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Friday Five: August 18, 2017
First, I would be remiss to not write briefly about the events that took place last weekend. The reaction by those who hold political power has been unsettling to say the least. To stay silent in the face of evil is to take the side of the oppressor. It might be just as bad to condemn “both sides.” It is on us now to confront those who seek to spread their corrupt thinking. I ask that you speak out against hate, bigotry, and white supremacy. Protect those who are being targeted and find ways to be a better ally. Confront those who belittle the issue, or act as if it is a fringe event. There should be no bystanders to this.
There were plenty of great pieces written in reaction to the events of last weekend, here are a few:
Love Needs Fury to Defeat Hate
Charlottesville and the Bigotocracy
The Other Inconvenient Truth
The United States Was Never Immune to Fascism
Or watch the VICE News piece ‘Charlottesville: Race and Terror’
Wired profiles Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom as he continues to lead the company on their mission to scrounge their service of bullying and harassing comments. The issues of online comments probably date back to the first time they were added to a site. The ability to hide behind an untraceable account gives trolls a platform for targeting individuals. As more and more people use social media services like Instagram, the amount of unsavory commentary increases alongside it. Systrom has been leading a team who are using machine learning to scrub comments as they’re posted, but some worry about the side effects this might have.
Related: The Mental Health Effects of Smartphone Addiction
The late great purple one got an unexpected memorial earlier this week. Pantone issued a standardized custom color in collaboration with Prince’s estate to be used for any official Prince business. For an artist so long associated with the color, it is a pretty fitting recognition.
James Poniewozik wrote about his favorite scene from Freaks and Geeks, and dissects how it captures the setting of small-town America at the time so well. It’s a great breakdown of the elements of the scene, and the show at large, that gave me a refreshed appreciation of the series.
A while ago I linked to an article written by Damon Krukowski in the Paris Review about analog noise in music. Well Krukowski went from writing a book about music technologies to now making a podcast about music technologies. It kind of makes sense though, what better way to discuss the qualities of audio than through an audio format? Ways of Hearing is the first show from Radiotopia’s ‘Showcase’ series, a kind of mini-series production of a show rather than full on seasons. It’s been interesting to watch podcasts sort out how to approach things like series, seasons, and episodic material. It wasn’t really until Serial that any podcast company really considering breaking the traditional format, but once the walls came down it feels like more and more shows are trying interesting things.
Friday Five: August 11, 2017
Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story from last week was a profile on Patrick and John Collison, the two brothers who founded a company called Stripe. If you’ve bought something online recently, you’ve probably used Stripe without even realizing. They created the software that lots of other companies use to process credit card payments online. The profile paints them as a story of Winklevoss Twins gone right, they’re well read and in shape, running marathons while getting into MIT at 16, and so on. Nevertheless, the story provides an interesting look at one of the small-margin but highly contested marketplaces online.
If you’ve shopped at Trader Joe’s long enough, you start to notice something weird. Trader Joe’s is very, like very, secretive about where they source their products. It kind of become a thing over the past couple of years. So, Eater did what any crafty journalist looking for more information in 2017 would do, they filed a FOIA request. (Quick aside, FOIA is the common abbreviation for the Freedom of Information Act, which in post a post 9/11 United States allows private individuals to request DoJ files on a wide range of subjects that are subject to redaction or outright denial.) With the information provided, Eater can tell you exactly what non-Trader Joe’s brand name version of some of their most popular products are. It provides a very interesting look into the way the company operates and the industry of repackaging foods and goods.
When Chelsea Manning’s sentenced was communed by President Obama, one of the rumors swirling around the media industry was that Anna Wintour was interested in featuring Chelsea in a photoshoot. It turns out, that rumor has become fact. The latest issue of Vogue features a profile on post military prison life for Manning, accompanied by photos shot by the legendary Annie Leibovitz.
It’s long been a topic in tech circles that Facebook and Google end up having a chilling effect on innovation from smaller companies and individuals. The realization that if you want to make an app, you either have to be bigger than Facebook (or any other big tech company, but for the sake of the article we’re talking about Facebook) or have enough users that they end up acquiring your app. The Wall Street Journal tells the story of Houseparty, a simple multi-user video chat platform, and what they face going up against the biggest social media network in the world.
A well-to-do private boy’s school in Toronto wanted to teach their students about their own privilege. At a school with an “elite” reputation and $30,000 annual fees, using one of the most parent-feared video games as a teaching mechanism certainly isn’t traditional thinking. The teachers leading the program hoped that by playing the game through an educational perspective, the students could learn about race, sex, violence, and more, while seeing the irony and humor that GTA5 is written for which is often missed by younger players. Instead, quite worryingly, some younger players might take the lessons laid out by the game as literal, that gun violence and explosions are a quick solve to any problem and when the police come after you just drive faster. It’s an interesting look at how to use one of the most popular games to teach a lesson.
Friday Five: August 4th, 2017
Maybe you’ve heard of Patreon. Maybe a smaller podcast or blog you follow uses the platform to cover costs, or maybe a musician you’re a fan of uses it to fund a tour. Patreon quickly become the platform of choice for indie creatives. Unlike Kickstarter, which focuses on the idea of funding a single project and then the contract between the backer and the creator is done, Patreon is built around the idea of an audience of patrons providing monthly support directly to creatives. Adi Robertson for The Verge took a deep dive into the history of the platform. On the other side of the coin, Pateron has also become a safe space for “erotic” artists too. (NSFW: nipples and censor bars)
Remember when we were younger, probably in your early teens? Probably around the time you heard Hendrix or Led Zeppelin for the first time. That was the time when you said you’d never work in a cubicle or wear a tie to work. Well, c’est la vie, right? Franz Nicolay followed the rise and fall of the often thrown around term “sellout.” What exactly does it mean to sellout in 2017 anyway? Now that anyone can be discovered on the internet and made into an instant celebrity (lest we forget that Bieber was discovered as a dancer on YouTube originally) the term has almost lost it’s meaning. Is it selling out to make a full living as a musician? Can any musical act really provide for themselves on the pennies-per-stream they might be earning? If I was a musician and someone offered me a boatload of money to use my song in a Super Bowl commercial, I’d imagine anyone would have a hard time saying no.
Nobody would’ve guessed the story that would have media-twitter at each other’s throats this week would be about a bodega sandwich. It’s not even a chop cheese this time, either. Sadie Stein wrote a rather nostalgic piece for the New York Times about the buttered roll, a staple of probably every bodega in the five boroughs, and definitely of every breakfast cart in Manhattan. Where’s the slight, you ask? Stein specifically said that the Buttered Roll isn’t found outside of the greater New York City area, with the exception of areas where you find lots of NYC expats. Wherever you fall on that argument aside, it’s an interesting look at an unassuming workingman’s breakfast.
You know those pictures of those oh so perfect desk set ups with those plants placed just perfectly so? Siobhan Leddy thinks they’re kind of bullshit. In a world where more and more creatives are working on a freelance basis (the rise of the dreaded “gig economy” will inevitably be the death of us all), there is also a rise in these aspirational images. As I’ve been shifting from working a permalance gig out of an ad agency into freelancing, the one thing I’ve found myself missing from it all was the anchor of having a desk. It not only allows you to actually physically separate your work from your home, but gives a mental landmark for that same mode. Now, I mostly work out of my living room, sitting on the couch with my feet propped up on the coffee table. Not to say that I’m not more comfortable, but my coffee and water and notes spread around me isn’t as idyllic as the internet might make the “freelance lifestyle” out to be.
I never got into Nine Inch Nails. I’m familiar enough to recognize what they sound like, Trent Reznor’s singing is unique unto itself, but I don’t think I could sing a chorus to any of their bigger songs. I took a dive into their catalogue while reading this interview between David Marchese and Reznor and it provided an interesting background to the conversation they were having. The interview covers everything from teen angst, music in the age of social media, shock value, and Reznor’s personal views on the way the music industry is heading. For someone who seemingly doesn’t give a lot of interviews, he has a lot to say. It’s not necessarily pessimistic, but Reznor pulls no punches on what he sees as the amount of disposability of some music and musicians today. Luckily, he also points out that rock’s not dead. So at least we’ve got that.
Friday Five: July 28, 2017
Okay, so it’s been a hell of a week here in the U.S. so I’m going to break format a little bit. I’ll preface this by saying that next week (barring a major political incident) I won’t post anything politics related.
