Month: August 2017

Now look what they made us do

As listeners to my late, lamented NSFWLIVE show will testify, I am an unironic, dyed-in-the-wool fan of Taylor Swift.

More specifically, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Taylor Swift’s lyrics: Once having dedicated an entire, hour long episode, to examining the contrasting (and, taken together, entirely contradictory) lyrics of “Speak Now” and “Better Than Revenge”.

I mention all of this to explain the anticipation felt when, a few days ago, it was reported that Swift had deleted her entire social media history, in rumored anticipation of a surprise new album. Anticipation which turned to delight this morning as I pored over the lyrics to the first song from that album, as an Old English scholar might pore over a freshly discovered Chaucer manuscript.

But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time

Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time

I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined

I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!

Ooh, look what you made me do

Look what you made me do

Look what you just made me do

Look what you just made me

Already the professional reviewers have handed down their verdicts on “Look What You Made Me Do”, and also their interpretations: The song – like, duh – is a response to Kanye West’s Famous, and the controversy surrounding whether Swift gave West permission to sexually harass her in song.…


Learning to escape: Notes from Magic LIVE (Pt II)

Previously: Part One, Desperately seeking escapism

My first foray into entrepreneurship was at age 15 when I began importing magic tricks and other stage props from America to sell, by mail order, in the UK.

At the peak of my garage empire I had maybe a thousand customers, most of whom would send long letters with their cheques (almost always cheques, this being a million years ago), explaining how they planned to use their new props, and sometimes asking my advice on what they should buy next.

My favourite notes, though, came from the non-professional magicians: Those for whom magic was a hobby, not a job. The teacher who used close-up magic in his high school history classes, the doctor who entertained young cancer patients with bedside illusions, the well-known musician who would hide away on his tour bus, practicing false cuts and complicated coin manipulations while his bandmates partied with groupies.

And then there was Mr O’Doyle. Mr O’Doyle (not his real name, but near enough) was an enigma – which, in a customer base made entirely of magicians, was really saying something. Mr O’Doyle didn’t pay by cheque. Rather, he would send large brown envelopes, stuffed with banknotes. Hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds at a time — sent through regular, unregistered, uninsured mail.


Desperately seeking escapism: Notes from Magic LIVE (Pt I)

Monday. The Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas NV.

It’s a little after 11pm and a white man with a shaved head is reloading his crossbow. Six or seven feet away, a woman dressed in black is holding up a flower, inches from her face. The man takes aim. Several audience members lift their iphones to neck-level, hoping not to be spotted.

About that audience: There are, by my count, at least as many fedoras or other non-baseball hats as there are women. Comfortably three times as many male ponytails as non-white faces.

A couple of guys behind me are talking loudly about a card trick. They know the woman will almost certainly survive. This is, after all, a magicians’ convention — where everyone and everything is always fine in the end.

* * *

I mention all of this – the stark gender and race imbalance, the imperilled leather clad female “assistant” – not to judge, or mock, or even shame, the attendees of this week’s “Magic Live” convention in Vegas. At times like this, it’s important to pick one’s targets carefully, and magicians hardly rank in the top million when it comes to threats to American democracy.

Rather I mention it to explain my own intense discomfort at attending such a dazzlingly white, almost exclusively male event on this of all weeks.


Silicon Valley, Donald Trump, “Joe & The Juice” and self-censorship as subversion

Sitting at SFO at 8am last Friday morning, I was surprised to look up from my Us Weekly and discover I had been transported to an episode of Jersey Shore.

“Ey, fuck you man.”

“No, fuck you.”

The whir of a blender. A female voice and then, apparently in response…

“You wanna banana smoothie? You like a big banana?”

If you’re like me – that is to say, old – you might not be familiar with “Joe & The Juice”, a Dutch-owned chain of coffee shops and juice bars which have recently begun “rolling out” across America. Including, apparently, to the International Terminal of San Francisco airport.

Joe & The Juice, per Business Insider, is a “notorious Danish juice chain” which “only hires hunks” and “[is] conquering the world”

It seems to be that the company hires only cool hunky guys and promotes a very bro culture. The company’s recruiting videos have been met with ridicule, but apparently it’s working.

Hunkiness, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder but certainly the “very bro culture” was much in evidence amongst the cafe’s all male employees who – 8am bedamned – gleefully cursed at each other and tossed innuendo at any female customer misguided enough to wander in for a banana smoothie.…


Ideas for other people: The Idiots’ Review of Books

Here’s a fun statistical coincidence for you.

According to a recent Pew study, a little over a quarter of American adults (26%) didn’t read a single book last year. Not a print book, not an ebook, not even an audiobook. 

Totally unconnected: According to the Washington Post, the percentage of American voters who voted for Donald Trump was roughly… yep… 26% 

Now, of course I’m not suggesting a correlation between illiteracy and voting for Donald Trump. If Trump voters couldn’t read, there would be no Bill O’Reilly on the best seller lists, no Ann Coulter and no Ayn Rand either.

What I am saying is that in an age of “alternative facts” when ignorance levels are rising faster than sea levels and when – yes – we just elected a President who “doesn’t read books” , those of us who can read should be doing so in spades. We should be devouring non-fiction by the cartload (this week I suggest Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway’s “Merchants of Doubt”) just to keep the average national IQ roughly stable.

We should also be reading fiction by the tonne, as a counter to the sociopathy of Trump world.…


(c) Copyright Paul Bradley Carr 2002-2021.