The Lovebots are Coming! image courtesy Ex Machina/A24

12/1/21 It was bound to happen. The vector collisions of data and dating, romantic solicitude and the exhibitionist impulse of the quantifiable self, desperate intimacy and dangerous virulence have exploded in a nebula of space dust and become a major drag in the flight path of Cupid’s arrow. Lover’s Lane had already been defaced by the roadworks underway to facilitate the fibre optic pace of online coupling, not to mention the necessary confusion from the signpost repainting for shifting gender equations and the complex vagaries of consent; exhausted commuters are now losing their remaining drive in the traffic-restricted streets of pandemic desire. As this NYT article on the scourge of heart-brake details, discretion is suddenly sexy again but so is disclosure, touch deprivation is the soul’s hunger but the thickening border walls of safe sex are pushing us to starvation. All the bother around fluid exchange is getting enough to turn us off live flesh permanently and technology is stepping in with sterile tools and practices [not blessed by the CDC] to allow us to get our jollies. Spurred on by a steady Moore’s Law acceleration of trust issues, the drift towards auto-erotica will need to cross many an uncanny valley and is more likely to deliver the fumbling dissatisfaction of Spike Jonze’s Her and without any of the hot confusion of Janelle Monae’s abortive android fantasy. Remote control vibrators and disease free passports may have a kinky novelty value but they will eventually channel tedium unto our lonely bosoms. In the meantime, flattening the heady oscillations of pheromone transmission into digital binaries has made having a calculating nature a crucial mating attribute. Dry humping risk scores trump any viscous je nais se quoi. With each additional data point we’re that much closer to the keyword crunching industrialized eroticism of Pornhub. Suddenly, the suggestion that you integrate your Apple watch into your lovemaking doesn’t seem all that ludicrous anymore…


….and release

A glitch in the Art of Noise with Min and Max Headroom

We’re done holding our breath and have ceased our #doomrefreshing to sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the monster-in-chief huffing and puffing and blowing his own house down. After the storm comes the rainbow. Time to turn our attention to thoughts of reinvention. This “Real Ivanka” Vanity Fair expose from a repentant ex-BFF is as much a much-delayed excoriation of the cold-blooded counterfeit of House Trump as it is an attempt by the whistleblower to safely repair her own reputation. The quisling confidant, non-ironically nicknamed “Ly” even admits as much. And now that it has been logged on the internet as published truth, she will have her insta-absolution. One hopes that humble self-preservation will prevail and quash any fantasies of Ivanka2024, Jared2028 and Baron20ENDOFDAYS.

What bloodsport must it have been chasing down Trump allies to call the election in the days after November 7. Even now they’re refusing to get off the fence and it may have to be pulled down with them still squatting on it. Meanwhile, Fox News played it so cool in dumping Trump, you’d think it had always chosen objective reality over ratings.

Our own reality is becoming increasingly self-devised and self-serving as we retreat to the comfort of the filter bubbles readily offered up by big tech. We’ve seen reality show theatrics bend the very idea of truth and don’t want to be the only ‘losers’ left holding the pillow. When the pathways of social mobility are shrinking at an ever-increasing rate, we’ve formed a desperate attachment to the entitlement and status offered by digital self-invention. We are, as this brilliant exploration of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley informs us, in an age of universal grift. And if you’re not in on the con, you’re the mark. President-elect Joe Biden wants to us to reverse the slide and “see each other again”. That’s going to take some real talent.

FURTHER READING: This PItchfork review of Leonard Cohen’s cold and broken message and of how we’ve found almost sensual pleasure in our cynicism

12/9/2020 There’s a new format for the game of love:

Virtual video dating!
Conducted in front of a live internet audience!!

And it has about as much in common with the television dating shows of yore as the experience of watching ‘sports’ on Twitch has with Monday Night Football. On vlogging sites like MeetMe, Scout, Tagged and LOVOO the lonely and the restless participate in the latest iteration of performative living and surrender their romantic fates to the wisdom of crowds who pack the attendant chat rooms like modern day Colosseum fans baying for, commenting on and furiously upvoting love’s labours. Over 180,000 games are being played daily, with a million plus virtual chaperones tuning in. The number of dates has doubled since the lockdowns began but this isn’t just a quick fix for finding love while staying home. Supporters of the format suggest that a certain fatigue with the shallow transactional nature, licentious discretion and algorithmic artificiality of tinder and its ilk is responsible for the popular change of heart. They argue that live video teases authenticity — looking past the years of coaching participants may have had from the peacocking they’ve seen on reality TV and Instagram. Indian aunties — the original mothers of intervention — will be particularly pleased with the attention directed at the manner in which the suitor interacts with the audience in the stream. And while it isn’t exactly a voyeur’s dream – viewers are encouraged to participate through comments and are even allowed to cut in by showering [sometimes both] candidates with virtual gifts, lovestreaming is the social media killer app which might just solve for the alienation of social media. NB: As far as happily ever after goes, we recommend this telling story about a virtual couple who tried it both ways and eventually found avatar love more interesting than ILU IRL.

25/8/20XX Non-vaccine related good news from Coronatime! Long-distance lovers torn asunder by lockdowns, shutouts and the vicissitudes of fate and visa authorities now have a movement to let love in… #loveisnottourism is a global phenomena which is organising behind geographically-separated, unmarried-but-committed couples [and family members] to petition countries on an individual basis to recognise their amorous needs as necessary human rights and to allow them to be reunited. It would seem like the best possible use of this crisis if the disunited nations fell in line and legitimised the conjoined status of lovers. Some countries have predictable prerequisites [joint bank accounts or leases], some are sweet [Germany accepts photographs, social media and letters as proof] and some are downright lovecrazy [Norway is happy if couples have met at least once IRL]. Never before has that relationship status acquired such import. Click below to be treated to a delightful wall of transnational yearning

16/6/20XX The short-lived run of John Krasinski’s youtube show, Some Good News is a sign of these wary/weary times and of our abbreviated hopes. Thanks for the very welcome feels, John. We’re going to spend some time with Ava DuVernay’s required-viewing catalogue before we head back to the effort of keeping our radical optimism alive…

Hey, as long as they wear their masks and keep safe distance…

13/6/20XX Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has an extremely noble manifesto to offer for the post-Covid19 Dawn of New Humanity. And it has enough practical meat on its vegan bones to put a serving of idealism back on the table. And to vanquish the sour soapy aftertaste of the utopian bubble which burst in your face as soon as you returned to regular traffic and antisocial distancing. And it might even help you settle the argument over whether Russell Brand or Slavoj Zizek better embraces your brand of useful cynicism. And it certainly will get you off your lumpen work-from-home backside and compartmentalised guilt of us and them, black lives vs Dalit lives vs Muslim lives and the passivity which the wilful retreat from complexity and nuance engenders. And if you’re through jumping to attention every time you see a government circular in your inbox, please read this urgent advisory by Suhas Palshikar to better understand why we’re such ready victims of the State’s docility indoctrination program. Because the real revolution is here, it’s live and they’d much rather it wasn’t televised

image: https://www.ft.com/content/6cdeb9da-8b49-11ea-9dcb-fe6871f4145a

This speculative piece from The Guardian flags the death blow contact tracing could deal to discretion and intrigue in romantic liaisons and is a great companion to our rant about the perils of this technology and the end of privacy. The New York Times shows you how to politely decline that Zoom invitation when all you want to do is put on PPE and block out all social media. Looking for love in lockdown places? Apparently we all are: Twitter has seen the length of conversations and number of messages increase as online dating gets our undivided attention. NPR has some rare non-avuncular advice for handling romantic relationships, both present and potential.

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