Early this morning, by the skin of their teeth, the senate rejected the “skinny repeal” of the ACA, more commonly know as Obamacare. While McCain’s loud “no” vote will be the one making headlines, senators Susan Connors of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the other two no votes that cost the GOP their majority. The repeal, which was written with the intention that after getting passed over to the House it would get cleaned up before being signed into law (on some sort of handshake verbal agreement between Senate and House republicans) would have left millions uninsured, more or less outlawed Planned Parenthood, and driven up insurance premiums at an estimated $20 million per year. The repeal bill was seemingly written around noon, and introduced at 10:30 PM without any plan to open the floor for comment or questions from the opposition. I went on a bit of a Twitter tear after the actual language of the bill was released along with the plan in place to push it through
All of the healthcare drama came hot on the heels of everyones favorite new political meme, after Anthony Scaramucci had a rather off-the-cuff discussion with Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker. While we should never forget the Trump/Billy Bush tape, the more than colorful language of Scaramucci only adds to the legacy of profanity coming from the current administration. I never thought I’d see the day when major news sources had to grapple with the appropriate way to correctly cover the quote:
“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”
There’s one other political flashpoint I feel obliged to comment on. On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted out his intention to bar transgender people from serving in our military. This idea is nothing short of un-American at it’s core and a direct attack at the LGBQT+ community at large. By simply existing in public transgender people display more courage and bravery than most just by stepping out their front door every day. To seek to take away the right of those who choose to serve on behalf of a country that seeks to humiliate and dehumanize them is cowardly at best. The idea that transgendered people in the military would place a financial or operational burden on our armed forces is a fallacy skewed by the perspective of those in power. America operates the wealthiest military on the planet, and the estimated cost of medically supporting the thousands of transgendered troops currently enlisted is less than a quarter of a percent of the US Armed Forces budget. This plan by Trump was made without the consultation or knowledge of those who lead our military, and is a divisive political move to sway voters. It is inexcusable to target a population this way for the sake of political gains. The outpouring of support that was shown for the LGBQT+ community only shows that Trump picked on the wrong group. I’d be remiss to not note that as of today, the Pentagon continues to state that they are not changing any policies regarding transgendered individuals serving in the militar and are awaiting further instruction from the White House.
Some links for further reading, if you’re inclined:
A mother speaks on the photo of her and her transgender son at the Texas state capitol:
“There are plenty of days when I ask myself whether I’m a good mom, but this was not one of them.”
Chelsea Manning on Trump’s plan:
“This is about bias and prejudice. This is about systemic discrimination. Like the integration of people of color and women in the past, this was a sign of progress that threatens the social order, and the president is reacting against that progress.”
And a brief followup from last week’s link on corruption in Pakistan:
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered the removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Friday Five: July 21, 2017
Calibri, most famous for being the default font in Outlook and Word, is at the center of a corruption scandal in Pakistan. The Wikipedia page for the font has been locked, which if you know anything about how the Wikipedia community operates, is kind of a big deal. The short story of it is that a document leaked in the Panama Papers last year linked the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s daughter to the offshore firm from which the files were leaked. The Pakistani government then surfaced a (allegedly doctored) 2006 report, written in Calibri, stating that the connection had been properly reported and stated. The problem? Calibri wasn’t publicly available until 2007.
Gothamist reflects on the history of Milton Glasser’s now famous NYC tourism campaign design. The mark, which Glasser assumed would fade away quickly and therefore gave it to the city for free, now generates millions for the state annually. Now, you can’t walk around Manhattan without seeing the infamous design somewhere.
Try as I might to avoid putting a Trump link in every week, here we are again. Trump sat down with three New York Times reporters for a often rambling and incoherent interview, but his answers did offer some insight into just what in the world is going on in the West Wing recently.
From ideation to air, a 30 minute documentary on what the process was like to get an episode of Seinfeld to broadcast. Somehow, the show never loses interest, and seeing how it was made provides and interesting angle into each joke, character, and episode.
Jake Paul is a Disney Star/Internet Famous/Bro, for lack of a better description. Until his name had been appearing in headlines this week I’d never heard of him, despite the fact that he has over 8.5 million YouTube subscribers and 8.6 million Instagram followers. Jake Paul is part of a team of video creators called Team 10, who all share a house in a well-to-do neighborhood of Los Angeles. As Paul’s antics, stunts, and pranks became louder and more dangerous, his neighbors are starting to make formal complaints. Namely, he started a fire in the empty pool in the backyard of his house that reportedly reached over two stories high. In LA. In the middle of summer. Not to mention that Paul and company have listed the address for their house publicly on Google, leading to swathes of his fans and followers crowding the street and surrounding properties. Multiple sites began to carry the story about Paul vs. his neighbors after a local news show went to interview him, which resulted in maybe the most obnoxious of his videos yet.
Friday Five: July 14, 2017
Pretty much wherever you live, it’s getting pretty unbearably hot right about now. David Wallace-Wells’s long read for New York magazine on the effects of climate change counts the harrowing ways our planet is going to start killing us. And soon. Between the rising heat index of New York City to the economic effects of heat, things do not bode well. Take a moment to sort your recycling and find a few ways to be more energy conscious this weekend if you can.
Related: Short Answers To Hard Questions About Climate Change
Thrillist counts down the 100 greatest movie props, and collects the often strange stories behind them.
The story of an ugly bulky phone that is spreading like wildfire in Accra, Ghana. With rolling blackouts effecting much of the country, this relatively cheap phone that has a built-in portable battery and LED flashlight is gaining popularity as a backup phone. An interesting story about the penetration of gadgets in the less internet obsessed areas of the world.
4. OK Soda
OK Soda was a counterculture branded cola from, who else, Coca-Cola. This video essay chronicles the brand’s anti-advertising, using overt propaganda visuals and postmodern concepts, it certainly is an interesting case study in early self-aware advertising. Unfortunately the soda went under, probably because it reportedly tasted really bad.
A rather niche topic, but someone took the time to gather, archive, and organize the playlists from Gap stores. A very time capsule way of looking back at pop music from the recent past, alongside the clothing and ads that appeared along with the sounds.
Friday Five: July 7, 2017
Probably one of the most recognizable photos in the world is of a rolling hill in Sonoma County, California. Charles O’Rear was driving to San Francisco, and a quick photograph on the side of the road would lead to his highest paying photo ever. Abigail Cain traces the history of the default Windows XP background for Artsy.
Adam K. Raymond investigates the rise of the non-song on streaming services, specifically Spotify. You might remember a band releasing a completely silent album for fans to listen to as they slept, a PR stunt and gimmick designed to help the band raise money for their tour. Or maybe your phone was connected to the bluetooth at a July 4th BBQ and you drunkly put on the Star Spangled Banner for kicks. Maybe you needed some romantic music to surprise your bae for your prom-posal. The countless non-artists who upload music to Spotify have you covered. There are people who just cover pop-songs under “I think that’s what that song is called” titles, hoping the search algorithm drives users to them, or those who make covers of music not in the Spotify catalogue. It’s not just spammers though, you might recall that Drake added the inescapable Hotline Bling as a closing track to his 2016 Views, the song didn’t fit thematically or feel like part of the album, but because it was on there Views had enough streams to be platinum the second it came out.
Bloomberg covers the upstart brands like Toast, Pollen Gear, and Kush Bottles, that are offering their industrial scale packaging services to legal weed states. It’s long been a topic of weed smoking designs that it wouldn’t take much to improve upon the sticker labeled vacuum bags most major city dwellers are familiar with. As the industry continues to rake in countless dollars, it makes sense that some are finally started to seek and edge by better design, presentation, and marketing. The landmark success of Serra as a well designed and successful dispensary should be signal enough for others to quickly follow suit.
True Detective, Stranger Things, Halt and Catch Fire,The Leftovers, Westworld, hell even Vinyl had a well designed and interesting title sequence. With a trend that was paved by The Sopranos, the opening credits have become a proving ground of sorts, a quick way to gauge interest in a show without having to watch an entire episode. “The internet has made us all super visual” says Patrick Clair, who’s title credits include The Man in the High Castle, Daredevil, Westworld, and more. Lance Richardson for The Verge goes down the rabbit hole of how opening titles are doing in the age of Netflix.
As Trump and Putin prepare for their first face-to-face as presidents, the people are in the streets in Hamburg, where protests have mounted for all different sorts of causes. Things came to a head yesterday when the “black bloc” flipped cars, set them on fire, and were met with tear gas and water canisters. More than 70 police officers were reported as injured. It’s worth keeping an eye on Hamburg over the weekend as the protest are expected to continue.
Friday Five: June 30, 2017
On the heels of their $14 billion cash acquisition (still pending FTC approval, I believe) of Whole Foods, Amazon has released their latest Alexa powered smart home device called the Echo Show. While this may be the closest we’ve come to the Jetsons-eqsue future device, there are a lot of tech writers scratching their heads at some of the key features of the device. The Echo Show’s biggest selling points are it’s 7-inch touch screen and built in video calling features. Adding another touch screen into your home isn’t too concerning, but when an always-accessible video camera is connected to one of the most powerful companies in the world is dropped into your living room or kitchen, even the less privacy-focused tech blogs were raising concern.
