ask him, and he shakes his head.
“It’s not something I can tell to anyone. In fact, I didn’t even tell Bea, that’s why she’s mad at me.” I explain.
“You don’t want to tell me?” He asks. I make an ugly grimace. I do want to tell him but I don’t want to take any risk.
“Okay, fine. Use images then.” He says.
“Images?” I repeat, and he nods, focusing on his chicken. I try to come up with an image to describe the situation.
“Let’s say there is this Cheer school that opened this year, we both think it looks amazing, that’s it would be great to be there, but none of us say we want to go. Let’s say I somehow ended up visiting that school and I started to like it. I applied for next year and after the inscriptions I was told I was accepted. Then I went to tell Bea but she told me she thought she actually wanted to go on that school. I got scared and I didn’t tell her about me but she discovered and now she’s more than mad at me.” I explain. Henry blinks at me a few times.
“Did you get the idea?” I ask him, and he blinks again.
“Yeah.” He says.
“I know I betrayed her, and I know I should have told her since the start, and I totally understand why she’s mad. I just hope she’ll calm down.” I reply.
“I think she’ll get over it.” He says.
“With time, yes.” I nod slowly. Could she possibly forgive me?
“Eat, now.” He says, and for a second I think I’m eating with Mark. “Not hungry.
” I reply.
“You have to eat, Abigail.” He says, and he sounds too much like Mark.
“I know, I’ll just eat a yogurt.” I say, waving my vanilla yogurt in front of him. Oh, vanilla.
“And your pie.” He says.
“No, take it.” I reply. “No, you eat it. I’m not joking, Abigail.” He says dryly.
“Jeez, keep your hair on.” I mumble to myself.
“Eat.” He commands, and I obey. Why is everyone obsessed with me and eating?
Five minutes before the start of my next period Mark sends me a text telling me to go to the stairs in the scientific block. The high school is built on a slope, and the 1000 floor is the lowest, at this hour of the day, it’s deserted. He probably wants to talk about Henry in the cafeteria, he’s probably still mad, well, he’s going to be surprised because I’m mad too. I hate how pigheaded he is. You could ask him the smallest thing, something that won’t really bother him, if he felt the smallest irritation he could screw up everything and throw a tantrum. As I walk down the stairs, I see Mark leaning against the wall, watching me intently.
“What do you want-” I don’t even have the time to finish my sentence that he pins me on the nearest wall, his lips closing themselves onto mine. He kisses me hungrily, holding my face in his hands, he devours my mouth and his aggressiveness makes me want more. He pushes his tongue inside of my mouth, and I am lost, pulling his tongue for a sensual dance. Oh, what this man does to me. He can make me furious in a second and have me on my knees in one blink of eye. He pulls away, and I am breathless.
“You are the most maddening girl I’ve ever met.” He hisses through gritted teeth. All that tension is heady, intoxicating, almost exiting.
“I could say the same thing.” I breathe against his lips. He lets me go, and suddenly I’m back to reality. He takes a step away and sigh loudly, running both of his hands in his hair.
“Henry is just a friend, and that’s not a reason to talk to me in font of Bea, she saw us.” I try to reason him, but he ignores me.
“What did he want?” He asks me, and I sigh. This man is impossible, so mercurial.
“He wanted to know what was going on with Bea. I used images, he doesn’t know about us.” I say, and he nods. “Good.” He replies before cupping my face and leaning closer to me.
“Mark, no, you don’t understand, Bea saw us.” I say exasperatedly, pushing him away and avoiding his kiss.
“I know.” He says before burying his face in the crook of my neck, dropping a soft kiss onto my skin.
“Mark, I really care about her.” I murmur.
“I know, baby. But she’s acting like a child, let her go.” He mumbles against my skin.
“You don’t know her, of she says she like you, then she does, a lot. It had been two years since I heard her say she liked a boy, and I played her.” I reply, and he keeps silent, trailing his lips up and down my neck.
“Are you listening to me?” I whine, pushing him away so he would look at me.
“Listen, you can’t go back in time. You’ve apologized enough, if she wants to forgive you, she will. There is nothing you can do now.” He murmurs. Should I wait for her to come back? Is there really nothing I can do?
“Expect giving me a big kiss.” He says with a pout. Mark acting cute? Holy shit!
“A big kiss?” I giggle at him, and he nods cutely. I love cute Mark. I give him the big kiss he wants, and the bell rings as we pull away. I pout, I have to go to class now.
“Now get your cute little ass in class.” He says, smacking my behind. I yelp in surprise but obey.
“See you later.” I murmur before kissing his cheek, and with that I leave him and sprint to my next period.
Given that authenticity is only “real” as a brand-management phenomenon, I figured the book Authenticity by marketing consultants James Gilmore and Joseph Pine would give me some useful insight. So far I am not disappointed.
1. Gilmore and Pine regard authenticity as a means to create consumer demand in the midst of abundance. Authenticity is fundamentally a means for creating a perceived scarcity in a populace of satiated consumers.
2. The authenticity or “realness” of a consumer good is not a matter of its physical properties or utility. It is a matter of the way consumers experience buying and consuming the good. (Gilmore and Pine view Authenticity as an elaboration of their previous book, The Experience Economy.) Authentic doesn’t describe an experience, but is itself the experience. Things (or people) are not in themselves authentic; authenticity is an affect, a structure of feeling. Gilmore and Pine suggest authenticity is a service: Consumers pay someone to make them feel real for a time.
