Angry Robot

Something Important Happened 1

Editor’s note: this is the first part of a five (maybe six?) part series about the death of my father that I started five years ago, shortly after it happened. It’s heavy! I won’t feel bad if you avoid reading it. But, the reason I share it here is that it might be helpful for those of you who have not gone through the death of a parent. It will probably happen to you at some point! It will not be exactly like my experience, but there may be similarities.

[All articles in this series will be archived here]

You’d complain about your memory. My role was to reassure. Don’t worry about it, I can’t remember anything either – it runs in the family. We’d laugh about the times we’d run upstairs to get something and then find ourselves standing there, trying to recall exactly what it was we had needed.

But on that trip you forgot your passport. So then they called it Mild Cognitive Impairment. They gave you exercises, and a book in which to write everything down. I tried to get you to play a brain-age game on my DS.

It was too late for all that. You stopped emailing because it took too much time. It could take you a while to string sentences together. After my weekly visit for dinner my mom would insist on driving me home, and would use the time to talk about how worried she was about you. Again, I was Captain Reassurance.

Finally it was Dementia with Lewy-Bodies – I joked darkly to myself that it sounded like a fast food order. Do you want the side order of muscle spasms or of hallucinations? it comes with both. Upgrade to aphasia for a dollar more.

The long retreat continued. Already a quiet man, you became even quieter. We told ourselves you were happy even if you weren’t talking. We said, if it was that hard for us to talk, we wouldn’t talk either. But when you did talk you were rarely yourself. When you did become animated, your words slipped so that your language became strange poetry. A Parkinsonian glaze covered your expression, and your body became frail – as if someone else, someone withered and wraithlike, was moving in to your body.

You saw things. You asked about my twin, said he had been around. You described coming down to the living room and seeing a group of strange people in it, silently staring at you. We realized later that it was much too late for you to go on that trip to visit with your daughters and their kids, and when you came back you were upset, muttering fearful things about shadowy officials foisting conspiracies. The Judge.

A few weeks later you freaked out. You ran out of the house screaming that someone was taking the children. We took you to the hospital. They began to tell us we should “consider” “long term care”.

The whole couple of days we were in there, you kept on trying to leave. You’d say, “c’mon, let’s go,” or “let’s get outta here.” It was so tempting to agree, to say “sure,” that word we so associated with you, that was so indicative of your easygoing nature – sure, let’s go, let’s leave this mess behind.

Not about online photo storage really

I have been going through my photo collection on my computer because I was going to try out an online photo service and in the process write an article for my site about various photo storage problems and options. The service I signed up for costs $7 a month for 100 gigs. Turns out my library is 140 gigs. That would cost $15. I knew I could get it down. There are a lot of duplicates and rejected shots.

The collection starts in 2003 with the purchase of a digital camera. It was small and cost $700 for very little quality by today’s standards. The photos are sporadic. At first there are single tentative photos here and there, then – realizing the cost structure of digital photography – they blossomed, in fits. A night out, blurry and grainy. A day with visiting family members. Another night out.

They’re not from every day, but reflect conscious efforts to use the camera. A series of photos from a walk to work. Pictures of the condo I used to rent a room in. Pictures of the locations of the failed film I worked on. Of Lucy, my then-new girlfriend, now my wife.

They reflect my bizarre obsessions. There are quite a few of Toronto grafitti (all works which are now, I would assume, long gone). There are many shots of alleyways, signs, and abandoned things.

The years advance. Friends’ kids grow. A trip to Cuba, a couple jaunts to Ireland for a funeral and a wedding. Lucy cycles through various haircuts. There are shots of the first apartment we got together, and Christie subway station nearby, and the decrepit barber in between, and the tree that fell after a storm.

In 2008 I got an iPhone. The photos multiply. Many are mundane, fleeting images: a bruise I got after a bike accident. The serial number on my mom’s washing machine. A shot of a stranger on the subway. I delete a few but start realizing that these photos also tell little stories.

A year later another camera enters: the Panasonic GH1. The photos are all of a sudden much better. Some are beautiful, even. I bought the camera for its video capability as I wanted to shoot a documentary in Windsor. I took a ton of stills with it. The photos of abandoned things, of urban decay, explode.

I try to decide what to delete. I mostly delete only duplicates. There are quite a lot, as if the photos, left unsupervised, have been breeding like rabbits. But when it comes time to evaluate other photos I defer. Some of these I would have deleted years ago had I been paying attention, but now with the time passed, they seem much more interesting. Who am I to say what I will find interesting in another five, ten years?