As Zuckerberg continues his country-wide “I’m not evil I promise” tour, Facebook is still attempting to deal with it’s many issues that have come to a head in post-election America. While the company hasn’t quite locked down how to stop people from uploading crimes they’re committing, or live-streaming police officers shooting the black man next to them, they have taken active steps to curb hate speech, or at the very least hide it from you, on their platforms. The biggest initiative that their PR machine has pushed is their hiring of 3,000 content moderators (or censors). Now, the training presentation those moderators are receiving has been leaked to ProPublica. The truths they reveal are unsurprising but still unsettling. Facebook gets oddly specific with what they define as hate speech, which leads to a clear prioritization of majorities over minorities.
As the NYPD’s contract with data company Palantir (which I feel is noteworthy to mention, was founded by a group including the Gawker-suing Trump-supporting Peter Thiel) is coming to an end. The NYPD decided swiftly to end their use of the software provided by Palantir this week, and is planning to transfer their troves of data to a new software, but Palantir is yet to give the police their data in the format they need. Palantir insists they’re cooperating, the NYPD insists that they’re not, and what happens next could reveal a lot about the future of policing in America. A pop-culture side note, this article revealed that Palantir software led to the sting that got Bobby Shmurda arrested.
Earlier this week Trump lashed out on Twitter at the hosts of MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’ The hosts, Mika Brzenzinksi and Joe Scarborough, took to The Washington Post to respond.
See also: All of Trump’s Lies
Planet of the Apps is a half-baked rip-off of Shark Tank about apps that is exclusively available through Apple Music. The Outline details everything bad about it.
Friday Five: June 23, 2017
Apple held an internal meeting to discuss how they’re taking on internal leaks. Naturally, a recording of this meeting was leaked. William Turton for The Outline covers Apple’s Global Security team, comprised of ex-NSA and ex-FBI members working to keep the element of surprise ahead of giant product releases and feature updates. As more leaks seem to come from within Apple’s own walls, from the factory line to employees on Twitter, Apple is taking active measures to ramp
Gearheads and Patagucci fans alike find a niche obsession with vintage Patagonia pieces. While larger and older companies (Levi’s is probably the most relevant example) hire full time archivists to find, restore, and preserve piece of clothing from the brand, Patagonia only recently decided to create an official central archive. While the unmarked building isn’t open to the public, Brad Ressler from Outside magazine got special access, and there are some wild and interesting pieces to be seen.
3. Cardi B
Depending on your interest in Instagram, reality TV, and the NYC rap scene, you may have never heard the name Cardi B until just now. The latest Fader cover story profiles her rise from microcelebrity to MC, and how she’s handling her new found jump in fame. The story also features great portraits by Samantha Casolari.
Producer/musician Shlohmo put together a spaced out mix for Sneeze magazine, with absurd found footage/viral clip mashup visuals to match.
The Senate Republican leadership is still rushing to get their version of the TrumpCare healthcare bill passed before the July 4th recess. Considering that lives are literally on the line, I ask that you call your senator’s office and let them know how you feel.
Friday Five: June 16, 2017
The Verge ran an excerpt from ‘The One Device’ about the lead to a secretive project at Apple that would eventually spawn the first iPhone. Maybe now, just a few days short of 10 years since the release of the first iPhone, we can fully appreciate just how much Apple changed the game with just one release. The piece talks about how there were blips of “maybe we should make a phone” and probing of the industry (remember the ROKR?) since the iPod started selling like hotcakes with the release of iTunes for Windows. Everyone hears stories about how tense and high pressure things used to get at Apple under the reign of Jobs, but some of the quotes and anecdotes in this piece really give context to the type of ship that was being run. Under Jobs, a project wasn’t worth launching unless it was going to change the industry. With the iPhone being probably the most widely accepted and lauded innovations of the millennium, I think that legacy is pretty safely sealed.
About a year ago, there was a bank robbery. Now the Bonnie and Clyde, ski-mask, “everybody on the ground,” kind of robbery, though. Cryptocurrencies were starting to really hit their stride; Bitcoin, the biggest of all, was hitting a high on the wake of the Craig Wright story in the mainstream, and the second ever Halfing Day within the Bitcoin community. Ether, a new form of cryptocurrency running on a blockchain, was in it’s infancy. An alternative to Blockchain, designed to be more trustworthy due to the lack of transferring bitcoin and instead relying on “smart contracts” which are agreements that enforce themselves digitally. As Ether was picking up steam, a user in the community noted a bug, ominously on line 666 of the code for the smart contracts. This bug would allow anyone with an active Ether wallet to make withdrawals from the overall pool of money. Matthew Leising for Bloomberg follows the story of how a team banded together to try and stop the robber, and what happened in the aftermath.
As influencer marketing continues to grow, amid massive falterings and waverings (how many Fyre Festivals will it take?) Instagram is finally offering an official tool to allow people to tag their sponsored posts. The tool takes over the geotag section of a post to replace it with text stating “Paid partnership with [brand]” which, like the current solution to fit into the grey area of appeasing FTC regulations, might not be quite enough. A quick primer on the current default; most influencers satisfy the need to clearly mark posts that they have received compensation for with hashtags, most commonly #spon, #sponsored, or #ad (after #sp was deemed to vague to be clear to the average viewer), usually burying these after the truncation point of a caption or hidden in a second comment. So, this new official solution will face a similar issue to the current solution, will the average viewer see and recognize the tag? Geotags are arguably the least relevant and least viewed data of any Instagram post, and Instagram definitely knows that. Time will tell if the FTC will give them a pass.
After accepting public testimony, then requesting the testimony be a private session, and then withdrawing his request, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week. The AG has been at the center of multiple kerfuffles and controversies, the biggest of which continues to be the firing of James Comey. After Sessions “recused” himself from the Russian hacking investigation, the duties were handed down to Comey. Only a few days later, Sessions signed the memo suggesting Trump fire Comey. This act alone has led the question of Trump’s obstruction of justice, a tricky and hard to prove accusation. So, in Sessions testimony, he seemed to be playing the role of defensive end for the Trump administration, offering blocking points when he could, and when the truth would paint the administration in a bad light Sessions seemed to conveniently forget. A lot. A lot of what he forgot revolved around his and other ranking members of the Trump campaigns interaction with Russian officials, namely Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who Sessions was photographed within speaking distance with at two events. Sessions mainly relied on a “long standing practice” which may or may not existing in writing about the privacy of conversations between the Justice department and the President, and used this (non-executive) privilege to dodge a lot of questions that raise more suspicion in their lack of answers.
So, a brief recap, Comey in his testimony set up all the pieces for Robert Mueller (now leading the investigation), and Sessions made up his own rules to the game.
After the London Bridge attacks, Trump tweeted:
“Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a truck!”
Well, Trump, now they’re using guns, right here in America. Practically in DC’s backyard. So, why aren’t we having a gun debate right now? Was it because the shooter was white, like every other radical terrorist that has acted in our country since your Muslim Ban? Is it because you and your party receive so much money from pro-gun groups? After every shooting, more and more people seem to ask “what will it take?” How many people must die before we can have a serious conversation about nationwide gun policy in the United States?
Friday Five: June 9, 2017
Yesterday saw former FBI Directory James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Outline, linked above, did a great job of breaking down some key takeaways from Comey’s testimony. While there was a lot of rehashing of information already known, a couple clarifications on Comey’s written statement, which he submitted for public record the night before his in-person appearance, and a lot of focus on Trump’s semantics, there was a lack of the crack-the-case-wide-open statements many impeachment focused partisans were hoping for.
While it is expected of presidential campaigns to make their way into the classroom, the rhetoric of Trump was unprecedented. Buzzfeed News reviewed more than 50 reports of in-school bullying since the election and found many cases of students using direct quotes from Trump or his campaign to insult, torment, and scare fellow students. So, how does a school handle students becoming politically involved when the level of their involvement finds them repeating racist, sexist, or derogatory statements directly from the president’s mouth?
Using Tycho as a keystone example John Paul Titlow looks at how Spotify is working to do right by artists on the service. From offering musicians data insights into their listeners, and working to help them promote their live tours through hyper-targeted email campaigns, as well as offering artists featured placement within the Spotify app itself. All of this is basically playing the flip side to Apple Music, which offers musicians no information or data at all, and does little to help them make money outside of selling their music (of which Apple still takes a hefty cut.) As Spotify continues to perfect the playlist art form, they’re also beginning to track how high follower playlists, like their breakthrough hit Rap Caviar, effect the rise and growth of a musician.
This year marks the 90th birthday of an unofficial New York City landmark, The Strand bookstore. Gothamist breakdown the history of the literary cult favorite, through moves, trials, and tribulations. Whether it was rent hikes, competition from big box book stores, and the rise of Amazon, The Strand still stands as one of the best places to find a good book in the city, not to mention their often mind boggling rare books room.
As the Grateful Dead reenters the zeitgeist, from the fascination with parking lot merch, to a (very enjoyable) four hour documentary, to the current iteration of the band, Dead & Company, selling out arena dates across the country, the band’s expansive catalogue of (mostly live) music remains somewhat intimidating and impenetrable to many. A few friends who know I come from Deadhead parents and have myself taken a liking to the band have recently asked for recommendations on where to start, so I rather than trying to recommend certain concerts or recordings, I made playlist called (playing off the band’s unofficial-then-official archivist Dick Latava’s series ‘Dick’s Picks’): Mitch’s Picks.
