A Streaming Pile of Truth #2: Spotify Radio

REMINDER: On each service’s day, I am limited to the use of that service, but within that option I can do whatever the service allows. There are two caveats here: the use of Spotify Radio is a use of Spotify Radio, and so means that I’m not allowed to use actual Spotify. There is nothing, however, stopping me from making a billion stations and only listening to the ones that are likely to work out.

Ah, Spotify. It makes lives easier, but, of course, is currently the Lead Bogeyman Demon of the Music Industry, what with it not rolling out lots and lots of money to every single person on it and all that1. As a “find that song and then play it” service, it’s super-great. But what about its also-existing radio service? Since iTunes specifically launched a radio player (which has, in the year since it launched, generally failed to set the world on fire) to combat it, let’s take a look at how that works, and if it’s any better than the not-actually-very good iTunes radio service.

Also, these will come more frequently than once a year, so you won’t completely forget it’s a feature in between installments.

Installment #2 – Spotify Radio
The strengths of Spotify are its on-demand features, so the fact that it also has a radio tucked away in there seems a bit like the toothpick in the Swiss Army Knife – it doesn’t really count as a feature, and I can’t imagine anyone actually using it. It behaves like as much of an afterthought as it seems – as far as “features” go, you’re pretty much left with a Pandora-style “thumbs up/down” for each song. Giving the thumbs up to a song will add to a playlist called “Liked From Radio”, which is, to its credit, useful for keeping track of stuff that you liked when you heard it. There really isn’t any other means of granular control – the whole thing is very much like Pandora shoved into a Spotify interface.

And no one’s favorite thing about Spotify is the interface.

So how’d it do: Not well! its major problem, the one that stares in the face of every single use, is that it simply doesn’t populate any given station widely. I created a number of stations across genres, styles, and levels of popularity, and repeatedly ran into the problem of it playing the same tiny handful of songs over and over. Not only would it repeat artists, but at one point it even repeated a song, playing the Everybodyfields’ “Lonely Anywhere” twice in a row2. It is also the victim of Spotify’s often-haphazard cataloging – when the radio station was programmed with Boris, it ran heavily on a Baroness/Witch/Weedeater loop, but the only Boris album it played from (and one of the tiny handful it has) was the decidedly un-rock Attention Please. In addition, it also played a song3  by a French DJ who pseudonymously used the name Boris, which is not the same thing even a little bit. It also, in Schoenberg Radio, played some sort of radio address that Arnold Schoenberg apparently gave and ended up on a record, which would have been fine except 1) everything else was music and 2) it was in German. All of which signify that the stations don’t take a specific enough approach to songs, and just match artists.

But some of this might be meant as a feature – one of the things that people complain about when they complain about Pandora is that you can’t play anything on demand, and you can’t skip more than a certain number of songs. Spotify, which already has the rights to be a play-on-demand service, is able to populate stations more heavily with the songs of the artist you choose. But there should be a happy medium – a Grouper station is neithe just Grouper, nor just acts that sound like Grouper, but rather “about half Grouper, with some other stuff mixed in”4.

The truth: It’s really not worth it. While it’s quicker than creating a Spotify playlist (it’s as easy as starting a Pandora station, really. It’s like a stunted, ad-free Pandora), it isn’t particularly satisfying, as it never strays too far from the artist or song you input, and it doesn’t have the depth of bench to get you into new stuff. Even in a pinch, you’d probably still be better off just putting one of their genre-based playlists on shuffle.
1 for more on this, see last week’s piece about the music industry, and most other pieces about the music industry written anywhere in the past six months.
2 this station was particularly stunted, as the only other artists it played at all were The Avett Brothers and Jason Isbell. It’s entirely possible this has to do with the relative obscurity of The Everybodyfields, but The Avett Brothers are pretty big, and if you can link to them, can’t you link out from there? I don’t understand its connection engine at all, but that’s a little deeper than I’m going here.
3 it actually played this song twice in twelve songs. It generates really small playlists.
4 in the specific case of Grouper, this also means “far more Wye Oak than you’d think”.

