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‘The Internet Remains Undefeated’ Must Be Defeated

‘The Internet Remains Undefeated’ Must Be Defeated

The big boat stuck in the Suez Canal, Oprah waving off Meghan and Harry with her “Stop it” hands, all the Teletubbies boinking one another blue as the sun baby watches approvingly, a photo bashing trans athletes shared by Donald Trump Jr. These memes are unified not only in encapsulating the lunacy of 2021, but in the four words that have consistently appeared beside them and countless others, in captions as well as comments: “The internet remains undefeated.”

Surely you’ve seen these words, but maybe you haven’t read them. (Congratulations on your sanity.) An apolitical, amoral stand-in equally for lol, fuck you, and thank you, used for both schadenfreude and firgun, “The internet remains undefeated” is the internet of phrases about the internet, existing everywhere and nowhere, meaning everything and nothing. A seemingly benign expression—until you say it back.

The internet remains undefeated. The internet remains undefeated. The internet remains undefeated.

The more I encounter these words, the more they pierce me with mortal dread. It’s not just the rotten onion of their ambiguity: When did the internet’s winning streak begin? What, or who, is it undefeated against? Ourselves, maybe. But then why are so many of us so jubilant about reminding ourselves that we’ve defeated ourselves? And what would, could, should defeating the internet look like? But my disdain for the saying is also because of its underlying sentiment. The true terror of “The internet remains undefeated” is that it’s most often used in lighthearted contexts, yet exposes the deepest darkness of our lives online, a darkness that we’ve become either blind to or numb to.

Searches on the term “undefeated internet” suggest that the oldest extant usage of the ghastly phrase might belong to Timothy Hall (@peoplescrtic), a film critic and meme lord from Seattle. On the morning of August 12, 2013, he posted on Instagram a meme of a scowling Russell Westbrook, the mercurial NBA dynamo, photoshopped into a character selection screen from the arcade classic Mortal Combat, with the caption, “The internet remains undefeated.” It’s a textbook usage, the kind Hall says he’s been deploying on social media and in group chats in the years since. To him, the saying epitomizes the internet as the world’s great equalizer. “You can be POTUS,” he says, “or you can be a soccer mom yelling at a game, not knowing you’re being filmed. Everyone is fair game to become a meme. Maybe it’s POTUS who makes you into a meme, or maybe it’s my 14-year-old nephew. You may not know it’s your day, you just have to ride the wave and let the internet defeat you until it’s someone else’s turn.”

But Hall can’t take credit for coining the phrase; he says he must’ve picked it up from someone on the internet along the way. “If someone ever claimed to have invented it,” he adds, “the internet would defeat them. That’s the beauty of it.”

To a wide-ranging group of social media users like Hall, “the internet remains undefeated” is, on its face, a simple expression of joy, or nostalgia for a more joyous era of the internet. Ryan Milner, a professor of internet culture at the College of Charleston and author of The World Made Meme, says the phrase harkens back to a time between roughly 2003 and 2013, when the internet was “still kind of this other place that didn’t operate by and could maybe transcend real-world rules.” This was the heyday of early YouTube and message boards like Something Awful, 4chan, and Reddit, “when you saw a flurry of subcultural activity and content creation that became kind of a tone setter for people who are still extremely online.” So in 2021, people comment “The internet remains undefeated” to a flourishing of memes about Bernie Sanders and his mittens or the discord between your fall plans and the Delta variant, because it recalls when life online seemed less about livestreamed mass murders and the algorithmically driven death of democracy and more about rickrolling and lolcats. At the surface level, says Milner, the phrase “is a way to kind of appreciate when the early spirit of collective creativity online resurfaces.”

Your TV Sounds Terrible. These Soundbars Can Fix That

Your TV Sounds Terrible. These Soundbars Can Fix That

You probably already shelled out good money for a nice big TV and maybe a streaming gadget to play your Netflix. But it doesn’t matter how large your screen is or how much it cost—the speakers in your TV probably sound awful. 

You’d be surprised by how much more you enjoy those shows with a halfway decent soundbar or surround system hooked up to your primo panel. Explosions pop, dialog sounds far crisper, and you may even notice sonic details in your favorite films that you’ve never picked up on before.