A trip to Windsor, photos of the Detroit skyline. Around this time my dad was falling ill with dementia. There are only the occasinal photos of him. They are then followed by 40 pictures of my new Kindle. I was writing a review of it for my site.

Lucy’s parents’ cottage. My friends getting older. Abandoned buildings in Windsor. An image of my dad in the dark. I remember the occasion distinctly: he asked about my brother. I do not have a brother.

Then, 80 pictures from a shoot for work, with Star Wars characters. A trip to dim sum, with closeups of pristine teacups and chopsticks.

I start to realize I should not be writing about online photo storage problems and solutions. I start to wonder what reality my current urge to write such things obscures.

My dad is now three years dead and I have not written about it. I have but I have not shared nor finished it. But I am ok now with his absence. It does not seem as sad, or rather, the sadness has a character of beauty.

The photos continue unabated. Pics of houses for sale. A mortgage agreement. Our new house. Our new daughter. I do not want to delete anything.

I rethink.

On Your First Birthday

Riding a bus with you is like riding a bus with a rock star.

You never “made strange”. You’re almost the opposite – you go out of your way to attract strangers’ attention. You wave, you make that awesome throat-clearing sound. You laugh a lot. You might be anxious and a little screamy at the start of a meal – I feel you, kid – but later on you’re trying out some new sounds, trying to make us laugh. You’re working on your material.

You seem to like music, and dancing. We danced a lot early on, when you needed a lot more calming down. I would hold you face down, my hand around your tiny head, bundled up in your swaddle. Your feet would just reach my elbow. Now, you need very little soothing. You suck your thumb when you need it.

I remember the first time you really made eye contact with me. I was changing you – maybe we shouldn’t do this, but we change you on the dining room table. It’s huge, your grandfather made it. You have his eyes now. You looked at me, held the gaze, and smiled. You are quite alert, which people often comment on. In the hospital, just after you were born, I carried you around the room. You didn’t cry – you just looked around.

You look around like that still, but you can now move about, and you do it with assurance. You grab things, you know what you want to do with them, and you do it. Admittedly, that’s mostly put in mouth or throw, but I admire your confidence.

Sometimes I try to separate the things that all parents must feel from those that I feel. Being a father for only a year so far, I keep on feeling new things, then realizing how utterly common those feelings are.

But it’s foolish to think like that, ultimately. It’s some kind of cool-kid reflex, an aversion to common things. That every parent feels them makes them more valuable, not less. By feeling them I am sharing in something huge, with strangers from all avenues of life, with my own parents, and their parents. I know the pride, the fear, the love. The pride at your accomplishments. At showing you off to others, at seeing you make strangers smile. The fear when you slipped and bashed your gums and blood flowed from you for the first time. The love that squeezed me from your first ultrasound, somehow, and has yet to let go. I pray it never does.

Upstream Color Explained

Here are a few notes on Upstream Color, the second feature from Shane Carruth (director of Primer). It’s an exceptional film for many reasons, one of which is how willfully obtuse it is. I’m lucky and/or obsessive enough to have seen it twice, so I may have a leg up on plot comprehension. I’ll try to explain it now, and will follow with some other thoughts.

Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the film – this is spoiler time in spoiler town.

What happened?

There is a character credited as “Thief”. He has discovered that a certain slug, when fed a particular plant, and ingested by a human, leaves that human in a state akin to hypnosis, completely open to suggestion. This is strongest if the subject does not eat or sleep.

The Thief uses this knowledge to rob people. One of his victims is Kris. He robs her of everything of value and gets her hopelessly in debt by making her take out a home equity line of credit. He keeps her busy, starved and awake the whole time. The mindless busywork involves copying out pages from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and making links of these pages into chains.

When the business is done the Thief leaves, making Kris aware of her hunger and fatigue. When she has eaten and slept, she sees the slugs inside her body reacting to the changes. Horrified, she tries to cut them out with a knife.

Enter The Sampler. The Sampler is also aware of the properties of this slug – however, there is no evidence he knows of or works with the Thief. The Sampler tries to help victims of the Thief. Sound has a big influence on the slug, and by playing sounds, The Sampler can manipulate those whose bodies contain slugs. He plays sounds through huge speakers into the ground, and this lures Kris to him.