How to Not Be

So I, as you may already know, go to a lot of shows. Nearly all of them are the sort of very-small affair that represent the most basic form of going to see a band – you go and stand in the same room as the acts that aren’t currently playing. The drummer sells you merch. That sort of thing. What this means is that I get to spend time smooshed up against a bunch of strangers with whom I (theoretically) share as many as one things – we both like (or, at the very least, found ourselves with a ticket to) the same band.

As a courtesy to those people, and to my own sanity, here are some people not to be.

The Explainer
You find these dudes1 at noise shows, or, occasionally, the artier breed of heavy metal show. They are explaining to someone that came to the show with them why the band that is about to go on is important/interesting/innovative, and they are generally doing it in such a way that makes it impossible for the person they are explaining to (and any poor unfortunate souls standing around them) to enjoy the fucking show. Explainers come in all types, but I have encountered their king. In 2006, at the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary show, a gentleman standing behind me was explaining to a lady why Big Black was not only the most important band we were currently waiting to take the stage, but was in fact the Most Important American Rock Band of the Last 25 Years2. Over and over again.
HOW NOT TO BE THIS GUY: If it is important for you to explain why someone is important/interesting/innovative before they play, that’s fine, but it’s probably easier to do so after they play if the person you’re explaining it to isn’t familiar with them. In any event, don’t do it while they’re playing, and also don’t do it in front of people if you’re not sure you’re correct. These guys are also never correct (see above w/r/t Most Important etc.)

The Cocktail Party Goer
Venues generally have bars in them. Especially the smaller ones. That’s cool. Most of the ones I’ve been an audience member in have tables near the back or whatever, as well. That’s also cool. A cool dude who, for whatever reason, wants to go to a venue and have his drink and catch up with his buddy, is welcome to do so. It’s not even that hard, provided the venue is properly-sized. Obviously there’s also a fair amount of milling around beforehand. It’s the dude who insists upon wandering around the venue, jostling people, and greeting his apparently long-lost bros in the front row who deserve the ol’ drink to the face treatment. Everyone likes unexpectedly seeing their friends out and about. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that likes watching someone else do so, and I especially don’t understand why it wouldn’t be just as fun when the band isn’t playing.
HOW TO NOT BE THIS GUY: Look around carefully before the show. Hustle after the show. Hell, even wave your arms around like a helicopter while you’re waiting for the inevitable fake “encore”. Go to the back of the venue. Look, there are so many options for you people. Quit pretending you’re at a particularly loud cocktail party.

The Human Catalogue
Look, I’m not immune to the joy of making lists (obviously). I get it. Sometimes it’s nice to argue – even just with yourself – about whether this thing is better than that thing. Everyone who’s spent any time thinking about it knows that kind of thinking is incredibly fluid, and couldn’t be useful for anything but the aforementioned arguments, but it’s an enjoyable pasttime anyway. The Human Catalogue, by a similar turn, will not shut up about what similar events he’s been to, what the setlist was like, which of his favorite songs got played and which didn’t, and who ended up writing about it. The attitude is generally that of a butterfly collector – he clearly likes butterflies, but he ends up liking them by killing them and shoving pins through them, which seems somewhat like missing the point. These guys tend to miss all sorts of things about the show – the crowd around them, the way the set works, and often even the last bit of the show as they fight their way up to get a setlist or a guitar pick or whatever – in favor of yammering about which checkboxes on their mental index cards this particular set checks.
HOW NOT TO BE THIS GUY: Actually, I don’t care if you want to be this guy. It makes no difference to me at all. Just shut the hell up about it.

The Recordist
This is easily the most annoying person, and the one that annoys everybody, so I don’t have to spend too much time on it. Watch the show. Stop recording it. I mention these people only so I can compare them to their phone-based siblings below.
HOW NOT TO BE THIS GUY: Watch the show, don’t record it

Trends in social media – from MySpace to Facebook to tumblr to vine – have, in precisely that order, gotten more annoying to stand behind at shows. I’ve talked about the photo people, and their ability to ruin the experience by trying to make it about them, in the past, so I won’t belabor the point. But if you’re vine-ing, or taking pictures of every single setup3, you are not only doing it to make it about yourself, not only at the expense of the show you (theoretically) paid money to see, but the product of your dumb, incomprehensible phone-waving is literally bad for every single person that encounters it.
HOW NOT TO BE THIS GUY: A lobotomy, for preference. At the very least broken hands.

