About Mathew Ingram

I'm a writer with the Columbia Journalism Review, which is based in New York at Columbia University, but I live in Toronto. I write about the intersection between media and technology, and anything else that interests me!

For the billionaire who has everything but taste

This week’s Zillow monstrosity comes courtesy of Rebecca Makkai, who shared some truly bizarre photos of a massive house in Woodstock, Connecticut that was built by millionaire castle afficionado and alleged camel -killer Christopher Mark, who apparently comes from a long line of steel tycoons. If you also like castles, but you think that the ones at Disney World aren’t fake-looking enough, then this is for you — and the 20,000-square-foot behemoth with 9 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces, and its own moat is just $35 million.

Said the Daily Mail when the castle went up for sale in 2014 for $45 million: “Eccentric millionaire Christopher Mark is unloading his property, which he began building in 2001, and was only completed in 2008, just three years after he made headlines for reportedly kicking out girlfriend Marina Isakova and the couple’s child from the lush digs.” Connecticut magazine said that during Mark’s divorce from his wife, both sides tried to make the other out to be responsible for the death of a camel that was kept as part of a petting zoo/wild animal operation:

The animals on the castle property also came up in the case. Mark has long run a nonprofit refuge for exotic animals called Wilderness Kingdom, Inc. Since 2004, the property has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a traveling zoo. When a camel died in 2010, both Mark and Galt alleged the other was neglectful. In a motion filed on June 25, 2010, Galt claimed “the animals are not being properly taken care of” and “a camel on the property has recently died.”vIn an email to Galt written on July 3, 2010, Mark countered that “when you sent the workers home and animals were not fed for 4 days, the camel lost a lot of weight since and died last week.”

Yes, this is a bathroom, and yes, it has a big-screen TV and a fireplace

That’s not an iceberg, it’s a superior mirage

Simone Engels saw something bright on the horizon while taking photos from a beach on Vancouver Island, near the Strait of Georgia — so she took a picture and zoomed in to see what looked like a giant glacier. The object remained on the horizon for a full half hour, and when she posted the photo on social media, everyone was convinced it was an iceberg — even a friend who’d studied iceberg geomorphology for her PhD. “I was very stumped,” Engels told the CBC. “We don’t generally see icebergs here.” But it was not an iceberg — it was a mirage.

“It’s not an iceberg,” said Colin Goldblatt, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Victoria. “It’s a beautiful photograph, and what we’re seeing is a lovely example of a superior mirage.” He explained that this kind of mirage is possible during an atmospheric inversion, when warm air is sitting on top of a layer of cooler air, causing the light to bend downward. What Engels was seeing was the peaks of the Cheam Range near Chilliwack, more than 180 kilometres away. Normally, these mountains would be on the other side of the horizon, hidden by the Earth’s curvature.

A Black singer named Tina Bell helped invent grunge

If you’re like most people, when you think of the term “grunge,” you picture a bunch of white guys with long hair and plaid shirts playing angst-ridden, power-chord style rock and roll. Canadian folk artist turned rock musician Neil Young is often seen as the godfather of grunge, for his love of both plaid shirts and hard-rocking music. But some would argue that one of the real pioneers of grunge in the 1980s was a tiny Black woman named Tina Bell and her band, Bam Bam. Not only was the music pioneering, but the band gave some more famous grunge artists a start as well, including a drummer who went on to play with Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, and a young roadie name Kurt Cobain.

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New York eccentrics and their apartments

New Yorkers reveal their fabulous apartments in photographer Sally Davies’s portraits of larger than life characters in their equally colourful homes– a glimpse into the grit, elegance, poverty and humanity of an ever-changing city:

Flloyd NYC. Photographed at his home in the East Village on 26 October 2019.

Flloyd: “Shortly after moving in I discovered the person before me paid one-fourth of what I paid and I spent the next two years in court. Afterwards, my rent was lowered to an insanely low amount. This has given me the ability to live the life of a starving artist. I live a very sober life, and I enjoy cooking and baking, and watching old movies with my boyfriend.”

X Baczewsky. Photographed at her home on 1st Avenue on 2 May 2019.

X Baczewsky: “When I moved into this tiny apartment I decided that I would think of it as a small parlour in a much larger home, rather than the small apartment that it is.”

James Kaston. Photographed at his home in Stuyvesant Town on 2 November 2019.

James: “I still like New York City, but not the bike lane, not the bikes, not the people on the bikes. I don’t like the glass towers and I don’t like all the chain stores in this city. It’s really become a city of greed. I don’t like the way the word ‘luxury’ is tossed around regarding things that should just be described as “plain”.

The “influencer selling her farts in jars” story just will not stop, but is it true?

I know there are those who will argue this story is beneath me, but they are wrong! I first came across Stephanie Matto when the former reality-TV star (who appeared on something I have never seen, called “90-Day Fiance”) talked with a British tabloid about how her sideline — selling farts in a jar to obsessed collectors online — had sent her the hospital. Matto, who claimed to be making as much as $50,000 *a week* selling the jars, said she overdid the flatulence-inducing foods and thought at first she was having a heart attack, but it was just (you have probably already guessed it) gas.

“I thought I was having a stroke and that these were my final moments,” Matto told the UK’s Jam Press about her unexpected trip to the hospital near her home in Connecticut. “I was overdoing it.” Matto, who refers to herself as a fartrepreneur, started farting in jars and selling them online in November and documented the foods she was eating on TikTok to keep up her flatulence, like beans, protein muffins, and eggs. Matto was reportedly taking in roughly $50,000 per week through her highly profitable endeavor.

