The Aperitif: W.2
Old Saigon > New Saigon, why the death of OnlyFans is the most important free-speech story of the year, and a 805 BHP Chinese racing minivan.
The Big Story: The Next Saigon
Much has been said about Afghanistan.
Many brilliant people - who know more than I ever will on the subject - have written detailed explanations of what went wrong and what should have been done instead - and are why I won’t speak to that.
An even greater number of people speak authoritatively from a seat of confident ignorance - and I wish not to join their ranks.
But there’s a third camp, of hypocritical pundits and politicians, that demand all of healthy mind and soul ask: “What the hell is wrong with you?”
The pinnacle example of this was the Commander in Chief; a title now invoked with bitter irony. As Afghanistan devolved and Taliban surged, the President was unavailable for comment, and when he was, and finally delivered a speech, you wished it had stayed that way. It was a bumbling symposium of contradiction, casting blame like Oprah handing out Hondas;
The buck stops with me, bucko, but it was everyone else’s fault; and the White House prepared for every eventuality, but we didn’t expect it to happen that quickly, or for the Taliban to be that strong; and the Trump administration did everything wrong and progress is found through burning every order and memorandum they wrote, except for the slavish ‘peace deal’ made with the Taliban, which we just have to follow, oh well.1
It was a shameful speech that perfectly fits the moment; a national humiliation that leaves America weaker, and emboldens terrorists and autocrats alike. In a healthy Republic, the President would resign in shame. But it isn't, and he won't. The bar is (seemingly) as low as it can get and “when Republicans go low…” Democrats will follow. And here we are.
But we won’t remember this ramble; nor the op-eds or dumb tweets or informed analyses; it’s the pictures that will stay with us. We remember Saigon for the helicopter. We will remember Afghanistan for Kabul Airport.
The most horrifying images of 9/11 were of the people leaping from the buildings, choosing the fall over being crushed and burned.
The war fought because of it has ended with young Afghan men falling from the wheels of leaving American planes, choosing the fall over death at the hands of the Taliban.
But none of that matters because most American voters will forget this ever happened in roughly a fortnight. Their final moments, falling from the sky, become the day’s victim-porn, strewn with chyrons on news channels and red circles in tabloids, and we will talk and chatter until the next scandal comes around, at which point their lives and deaths and souls and families will be forgotten. We will talk of critical race theory and systematic racism and PROGRESS BABY WOO! and the victims of the Taliban will scream and suffer and die unheard.
The (Other) Big Story: Banks curb-stomp OnlyFans
“Effective 1 October, 2021, OnlyFans will prohibit the posting of any content containing sexually-explicit conduct…. These changes to are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.”
The absurdity of this announcement stole the headlines. It’s like Liquorice Allsorts banning liquorice; except that’s a bad example because the Allsorts are still very nice. There is nothing to OnlyFans without the adult content.
That isn’t the important story though. That is hidden in these words:
“to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.”
The removal of pornographic content from OnlyFans2 isn’t some win for the conservative right; nor is it an example of a platform being deliberately careless with CSAM and finally getting what it deserved3. This is an execution by the most powerful corporate cabal on the planet, the financial institutions, because they didn’t like kink and hardcore-porn. It’s the most important story about free expression that will happen this year.
Mastercard is the most notable party responsible for this, having chosen over the past year to put greater pressure on those who use their services, and in April, announcing new policies targeting adult content. One requirement was that all content had to be manually reviewed on release, or constantly if live; and another, that they would not accept payments that didn’t align with Mastercard values.
The former policy is almost impossible to comply with. A platform small enough to make this feasible couldn’t afford to, and a platform that theoretically could afford it wouldn’t be able handle the scale. The latter policy is deliberately vague, and lets them bar transactions for anything they find distasteful, or that a Twitter mob or journalist says is so, and there’s no reason to think it will stop at porn.
In the past, a banks 'values' were purely financial; but times have changed, in a moralistic and dystopian way. Bring back the bankers who only care about money!
Under these demands, OnlyFans has rolled on its belly, submitted to the big banks, and like its greatest stars and primary income source, is now fucked.
