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Links: November 2017

Hello, dear reader!

November is gone, but its links remain.

Most of my writing energy this month went toward a post about the typography and spatial relationships underpinning my site’s recent redesign. I also wrote a handful of film reviews, the most substantial of which outlines my disappointment with the ambitious Loving Vincent, an animated film made from thousands of oil paintings.

Unsurprisingly, a fair amount of this month’s links are devoted to thinking through the current wave of sexual misconduct allegations sweeping Hollywood, politics, and the media, but there’s plenty else if you need a break from that. As always, if you want to keep up with these links in real time, follow me on Twitter.


Halloween’s over, but stay spooky with David Peacock’s piano arrangement of Disasterpeace’s It Follows theme. I also like the album art by Nicolas Menard, who made one of my favorite films at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Chris Brown’s new album has 45 tracks. That’s how you climb the charts in the streaming era.

Music Is Great, the Music Industry Is Not Great, Exhibit 14,385c.

The Things I Shrugged Off Then, Horrify Me Now

I don’t know how to change centuries of conditioning. How to make men see women as peers. To let us just do our jobs. But maybe acknowledging that we live in a culture that doesn’t do that, is a start. I’m a radio host now. I believe strongly in the power of conversation. It is incumbent on everyone to talk about this.

Is Disney paying its share in Anaheim? The money battle outside the Happiest Place on Earth

“You have one of the most sophisticated corporate entities around negotiating with a small, capacity-constrained local government,” said Stuart Gabriel, director of the Ziman Center for Real Estate at UCLA. “There is an imbalance of sophistication, an imbalance of power and an imbalance of resources.”

Creutz, the Cowen & Co. analyst, said it more plainly: “It is management’s job to extract as much money as they can. It’s — I guess — the City Council’s job to give as little money as they can. Whether a City Council is as well-equipped to do their job … that’s another question.”

But critics note that the $1 ticket tax that had long been discussed in civic circles would be less than 1% of Disneyland’s regular adult price of admission, which is now $110. Since 2007, that price has risen 67% — and attendance has soared over the same period.

“This just took ‘tax the tourists’ off the table for 45 years.… The people have a right to decide that. Not three people up here tonight, at 12:45 a.m., with a whole lot of political pressure,” said Tait, resignation evident in his voice. “This just shouldn’t happen. And for that reason, I am going to vote no. And I think, down the road, people will rue this day.”

How one election changed Disneyland’s relationship with its hometown

Even though Anaheim is 53% Hispanic, only three Latinos had served on the council in the city’s history as of 2012, according to the ACLU lawsuit that brought about the election change. Over the years, many council members have come from Anaheim Hills, a tony, largely white section of the city dotted with planned neighborhoods. Disney supported the move to districts, but council members it has backed, including Murray, did not.

A day before the election, a news release sent to area media outlets detailed a 2016 misdemeanor domestic violence case involving Moreno’s brother-in-law. The news release was sent by strategic planning firm Communications LAB, an Orange company under contract with the city of Anaheim to provide “policy aide” services to Councilwoman Murray. The firm also has ties to Disney — it names Disneyland Resort as a past client, and one of its senior executives, who also serves as Murray’s aide, is married to a Disney employee.

“As a political tactic — beyond the pale,” Moreno said of the news release. “It had nothing to do with the issues we were running on.”

Communications LAB executive David Cordero said that the work was done on a pro bono basis at the request of the ex-wife of Moreno’s brother-in-law.

“The firm was not paid for its assistance nor was the effort related to any candidate, campaign or PAC,” he said.

Could this claim possibly be any more preposterous?

Sensations of Sound: On Deafness and Music

The new contrast I’d found, between the thrill of sound and the relief of silence, showed me something that I had perhaps known for my entire life, but had never been able to articulate. Music was not just about sound. It never had been. Music, to me, also was, and is, about the body, about what happens when what we call sound escapes its vacuum and creates ripples in the world.

Not only does music ingrain itself in our bodies in ways beyond simply the auditory, it also becomes more remarkable once it does.