1 it is generally possible to find examples of all of these types among both sexes. “Explainers” are almost always – and by “almost always” I mean “I’ve never actually seen one that wasn’t” – men.
2 This is, in fact, exactly what he said. I did not paraphrase or embellish that.
3 hilariously, the worst offender I’ve ever seen of the constant-phone-photographer was at a Bill “Hilariously Static” Callahan show, where the stage looked, from a still-photography point of view, pretty much exactly the same with every single song.

So what’s it all about, then? (Buggy Whips Revisted)

So since the last time I took up my post here, observing the machinations of the largely-dying music industry, the discussion, such as it is, has largely seemed to revolve around streaming media, and a lot of people who I wouldn’t have otherwise expected to have an opinion about the way the business side should operate turn out to have one!

The two major flash points were Taylor Swift’s decision to leave the popular streaming service Spotify, and the keynote address for the Face the Music Conference delivered by the Spirit of Analogue Recording and General Opinionated Dude Steve Albini.

Taylor Swift’s stated1 reasons for pulling her music boil down, essentially, to wanting an audience that cares enough about her work to pay money for it on her terms2. This is fine. Everyone gets to choose how they garner exposure or whatever, and obviously Taylor Swift is in a position to get literally anything she wants, as 1989 has been responsible for a hugely inordinate percentage of total record sales in 2014. She could announce that for the remainder of all of her live dates she would be appearing, playing zero songs, and just throwing crackers at the audience, and there would be no complaints. We know this because she accidentally (and literally) several seconds of static as a song, and people reviewed it as a song on iTunes. Obviously we are dealing with a force who gets to do what she wants to do. But her proclamation – that she wants an audience that’s there for her, rather than people who just listen to her music because it’s available – is a perfectly good one. And for more on that you’ll have to wait just a second.

In his keynote address, Mr. Albini pretty specifically pronounces that the system as it exists now is much, much better for a whole lot more bands. That every band is able to tour and find an audience based on the ability of people to find, through services such as Spotify, the music that they hear about. The major-label system – the part of the music industry that’s most violently hemorrhaging – is the part that’s crying about the lack of money flowing in, and the workaday bands are more able to mobilize for their own business concerns rather than wait around until a bigger business comes and deicdes to make them a part of their interest. Essentially, the system that made Taylor Swift is near death, and that’s good for the working musicians and bad for the people that would put up roadblocks to working musicians getting the exposure they deserve/want/etc.

The conversation around both has largely been misguided. Think piece after think piece (and this actually predates these two pieces) is written about how, exactly, to draw more money out of the system for people – how to get people to pay artists instead of spotify, how to get spotify to pay out more, etc. etc.

The thing is, each of these arguments could lead to a very different conversation, and it’s this: what, exactly, is the commercial existence of the artist, and how does it relate to what people are willing to pay for? Obviously the service provided by musicians is incalculable. If you’re reading this, you are probably at least dimly aware that I spend the majority of my waking hours listening to the fruits of the musicians that are willing to labor, and that i’m happy to compensate the ones that provide the service of giving me a better world in which to live. There’s absolutely no question about it. I am also willing, as you’ve seen, to provide links to spotify playlists, youtube links and, twice a year, actual music files in order to share with you, the people reading this, the things that I think are most worth sharing. Nor do I think, for the most part, that the bands whose songs you’re hearing through those links expect all of any group to pay for them.

So already we have a problem with the commerce model (and, really, the reason why the commerce model is a sticky thing to try to saddle something like artistic production with) – is a service a service if you don’t specifically want it? This seems to be the underlying portion of the argument in the industry camp – that the music that exists should be compensated for its existence, rather than that the people that make music that people want be compensated for that wanting.

And of course they do – the people whose job it is to come up with that opinion are managers, or publishers3, or people who, generally, have only a business-level financial stake in the outcome of the artistic product. The reason it’s possible for someone like Taylor Swift (or, really, anyone who doesn’t operate in their own personal business interests as an artist) is able to believe that their way is the normal way, rather than the rare exception, is because she is constantly surrounded by people telling her that it’s the normal way. You can ascribe reasons why as cynically as you’d like, I won’t stop you, but the point is: there are people whose jobs depend on pop stars being able to operate on the same model as factories, and those people are good at their jobs. So the commerce model, which rapidly became unable to sustain the record industry, can’t change, because without it nobody gets paid (witness the hundreds of former record label employees fired or laid off or whatever over the years).

