Posts by Tessa


I am not thrilled with how the problem of racism is framed in many Facebook discussions. I understand why it is so, and I am a little angry about it. Cheesy slogans get clicks a lot faster than deep, honest analysis. It’s about money and vanity, and ironically, we no longer need an evil hand to orchestrate it, people do it all on their own. Because, internet. Because, stupid. But I saw this interview yesterday. It was an old interview, maybe from the 70s. A high-up Pepsi official (media-trained, I am sure) was talking about how happy he was to spread the joy of his wonderful, starry-eyed product, to people in third world countries. What he said was so blatantly subversive, and racist on the level that goes deeper than skin. According to his carefully constructed speech, people in third world countries barely have any reasons for joy, aside from an occasional sip of pepsi godliness. And so for that moment of drinking a pepsi, a child in Colombia, a young wife, would interrupt their gloomy existence–taking place in a place that is not our America–and have a sip of that same drink that American presidents drink. Um, um, assumptions much? And that’s the origin of racism: That people who are not us, are inferior. A different look helps to differentiate “us” from “them” but that’s Phase Two of stupid. Phase One is in the perceived inferiority of “uncivilized”, and in the world we live in, that’s been the real problem. Without addressing Phase One, Phase Two will never be cured. We can apply band-aids and apply band-aids, and chant slogans, and it’s important, too, but… But what’s “civilized”? Unless you are calling the shots (while believing that we live in a man-made world), “civilized” stands for: “It is SO rude of you to object to being eaten. Be a good sport now, and smile.” It is an ultimate exercise in sick cultural and economic sadomasochism. If you, on the other hand, are the one calling the shots (while believing that we live in a man-made world), then “civilized” stands for a particular kind of mental disease. They are my brothers, too, but not for a long time. Racism is a part of their disease. Racism is a subtype of contempt. It is not going to be cured with slogans. We need...

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Full disclosure: I wrote this because I care. I am not an industry analyst and I am not trying to be one.  But I have a brain, and I hate bullshit. Without further ado… In a highly publicized BBC interview, British musician Ed Sheeran says that he “owes career to Spotify”. According to Sheeran,  the 860 million streams he received on Spotify allowed him to play big shows in the US and sell out arenas in Korea and South-East Asia. Something about it just didn’t feel right. Smelling a rat, I googled the guy. The BBC interview portrays him as a brave lone warrior with a guitar, weathering the storms of today’s  tough music industry, embracing the technology of the future and being just all in all brave and awesome. However, according to his own Wikipedia page, Sheeran is not a lone warrior, and his career is not based on Spotify success. In fact, Spotify is only mentioned in one sentence, towards the end. According to Wikipedia, Sheeran began to become known internationally in 2012. He made a guest appearance on Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, Red, and wrote songs for One Direction. “The A Team” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards and he performed the song in duet with Elton John during the ceremony. He spent much of 2013 touring North America as the opening act for Swift’s The Red Tour. Do you see major power players and a sizable promotional budget? I do. Spotify is just a cherry on his ice cream sundae. But let’s play with the idea for a second. Say, he has not received any of the support that he has actually received, and he owes his sold out stadium shows to Spotify. How could it happen? Here are some of the things that I want to know: – How exactly did Spotify promote Sheeran (vs. other artists)? – Did they have a promo budget for him? – Did Ed Sheeran receive preferential treatment from Spotify? – If so, on what terms? – Does he own equity in Spotify (about that in a second)? What about his manager? His label? – Was he rewarded by Spotify for his testimonial? Without answers to these critical questions, we are jerking off and engaging in public relations, not talking about business. I am a business owner. When it comes to testimonials, I want transparency. I want to know the details. I don’t understand black boxes. Case studies are never abstract. So I here I am, dying to know how Ed Sheeran arrived at 860 million plays on Spotify, and I want it...

