Is this the American Houellebecq?

I Hate the Internet is not so much a novel as a wildly entertaining rant. Jarett Kobek is a self-published former software engineer who has been hailed as the Michel Houellebecq of San Francisco — a city whose tech-era hypocrisies he doesn’t so much as satirise as carpet-bomb with excrement. Kobek lacerates so many aspects of western culture that we may as well alphabetise them as follows: Advertising; Alan Greenspan; the Canadian rock band Arcade Fire;Ayn Rand; the Bush family; Californians (in particular, their inability to understand the difference between irony and coincidence); the sacred literary cow David Foster Wallace; Doctor Who fans; Google; Lena Dunham’s TV show, Girls; literary

The happiness police

On a recent sodden weekend walk, I tried to cheer myself up by thinking: it’s not so bad. Not the slugs or the sky or the rain making its way down a gap between neck and waterproof. But I couldn’t do it. Losing heart, I turned back. Glump, glump, glump through the puddles. It rained through breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Same the next day. And the day after. I wore grey and sighed at the window. But I am aberrant. Melancholy is against the rules nowadays. I should have put on my yellow wellies, twirled my spotty umbrella, photographed myself in the garden and put it online with the hashtag

Whatever happened to ‘Snog first, talk later’?

Sometimes I sit my nieces down and treat them to tales of dating in the dark ages, before iPhones arrived to save teenkind. Poor nieces. Though they scuff their Uggs on the carpet and stare longingly at the door, I carry on. When I was your age, I say, we had no access to boys. Those of us at mixed schools had a few limp options, and the rest relied on miracles: a hottie met by chance on holiday; a friend’s brother’s friend. There was no social media, no looking someone up, so unless you bagged your hottie sharpish he vanished. Boys surfaced like rare sea-mammals for single sightings before

Social Media: Enjoy the food, not the Twitter feed

Sriracha, for the uninitiated, is a chilli sauce, thicker and sweeter than Tabasco, with a garlicky tang. They eat it in Thailand and Vietnam, though the world’s top brand is made in California with a distinctive rooster on the bottle. Once you have Sriracha in the fridge, you find yourself adding it to many ad hoc meals: fried eggs, falafel, corn fritters. It’s ketchup for grown-ups: a comforting dab of something sweet and spicy that makes everything taste familiar. I’m fond enough of Sriracha, as mass-market condiments go. But mere fondness does not cut it in this age of social media. Sriracha is one of many foods — see also

Dear Mary: How can we make our dinner guests go?

Q. Many of our best and oldest friends have done so well they have stopped work. Meanwhile my husband still does a 50-hour week. Our friends must have forgotten what it’s like to have to get up at six because they’re always amazed when we try to leave their dinner parties at a reasonable hour. But the real problem arises when we return the hospitality and they are still at our kitchen table two hours after dinner has been cleared, laughing, joking, saying they’ve got second wind and can I get the cheese out again. Hinting doesn’t work. Last time my husband even changed into his pyjamas and said goodnight.

Venice Notebook

Almost all of Venice’s greatest treasures are on public view. Anyone who visits can look across from the Doge’s Palace to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, or take the vaporetto to see Palladio’s astonishing church. But it’s harder to sneak inside the doors of the monastery in San Giorgio, one of the city’s 118 islands. It is now home to Fondazione Giorgio Cini, a cultural institution and retreat sufficiently magnificent and isolated to have hosted the G7 meetings of 1980 and 1987. Last week it hosted the Alpine Fellowship, a gathering of philosophers, artists, writers and musicians. This year tackled the question of self-expression in the age of instant

I second that emoji

On the way home from dinner with girlfriends I composed my usual thank-you text. Smashing company, delicious food, must see you all again. A couple of kisses. Feeling this wasn’t enough, I added a line of coloured pictures: an ice cream in a cone, a slice of cake with a strawberry on top, a bar of chocolate, a cup of steaming coffee — near enough representations of the puddings we had shared. The replies came back: smiley faces, rows of hearts, bowls of spaghetti (it had been an Italian), martini glasses. My friends and I are in our late twenties and early thirties, yet we communicate using emoji: the sort

Are the members of hacker group Lizard Squad cyberterrorists or cybervandals?

Another day, another hack. This morning, Facebook and Instagram went dark. Facebook has blamed a technical glitch; ‘Lizard Squad’ celebrated another successful attack: Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, AIM, Hipchat #offline #LizardSquad — Lizard Squad (@LizardMafia) January 27, 2015 Yesterday, the group claimed responsibility for defacing the website of Malaysia Airlines. One of the more active of many mysterious groups, they have claimed responsibility for a range of online mischief in the last year, from hacking into online games networks to the temporary internet blackout in North Korea in December 2014 (although the latter isn’t easy to prove). This kind of seemingly random hacking has been happening more often, and has been termed ‘cybervandalism’. A

‘Likes’, lacquered cherry pies and Anselm Kiefer: the weird world of post-internet art

In the mid-1990s the art world got excited about internet art (or ‘’, as those involved styled it). This new way of making art would harness the world wide web, take the form of exciting online projects, bypass traditional galleries and be accessible to all with a dial-up connection. ‘Net.artists’ were self-styled radicals particularly fond of that most modernist of tropes, the manifesto, which they distributed via electronic mailing lists or electronic bulletin boards. These artists adopted funky, web-style names such as ‘’ and ‘VNS Matrix’ and showed their work online at similarly funkily named websites like Rhizome, Suck and Echo. But there was, alas, a gap in the Matrix,