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Links: February 2017

Blown Away

If you’re suffering from an excess of self-respect, the Corey Haim/Feldman erotic thriller is now available on Hulu.

King Crimson: Starless

RIP John Wetton. Colon cancer. Here’s my favorite King Crimson song, which he co-wrote, sang, and played bass on.

What Can Ivanka Trump Possibly Do for Women Who Work?

Before the election, her main interest in women was getting them to buy her clothing, her handbags, and her shoes. Who can forget the ad that went up on the Internet the day after the convention to sell her little pale pink dress? “Shop Ivanka’s look from her #RNC speech,” her brand tweeted the next day.

To be the Trump daughter, you must be a living contradiction in terms. You have to be a tough, rip-roaring negotiator and deal-closer like My Father, but you also have to be a sexy, leggy, fuckable babe who doesn’t give much trouble. You have to be a Trump and a target for Trump.

The day-to-day rearing of Ivanka and her two brothers was done by four people: two Irish nannies and Ivana Trump’s Czech parents, Milos and Maria. As Bill Maher once said about Trump’s kids, they’re like his real-estate projects: He doesn’t build ’em, but he slaps his name on ’em.

This is how working women in Ivanka’s virtual universe encourage each other: by offering things that are bought (preferably from IvankaTrump .com), rather than by leading a walkout at their place of employment, say, or by supporting one another when it comes to claims of sexual harassment. On Ivanka’s website, conflict never exists.

“If you can believe, anything is possible.” Imagine feeding this pabulum to Men Who Work, to start-up teams or traders on Wall Street. No one would ever presume to address young businessmen in the 21st century as if they were debutantes or Brownies on a 1950s television show.

The image she projects is purposefully unthreatening to men (would you threaten men if your father were Donald Trump?). And because so many women have to some degree internalized this oppressed version of self, Ivanka can seem like a role model.

She’s exceptional in every way: exceptionally rich, exceptionally entitled, exceptionally placed, exceptionally well-groomed, exceptionally secure in her position. Simply because she’s exceptional, she is implausible as a policy-maker for women.

Every time you see one of those gorgeous, sleek pictures of Ivanka and her kids looking like the young Elizabeth II and the princes and princess (only better-looking and more fashionable), imagine for yourself, outside the frame, the numerous Filipino or Irish or Czech nannies and handlers and cooks and cleaners who make all that ease possible. Do those women have health care, maternity leave, retirement benefits, even citizenship?

Donald Trump Is the Singularity

We have the equivalent of a dynamic neural network running our government.”

Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules

Rather than working to close the digital divide, this action widens the gap.

Hoefler & Co.: Ringside

Someone please confiscate my wallet.

How Best Rock Performance Became One of the Grammys’ Weirdest Races

In September, about 70 members of the Rock Sorting Committee met to discuss, among other topics, whether “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is a rock song.

A ★★★★½ review of La La Land

[The Umbrellas of Cherbourg] captures what it’s like to be a teenager more than most films, an interminable emotional roller coaster that seeks constant catharsis.

the world of romance, musicals, and movies have no time for sordid reality. It is but a trifle compared to individual passion.

I’m reminded here of a discussion that Basil and I once had about black music and racism, how it is much easier to consume black art decades after its release. We’re no longer in the Jim Crow era, so listening to blues singers rail against it, as a white listener, doesn’t force us to consider our own complicity in white supremacy. Even listening to something as angry and applicable as NWA, for instance, feels less transgressive than listening to trap music.

truly challenging films give the audience the ability to opt in, to identify with characters who are cruel, biased, and self-centered, asking you to confront your own inadequacies. Nostalgia is dangerous, powerful, and beautiful. It is deeply human to imagine things as better than they were.

A lot of people see the success of the protagonists of Whiplash and La La Land as an indication that they chose a correct ideology, but maybe internalizing bad ideology in a world run on bad ideology helps you be the type of successful that that bad ideology determines is best. Maybe something is being lost in art through the very act of how we popularly think it is created, through ideas like passion and individuality, when they can be fairly easily perverted into sociopathy.

Turmoil at the National Security Council, From the Top Down

Three weeks into the Trump administration, council staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them.

Two officials said that at one recent meeting, there was talk of feeding suggested Twitter posts to the president so the council’s staff would have greater influence.

Mainstream Media Accountability Survey

This survey has 25 questions, but one would have sufficed.

What do you think is the media’s favorite food to eat while they’re treating me very unfairly?

