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Finally, a Novel That Gets the Internet Right

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Finally, a Novel That Gets the Internet Right

Sometimes you just want to read a book with a plot. You know, the kind where people meet each other, go places, fall in love, fight, fall out of love, even die—a good, old-fashioned story. Jordan Castro’s new novel, cheekily titled The Novelist, is emphatically not a good, old-fashioned story. Even calling The Novelist a novel at all is a gag. “I opened my laptop,” the narrator says in the opening lines, and those first four words are the beginning, middle, and end of its narrative. The winking title was the right choice: The Guy Who Opened His Laptop doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

The Novelist takes place over a single morning, following an unnamed writer as he faffs around on social media while his girlfriend sleeps in their apartment; he occasionally fiddles with novels in progress in Google Docs. That’s it. The first 16 pages describe the protagonist looking at Twitter in minute-by-minute detail, thinking inane thoughts like “my Twitter was horrible—Twitter in general was horrible.” A more annoying premise for a book is, frankly, hard to imagine. And yet, here I am, recommending it. What’s good about a novel with a plotline so insipid it borders on openly hostile? Well, for starters, it’s funny—a rare and cherishable quality in contemporary literature.

It also contains some of the most accurate—and accurately abject—depictions of the experience of using the internet ever captured in fiction. There’s a tangent in The Novelist where the narrator remembers a popular girl from his high school named Ashley. He looks her up on Facebook, clicking through her digital photographs. “Moving quickly, almost frantically, as though trying to complete an urgent task, I navigated back to Ashley’s profile and clicked her header photo: a group of wealthy-looking small women and thick men, all white, wearing dresses and high heels or blazers and partially unbuttoned button-ups, standing crammed together on a roof, a skyline I didn’t recognize behind them. I did, however, recognize some of the people in the picture. At least I thought I did—when I moved the cursor over their faces and bodies, the names that appeared were unrecognizable to me,” the narrator thinks, before daydreaming about what these people he may or may not know may or may not be like. “I imagined arguing about racism with one of the thick men in the picture,” he continues, poring over Ashley’s social milieu like an amateur sleuth. This passage will, I suspect, resonate with anyone who has ever let an hour or two drift by playing detective over corny acquaintances on Facebook, and it establishes Castro as a psychologically precise chronicler of life online.

In a wiggly middle finger to anyone who might mistake The Novelist for autofiction, Castro invents a bizarro version of himself for the narrator to obsess over, a literary semi-celebrity who has become a bogeyman to the lefty internet despite not actually saying anything morally objectionable. This fictional Jordan Castro writes a novel, which then gets sucked into the gears of an online outrage cycle, giving the author an opportunity to riff on how fatuous so-called progressive media can be: “The narrator of one of Jordan Castro’s novels was an amateur bodybuilder, and the novel, due to its being released when the culture was having a ‘reckoning with toxic masculinity,’ was received harshly by many, who described it variously as ‘fascist,’ ‘protofascist,’ ‘fatphobic,’ or, curiously, ‘not what we need right now.’ In a matter of weeks, reviews had been written with titles such as ‘We Read Jordan Castro’s Body Novel, So You Don’t Have To,’ and ‘Jordan Castro’s Fitness Privilege,’ which dealt not so much with the book’s literary qualities as with the effect it might have in reality, due to supposed hidden meaning in some of the sentences.” As with the description of social media wormholes, these acidic tangents about the state of online discourse are stingingly exact.

While the “internet novel” is now its own subgenre, it’s still rare to see these commonplace experiences of being online rendered quite so realistically, with an eye toward the unflattering, humiliating, and true. The finest of the recent “internet novels,” Patricia’s Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This, captures the sensibility of an extremely online mind, but its fragmented style and playful, absurdist language create an impressionistic portrait—there’s no discussion of, say, typing in a password incorrectly or the impulse to delete Facebook after losing an afternoon to it. The Novelist, in contrast, has a quotidian, bloggy quality. Castro, a poet and the former editor of New York Tyrant Magazine, has alt-lit allegiances (he thanks Tao Lin in the acknowledgments), and excerpts from his protagonist’s matter-of-fact recounting of a morning frittered away on social media wouldn’t have been out of place on Thought Catalog in, say, 2011. (Although it is now often associated with tossed-off personal essays, Thought Catalog was in its early years a frequent publisher of alt-lit voices like Tao Lin, Megan Boyle, and Castro himself.)

People often dismiss writing tightly focused on the self as “navel-gazing,” but the flamboyant, defiant solipsism of Castro’s protagonist isn’t quite that. If anything, “anus-gazing” would be a more appropriate descriptor, considering the narrator is pooping, thinking about poop, or emailing his friend about poop for a remarkably large portion of the novel. (The Novelist must hold some sort of record for longest description of toilet paper wiping techniques in fiction.) All the scatalogical talk blends together with all the screen-time descriptions—sometimes the protagonist is both pooping and browsing Instagram—suggesting a connection: In the end, it’s all the same shit.