Friday Five: June 2, 2017
Yesterday Trump announced his intentions to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. In my humble opinion, as a resident of this planet, this is beyond imbecilic and shortsighted. The only other major countries not taking part in the agreement are Syria and Nicaragua, the latter only not taking part because they didn’t feel the terms were strict enough (Nicaragua plans to be operating at 90% fully sustainable energy by 2020.) If one looks at the technicalities, some hope does begin to shine through. To fully withdraw from the agreement, it will likely take close to four years, at which point Trump will be up for reelection and also be facing political opposition for the presidency. That is, if he is still holding the office at that point. In the face of our administration refusing to take a responsible stance against climate change, the state governments of Washington, California, and New York have formed their own agreement to align themselves with the Paris standards, as major tech players like Apple and Tesla speak out against Trump’s action.
A four-hour epic of a documentary tracing the history of the Grateful Dead premiered at Sundance 2017, and after a short run in select theaters is now streaming on Amazon. Scorsese backed and directed by Amir Bar-Lev, the documentary features never before seen footage and new interviews to give a full oral history of the band. Set up a bit like a Dead show in itself, the in-theatre screenings included a short intermission to refuel, and revealed some weird tid-bits that sometimes even the biggest deadheads were previously unaware of.
Related: A guide to the “essential” live Dead songs.
“I have hired the wild boar as VP of Disruption and Growth Hacking.”
In a world where every day can bring a new Tom-Clancy-Meets-M-Night-Shamalan level twist that actually has the possibility to effect our daily lives, well a surprise music release doesn’t really have the same “wow” factor as a Comey leak does it? Ann-Derrick Gaillot analyzes the state of surprise in today’s America for The Outline.
Friday Five: May 19, 2017
Chelsea Manning, who spent most of her 20’s in military prison, took her first steps as a free woman on Wednesday. Manning, faced with the longest sentence ever given to a whistleblower, had the majority of her sentence commuted by President Obama. Not only has Chelsea given example to many other leakers and whistleblowers, but she has also become a hero of the trans woman community as she began her transition process, an immensely difficult process even in the best of circumstances, while behind bars. As the media rushes to take sides on whether Chelsea is a traitor or a hero, another industry has apparently taken interest, as WWD reports: Vogue is looking to feature Chelsea in a full profile and photoshoot.
In what would be Steve Jobs’s last public appearance, Jobs visited the Cupertino city council, to pitch them on what is now seen as his last big project. It’s curved, largely made of glass, and sustainable. Steven Levy reports for Wired on the nearing completion of Apple’s new spaceship HQ. In typical Jobs/Ives fashion, the small stuff is being extensively sweated upon, with custom lights, faucets, fixtures, and staircases. As not only the Apple fandom, but architectural fanatics alike have been obsessing over the progress of the new campus, Jony Ives, Tim Cook, and others share their thoughts on how the new home of Apple is a testament to the sometimes loved, sometimes hated, legacy of Steve Jobs.
In a joint project by Gizmodo and ProPublica, a team of writers and researchers discover how startlingly easy it is for even a basic tech geek to gain access to the networks of Trump’s properties. Namely, Mar-A-Lago, the second White House as it were, where Trump and his team have spent more than enough time to been photographed and recorded by other resort guests. Being that the resort is situated on Palm Beach Island, it is not hard to get close enough on a boat to direct a strong antenna and pick up the networks within. For a man so obsessed with “the cyber,” his own cybersecurity was and is surpassingly penetrable.
The cover story of the latest issue of TIME, on how Russian operatives are finding new ways to use social media to further whatever agendas they see fit. Read it all with a grain of salt, obviously, but still an interesting piece nonetheless.
Nike’s landmark sneaker of the year, the Vapormax, is an extremely lightweight upper sitting on a system of transparent air bubbles. It looks and feels futuristic, which turns out to be ironic because the brand has been working on this technology for 36 years. Bloomberg tells the tale of the origins of the Vapormax’s signature sole, and the idea behind it.
Friday Five: May 12, 2017
Oh where to begin? Trump, in the midst of an investigation into his campaign, and himself, in relation to Russian influence, corruption, or collusion in the presidential election, fired the man in charge if the investigation. When Attorney General Sessions recused himself from the investigation (you can’t very well investigate yourself) the duty fell to Director of the FBI, James Comey. Well, as Trump quickly learnt, you can’t fire the man investigating you and expect nothing to happen. In the aftermath of this decision, which very few seemed to have been informed about beforehand, a few things have come to light. Reportedly and allegedly: Comey asked for more resources to help move along the investigation, Trump asked the Sessions who in turn asked Rosenstein to find a reason to fire Comey, and multiple sealed grand jury subpoenas have been sent out. Many in the media have been referring to the entire episode as “Nixonian,” with the firing of Comey echoing the Saturday Night Massacre. If Nixon getting the man investigating him fired led to the beginning of the end of his presidency, could the same thing be in store for Trump? It’s not hard to picture a near future in which Trump himself is in the hotseat, and who knows what will be uncovered when his candidacy and relations are combed through at the subpoena level of access. Some posit that while the firing of Comey certainly added fuel to the fire, the impeachment torch has been lit since the House passed TrumpCare.
As we continue to reel in the age of hacks, leaks, and tracking, what becomes more clear with each scandal is that privacy is no longer an inalienable right. As we continue to carry smartphones, and now invite always-on listening devices into our home, it seems true digital privacy is reserved for only the few who can truly afford it. The latest Amazon IoT gadget literally has a webcam that is always accessible, and don't even get me started on the one that is distinctly designed to watch you get dressed. Choose your tin-foil hat quote here; whether it’s the boilerplate classic “if you have nothing to hide, you must not have anything to say” or something headier.
For a crash course on “you should be a little more concerned with this kind of stuff” rhetoric, I always refer people to Glenn Greenwald’s 2014 TED talk ‘Why Privacy Matters.’
From the man who brought you history of japan, a twenty minute crash course that could supplement a rural high school World History class.
Good design is where you find it.
See also: Pre-Convergence Morgue
On the heels of Facebook announcing that they're working on a brain-to-web interface, planning a way to let you post online with just a thought, Kristen Brown tears down their thinking for Gizmodo. Yes, there have been small successes in typing with your brain, or a neural-to-image interface that could approximate an image of what a subject was picturing in their mind's eye, but while Silicon Valley continues to speak about the human body as if it's parts had technology counterparts, it simply isn't true.
Many scientists are skeptical that the “move fast and break things” approach will work very well when applied to us. After all, we are living, breathing organisms, not inanimate machines. That’s something we should try to remember.
Friday Five: May 5, 2017
Last week, we hit day 100 of the Trump presidency. While admittedly its a totally arbitrary report card time, The Verge compiled a great list of short essays on what happened in that time span, with topics including net neutrality, Trump’s Twitter, and North Korea. So, if you want to start your Friday with clenched fists, here’s a good place to start.
As tech and machine learning continue to infiltrate our everyday lives, there still persists the myth of our “new robot overlords.” There are multiple theories and ideas that contribute to the idea that if we don’t keep AI off the internet, or give them very specific instructions, they will somehow kill off the entire human race. Kevin Kelly picks apart this very notion for Backchannel, explaining the intricacies of artificial intelligence, how even if we do achieve AI, it is almost impossible that the machine learning will be able to “outsmart” us that quickly, and that our idea of intelligence has an infinite scale.
Even going out of my way to follow a few choice “alt-right” or adjacent streams, so much of the online presence of the new right wing is seemingly coded in their own in-speak. But, if you want to understand your opposition, it is a lot easier if you speak their language. New York Magazine delves deep into the movement, it’s roots, and it’s ever expanding presence both digital and political. Where we once had radical environmentalists, we now have right wing extremists, fueled by the “well educated and underpaid.” Their intentions are not veiled, their calls for white supremacy are not disguised, and their movement is likely to continue to grow.
10 years after it’s debut, Lil Boosie’s Wipe Me Down still signifies an important moment in southern rap. Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib dissects it’s influence, his personal connection, and traces Baton Rouge, the song’s, and Louisiana’s wild ride since the song’s took over the sound systems.
Yesterday the Republican majority House passed it’s healthcare bill. I have a number of political, social, and personal issues with it, but I’ll let you decide which pieces you want to feel outrage towards. It could be the defunding of Planned Parenthood and gutting of Medicaid, it could be the listings of sexual assault and related “injuries” as uninsurable pre-existing conditions, it could be the immense fiscal cost, or the estimated number of people that will die as a result of this plan. If your House Representative voted in favor of this bill, I’d ask you to call their office and let them know that you are their constituent, and you do not agree with their support of this plan. More importantly, TrumpCare still has the chance to be marked DOA by the Senate, so I’d also ask you to call your Senators’s offices, and let them know how you feel.
