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Links: February 2018

Hello dear reader!

February is gone, but its links remain.

My site was pretty quiet in February, up until yesterday when I published the final post in a series about the process behind my redesign. This one is about color, and the recent revelations I’ve had about how to work with it.

This month’s links have the usual range of topics, with the highlight for me being a treasure trove of interviews and demos on the set of Early Man, the newest stop-motion animated feature from Aardman Animations. As always, if you want to keep up with these links in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Concussion Protocol

By the end of the 2017–2018 season, more than 250 players in the National Football League will have sustained concussions. For this film, data artist Josh Begley tracked these injuries.

The Alt-Right Is Killing People

Unpacking the so-called alt-right’s growing body count.

Only one in five mass murderers are “likely psychotic or delusional,” however, according to Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at Columbia University.

Many are “wound collectors,” a term coined by former FBI agent Joe Navarro to describe, “individuals who go out of their way to collect social slights, historical grievances, injustices, unfair or disparate treatment or wrongs— whether real or imagined.”

“They wallow in the actual or often perceived transgressions of others and they allow sentiments of animosity and vengeance to percolate and froth at the surface by their constant and attentive nurturing of those perceived wounds,” Navarro explains. “As you can imagine, in an imperfect world where there are real injustices, where people make mistakes, and stupid things are said and done, the wound collector never has to go far to feel victimized.”

Quincy Jones on the Secret Michael Jackson and the Problem With Modern Pop

God walks out of the room when you’re thinking about money. You could spend a million dollars on a piano part and it won’t make you a million dollars back. That’s just not how it works.

You’re talking about business not music, but, and I mean this respectfully, don’t some of your thoughts about music fall under the category of “back in my day”?

Musical principles exist, man. Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man. Do these musicians know tango? Macumba? Yoruba music? Samba? Bossa nova? Salsa? Cha-cha?

Maybe not the cha-cha.

[Marlon] Brando used to go cha-cha dancing with us. He could dance his ass off. He was the most charming motherfucker you ever met. He’d fuck anything. Anything! He’d fuck a mailbox. James Baldwin. Richard Pryor. Marvin Gaye.

He slept with them? How do you know that?

[Frowns.] Come on, man. He did not give a fuck! You like Brazilian music?

Trump, Inc.

An engrossing new podcast from ProPublica and WNYC digging into the president’s opaque conflicts of interest.

American Mall

This game from Bloomberg is a fun way to learn about how and why retail is dying. Try to keep a mall in the black!

What I Learned from Watching My iPad’s Slow Death

My old digital camera doesn’t do what some new cameras do — but it’s still a camera. My iPad, by contrast, feels as though it has been abandoned from on high, cut loose from the cloud on which it depends.

It hasn’t been used up; it’s just too old. A pristine iPad from the same era, forgotten in a storeroom and never touched, would be equally useless.

As I did when I first got it, I still use my old iPad for passive consumption: reading, watching videos, checking feeds. My routine has barely changed, but one by one, formerly easy tasks have become strained. Social apps have become slow, videos take longer to load and Safari can’t seem to handle the most important and fundamental services of the modern web.

Dizzying Geometric Pies and Tarts by Lauren Ko

Everyone please continue making colorful geometric confections and I will continue admiring them.

Hero or hired gun? How a British former spy became a flash point in the Russia investigation.

Steele outlined his findings and the two men dissected the credibility of Steele’s information, including whether his sources could be leading him astray on purpose, Wood recalled. The conversation was anguished at times, he said.

“He wanted to share the burden a bit,” Wood said.

They concluded that Steele’s sources were speaking at considerable risk to themselves and had no discernible reason to deceive the small intelligence firm.

“You have to go through the intellectual process of deciding whether it was a complete con,” Wood said. “He was speaking like someone who believed what he was saying was soundly based.”

We all know why this review of David Duchovny’s album exists

The other difference is what you’re reading right now, a review of a famous actor’s album that is designed to attract one of two audiences: 1) those aforementioned diehards, who will show up to circle the wagons and lambast the reviewer for talking about everything but the music, then call out his self-evident bitterness, failed dreams, and myriad other reasons for not objectively, critically offering it unreserved praise; and 2) those driven by a semi-morbid curiosity, perhaps looking for a quick hit of schadenfreude and the reassurance that wealthy, famous, attractive people can’t be stars at everything. In some cases, that review may even supplant other actual, in-depth articles on more talented bands whose only real demerit is that they don’t have a TV star in them. The sad, mercenary truth at play is that this is just how it works. It’s the most extreme version of why the pageviews on a music review for someone you’ve already heard of will always be 10 times that of one for a more deserving, yet unknown artist. It’s why the comments for our monthly album previews inevitably have someone sneering, “You just made all these bands up.” It’s why you clicked. It is a mutually beneficial parasitic relationship, and it’s what keeps the celebrity band ecosystem humming.

