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Links: August 2016

Could Women Be Trusted With Their Own Pregnancy Tests?

They had me sign my rights away for $1,” Ms. Crane told me. She never did get that dollar.

Meanwhile, in most areas of the United States, women still need permission from a doctor to buy birth control pills, even though they are arguably safer than a lot of other drugs now sold over the counter and there are very few health risks involved. It’s true that some women with conditions like liver disease, breast cancer and hypertension may be at risk of developing complications from the pill, but labels can warn them against using it. We can trust women to figure this out.

Where ‘Stranger Things’ Loses Its Magic

In aping earlier cinematic glories, there’s always the risk of replicating more subtly retrograde tendencies.

How Scalpers Make Their Millions With ‘Hamilton’

Bots can drive significant traffic on, up to 90 percent of ticketing-purchasing activity at times.

Finding Your Roots

History has taught black women that kinks and curls needed to be cured.

Katy Goodman & Greta Morgan - Ever Fallen in Love

An arresting cover of a Buzzcocks classic, subtracting the original’s raucous urgency and distilling the heartache.

Internet Archive: Nintendo Power

I try to limit my indulgence in nostalgia, but all bets are off with the Internet Archive’s Nintendo Power collection.

Bartosz Kosowski: Kubrick’s Lolita

This is magnificent.

How Helicopter Parenting Can Cause Binge Drinking

Kids don’t rebel against their parents anymore; why would they? Would you rebel against the concierge at the Hyatt?

Colleges complain like hell about binge drinking, but their admissions policies favor the kind of kids most likely to take part in it.

President Obama On Feminism and The World He Wants to Leave His Daughters

I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity.

We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.

And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.

That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.

The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’

They used industrial materials to remove themselves from their work, intentionally. In their eyes, this formal frugality was a necessary correction to the heroic individualism of New York School Abstract Expressionism. (After some time, what can you see in a Pollock but Pollock himself?)

The technology we call minimalist might fit in our pockets, but it depends on a vast infrastructure of grim, air-conditioned server farms and even grimmer Chinese factories.

A Tale of Two Frank Ocean LPs: How Digital Downloads Became Irrelevant

But like all changes in technology, streaming has garnered some pushback: Is it possible that we have too many choices now? This view was expressed eloquently in a recent elegy for the departed iPod Classic by The Ringer’s Lindsay Zoladz: “At the risk of sounding like a total geezer, I can’t help but feel that we’ve long since crossed the threshold of that magic number, into the realm where there’s simply too much music, too many tweets, too much stuff out there to feel anything but overloaded and paralyzed almost all of the time.”

Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People

humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us. And if you’re an elite white professional, working class whites are an easy target: you don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe. By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe. So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is.

A lot of it is pure disconnect–many elites just don’t know a member of the white working class.

Believing you have no control is incredibly destructive, and that may be especially true when you face unique barriers.

It’s this awful catch-22, where recognizing the true nature of the problem actually hinders the ability to overcome.

The refusal to talk about individual agency is in some ways a consequence of a very detached elite, one too afraid to judge and consequently too handicapped to really understand. At the same time, poor people don’t like to be judged, and a little bit of recognition that life has been unfair to them goes a long way.

there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy

Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are. I admire their refusal to look down on the least among us, but at some level, that can become an excuse to never really look at the problem at all.

If you believe as I do, you believe that the Holy Spirit works in people in a mysterious way. I recognize that a lot of secular folks may look down on that, but I’d make one important point: that not drinking, treating people well, working hard, and so forth, requires a lot of willpower when you didn’t grow up in privilege. That feeling–whether it’s real or entirely fake–that there’s something divine helping you and directing your mind and body, is extraordinarily powerful.

In a world of Trump, we’ve abandoned the pretense of persuasion. The November election strikes me as little more than a referendum on whose tribe is bigger.

The Great Republican Crack-up

Hall’s constituents were especially down on President Bill Clinton’s promotion of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said. “A lot of Democrats in the Midwest feel that they didn’t leave the Democratic Party — they feel like the Democratic Party left them,” he says. “They had basic desires and needs and wanted them to represent the working man.”

