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Links: May 2017

Toronto’s New Flag

I’m a big fan of Kenzie Ryder’s concept.

Key to Improving Subway Service in New York? Modern Signals

Over the years, the authority has kept pushing back the timeline for replacing signals. In 1997, officials said that every line would be computerized by this year. By 2005, they had pushed the deadline to 2045, and now even that target seems unrealistic.

London has moved more quickly on signals because officials completed the work on each line faster as they gained experience, prioritized funding for the project and were willing to face commuter wrath when closing stations. The projects have required disruptive weekend closings and a major overhaul of the system’s infrastructure.

How to Prepare for an Automated Future

People still need to learn skills, the respondents said, but they will do that continuously over their careers. In school, the most important thing they can learn is how to learn.

Schools will also need to teach traits that machines can’t yet easily replicate, like creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, adaptability and collaboration. The problem, many respondents said, is that these are not necessarily easy to teach.

The problem is that not everyone is cut out for independent learning, which takes a lot of drive and discipline. People who are suited for it tend to come from privileged backgrounds, with a good education and supportive parents, said Beth Corzo-Duchardt, a media historian at Muhlenberg College. “The fact that a high degree of self-direction may be required in the new work force means that existing structures of inequality will be replicated in the future,” she said.

“The question isn’t how to train people for nonexistent jobs. It’s how to share the wealth in a world where we don’t need most people to work.”

My Children Are Both Fake Geeks

Large Son insisted on making Batman fight Steve from Minecraft. This is not canon.

If my child does not appropriately love the intellectual properties I am attached to, will I be capable of loving either child? Especially Smaller, Louder Son, who smells like death yogurt??

Every Republican who voted for this abomination must be held accountable

Perhaps this bill will never become law, and its harm may be averted. But that would not mitigate the moral responsibility of those who supported it. Members of Congress vote on a lot of inconsequential bills and bills that have a small impact on limited areas of American life. But this is one of the most critical moments in recent American political history. The Republican health-care bill is an act of monstrous cruelty. It should stain those who supported it to the end of their days.

Alex Jones’s Infowars Media Empire Is Built to Sell Snake-Oil Diet Supplements

It is a brilliant business model. If you can be convinced that an international cabal of globalists is hell-bent on creating a New World Order, perhaps you could be persuaded to buy Infowars Life Survival Shield X-2, a one-fluid-ounce bottle of iodine supplement for $39.95. If you can be convinced that President Barack Obama was a member of Al Qaeda, perhaps you will buy two ounces of Infowars Life Super Male Vitality drops for $59.95.

How Beauty Evolves

“It should come as no surprise that science does such a poor job of explaining pleasure because it’s left the actual experience of pleasure out of the equation,” he writes. That is, when biologists think about mate choice, whether in manakins or people, they focus only on the outcomes of the choice, and neglect the actual act of choosing. The result is a sexual science that’s bizarrely sanitized—an account of pleasure that’s totally anhedonic.

The Evolution of Beauty is an explicitly feminist book. It’s disdainful about the male biases that characterize much of evolutionary psychology. Instead, it consistently centers female choice and repeatedly draws on feminist scholarship.

“If you say anything about a feminist science, you get a lot of negative blowback immediately,” says Prum. “But this isn’t a science that accommodates itself to feminist principles. It’s about the discovery of feminist concepts in biology itself.” By his reckoning, freedom of choice isn’t a matter of ideology. It arises from evolution, and it shapes subsequent evolution—and it’s about time that biologists recognized that.

The Lost Picture Show: Hollywood Archivists Can’t Outpace Obsolescence

Periodic reminder that digital archiving in its current form is at best unsustainable and at worst unobtainable.

According to the Film Foundation, a nonprofit founded by director Martin Scorsese to restore and preserve important films, about half of the U.S. films made before 1950 have been lost, including an astounding 90 percent of those made before 1929.

the frequency of LTO upgrades has film archivists over a barrel. Already there have been seven generations of LTO in the 18 years of the product’s existence, and the LTO Consortium, which includes Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and Quantum, has a road map that specifies generations 8, 9, and 10. Given the short period of backward compatibility—just two generations—an LTO-5 cartridge, which can still be read on an LTO-7 drive, won’t be readable on an LTO-8 drive. So even if that tape is still free from defects in 30 or 50 years, all those gigabytes or terabytes of data will be worthless if you don’t also have a drive upon which to play it.

