I read this online in the '90s or 2000s.

The male protagonist is a counterculture artistic type who talks about how they and their friends throw all the most coveted parties. In the larger culture, people make money by advertising to people around them. In one scene at a diner, a teenager shows the protagonist his fake muscles and is frustrated that he doesn't get paid for trying to sell the protagonist on them. The protagonist points out that the teen failed to correctly do some part of the advertising process.

The protagonist goes to a party in which they're suspicious because a particular brand of vodka appears to be conspicuously on display and recorded in photos of the event.

They meet a woman who they think shares their disdain for the advertising permeating society. They admire the woman's rings and she rattles off a scripted response about how they have these wonderful properties, before apologizing and saying that she's only supposed to be trying to sell her female friends on the jewelry.

The protagonist despairs that even the people they thought were part of their holdout culture have succumbed to the insidious advertising inroads.

1 Answer 1


This is "Raj, Bohemian", from a 2008 issue of the New Yorker. Here's the part about the vodka:

He’d brought along several bottles of vodka, an unfamiliar brand. He poured a shot for each of us, telling us that he’d just discovered it and rhapsodizing about how fragrant it was, how smooth.

[...]I came across a picture of the two of us, arms around each other, our cheeks mashed together as we blew kisses at the camera. In the foreground was a vodka bottle. For a moment, I couldn’t work out where the photograph had been taken. Then, to my surprise, I realized that it was from Sunita’s party[...]Across the screen scrolled similar photos of sexy young things in social situations, always with the vodka bottle in the shot. None of the pictures seemed posed.

Later on, our protagonist does indeed meet a woman who gives him a spiel about her ring:

It’s an appetite-reduction ring[...]It helps correct biochemical imbalances in the body by reverse-actuating the ionic flow in my bloodstream.

  • 1
    That's it! Though the bit about being pitched artificial muscles seems to be something I accidentally mixed in from elsewhere. Now I wonder what that's from...
    – blahdiblah
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 4:42
  • Ah-ha! The muscle one is the similarly themed Everyone in Silico.
    – blahdiblah
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 5:59

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