On the other end, Steve Albini’s argument is that bands can, and do, find themselves bigger audiences and are able to tour more, and get paid more, for the live music end of things, thanks to there being no more scarcity, simply put, in finding recordings. So people that are inclined to do so can find you more easily than they could.

The common argument against this is that without the ability to promote artists it’s easier to become lost in the wash, which would ring more true if it hadn’t shown that most people, when presented with a world in which less music is marketed at them, simply listen to less music. You’re not losing an audience that you only had in the first place because they were captive – they’re just not captive anymore.

And that brings us all the way back around. What Taylor Swift is saying and what Steve Albini are saying is the exact same thing4. And it’s literally the only sensible thing to say about the matter – there is no more ability to conjure up an audience for any old dipshit thing in the world5. What Taylor Swift is saying is that in order to sell anything, you have to focus on the people that want to buy, and what Steve Albini is saying is that now it’s possible to see those people and, if they are so inclined, get them to buy something.

But that thing is clearly not going to be an audio stream, or even an audio file. So what is it?

Well, there’s a ton of stuff that floats around next to the musicians. And some of that stuff is required: a physical record is a thing, a t-shirt is a thing, a beer coozie or a keychain or a guitar pick are things. Those things require manufacture, transport and inventory, and it is completely sensible to charge money for them. And there will always be the music-industry equivalent of bottled water.

Everyone reading this probably has a tap that they can get water out of for whatever they pay for water service/occasional well maintenance. Everyone reading this has probably also, at some point, bought a bottle of water. Maybe it’s because you were in a place where you didn’t like the water available easily, maybe you have a very specific water preference, maybe you’re avoiding some flaw in the water locally, maybe you were just really in the mood for a drink of water and it was the only option. The point remains that bottled water remains a sizable industry that does not spend its time suing drinking fountains. Because of people to whom it’s important, an economy has appeared around bottled water, and the people that make money out of it operate within that economy.

To hear the Taylor Swift side tell it, without an easy, huge flow of cash into the pockets of the established record-sales industry, we’re going to be left with no water. But really, when you take away the incentive of easy cash, you take away the people that are only in a band for easy cash6. If the only reason to make a record, if the only reason to tour, if the only reason to exist as an artistic entity is to do it for its own sake, then the only records that will be made are the records that are made for their own sake.

That sounds pretty good to me.

I don’t think that life should be particularly hard for artists – I do everything in my power to make sure it isn’t, in fact. It would be downright paradiscal it if every band I loved made all the money they’d ever wanted and got to live comfortably off the proceeds of their art. And maybe someday there will be a magic system that makes that so.

But as it is, arguing that someone who is actually in the defense industry, or the consumer electronics industry, or the aerospace industry, is the person who should be allowed to decide who gets what share of what money is clearly not working, clearly insane, and clearly not tenable. So I’ll take the somewhat-lopsided streaming system, the completely-wonky file-sharing/storage locker/torrent system, and slightly higher ticket prices at shows, because I simply cannot think of a way to do anything else that doesn’t involve much greater sacrifices.

It seems to me that the way to get people to value the music in their lives more – or, indeed, any artistic discipline6 – is to encourage them to find the things that they value about it personally, and create a relationship whereby the music (or whatever) in their lives becomes, because of how specific it can be, a deeper part of their life.

In short, I think it should be as easy as literally running a search and clicking a couple of links. The music industry operated by arranged marriage for decades, then people figured out that there were lots of other partners out there. So why not let them date around and figure it out before they settle down? Maybe it won’t make as many people rich, but it’ll make the general caliber of the stuff that makes it out there better, and it’ll mean a lot more people are a lot happier about it.

And that, too, sounds pretty good to me.

