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21 Jul 14:45

Seriously, Fuck You, "Kindle Unlimited"

by Maria Bustillos
by Maria Bustillos

0y1FZ1pZjopvtctnlyX0BUDro1_1280Last week, Amazon informed us that for ten dollars per month, Kindle users can have unlimited access to over six hundred thousand books in its library. But it shouldn't cost a thing to borrow a book, Amazon, you foul, horrible, profiteering enemies of civilization.

For a monthly cost of zero dollars, it is possible to read six million e-texts at the Open Library, right now. On a Kindle, or any other tablet or screen thing. You can borrow up to five titles for two weeks at no cost, and read them in-browser or in any of several other formats (not all titles are supported in all formats, but most offer at least a couple): PDF, .mobi, Kindle or ePub (you'll need to download the Bluefire Reader—for free—in order to read ePub format on Kindle.) I currently have on loan Alan Moore's Watchmen, Original Sin by P.D. James, and The Dead Zone by Stephen King.

Perhaps you would prefer to download books onto your Kindle, and keep them there permanently. In that case, please hie yourself over to Project Gutenberg, which has been offering free public domain e-texts since 1971. There, you may download any of over forty-five thousand books onto your Kindle. Or one of thousands of Librivox audiobook recordings made by volunteers, all in the public domain. (R.I.P. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg and one of the Internet's greatest benefactors.)

You can do anything you like with the public domain books and recordings you download from Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive: Make a literary Girl Talk-type mashup with them, hide Satanic messages in there via "backmasking," make letterpress reprints of the books and illuminate them by hand with gold leaf like a medieval monk and sell the results on Etsy. It's all free and legal. That is what "public domain" means. (By the bye, I wrote to the PR contact supplied by Amazon in the subject press release, and asked how many of these six hundred thousand titles offered through Kindle Unlimited are in the public domain and therefore, already free to the public, but did not receive an answer.)

Are you interested in borrowing the most recent titles? Perhaps you belong to a public library. I live in Los Angeles, and am a grateful and loyal patron of the Los Angeles Public Library, and of all the lucky things in this world, I live about ten minutes' drive away from our gloriously beautiful and fantastic main library downtown. But maybe I don't feel like driving ten minutes—in which case I can use my Kindle to check out e-books from the library, zillions of them. There are all different e-book programs, such as OverDrive, and countless recent popular books to check out, including Insurgent, which is the sequel to that daft Divergent book. (I saw the movie on the plane, I don't know! I can't help myself.)


Maria Bustillos is a writer and critic in Los Angeles. She also started an auction site for rare books, once upon a dot com.

63 Comments

The post Seriously, Fuck You, "Kindle Unlimited" appeared first on The Awl.

10 Jul 13:22

Star Trek Mirror Mirror beach towel

by Cory Doctorow


The Star Trek Mirror Mirror beach towel ($20) features Juan Ortiz's retro-art celebrating one of the greatest classic Star Trek episodes, and the origin of the evil-twin/goatee trope.

05 Jul 14:00

Noisetrade Collects Free and Legal Ebooks and Music

by Dave Greenbaum

Noisetrade Collects Free and Legal Ebooks and Music

Although we've covered many ways of getting free books and music before, Noisetrade has a huge selection of both—and it's all legal.

Read more...








29 Jun 14:00

Contribution Explorer Shows Who Is Contributing to Politicians

by Dave Greenbaum

Contribution Explorer Shows Who Is Contributing to Politicians

If you've ever wondered who contributed to your Congressional delegation, you could use public records to look it up. Brian Clifton has created a web site that will do all that looking up for you.

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27 Jun 06:47

Cyber-crooks turn to Bitcoin extortion

by Cory Doctorow


Security journalist Brian Krebs documents a string of escalating extortion crimes perpetrated with help from the net, and proposes that the growth of extortion as a tactic preferred over traditional identity theft and botnetting is driven by Bitcoin, which provides a safe way for crooks to get payouts from their victims. Read the rest

27 Jun 07:13

Publishers offer free/discounted ebooks of the print books you own with Bitlit

by Cory Doctorow
Clarissa

I'll have to try this out to see if the particular service works, but this sort of free or extra cheap access to digital versions of stuff you bought physically is a thing that should happen.

Bitlit works with publishers to get you free or discounted access to digital copies of books you own in print: you use the free app (Android/Ios) to take a picture of the book's copyright page with your name printed in ink, and the publisher unlocks a free or discounted ebook version.

