Finally, the warmer season has officially arrived, and with it, signs of good news as people all across this dear country of mine are getting shots in arms — including, as of this afternoon, my dear wife! Personally, it sounds like that I’m going to be sometime on or around April 27th, but I can’t wait to just do the darn thing and get back to living!
It was a very nice weekend so far, sun shining, birds chirping and whatnot, and I hope it was as good for you.
Yes, there were things which grabbed my attention on the TV here at home — looking at you, premiere of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (SPOILER: It’s good!) — but more than anything, I was just damned excited about nature doing its thing. I hope your weekend has treated you well and you’re ready for another great week.
Now, onto the things…
It probably comes as little surprise that I’ve collected things pretty much my entire life. Comic books, action figures, movies, video games, and so on.
I’ve gotten better about most of these things — it’s certainly helped that digital versions have reduced the clutter of having these libraries on demand — but at its core, there’s a question I’ve never really been able to answer: Why?
Casey Taylor takes a cynics view of it all at Defector, where the increase of collecting during the pandemic is the focus, and asks — are we actually having fun?
You create a new market based around what people do have. And what do people in America have? They have a bunch of shit.
Piles of it. Old toys, new sneakers, video game consoles, vintage shirts in cardboard boxes in some dead relative’s attic. America is a consumer culture and after decades of consumption, all the things that didn’t end up in a landfill or choking a turtle to death in the middle of the Pacific are now for sale again. The sports memorabilia market is currently valued at over $5 billion annually. By the middle of 2020, StockX reported more than $2.5 billion in gross merchandise volume. Funko, maker of the wildly popular Pop! line of vinyl figurines, brings in hundreds of millions in revenue every year.
“For me, it was always about the money and the value,” says Chris Nerat, a consignment director at Heritage Auctions, the largest collectibles auction house in the world. “When I got my first pack of baseball cards and found out that this thing that I paid a few cents for was worth like 50 cents, it just became a fascination for me.” Chris is describing his first card collection in the 1980s, putting a fine point on the fact that this type of stuff has always been around in some capacity. A key reference point for these markets for the average outsider, particularly those that look at it with an understandable amount of confusion or even scorn, is the Beanie Baby bubble of the late ‘90s. At the time it was understood to be absurd. Today, it’s hard to imagine it fizzling out so quickly.
Something else that’s changed is how much our culture has accepted that this stuff isn’t just for kids; or perhaps we’ve had the realization forced upon us by those who stand to profit from it. Poptimism grew from something used by a handful of critics—a recalibration of the rubric for what made something artful, resulting in performers like Taylor Swift and Kanye West receiving treatment akin to MacArthur fellows—to a genuine large-scale movement that tells you your own obsessions, no matter how generic or frivolous, have great cultural value. All of this has coincided with a surge in nostalgia. What’s popular is good, and what’s popular is the stuff that made us happy as children, and the things that made us happy as children remind us of halcyon days of no responsibility and a functioning economy. And what a wonderful coincidence that you can sell a piece of that nostalgia to help pay your bills.
I know, that headline sounds like I’m judging, but if I am, know that it comes from a place of personal understanding — my wife and I both are part of the cult, one of the positive things which came out of this pandemic: our dedication to Peloton and its workouts.
Amanda Hess at The New York Times writes:
Before I met Cody Rigsby, I thought Peloton, the bourgeois exercise bike company that employs him, was about a slavish devotion to a techno-religious sect. I didn’t realize that it could also be about celebrities, accessories and the reimagining of the high school social hierarchy. Suddenly I was interested. I dislike exercise, so when I do it, I want my brain to feel as anesthetized as possible. And after I signed up for Peloton’s 30-day free trial of virtual content and hopped on the dusty Schwinn in my in-laws’ basement, I was zonked.
Logging on to one of Rigsby’s sessions feels like syncing up with a human iPhone, always swiping toward some new distraction. It keeps me just stimulated enough to alleviate the monotony and discomfort of exercise without prompting me to do any of my own mental work. Peloton is known for selling its ludicrously expensive bikes, but you don’t have to buy one to stream its classes. The company’s more significant offering is this: the total curation of the mind.
This article spoke directly to me, as I used to work in an office filled with Huel addicts.
Allison Robicelli at The Takeout dives in deep and gives herself over to the “food of the future”, the meal replacement food — and its spinoff products — known as Huel, or “human fuel”.
Tired of doing things like “cooking” and “eating”? Check this out.
It was because of my willful ignorance that I had never heard of Huel—a globally popular plant-based meal replacement product that’s existed since 2015—until about one month ago, when I found myself face-to-face with a diabolical PR email that roped me in before I realized what was happening, assailing me with a sales hook I had not thought to build defenses for:
With the global population predicted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, our current food production methods are often outdated and unsustainable, not to mention unethical. We throw away 30% of the food we produce, we use meat and animal products as our main source of protein, and we create too much packaging waste. In short, we need a food that prioritizes nutrition, does not generate lots of waste, and has minimal impact on the environment. Huel is a solution to those problems.
Five years ago I would have laughed at a statement like this before making an obligatory Soylent Green joke. Then again, five years ago, I would have laughed if somebody told me the next president of the United States was going to be a mentally unstable game show host. If science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that once the world is done devolving into a dystopia, there will only be two foods available: protein bars and dubious beige slop. Before I could even process what was happening, I was arranging to have Huel products sent to my house. I pray that humankind will unite to avert climate catastrophe, but my gut tells me I should start testing various brands of nutritionally dense gruel “just in case.”
Normally when conducting taste tests I focus on flavor alone, but with Huel I wasn’t merely sampling a product—I was sampling an entire lifestyle built for optimal nutrition in a brave new world. I decided to subsist entirely on Huel products for three whole days.
Enjoy these reads, then go out and enjoy that sun. You’ve been inside too long.
Keep wearing those masks, keep washing your hands, keep your distance, and get your shot ASAP. We’re almost at the finish line.
See you next week, gang.