Spotify’s Discover Weekly: How machine learning finds your new music

A nice overview of Spotify’s engineering magic.

Why Movie-Ticket Surge Pricing Is a Bad Idea

Movies Are Great, the Movie Industry Is Not Great, Exhibit 12,918b.

A Second Look at the Steele Dossier—Knowing What We Know Now

When disseminating a raw intelligence report, an intelligence agency is not vouching for the accuracy of the information provided by the report’s sources and/or subsources. Rather it is claiming that it has made strenuous efforts to validate that it is reporting accurately what the sources/subsources claim has happened. The onus for sorting out the veracity and for putting the reporting in context against other reporting – which may confirm or deny the new report – rests with the intelligence community’s professional analytic cadre.

While the reluctance of the media to speculate as to the value of the report is understandable, professional intelligence analysts and investigators do not have the luxury of simply dismissing the information. They instead need to do all they can to put it into context, determine what appears credible, and openly acknowledge the gaps in understanding so that collectors can seek additional information that might help make sense of the charges.

One clue as to the credibility of the sources in these reports is that Steele shared them with the FBI. The fact that the FBI reportedly sought to work with him and to pay him to develop additional information on the sources suggest that at least some of them were worth taking seriously. At the very least, the FBI will be able to validate the credibility of the sources, and therefore better judge the information. As one recently retired senior intelligence officer with deep experience in espionage investigations quipped, “I assign more credence to the Steele report knowing that the FBI paid him for his research. From my experience, there is nobody more miserly than the FBI. If they were willing to pay Mr. Steele, they must have seen something of real value.”

does any of the information we have learned since June 2016 assign greater or less credibility to the information? Were the people mentioned in the report real? Were their affiliations correct? Did any of the activities reported happen as predicted?

To a large extent, yes.

one large portion of the dossier is crystal clear, certain, consistent and corroborated. Russia’s goal all along has been to do damage to America and our leadership role in the world. Also, the methods described in the report fit the Russians to a tee. If the remainder of the report is largely true, Russia has a powerful weapon to help achieve its goal. Even if it is largely false, the Kremlin still benefits from the confusion, uncertainty and political churn created by the resulting fallout. In any regard, the Administration could help cauterize the damage by being honest, transparent and assisting those looking into the matter. Sadly, the President has done the opposite, ensuring a Russian win no matter what.

The Architecture of Graphic Design’s Discourse

If graphic designers and architects are writing about the same fundamental process from different angles, do graphic designers have an advantage because they move through that process more quickly? More complete cycles mean more opportunity for insight. By this logic, graphic designers should be viewed as the theoreticians of the design disciplines. Yet, by and large, we are not.

At the end of each episode of Scratching the Surface, Fuller asks his interviewees what they wish graphic designers were writing about. Not one of them has called for more critiques of recently launched branding.

It’s also worth noting that reading about theory and writing about theory impact the growth of a practice differently. Reading expands awareness, broadens definitions, and draws connections across space and time. Writing excavates thinking, defines perspectives, and brings patterns into focus.

Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway.

It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him. It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether.

For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.

The NFL?

“Niggers for life,” Schilling said.

“For life,” McCabe added.

How Trump Brought the Political Media Class to Its Knees

“The briefings are more defense than explanation. That’s my understanding of how they are viewed as a tool.”

But, for the American public, trying to make sense of the most disruptive moment in American politics since Vietnam and Watergate, little is accomplished. The oxygen rush of the “news of the day”—and the constant need to get the White House to respond to what just happened—has always fueled the Washington press. It’s a bad habit that’s become a crisis under an administration that has perfected the art of the dodge and cares little about helping news organizations inform their audiences. Getting answers on the news of the day checks a box. Getting answers on what happened a month ago takes hard work.