1 I am not here to speculate about Taylor Swift’s unstated reasons for doing anything, particularly as I remain unconvinced that she is not, in fact, a ruminant, and suspect deeply that her unstated reasons involve finding a salt lick, avoiding hunters, and finding a mate with a really impressive rack of antlers.
2 this is something of a blunt instrument of a paraphrase – the actual thing is linked up there, and it has a lot more record industry doublespeak. But in order to get a human sentiment out of there, we have to take away the stuff the marketing robots have programmed into her, and basically what we’re left with is “I want people that like me, specifically”
3 sometime when you’ve got the time, look up how ASCAP collects fees, then look at how ASCAP distributes fees. The two things you’ll notice is that 1) that is fucking robbery and 2) that is almost exactly what Spotify is doing, only Spotify is making it possible to opt out of and isn’t doing it to nearly as many points in the sale chain. Perhaps the real worry is that people will figure out the business end of the business, after all.
4 as a point of interest, if you watch the recent Dave Grohl documentary series Sonic Highways, you can see a much younger, twenty-five-years ago Steve Albini sit on a stoop and explain how he wants the people that come to his shows to be the people that are there specifically for him, and how his band shouldn’t appeal to everyone. I can’t imagine that anyone should be expected to hold exactly the same opinion for twenty-five years, but it’s a reasonable one. So it’s not a part of the argument above, but it’s here in a footnote. This is how the footnote sausage is made.
5 unfortunately some vestigial remains of this ability are still in place, which is why we all must be subjected to bands like Magic!*.
* I’m not excited, the exclamation point is part of their fucking name.
6 it’s worth noting that painters, or sculptors, or performance artists, or modern dancers, or any number of practitioners of any number of arts, are not out there berating people for not creating more of an economy around their form. Individuals may be disappointed in how much of the painting pie goes to them, but they don’t yell at people for not making the pie itself bigger.

The 2014 GOOP Gift Guide, Part 2

So Black Friday has come and gone, and maybe you got all your shopping done, or maybe you procrastinated but still feel that you need a bunch of psychotically, insistently “tasteful” items for the people that are on your list! Luckily here we stand at Cyber Monday, and I am once again ready to help.

Let’s Begin

No one will judge you. Sure, sometimes you forsake your fancier, more useful blankets for the scratchy pleasures of mere cashmere. Especially with trends pointing toward paysan nouveau, a big stack of cashmere blankets would shock the sensibilities of your traditionalist visitors, or perhaps communicate to your more sympatico visitors that you’re “cool enough to set them at ease.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: That freewheeling bohemian whose house is drafty.

On the other hand, there’s something downright classic about immobilizing one of your hands with several ounces of precious metal. This is a nicely modernist take on it, written in “common” English so that even the random passers-by can read it.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: This is a nice curio for anyone that can pull off large hand jewelry

Generally less aggressive, and more traditionally acceptable, than the cashmere throw above, these blankets are handy for people that get cold, for people that have guests that get cold, or for tricking birds into thinking that it’s night and they should be asleep.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Frequent overnight entertainers. Bird owners.

Make your entire house smell like fragrant, piquant London! On a personal note, I prefer to put one of these in every room, to increase the general smoke, and therefore authenticity, of the experience. It’s like my drawing room is Kensington Place!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Anyone with a nose and a heart can appreciate these candles.

So who is chance, you may be asking? Well Chance is a notebook printer. For over a hundred years1 Chance has painted the covers of notebooks, which has made each one a hotly-desired item among the people that know of him. At long last his work is being made publicly available (there are rumors of a stockpile). Who knows how long these exist, so better pick up a couple today!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Unlike other notebooks, which would require debasement for their very usage, these notebooks are such an item of importance that you could justify purchasing them for just about anyone.

Obviously the somewhat-troublesome of what to do with Pilgrim David White is still a going concern. GOOP is taking the innovative notion of simply offering his imposition for sale, as though it was an item of commerce.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Well, if you have any masochists in your field of acquaintance, this is probably the gift for them. Otherwise it would probably be perfect for someone too young to know what kind of imposition you’re offering them.

While it’s true that this is offered on its own, it is clearly pictured with the representative image2 of Pilgrim David White and is meant to be something simple (and appealing to the oft-unknowable sensibilities of the Terrible Pilgrim himself), but disposable so you can easily burn it upon his transfer to a new steward.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: While it is undoubtedly an attractive and desirable item in and of itself, it would be best to save the purchase of these specially-designed throwbeds for use among those who need to provide for Pilgrim Zero.Give them to anyone you know that may be in that position, and give them your blessing. They’ll need it.