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And another thing. That statement about economic injustice being a case of scientifically justified social Darwinism, as inevitable as gravity, is nonsense in my opinion. Treating other humans (or nature, or anything) without respect is a choice. It is not a case of gravity. It is a case of successful bullying on a mass scale. For example. If you are a super duper powerful milti-dulti-billionaire, and you have an opportunity to build a massive chemical plant that will likely make you 40 billion dollars in 5 years, but you also know that if you choose to build it, it will somehow make it very probable that you will lose your limb, and that your wife will get cancer and die, you will most likely spend a minute thinking about your priorities before making up your mind. And you might even choose to keep your your wife vs. a potential 40 billion dollar profit! If, on the other hand, the party who is likely to get cancer and die is a bunch of people you never met, and you believe that their relatives won’t be able to punch you in the nose, ever, then you don’t have a crude, hammer-like motivator, and your behavior will depend on whether you can think a little bit ahead–or not–and whether you possess adult responsibility (which is not an abnormal or despicable thing to have, just something that has been made unfashionable in this particular society at this particular time). Responsibility is a physical state. Yes, it can exist on the preachy intellectual level or be based on fear of being punched in the nose, but the real thing, I am convinced based on personal experience, comes from the same source that they describe when they talk about astronauts watching the Earth from outside. If you develop sufficiently, it’s inevitable, and it has nothing to do with goodie two-shoes. Responsibility is a choice that comes from understanding how things work at large. Yes there are people who are born to be predators but they are in the minority, and if people don’t believe their bullshit, they cannot win. Injustice is real but it is not inevitable. All I am saying....

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I was on my way somewhere, and I saw a guy yelling at the girl on the subway platform. Time went by, and he kept yelling. From the conversation, it seemed like she didn’t want to go to back home with him and he didn’t agree. After ten minutes or so of listening to his red-faced screaming and swearing at her, I asked her if she needed help. I felt like if I didn’t ask her and just stood there with a long face like everybody else, I would betray my humanity. My interference made him leave although I am sure the second I was out of sight he was back. He tried to yell at me, too, but didn’t get very far. Not me. No fucking way. I talked to her a little bit, I missed my trains, and I was late to where I was going, but I needed to. I hope she reaches out to me or to anybody, I hope hope hope she does. I hope she does it before she ends up with a black eye or broken bones. There was a time when I lived in hell. One incredible thing that happens once you go through hell is, you stop being afraid. I am not afraid of much. I am not afraid of stepping on the bully’s idea of politeness, I don’t care if I am out of line if my heart tells me I am doing the right thing. I am very afraid of being a...

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Domestic abuse is like a nazi camp, it’s a world that is upside down, and you are completely alone. When I was growing up, every day was a holiday. All things dark lived on the other side of the galaxy. Stupid things clearly were happening to stupid people who didn’t know better, to people who were less informed, to people who weren’t me. My life was an official walk to the bright future. I was an invincible sunny kid bringing home straight A’s, studying classical piano and Tibetan language, speaking at international conferences, hanging out with the rebels and playing in a band. I was dreaming big, problems were not problems. I was on the forefront of everything, and the world was mine. Then I came to America. On an “El” platform in Chicago, I met a handsome Italian lawyer who immediately started courting me in a curious American way that I had seen in movies: bars, baseball games, television and homemade baked mostaccioli. At first, I didn’t deem him as worthy. He was too square. But gradually he oozed into my life. He won me over with his persistent attentiveness. He planned our dates carefully, his obsession with detail and cute little idiosyncrasies amused me. Little by little, I fell in trust and then, love. Very soon we were living together (“it really doesn’t make sense for you to pay the rent”). Then he insisted that we should marry. I was not planning on marrying anybody at the time but I was flattered: he was tall and cute, his parents were smart, and many American girls wanted to be in my place. Should I add that I wasn’t looking for a Green Card husband? I have been stigmatized for being an immigrant so many times in so many different ways that the need to apologize has become an instinct. I know it’s absurd but I apologize. “Shit for brains, you Russian shit for brains”. How could you. We wed in Vegas, in a hilarious drive-through chapel. The day we got married became the last day of my normal life for years lying ahead. Had I only known he was a psychopath, I would have fled. But he seemed so. Kind. Indeed, when we were dating he was sweeter than diabetes. His mom told me lovingly that she had never seen him be so nice to anybody. I smiled, I was sure she was exaggerating. Only once did he do something strange to me, but I suppressed it because deep down I was feeling permanently guilty for all the hearts I had broken; hence, I made a firm decision...

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