Everything Easy is Hard Again

My knowledge and skills develop a bit, then things change, and half of what I know becomes dead weight. This hardly happens with any of the other work I do.

I wonder if I have twenty years of experience making websites, or if it is really five years of experience, repeated four times.

The new methods were invented to manage a level of complexity that is completely foreign to me and my work. It was easy to back away from most of this new stuff when I realized I have alternate ways of managing complexity. Instead of changing my tools or workflow, I change my design. It’s like designing a house so it’s easy to build, instead of setting up cranes typically used for skyscrapers.

Illegibility comes from complexity without clarity. I believe that the legibility of the source is one of the most important properties of the web. It’s the main thing that keeps the door open to independent, unmediated contributions to the network. If you can write markup, you don’t need Medium or Twitter or Instagram (though they’re nice to have). And the best way to help someone write markup is to make sure they can read markup.

Let’s be more like that tortoise: diligent, direct, and purposeful. The web needs pockets of slowness and thoughtfulness as its reach and power continues to increase. What we depend upon must be properly built and intelligently formed. We need to create space for complexity’s important sibling: nuance. Spaces without nuance tend to gravitate towards stupidity. And as an American, I can tell you, there are no limits to the amount of damage that can be inflicted by that dangerous cocktail of fast-moving-stupid.

The White House’s weekly ‘immigrant crime’ tally includes non-crimes and nonimmigrants

In 2016 there were 1.2 million violent crimes, or 23,077 a week. If that number held last week, the White House only found two crimes linked to immigrants in the country illegally, meaning native-born Americans committed the other 23,075.

What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn

Even as smartphones have made it easier for teenagers to watch porn, sex education in the United States — where abstinence-based sex education remains the norm — is meager. Massachusetts is among 26 states that do not mandate sex ed. And a mere 13 require that the material be medically and scientifically accurate. After some gains by the Obama administration to promote more comprehensive sex ed, which includes pregnancy prevention, discussions of anatomy, birth control, disease prevention, abstinence and healthy relationships, the Trump administration did not include the program in its proposed 2018 budget; it also has requested increased funding for abstinence education. Easy-to-access online porn fills the vacuum, making porn the de facto sex educator for American youth.

“This is the clitoris,” Alder went on. “This is where women get most pleasure. Most women do not have a G spot. If you want to know how to give a woman pleasure, it’s the clitoris.”

“Let’s move on,” Rothman said quietly. Alder had just inched across a line in which anatomy rested on one side and female desire and pleasure on the other. It was a reminder that as controversial as it is to teach kids about pornography, it can be more taboo to teach them how their bodies work sexually.

Adam Savage tours Aardman Animations

Adam giddily interviews staff on the set of Aardman’s new stop-motion feature film, Early Man. I could watch these conversations all day, and there is nearly enough material to do so!

The Cramps Play a Mental Hospital in Napa, California in 1978

The Gun Thing

Eddie Izzard on guns, 19 years ago.

No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong.

Ugh. Why undermine the case against guns with misleading stats when the actual stats are already beyond horrific?

The Good Room

I think a lot of the anxiety we can feel from technology comes from that passive relationship alongside its speed. Look at cable news or your social media feeds. All day long, we’re having absurd novelty, enviable affluence, and sincere tragedy and distress sandwiched together and railgunned into our face. A book offers some necessary composure and consistency to help find our bearings in a world oriented toward violent delivery.

technology’s influence is not a problem to solve through dominance; it’s a situation to navigate through clear goals and critical thinking. Attentiveness is key. Technological adoption can’t be on auto-complete.

Vaguely stated needs lead to bad decisions, so saying you want convenience, amusement, or productivity from technology isn’t enough. Convenience to invest the time where? Productive to what end? Everything we take in comes at the cost of something else, so it’s best to think it through and be sure it is a good deal. There are now so few benefits to early adoption.

Meeting Design

This new book by Kevin Hoffman promises to be excellent, and I love Matt Sutter’s illustrations.

Railway Logos

Collected by Reagan Ray.

The Boys Are Not All Right

Here’s Michael Ian Black succinctly and eloquently making an extremely important point about our broken masculinity.

Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others. They are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.

