Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 26th, 2020

The secret economics of a VIP party

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Ashley Mears describes in the Economist an existence that strikes me as grim:

The nightclub pulsed in the Miami heat. Dancers waved glow sticks with neon letters spelling out “F*** me I’m famous”. The millionaire was dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, and would have been easy to miss if he hadn’t been surrounded by a dozen tall, thin, beautiful women and waving a pink bottle of Cristal champagne. His next drinks order arrived in a ceremonial procession, known in the nightclub business as a bottle train. A group of bouncers carried two bins full of champagne bottles and sparklers, lifted high above their heads. They were followed by a procession of stiletto-clad waitresses, bearing the same gifts.

Onlookers cheered in the glow and held up their phones to take pictures. A man standing next to me looked blasé at the unfolding scene and offered me a swig from his own champagne bottle: a 2004 Cristal rosé.

How much does this cost?” I asked him, gesturing at the bottle.

He told me it was $1,700. I watched as the millionaire shoved his bottle towards the face of a nearby model, causing the expensive liquid to foam wastefully over the neck.

We’ve all seen scenes like this on Instagram or the pages of glossy magazines. Over the last few decades, a new elite has emerged, partly as a result of deregulation of the financial sector in the West and partly because of the spread of global capitalism across the world. This elite is more geographically dispersed and mobile than the aristocrats and capitalists of yesteryear. And an industry has sprung up to feed it.

A small cohort of oligarchs, New York hedge-fund managers and Silicon Valley investors now patronise a network of nightclubs that span the globe. Whether they’re in Miami or St Tropez these clubs tend to have similar decor and the same clientele. The coronavirus pandemic has temporarily paused the partying, but you can be sure that this sector of society, locked down in large homes and insulated from the economic recession, will soon be up for a good time again.

The visual tropes of this world are familiar even to non-vips: angular cheekbones, Louboutin heels, sprays of champagne. What most people don’t realise is that the apparently spontaneous abandon of those extravagant nights is, in fact, painstakingly planned. It takes a carefully hidden, intricate economy, based on a complex brokering of beauty and status, to create an atmosphere in which people will spend $100,000 on alcohol in a single night. This economy’s currency is young women. The leggy blondes who surrounded the millionaire that night in Miami were not there by chance.

I went behind the scenes in this world between 2010 and 2014, trying to establish how it worked. Because I was a model before I became a sociologist, I was able to enter roped-off areas that ruthlessly exclude any woman who does not conform to a certain body type. I talked to the young women who surrounded the millionaires and came to understand that, whether they fully acknowledged it or not, they were being managed: shunted in and out of nightclubs with brisk efficiency. Women in this world were living props in a carefully scripted theatre that created real financial value for men – the promoters who set up the scene, the nightclub-owners who raked in the bar bills, the wannabe billionaires who used the environment to network. The women’s motivation was harder to pinpoint. But every night they gamely donned their heels and hit the clubs. The show had to go on.

Dre was a promoter for some of the biggest clubs on the vip circuit (like others in this story he asked me to use a pseudonym). He was a handsome 38-year-old with a shaved head and dazzling smile, whose job was to encourage big spenders to book tables at the clubs he worked for. He achieved this partly through his own charisma. He’d dabbled in the music business before becoming a promoter (at a certain point in the night he performed an unforgettable rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”), and was the kind of person celebrities liked to greet on a night out. But Dre’s main talent was his ability to bring in models, ideally at least five a night (other promoters aimed for ten – it was important for there to be an excess of beauty). “I know how to talk to girls,” Dre often said. “They like me.”

Through spending a lot of time with Dre in New York, I learned the basic economics of the system that he worked so effectively. In some ways Dre’s job resembled that of a pimp but, like every promoter, he flinched when I raised the idea. Some of the rich nightclub customers may have had sex with the beautiful women rustled up for them by promoters, though I didn’t see much evidence of this (often the men hardly spoke to them). But fundamentally that was not the reason the women were there. The point of gathering a crowd of models was to put customers in the right kind of mood to spend money. Dre’s ultimate client was the club-owner, who transformed that ambience into profit by inflating the price of the alcohol they bought by up to 1,000%. That mark-up included the invisible labour it took to summon the models. Customers paid so they didn’t have to bring the women themselves or engage a broker to procure them. They paid for the illusion of spontaneity.