‘White Trash’ — The Original Underclass

Since 1980, the share of upper-income households living in census tracts that are majority upper-income, rather than scattered throughout more mixed-income neighborhoods, has doubled. The upper echelon has increasingly sought comfort in prosperous insularity, withdrawing its abundant social capital from communities that relied on that capital’s overflow, and consolidating it in oversaturated enclaves.

Talk with those still sticking it out, the body-shop worker and the dollar-store clerk and the unemployed miner, and the fatalism is clear: Things were much better in an earlier time, and no future awaits in places that have been left behind by polished people in gleaming cities.

Canon, fanon, shipping and more: a glossary of the tricky terminology that makes up fan culture

A glossary for the dizzying world of modern fandom. I knew some of it but had no idea the vernacular ran so deep.

Social justice, shipping, and ideology: when fandom becomes a crusade, things get ugly

It’s easy to stand back from fandom and point to shipping behavior as a hallmark of fan entitlement. But it would be far more accurate to say that shipper ideology is ultimately about fans trying to find a way to gain equity with creators, to work with them in a tacit collaboration.

Lipstick on a pig. I don’t know how anyone can say that fans thinking they have a right to “collaborate” with an author is anything but obnoxious, consumerist entitlement.

How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk

If Obama’s minimalist approach was a necessary reaction to the maximalist style of his predecessor, then perhaps what Americans yearn for is something in between — the kind of steel-belted pragmatism that Clinton has spent a lifetime honing.

Trump Is a Climax of America’s Masculinity Problem

The dominance of white men is being challenged on many fronts, including the code by which they fraternized with and identified one another. If their dominance is shrinking, it is a regression toward parity, an undoing of entrenched inequality, but not an outright attack. Not oppression.

Artist Accused of Disowning a Painting Testifies

The bizarre story of a man being sued for denying that he created a work of art.

There’s No Such Thing as Free Will

The list goes on: Believing that free will is an illusion has been shown to make people less creative, more likely to conform, less willing to learn from their mistakes, and less grateful toward one another. In every regard, it seems, when we embrace determinism, we indulge our dark side.

Smilansky advocates a view he calls illusionism—the belief that free will is indeed an illusion, but one that society must defend. The idea of determinism, and the facts supporting it, must be kept confined within the ivory tower. Only the initiated, behind those walls, should dare to, as he put it to me, “look the dark truth in the face.” Smilansky says he realizes that there is something drastic, even terrible, about this idea—but if the choice is between the true and the good, then for the sake of society, the true must go.

In the language of cause and effect, a belief in free will may not inspire us to make the best of ourselves, but it does stimulate us to do so.

Is this not a kind of free will?

“We need,” Harris told me, “to know what are the levers we can pull as a society to encourage people to be the best version of themselves they can be.”

Losing belief in free will undercuts the rationale for ever hating anyone.

Doesn’t it do the same for love?

Waller told me he supported the sentiment of Barack Obama’s 2012 “You didn’t build that” speech, in which the president called attention to the external factors that help bring about success. He was also not surprised that it drew such a sharp reaction from those who want to believe that they were the sole architects of their achievements. But he argues that we must accept that life outcomes are determined by disparities in nature and nurture, “so we can take practical measures to remedy misfortune and help everyone to fulfill their potential.”

There’s No Such Thing As A Protest Vote

Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as ‘voting your conscience’, but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them.

The people advocating protest votes believe they deserve a choice that aligns closely with their political preferences. With 130 million voters, hundreds of issues, and just two candidates, this idea doesn’t even make mathematical sense, much less political sense. No matter who you are, voting isn’t about you. You are not promised a candidate you love, or even like, because no one is guaranteed that. Presidential voting is an exercise in distinguishing the lesser of two evils. Making that choice is all that’s asked of us, and all that’s on offer.

I Spent My Summer Tracking Down Government Records About the Red Cross

Here’s ProPublica intern Cliff Michel on how he assisted our Red Cross reporting this summer. Share what you know!

Text analysis of Trump’s tweets confirms he writes only the (angrier) Android half

This fascinating analysis hypothesizes that the tweets Trump writes are angrier than those his staff writes for him.