I feel it’s my duty as your explainer here to point out that the thing that is meant to draw your attention – the pajamas themselves are fine, if nothing special. The important aspect of the pajamas here is that while the means of their production (weaving) has been declared in the name of the item, the source of their production (i.e. the material they are made of) has not. The people at Mark & Graham will weave pajamas out of anything. Pictured here appear to be silk, certainly. Classic and boring. Call them about lead (for that Dante-esque gift for the hypocrites in your life3, “long” leather, or even bonito4. There are even whispered tails of men who have had their pajamas partially woven out of carnivorous leather to try to toughen their skin against such assailments!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Oh, everyone needs pajamas. Unfortunately these are men’s pajamas, so obviously the recipient can only be a man.

It’s a block! With a pencil in it! Like writer’s use! Get it?

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Anyone who appreciates hilarity.

These are grouped together in the gift guide, and they’re grouped together here because these are more of the communication in code established earlier. There is no reason to ever by a book of poems, as anyone knows. I just would hate to see anyone confused by its presence on the inestimable GOOP list.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: The message’s intended recipients.

Since coming down from the trees as lowly apes, the history of mankind has been the story of mastering nature. Occasionally it requires a statement piece to do so. Communicate directly to nature the low opinion you hold her workings with this terrarium, because nothing says “I completely own every aspect of your very being” like a tiny glass box in which you keep the smallest of her children.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Both people who prefer to lord their power over nature, and also people that need a periodic reminder that all things, even moss, can be conquered. It’s quite an inspirational piece!

These serve the same function as the above blankets, but these are cheaper and more eye catching, which makes them more useful if one of your guests should be of a mind to destroy your symbols of peasant-sympathy. Keep a stack of them handy, for that ultimate demoralizing touch of seeing the guest set one on fire, then pulling a fresh one out and adding it to wherever the old one was taken from.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Those that entertain staunch loyalists, or people who often find themselves the focus of violent tempers.

A surprisingly functional piece, for its whimsy. In our day-to-day goings-on, it is, as you undoubtedly know, necessary to identify oneself obviously but clandestinely, just as it is necessary to be able to speak in code and send messages in utter secrecy. What isn’t often thought of is the benefit of having something that appears to be a marker of a code or an identity, but is actually just a bauble. That’s where this highly significant-looking bauble comes into play. Confuse onlookers and strangers alike with this hideous5 piece of jewelry.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: There are some people who just seem forever burdened with secrecy and being followed. This item is for those people.

Nature dominance is a minor theme of this guide. Perhaps GOOP is having a battle with the green spaces, or perhaps it’s just coincidence6. In any event, show more mastery over nature by severing these plants from the life-giving Earth that they have evolved into, communicating once and for all to nature that none of her rules apply, thanks to these ballasts.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: People that simply will not have any Earth in their home (sensible), but still feel they need plant life to intimidate the natural world.

It’s true that the pencil holders they make these days are simply inferior products – they’ve had all of the life and flavor bred out of them to make them hardier and easier to transport. The survival of heirloom varieties is an important link to the past, when pencil holders were less available, but also higher-quality, and therefore better.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Praise the heirloom pencil holder providers by buying this for anyone you know who decorates with pencils. Perhaps the philistines that didn’t laugh at the writer’s block, above?

Keeping angels around for the purpose of eventually juicing them is difficult. Dedicated angel farmers have complicated apparati to ensure that they are not traumatized to death by the experience of captivity. To the enthusiastic angel consumer wtih only  abackyard plot, this book contains the amateur tricks to provide basic therapy for your flock of angels, so that their juices are not rendered bitter and undrinkable by the force of their emotional trauma.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Any hobbyist angel farmer, or anyone that is curious about the process.

The problem with even the very dankest of nugs is that they unmistakably smell like a dead, sweaty skunk when you’re done with them. Obviously, this has been the only purpose of incense for hundreds of years, and will remain the only purpose for a long time.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Anyone who has a smell to cover, provided that smell originates from marijuana.

GOOP’s being a little nitpicky here: while it’s true that this is not exactly a robe that’s going to summon all available suitors simply by existing, it is true that dreams are a pretty difficult material to work with, and that a robe is one of the only shapes that can easily be made out of the raw cloth of dreams. It’s lovely, but, of course, if you need to cause sexual arousal everywhere you go, you should probably stick to materials that aren’t quite so bulky and shapeless.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: People who have lost or forgotten their own dreams, and need to shroud themselves in the dreams of others.