3. Authenticity constitutes a kind of utility beyond the conventional idea of usefulness; it makes goods useful for how they make people specifically aware of their own individuality, their own supposed uniqueness. Goods are “authentic” when they evoke a self-conscious subjectivity, when they permit you to revel in the fact that you are you.
4. Establishing a person’s need to feel unique — by no means an intrinsic human desire, but an ideological proposition — is at the core of generating the demand for “authentic” goods. The authenticity fetish relies on a culture that incessantly preaches individualism and devalues collectivity. When authenticity is enlisted as a marketing tool, it makes devaluing collectivity directly profitable.
5. Authenticity is about identity — mathematical identity: a = a. But this identity is not given but made. It can’t be postulated but instead must be routed through “authentic goods” that can unfold the tautology of selfhood as an experience in time. So, a as manifest in b allows a to recognize itself as a: a = b = a. (One could probably bring in Heidegger and Badiou and Lacan here to buttress this point.)
6. To experience authenticity, one must have a comparison staged between the self and some external thing that resolves them as being essentially equivalent. Authenticity-as-a-service must create that stage (or a platform, a la social media), supply the points of comparison.
7. The accepted bases for that comparison (what sorts of things are considered comparable, and in what ways) determines what sorts of things can be considered “authentic." Authenticity isn’t established through nonstrategic spontaneity; a reified sense of spontaneity is the product being sold. So authenticity is not guaranteed by being uncalculated, as with the illusion of sprezzatura. It is instead expressed through deliberate consumer choices that can be construed retroactively as impulses that express the essential self. Gilmore and Pine regard the offer of customization options as a way companies can "render” authenticity for consumers through their products.
8. The bases for authenticity, the criteria, constitute genres. The points of possible comparison are preformatted, in order to be legible and supply a framework for personal choices. (You can customize goods, but only along predetermined axes.) Fidelity to generic conventions, not spontaneous originality, makes for authenticity. Authenticity is, in this sense, formulaic.
9. An individual’s consumption data provides one convenient basis for the comparisons required to generate “authenticity.” Authenticity becomes a matter of matching data sets, one of which defines the self and another which defines a consumer good. To experience authenticity in those convenient terms, one must consent to being represented as data and abet the construction of the data simulacrum of the self.
10. Goods (whose physical properties are irrelevant to this procedure) must also become enriched with the identity data of those who affiliate themselves with them or consume them. Consumption produces the identity data for goods, gives them “meaning,” but only in the limited sense of allowing them to speak the authenticity of a certain group of people whose situationally salient data matches up.
11. When goods are consumed for their supposed authenticity, they are treated as media objects. They communicate a single message about users’ having become or expressed themselves. The goods are not authentic; they are generic in ways that permit the consumer to feel authentic.
12. For a good to be authentic, there needs to be a consumer (performing authenticity by consuming/experiencing the good) and an audience validating the performance. Sometimes — maybe ideally — the performer and the audience is one and the same person: a = a. But in that case, authenticity is not about integrating the self but dividing it into a self that can watch over itself. (One could bring in Foucault at this point.)
13. The authenticity performance (the Foucauldian “game of truth”) is a fictional performance, akin to a kind of historical re-enactment. In Club Cultures, Sarah Thornton describes authenticity as the “reassuring reward for suspending disbelief.”Authenticity is what one feels in successfully forgetting the effort one has made to put on its performance. It’s what happens when you can regard something you made or chose as something you discovered (about yourself) — when you can forget the calculations that went into the postures you are trying to strike for yourself.
14. When companies try to invest their products with the air of authenticity, what they are hoping to inspire in customers is the enjoyable experience of the suspension of disbelief. Chipotle doesn’t expect customers to genuinely believe the weird tchotchkes on their walls are made by Aztecs, or that the exposed brick proves some sort of fidelity to “how things really are.” They want to give customers the opportunity to play along. Authenticity is a staged moment of forgetting fakery.
15. Gilmore and Pine point out that authenticity is not a moral issue: “The pursuit of authenticity should not be mistaken for the way to eternity.” It might be more accurate, though, to say that authenticity cloaks itself as a moral issue to help disguise itself, to help the suspension of disbelief. Increasing the stakes of authenticity enhances the dissonance involved in pursuing it. We want to believe we are not faking what we know we are faking much more intensely. This prompts us to commit to the fantasy and to the self-censure that invalidates it simultaneously, assuring a more rapid cycling between the two poles.
Against the dark screen of night, Vimes had a vision of Ankh-Morpork. It wasn’t a city, it was a process, a weight on the world that distorted the land for hundreds of miles around. People who’d never see it in their whole life nevertheless spent that life working for it. Thousands and thousands of green acres were part of it, forests were part of it. It drew in and consumed…
…and gave back the dung from its pens, and the soot from its chimneys, and steel, and saucepans, and all the tools by which its food was made. And also clothes, and fashions, and ideas, and interesting vices, songs, and knowledge, and something which, if looked at in the right light, was called civilization. That was what civilization meant. It meant the city.
Capitalism took a bashing in 2015:Corbynomics, the rise of anti-austerity parties Podemos and Syriza, Hillary Clinton slamming our culture of short-termism, COP21 protests and more. Capitalism – and more specifically its failings – is likely to be as brashly and uncompromisingly in the headlines this year as it has been over the past 12 months. To prepare you, we’ve put together a reading list of books we’ve loved andlearned from. It’s not easy to narrow down a list of must-reads to just six, but we’ve done our best.