Updated September 2021: We’ve added the Samsung HW-Q950A, Nakamichi Shockwafe, and LG SP9YA. We’ve also updated links and prices.

Why You Need a Soundbar

We have yet to test a new TV that didn’t sound crummy without some kind of audio accessory added. That’s mostly due to the way televisions are designed. Great-sounding speakers are bulky, and as TVs have gotten thinner, with shrinking bezels and sleeker designs, manufacturers are having a harder time building good speakers into them.

If you can afford to spend $150 on a new soundbar with a subwoofer, it’s essential to getting the most out of your viewing experience. To help, we put together this list of the best soundbars we’ve tested, including soundbars sold on their own as well as models that come bundled with a subwoofer. We’ve also compiled some advice on how to make the most of your purchase.

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Apple’s iPad Mini Proves That One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Apple’s iPad Mini Proves That One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Sadly, battery life struggled with all that activity. I managed to squeeze about five hours out of it, so almost a full workday. Apple claims up to 10 hours of web browsing or watching video on the Wi-Fi model and nine on the 5G variant. But when I streamed a Netflix show (with iMessage, Telegram, the Notes app, and Google Calendar running in the background) it hit 1 percent at around the six-hour mark. Unless you’re using it lightly, don’t expect it to last from 9 to 5. 

If there’s one thing you take away from this review, it’s that the accessories matter. Without the Smart Cover (or a third-party equivalent) and the second-generation Apple Pencil, then streaming movies and shows is likely the most fun you’ll have with the Mini. Tack on both and the Mini can transform into a viable notebook, sketchpad, smart display, external monitor, TV, and ebook reader. If you’re brave enough, it can also double as your primary iPhone.

I still prefer using those respective items over the Mini. The tiny screen can feel cramped, especially if you try to use it for work. But if you don’t have an external monitor, or a notebook you regularly use, or a sketchpad, or a reading slate, then it can be all of those things. 

All of that that comes at a cost. This iPad Mini is the most expensive model to date at $499 for 64 gigs, but the Smart Cover and Pencil bring your total to a whopping $667 before tax. Need more storage? Your only option is 256 GB for $649, bringing that total to $817, which is a little more than the 128-GB iPad Pro and almost the price of an M1 MacBook Air (2020). And that’s just for the Wi-Fi-only model. 

Small Screen

This iPad Mini stole the thunder from the iPhone 13 this year. But when you tone down the long-overdue redesign and push through the marketing lingo, this slate is a just very small, expensive screen at its core. It feels redundant without its accessories. That’s especially true if you spend most of your time in one room with access to a laptop, a monitor, a TV, and plenty of notebook paper. 

The Mini feels like it was built for the post-pandemic era that’s not quite here. If you’re frequently reading or playing games on a train or at the coffee shop, it’s great! But I’m still spending most of my time indoors, and it’s tough to justify such a high price on a screen when I already have so many around me. 

I’ll wait until Apple’s tiny, cute, powerful tablet one day becomes more affordable. Until then, I’ll stick to my pen and paper, budget e-reader, and flatscreen TV, all of which are always within arm’s reach.

Environmental Law Is Getting in the Way of Climate Action

Environmental Law Is Getting in the Way of Climate Action

The decades-long failure to act shows that many existing environmental laws “are made for very old problems,” Wood says. In Nixon’s day, Americans were concerned with issues like smog, acid rain, and dwindling landfill space. Some of those issues remain, but they “have been utterly eclipsed by the oil and gas industry’s attack on the planetary system,” Wood adds. While 20th-century legislation could, in theory, be amended once again to account for soaring levels of atmospheric carbon, such laws often end up hindering emissions reduction efforts instead.

Take the Clean Air Act: In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA could include carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gases in the legislation’s definition of “pollutant,” though it was up to the agency to decide if it would. Just three years later, the same logic resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that people cannot sue corporations for excessive greenhouse gas emissions under federal common law, simply because the EPA has the statutory authority to regulate such emissions. The fact that the EPA wasn’t regulating such emissions didn’t matter—the mere fact that they could have been was enough to stop the suit. While similar lawsuits might still succeed under state regulations, the Supreme Court’s decision closed off, at least temporarily, one more path to action.

