The Null Device
Tomorrow is apparently National UnFriend Day: a day for purging your Facebook friend list of people who aren't actual real-world friends (you know, that guy you met at a party two years ago who's in marketing or publishing or something and really into snowboarding, or was it Korean cinema?) without the devastating anxiety non-sociopathic people feel when cutting off contact with another blameless human being, or something.
“NUD is the international day when all Facebook users shall protect the sacred nature of friendship by cutting out any ‘friend fat’ on their pages occupied by people who are not truly their friends,” according to the show’s website.Meanwhile, the latest new social network's key feature is that you only get 50 friends, who are meant to be your closest friends and family.
While there is something to be said for periodically deleting non-relationships from social sites (i.e., anybody whom you can't remember who they are), the premise of both of these—that social software friend lists should be only for people we consider to be actual friends in real life—goes against the use cases of social software site; one of the things that makes sites like Facebook useful is because they're good at managing weak links; of keeping up with people whom one isn't sufficiently close to to individually spend time with. There is probably less call for a site that is limited to one's 50 nearest and dearest (not to mention the drama it may engender, akin to MySpace's "Top 8" ("You added him but not me; what am I: chopped liver?")) than for one for keeping up with various spheres of acquaintances, buddies, contacts and other weak links, and compartmentalising one's public identity and profile between them appropriately.
The New York Times (registration required) has a convincing essay by one Mark Greif on what the word "hipster" actually means in a social/cultural context. It's a largely pejorative word nobody will admit to applying to them, though many of those using it derogatorily to refer to others look suspiciously like the stereotypical description of a hipster. The key, it seems, is in the writings of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, whose thesis was that taste (in everything from diet to dress to the various arts) is neither arbitrary nor objective, but correlates rigidly to one's social stratum, and serves a competitive role in jockeying for position in the social hierarchy. And this is where hipsters come in.
According to Greif, what people might classify as "hipsters" are three different groups: upper-middle-class, university-educated "culture workers" (i.e., Richard Florida's "Creative Class"), upper-class "trust fund hipsters", the scions of the aristocracy seeking to convert financial capital into cultural capital, and the old-guard, lower-middle-class hipsters, wearing thrift-shop clothes they acquired before they became expensively trendy, serving the aforementioned two categories in dive bars and boutiques and then repairing to crappy bedsits or borrowed couches. These may be the most authentic, but are looked down upon by the others for their lower standing, with only their unpurchased cultural authenticity giving them a form of superiority which doesn't afford them economic mobility. These three categories use the H-word as a weapon in an ongoing cultural jousting match, to knock each other down, belittling each other's cultural standing by denying its authenticity:
All hipsters play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world. Yet the habits of hatred and accusation are endemic to hipsters because they feel the weakness of everyone’s position — including their own. Proving that someone is trying desperately to boost himself instantly undoes him as an opponent. He’s a fake, while you are a natural aristocrat of taste. That’s why “He’s not for real, he’s just a hipster” is a potent insult among all the people identifiable as hipsters themselves.
High demand for cocaine in Europe + high prices due to drug prohibition + global trade downturn resulting in glut of cheap cargo jets + Venezuela not cooperating with the War On Drugs = drug cartels buying jumbo jets, packing them with cocaine, flying them to Europe and then torching them, because it makes economic sense:
Fuel and pilots were paid for through wire transfers, suitcases filled with cash and, in one case, a bag containing €260,000 (£220,000) left at a hotel bar. The gang hired a Russian crew to move a newly acquired plane from Moldova to Romania, and then to Guinea.
The gang had access to a private airfield in Guinea, was considering buying its own airport and had sent a team to explore whether it could send direct flights from Bolivia to West Africa, Valencia Arbelaez said in recorded conversations.