Friday Five: April 28, 2017
Galaxie 500, writes on the intricate joys of analog music for The Paris Review. As vinyl sales continue to rise in the United States, and even cassette sales are seeing a slight bump, there is a continual ongoing discussion between audio nerds and casual listeners alike about the distinct qualities of analog music. Perhaps it is because I can explain to someone how a vinyl record works, the physics are simple enough, but have a hard time explaining the process of encoding and streaming an .MP3 from a distant server. Even though I find myself spending more time streaming music than putting a record on the turntable as of late, I still have a certain fondness for the hisses, skips, and cracks of my favorite LPs. There are certain albums who’s skipping loops I know so well, that I can get up and move the needle seamlessly continuing the track.
Even with tapes and CDs as a kid, there was a weird joy in having a version of an album or song that was uniquely yours. I can recall owning a CD that I never heard the last two tracks on, my CD player would always skip over them, until years later and the strange sensation it was to hear how that album was actually supposed to end. I also still remember my first MP3 player, before the days of the omnipresent white headphones, a big bulky silver and blue Archos device, that was basically an enclosed hard drive with a simple display and a headphone port. The act of ripping my CDs into WinAmp, and transferring a large swath of my music collection to a device I could bring with me everywhere felt surreal.
So what do we lose when we give up our physical media? We are in the era of streaming music, Netflix, and Hulu. An age where music can be mastered to near perfection, losing the breath of a singer or the background chatter of instrumentalists. Do we dismiss the need to listen for the studio door being slammed, or the A/C kicking on in the middle of a recording? Will we eventually lose our ability to really listen closely?
EFF to target her with a simulated spearphishing attack. Her gmail account was compromised within hours. This experiment does a great job at highlighting how deceptive the Podesta/DNC leaks were, and how a poorly written email from an IT guy let the attackers in.
While unnamed possible state operatives run amuck, accessing emails to and fro, Wired went and talked with a group of current Computer Science freshmen to find out what the next wave of hackers will look like. What they found might give some hope, but only a little. From this small sample size, we find that they are largely private, wary of putting personal information on the internet, but also not quick to defend whistleblowers like Edward Snowden or groups like Wikileaks. They are largely supportive of bug-bounty programs, which many of them find profits from, and aren’t too worried about AI taking over the world. At Northwestern, where this class resides, all CS majors are required to take an ethics course, hopefully setting a course, or at least a point to measure against as they enter the professional field is somewhat reassuring. The only true issue at which they put a stake in the ground is massive surveillance. Noting that they aren’t worried that the NSA is collecting all this data, but what could happen if that database was breached.
Related: 15 under 15: Rising stars in cybersecurity.
and: The Outline on the piece
In a tour de force of Hollywood financial shadiness, Robert Kolker covers the lawsuit waging between the four creators of Spinal Tap and the studio that now holds the rights to the film. The studio claims that each creator is entitled to a measly $179 each (that’s in total, since the 80’s) in merchandising and soundtrack sales since the 1980’s, and if you know anything about the cult success of This is Spinal Tap, you know that there is no way that number is being accurately reported. So with some ammo on their side, the group is suing Vivendi, which owns Universal Music Group, for $400 million in total. They’re also fighting to regain the copyright to the intellectual property, which they had lost in a previous contract arrangement. This isn’t the first or last time creators will go to court with the studios, but fittingly, this could be the loudest.
Bonus: The Outline at One Year
After writing a blog post titled ‘Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved’, Joshua Topolsky set off to create a new type of media company. The result is a site called The Outline, which I’ve linked to before on this newsletter, and the site has been live for almost half a year, spending about as much time before that in development. Topolsky decided that now was a good moment to reflect on the lessons he’s learned, including treating a media company like a tech company, ad fraud and click rates, and an optimistic look towards the future.
Friday Five: April 21, 2017
Despite rising sea levels and continued inaction on global climate change, developers and buyers continue to support the building of mega condo buildings along South Florida’s famous picturesque waterfront properties. Christopher Flavelle goes deep into the looming real estate bubble for Bloomberg. Growing up in suburban South Florida, the amount that water would fill the rain reservoirs around town, or how our favorite beach was literally swept away after a major hurricane, the effects of climate change were not only very real, we could see the physical effects in person. In the Miami-Dade area, the effects are going to be even more drastic, and they’re coming quicker than any residents or developers will expect. Jim Cason, mayor of Coral Gables, is astutely looking out for when the water levels rise enough that the first boat can’t clear the bottom of the bridge to get out to see. That, he says, will be the first domino.
Emoji have now taken a major foothold in American English. However, as many know, or at least would have guessed by the name emoji, we did not invent them. That credit goes to Japan, who had a very basic set of emoji available to them on most phones (not smartphones, mind you) way back in the day. This talk from Webstock 2017 by Cal Henderson, the CTO of Slack, traces the history of emoji, how they engrained themselves into the way we communicate, and how they’ve changed since the single color pixel images that became part of Japanese common vernacular nearly overnight.
Steve Lacy, part of The Internet, has produced for some of rap’s biggest names. On top of that, his solo EP was recently released to a largely positive response. Wired sat down with Lacy to talk about his process. From Kendrick, to Frank Ocean, to his own music, he relies on a single tool to put it all together. His iPhone.
Juicero sells a very expensive IoT juice press. It first retailed for $700, and then the price came down to $400. The company garnered investors from all over Silicon Valley, including Google. The promise of Juicepress quality juices, prepackaged and ready at the push of a button, excited the tech industry as the food subscription model continues to grow. Investors hoped the company could replicate the success of Kurig or Nespresso, selling a piece of proprietary equipment, and then a subscription or individual units the buyer would need to continue using the device. Researchers at Bloomberg quickly found a flaw with the plan. You didn’t actually need the device, you could just take one of the prepackaged bags and squeeze out the juice.
NPR’s Jazz Night In America sat down with Robert Glasper, who draws the lines between Jazz and Hip-Hop samples, breaking down how certain producers and artists utilized samples, and the difference between chopping, lifting, and flipping a sample.
Friday Five: April 14th, 2017
Shenzhen, a city in southeastern China, is well known in tech circles as the hotbed of hardware innovation. The “hoverboard” craze? The first ones were sold there. Drones? Yup, Shenzhen was selling commercial drones before anyone else. So, what happens when you take on a pet project and decide that you want to build a iPhone, without any parts coming directly form Apple? Well, you go to Shenzhen and make some half translated half sketchy deals. While mostly an extremely informative look into how the marketplaces there operate, this video also serves as a interesting look at what happens when we recycle or return our old and broken phones, and even more so provides a glimpse into the dystopian Blade Runner future that is already here.
Kamasi Washington released a new 14 minute track, with little to no hype or fanfare. The piece itself is great, and the short film release with it directed by AG Rojas is beautiful. Set some time aside this morning to give it a good listen if you can.
paid for and developed by the CIA for the Mujahideen, that was “believed to been used by ISIS fighters to target US forces.” While the political fallout from this attack is yet to be fully realized, surely nothing truly good will come of it. I lack the words to fully express my disgust and feelings towards the Trump administration for ordering and authorizing this attack, and also at the overall media reaction (“I am guided by the beauty of our weapons” should be seared into everyones minds at this point.) So in these turbulent times, I continue to plead to anyone reading this, do your research, doubt your government and those who cover them, and continue to make your voices heard.
Friday Five: April 7, 2017
I’m only now catching up on the news of what has been happening in Syria over the past 72 hours. It would appear that a Trump, who plainly denied access to Syrian refugees with the wave of a hand, decided to bomb their country with similar forethought. Here are some far better informed people who are much more well spoken on the matter.
Related: The fight against the Islamic State just got harder
Twitter is suing the Trump administration for asking them to reveal the identity of an anonymous user who was vehemently anti-Trump. Even though Twitter is Trump’s favorite medium to communicate, and his presence and obsession with the service has arguably been good for their business, it is interesting that only now they have decided to draw their line in the sand.
A great look at the messed up mind games Uber plays with it’s non-employees. From pushing them to busier areas to a twisted version of “just five more minutes” there is nothing appropriate about this behavior.
As Verizon prepares to merge the bloated corpses of Yahoo! and AOL, they have decied to name the new mergered company Oath. Which, besides sounding like a bad play on The Circle, is going to lead to a privacy and tracking nightmare.
A good read on the effects of Google’s AMP service, or if you’re more familiar with it, a parallel of Facebook’s Instant Articles, on the news, media, and journalism at large.
Friday Five: March 31, 2017
Is it better to burn out than to fade away? As one rock legend after another passes away, the median age of music superstars is shifting. I mean, Mick Jagger is 73. Neil Shah looks at how the changing of the guard and heralding of a new generation of music superstars is affecting the industry at large.
