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Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   July 24, 2014
Photo by Mikey

Photo by Mikey

• Today in Billionaires, from the Guardian: The UK’s National Union of Journalists has dubbed Richard Desmond “Britain’s Greediest Billionaire” after the media company he owns proposed to cut a third of all editorial staffers from the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday.

• Today in Billionaires Bonus, from Forbes: Singapore real estate magnate Zhong Sheng Jian gives us all a “tip for success,” and you may not be surprised to hear that we must #innovate or #die.


Geoff Dyer’s Idle Days at Sea

Bijan Stephen   July 23, 2014

Over the arc of his long career, Geoff Dyer has cultivated a certain style. If reviews are to be believed, his carefully crafted technique is a higher achievement than the substance of his books themselves. In his latest book, we finally see its limitations, as we watch the book collapse under the weight of his own style and the burden of his chosen subject.

Another Great Day At Sea: Life Aboard the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush (Pantheon, 208 pages, $24.99) is ostensibly an account of a fourteen-day ride-along on the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier in its title. Dyer’s sojourn takes place in 2011—around the time the Arab Spring came to Bahrain, referred to here as “the beach”—in some classified location within the vast blueness of the Persian Gulf.

Dyer has two Sancho Panzas with him, a photographer whom he dismissively refers to as “the snapper” and Ensign Paul Newell, a shipmate. The plot is unsurprisingly sparse—it turns out that a military aircraft carrier, when not at war, is a dull place to be—and goes like this: Dyer arrives onboard, where each day he’s taken to a different part of the ship, from the gym, to the brig, to the flight deck, to the morgue. The book sees him roaming relatively freely, interviewing crewmates on their lives and histories and feelings and dreams. The cumulative effect is hazy, unmoored—the ship an unchanging, gunmetal sameness painted onto the equally constant sea.


Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   July 23, 2014

Photo by Eden, Janine, and Jim

•  “The City of New York approved a proposal by one of the largest real estate developers in the city to build in a ‘poor door’, or a separate door for residents living in affordable housing to enter their building,” writes the Daily Mail from New York Post reports. “Extell’s proposal allows them to force affordable housing tenants to walk through an entrance located in a back alley behind the building to enter, leaving the more prominent front entrance for tenants paying for nicer apartments.” 

• Great Ideas in Finance Headline of the Day, from Dealbook: “Cash Crops With Dividends: Financiers Transforming Strawberries Into Securities.” 


Weighing the Price of Safety in OSHA’s New Video Game


In recent years, one of the most fertile markets for gaming technology has been training and education, with games being used to train people in everything from scooping ice cream to running disaster relief programs. With its Web-based game, the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) has hopped on the wagon toward this new frontier in its efforts to help reduce workplace hazards. The stakes are high: a bad game, lacking impact and immediacy, could bore players instead of enlightening them. In the case of OSHA’s game, the potential consequences are much more dire.

Titled the Hazard Identification Training Tool, the game was developed for OSHA by Etcetera Edutainment of Pittsburgh, PA. The game, which OSHA’s website says is “aimed at entrepreneurs and managers,” seeks to encourage owners of small businesses to identify and head off common workplace risks. It does so, however, within a curious context, telling them to make their safety improvements without cutting into their all-important profits. In fact, the game’s instructions tell the player that the main goal is to “Maximize your profits in 20 weeks.”

Framing the choices it offers players as mere financial cost-benefit transactions seems a peculiar decision for a regulatory agency, and it raises some significant questions about OSHA’s role in the workplace. Should OSHA be teaching business owners that it’s okay to avoid addressing potential safety risks, just to help the bottom line? The game’s design appears to send the message to employers that profits are to be valued and preserved above all else. Here’s the game’s trailer:


Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   July 22, 2014
My cat appreciates the finer things in life, like me. / Photo by _BuBBy_

My cat appreciates the finer things in life, like me. / Photo by _BuBBy_

• The Reports Are In: “With four out of five pet owners considering their pet a member of the family and 79% saying the quality of their pet’s food is as important as their own, it’s not surprising that the premium sector accounted for 40% of the $26 billion U.S. pet food market in 2013; superpremium accounted for 10%,” according to an Institute of Food Technologies report on gourmet food industry growth. “Adding excitement to a pet’s diet via flavors, gravies, look-a-like human recipes, daypart foods (e.g., breakfast food/eggs or appetizers) was a top driver of the best-selling new pet foods in 2013…. Energy bars are among the new pet treats; pet beverages remain an enormous untapped opportunity.”

• “Close the Libraries and Give Everyone an Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription,” helpfully suggests this Forbes columnist. Get worse!


Welcome to Our New Website

The Editors   July 21, 2014

Well, when The Baffler was born in 1988, we never could have foreseen this #innovation, but here we are. Please enjoy this new and uncharacteristically shiny iteration of The Baffler online—featuring not only our new issue (no. 25, “The None and the Many”), but also, for the first time ever, all of our digitized archives in one place.

That’s 25 issues, 432 contributors, 277 salvos, 450 graphics, 172 poems, 73 stories, 3,396 pages made of 1,342,785 words. You can click on individual pieces or flip through entire issues page by page, if you so desire.

For another way in to our world of cheerful negativity, check out our daily blog, our art gallery, or information about the upcoming eight-city book tour in support of our new anthology (due out in September, called No Future For You). And, sorry, we even have some Baffler swag for sale. As the New York Times wrote about us over two decades ago, “How irritating!”


Your Guide to Fourth-Wave Feminist Underwear

Brooke Magnanti   July 21, 2014

When Orwell wrote about language that gives “the appearance of solidarity to pure wind,” he could as well have been talking about the product labels that attract a certain kind of modern consumer. Organic. Fair trade. Local. Ethical. Buy this, and you not only will feel good, but you will be good.

Brands such as Apple and Tesla trade heavily on the promise of hip, geeky, nice-guy cred (regardless of the actual ethics of their production practices, materials, and marketing) perceived to rub off on the people who possess their products. “Global capitalism with a human face,” as Slavoj Žižek describes it. Questions of built-in obsolescence, or what such items add to our quality of life—much less of the quality of life of the people in developing countries who most often make them—are effectively ignored.

But this is not only a nice-guy phenomenon; increasingly, it is also nice-girl. What you wear is now a feminist issue, though perhaps not in the way you might expect. Buying, not boycotting, is the new name of the game. Burning bras is out; “ethical underwear” is in.


Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   July 21, 2014
"Camping" / Photo by Wicker Paradise

“Camping” / Photo by Wicker Paradise

• Today in Bespoke: “One of the common links among our travelers is they’re curious, passionate and they’re looking for unique and authentic experiences,” said Lynn Cutter, executive vice president for travel and licensing at National Geographic Society, of her customers who drop the equivalent of a home mortgage on “bespoke” travel experiences such as walking across a bridge holding hands with an orangutan.

• Today in Strikes: Labor actions by Long Island Rail Road still off; South African metalworkers and engineers still on.

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