The Sampler “helps” Kris by performing a procedure that removes the slugs from her body and places them into a pig. He then labels this pig and keeps it at his farm. Kris is now psychically linked with the pig. The farm is full of other pigs, all linked to other people (all presumably victims of the Thief), and pig Kris meets pig Jeff.

Months later, having lost her house and her job and with no memory of why, Kris has put her life back together somewhat. She meets Jeff, and because of their connection as pigs, they fall in love. (Man what a silly sentence that was.) Kris tries to discourage Jeff’s interest in her by disclosing that she is undergoing treatment for mental health problems, and Jeff counters that he’s a divorcee. Guess they’re both damaged goods.

Both exhibit strange behaviour. Kris fetches rocks from the bottom of a pool while quoting Thoreau. Jeff forms chains out of straw wrappers. It seems there are still slug aftereffects.

Their current behaviour can also be manipulated by The Sampler. Via the pigs, he is able to share consciousness with any of their linked humans, without their knowing it. Playing sounds near the pigs has an effect on the humans’ behaviour and memories. In one sequence, when he learns that a subject’s wife has attempted suicide, The Sampler tries to rewrite that subject’s memories so that he doesn’t blame himself.1

Pig-Jeff gets pig-Kris pregnant, which releases hormones in human-Kris’ body, but when she sees a doctor and gets an MRI, they tell her there is no way she could be pregnant. That’s because of damage to her internal organs (not sure if that’s because of the slugs or because of the procedure The Sampler gave her).

Back on the pig farm, pig-Kris gives birth to a litter of piglets. The Sampler is not happy about this – he drowns the piglets in a sack in a nearby river. Discharge from the corpses affects the growth of nearby orchids, which are picked by the mother / daughter team of E&P Exotics – the company that supplies the plants used by the thief.

This trauma in the pig world is felt by human Kris and Jeff, who become disoriented and paranoid. Their memories are blending; Kris remembers things that happened to Jeff, and shows up at his workplace, not knowing where she is. Jeff witnesses her Thoreau-pool ritual and they figure out that the source text is Walden.

They buy a car at her urging, and as if by instinct, Kris gets them close to The Sampler’s farm. Jeff sees a mailbox labeled “Quinoa Valley Recordings”, which releases The Sampler’s musical works.

Using the recordings somehow, Kris and Jeff become aware of The Sampler’s presence in their consciousness. They find him on his farm and kill him. They find records of all the victims, and mail them these details along with copies of Walden. The other victims come to the farm, and together they take over its management, caring for the pigs and their offspring.

What does it mean?

This is One Reporter’s Opinion, but I see it as a metaphor for capitalism. The Thief is Capital, exploiting workers for financial gain and leaving them broken and alone. The Sampler is government: he enumerates Capital’s victims, and tries to “manage” them; he’s sometimes well-meaning, but always controlling. And he really has his own interests at heart, not his subjects, who are animals to him.

I’m sure there are other interpretations, and I’d love to hear them. Maybe get at me @dsankey on Twitter, that’s probably easiest.

One thing I’m interested in is the relationship of Walden / On Civil Disobedience to the themes of the film. While I’ve listed Walden as the book the Thief has his victims copy out, it is notable that the copy that is used contains the other text as well, especially considering the third act symbolically portrays a revolution. I’ve actually read Walden but it was so long ago that I don’t have anything to bring to the table here.

About the form

I saw Upstream Color the day before I saw Spring Breakers, and the comparison was interesting, despite being very different films. Both films cut freely forwards and backwards in time. The film I would consider as the precursor is Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, with its flashes forward, but I am sure there are many other films one could cite. Upstream Color also reminded me of David Lynch in a way Primer never did, as Primer didn’t truck in symbols and emotion. It also reminded me of Lost and a bunch of other sci-fi that doesn’t really feel like sci-fi.

The form of this film is fractured, like the consciousness of its subjects. Typically when a film jumps in space or time there is some effort made to indicate this to the viewer – fade to black, or a title, or different colour grading. Not so here. The film cuts between remote time periods and different locations in the exact manner it cuts between shots within a scene. Since some of the things that actually connect these cuts are atypical and theoretically require some explanation (psychically linked to a pig!), it requires something like a leap of faith to overcome the cognitive dissonance and see the connections between the shots. The connections are there, and that’s what makes this film so great. Everything has a reason. if it didn’t, this film would be awful.

