Althouse | category: commerce



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"For those that look at a gym as a selfie opportunity, a place solely dedicated to performance-oriented training or a workout that needs to be done, you can probably find a gym that’s more affordable..."

"... that can deliver those things. We are not looking to bring in people who keep to themselves and don’t see the value of mingling with like-minded people."

Said Sebastian Schoepe, an executive at a fitness outfit called Heimat, quoted in "Think Getting Into College Is Hard? Try Applying for These Gyms. A new crop of luxury gyms requires referrals, interviews and even, in some cases, medical evaluations. And that’s before paying a monthly fee of up to $2,750" (NYT). 

So... they discriminate fiercely, but against whom? Is it too subtle to puzzle out — too hard to identify as something known to be wrong, like the admissions process at an elite law school? 

I thought maybe the name was a signal. What's "heimat"? Sounds German. Oh! It's the German word for "homeland"! Here's the Wikipedia page, "Heimat":

The word has connotations specific to German culture, German society and specifically German Romanticism, German nationalism, German statehood and regionalism so that it has no exact English equivalent....

Greverus (1979) focuses especially on the concept of identity. To him, "heimat" is an "idyllic world" and can only be found within the trinity of community, space and tradition; because only there human desires for identity, safety and an active designing of life can be pleased....

The concept of "Heimat" is closely associated with the present – as its meaning is established in a particular moment – and aims to provide an answer to a central question: Am I in the right place? Which place in the world do I want to make my home?”...
Am I in the right gym

Dr. Jonathan Leary, founder of Remedy, another exclusionary gym discussed in the article, said, "We’re looking for people who are a good representation of the brand, and they should inspire others to take care of themselves." 

Is that anything more than a statement of preference for very fit, good-looking people?
[Leary attempted] to describe what makes the perfect Remedy member: It’s someone, he said, “who will shine bright and help teach people the changes that need to happen.”

I think he's saying — in so many words — that beautiful people "teach" — by example — that non-beautiful people "need" to "change" into something more nearly beautiful. In other words, you learn, by seeing beautiful people, what you already knew when you decided to go to the gym: You need to get/stay in shape. Beautiful people also "teach" us another thing that we already know: Beauty is lovely and desirable.  

The “who” for a majority of these gyms tends to be “cool” people in general, said John Atwood, the managing partner of Atwood Consulting in Boston, which specializes in health clubs. “If you’re making widgets in Akron, Ohio, they may not want you, even if you have an apartment in New York,” said Mr. Atwood, comparing the selection process to how exclusive club bouncers choose people to enter their venues. “They’re looking for cool people.”

Atwood isn't making widgets in Akron, but he's only able to think of the example of making widgets in Akron as something uncool. Is consulting in Boston cool? Is it cooler or less cool if the name of your firm is just your own name followed by "Consulting"? There's a question that answers itself. I think this paragraph is cool, but I don't think that's the kind of cool they want for this gym, and I'd like to know what proportion of the "memberships" are paid for, full price, and who pays full price, and whether young beautiful women are gathered in for the purposes of "shining bright" and "teaching" wealthy older men to want what they already know they want. Because that would make the place, actually, the height of uncoolness.

It's no surprise that this NYT article — which reads like a promo for the luxury gym industry — lacks a comments section. The commenters are shut out, like uncool people trying to join a luxury gym. Ironically, they're the only ones who'd be saying anything cool... them, and me, over here... in my remote outpost in Akron, Ohio Madison, Wisconsin.

IN THE COMMENTS: Yancey Ward found an ad for one of these gyms:

"Some critics who have called Rowling’s positions anti-transgender — a sentiment she denies — called for a boycott of Hogwarts Legacy...."

"The back-and-forth over Rowling’s positions grew particularly heated in the gaming community, where members tend to be deeply invested in online controversies and harassment can run rampant. Although Hogwarts Legacy quickly broke one million concurrent viewers on the streaming site Twitch, some streamers refused to play it, and a few websites devoted to gaming coverage decided not to review it.... On forums dedicated to Hogwarts Legacy, the topic was front and center, with moderators seeking to tamp down talk about Rowling in favor of the game itself.... "

"Joost van Dreunen, a gaming investor, adviser and New York University professor who studies the business of video games, called the sales numbers a 'massive success,' putting the game in the same league as blockbuster franchises like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.... It is not possible to determine whether online opposition to the highly anticipated game has affected its sales."

Yes, we cannot "determine whether online opposition to the highly anticipated game has affected its sales." Who knows how popular it could have been without the reviling of Rowling? And perhaps the controversy stimulated interest in the game. It might have been less popular without the effort at boycotting.