Just as the “environment” refers to people, animals, plants, and their surroundings in the here and now, environmental law tends to refer to fairly discrete efforts to manage individual natural resources—a water bill here, a forest statute there. But as “climate” refers to shifts in regional, even global weather patterns, and the consequences over time, the vision for climate law is of a discipline that facilitates bold, swift, and holistic emissions reduction. New tools—for regulating all carbon emissions, for redistributing the wealth of the fossil fuel industry to fund carbon removal, and more—are required to address the existential risk we now face.

If there’s a seminal year in American climate law, it hasn’t happened yet. While the US and others have debated national and international action since at least the early 1990s, it’s a history full of false starts and broken promises. Most recently, the US joined, left, and rejoined the 2016 Paris Agreement, which aims to hold global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels. But the treaty contains no real mechanism for enforcement.

Fortunately, the tide appears to be turning. At least internationally, new laws—with teeth—are being passed. In 2020, for example, Denmark passed a law that demands climate neutrality for the nation by 2050—and, crucially, has a provision to (at least theoretically) force elected officials to step down if they aren’t keeping the country on track. And in May, a court in the Netherlands ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its emissions 45 percent, compared to 2019 levels, by 2030, essentially requiring the company to shrink its oil and gas portfolio.

The hope, according to journalist Amy Westervelt, is that with a combination of great strides in attribution science (which helps connect individual extreme weather events to larger climatic trends), investigative journalism definitively showing that the fossil fuel industry knew of the harms of its business practices and worked to hide them, and new legal theory, the US will have some of its own successes soon.

While Wood is a legal scholar, not a practicing attorney, her ideas are at the center of such efforts. Shocked by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Wood developed a new approach called atmospheric trust litigation, which argues that courts should compel governmental agencies to protect and maintain the Earth’s atmosphere for public use now and into the future.

In a Tiny Arctic Town, Food Is Getting Harder to Come By

In a Tiny Arctic Town, Food Is Getting Harder to Come By

It’s easy to think that sea ice would impact only the ocean, but there are many energy exchanges between the terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Seabirds, for example, nest on an island, forage in the water, and then come back on the land, where their guano fertilizes plants. The tundra, as a low-productivity area, relies on energy inputs from the marine environment. This means that when sea ice dynamics change, not only marine food resources but also terrestrial resources change. And because people depend on terrestrial resources, whether by picking eggs or eating caribou, what happens to the sea ice impacts the human population, too. Everything is interconnected.

Still, the specifics of climate impacts on this system are difficult to predict without further study. “Right now it’s pretty hard to predict based on all those intricate relationships which are just being described right now,” she said.

One key species that is being affected by climate change in the tundra is the lemming. Lemmings are small rodents that live, during the winter, under the snowpack, where it’s warm enough for them to survive and reproduce. The snowpack, in addition to insulating their food, also protects them from predators.

Climate change wreaks havoc on this delicate balance. When the melting and freezing cycles change, the snowpack that lemmings rely on becomes less predictable. In a rain-on-snow event, the water percolates through the snow and freezes the vegetation underneath, rendering the lemmings’ food supply inaccessible. Many predators in the Arctic eat or select their breeding ground based on lemming abundance, and those same predators also eat birds and bird eggs. On Igloolik, when there are more lemmings, Marie-Andrée has observed that arctic foxes and avian predators (such as the long-tailed jaeger, parasitic jaegers, gulls, ravens, snowy owls, and other raptor species) are more abundant. When climate change impacts the lemming, it indirectly impacts other species in ways that are not yet fully understood.

Marie-Andrée is most energized by climate solutions that take into account the needs and interests of different groups involved. Snow geese, which migrate to the Arctic from the United States and Canada to breed, have increased exponentially in the last four decades due to an increase in the amount of agricultural land where they feed during the winter and along their migratory path. “They have increased to a level where they are detrimental to Arctic ecosystems. When they come here to reproduce, they overbrowse the vegetation,” Marie-Andrée said. This destroys the habitat, and forces predators to eat other birds at higher levels.