Another difficult thing about this film is its sheer density. It’s almost all montage. Montage is an incredible tool, allowing whole stories to be told in 30 second commercials. However, it’s mentally taxing. I’ve seen hour-long presentations of promos and commercials, and you walk out of there wanting to rest your optic nerve, and if you’re lucky you remember two or three spots out of a hundred. That Carruth has made a feature with this information density is ballsy, questionable in its wisdom, and quite possibly the step forward that film needs to take to remain relevant.

1 This is the part I am least sure about. Perhaps The Sampler is just playing back memories, not reprogramming them?


There is some further reading in this link post I put up shortly after writing this article, including an interview with Carruth in which he’s surprisingly forthright about the meaning of the film to him. Note that it’s not specifically about capitalism in his eyes, but rather, more broadly, forces of which we are unaware that affect our behaviour. Worth reading!

A History of Link Blogs

In this article, linkblogs are referred to as a “cancer”. A link post is described as “simple curation… generally featuring a blockquote from an interesting part of a piece, and then linking directly back to the source.” They are cancerous because they don’t carry the depth of regular weblog posts, but supplant the latter too often on too many sites. The author states they were pioneered by John Gruber of Daring Fireball.

So here’s what happened – I read that months ago, saw a couple other misunderstandings about the history of linkblogs (or linklogs), and thought I should write it up. I was blogging through that whole era, and I know what happened. But I decided to find sources for all of my vague remembrances, and that took a while, and then I got interested in drawing lines between early weblogs and current services like Tumblr and Twitter, and now it’s months later and here we are. A cursory yet mostly accurate trip down one leg of blogging’s dessicated spider-corpse!

It’s worth quoting at length from Rebecca Blood’s seminal post from 2000, weblogs: a history and perspective :

The original weblogs were link-driven sites. Each was a mixture in unique proportions of links, commentary, and personal thoughts and essays. Weblogs could only be created by people who already knew how to make a website. A weblog editor had either taught herself to code HTML for fun, or, after working all day creating commercial websites, spent several off-work hours every day surfing the web and posting to her site. These were web enthusiasts.

Many current weblogs follow this original style. Their editors present links both to little-known corners of the web and to current news articles they feel are worthy of note. Such links are nearly always accompanied by the editor’s commentary… More skillful editors manage to convey all of these things in the sentence or two with which they introduce the link… Indeed, the format of the typical weblog, providing only a very short space in which to write an entry, encourages pithiness on the part of the writer; longer commentary is often given its own space as a separate essay.



Robot Wisdom circa 1999. All link posts.

So the first weblogs (such as Robot Wisdom) are exclusively link blogs, as the first bloggers were all web people and links were their currency. This changed, presumably because of the growth of user-friendly blog posting software such as Blogger) and Movable Type, which allowed non-web people to maintain weblogs – people who wanted to share things other than links.

Indeed, the limitations and biases of publishing software are a big reason why the medium evolved in certain ways. Blogger came out in 1999. The first Blogger interface did not have a title field, making it more suited to linklogs and shorter-form content. But they added a title field, and Movable Type (2001) had one by default, also categories, then tags, and more and more cruft and metadata. I seem to recall that in the blogging community there was a bit of fatigue with the old-style, link list weblogs, as they were the past – stale ground in a very fast-moving world. People were into exploring the new things that tech like Movable Type made possible: longer personal essay posts, yes, but also photoblogs, videoblogs, et cetera.

Many people maintained link logs still, but they became a side blog that was put in one’s sidebar along with the “blogroll” that listed one’s friends, idols, or reciprocal linkers. Consider in 2003 and the “remaindered links” section. This was often done on the backend as a separate weblog since the blogging software made it near-impossible to do it otherwise.



Kottke in 2003, with remaindered links to the side.

Delicious came out in 2003, and became the backend tech for a hell of a lot of sideblogs, as well as the precursor to a lot of web 2.0 technology to come that would gradually take over the function of weblogs by making things easy and adding social features: Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

John Gruber’s Daring Fireball debuted in 2002. The “linked list”, his version of the linklog, did not appear until 2004. It was a separate page and an RSS feed intended as a perk for his paid subscribers. At some point in 2005, it shifted to the main column of the site along with the regular posts.

In a huge development, here’s in november 2003, featuring “remaindered links” inline with regular blog posts and several other categories.