Efforts at suppression can increase engagement with the thing the opponents are trying to suppress. You're making this thing transgressive. Isn't a feeling of transgression what is sought in playing things like Grand Theft Auto? You're an outlaw — you, sitting there alone on your couch.

ADDED: I stumbled into the New York Magazine review — "Hogwarts Legacy Is J.K. Rowling’s Legacy, Summed Up in a Feverishly Awaited Dud of a Game." It begins:
“Does it get any more cozy than Hogsmeade?” The first time you hear this refrain in Hogwarts Legacy, the new blockbuster open-world video game based on the Harry Potter franchise, you may find yourself agreeing with your character, who has just said it. The higgledy-piggledy Hogsmeade Village is indeed cozy, a market town filled with a plethora of shops to purchase various wizarding wares. Then, as you hear the phrase for the fifth, tenth, and 15th time, you may begin to feel as if the long-in-development video game is trying too hard to convince you of this fact. Its repetition sums up almost the entire emotional register of Hogwarts Legacy — the wish-fulfillment fantasy of inhabiting the Potterverse it seeks to offer and the lack of confidence with which it does so. This is an insecure game, one you can tell is buckling under the weight of everything that accompanies it: the discourse, fan expectations, and J.K. Rowling herself.

Does that mean Harry Potter fans won't enjoy it? 

The actual gameplay, the parts that come closest to making you feel like you’re an actual Hogwarts student, are mildly successful. There’s an undeniably nostalgic charm to exploring the labyrinthine corridors of Hogwarts. The castle is full of mysteries: hidden doors, disappearing staircases, moving paintings, a string quartet of instruments that play themselves — many elements of visual and audio design coalescing into a genuinely wondrous interactive whole....

Sounds like they will.  

This is a very long review, with much talk about what's so terrible about JK Rowling, but the last line is a review of the substance of the game:

The treacly nostalgia is laid on so thick it’s stupefying.

Who knows the extent of the Potter fan's taste for treacle?  

"'Dansk' is like when you sell vodka in the USA. You use its Russian name and you kind of keep the original letters on the bottle and brochures."

Said Jen Quistgaard, quoted in the book, "Jens Quistgaard: The Sculpting Designer," which is reviewed in The New Yorker, in "Dansk and the Promise of a Simple Scandinavian Life/A new monograph documents how Scandinavian design charmed America" (The New Yorker)

The book "seeks to disentangle the man from the brand..."
...but the housewares consumer of 2023 treats the book like a catalogue. Yes, I would like Fjord flatware, which almost seamlessly combines teak with stainless steel. Yes, I would like an enamelled Købenstyle casserole, whose lid serves as a trivet, in brilliant red or turquoise. Yes, I would like a wenge bowl with matching salad servers, which cleverly hook on the side. Yes, I will cook and eat an Emily Nunn salad, an Alison Roman pasta, a Smitten Kitchen bake, from any of the above. The life style that Quistgaard’s design suggested... so closely aligns with how we aspire to live now....

"In the organic vegetable world, Hepworth Farms, in Milton, N.Y., is a regional power player, a name brand in everything from lettuces to leeks..."

"As grass-roots organic growers go, Hepworth is as pure as they get.... Amy Hepworth, who took over the farm in 1982, was once the subject of a glowing New York Magazine profile, calling her a 'cult hero' to the city’s locavore set.... She and her identical sister, Gail Hepworth, run the business together, and this year, in the farm’s 204th growing season, they added marijuana to the mix.... Across the United States, [cannabis] is grown primarily indoors, where farmers can control variables like light, temperature, airflow and humidity. Amy Hepworth finds this arrangement repugnant. The plant 'wants to be free,' she said, and it can reach its fullest potential only in natural sun and living soil. 'It is a plant, and it belongs in agriculture,' she continued. 'People say you can’t grow it outside. Well, I beg to differ.'... [L]ast May, they partnered with Pura Industries, and they have] invested heavily in machinery to extract THC, the chemical found in vape cartridges and edibles; they are processing not just their own harvest but also those of other growers in the region. Mr. Lasser is developing more than 100 different retail products.... The hope is that Hepworth’s brand in vegetables — which stands for quality and sustainability — will translate to New York’s marijuana buyers...."

An interesting marketing concept: You've got a fresh, organic, locavore vegetables brand and you're going to put it on 100 different products made from extracted THC. Supposedly, these highly processed plant-based items will retain the vibe of the fresh plants. Somehow, in the mind of the marijuana-user, the plant will have aspired to freedom and truly achieved it, because it was outdoors, but it's been machine-transformed  — how, exactly? — into a substance trapped — imprisoned — in in vape cartridges and edibles. Where is the freedom? Where is the fresh, organic, locavore vegetables concept? It's all in the mind... and the label and the brand.