“A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment

“For years, it allowed this equal footing, where a troll you didn’t follow and your best friend who you follow and interact with all the time were given equal weight, and that’s crazy,” a former senior employee said. “Seriously, if you were an alien and you came down to look at this thing, you’d say, ‘Oh, the product was basically built for maximum ease of trolling.’ Like, they must have built this for trolls.”

How air guitar can reveal your own creative process

A fun and enlightening talk by my pal Eric “Mean” Melin on the creative lessons that led to his 2013 Air Guitar World Championships win.

Functional Mixtape Coffee Tables

I got so excited about this, I briefly allowed myself to believe it might be affordable.

The Knife - Colouring of Pigeons

Sometimes I’m bored with music and then I remember The Knife/Mt. Sims/Planningtorock’s amazing Charles Darwin opera.

When T.G.I. Friday’s Loses Its Flair

Starbucks, basically, but with mudslides and Tuscan spinach dip.

T.G.I.Friday’s: once a leader, now a follower.

The Psychiatric Question: Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar?

“If you call someone deceitful, whether Clinton or Trump,” Dr. Mayer said of this year’s nominees, “it needs to be said that, for a good politician, there are reasons you can’t always say everything you know, or exactly what you think.”

Between the World and Me

You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras. These are all fine and applicable, but they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the wone appointed to protect them. The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies – the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects – are the product of democratic will.

Now I personally understood my father and the old mantra – “Either I can beat him or the police.” I understood it all – the cable wires, the extension cords, the ritual switch. Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made.

This need to be always on guard was an umeasured expenditure of energy, the slow siphoning of the essence. It contributed to the fast breakdown of our bodies. So I feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort your body to address the block, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give the police a reason.

The robbery of time is not measured in lifespans but in moments.

Part of me thinks that your very vulnerability brings you closer to the meaning of life, just as for others, the quest to believe oneself white divides them from it. The fact is that despite their dreams, their lives are also not inviolable. When their own vulnerability becomes real – when the police decide that tactics intended for the ghetto should enjoy wider usage, when their armed society shoots down their children, when nature sends hurricanes against their cities – they are shocked in a way that those of us who were born and bred to understand cause and effect can never be. And I would not have you live like them. You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face and the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you do not have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.

I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you become a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.

The killing fields of Chicago, of Baltimore, of Detroit, were created by the policy of Dreamers, but their weight, their shame, rests solely upon those who are dying in them. There is a great deception in this. To yell “black-on-black crime” is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding.

[T]he Dreamers are quoting Martin Luther King and exulting nonviolence for the weak and the biggest guns for the strong.

The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in teh cities but the fire in the sky.

It was the cotton that passed through our chained hands that inaugurated this age. It is the flight from us that sent them sprawling into the subdivided woods. And the methods of transport through these new subdivisions, across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.

The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.

How to stay happy when the sky is falling in

news, by definition, is about things that happen, rather than things that don’t. As the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker points out, you never see a news reporter speaking breathlessly live to camera from a foreign land because war hasn’t broken out there.

Perfectly reasonably, most of us value stability and security in life, and fear sudden change. Yet stability isn’t news, which means that the headlines inevitably focus more on what we fear than on what we value.

And there is another, subtler reason you might find yourself convinced that things are getting worse and worse, which is that our expectations outpace reality. That is, things do improve – but we raise our expectations for how much better they ought to be at a faster rate, creating the illusion that progress has gone into reverse.

with the passing decades, we’ve also greatly expanded the circle of those whose suffering we take seriously in the first place, thereby increasing the number of stories with the capacity to distress us.

One of many good points: modern media helps broaden our scope of concern, making it seem like everything is awful.

I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good.

Walmart’s Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy

In 2015, police were called to Tulsa’s four Targets 300 times. Same period for Tulsa’s four Walmarts: 2,000 times.

Part of this world, part of another

How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones


Sleep Deprivation 101

My personal record for staying awake is ≈60 hours. The longest known sleep deprivation study lasted eleven days.