As Lemmy once said “You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools/But that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever.” Silicon Valley has found themselves so focusses curing death that maybe they’ve forgot that they can make the world we’re living in a better place. In the meantime, some of our greatest minds think they can defeat death. There are inevitable moral and ethical questions that arise with this kind of work. Will only the rich be immortal? Should we be able to prolong death to such a degree? Tad Friend’s great piece frames the new tech race taking place in an age where our planet’s outlook tends to be more dismal by the day.
Related: Silicon Valley Would Rather Cure Death Than Make Life Worth Living
Spencer Kornhaber gave a Flute expert four rap songs prominently featuring one of the world’s oldest instruments to see what they had to say on how the sound of the Flute is making comeback. It’s pretty wild that three of the biggest (and catchiest) rap songs lately all featured the same instrument as the key melody, but the article does a good job at dissecting how each producer used the instrument differently. While the hooks on Mask Off and Portland both sound similar, the fat that Mask Off features a live flutist is a whole other notion to reckon with.
Between this piece, where Douglas Copeland claims we’re all millennials, to “GenZennial” (yikes), it seems we’re once again at the precipice of another round of sweeping generalizations for 18-24 year olds. Welcome back to marketing lingo hell, everyone.
Twitter, perhaps in an effort to make it’s service even more confusing for new users, has changed the way it’s original and effective @reply function works. Now, @‘ing someone in a tweet no longer counts towards your 140 character limit, you can mention as many people as you want and they will be deep embedded into the post. If you want to remove someone from the reply you’re making, it now takes three or four taps instead of just deleting their username from the text. Oh, and every conversation between people you follow now loses all immediate context. It’s all very confusing, and users are conflicted on whether or not this is a positive change.
Friday Five: March 24, 2017
Wired delves into the sticky grey area of protest livestreams. There are implicit privacy issues that come up with a live broadcast from any event, but in a time where large swaths of people are being targeting for their religious beliefs, political identities, or skin color and are turning out in record numbers to protest our government, there are even more issues that come with their faces being streamed on the internet for anyone to see. I’ve never livestreamed anything myself, but I’d reckon I’ve been in the background of someone’s broadcast before (if you live in New York City too, you most likely have as well.) It’s an interesting look into what companies consider a new feature and privacy experts are trying to get everyone to consider before pressing that “go live” button.
Some of the best coverage of the House Intelligence Hearing regarding Russia and the Trump campaign comes from – Rolling Stone? Matt Taibbi (formerly of The Intercept) gives his minutes on the hearing, giving a much more honest telling of what we were watching than the media coverage that followed (i.e. the “bombshell” of the already known investigation).
Another great longread from Wired, this time detailing the tracking and taking down of the under-reported but infamous Business Club botnet. Your might remember last year there was a large string of ransomware style attacks, wherein you’d click on a phishing attachment and all your files would be encrypted and held ransom until you payed your attacker’s fee, in bitcoin. This same group was also found to be responsible for hacking banks, to the tune of an unknown fortune that some put in the range of ~$80 million. Going even deeper than that, the head of the Business Club who mainly went by the name Slavik, is believed to have been using this same botnet for Russian military espionage.
Rawiya Kameir writes for The Outline, covering the social media reaction around Drake’s latest non-album, More Life. With claims of cultural appropriation, patois hijacking, and god knows what else, there was a very strange phenomena of Drake’s (mainly) white fans complaining about Drake stealing from other PoC cultures. Kameir does a great job directing these arguments and problematic feelings surrounding Drake, his music, and the way we respond online.
Sampha visited NPR and performs very very good Tiny Desk Concert, including an unexpectedly great acoustic rendition of Blood On Me.
Friday Five: March 17, 2017
Alex Ross asks the question “why publish articles that almost nobody wants?” In an age where a quick google search offers a aggregated score of movies, music, TV, food, and just about anything else, what will become of the niche cultural critics and their columns? While opera performances and symphony orchestras still sell out shows all over the country, one has to ask if popularity no longer corresponds to value. In an age where 99% of the news cycle is dominated by political coverage, and cultural criticism gets a a small percentage of a small percentage, the few remaining staff critics are banding together to justify their journalistic contributions.
As “fake news” is on the rise, we’ve all set our sights on which Trump cabinet member will be uncovered as a Russian pawn next. The problem is, this glossy gossip filled story does well to divert attention from more actionable issues. Even more worrisome, according to those who have covered American/Russian relations, is how closely this behavior begins to mirror Russia’s own political news coverage, as we all participate in this public witch hunt. Lest Russia becomes “ an obsession, cultural shorthand for a vast range of suspicions about Donald Trump.”
Sam Knight, for The Guardian, offers a long detailed account at the best laid plans for what the Britain is supposed to do when Her Majesty eventually passes away. In typical British fashion, everything is very hush-hush, but also precisely planned just so. Every radio station has music planned to play before breaking the news, every BBC TV station will be interrupted, experts on the life of the Queen are already booked. It’s truly a bizarre amount of work that is handled in a way only the British monarchy could, and this writing is filled with lots of interesting bits of information such as: It takes 28 minutes at a slow march from the doors of St James’s to the entrance of Westminster Hall.
It took a long time for the United States to allow any type of research on marijuana. We all know that there is some level of federal research done on weed, but the Washington Post has uncovered the type of weed the governments dispenses for federal research would be unidentifiable to even the most uncool. As pot laws grow more lax around the country (knock on wood, as our current administration has spoken about setting their sites on those laws more and more), it is more important than ever for proper research to be done.
When the rumors hit the timeline earlier this week that beloved foodie mag Lucky Peach was folding, people came out of the woodwork to cry “say it ain’t so!” Often a voice for the minorities in food culture, as well as highlighting the interplay between food, cultural, and personal relationships, Lucky Peach was truly a gem in the rough of food writing. With quick wit, great writers, and interesting stories, it will be quite a bummer when the publication shutters later this year.
Friday Five: March 10, 2017
Wikileaks this week published the first in a series of dumps of CIA hacking tools, protocols, and reports that were either bought, leaked, or otherwise attained. While many of the vulnerabilities that were being leveraged have already been patched, the level of attacks the CIA was using are still impressive nevertheless. Probably the most notable, a hack referred to as ‘Weeping Angel’ allowed certain models of Samsung smart TV’s to appear turned off, but allow the CIA access to use the built in microphone to listen in and record conversations of their targets.
The Guardian details the tipping scales in the big business of outdoor retailers. Focusing on the two (arguably) biggest players, Patagonia and The North Face, and how each brand takes a different approach to their goods, materials, and marketing.
The New York Times continues it’s musical mini-site coverage with this list of 25 songs it’s writers and reported believe is shaping the sound of music to come. From Kanye to Leonard Cohen, country to classical, and more, it’s an interesting take with some good anecdotes about the songs and artists themselves to accompany it. At the very least, it was interesting to check nytimes.com and see Future and Young M.A. displayed prominently, front and center.
In an era of Chef’s Tables, Lucky Peach, Grubstreet, Eater, and First We Feast’s of the world, it would seem that the food writing business would be booming. However, as Bryan Curtis writes for The Ringer, while the amount of content seems to be proliferating, there is only such a big market for premium foodie content and with that, a cap on how many people can be successful in the food coverage business.
While “experts” are still busy debating if workplace chat programs are actually beneficial or detrimental to employee happiness and productivity, another tech giant is stepping up to try and take their slice of the pie. While Microsoft has been working on an enterprise product similar, and Facebook rolls out it’s ‘Facebook At Work’ program, Google has decided to once again fragment it’s messaging options to make Hangouts a direct competition to Slack. With threaded messages being their pièce de résistance, having damn near perfected the feature with gmail, it’ll be interesting to see if the new Hangouts can stand up against the already massively popular Slack.
Friday Five: March 3, 2017
In light of this week’s political happenings, I urge everyone to take the time to read this tremendous piece detailing the long going political history between the U.S. and Russia. From the first Cold War to the proxy battles fought between the two countries, the stakes have gotten higher while the methods have gotten dirtier. This may be the first piece of writing that gave a great context and substance to the claims of Russian interference in our presidential election.
For a TL;DR water cooler talking points version, The Intercept compiled a great summary on the piece and it’s sources.
Related: Maddow on Wilbur Ross; follow up segment with David Remnick
Loosely related: Kevin Mitnick Teaches You How To Be Invisible
Dirty Projectors latest album, self-titled Dirty Projectors, is really the work of the band’s last standing member: David Longstreth. After his and bandmate Amber Coffman’s rather public breakup, both artists went on to produce solo works about their relationship and separation.
On Tuesday, you may have noticed most of your usual websites not functioning normally, or not working at all. You may have seen some mentions of “AWS” in your timelines or newsfeeds, if you follow an even nerdier crowd, you probably saw mentions of “S3” and tweets about how “you shouldn’t store all of the internet in one place.” Amazon Web Services (the aforementioned AWS) is the backbone of a large majority of the Internet, especially sites based in or primarily serving the United States. S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) is the product in AWS that handles web hosting. On Tuesday, a typo in a command meant to take a small batch of servers offline accidentally took down more servers than intended including two S3 subsystems that deal with location information. Just like that, in one line, the internet was crippled.