"I see that you're going to get rid of your piano. Good luck with that. We couldn't even give ours away so I took it apart and cut it up..."

"... and got rid of it by putting it in the trash over a 4 week period. I broke up the string harp with a sledge hammer. Used a drill to loosen the strings then just cut them off." 

Said William50 in last night's "Snow Car" café

He was referring to something I said in passing in an earlier post — that I had looked up "Flatter!," because it was part of an image on a card that I found in the piano bench, which I was emptying out because I'm getting rid of the piano. 

Breaking up a piano made me think about this great 80s video where they destroy a piano: 

And since you mentioned the harp inside, we must remember when Harpo Marx went nuts on a piano and extracted the harp:

But here's how I responded to William50 (who may not have  noticed that I'd already revealed in the comments on the other post that I am paying a professional piano dealer to move the piano out of our house and to dispose of it properly):
Meade suggested doing something like [what you did]. I see multiple reasons to prefer to pay a reputable piano dealer $360 to swiftly spirit the whole hulk out of the house. 
1. It's a lot of work taking the thing [apart] and lugging it [out to] the street, consuming time and effort and possibly resulting in injury to yourself and damage to doorjambs and floors. 
2. It would sit out there on the terrace for all to see and to find ugly and offensively wasteful. 
3. It will burden the city -- and the taxpayers -- to need to pick up these pieces and carry them away. 
4. The reputable piano dealer is experience[d] in disposing of pianos and may find an actual home for the intact piano. 
5. The piano will sit in its usual place, unmolested, until professionals come in and skillfully remove it in one piece. This is a company I have used 3 or 4 times in the past to move this piano from room to room, and I [trust] them to do it well. 
6. I like supporting a good local business! They deserve to be paid for the work that they do. You don't have to use your own labor just because you (or your partner) can perform labor. We're doing a lot of painting this winter, putting labor into that, but if I had a local business I trusted to do this work well and without needing to spend too much time in our house, I would be glad to pay someone. 
7. $360 may sound like a lot, especially if you believe your beautiful piano should be worth at least $5,000, but I choose to live in the real world, where prices are determined by supply and demand. Accept reality and make your time living in it as good as you can. Maybe you enjoyed sledgehammering a piano. I hope you did!

"Federal legalization couldn’t come quick enough. It is definitely the salvation for the industry in terms of opening access to the consumer and de-stigmatizing cannabis consumption."

Said Josh Keats, the co-founder of Henry’s Original, a marijuana company, quoted in "How the marijuana 'green rush' fell apart/A cannabis glut in several states has depressed prices for legal pot, pushing small businesses into turmoil" (WaPo).

Apparently, business is terrible, and we're supposed to hope the demand for the famous weed will increase. I'd like to see the federal ban end, mostly because I disapprove of the chaos of partially legalized marijuana. I don't like seeing rule-followers treated worse than people who think the federal part of the law doesn't matter. So I guess I'm for increasing demand in the sense that I want unfairly restrained rule-followers to have equal access, but I hope most people will say no to drugs. And too bad if a lot of people thought they'd get rich quick by jumping into the marijuana business. It's an easy-to-grow plant, and if the federal ban is lifted, people will mostly have one more houseplant. Right? If they want it at all.

"Pet parents are humanizing and humanizing and humanizing some more. Pet parents don’t want to be called pet owners."

"Seventy-seven percent say they want to be called pet parents, and 60 percent say they love spoiling their pets. They spend more. They’re more likely to treat their pets as human, and therefore, they’re more likely to get fresh food. They’re more likely to get premium kibble. They’re more likely to get a puffer vest at our Reddy shop."

Said Petco CEO Ron Coughlin, quoted in "Who spends the most time (and money) on pets?" (WaPo).

He was talking to investors, though, so take that with a grain of kibble. 

Various statistics presented at the link, with numbers that demonstrate things like "Women, Whites and Republicans tend to own more pets."

"Larry Wallach’s Long Island–based sloth business, Sloth Encounters, charges interested parties $50 per half-hour to encounter his sloths."

"'Feeding them, petting them, and even holding our sloth babies!' The company’s website claims its two-room storefront across from Carvel in Hauppauge is a very close environmental approximation to 'the jungles of Costa Rica' and notes that should you wish to buy a sloth, your admission fee will go toward your purchase.... 'This isn’t a zoological park... It’s literally an old pool store that he blacked out the windows and put some fake plants inside.'"

From "Sloths Are Tearing Apart Suffolk County" (NY Magazine).

"For those that look at a gym as a selfie opportunity, a place solely dedicated to performance-oriented training or a workout that needs to be done, you can probably find a gym that’s more affordable...""I see that you're going to get rid of your piano. Good luck with that. We couldn't even give ours away so I took it apart and cut it up..."

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