“In a news environment where there are dozens of stories a week that would’ve been front-page news five years ago, and in which the White House is actively advancing misinformation because they see the press as their enemy, using your platform at the White House briefing to simply ask them their opinion on the last thing that happened is asinine,” said Tim Miller, Jeb Bush’s former communications director who now carries a torch for the scattered remnants of the #NeverTrump movement. “This is a strategy that made sense when there was one news cycle a day, when you needed a bite for the nightly news that everyone watched, and when you knew that the White House at least attempted to provide answers somewhere in the ballpark of reality. None of those things are the case in 2017.”

Pew looked into what the mainstream media covered in the first four months of the Trump administration, analyzing over 3,000 stories from 24 different news organizations including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Politico, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and others. The most covered topic? The president’s “political skills.”

A grand total of 39 other topics—including women’s rights, poverty, civil rights, and the war in Afghanistan—garnered barely a mention, making up less than 4 percent of coverage. What’s even more depressing: actual American citizens made up only 5 percent of the people interviewed for these stories. The rest were Trump officials, members of Congress, “experts” and other journalists. The study is a grim reminder than Washington is obsessed with itself, to the detriment of the public.

The posture of the political journalist has devolved from skepticism into outright cynicism at almost every turn, no matter which party is being scrutinized. This battlefield only helps Trump, because it turns everyone off to the process. And when the public loses interest, people in power have a field day.

Cheap Tricks: The Low Cost of Internet Harassment

email bombing is a perfect parable for 2017, a time in which we appear to be collectively losing faith in the promise of the internet. For the first 20 years of this new communications medium, it seemed to hold out the promise of fostering democracy and shifting the balance of power from the powerful to the masses. In recent years, though, a depressing realization has taken hold: The internet is fragile and easily exploited by hackers, trolls, criminals, creepy corporations and oppressive governments.

Something is wrong on the internet

This is content production in the age of algorithmic discovery — even if you’re a human, you have to end up impersonating the machine.

Other channels do away with the human actors to create infinite reconfigurable versions of the same videos over and over again. What is occurring here is clearly automated. Stock animations, audio tracks, and lists of keywords being assembled in their thousands to produce an endless stream of videos.

The internet has a way of amplifying and enabling many of our latent desires; in fact, it’s what it seems to do best. I spend a lot of time arguing for this tendency, with regards to human sexual freedom, individual identity, and other issues. Here, and overwhelmingly it sometimes feels, that tendency is itself a violent and destructive one.

A friend who works in digital video described to me what it would take to make something like this: a small studio of people (half a dozen, maybe more) making high volumes of low quality content to reap ad revenue by tripping certain requirements of the system (length in particular seems to be a factor). According to my friend, online kids’ content is one of the few alternative ways of making money from 3D animation because the aesthetic standards are lower and independent production can profit through scale. It uses existing and easily available content (such as character models and motion-capture libraries) and it can be repeated and revised endlessly and mostly meaninglessly because the algorithms don’t discriminate — and neither do the kids.

These videos, wherever they are made, however they come to be made, and whatever their conscious intention (i.e. to accumulate ad revenue) are feeding upon a system which was consciously intended to show videos to children for profit. The unconsciously-generated, emergent outcomes of that are all over the place.

The Making of an American Nazi

I’ve read many profiles of the various unsavory characters whose repellent views and/or cynical opportunism have gained them notoriety in the charged political atmosphere of the last few years. This one may be the most disturbing, and it’s also the one that best crystallizes the link between America’s mental health failings and its extremists.

In recent years, psychologists have found a powerful connection between trolling and what’s known as the “dark tetrad” of personality traits: psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. The first two traits are significant predictors of trolling behavior, and all four traits correlate with enjoyment of trolling. Research published in June by Natalie Sest and Evita March, two Australian scholars, shows that trolls tend to be high in cognitive empathy, meaning they can understand emotional suffering in others, but low in affective empathy, meaning they don’t care about the pain they cause. They are, in short, skilled and ruthless manipulators.

Anglin hadn’t been to the polls in years, but he wasn’t going to miss a chance to vote for Trump. His absentee ballot arrived in Ohio from Krasnodar, a city in southwest Russia near the Black Sea, according to Franklin County records. That the Russian government wouldn’t know about an American inside its borders publishing a major neo-Nazi website seems improbable.