However, as Edward Snowden notes, decentralized finance through cryptocurrency is the perfect solution to this, and this situation could drive it into truly mainstream adoption. Perhaps, even in this censorship, porn will continue to produce tech innovation. It just won’t be OnlyFans doing it.
Afghanistan is having its (rightful) moment of the sun, so little news can really reach that level of attention4, but a few have broken through:
AI: Tesla announces the future. Maybe. Musk has announced a lot of stuff with less ambitious timelines and mechanics than his ‘Tesla Bot’, that are still far, far, far behind schedule (e.g. Hyperloop, Boring, Tesla Roadster, Tesla Semi, Tesla CyberTruck, Tesla Quad…), so I doubt this will be realized any time soon. However, their less flashy developments around self-driving and neural nets are generational leaps.
COVID: Ivermectin is even worse than hydroxychloroquine. Considering that, (as I wrote last year) very few Trump supporters took his bleach comments seriously, and he was booed last week for telling people to take the vaccine, it seems people take ‘skeptics’ like Bret Weinstein seriously and literally, whereas even fervent Trump supporters don't see him as a model of health.
ENTERTAINMENT: Anderson .Paak’s Musical Non-Resuscitation Tattoo. His very public statement of how dystopian and exploitative the music industry is.
REMOTE WORK: Facebook makes conference calls even more complicated. I give Zuckerberg’s bullishness on the ‘metaverse’ more credence than most who use the phrase, but Facebook’s new ‘Horizon Workrooms’ - however technologically impressive - is still very clunky, and weird. Better than Second Life though.
TECHNOLOGY: The Google Pixel 5A finally launches. Google's follow up to the excellent 'all essentials’ 4A isn't particularly exciting, but there's no better choice for a phone that does everything you need and takes great photos at a modest price.
Album of the week: ‘Daytrotter Sessions’ by American Aquarium
If you haven’t listened to AMERICAN AQUARIUM, you are missing out on one of the most talented bands alive, with BJ Barham’s soulful lyricism capturing the best that country music can do. This is their second album of the year, and their strongest since 2018’s ‘Things Change’ (one of the great country albums of this century5), and each of the 10 tracks are golden. They vary as much in theme and story as they do in musical influences and demand many listens to fully appreciate. Even if you don’t like country, give it a listen.
Other notable music:
Deafheaven - Infinite Granite: I was not predisposed to like this album. Deafheaven are masters of blackgaze, stringing anarchic metal into grand operas that sound like heaven burning, and this beautiful, horrifying brilliance is what made Sunbather one of my favourite albums of all time. Infinite Granite has none of that. It’s a softer, alt-rock album, and it’s not bad - their great production makes instrumental sections particularly stand out - but it’s nothing remarkable. It grows on me with each listen and I'm not opposed to them taking this road, but the band needs to capture more of that grandeur and complexity to win me over.
Lorde - Solar Power: a whispy summery set of acoustic songs that still retain some of the moody poetry of her earlier hits but given a very different sheen. I don't think it works - the lyrics are better appreciated as poetry than sang - but it's nice to see a notable artist do something quite different with a big album.
Films of this week: Nora Ephron classics
OK, nobody needs to recommend these films - they’re classics, beloved by Valentine’s Day cinema-goers world-wide - but it’s worth reminding ourselves of just how fantastic Ephrons writing is. Sleepless in Seattle is the weakest structurally but its dialogue is fantastic, particularly from the radio, and You’ve Got Mail manages to remain conventional in tone and feeling whilst also telling the romantic comedy narrative in a somewhat unconventional, subversive way. When Harry Met Sally is the most stylised, courtesy of Rob Reiner’s direction, and there's a fantastic chemistry in her romantic-comedy writing meeting his Gen-X, art-house aesthetic. Ironically, the personality clash at the heart of the film is reflected in the production; and in both cases, the result is lovely.
Yes, all of these films are destined to end the same way, with boy and girl falling in love - and yet, because they’re so well written and directed, you’re fooled into thinking “Maybe that isn’t so”, and the route to get there is never what you expect. They’re technical achievements and deserve more praise from that perspective.