One approach to this problem is to implement snow goose harvesting programs—not only through a spring hunt in the south, but also by encouraging egg collection and harvesting of adults in the north at their breeding ground.

“If we can work toward supporting harvesting programs which are beneficial for conservation issues at the same time, I think that’s really good,” she said.

Sasquatch Sightings

The vast majority of Canada’s population, two out of three people, live within a hundred kilometers of the US border. In Nunavut, a territory with a population of just under 40,000 people, anyone who lives south of the Arctic circle is considered a “southerner.” I met one of these southerners, Hunter McClain, on the street in Montreal.

Hunter is from a small town in northern British Columbia, close to the Hudson Bay Glacier. The glacier, which used to be visible on the mountain, has been receding to the point where it’s nearly invisible in summer and spring. “People who live out in the country are pretty in tune with the seasons, and we noticed changes in the wildlife,” she told me. “The wildlife has been going a bit nuts.”

One year, the bears didn’t hibernate because they couldn’t find enough food. “All the juvenile bears over the winter were running around town looking for food. You could see them losing hair and they looked so thin,” Hunter said. “I had never seen a really skinny bear before, but when you see a skinny bear loping around and standing up, you really realize that that’s Sasquatch.” The bears on their hind legs looked like the legendary monster. Hunter was terrified, and equally “weirded out by people who live in that area who are climate change deniers.” To her, the connection to climate change was indisputable.

Adapted from 1,001 Voices on Climate Change, by Devi Lockwood. Copyright © 2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Tiller Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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What Music Labels Learn When You Pre-Save Music

What Music Labels Learn When You Pre-Save Music

In a recent TikTok video, musician Clinton Kane riffs on the push by labels to get fans to pre-save music from artists, even before their songs are released. In the video, his management team demands hundreds of thousands of pre-saves before his song can be released. It’s surprising, but the message is clear: Labels want your RSVP before they’ll even schedule the main event.

The pitch to music fans is all about convenience. Tap save now and, when it’s released, a new song or album will show up in your library immediately. The benefits for the artists and labels are arguably greater: Pre-saving music requires direct access to your account on whatever music service you use. If you attempt to add or save music ahead of its release, a disclaimer will pop up alerting you to the potentially eye-popping amounts of data you’re giving access to, from your music library and listening habits.

While listeners get convenience, developers (either labels or third-party services) get data—possibly more than you know. Depending on the service, you may turn over your name, email address, subscription type, and number of followers. But that’s only the start. You also may hand over your listening history, like recently played content, content saved in your music library, your top artists, and any playlists you’ve made and followed.

Where Spotify, Apple Music, and Others Stand

When you pre-save a song, it may look like the service you use, like Spotify, is the one requesting information about your account. But it’s not. At the top of the authorization dialog it will tell you which service, label, or company is making the request, and who’ll get your data when you accept.

Spotify, specifically, is in the process of revamping its API access to more closely monitor the type of information developers can request. A recent post on the company’s developer blog lays out some of the changes. Spotify confirmed in an interview with WIRED that it will be reviewing API requests and, by doing so, gives its stamp of approval for future uses of listening data.

The authorization pop-up that Apple Music shows is more vague, saying only that media library and listening activity will be shared. It’s not clear how involved and encompassing that access to a user’s Apple Music account is, and Apple did not comment on what specific information is included.

What About the Artists?

There’s a big reason artists push fans to pre-save upcoming releases: information. Both Spotify and Apple Music provide artists with dashboards for high level analytics about their music. Offering music to save in advance can allow artists to get more granular data on their fans, such as email addresses and other artists they enjoy listening to.

“I think overall it’s a way to build some excitement and give fans a call to action rather than just repeatedly saying ‘new song coming!’,” says Katelyn Tarver, a musician who has utilized the feature as a listener and as an artist. “And, if a lot of people pre-save a song, it can help boost your track’s first day streams, which helps your chances of getting picked up for other playlists on DSPs [Digital Service Provider], which can potentially really make or break your career.”

Tarver has a new single out, along with an upcoming album, and has seen the utility in pre-saving.

“It can help with having more insight into who is responding to your music, and it can help to know where your most committed fans are for when you start planning tours,” Tarver says.

But she said that asking her fans to do it can be a challenge.