Dre had a gift for creating a relaxed atmosphere in fancy places. I watched him at work in a famous restaurant in SoHo, where the owner was paying him at least $1,000 a night to bring in the right crowd. He sat flanked by bottles and beautiful women, apparently kicking back but in reality watching the room like a hawk. “ . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. Later in the article:

Katia took what she could from the scene: sex with a promoter, smoking his pot on the beach, dining in fancy restaurants and the excitement of seeing where the night would take you. Yet she couldn’t simply leave a club if she wasn’t having fun, or when her feet hurt from the heels the promoter made her wear. She kept a credit card tucked in the back of her phone for emergencies, but she didn’t have much money so she relied on promoters to get around. Katia looked back on the experience as an overwhelmingly positive one. “It was amazing, no?”

Yet I wasn’t totally convinced. The Miami experience seemed pretty exhausting, and Katia and the other women had little capacity to determine their own movements. Another model I met, Petra, had been taken to Miami by a different promoter for a client whom she described as a “Brazilian mafia guy or whatever”.

Petra had been put up in a penthouse with a group of women, but it turned out not to have any furniture, so they were moved to a bedroom inside the client’s place. On the first night there, Petra’s friend Rose felt ill during dinner and wanted to go back to rest. No one would take her, and since she didn’t have a key to the flat, she had to wait outside the nightclub until the early morning when the clients had finished partying. Petra, meanwhile, felt she had no choice but to go into the club without her. “I had to go there alone not knowing these people, and then I did feel like a piece of meat, like totally, I had to be fun…so I was like, dancing, and laughing, and hating my life at the same time.” She had no control over her own time: “Just not being able to eat on time, you think that’s ok, but when it happens, it’s not,” she said.

Most of the women I spoke to seemed to think that following promoters around would be valuable in the longer term, though this value was hard to measure. One benefit was  . . .

Written by Leisureguy

26 September 2020 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Memes

The crackpots and charlatans will always be with us, and some will prosper

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No, not him. This guy:

It is alarming to find a popular medical doctor on the Internet who claims that appendicitis—a common inflammation of the appendix which can lead to sepsis and death—is no big deal. According to him, it’s simply constipation, which can be relieved by enema. He says it so calmly, though, that you may be inclined to believe him.

This doctor is Andrew Kaufman, based in Syracuse, New York. In the middle of a global health pandemic, he has become a prominent voice in the COVID denialism movement online. Many of his lengthy commentaries on YouTube have received hundreds of thousands of views. If you have heard that the coronavirus is not real, that scientists are actually detecting “exosomes,” you are familiar with Kaufman’s theory. His turn away from medicine seems to have been triggered in part by reading the book A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, a psychiatrist turned virus denier and Goop contributor. Kaufman regularly takes to YouTube to answer specific medical questions from viewers and provides them with “information” that runs counter to basic knowledge of the human body, endorsing bone broths and detox protocols for a variety of ailments. He is not a naturopath; he is a psychiatrist with an active medical license in his state.

Illuminating fringe claims can poison the public discourse, but Kaufman is popular enough that addressing his main theory is necessary. And his even-tempered warnings about a “globalist agenda” and a “manufactured crisis” that has led to “coercion” feed the playbook of COVID-19 conspiracy theorists.

The myth that the virus isn’t there

Sounding composed and knowledgeable, Kaufman repeatedly tells his viewers that viruses are not a cause of human diseases. Through watching hours and hours of video, I have seen him deny the existence of the viruses behind the common cold, polio, HIV-AIDS, viral hepatitis, chickenpox, COVID-19, and measles. One of his favourite examples for why his war against germ theory is justified is the case of Stefan Lanka, which he sells to his audience as “the Supreme Court of Germany actually ruled that there is no measles virus that’s been proved to exist” (from his interview with London Real, time code 1:04:00). The truth is that Lanka issued a challenge: he wanted a single scientific paper that, on its own, proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the virus existed. When a doctor named David Bardens produced six papers that together met the burden of proof, Lanka refused to pay and the Court recognized that Lanka was free to set the rules as he saw fit because this was an award and he could give it to whomever. The measles virus is very real: Lanka’s public challenge was, in my opinion, a no-win scenario to give credence to his virus denialism.