Also: Reminiscence is Deja Vu but somewhat worse. If you haven’t seen Tony Scott’s sorely underrated time-travel thriller, then you will find much unique to enjoy in Hugh Jackman’s latest. But if you have, then there’s little for you here. It’s got a future noir sheen, a higher budget, more CGI, a climate change dystopia, more conventional romantic elements, and a more "high-brow” mentality; and therefore, all together feels worse.
The new Nissan Z; the Nissan Z
Yes, it is both part of the Z line and called the 'Z', and that is quite stupid but the 2023 Z looks fantastic, is great value for money, and outcompetes the new Supra in every single way. It's cheaper, more powerful, better looking, faster, and a better continuation of its line. The only issue is that it won't be for sale in Europe.
Price: from roughly $40,000
Horsepower: 400 BHP (from the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6)
Acceleration: 0-60 in under 4 seconds
Other car news:
Genesis - the most interesting car company around, producing the only truly beautiful SUVs on the market - has unveiled their new luxury electric hatchback and my eyes are bleeding. The GV60 is the front-runner for ugliest car of the year.
The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance finished this week, as did the other elements of the Monterey Car Week, with its famous auctions. The RM Sotherby’s auction alone pulled in $148,528,300. Some highlights are this unique, bare-metal 1971 Lamborghini Muira P400 S; a rather striking 1954 Dodge Firearrow II, and perhaps the most desirable Porsche 356 I have ever seen, in beautiful colour-matched blue. Also: a Cadillac by Chip Foose; a continuation Jaguar E-Type Lightweight, and one of the first Speedtail’s to go on sale.
Most Chinese car rip-offs sit at the Platonic nexus between boring and shit, but this is perhaps the weirdest and coolest. To preview their upcoming, crossover/minivan thing, WM Motors has unveiled their version of the Renault Espace F1 Concept; an 805-BHP monster that looks just fantastic.
ARTICLE: Bari Weiss’s Substack: ‘Why We Failed: The American Exit From Afghanistan’ - Bari Weiss brought together a diverse group of experts to explain why this failed, and it's a really thought-provoking read. I align closest with Eli Lake, but participants did a great job.
HARDWARE: Logitech MX Master 3. Perhaps the most famous mouse on the market (and rightfully so), it is so good that I will never be able to return to a mouse with only a few buttons. Though mostly used by designers, having the ability to quickly toggle search, window layouts, swap between windows, cut, copy, screenshot, access my clipboard etc. has made it an essential tool for my writing. And, unless you play e-sports, it'll help your work too.
APP: Canary Mail. Long available for Apple users, 2021’s Android port secured its place as the best mail app for mobile. It’s has a clean UI, is simple to use but loaded with premium features, and has a low one-time fee rather than an ongoing subscription. It’s not perfect - occasional sync issues and slow loading are frustrating, the lack of a ‘system default theme’ is unfathomable, and the sidebar should have better reordering - but overall, nobody can beat it at this price. I eagerly await its upcoming Windows release (and if they want beta-testers, they know where to find me).
And that’s been THE APERITIF, Week 2! I’ve been moving house, and don’t have WiFi, so this has been written in fits and starts, and may be reflected in the quality, but alas.
If you enjoyed reading, please share with your friends, family, followers - religious, cult, or social media -, parole officer, cellmates, prison guards, victims, lawyers, judge, jury, executioner, uncle, and favourite, unemployed OnlyFans personality.
Have a great week!
Just to be clear; no, this isn’t a direct quote; but it summarises the content and its contradictions neatly.
Nudes are still allowed, but no simulated or actual sex or masturbation.
The BBC tries to infer this is so, but it isn’t. MindGeek - the parent company behind PornHub and most of the internet’s porn tubes and production companies - was deliberately careless about consent and adulthood in their videos, happy to take in the ad revenue among the flood of clicks. The lewd side of Tumblr was far, far worse too - they had a major problem they thought was so bad that they would kill most of their business rather than actually put a solution in place. Conversely, OnlyFans has been very rigorous, and the processes involved in setting up an account can be very onerous.
I have a book review that was supposed to come out ages ago that I suspect has been yet again delayed because of this; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood seems a tad tonally incongruent with the cultural mood.