No, but seriously. What’s with the notebooks?

SO WHO NEEDS IT: I guess one of the apparently thousands on your list that has an insatiable appetite for notebooks? Perhaps a dog? I really couldn’t tell you.

Read about the city that people think is the nation’s most populous7 before it becomes the world’s largest demilitarized zone! When the world is a blasted crater, books like this will be the only reference of the way the world was. These are also in an exclusive custom wrapping!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: People who have been charged with keeping memories alive, or people that still feel the need to own books (perhaps they have sentimentally-important bookshelves?)

Ostentatious and aggressive, what says “I am in command of my own reality” quite like a box that can conatin mirrors? No longer must you stand idly by, watching while mirrors extend forever, even well beyond the visible spectrum. These boxes will contain them, and with their help, you can have visible, obvious mastery over this, one of the oldest of the Earth’s foes.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Anyone who is flashy enough to show off such a vulgar thing should have one, and be praised for it.

Whether you’re speaking in code or regular language, and whether it’s hidden, or meant to be seen, or simply trivial information, there should always be a way to leave a note that is sticky.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Everyone.

Obviously books largely devoid of anything so blase as words are better than books that are full of the clumsy things. This is not only pictures, but it’s pictures made with scissors, so no writing implements were even necessary to make them. Truly, Henri Matisse was far ahead of his time in terms of knowing what was important about things that you look at.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Anyone that appreciates the beauty of paper, or that simply enjoys the idea of living in a world where we’ve all passed beyond words.

The most important part of going out into the world to participate in society8 is to make sure that you are always able to keep yourself unavailable to the natural wonderment and new-ness of the world. What better way to destroy your capacity to accidentally expose yourself to such weakness than by simply leaving your curiosity at home in this attractive and unique vessel!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Anyone who has trouble remembering to show proper decorum, or anyone who is currently without a vessel for their curiosity

It’s simply impossible to have too many platters.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Buy one for everyone on your list!

Well, obviously a mug made of toilet paper is a shocking item, but sometimes a gift need not be practical9 or beautiful. Some gifts should be selected for their shock value, and this one also is a handy conversation piece, especially if you keep it in the bathroom!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: The provocateur in your life, or the person that most seems to demand provocation.

Sometimes it simply cannot be avoided. You must enjoy the primal, immediate pleasure of showing off. What better way to show to the peasants that you have money to spare than by handing a small amount of it over to have, in physical form, something that already exists for free, and without taking up any space? It’s certainly not an impulse of which to be particularly proud, but it is sometimes very satisfying.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Oh, anyone who likes to feel a little shameless now and again.

.If you must insist on having anything so pedestrian as a book around, I suppose you could do much worse than a book about a pair of designers, given that without design, we simply wouldn’t have anything worth having.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Someone who stubbornly insists upon filling his house with wood pulp, no matter what’s best for everyone.

There are a number of very silly reasons to own very large diamonds. Some people are shameless, after all, or simply misanthropic. The sheer size and scale of this one is more than enough to send whatever message is necessary about wealth.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: The paranoiac on the list who feels he absolutely must convert all currency into diamonds, or else the person who most likes to display his wanton disregard for his fellow humans.

Allow, if you will, a little outside-the-box thinking here: while this is almost certainly a durable and useful vase, for all of your vase needs, may I also point out that its general ordinariness, and specific ugliness, would make a perfect hiding spot for all of those valuables you simply can’t leave out in the open. It also has an aperture perfect for getting into and out of to retrieve secret messages!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Someone who has enough giant, ungainly vases that it wouldn’t draw undue attention.

An ice bucket made of a plum that renders the ice inaccessible is, of course, the prelude to the quandary “at what point is an ice bucket simply a water bucket.” It’s useful for starting philosophical conversations about the nature of ice, the nature of plums, and the nature of what, precisely, constitutes a “bucket”. Or, of course, you could remove the lid, then remove the ice and wonder what, precisely you’ve got left in this hollowed-out plum.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: The person on your list who’s perhaps a shade more thoughtful.

