90s Teen Dies Of Cringe in 2023

Is this just a Bay Area thing?

This is a promo to tour your rich neighbors’ homes.

It’s a thing that happens every year to raise money for some great causes so restraint is in order…but also…gag me with your maître d’s handkerchief.

They used to be “kitchen tours” so you could at least pretend you were getting re-model inspiration. But the title now feels like saying the quiet part out loud. I’ll admit — the setup is quite clever. Since the ticket proceeds go to charity, all parties can whitewash the White Lotus psychology off their bodies.

Yinh was just telling me of an interview she listened to where the guest’s goal was to be a “billionaire”. Not to create X or Y or whatever where wealth would be a byproduct, but literally to be a billionaire.

To have your mind preoccupied with attaining an amount of money you could never spend well beyond the point of diminishing returns is a way to spend your attention I suppose. If fetishes are any indication there’s no limit to the breadth of what humans get off on. Fine, you do you. But this desire to be a billionaire, a feat as unlikely as playing in the NBA, does feel like a modern virus.

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to not have a 90s teen, haterade, shoegaze disposition. It’s quite maladapted for the times we live in. Times where if you don’t aspire to “generational wealth”, the Gary V tribe will tar-and-feather you as a commie.

There’s a certain cringe I feel around such hustle-types that is partially my own un-therapized hangups and partially captured by Venkatesh’s sentiment here (bold is mine):

The phrase “man in the arena” has recently been doing the rounds. It comes from a 1910 Teddy Roosevelt speech, and points to an archetype of a risk-taking doer who is in the fray making the hard decisions, even as self-important spectators keep up ceaseless unhelpful commentary. It is an elevated version of the more familiar solutionist/doerist/builder (builder in Web3) archetype.

In theory, the “man in the arena” has the highest agency in a situation, and is positioned to either reap the biggest reward in case of success, or pay the highest cost in case of failure. At their notional best, men in the arena are warrior-saint-heroes who take on great risks on behalf of humanity, and steal promethean fires from the heavens for the rest of us to enjoy. Even if it means risking eternal torment of the sort Prometheus had to endure. Though the archetype does not address accountability to others, it has strong connotations of virtuous responsibility and conscientiousness. The “man in the arena” believes in noblesse oblige.

In practice, the typical “man in the arena” is usually executing a cunning heads-I-win-tails-you-lose gambit, and isn’t quite the saint the pious startup discourses makes him out to be. But that’s fine. The man in the arena is after all merely human, with very human levels of lust for rewards and aversion to losses.

I’m generally sympathetic to people in the arena, even if I don’t take their self-serving accounts of themselves at face value. I like making Arena Man jokes (by analogy to The Onion’s stock character, Area Man) to poke fun at their self-importance and pious posturing, but in general, I am not ill-disposed towards them. Of course, Arena Men look to privatize gains and socialize losses, and try to come across as martyrs to greater causes whatever the outcome, but then, so do most people in most situations.

When Midjourney-esque AI models extend to video the first prompt I’m giving it:

“Create a celebrity deathmatch where Arena Man fights Area Man with 90s Teen As the ref and Florida man in the stands”

And for love of zeus, if your definition of being a man-in-the-arena invokes the words “self-storage” or “passive income”…you’re telling on yourself.

The 90s Thing

Chris Eberly pointed me to Chuck Klosterman’s The Nineties with the comment:

I’ve had this theory for a while that we are unable to fit in today because the 90s was about slackers, anti brand, Office Space, etc. this book actually covers quite a bit of it with facts both for and against this idea ..

I’ve read many of Chuck’s books (one of the most popular investing posts I’ve ever written references my favorite What If We’re Wrong) so this 90s book is going straight into my veins. I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

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