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Wasting Away on the Internet

Date posted: Monday, March 19, 2012

Tracking a week’s worth of online reading.

Photograph via Flickr by ccarlstead

Photograph via Flickr by ccarlstead

Between Richard Branson hurtling his family into the atmosphere and James Cameron plunging solo into the deepest part of the ocean, it is difficult not to try to comprehend the incomprehensibility of space. In 450 years, when a ten-year-old’s middle-class parents will splurge on a moon trip birthday party, surely those parents will lament the time when their great-great-great-great-great-grandparents had to settle for the old Chuck E. Cheese/miniature golf/Baskin-Robbins trifecta, just as we pity poor Leonardo da Vinci, who after drawing up sketches of flying machines had to deal with the fact that he had no tools with which to construct them. If da Vinci knew that soon enough we’d be able to travel from New York to Tokyo for $1,000 in less than 24 hours, he probably wouldn’t have had the fortitude to paint the Mona Lisa or the foresight to package all his secrets into a cryptic bestselling autobiography under the pseudonym “Dan Brown.”

Technology, space, relativity . . . are these bizarre concepts any different than waste? What is consumption other than a trail of stuff we discard? Mail comes in envelopes and boxes, meals in cans, containers, and cartons, but aside from taking out the trash, we never see our waste accumulate (unless we take a field trip to a landfill).

In most cities, waste generated by large buildings is stored in dumpsters in back alleys, where garbage trucks that look like Transformers pick it up. In New York City, though, there are no such alleys; every building is flush with its neighbor. This means that if you walk through Manhattan sidewalks the night before garbage day, you pass massive stacks of garbage bags. Sometimes the stacks are six bags high and as long as an entire block, often they’re leaking coffee and dirty water, and always they emit a terrible stench. The whole idea of this in general—that it’s somehow acceptable for the greatest city in the world to explicitly display its richest citizens’ waste on public sidewalks—is a practice that degrades the city.

I live in Brooklyn, so I haven’t dealt with this in a while. But the other day, thanks to the huge luxury apartment buildings that have sprouted up on the avenue that I walk down to get the subway, I passed a garbage-on-sidewalk area. And in this instance, instead of being disgusting, everything was neat and orderly. The bags were crisp and tightly tied; there were no hangers poking through them, no metal ripping them; and there was no coffee trail. In a way, the garbage looked elegant; it did not annoy me and did not shame me. And because I had just read over breakfast about the James Cameron deep-sea expedition, I had other things on my mind. “Where is all this stuff going to go?” I thought. “How is there possibly room in this world for all of this crap?” It was out of this mindset that I started thinking not about tangible waste but about cyber waste—Internet waste.

Like pretty much everyone that I know in my demographic, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. Whether this time is good or bad or enriching or wasteful is not something I care to measure. What I am interested in, though, is seeing just what this looks like, and so the “project” I came up with (if it can even be classified as a “project”) was to keep track of every article that I read on the Internet in one week’s time simply by listing a quick description of the article, one after another after another. The ground rules were: A) follow my normal reading habits, B) exclude Wikipedia entries, Facebook browsing, and any type of communicating or searching, and C) include any article, whether it was an AP news write-up, a blog entry, or a long-form piece of journalism. My “project” wouldn’t—and still doesn’t—attempt to make any sort of righteous statement about waste and excess and gluttony and consumption and consumerism. Nor is it purporting to be any sort of art. Furthermore, as I have long ago come to terms with my online reading habits, I didn’t think about the “project” as therapy, as an opportunity for introspection, as a chance to comment on Society At Large. The list is what it is: a compilation of everything I read on the Internet in one full week. And since each description links to the original article, feel free wasting your time looking for something that’s interesting.


Everything I read from Sunday, March 11, 2012, 4 p.m. to Sunday, March 18, 2012, 4 p.m.

The 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest | Commentary on a German interview with Steven Soderbergh | Why it’s cheaper to go to Harvard than a California state school | How culture ruins corporations | Why Hollywood studios pour money into films guaranteed to flop | What Greece can teach us about reducing deficits too quickly | There will be record-setting warmth this week | Catching up on a week of NFL news | The Big East used to be a great conference and now it’s not | NCAA tournament predictions | CNN might buy Mashable | Margaret Atwood talks to a skull on Twitter | All the pathetic male character in American literature | Grading Arne Duncan | Teams and people affected by the Rams-Redskins trade | Cutting carbon emissions might not be working, so now what? | Why John Carter flopped from the moment it put out its first preview | John Carter’s two biggest mistakes | An NBA doubleheader in LA | Retrospective on David Foster Wallace’s Federer essay | Ten American comeback cities | Rebekah Brooks is arrested | Retrospective on Tony Kornheiser’s piece on Nolan Ryan | Debating the young, black, American male | Debating the quandary of the book blurb | Ben Marcus interview | The myth of talent | Paris Hilton’s last night in jail | Stephon Marbury denies hitting fan after Chinese playoffs | T.J. Ford retires after latest neck injury | NFL mailbag | Sports/culture mailbag | The rise of the dirtbag sitcom | Five March Madness predictions | The Los Angeles Celtics | Elite colleges should encourage more humility | How Princeton neglected me for not being elite | Linsday Lohan’s new look is frightening | Photos of the day | Why I’m quitting Goldman Sachs | A run through Prospect Park | The disadvantages of an elite education | The decline of the English department | Johnny Depp didn’t like kissing Angelina Jolie in a movie | Slideshow of overcrowded El Salvadorian prisons | Article about overcrowded El Salvadorian prisons | Eddie Murphy will never be funny in the way he used to be | Mike D’Antoni resigns | Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony are not having problems | What it’s like sitting behind the bench at an LA Kings game | What French critics think of John Carter | The cluelessness of Thomas Friedman | Juveniles don’t deserve life sentences | Fallout of the Goldman Sachs op-ed | This new Olive Garden in North Dakota is pretty good | The Olive Garden review goes viral | HBO’s Luck gets cancelled | NFL free agency notes | Bethenny Frankel close to divorce | Sky diver jumps from 13 miles up to practice for record-setting jump | Dear Abby | Calling out Pat Knight | The legacy of Oscar Robertson | More Oscar Robertson | Lehigh beats Duke | What’s the matter with Blake Griffin? | Richard Branson ready for space | Jhumpa Lahiri on her sentences | Rick Robey interview | Nicholas Cage has completely checked out

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Nathan Schiller is a founding editor of Construction magazine.

View all posts by Nathan Schiller →


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