NTMP 100: The Country's Worst Yogurt
And I would write 100 posts and I would write 100 more . . .
New-To-Me Phrases, February 11, 2024
The Phrases, With Context
We just passed the second anniversary of New-To-Me Phrases, but now we’re at the 100th-post milestone. This is all very wild to me, and also gratifying to keep showing up (almost) every week with curiosity and humor. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me.
This week, we have homogeneity disguised as edginess, another dunk on Trump, and we’ll travel from the depths of an ancient volcanic eruption to the vastness of outer space.
Let’s get to it!
I can’t stop thinking about this 2016 piece “Welcome to Airspace” from The Verge thatlinked to a couple of weeks ago.
The subheading reads:
How Silicon Valley helps spread the same sterile aesthetic across the world
The author, Kyle Chayka sums up Airspace is as a “faux-artisanal aesthetic.” And once you see it, you can’t un-see it—although I’m betting you’d already noticed this out in the wild, because it’s everywhere. Rather like how HGTV programming brought us shiplap, sliding barn doors, and cold, dead grey-and-white interior spaces, Airspace gives us Edison bulbs, reclaimed wood, and minimalist furniture, presenting a vaguely industrial, aspirational-tech-bro aesthetic.
Yet AirSpace is now less theory than reality. The interchangeability, ceaseless movement, and symbolic blankness that was once the hallmark of hotels and airports, qualities that led the French anthropologist Marc Augé to define them in 1992 as “non-places,” has leaked into the rest of life.
It’s a fascinating read, and I still haven’t formed solid opinions about it. I think there’s a push-pull operating here between wanting familiarity when we travel—like getting McDonald’s in Beijing—and seeking novelty, like finding the best tamales of your lifetime in a faded strip mall sandwiched between a laundromat and a drug testing facility. But it does speak to the death of something—the artifice of familiarity that we in some ways want and need eclipsing the thrill of experiencing the luck of the draw when we seek to fully engage with a new place.
2. Ballskin Robbins
This one is so simultaneously gross and hilarious. It brings up that “fuck yeah!” fist-pump feeling when you come up with the perfect reply in a thread:
I hate it when meme accounts strip out the identity of people who posted things, so here’s the original tweet and the reply, for serious journalism reasons. (Thanks to NTMP reader and super-Hag Kathleen for this one.)
I’m reading The Last Fire Season: A Personal and Pyronatural History by Manjula Martin, a memoir detailing her experiences during the wildfires in Northern California in 2020.
Martin explains solastalgia thusly:
Glenn Albrecht, an Australian professor and environmental activist, had coined the term in 2004 after observing signs of displacement in a community besieged by coal mining in southern Australia. Solastalgia referred to the grief that a person felt when her home environment was irrevocably altered. It was, Albrecht wrote, “a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.”
Martin writes beautifully about her own solastalgia amid the earthquakes and wildfires in her home state throughout her lifetime. A related term, climate grief, is emerging as well. These ideas made me think of this incredible and gorgeously rendered NYT piece by Dan Egan from 2021 about changes occuring in Chicago. The link should work for non-subscribers; h/t to my husband for this one.
This is the new name for an asteroid in Venus’ orbit that was originally given a placeholder name of “2002VE.” The Radiolab podcast did an episode about this asteroid describing how co-host Latif Nassir noticed the asteroid was written as “ZOOZVE” on an illustrated map of the solar system in his child’s bedroom.
Nassir proposed that Zoozve become the official name of the asteroid, named in honor of Brian Skiff, who discovered it. Thanks to NTMP reader Randal for this terrific story of how we can turn an amusing error into something meaningful and fun.
Word nerd alert: At first I thought this was a malapropism, but that wasn’t quite right. And it’s not a spoonerism, or an eggcorn, or a mondegreen. Here’s a great explainer from Grammar Girl detailing the meaning of all of these designations.
5. The Soho Effect
This week a friend and I attended a presentation by the nonprofit real estate developer Artspace to hear their proposal for building an affordable 30-40 unit live/work space for artists. As part of their recommendations, they suggested buying land from the city to keep it more affordable. They will then work with the city and its residents and get input from artists about what kind of space to build to keep it in character with the town and meet the needs of the creatives who will live and work there. Because they will receive HUD funding, rents will be priced at 30-60% of area median income to allow for artists of all ages and socioeconomic status to afford to live there.
One of the presenters described a phenomenon called The Soho Effect—named for the NYC neighborhood—to describe what often happens to artists who find affordable spaces in urban areas only to be priced out when those areas gentrify. Projects like those that Artspace funds help preserve housing for working artists. As I researched this phrase, I came across this post by The Soho Memory Project that mentions the work Artspace is doing as a potential solution to The Soho Effect.
I think the whole thing is really cool and exciting and I plan on being as involved as I’m able as far as giving input while also continuing to advocate for input from members of marginalized communities, including those with disabilities, and also from younger artists. Because these sorts of projects tend to receive P-L-E-N-T-Y of input from middle aged and older middle and upper class white residents, which is valid but doesn’t reflect the entire community. Thankfully, Artspace has listened to the artists and community members they’ve consulted so far and have solicited input from a broad range of residents and artists.
6. Tangerine Palpatine
I can’t believe I’d never read this dunk on Trump before, but A+, no notes. (h/t to NTMP reader Mel for this one.)
1. What the fuck is wrong with the people at NYT Opinion?
Seriously. In case you don’t know, they just ran another transphobic op-ed by Pamela Paul that uses discredited and retracted studies to try and puff up instances where transgender people regret transitioning—which some studies show that only 1-3% of patients experience, which is far lower than regret experienced for other surgeries. I’m not going to link to this piece because fuck these people.
It could just be that one or more member of the Times editorial board are transphobes. But it’s worth mentioning that so-called liberal media outlets being afraid to publish evidence-based liberal viewpoints for fear of being accused of lacking objectivity results in giving harmful conservative viewpoints that are grounded in fear and hate rather than facts far more airtime and legitimacy than they deserve.
I know it’s not exactly the same, but where are the 1,400-word think pieces on people who regret gender-affirming surgeries like breast or penile implants? Or the 1,400-word explorations—with valid data—on people who are living joyfully after transitioning? I hope someone writes them, and I hope the Times prints them.
2. This is EXTREMELY cool science
The Vesuvius Challenge is uses machine learning and something called “computer vision” to translate ancient papyrus scrolls that were buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted two thousand years ago. Housed in museums, the scrolls are covered in ash and still rolled up, making them difficult to study without destroying them.
In 2023, three competitors managed to read an entire scroll! I cannot with how cool this is. Read more on the 2023 Grand Prize page.
Also, this gives us the new-to-me word papyrologist, which I assume has nothing to do with the regrettable ‘90s font.
3. Lastly, I’ll leave you with this:
There is only one type of validation I am seeking for that score.
That’s it for this week! Remember to stay furiously curious and keep making it weird.