Also in internet news this week, a Slack bug was disclosed that would allow an attacker to simulate a legitimate login of a users account, giving them full access to that user and their chat’s history and shared files. If you’re a media landscape junkie, you probably remember that Slack messages were presented as evidence in the Gawker v. Holgan case. Imagine that scenario of dirty laundry airing without any sort of legal protection. Security and privacy advocates as well as tech journalists are starting to spread the word that Slack is not be safest app for journalists to rely on for work communications.
Related: Teen Vogue (stays killing it) gives a simple how-to on keeping your messages secure
Bloomberg reports on the rapid growth and success of Instagram’s ‘Stories’ feature, it’s direct shot at Snapchat, and what the data shows. As Snap Inc. goes public, it’s an interesting time to watch as more and more apps get on the ‘Stories’ train, including Twitter spin-off Medium.
Friday Five: Feb 24, 2017
Sam Biddle’s work for the Intercept on how Peter Thiel’s company Palantir was not only built to benefit the American intelligence community, but was also partially funded by the CIA’s venture capital fund. Palantir’s software was what was used to parse and make usable the data captured by the XKEYSCORE NSA/“Five Eyes” program. The TL;DR version: Thiel’s company, with the help of the CIA, made some very dangerous spying tools, and now Trump has the keys.
Daniela Galarza for the Eater on how the American glutton machine has got us hook-line-n’-sinker by their ever appealing dollar deals. Whether it’s cheesy roll-ups at Taco Bell, McDoubles at the golden arches, or spicy nuggets at Wendy’s; there’s an interesting and slightly strange history to the dollar menu items we’ve come to depend on.
“Meltdown” seems a bit harsh in my opinion, but read the article and form your own. Ev Williams started Medium as an alternative publishing platform, and eventually like all precious Silicon Valley startups, was pushed by investors to make the thing profitable. When Medium started attracting and making deals with publishers, they were forced to reckon with the forces of CMS based ad placement, and after a while started to feel icky about it like everyone else. So, what does Williams do? He fires the entire marketing department along with a bunch of other employees and decides that he’s going to be the one to solve the subscription model based problem of how to get good longform written content without traditional ad placement. Good luck, dude.
The New York Times Magazine on universal income, the “beta test” (ew) of the idea in Kenya, and the future of the term “employment.”
Bonus: New Music
from: Dirty Projectors, Future, Thundercat, and Stormzy
Friday Five: Feb 17, 2017
Wired has a great profile on how the publishers and higher-ups are working to ensure that, in an era of declining ad sales and “fake news,” their paper can continue to be the most recognizable name in printed news. From new departments, restructuring, and talent acquisition, it’s an all encompassing approach to maintaining relevance while giving more power to the paper’s digital arm(s).
GQ embedded Suketu Mehta with The Green Angels, a weed delivery service that separates itself from the rest by being staffed mainly by models and actresses. A good look at the other side of the equation for when you text a number and get high grade weed brought to you in an hour or so. From the owner of the business, a “dispatch” operator, and a runner, Mehta covers the entire process from recruiting to maintaining a still illegal business in New York City.
GOOD Magazine on the fetishization of posting selfies from protests. Between this and the ‘chic’ protest tees that have been popping up on runways and in department stores, it’s a bit double sided; on one hand it’s great that people are more politically active and taking part in the process at a time when we need it most, on the other hand there is something definitely “icky” about how the commercialization and social media “doing it for the likes” effect of people showing up at a march just to take a selfie with a stranger in a hijab.
A problem I’ve been railing against since I was in school; the siloing of copywriters versus art directors creates an endless loop of non-realistic creatives coming out of advertising programs. It is fully nonsensical to leave school as a copywriter who is only proficient in writing with no hands-on experience with design, or art direction, or any other visual discipline (or vice versa, an art director who has no experience writing copy) you are entering the workforce ill equipped for the obvious challenges that will be thrown at you.
Ryan Adams recounts a heckler who kept asking for Bryan Adams “Summer of ’69”
Friday Five: Feb 10, 2017
Before we get into it, some good news. Yesterday, a federal appeals court refused to reinstate Trump’s Muslim Ban. Trump responded by tweeting in all caps.
MIT Media Lab created a Chrome extension that allows you to take a peek at the internet from the oppositions point of view. In a time where there is a lot of talk about both “living in bubbles” and the effect social media has not only on our elections but our perception of the world at large, it is a worthwhile exercise to try and lens the internet from another person’s perspective.
Before there was Noisey the Viceland show, there was Noisey the web series. The first ‘season’ of the web series focused on Atlanta, and now the show returns to Atlanta as the city’s prodigal sons, Migos, dominate the rap charts. In the episode, you hear from 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Migos, Metro Boomin, Young Thug, Jeezy, TI, and the unofficial mayor, Killer Mike. You glean a better understanding about how Magic City, the primer strip club of Atlanta is closely tied into the success of rap songs in the city. You get a non-interview interview with Young Thug.
Dan Cassaro (of Young Jerks) lifted the classic Dead Kennedys ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ to fit with our wild times. The ‘ARPFO’ party pack includes pins and stickers. Only a few left, if any, by the time of posting.
A good question to continually ask is “what will it take for people to start taking regular internet security and encryption seriously?” Well, apparently if your communications keep getting leaked, it’s a pretty good sign you might want to start taking the steps to prevent that kind of thing from happening. Reports are coming out saying that Trump’s administration has started to use Confide, a messaging app that erases the content of messages once they are read. It’s almost as if they think they might have something to hide…
Patrick Radden Keefe’s great profile on Bourdain in the New Yorker.
Friday Five: Feb 3, 2017(Sorry I missed last week, included a couple extra here to try and make up for it.)
Quite possibly the most shared Medium post ever, or maybe it just feels that way. Have a read and form your own opinions. There are more than enough valid and well reasoned responses online than I can offer here. The government is fucking scary right now, to say the least.
I will still urge those who can to donate: Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, CAIR, CUNY CLEAR, or whatever cause you feel best supporting today. Call your elected officials. As always: resist.
Related: Objectivity Is Dead, How To Cover Trump
Less Related But Still Worth Reading: Doomsday Prep For The Super Rich
In tremendous fashion we find a piece of journalistic magnificence that has absolutely nothing to do with Trump. Luke Mogelson, embedded with an Iraqi SWAT team, covers the offensive to liberate the city of Mosul from ISIS forces. A macro perspective puts a lens on how Mosul fell under ISIS control, but the gut wrenching personal stories from the men Mogelson was with puts this battlefield in a perspective often inaccessible to American audiences. It’s dark, it’s dirty, it hurts.
A while back, a good group of friends and myself we’re obsessed with a weird internet art Tumblr called The Jogging. Eventually, The Jogging went dark. However, the man who started the blog apparently did not. Brad Troemel has been kicking up an art world shitstorm since, happily turning the mainstream gallery system on it’s ear. Adrian Chen did a really good profile piece on Troemel and his work for the New Yorker.
Migos (or, sometimes, the Migos, it’s a tricky name grammatically speaking) released their much anticipated album C U L T U R E last week. Riding high on the wave of the first single from the album, Bad & Bojuee, Naomi Zeicher interviewed the group for the Fader. Known for their simple flows and sometimes indecipherable lyrics, Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff are rather poignant here. They discuss fame, having a smash number one hit, how it changes them. I perosnally did not know much about the trio’s backstory prior to this piece. The photography and styling from G L Askew II and Marko The Curator respectively is also perfectly done.
Surf Guru Yogi extraordinary Gerry Lopez gives one of his infamous Talk Story slide shows about and in Uluwatu.
In the light of the muslim ban, it is more important than ever to listen to and amplify the muslim voices in our communities. See Something Say Something is a relatively new podcast from Buzzfeed, hosted by Ahmed Ali Akbar. Find it in whatever podcasting application use and listen to their two or three most recent episodes (they’re shorter than the regular episodes) where Akbar talks with civil rights lawyers about the muslim ban, the actual language of the executive order, and what we can do about it.
it’s been a busy and hectic helluva week. Here’s a couple light tidbits should you need them.
D.R.A.M does an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, oh and BADBADNOTGOOD’s too
Ellen DeGeneres responds to Trump and his family watching Finding Dory at the White House
Someone tagged LOVE LOVE LOVE on the Brooklyn Bridge
This Song Referencing Finding Nemo that my friend Noah showed me
A new Toro Y Moi song
Friday Five: Jan 20, 2017
President Obama spent the past month or so like he just put in his two weeks notice. After a petition was delivered with over 1,000,000 signatures requesting a presidential pardon for whistleblower Chelsea Manning, President Obama communed much of her heavy handed sentence. Manning will be freed from military prison this May. Days prior to Obama communing the sentence, a tweet from the official Wikileaks account said Assange would agree to be extradited to the United States if Manning was pardoned. Assange has since walked back on this promise, saying that communing the sentence to May is not the same as pardoning Manning completely.