  • The American Flag
  • The flesh of murdered children
  • Trump Steaks®
  • Other, please specify:

Be More Careful on Facebook

This is not a call to go into hiding, but to question a technical and social system that channels our need for connection into corporate surveillance platforms that become weapons for an authoritarian state. That begins by getting smarter about what we say, and where. Be a danger to your opponents, not your friends.

An Eminent Psychiatrist Demurs on Trump’s Mental State

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

4chan is worth trying to understand, and this essay, though muddy in places, is as good an analysis as I’ve seen. But the inherent slipperiness of 4chan and similar communities makes it hard to say just how influential they are in this political moment.

Are their numbers knowable? As a collective defined by nihilism, do they even vote? Is their influence graded on an internet curve? For all the noise they’re able to make on Twitter and Reddit outside their self-selecting cesspools, it’s not like Pepe is a household name.

They’re a problem, to be sure, and a uniquely difficult one. But I hesitate to conflate 4chan’s actual scope with its own self-serving myth.

And of course, it’s relevant to note here the themes of Fight Club itself, a film about a male collective who regains their masculinity through extreme acts after it has been debased by modern corporate culture.

4chan defined itself by being insensitive to suffering in that way only people who have never really suffered can

Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities.

Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.

It was almost as if all these disaffected young men were waiting for a figure to come along who, having achieved nothing in his life, pretended as though he had achieved everything, who by using the tools of fantasy, could transmute their loserdom (in 4chan parlance, their “fail”), into “win”.

No one noted how wildly outdated Clinton’s picture of the average voter was (her father, a suburban business man in the 50s) because we are used to every politician holding up the same faded 65 year old snapshot anytime he or she regards the american electorate. Just like how images of Christmas on Coke bottles and catalogs are forever stuck in the 30s and 40s, so we expect politics to be eternally frozen in the 1950s. That is to say, as a nation still (somehow!) defined by it’s baby boomers, we understand this era as the baseline for understanding ourselves, considering it, “where we are from”.

Thus these Trump supporters hold a different sort of ideology, not one of “when will my horse come in”, but a trolling self-effacing, “I know my horse will never come in”. That is to say, younger Trump supporters know they are handing their money to someone who will never place their bets — only his own — because, after all, it’s plain as day there was never any other option.

Pepe symbolizes embracing your loserdom, owning it. That is to say, it is what all the millions of forum-goers of 4chan met to commune about. It is, in other words, a value system, one reveling in deplorableness and being pridefully dispossessed. It is a culture of hopelessness, of knowing “the system is rigged”. But instead of fight the response is flight, knowing you’re trapped in your circumstances is cause to celebrate. For these young men, voting Trump is not a solution, but a new spiteful prank.

But to these powerless men, it’s as if the left were addressing their issue by saying in an Orwellian manner, “There’s no such thing as your problem! Problem solved!”

Trolls for Trump

Internet activism is sometimes derided as “slacktivism”—a fair characterization when an online campaign tries to, say, cure AIDS or end child labor. When the goal is to seed social media with misinformation, though, online organizing can be shockingly effective.

After law school, his wife became a successful attorney in Silicon Valley. But Cernovich was not admitted to the California bar until nine years after getting his law degree. In the meantime, he says, he got by with “freelance legal research” and “appellate stuff.” Cernovich’s wife earned millions of dollars in stock from an I.P.O.; he told me that he received “seven figures” in the divorce settlement. This seems to have been, and might still be, his primary source of funds. (He insists that book sales provide his main income.)

The prevailing logic was that, short of yelling fire in a crowded theatre, anyone should be able to say anything, in any venue. But censure is not censorship. The Constitution guarantees that the government won’t restrict what you can say; it does not guarantee that you can shout obscenities on CNN, or that you can harass co-workers, or that you can make racist arguments without being made to feel like a racist.

Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber

No big company is without issues, but giving your money to Uber has been indefensible for years. This is just the latest chapter.

Japan’s interpreters struggle to make sense of ‘Trumpese’

A “readability analysis” of presidential campaign speeches by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI) revealed last March that Trump’s lexical richness was the lowest — at seventh-grade level — of his rival candidates and past U.S. presidents.

The study also described his grammatical level as grade 5.7, the second-worst after George W. Bush, who barely topped the fifth-grade level.

Milo Yiannopoulos’s Pedophilia Comments Cost Him CPAC Role and Book Deal

After all Milo’s unpunished antics, I didn’t think the pedophilia comment would make waves. What if Trump said it? Not to brand Milo a victim, but would the Reagan Battalion look for dirt on a CPAC speaker with the same record minus the, y’know, gayness?

Play Social Media Bingo!

This social media bingo card from Gemma Correll’s Feminist Activity Book kinda nails it.