Dr. Andrew Kaufman rose to fame in the early days of the pandemic by claiming that what scientists were actually seeing with their electron microscopes was not a new coronavirus but rather exosomes. This story is quite interesting as it reveals a common tactic Kaufman uses. In building a bridge between an observation and a conclusion he likes, he will often use valid science to lay down a number of planks. When that bridge is almost complete, he runs out of planks and takes a leap of faith, but that leap may only be noticeable by an expert. Going back to exosomes, most of what Kaufman says is true. Our body is made of cells, and you can imagine a cell like a soap bubble. An exosome is a tiny bubble that buds off from that soap bubble and starts floating around, maybe eventually fusing with another soap bubble.

These exosomes can carry payloads, like genetic material, and act as transporters inside our body, and they do look an awful lot like many viruses. In fact, sometimes a virus will infect a cell and an exosome containing the virus’ genetic material will bud off and go on to infect another cell, just like a viral particle would! But here we reach the end of our bridge. Two scientific experts discussed this issue in a YouTube video and concluded that “clearly, there are similarities between exosomes and the coronavirus but they are absolutely different in many aspects.” Kaufman takes a leap and claims the virus does not exist. It’s all exosomes.

In fact, Kaufman loves to mention that doctors who claim to have found an infectious virus have never been able to fulfill Koch’s hallowed postulates. A brief history lesson is warranted. Microbiologist Robert Koch stated during the Victorian era (just before we even really knew what DNA and viruses were) that to prove that a microbe caused disease, you needed to isolate it from living things with the disease and not find it in living things without the disease. And if you took it from a living thing that had it and gave it to a living thing that did not, it should produce disease and you should be able to then isolate this microbe within it. So if scientists have not done this with a particular virus, it gives license to people like Kaufman to claim that we just don’t know.

The problem is that Koch himself realized that requiring his postulates to be fulfilled each and every time was mistaken. He noticed people who were carriers of typhoid fever and of cholera who did not have symptoms. They had the infectious agent but not the disease. Was it proof these microbes did not after all cause the disease? No. Koch’s postulates are historically interesting, but they have essentially been supplanted by guidelines based on the detection of DNA or RNA from the microbe itself.

From MD to ND

Dr. Andrew Kaufman is, in my opinion, a naturopath now. He charges USD 750 for a natural health consultation (and $1,750 for the premium package). He has stated that technological advances in medicine are only superior to natural methods “if your bone is sticking out of your skin”; that it’s wrong to be synthesizing drugs; and that we should simply rely on natural molecules whose safety, he claims, is known. And like naturopaths, Kaufman sees toxins everywhere. He thinks we get them from clothes, shampoo and the food supply. Urinary tract infections, he believes, can be caused by toxins in the rectum that “translocate” to the urinary system. So naturally, he recommends “cleansings” to many people writing in with questions. These mysterious toxins and our rituals to purify ourselves from them remind me of the demons and exorcisms of old, and if you think that’s a stretch, Kaufman, a psychiatrist who has done work in the criminal justice system in the past, thinks “demon possession may actually be a factor in some mental illness” like schizophrenia. Many of the comments on his live streams display a strong religious fervour—“Yes demons are for real” and “Just walk with Christ and you are save [sic] even if they kill you!”—so much so that you would think you were watching the world’s most unflappable preacher.

But Kaufman is not content to embrace naturopathy and deny the existence of germs: he has to imply that . . .

Continue reading. There’s even more.

Written by Leisureguy

26 September 2020 at 11:07 am

Fine shave with cheap razor (but excellent shaving soap)

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This little RiMei razor is probably no available, or not in this format. (I think they improved the handle fairly early). It cost $2 and delivers a perfectly fine shave. The description says that it’s stainless, but obviously it is stamped and not machined.

Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak shaving soaps are wonderful, and the lather from them — this morning via the Simpson Duke 3 Best shown — is a marvel. Part of the credit to the quality of this morning’s shave experience and shave result must go to that lather.

I finished with a splash of D.R. Harris Pink After Shave, and the weekend welcomes me.

Written by Leisureguy

26 September 2020 at 9:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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