Mock the plebes and their love of “watches”10 by having a bunch of these ultra-statement-ful imitations laying around, as though you yourself were so concerned with the idea of the regular signifiers of wealth that you would purchase fake status symbols as a “joke.” The best part: the joke is that the “joke” isn’t a joke! It’s the only fake watch with layers!

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Any metatextual comedian, anyone whose only response to the silliness of the proletariat is justified cruelty.

What’s worth noting here is not the tulips, which are merely a filigree to, as is GOOP custom, make it ugly enough to not be worth stealing, but its total perfection. Far from the normal “perfection” offered by precision-blown glass, this is actually molecularly perfect – so smooth that it’s utterly frictionless, and has to be handled by trained professionals. It’s also so transparent that in order to see it you’ll have to draw a thick black line around where it is so that the contrast reflects some light, since it won’t do so on its own, which would render it utterly invisible. Except, of course, for the tulips. Truly, this is the perfect gift.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Anyone that you care enough about to get a truly wondrous gift such as this one.

Perhaps the most subtle of the weaponized gifts, this is so quietly, unassumedly insulting that your recipient may well have even given it pride of place in his home before he figures out just how thoroughly he’s been had! It is an objet to be seen, and to be privately laughed at.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Well, it can’t be a rival that’s too dumb to ever realize the joke’s on him, so it should be one clever enough to get it eventually. Administer an intelligence test to figure out just which one this should be.

This is obviously another part of the coded message that’s sprinkled throughout the gift guide. I know a little bit about this part of it, but obviously if you don’t there’s absolutely no reason to buy a book about someone else’s scrapbooks.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Don’t worry about it. Nothing to see here.

Even the most exclusively private beach has a problem, and that problem is that we are all left to share the same ocean. As a result, it is best if you pay great attention to that which you use to dry yourself off. The water and sand (that, even on the most pristine of beaches, have been touched by not only countless humans from all over the world, but also by an impossible-to-conceive-of number of cephalopods) must be removed carefully, and with great diligence. Since no one in your employ can be trusted to do a truly thorough job, many people find the task to be a source of considerable stress. Thus it is that this towel is not only the proper material, but it is calmly reassuring about the nature of the task at hand.

SO WHO NEEDS THIS: the easily overwrought beach enthusiast.

The true joy of these baskets isn’t in their construction, but in their nigh-magical ability to “elevate everything”. There are some decorative items that simply need to be lifted by the seeming magic of a wire rack with repulsors in it, and frankly, we all know someone that has some of them.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Well, everyone, but especially the futurists that would like everything to float, or, alternately, these can be used to send a message to the luddite that still insists upon using nails for everything.

More vulgar showing-off, but while House of Cards showed people that you were willing to pay for something in a form different from the one you already paid for, the form you paid to watch True Detective costs yet more money, so this is even more ostentatious.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: The person who needs more.

A vase made of real baccarat eyes, pulled directly out of the heads of their originators, shaped into a vase, then colored a deep purple. Truly an object of absolute horror, and beauty.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Those on your list who are so inured to the vicissitudes of daily life, so immune to the otherwise-shocking that they only can find beauty in the grotesque repurposing of parts of otherwise-decent humans. Truly, Neiman Marcus has cornered the market on absolute depravity here.

What better way to end the important part of the gift guide (i.e. the part that matters) than with this, an ode to the wood-pulp-enclosed pages of that most gauche of tasks. This is metatextual, charmingly freewheeling, and above all gauche. It is, therefore, the perfect Christmas present.

SO WHO NEEDS IT: Oh, I’ve already ordered everyone who looks at the GOOP gift guide their own copy. You can expect it any day now.

1 the vagaries of his diet and exercise regimen are as secret as they are fiercely coveted. He’s so spry!
2 long has the publication of his actual picture been illegal
3 or Malebog cosplayers!
4 if you’ve never slept in fish pajamas, you’ve never known what it is like to be in touch with our ancestors under the sea
5 if GOOP deserves credit for nothing else, it deserves credit for always making sure that the items they’re recommending are as undesirable as possible.
6 it’s never coincidence
7 honestly, it’s almost like people want to be fooled
8 real society, not the “society” they sell on the regular market
9 although it could be said that a mug designed for use on the absolute basest of functions can, in fact, be a practical gift.
10 the “watches” they sell on the regular market, not real watches.