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives
Nothing Ear (stick) held by a model on white background



(Image credit: Nothing )

True to form, Nothing has just announced the full reveal date for its upcoming audio product, Ear (stick). 

So, an announcement about an announcement. You’ve got to hand it to Carl Pei’s marketing department, they never miss a trick.

What we’re saying is that although we still have ‘nothing’ conclusive about the features, pricing or release date for the Ear (stick) except an image of another model holding them (and we’ve seen plenty of those traipsing down the catwalk recently), we do have a date – the day when we’ll be granted official access to this information. 

That day is October 26. Nothing assures us that on this day we’ll be able to find out everything, including pricing and product specifications, during the online Ear (stick) Reveal, at 3PM BST (which is 10AM ET, or 1AM on Wednesday if you’re in Sydney, Australia) on nothing.tech (opens in new tab)

Any further information? A little. Nothing calls the Ear (stick), which is now the product’s official name, “the next generation of Nothing sound technology”, and its “most advanced audio product yet”. 

But that’s not all! Apparently, Ear (stick) are “half in-ear true wireless earbuds that balance supreme comfort with exceptional sound, made not to be felt when in use. They’re feather-light with an ergonomic design that’s moulded to your ears. Delivered in a unique charging case, inspired by classic cosmetic silhouettes, and compactly formed to simply glide into pockets.” 

Opinion: I need more than a lipstick-style case

Nothing Ear (stick) – official leaked renders pic.twitter.com/FrhKmRttmiOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that I want Nothing’s earbuds to succeed in world dominated by AirPods; who doesn’t love a plucky, eccentric underdog? 

But in order to become some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, there is room for improvement over the Nothing Ear 1, the company’s inaugural earbuds. 

Aside from this official ‘news’ from Nothing, leaked images and videos of the Ear (stick) have been springing up all over the internet (thank you, developer Kuba Wojciechowski) and they depict earbuds that look largely unchanged, which is a shame. 

For me, the focus needs to shift from gimmicks such as a cylindrical case with a red section at the end which twists up like a lipstick. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of theater, but only if the sound coming from the earbuds themselves is top dog. 

As the natural companions for the Nothing Phone 1, it makes sense for the Ear (stick) to take a place similar to that of Apple’s AirPods 3, where the flagship Ear (1) sit alongside the AirPods Pro 2 as a flagship offering. 

See, that lipstick case shape likely will not support wireless charging. That and the rumored lack of ANC means the Ear (stick) is probably arriving as the more affordable option in Nothing’s ouevre. 

For now, we sit tight until October 26. 

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.  

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers
Woman watching YouTube on mobile phone screen



(Image credit: Shutterstock / Kicking Studio)

You might soon have to buy YouTube Premium to watch 4K YouTube videos, a new user test suggests.

According to a Reddit thread (opens in new tab) highlighted on Twitter by leaker Alvin (opens in new tab), several non-Premium YouTube users have reported seeing 4K resolution (and higher) video options limited to YouTube Premium subscribers on their iOS devices. For these individuals, videos are currently only available to stream in up to 1440p (QHD) resolution.

The apparent experiment only seems to be affecting a handful of YouTube users for now, but it suggests owner Google is toying with the idea of implementing a site-wide paywall for access to high-quality video in the future.

So, after testing up to 12 ads on YouTube for non-Premium users, now some users reported that they also have to get a Premium account just to watch videos in 4K. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDpOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that Google has been searching for new ways to monetize its YouTube platform in recent months. In September, the company introduced five unskippable ads for some YouTube users as part of a separate test – an unexpected development that, naturally, didn’t go down well with much of the YouTube community. 

A resolution paywall seems a more palatable approach from Google. While annoying, the change isn’t likely to provoke the same level of ire from non-paying YouTube users as excessive ads, given that many smartphones still max out at QHD resolution anyway. 

Of course, if it encourages those who do care about high-resolution viewing to invest in the platform’s Premium subscription package, it may also be more lucrative for Google. After all, YouTube Premium, which offers ad-free viewing, background playback and the ability to download videos for offline use, currently costs $11.99 / £11.99 / AU$14.99 per month.

Suffice to say, the subscription service hasn’t taken off in quite the way Google would’ve hoped since its launch in 2014. Only around 50 million users are currently signed up to YouTube Premium, while something close to 2 billion people actively use YouTube on a monthly basis. 

Might the addition of 4K video into Premium’s perk package bump up that number? Only time will tell. We’ll be keeping an eye on our own YouTube account to see whether this resolution paywall becomes permanent in the coming months.

Axel is a London-based staff writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the newest movies to latest Apple developments as part of the site’s daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned a gold standard NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme. 

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

USB-C als Ladestandard in der EU

Mundissima / Shutterstock


Author: Michael Crider
, Staff Writer

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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