Related: The New York Times calls for Obama to pardon Leonard Peltier, Surveillance Self-Defense For Journalists (and everyday folks too!)
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook kajillionaire, looks to many to be grooming his image for a possible presidential run. While those close to him refuse to confirm or deny the rumor, some have said a 2024 run is more likely than a 2020 run. Either way, this Vanity Fair piece provides an inside look at the PR machine Zuck has built up around himself. From professional photographers trailing him to capture his good side, to a team of moderators hired to scrub his Facebook page of negative comments. As Zuck sets out on his coast to coast tour to “meet people in all 50 states” he’s also posting stump speech like updates from the road. Even if he doesn’t make it to the national stage, there’s always a chance California will secede and we’ll see “Mark Zuckerberg: President of California?” headlines soon.
Katie Notopoulos, one half of the Internet Explorer Podcast details the internal drama of the alt-right online community. Anyone who’s spent enough time on one form for internet community or another, especially fan forums, has seen similar implosions before. Mods run rampant, IRL meet ups gone awry, and censorship of posts. Notopulos details each step in detail, helping you follow the downfall of this sect of internet crazies.
Ryan Sutton continues his fast food reportage for Eater by detailing the pros and cons of different chains’ chicken nuggets, in detail. Also includes a bonus ranking of chicken nugget dipping sauces. While I’ve never tried McDonald’s honey at all, let alone thought of dipping chicken nuggets in it, next time I find myself caving to cravings, I’ll think about it.
The best $12 I spent yesterday was buying this URL. Turn the volume up. There’s only a few hours until this song isn’t true anymore. See y’all at the protests tomorrow.
Related: The Interference Archive’s Free Downloadable Protest Posters, The NYPL Archive of Protests
Bonus: The Resistance Manual
Double Bonus: He Will Not Divide Us
Friday Five: Jan 13, 2017
There’s been a lot of stuff on the internet this week, so I’ll start with the most obvious. The document, prepared by an ex-MI6 employee as opposition research for both anti-Trump republicans as well as the DNC has arguably been one of the top news stories (or led to top stories) since election night. The documents (or a summary of their contents), which (disputably) have been shared with both President Obama and President Elect Trump, and has been circulating to many high ranking government officials and members of the intelligence community for some time. While the allegations made in the dossier should be concerning and alarming to everyone, the way the dossier and it’s publication was handled has garnered more attention in the media than the actual facts themselves. As the allegations are unverifiable (and are at time of writing, yet to be confirmed) many different news outlets had different approaches to covering them. Some agencies (despite being sent/leaked copies of the dossier) did nothing. Others, most notably CNN, acknowledged the dossier’s existence, but did not talk about what allegations were made within it as they had no secondary verification of it’s claims and the subjects of those allegations denied them outright. About two hours after CNN covered the dossier live on air, Buzzfeed published the dossier, in full. The editors of Buzzfeed acknowledged that nothing within the document had been confirmed, but felt it was important that such information was made available to the public so that we had the ability to have an informed conversation and transparent investigation into their claims. Publishing the full document, according to many others in the news/media industry, puts Buzzfeed in a moral grey area from a journalistic standpoint. Should unverified facts be presented to the public, especially when they are as important as this? I highly recommend reading further and making that decision for yourself.
From The Atlantic: The Trouble With Publishing the Trump Dossier
From The Concourse: Reporters Scold Buzzfeed For Reporting The News
From The Outline: Everyone is Mad Over The Trump Docu-Dump
From the New York Times: Was It Right to Publish Accusations Against Donald Trump?
The Intercept’s exposé on SEAL Team 6 fell to the wayside in the wake of the Trump dossier but deserves a lot of attention in it’s own right. Behind the now glorified war stories of the Navy task force that was responsible for killing Osama Bin Laden, there is a past of war crimes and brutality, swept under the rug by JSOC and the military at large. America’s armed forces have done a lot of work to distance their public image from the reality of what is done in their name. Perhaps the most interesting piece of information uncovered by Cole, buried within this rather dark and disturbing piece, is the real reason why the public was never able to see proof of Osama Bin Laden’s body; a barbaric practice embraced by SEAL Team 6 known as “canoeing.”
From Polygon, an incredibly well researched and through piece covering the conception, creation, and influence of the massively successful (the game is being remastered for current gaming systems this year) Final Fantasy 7. Filled with interesting quips and anecdotes from the people who worked on the game (of note: the decision to switch the franchise from 2D graphics to 3D graphics at a time when nobody was sure if 3D would ever catch on) this article is a peek behind the curtain at the one of the highest acclaiming video games of all time.
Since election day, the free to download and easy-to-use (there’s my cosign) encrypted messaging app Signal has been steadily climbing the charts and gaining more and more popularity. If you find yourself asking “why?” well, in a world where there may be a Muslim registry or an attempt to forcibly remove immigrants from this country, and the leaking of emails and dossiers has been making headlines for months, it should come as no surprise that many Americans are looking for ways to keep their conversations private. Even if you’ve never used Signal, you’ve probably used an app that relies on their protocols; Facebook Messenger, Google’s Allo (incognito mode only), and Whats-App all use Open Whisper System’s technology to keep your words from prying eyes. While Signal is the least feature packed of them all, the company is also the most hands off with the user’s data. I’ve begun using the app in the past few weeks, it literally takes a minute to get up and running, and you’ll be delightfully surprised to see how many of your friends are already using it as well.
See also: N.S.A Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications
Related: A comparison of messaging app privacy features
Billy Barr moved to a remote town (so remote that he is the only full time resident) called Gothic in Colorado in 1973 in an attempt to get away from it all. He pretty much succeeded, he got away from everything save from boredom. What is one to do living alone in the woods in the 70’s? Barr found he always had a head for numbers, so he started keeping track of things. Things like snowfall, flowers blooming, and animal migration. The three major things he would see on his daily chore to gather firewood. Lo and behold, some time later, he became friendly with the other part time residents of Gothic, the scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. It wasn’t until much later, in the mid 1990’s that a scientist friend of Barr’s heard about Barr’s long journal of climate data. It turns out Barr was sitting on a bigger data set of the area than any of the professional scientists had ever managed to accrue. Barr shared his notebooks with the teams at RMBL, and taught them how to decipher his notes. Since then, Barr’s data has led to massive discoveries about the rate of climate change and it’s chain of effect on the local ecosystem.
See also: a short video documentary on Barr
Friday Five: Jan 6, 2017
The New York Times, a proliferator of food trends themselves, discusses the shot-in-the-dark style of foodie fortune tellers. Including pull-quotes like:
The team boasts that three years ago, Pinterest foresaw that cauliflower would be big, even though it had been showing up on trend lists ever since predictors flagged it in 1998, when the luxe New York restaurant Jean-Georges began serving caramelized cauliflower and sea scallops with a caper-raisin emulsion.
Living a food center city like New York, it’s not hard to look around, see what my more food/drink industry friends are talking about, and take an educated guess on the coming food trends that will come the following year. However now that a Cronut can make the national news and, somehow after all this time, produce the line effect that celebrity chefs desire, there is serious money to be made in not only predicting the trends but to create the sensational food item that fulfills that trend. It’s a cycle that feeds itself, gorging on cakepops, toast service, and activated charcoal.
Under a misleading headline of “What Makes Things Cool?” the Atlantic delves into the storied history of Raymond Loewy. Loewy’s lasting effect on marketing, advertising, and the ephemeral “cool” comes from a design philosophy under the acronym MAYA: “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.” To sell surprising products, make them familiar, and to sell something surprising, make it familiar. It sounds like basic advertising principles now, but when Loewy first proposed some of his populist ideas, it was not the most common approach. The idea to make something familiar, yet changed just enough to give it a feeling of new and advanced has since spread to every industry imaginable.
FiveThirtyEight, despite the blowback they totally deserve after the presidential election, are still doing some good and interesting work. This piece from Oliver Roeder starts with a Koch brother wine auction, and then goes deep down the data rabbit hole of the international wine auction circuit. Of course, it’s all taste and perception, but nevertheless it is an interesting market, despite whether or not the price on the bottle actually has any correlation to how the stuff inside tastes.
While the names that stuck in the aftermath of the Gawker v. Hogan trial were mainly Peter Thiel and Nick Denton, there was another party on the defendant side. The Editor in Chief at the time of the publishing of the snippet from the Hogan sex tape was A.J. Daulerio. Now, months after the case the dust has settled, and Daulerio has begun speaking about what was going on with him during the trial (including his infamous deposition statement) and how he got to that point. While his assets remain frozen, he has taken residence near his parents, legal team, and support system in Florida, and offers his perspective on one of the most important media industry stories to date.
5. OK Mondays
A new project from Liam Goslett and myself where we publish a new playlist every Monday.