But wait! That’s only the beginning of this story. If you follow along a little more, Matto talks about how she is now selling NFTs — non-fungible tokens, a cryptocurrency invention that gives buyers a digital code that represents ownership of an image — of her farts in jars. This is some next level stuff!

Matto has launched a website selling 5,000 fart jar NFTs for .05 ether, which at the current exchange rate works out to about $191, not including ethereum’s notoriously high gas fees. In this case, ether’s gas fees, which are just transaction fees for the blockchain, are rather appropriately named. Matto’s new website claims that 100 of the virtual fart jars will be redeemable for real-world fart jars.

Another 70 tokens will be redeemable for used panties and 30 of the fart jar tokens will be redeemable for some of Matto’s used lingerie. “These NFTs are just as beautiful, unique, and rare as my actual poots! You can practically smell how delightful they are through the screen. Just use your imagination!” Matto said in a statement on her website.

All of this seems bizarre and incredibly stupid, and yet it is a fact that some people (mostly men, let’s admit) pay money for all kinds of things so long as they are related to attractive women, including spending thousands of dollars watching them eat food. So the fart-in-a-jar thing is not out of the realm of possibility. But is the story true? Thankfully, someone at Input magazine has tried to get to the bottom of it (sorry):

“Based on the evidence that the NFT launch was planned well in advance, that it was minted the day before the hospitalization story and that [journalists] used a three-year-old photo to show the influencer as ‘hospitalized,’ it calls into question whether this was really a story at all — or just a made-up PR stunt to promote sales of a newly minted NFT project,” says @interlunations

The Luddites weren’t against technology, they were protesting industrialization

Almanac: The Luddites - CBS News

Whenever someone is opposed to or criticial of technology — or even just not that familiar with it — we often call them Luddites. But what does this term mean? Science-fiction writer (and Canadian) Cory Doctorow wrote about this term recently, and how misplaced our current use of it is:

From 1811-1816, a secret society styling themselves “the Luddites” smashed textile machinery in the mills of England. Today, we use “Luddite” as a pejorative referring to backwards, anti-technology reactionaries. This proves that history really is written by the winners. In truth, the Luddites’ cause wasn’t the destruction of technology – no more than the Boston Tea Party’s cause was the elimination of tea, or Al Qaeda’s cause was the end of civilian aviation. Smashing looms and stocking frames was the Luddites’ tactic, not their goal.

The Luddites weren’t exercised about automation. What were they fighting about? These new machines could have allowed the existing workforce to produce far more cloth, in far fewer hours, at a much lower price, while still paying these workers well. Instead, the owners of the factories – whose fortunes had been built on the labor of textile workers – chose to employ fewer workers, working the same long hours as before, at a lower rate than before, and pocketed the savings.

via Locus magazine

The Trevor Bastard Extended Universe

If you should happen to come across any tweets or Instagram posts or discussion of two non-league soccer clubs from south London — the Streatham Rovers and Sydenham United — or the league they play in (the Xtermin8 Rat Poison League,) beware: you are entering a long-running “alternate reality game” or ARG known colloquially as the Trevor Bastard Extended Universe. Although in this case, the ARG term might not be totally appropriate, since there is no real winner in this game — it’s just a prank that took on a life of its own.

The TBEU encompasses not only other fictional south London non-league teams — from bitter rivals Dynamo Catford (known for their slogans “Shit on the Streatham” and “Solidarity with ISIS”), to bit players like CSKA Wallington and Edenbridge Bridge FC (check out that completely wild club crest) — but also SRFC’s lawyer, a divorce solicitor named Oliver Laughdugry (a man who hates Brexit so much he had his beloved pet dog put down so that he can fight it full-time, a “tragedy” he attempted to blame on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn) and Laughdugry’s friend Simon Hedges, a “Sensible Labour” journalist and online politeness activist.

Streatham figures such as manager Goose and Club committee member Roger Parnsip (bio: “Hope Dynamo Catpiss die in a car crash”) , have their own Twitter accounts, and the universe also draws in other parody accounts such as the Blairite Politics Professor Dr. Robert Zands. This world is known by the acronym “Trevor Bastard Extended Universe” (TBEU), although the pseudonymous authorship is in part collaborative: while Bastard is behind the majority of the accounts, some, like Hedges, are run by other people.

via The Trevor Bastard Extended Universe is modern art

Thrift store find leads to release of album 48 years after it was recorded

Kevin Howes was at a thrift store in rural Alberta in 2014 when he came upon an old vinyl record in a plain white cover. The music historian, who was on a cross-country trip digging to find lost music from the analog era, paid the cashier 25 cents for the record, not knowing what to expect. “I took it home to my motel room later that night and I had a portable turntable and I listened to it and I was just flabbergasted at what I was hearing,” Howes said. “This was a really personal, progressive folk album from the early ’70s.” About five years after discovering the album, Howes emailed musician Duane O’Kane, asking if he had anything to do with a band named Catseye. O’Kane was stunned to have someone reach out to him about a band he helped form decades ago.

Source: Thrift store find leads to release of B.C. musician’s album 48 years after it was recorded | CBC News

A tribute to B95 — also known as Moonbird

A red knot (a species of shorebird) whose tag is B95 has been nicknamed “Moonbird,” because of his prodigious flying record. The oldest known member of his species, at about 30 years old, B95 has flown about 20,000 miles every year on his journey from the Canadian Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, which means his total flying distance has exceeded the distance between the Earth and the Moon.