Read the rest
24 Jun 13:34

How to make those disgusting, disneyland smoked turkey legs

by Jason Weisberger
Clarissa

Attention Gerald

disney_turkey_leg

Amazing Ribs offers this recipe for making festival-style smoked turkey legs. Unnaturally, there is some additive to get that gross color: Prague powder.

24 Jun 14:15

That Big Study About How the Student Debt Nightmare Is in Your Head? It's Garbage

by Choire Sicha
by Choire Sicha

The worries are exaggerated: Only 7% of young adults with student debt have $50,000 or more. http://t.co/Aavawc8KpC

— David Leonhardt (@DLeonhardt) June 24, 2014

Doesn't that sound like a fact? Well, it's something that might be a fact.

The Brookings Institute Institution (!!!) is here to tell you that the whole fable of debt-panicked young people in America is a lie! And their study comes complete with a huge announcement in the New York Times, which puts a rather snide slant on the whole thing. It's all in your head, millennials! "Only 7 percent of young-adult households with education debt have $50,000 or more of it," summarizes the Times up top. (There's a quiet and enormous caveat in that sentence, which we'll get to shortly!)

But then they must backtrack from this tale a bit:

The first thing to acknowledge is that student debt has risen over the last two decades. In 2010, 36 percent of households with people between the ages of 20 and 40 had education debt, up from 14 percent in 1989. The median amount of debt—among those with debt—more than doubled, to $8,500 from $3,517, after adjusting for inflation.

So let's see: people with college debt saw their debt double, and also the number of those households with debt more than doubled. That is not exactly undermining this supposedly fake narrative of the increase of student debt! What's more, the Times notes, tuition and fees at public colleges are up 50% in the last ten years.

Then they must come to this graph.


Do you see where that says "based on households with people between 20 to 40 years old with at least some education debt"? That's actually quite a bit of a fudge!

What's the deal with these numbers? GLAD YOU ASKED. It's not what it sounds like!

• Those aren't households with people between 20 and 40; those are households headed by people between 20 and 40. Which is to say, this data excludes all people living in households headed by, say, their parents, or other adults. The way Brookings put this is: "households led by adults between the ages of 20 and 40." Just another way to say it excludes all households led by anyone over 40! (Those households might be identical in student debt to "young" households! Or they might not? WHO KNOWS!)

• One effect of this age spread sample is that it includes college graduates from up to almost 20 years ago. This is literally not at all a study of college graduates of the last five years, or even ten years. We're talking about people up to the age of 40, well into Gen X.

• Also, in this survey, when there are multiple people in the household, the Brookings Institution simply divided the amount of college debt by number of people in the household. So one person's $20,000 college debt becomes two people's $10,000 college debt. This works out mathematically, of course, but not structurally.

• And finally: The number of the people making up this data is quite small.

Where does it come from? GLAD YOU ASKED.

All this data comes from the Survey of Consumer Finances, which is conducted by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Department of Treasury. It takes place every three years, since 1983. It samples about 4500 households in the U.S., usually, but recently expanded to 6500 households. And this isn't new data; this is the data from their 2010 survey. (The 2013 survey will be published in 2015.)

Of all the households in that study, only about 1711 have "household heads" that are younger than 40. That's what they're extrapolating from. (And, intriguingly, a small number of those have a head of household younger than 18.) This is not a big sample!

What, obviously, does this data completely omit? Well, one obvious thing is… households who are headed by someone who is not under 40. One thing we know is that, in 2012, 36% of Americans aged 18 to 31 were not their head of household, because they were living with their families.

This survey also clearly combines family and non-family households. (Also, there's some unknown amount of statistical imbalance from same-sex households; 31% of same-sex households are likely to have two college-degreed people, compared to 24% of opposite-sex married households and just 12% of opposite-sex cohabitating households.)

And finally… this survey is, essentially, of rich people. No, literally!

We apply survey weights throughout the analysis so that the results are representative of the U.S.
population of households. The use of survey weights is particularly important in the SCF because
the sample design oversamples high-income households to properly measure the full distribution of
wealth and assets in the United States. This high-income sample makes up approximately 25 percent of
households in the SCF.

Literally what they are saying there is that the information on which they are basing a sweeping assessment of American student loan debt is based on a sample in which 25% of those surveyed were "high-income households." This is insane. (Update: I wanted to clarify that I get it that they are weighting this over-representation down to represent the population at large; that's not my beef, entirely. Mostly I think it shows a further weakness in their non-rich sample at large.)

Here's a fun footnote in the actual Brookings Institution report:

These statistics are based on households that had education debt, annual wage income of at least $1,000,
and that were making positive monthly payments on student loans. Between 24 and 36 percent of
borrowers with wage income of at least $1,000 were not making positive monthly payments, likely due
to use of deferment and forbearance….