Lungfish: The Unanimous Hour

Listening to Lungfish today for the first time in ages and feeling really good about it.

Dick Bruna, Author of Miffy Books, Is Dead at 89

RIP design hero Dick Bruna, best known for his Miffy books for kids, though I’m partial to his early book covers.

Abortion Stories Before Roe v. Wade

Because of the stigma, a lot of them were afraid to go to the ER, so they just bled out.

Just 4 miles from Center City, a heroin hellscape hidden in plain sight

“There are people out here that can sell cars to people that don’t want them,” Lamb said. “We should invest the same resources in people like that to do street outreach.”

Surviving Kensington

Behind the scenes of a photo series on Philly’s share of the opioid epidemic. I am so awed by this kind of work.

Video Games Are Better Than Real Life

The truth is, as odd as it might sound, considering his complete commitment to that game, I envy this experience as much as I fear it. For half a decade, it seems to me, he set a higher value on his in-game life than on his “real” life.

As with all sports, digital or analog, there are ground rules that determine success (rules that, unlike those in society, are clear to all).

games look like the perfect meritocracies we are taught to expect for ourselves from childhood but never actually find in adulthood.

Richard Bartle, a British game-design researcher and professor, constructed a much-cited taxonomy of gamers based on his observations of MUD, an early text-based multiplayer game he co-created in 1978. These gamers, according to Bartle, can be subdivided into four classes: achievers, competing with one another to reap rewards from the game engine; explorers, seeking out the novelties and kinks of the system; socializers, for whom the game serves merely as a pretext for conversations with one another; and killers, who kill. It isn’t hard to extend the fourfold division from gamers to games: Just as there are video games, WoW chief among them, that are geared toward achievers, there are games suited to the other three branches of gamers.

What fiction writing achieves only rarely — the intimate coordination of reader and character — the video-game system achieves by default. Literary style pulls together character and reader; technology can implant the reader, as controller, within the character.

The self-projection aspect of games is always bandied about as the killer feature that exposes the flatness of other narrative forms, but I have yet to see a video game achieve a compelling equivalent to the kind of human warmth and narrative richness that is routinely on display in film, literature, etc.

Since every game is reliant on this addictive incentive system, every gamer harbors a game theorist, a situational logician blindly valorizing the optimization of quantified indices of “growth” — in other words, an economist.

I just really like this sentence.

“It seems to me that writers get into games precisely because it’s almost the antithesis of writing,” I said to Khan.

“Absolutely,” she said.

“When you’re writing, you don’t know what the stakes are. The question of what victory or defeat is — those questions are very hard to pin down. Whereas with a game, you know exactly what the parameters are.”

“Yes. I wouldn’t say that for everyone. Completing a quest or completing the mission was never really very interesting to me personally. For me, it’s more meditative. When I play Grand Theft Auto V, it’s just a way to shut off all the noise and for once be in a space where I don’t need to be critical or intellectualize something. Because I’m doing that all the time. I just go off and drive — honestly, that’s what I do in real life, too. When I just want to drop out of the situation, I’ll go and drive outside of the city.”

Gaming offers the solitude of writing without the strain of performance, the certitude of drug addiction minus its permanent physical damage, the elation of sports divorced from the body’s mortality. And, perhaps, the ritual of religion without the dogma. For all the real and purported novelty of video games, they offer nothing so much as the promise of repetition. Life is terrifying; why not, then, live through what you already know — a ­fundamental pulse, speechless and without thought?

Is it an addiction? Of course. But one’s addiction is always more than a private affair: It speaks to the health and the logic of society at large. Gaming didn’t impact the election, but electing to secede from reality is political, too.

I Can’t Wait to Forget Milo

if there’s anything homophobes like more than calling someone a faggot, it’s finding a gay person who will do it for them.

Colbert Rides a Trump Wave, While Fallon Treads Water

Mr. Fallon is a talented entertainer and a likable, inclusive party host. But his “Tonight” lives in an American neutral zone that is disintegrating like a desert cliff beneath Wile E. Coyote’s feet.

Why Fearful Control Freaks Need Not Apply to Yale’s Graphic Design Department

Even before Levrant de Brettville showed me around her department, it was already clear to me that Yale design graduates have a strong sense of self; whenever I come across a particularly conceptual, glitch-heavy portfolio online, I’m never surprised to discover it’s designed by a Yale graduate. And after exploring the department more thoroughly, it’s easy to see how that experimental, risk-taking sensibility is a direct result of Levrant de Bretteville’s own belief in self-expression.

🙄 Art is about the artist. Design is not about the designer.