Archivists like Kline at least have the budgets to maintain their digital films. Independent filmmakers, documentarians, and small TV producers don’t. These days, an estimated 75 percent of the films shown in U.S. theaters are considered independent. From a preservation standpoint, those digital works might as well be stored on flammable nitrate film.

If technology companies don’t come through with a long-term solution, it’s possible that humanity could lose a generation’s worth of filmmaking, or more. Here’s what that would mean. Literally tens of thousands of motion pictures, TV shows, and other works would just quietly cease to exist at some point in the foreseeable future. The cultural loss would be incalculable because these works have significance beyond their aesthetics and entertainment value. They are major markers of the creative life of our time.

Most of the archivists I spoke with remain—officially at least—optimistic that a good, sound, post-LTO solution will eventually emerge. But not everyone shares that view. The most chilling prediction I heard came from a top technician at Technicolor.

“There’s going to be a large dead period,” he told me, “from the late ’90s through 2020, where most media will be lost.”

This Is What a Modern-Day Witch Hunt Looks Like

the entire premise of the article is to examine what genuine instances of deeply felt transracialism would tell us about identity and identity change in light of the progressive view of trans rights.

This whole episode should worry anybody who cares about academia’s ability to engage in difficult issues at a time when outrage can spread faster than ever before.

If Liberals Hate Him, Then Trump Must Be Doing Something Right

Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth

This devastating story underscores that the US’s maternal mortality rate is by far the worst in the developed world.

The Tangled Story Behind Trump’s False Claims Of Voter Fraud

The story behind the erroneous science used as “proof” of mass voter fraud.

Chattha found some weird statistical results that didn’t match up with her lived experience or with what researchers know about American voting habits and prosecuted cases of voter fraud. She published those results, and they got caught up in a media-driven amplification of fears about the integrity of the electoral process. The research of an immigrant — who has spent the last year realizing, to her dismay, that many of her fellow citizens don’t think of her as a “real” American — was seized as a clobber text by people who want to make sure only “real” Americans vote.

And all of that had to happen to make political scientists aware of how easily their data could fool them.

In Defense of Liking Things

Rule #1 for creating a left that people will want to join: don’t be a humorless joykill who tells people that their stress toy makes them Donald Trump.

The Texas Man Who Sued a Woman For Texting During a First Date Explains his Lawsuit

The guy who sued his date for texting in the movie theater is less amusing when you realize he’s a psychopath.

Tips for Leaders Meeting Trump: Keep It Short and Give Him a Win

After four months of interactions between Mr. Trump and his counterparts, foreign officials and their Washington consultants say certain rules have emerged: Keep it short — no 30-minute monologue for a 30-second attention span. Do not assume he knows the history of the country or its major points of contention. Compliment him on his Electoral College victory. Contrast him favorably with President Barack Obama. Do not get hung up on whatever was said during the campaign. Stay in regular touch. Do not go in with a shopping list but bring some sort of deal he can call a victory.

Soundgarden: Rusty Cage

Soundgarden made only one album I like, but I love that album. Nothing like it before or since. Soundgarden was also one of the first bands I saw live. RIP Chris Cornell.

A Basquiat Sells for ‘Mind-Blowing’ $110.5 Million at Auction

I am a believer in art of, by, and for the people. I am baffled by the economics and social mechanics of the art market’s upper echelons.

“The Only Good Muslim Is a Dead Muslim”

Not wanting to alarm them, the FBI officer shared only the most basic details of the plot. But in the coming days, the clan leaders and their families would learn many graphic details from the media and the criminal complaint submitted to the court. One evening at G&G Home Center, the plotters had pulled up Google Maps on an office computer and begun dropping pins at various locations for possible attacks. Each pin was given the label “cockroaches.” The men then discussed what kind of attack they might carry out, including kidnapping and raping the wives and daughters of refugee workers, setting fire to their mosque during prayer time, and even shooting them with arrows dipped in pig’s blood.

I can’t begin to imagine the overwhelming dread of learning that someone hates you this much.

“Since January 2015,” Ellingsen concludes, “the FBI has arrested more anti-immigrant American citizens plotting violent attacks on Muslims within the United States than it has refugees, or former refugees, from any banned country. The empirical data indicate that foreign nationals simply aren’t plotting attacks within U.S. borders at the same rate as U.S. citizens. Indeed, the rates aren’t anywhere close to comparable.”

Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes

Revisiting the uniquely incisive teen angst of the mixtape mainstay that is Violent Femmes’ landmark debut.

“A few years ago, I had somebody that was a big fan say, ‘What does your album cover look like? I’ve never seen it because it’s always been on a tape that somebody made.’”

Violent Femmes are perhaps the greatest mixtape band of its era—they were to Maxell what Drake now is to Spotify playlists. Long after the Femmes’ initial wave of underground fame came and went in the mid-’80s, choice cuts from their first album kept popping up on countless tapes dispensed throughout teenage suburbia. For those that encountered the Femmes in this manner, the band’s songs were akin to outsider art—found musical data that offered bracingly unfiltered takes on lust and alienation and the yearning to belong, written on an acoustic guitar by a misfit kid who sang in an untrained pubescent whine. Mixtapes gave Violent Femmes renewed life divorced from the context of their own up-and-down career, infusing songs from their first and most successful record with the adolescent angst of each subsequent generation of middle-schoolers in search of a spokesman.

Palmer, a blues scholar who had just published the definitive history Deep Blues the previous year, compared Gano to his most obvious antecedents, Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman. But Palmer also heard a new strain of Americana in Violent Femmes’ revved-up, snotty confessionals, likening songs to “the discursive, rambling structures of folk-era Dylan.” In a subsequent review of Violent Femmes’ second album, 1984’s overtly spiritual Hallowed Ground, Palmer detected “a subterranean mother lode of apocalyptic religion, murder, and madness that has lurked just under the surface of hillbilly music and blues since the 19th century” in the Femmes’ knowingly primitive music. Perhaps Palmer was also thinking of Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone,” which lifts a verse from Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” or the teenage murder ballad “To The Kill,” in which Gano fantasizes about vengefully hunting down his ex in Chicago, like so many Delta musicians decades earlier.

Transcript of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s address on Confederate monuments

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

Trump calls Kim Jong Un a ‘madman with nuclear weapons,’ according to transcript of Duterte call

Forget the headline. These are the salient bits:

Since taking office in June, Duterte has moved to hedge on the Philippines’ long-standing defense alliance with the United States by establishing closer relations with China. And his administration has overseen a brutal extrajudicial campaign that has resulted in the killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers.

Trump has not spoken out against that strategy, and in their call he praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said, according to the transcript.

On his first foreign trip this week, Trump said during a speech in Saudi Arabia that his administration will not “lecture” foreign governments on human rights as the United States pursues partnerships to fight terrorism.

The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville’

If you think Jared Kushner is above twirly-mustache-rich-guy villainy, dig how his company does low-income housing.

Not only does the company file cases against them, it pursues the cases for as long as it takes to collect from the overmatched defendants — often several years. The court docket of JK2 Westminster’s case against Warren, for instance, spans more than three years and 112 actions — for a sum that amounts to maybe two days’ worth of billings for the average corporate law firm associate, from a woman who never even rented from JK2 Westminster. The pursuit is all the more remarkable given how transient the company’s prey tends to be. Hounding former tenants for money means paying to send out process servers who often report back that they were unable to locate the target. This does not deter Kushner Companies’ lawyers. They send the servers back out again a few months later.

The complex, like the others I saw, seemed designed to preclude neighborliness — most of the townhouses lack even the barest stoop to sit out on, and at least one complex has signs forbidding ball-playing (“violators will be prosecuted”). At another complex, kids had drawn a rectangle on the side of a storage shed in lieu of a hoop for their basketball game. The only meeting points at many of the complexes are the metal mailbox stands, the dumpsters and the laundry room. And the only thing that united many of the residents I spoke to, it seemed, was resentment of their landlord.

The worst troubles may have been those described in a 2013 court case involving Jasmine Cox’s unit at Cove Village. They began with the bedroom ceiling, which started leaking one day. Then maggots started coming out of the living room carpet. Then raw sewage started flowing out of the kitchen sink. “It sounded like someone turned a pool upside down,” Cox told me. “I heard the water hitting the floor and I panicked. I got out of bed and the sink is black and gray, it’s pooling out of the sink and the house smells terrible.”

Cox stopped cooking for herself and her son, not wanting food near the sink. A judge allowed her reduced rent for one month. When she moved out soon afterward, Westminster Management sent her a $600 invoice for a new carpet and other repairs.