At times while tracking Anglin, I couldn’t help but feel that he was a method actor so committed and demented, on such a long and heavy trip, that he’d permanently lost himself in his role. I thought of a quote from Kurt Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Like so many emotionally damaged young men, Anglin had chosen to be someone, or something, bigger than himself on the internet, something ferocious to cover up the frailty he couldn’t abide in himself. Fantasy overtook reality, and now he couldn’t escape.

Use Regular Expressions to Return to 140 Character Tweets

Apparently Tweetbot mute filters can take regular expressions! I just zapped the 280 scourge from my timeline.

Why All the Comedy Men Are So Awful

No one takes himself more seriously than a comedian. The industry is still mostly a tribal boy’s club where the boys involved treat ANY criticism as a constraint on their precious freedom to “workshop” bad jokes.

It’s time for comedians to get over themselves, because this job is not some glorious exercise in free speech. It’s just a laugh hunt, and I never wanna hear another goddamn hint about how it’s anything more than that. Because that’s when it becomes a bunch of weak men finding ways to excuse their weakness, failing to realize that it’s 2017 and a lot of their bullshit isn’t funny anymore, and that they aren’t the only people who get to be angry.

‘Comfort Woman’ Memorial Statues, A Thorn In Japan’s Side, Now Sit On Korean Buses

But Japan wants these statues to come down. Some in the country’s ruling party have questioned whether the war-era imperial government was really involved in the sex slave program — or, as they contend, the women volunteered.

Dudden points out that while the U.S. and other countries debate whether to take down monuments to participants in or perpetrators of war, Japan is doing something different.

“It remains only Japan that is seeking to remove a statue of a victim. Politically speaking, there’s just no winning in that,” Dudden says.

An ‘Uber for buses’ startup is launching an ICO to end tipping as you know it — and it’s already raised $6 million

Hey Kudos Project, what exactly is the difference between tips and “performance-driven rewards”? Nothing like “solving” a problem by moving it to blockchain and ignoring what actually makes it a problem. Living wage? What’s that? See also: Wealth Inequality Is Even Worse in Reputation Economies

Your company’s Slack is probably sexist

In general, Herring found, the women cared about politeness far more than men did. “What men really value, according to the study, is [not being] censored,” says Herring. “They perceive even politeness norms as a kind of censorship.”

“Already as toddlers, the idea that girls should take others’ feelings and desires into consideration before speaking or acting has formed,” says Herring. “And for boys, conflict isn’t just okay, it’s encouraged.” That’s why men are more likely to make declarative statements (using “boosters” like “always,” “definitely,” and “obviously”) to strengthen their assertiveness, while women often use “hedges” (words like “perhaps,” “might,” and “I think”) to soften statements into suggestions.

As countless studies have shown, women use exclamation points, emoticons, and emoji more—and more supportively (think: smileys, laughing smileys, and hearts)—than men. These images are the digital nods and smiles—the emotional labor women have long-internalized.

Women tend to use conversation to maintain and build relationships, while men use it to exchange and display knowledge, says Deborah Tannen, a linguist, and the author of Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work. When Tannen implanted herself at various organizations, she noticed that men and women both use small talk to build friendships, but the topics differ: Women often discuss their personal lives, thoughts, and relationships, while men rely on playful insults and joking. The two tactics don’t always mix well.

“Women’s friendly, personal communication struck many men as a waste of time,” says Tannen. But what men miss is that such discourse isn’t just friendly—it’s strategic. “It keeps lines of communication open for women so they can call on colleagues for work when they need it,” says Tannen, “as it’s easier to receive help from someone you’re already friendly with.”

Meanwhile, women often took men’s insults and banter literally. “A man’s retorts were seen as evidence that he thought an idea was seriously flawed, or that he doesn’t like the person he’s arguing with,” she says. “But for many men, challenging ideas is sign of respect and playful insults are a sign of friendship.”

