Welcome to our very first newsletter, "Wave of Interest" - which is digital content lingo for when interest in a story or subject peaks on the internet. Conrad works at the New Scientist and Alfred writes a column for British GQ and consults for luxury brands. During lockdown we've been whatsapping each other amusing links, and what we found was ideas in fashion, art and design were getting muddled with ideas from technology, finance and science in increasingly weird and wonderful ways. Broadly, Conrad does all the science, tech and finance stuff and the fashion and lifestyle comes from me. And then we try to muddle the two together.
In our first newsletter:
- Why the “penis industrial complex” needs to take a good hard look at itself
- Fiscal frolicking: Adventures in dogecoin and why the best market analysis is on TikTok
- A plastic bucket will change the way you think about luxury forever
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-Alf and Conrad
Alf: Rapper Cam’ron vs The Penis Industrial Complex
I’ve been thinking about Cam’ron - as usual. He runs a close fourth best rapper ever after Jay, Biggie, and Nas for me. Did you watch his Drink Champs interview with NORE? Cam’s got new product out: Cam’ron’s Bedroom Love Pink Horse Power. It’s an all-natural and organic, erectile dysfunction drug made out of a root from Ghana. He sells it in single shots for $59.99.
Yeah yeah, so far, so Cam, but the market for erectile dysfunction drugs is worth $4 billion in the US. And when’s the last time you saw something from that sector that wasn’t completely embarrassing? One look at the miserable new Viagra ads (which attempt to “tackle stigma” and explore “modern masculinity and intimacy”) is enough to put me off sex forever.
Meanwhile there’s Hims, the American telehealth company. What’s the deal with this Brooklyn hipster guy from 2010? Deary me.
Millennials are middle aged. The oldest members of that generation are already turning 40. We grew up with designer clothes, designer drugs and sculpting our designer bodies in designer gyms. Is this really the best the penis industrial complex can come up with?
Meanwhile, Cam’s Pink Horse Power is casually endorsed by Ludacris over insta stories and promises to make your girl “do the Harlem Shake”. The fact that it’s bright pink is the kind of reverse jujitsu approach to marketing to (straight) men that is more sophisticated than it looks. It’s certainly more fun than a bearded Brooklyn barista from a missing episode of Girls. Plus, it’s organic!
Conrad: When 200% ROI makes you feel like a loser
What’s more exciting than buying a lottery ticket, more engrossing than day trading and gives you a chance to stick it to the man? My Dogecoin investments, of course.
I made a 200% return on the Dogecoin I bought in 2017 (and sold in 2020) - not bad, right 🚀? Actually, I lost out on 42,800% of subsequent growth. Dang. 🤦🏻♂️
Back when the dog coin was actually a joke, and not worth more than the market cap of several banks, I bought a fiver’s worth of coins, which I sold last year for £15. If I’d have waited until last week, I could have sold them for £2,143.75, a return of about 42,800%. I’d have been a millionaire if I put in £2,500. And because cryptocurrencies are cruel, this transaction is logged for eternity, in public.
At least I’m not the only one.
Billy Markus, the software engineer who co-created Dogecoin as a kind of financial meme, gave away holdings in 2015 that would probably have made him a billionaire several times over today. Instead he traded in his coins for a used Honda Civic. For the last few weeks he’s been playing around and commiserating on Twitter. In fact, he seems to be enjoying himself.
The best explanation of why this has happened was written in 2018 by Kadhim Shubber at the FT: crypto is as entertaining as buying a lottery ticket, as engrossing as day trading, and has elements of rebellion against the establishment. Want to know when we’ve hit the top? Keep an eye out on Reddit for something else that’s more fun, more engrossing and more rebellious. It’s not necessarily all about the money. It’s a kind of fiscal frolicking that is hugely entertaining.
One of my favourite ways of keeping up-to-date with the market (“real” and crypto) is a TikTokker called Kyla Scanlon. She has a day job as an investment partner at exciting Silicon Valley accelerator and talent firm On Deck, but in her spare time she creates pithy and peppy market updates. Turns out you don’t need more than 59 seconds to explain what Janet Yellen said yesterday, or why lumber is so expensive in the US, or to receive advice about which market visualisation tool you should be using. Get on TikTok and follow. the. account.
You’d be in good, addicted company.
In the UK, according to Ofcom, adult visitors to TikTok spend the same amount of time there as visitors to Facebook, and that time spent is only going to go up. The social network only entered the top ten UK social networks in 2019.
Alf: This bucket will change the how you think about luxury
The first day of lockdown restrictions lifting in the UK meant one thing: shopping in an actual shop.
It started happily enough in my local Primrose Hill Books, where I found Stephen Bayley’s “Value”, the design critic’s guide to “What Money Can’t Buy”, namely, style and taste. It’s a bit curmudgeonly in parts but full of wonderful things like this:
"Every day is all we’ve got," is a call to revel in the pleasure of "everyday" or "ordinary" objects and rituals. For Bayley, there’s as much poetry to be found in a Duralex glass (£8 from John Lewis) as there is in Didion’s linen and baccarat crystal.
And this bucket gets a special mention:
It’s not just any bucket. This is Gino Colombini’s KS1146 bucket, designed for the Milanese firm Kartell in 1954 and acquired by MOMA three years later. Here’s what Socrates had to say when asked whether a dung bucket could be beautiful, 2000 years earlier: "Of course, and a golden shield ugly, if the one is well made for its work and the other badly". Any idiot can buy expensive stuff, but it takes something special to see beauty in a bucket. And I think that’s what they mean when they talk about “taste”.
Ripples on the internet
Have you been UTBed? An acronym meaning being thrown “under the bus” by another developer on the Apple App Store because your app breaches the store's terms of service.
Tech companies have built a virtual wireless network without your knowledge. FindMyiPhone and Amazon's Echo devices are also very valuable wireless networks for Apple and Amazon that crisscross you and your neighbour's homes.
Quantum hard drives, quantum telescopes and a quantum internet could combine to let us see high resolution images of exoplanets in a few decades.
Dodgem cars are coming to Somerset House this summer.
The more accurate your watch is, the more it increases entropy in the universe. This might even be the reason we perceive time to be moving "forwards".
"What I could say safely is that I think we are going to go through a period of politics - the next 10 or 20 years - much more turbulent and much more interesting and testing and challenging then anything we have seen in the last 10 years, which have been big enough.
-The BBC Andrew Marr's thoughts on the future.
Matt Levine's Money Stuff newsletter is always brilliant and this week's newsletter on Elon Musk's magic lamp is no exception.
A paywalled article we'd inspect the HTML element to read: Daily Beast's investigation into the image rights of US national treasure, TV artist Bob Ross.
Wave of Interest 🌊 is free to read (for now). Forward this post to your friends and we'd be very happy.