As the post explains :

Five types of content, one list. Each post type requires a unique “vocabulary” and a design/layout to go with that vocabulary. […]

By default, most current weblog software, including the package I use, doesn’t allow for different data for different post types displayed with different designs in the same list. Typically what people have done with their disparate data is to display them on separate pages or in separate locations on their site…so you need to visit the book page to see if there are any new book reviews or scroll down to check if they’ve added a new album to their “now playing” section.

To me, that seems not so optimal. A post is a post is a post. The newest content should appear at the top of the list of posts regardless of whether it’s a short movie review, one-line link, latest photo, or any other type of update to your site that doesn’t fit the typical title/text/category weblog paradigm and each type of content should displayed appropriately.

Setting this up was non-trivial, which explains why it was so rare:

What I’ve actually done is created 5 separate weblogs with MT and, using a bunch of MT plugins (MTSQL,Compare, MTAmazon, ExtraFields, etc.), have aggregated the 5 weblogs on the front page of the site. Which sounds complicated (and is!). But only in implementation (due to the limitations of the software). Really it’s just the appropriate data presented with the appropriate design(s) in the appropriate context(s). One site, lots of content, many ways to view it.

The observant reader will… observe that such a technical mess could be avoided by using Tumblr. Tumblr was a blogging platform based on a mutant category of blog called a tumblelog. It was almost exactly what Kottke was describing: a unified flow of posts of different types, with each type distinguished by a different design. The term was coined (by why of Ruby fame) in 2005, and Tumblr itself was launched in early 2007.



Projectionist, an early tumblelog.

Tumblr now has over 150 million users. Some consider link blogging a type of “microblogging”, and the boss of that world is Twitter, which launched in 2006 and now has 500 million users. It’s not the same thing as a linklog, but it is indeed a service used by many to exchange links, and is displayed in much the same way.



Twitter, structure wise, hearkens back to Robot Wisdom

Facebook, with its billion users, presents mixed links, posts, photos and other types of data units in a mixed stream, just as kottke started in 2003.



Facebook has a structure similar to 2003 Kottke and tumblelogs

That’s pretty much the evolution as I can trace it. If there were other sites that beat Kottke to the mixed-design unified stream format, the ur-tumblelog, I’d love to know of it, so let me know and I will update this post.

Exit Through the Gift Shop: Hoax?

Something’s been bugging me for a while: is Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop a hoax or not? I saw the film when it came out and loved it. I heard some rumblings questioning its authenticity, but didn’t think too much about it. While I was in Windsor, a bunch of the artists went to see it, and most didn’t like it. Their reason, more often than not, was that it was a self-celebrating fake documentary. So there were a few discussions about what exactly might have been faked – but no one knew for sure.

For those who haven’t seen it and don’t want to, a quick SPOILERIFFIC! summary: Thierry Guetta is a Frenchman who owns a clothing store in LA and obsessively videotapes everything he does. He becomes interested in street art and before long he is following first one artist, then another, finally meeting and filming Banksy (who appears in shadows and voice-modulated). When Banksy asks Thierry to see the film he is working on, Thierry – who had no interest in editing a film, only shooting – hacks together a clump of shit. Banksy suggests that Thierry (who by now is doing his own street art under the name Mr. Brainwash) should concentrate on getting a show together, and Banksy will take over the documentary. The talentless Thierry mortgages his life to hire minions to produce an extravaganza of bad art, but nonetheless after an LA Weekly cover story and other press, the art world gets caught up in the hype and the works sell by the truckload for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You can understand the suspicions. Banksy is known for pranks. His identity is still unknown. Counterfeiting seems a theme of his: the film mentions a stack of fake ten-pound notes he threw into a crowd. And of course the story of Mr. Brainwash seems too outlandish to be true.

Where, then, was the locus of the hoax (or hoaxus, if you will)? The following are possible:

These are all ideas floated in one review or another of the film. After casting about on google for a while, all I can find are reviews, which all sound pretty similar. Here’s the new film, Banksy blah blah, it may be a hoax, but maybe not, anyway, here’s what I think of the film (most like it – the consensus review might be, “it could be a hoax, but who cares? It’s a good film.”)

So we have something here about the cynicism of critics – or alternately, their laziness. Everyone is willing to say it “may” be a hoax, but no one is willing to say definitively that it is or not, because that would take actual work. We might have to figure out whether Thierry exists (he does), whether the LA Weekly cover story happened (it did). Or, we might have to talk to one of Thierry’s employees (no, I’m not going to go that far).

