PEARLS OF WISDOM
Oyster. Oyster. Oyster. Oyster. Say it ten more times. Sounds kind of gross now, right? Like most words, it loses its meaning with repetition, but this one seems to do so faster than most. But get used to hearing it around—this week, literary techies gleefully moved their lips around the word, as a new digital book-sharing platform, OysterBooks.com, launched its new mobile app. Oyster, the “Netflix of books” (label courtesy of various news sources, not the company itself ), allows users to read as many of the 100,000 titles available as they can, for a monthly rate of $9.95.
The site’s logo, at first glance, looks distractingly like it could be an anatomical drawing of one of several pieces of human anatomy, rather than the eponymous bivalve. That coy, casual wink of naughtiness seems to come fully endorsed by the site’s team of clean-cut young engineers and designers, all of them male. They link on their homepage to a recipe for Dark ‘n Stormys and invite customers to buy them a drink at their favorite dive bar or rooftop lounge. At the same time, Oyster CEO and former Wall Street banker Eric Stromberg and his team proudly call themselves bookworms. As of now, they grant access to the site by invitation only, a common tactic among startups for generating buzz that gives users the experience of joining an elite club. Think access to the Acadé- mie française, but American, and on your phone.
Does reading a book on a screen sound familiar? The first Kindle was introduced in 2007, and Amazon Prime, which costs about $40 less than an Oyster subscription would for a year, gives Kindle users access to its entire digital catalogue. But that program only entitles readers to one book per month, at which Stromberg and Co. scoffed. “The world is mine oyster!” they proudly proclaimed—or, more accurately, Shakespeare did—and created a way for readers to have all the books, all the time, at least from the publishers with whom they’ve partnered. They urge their users to “reach for books at moments of impulse throughout your day,” easily accessible just a flick of the finger away from Candy Crush.
Stromberg says he considered the future of reading when designing this product. His team certainly understands how people communicate through social media—“People-powered Book Discovery” allows readers to know what their friends are reading, the same way other social media sites reveal what they’re watching, listening to, photographing, thinking. Reading almost seems a secondary concern in Oyster’s product design, clearly built for mobile phones—at the moment it is only available as an iPhone app, though an iPad app and a version for Android are in the works. It’s a pretty product, with a choice of several interfaces and tiles illustrating its thousands of titles. Its utility, given the myriad other distractions better suited to your mobile device, is more questionable.
Then again, the same has probably been said of every technological innovation since fire. Go forth, dive in, the world is thine—on a four-inch screen. —EW
Everyone has encountered a Cool Bug.
Turn on the television—maybe you’ll see one with a rhinolooking horn in a documentary about the jungle. Go down to the laundry room: you might discover a hairy bug with weird pincers on its butt. These encounters are intimate, the type of thing you would keep to yourself.
So when does a Cool Bug become national news? A recent case study reveals the answer.
Here you go: Jeff Edwards caught a two-colored lobster off Maine.
News of Edward’s Ocean-Bug was everywhere last week. His catch been covered by Reuters, the AP, the Daily Mail, the Wall Street Journal, and even the Denver Post, which, it should be remembered, has a readership about as far away from the ocean as you can get.
All of these sources agree that Edwards’ lobster is special because the colors on its back are divided, neatly, splat down the middle—one half black, one half red. Relevant experts agree that the chances of finding such a lobster are one in fifty million. The Associated Press lets readers know that “only albino lobsters are rarer.”
What does all of this mean?
Well, consider this: there is no information on weirdlooking crickets in the Wall Street Journal, and the Denver Post never reports on centipedes with missing legs. For a Bug to be really Cool—so Cool it is newsworthy—that Bug also has to provide the rarest of flavors. It has to be delicious. Then we can imagine eating it surfside while marveling at its one-in-fifty-million taste.
In the meantime, the lobster has been donated to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, ME, where, according to the Bangor Daily News, ten thousand students will get to ogle it every year. They will all bite their lips—either because they’ve seen Cool Bugs before, too, and never told anyone, or because they are hungry. – SPE
CULT OF PERSONALITY
Some call it the Hermit Kingdom, others the “Soprano State,” most of us call it North Korea. Kim Jong-Un, the current Supreme Leader of the DPRK, doesn’t care what you call it. And neither does his newest friend, Dennis Rodman.
Rodman made his first trip to the DPRK with Vice Media in February 2013 to stage a basketball exhibition match for their HBO series. Evidently Rodman and the Supreme Leader hit it off—Rodman visited Kim again on September 3. At a banquet thrown for Rodman, he became the first American to hold Kim’s baby daughter Ju-ae, a child very few people both inside or outside of North Korea even knew existed. Rodman and Kim also hung out at the Mount Kumgang Resort and took in a women’s soccer match as well as a tae kwon do match.
Rodman returned to the US and announced all sort of DPRK-related plans. He plans on returning to North Korea with a few other retired basketball players for an exhibition game sponsored by the Irish online betting company Paddy Power. Rodman has also reportedly agreed to train the North Korean Olympic Basketball team, and Kim has suggested that Rodman pen a book about him. Landing in Beijing, wearing a silver sequined beret, Rodman told the waiting press corp, “I don’t give a shit what people around the world think about him, he’s my friend, and you saw it on the pictures, he’s my friend.” —JDJ