Men feel isolated, confused and conflicted about their natures. Many feel that the very qualities that used to define them — their strength, aggression and competitiveness — are no longer wanted or needed; many others never felt strong or aggressive or competitive to begin with. We don’t know how to be, and we’re terrified.

But to even admit our terror is to be reduced, because we don’t have a model of masculinity that allows for fear or grief or tenderness or the day-to-day sadness that sometimes overtakes us all.

Selfishness Is Killing Liberalism

John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” is the closest thing liberalism has to a founding tract. Mill set out to explain why it was in the interest of society in general to give individuals the greatest possible right to speak and act as they wish. Individuals, that is, do not have some kind of “natural right” to free speech independent from its social value. Rather, he wrote, mankind is fallible; our saving grace is that our errors are “corrigible.” We acknowledge our fallibility by listening to those with whom we disagree, and testing our ideas against the strongest possible counter-argument. Only thus do we have a chance of approximating, if not actually reaching, the truth.

Read today, this passage sounds as archaic as the chivalric code. In our own world, after all, free speech abounds while the intellectual habits that make free speech actually matter degenerate. The rhetoric of “fake news” turns different sides of the political debate into rival camps, each encased in its own cognitive bubble. In The Open Society, written in the heyday of Nazi Germany, Karl Popper described irrationalism as the sine qua non of the totalitarian state. Popper and Mill compel us to ask an epistemological question: How can the quintessentially rationalist faith of liberalism flourish in an age that systematically demeans rationality?

I doubt whether the near-obsession with identity issues can be uprooted from the heart of the Democratic Party. But liberalism’s appeal has always sprung from its commitment to the language of collective interest—the language of “we.” This offers liberalism a platform very different from the insistent “I” of conservatism, and the “they” of populism—the not-us, whether elites or their clients. One way of thinking about the choice liberals face is this: At a moment of intense polarization, they must either return to the old “we” or deploy their own version of “us and them.”

I don’t know which is the shorter path to political victory. But if Mill and Popper were right about liberalism’s foundation in reason and science, and if Isaiah Berlin was right in thinking that liberal democracy depends upon a skeptical “pluralism” about basic goods, then liberalism simply cannot survive the violent division that now afflicts our culture. Intellectual polarization follows, and reinforces, social polarization. It is in the interest of liberals to take seriously the dictum of Lincoln that a house divided cannot stand.

What would it mean to address the sense of grievance that cost Hillary Clinton the election? Doing so requires liberals to find ways of buffering the effects of the globalization of jobs and products and people, without surrendering to Trump’s xenophobia and isolationism. And it requires addressing the issue of inequality, which Donald Trump exploited and then abandoned once he reached the White House, without declaring a self-defeating jihad against Wall Street and corporate America.

There is, in fact, no sharper difference between left-liberalism and right-liberalism than the estate tax, with its implicit principle that privilege ought not be transmitted generationally. There is no better rebuttal of Deneen’s contempt for liberalism. And there is no better way of standing up against the power of money in politics, the great theme that brought Bernie Sanders to the brink of the Democratic nomination. No less important, the willingness of the left, unlike the right, to gore its own ox might demonstrate to hard-pressed Americans that the liberal elite understands, as it once understood, the meaning of sacrifice.

But do liberals understand sacrifice? Liberalism did grave damage to its reputation in the 1960s by demanding real sacrifices from ordinary people and very little from elites, whose children were not the ones being bused to inner-city schools, nor drafted and sent off to fight in Vietnam. Has anything changed today? So many of the things liberals favor—globalization, a generous immigration policy, an increase in the minimum wage, affirmative action—do them real good and little harm, while impinging, or at least seeming to impinge, on Americans a few steps down the ladder. What do liberals favor that’s good for America broadly but not good for them? Still thinking?

This is not a problem for conservatives, who believe in the social value of selfishness. But liberals fancy themselves idealists. They need to prove it by pulling themselves off their perch.

Using a Git Repo to create a physical document of the work

I love how Brendan Dawes documents his creative process in small books compiling Git commits, screenshots, and more.

Worst Roommate Ever

I’ve never had a complete stranger for a roommate, and I think I’ll stay the course.

Why Ancient Greek Sculptures Have Small Penises

In this way, satyrs, fools, and foes served as foils to male gods and heroes, who were honored for their self-control and intelligence (along with other qualities requiring restraint, like loyalty and prudence). If large phalluses represented gluttonous appetites, then “the conclusion can be drawn that the small, flaccid penis represented self-control,” explains Lear.

As Lear suggests, this might hint at why artists of the age depicted male nudes so often, even when a character or narrative might not require it. “They used the penis as an index of character,” explains Lear. “It said something.”