I suppose it makes sense – film critics aren’t investigative journalists, and there isn’t much of a call for that sort of work in an arts context. But it reminds me of After Last Season – everyone’s quick to jump to the hoax conclusion as a defensive stance, since if we believe it’s a hoax, we won’t be revealed to be gullible or naive. We can be revealed to be cynical, but that’s not much of a knock these days.

Interesting little quote from Shepard Fairey to do with the whole affair:

I asked Fairey directly whether Mr. Brainwash was a hoax devised by Banksy. “I swear to god that’s not the case,” he said. “Banksy may not want me to say that but no, it’s not.”

Hoaxists aren’t going to buy that line, of course. But I love the idea that Banksy wouldn’t want him to say that. Banksy wants to encourage the hoax rumour – it’s essentially part of the film’s publicity.

That’s an astonishing thing in and of itself: the creator of a documentary wants his film to be thought of as a hoax. Documentary is a tough category to define, but any definition will include the idea that these films make truth claims. So are we in some strange new era when truth-dealers want to disguise their work as fiction? Or is Banksy just being honest, since it is a hoax? I’d like to argue that his desire for his film to be considered a hoax makes it more likely it’s not, but let’s be frank – what he wants is controversy. “Is it real or not? Decide for yourself” becomes the implied marketing tagline.

Let’s step back for a second. If Thierry is real and Mr Brainwash did have a show in 2008 at which his work sold for hundreds of thousands apiece, what difference does the hoax make?

Perhaps Banksy and/or Fairey created and/or oversaw the creation of all of the Brainwash art. But part of the point in the film is that Thierry didn’t make the art himself, he hired people to do it according to his orders. No matter who ‘created’ it, it’s clearly mass-produced bad art that nonetheless became hugely popular on the art market by exploiting the ‘street’ aesthetic and reputation. A hoax was carried out no matter what: bad art was foisted on the art market.

Both Banksy and Fairey lent their names to the Brainwash enterprise. Banksy lent a quote to the Brainwash marketing materials, and it’s fascinating in this context: “Mr. Brainwash is a force of nature… and I don’t mean that in a good way.” Fairey DJed the opening night. So Banksy and Fairey’s support is the case whether hoax or not. Is there something else that they could have done to guarantee the success of Mr. Brainwash? Other than bidding up the price of the art (which of course in and of itself wouldn’t prove a hoax), no. The fact that the art world was unable to see through the hype is not in dispute, and that’s the important part of this story.

This may sound like “who cares if it’s a hoax or not,” and perhaps it is. I don’t think that phrase holds true in general, but in this case, given the limited scope of the possible hoax, I think it does.

What’s perhaps even more fascinating is that the hoax possibility presents a bizarre reverse hoax. If Banksy or even Fairey created the Mr Brainwash art, then the work is worth considerably more than what people paid for it. Similarly, one of Banksy’s counterfeit ten-pound notes now goes for £200.


My personal theory about wine is that I’m better off not learning too much about it, or I may no longer be able to enjoy some of the cheap trash I like to drink now. In other words, I can’t afford to be a wine connoisseur.

The first counter-argument that comes up is, “there are plenty of good, cheap wines. You don’t have to pay a ton to get a good wine.” Well, that’s true, hypothetical opponent. Thank you. The problem is, if I had the facilities to judge a really hot-roddin’ expensive wine, wouldn’t I be tempted to? At the moment, there’s absolutely no reason for me to drop $300, or even $30, … hell, even $12, for a bottle of wine. And I’m happy with that. Also, there’s something about wine snobs that makes me think, welcome to your Carlsberg years. (Er, if Carlsberg was a wine… Whew. Why do I find that slogan so terrifying?)

Anyway, why stop with wine? If I avoid learning too much about any given discipline, I will be perfectly content consuming affordable products of inferior quality. That magazine they give away in movie theatres, for instance, could replace Film Comment. I could pick up used Ratt singles at a fraction of the cost of obscure indie rock imports.

But, I think the most exciting option is to manufacture a personal aesthetic that makes up reasons for liking cheaper stuff. Plonkism, maybe? “Mmm… excellent vinegar burst. Old lamb aftertaste. 10 stars.” It’s not just blissful ignorance, it’s aggressive anti-knowledge.

Isn’t this really the best, and cheapest, way to live? It’s certainly not the easiest.

Okay, maybe not the best, either.