The myth of the male bumbler

Charlie Rose: “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.” There’s a pattern here.

The world baffles the bumbler. He’s astonished to discover that he had power over anyone at all, let alone that he was perceived as using it. What power? he says. Who, me?

How many deliberate, premeditated lies, how many carefully set traps, how many instances of deceit do we need before we can admit that men are every bit as duplicitous and two-faced as women are suspected of being? That harassment is not an accident? That predation requires planning? That this gigantic apparatus through which women’s careers are destroyed and men’s are preserved isn’t just happenstance?

This is how the culture attempts to normalize this stuff: by minimizing the damage to women and the agency of men.

To put it in pragmatic terms: You can be a bumbler, or you can keep your job. You can’t have both.

Trumpism Works Better Without Trump

“The major danger of Bevin, in my opinion, is that he is just like Trump in that he has no affection whatsoever for the structures and norms of government,” said Kahne. “I still see most GOP candidates running as ‘politicians’ — Ed Gillespie, Kim Guadagno, most of the House candidates that have won special elections. “But we’ve seen a few, especially in deeper red states, that have taken up the mantle of running against the political system as a whole, like [Alabama U.S. Senate candidate] Roy Moore. If that’s a winning strategy, it could destabilize our entire governmental system.

I’d say that’s bad, but there are plenty of people on the left and right who would not,” Kahne added.

There’s a pretty good chance that Trump is the American president in 2021 and consolidating power like Bevin has in Kentucky. But I think there is an even better chance that Trump-style politics endures in America, and potentially returns to the Oval Office with a better practitioner.

How to Get Your Mind to Read

“Write for your audience” means, in part, gambling on what they know.

What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?

Look, I don’t get to go around feeling connected to humanity all the time. It’s a rare pleasure. And I’m supposed to give it up just because Woody Allen misbehaved? It hardly seems fair.

There are many qualities one must possess to be a working writer or artist. Talent, brains, tenacity. Wealthy parents are good. You should definitely try to have those. But first among equals, when it comes to necessary ingredients, is selfishness. A book is made out of small selfishnesses. The selfishness of shutting the door against your family. The selfishness of ignoring the pram in the hall. The selfishness of forgetting the real world to create a new one. The selfishness of stealing stories from real people. The selfishness of saving the best of yourself for that blank-faced anonymous paramour, the reader. The selfishness that comes from simply saying what you have to say.

I have to wonder: maybe I’m not monstrous enough. I’m aware of my own failings as a writer—indeed I know the list to a fare-thee-well, and worse are the failures that I know I’m failing to know— but a little part of me has to ask: if I were more selfish, would my work be better? Should I aspire to greater selfishness?

She mentioned a short story she’d just written and published.

“Oh, you mean the most recent occasion for your abandoning me and the kids?” asked the very smart, very charming husband.

The wife had been a monster, monster enough to finish the work. The husband had not.

This is what female monstrousness looks like: abandoning the kids. Always.

Hemingway’s girlfriend, the writer Martha Gellhorn, didn’t think the artist needed to be a monster; she thought the monster needed to make himself into an artist. “A man must be a very great genius to make up for being such a loathsome human being.” (Well, I guess she would know.) She’s saying if you’re a really awful person, you are driven to greatness in order to compensate the world for all the awful shit you are going to do to it. In a way, this is a feminist revision of all of art history; a history she turns with a single acid, brilliant line into a morality tale of compensation.

The Hammer Frankensteins

Here’s The Completist living up to its name with a thorough dissection of Hammer Films’ Frankenstein franchise.

Why Is HBO Showing Airplane Edits of These Movies?

HBO’s decision to intentionally display films incorrectly isn’t just troubling; it’s downright confusing, and it makes me wonder if the network’s aspect ratio department is actually run by my mom’s boyfriend.

Andrew W.K. Details New Album ‘You’re Not Alone’

Whatever terrible things await in the next few months, the new Andrew W.K. album art will get me through.