Kafka in Vegas

In legal circles, prosecutorial misconduct is viewed by many as a pervasive problem — an “epidemic,” as one prominent federal judge called it in 2013. Jurisdictions large and small are riddled with corrupt practices. Misconduct lies behind more than half of all cases nationwide in which convicted defendants are ultimately exonerated, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Driven by a win-at-all-costs culture, such misbehavior is especially hard to root out because, many experts say, there’s little incentive to play by the rules. Appellate courts often sweep misconduct aside as harmless. Top prosecutors, burnishing their own careers, rarely punish underlings for it — and indeed they often flourish, going on to become judges reluctant to police their former peers. And the law gives prosecutors broad immunity from civil lawsuits, even when their bad behavior lands the wrong people in prison.

Unlike the better-known no-contest plea, in which a defendant accepts a conviction without admitting guilt, the Alford plea lets a defendant actually assert his innocence for the record. The defendant acknowledges that the state might be able to get a conviction despite his or her innocence. All but three states allow the plea, but the federal government says it should be used only in “the most unusual of circumstances.” The Alford plea is most often used in bargaining before a conviction, like a typical plea deal, and could very well be taken by guilty defendants who simply won’t own up to their crimes. How often it is offered and accepted, and by what sort of defendants, isn’t tracked. Many prominent legal scholars, such as Cornell law professor John Blume, contend that prosecutors are using the plea to quickly and quietly resolve newly challenged convictions. It’s undeniably coercive for a prosecutor to tell someone who has been in prison 5, 10, 20 years that “you don’t have to admit guilt, just sign this plea and we’ll let you go,” Blume said.

Lawrence English: Cruel Optimism

Today’s meditative soundtrack.

Regarding Trans* and Transgenderism

I didn’t write this essay to tell others what words they should or should not use. And I am fine with trans-related language gradually evolving over time. But I do wish that we (transgender/trans/trans* folks) would think more about the long-term ramifications before engaging in word-sabotage (e.g., trans* is the most inclusive, so therefore trans sans asterisk is exclusionary) and word-elimination (e.g., transgenderism is a slur, and trans* is inherently trans-misogynistic, so therefore we should all stop using these words). As I have shown, such arguments are arbitrary and ahistorical, as words are often used by different people in different ways, and may take on positive, negative, or neutral connotations depending on the context.

But more importantly, the people who use trans-related terminology the most (by far!) are other transgender/trans/trans* folks. And whether intentional or not, attempts to undermine some specific trans-related term will have the effect of undermining those transgender/trans/trans* individuals who use that term in their activism and/or to describe their experiences.

Time for Donald Trump to close, sell or restructure Kentucky

Further, if the GOP in Congress is serious about shrinking government, it shouldn’t be led by those whose states would be devastated by such shrinkage. As a first step, the Senate’s GOP members should remove McConnell as their majority leader. The private sector wouldn’t put a drug addict in charge of a pharmacy. Putting a representative from Kentucky — a state addicted to federal money — in charge of running the Senate seems an equally dubious choice.

Hate Mowing Your Lawn? Good! Don’t Do It.

The case against maintaining a “perfect” lawn.

Democrats are pushing an unlikely person — Jerry Springer — to run for governor in Ohio

Monkey see, monkey do.

Kevin L. Ferguson on art as continuum. Best thing I’ve read this month.

Unlike Shulman’s strange secrecy (his process actually sounds pretty simple), for me it is important to share both the intellectual context as well as the specific nuts-and-bolts of my process, so that others can make use of my work. In this way, sharing my method not only satisfies the most basic requirement of ethical participation in humanistic culture — citation and the acknowledgment of other artists — but also reflects an awareness of a scientific tradition of reproducibility and an intellectual commitment to sharing knowledge freely.

Whereas citation, context, and conversation are important to my work and teaching, the gallerist responded to my complaint with narrow, technical details of copyright law in order to protect her interest in running the show. In doing so, the gallery sacrificed an opportunity to engage with my work or to contextualize its artist’s work in a larger field, missing precisely the values and practices an art gallery should perform in the face of digitally-produced and disseminated work like my own. Rather than “exhibition and exploitation,” I had hoped for conversation and collaboration. But for the gallery, that kind of conversation is incompatible with a privileging of exploitation as a mode for producing and disseminating art.

Yowie: Synchromysticism

This bonkers Yowie record is tying my ears in knots and I am loving it.