So… they… set aside as much as 1/3rd of people in the survey sample because they weren't paying off their student debt. That's an intriguing class of debtors, don't you think? They claim that dismissing these people from the sample did not "qualitatively alter the pattern of results reported above"; so why dismiss them at all?

It's shocking that the Times presents this survey in this way. This study does actually tell us things! It's not actually a pack of lies. It just doesn't tell us necessarily what people are saying it's telling us. And no one of course will actually read the whole survey, so its repackaging will now enter the narrative, thanks to bloggers….

Great @dleonhardt piece on research by @chingos and @bethakersed suggesting the sky isn't falling on student debt http://t.co/R7eOuCQJPY

— Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt) June 24, 2014

The new DC parlor game: Find some random economic or social shift. Blame it on student loan debt. Ignore data. Repeat yourself. Meme started

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) June 24, 2014

… and professional policy wonks alike. And that's a huge disservice.

UPDATE

I wanted to specifically call attention to this criticism at Quartz, which actually… doesn't really disagree with anything either here or in the report. It's full of good points, but what it's not is any kind of defense of either the Brookings Institution study or of the marketing of that study. Saying that it's a small-ish percentage of debt-havers that are carrying massive amounts of debt isn't controversial or unreasonable. It's actually probable! But presenting a definitive landscape of America's student debt based on heavily sampled data most recently updated in 2010 and heavily weighted to "reflect" America as a whole is lot less useful. (Have we not been through this on a daily basis with the Huffington Post Science section, after all?)

46 Comments

The post That Big Study About How the Student Debt Nightmare Is in Your Head? It's Garbage appeared first on The Awl.

15 Jun 20:00

The Best Things to Buy at Whole Foods for Better Value

by Dave Greenbaum

The Best Things to Buy at Whole Foods for Better Value

We've already covered what some of the best buys are at Costco and Trader Joe's , but another popular shopping destination is Whole Foods. Believe it or not, some items are cheaper at Whole Foods when compared with other stores.

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12 Jun 21:00

The bell hooks Hotline: For When You'd Rather Not Give Out Your Number

by Emma Carmichael
by Emma Carmichael

An anonymous angel from New York delivered a wonderful public service today: "a phone line that automatically reads quotations from bell hooks." From our savior, via email:

The idea came to me after the NYPost printed bikini photos of the woman who "spurned" Elliot Rodgers. Despite the fact that she was only 10 years old at the time they met, she was portrayed as having romantically rejected Rodgers.

The idea is to pass that off as one's own number if you're in a dicey situation, afraid to give out your personal cell phone number or outright reject somebody. The number is 669-221-6251. (We originally wanted 669/UGH-ASIF, but it was taken…)

It will automatically respond to text messages as well as calls! That way, you don't have to deal with a threatening person, *and* they get some free feminist lessons thrown in.

We are thinking of putting up a gmail account too, which would automatically respond with "Thank you for your note. However, I am away on vacation — from the patriarchy."

Give it a try, and then promptly memorize the number: 669-221-6251. [Feminist Phone Intervention, screengrab via Bitch Media]

17 Comments
15 Jun 06:24

Last Unicorn clothes

by Cory Doctorow

Zack writes, "From the horse's mouth, so to speak (read: author Peter S. Beagle): A line of clothes based on Beagle's classic fantasy novel, memorably adapted as a 1982 animated film and an IDW graphic novel. If you've ever wanted 'Schmendrick Leggings,' or a 'Red Bull Poncho Tank,' now's your chance.

The Last Unicorn (Thanks, Zack!) Read the rest

06 Jun 14:44

Bosch's 600 year old butt-music from hell

by Cory Doctorow


Robbo writes, "My friend, SF author J.M. Frey, posted this curious thing she found where a detail in Hieronymus Bosch's painting 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' features musical notation inscribed on some dude's ass. Of course, someone has taken the time to transcribe these notes and have now presented to the interwebs a piano interpretation of the 600 Year Old Butt Music From Hell of Hieronymous Bosch. Feel free to gavotte along." Read the rest

05 Jun 15:01

Harvard admits to owning book bound in human skin

by Bryan Alexander

Harvard University's libraries own at least one book bound in human skin, they allow.  Arsène Houssaye's Des destinées de l'ame underwent a series of forensic tests, and the conclusion was anthropodermic bibliopegy:

“The analytical data, taken together with the provenance of Des destinées de l’ame, make it very unlikely that the source could be other than human...”

This note helps clarify the story.

Here's the book's front cover:

Book_boundinhumanskin_Haavaad

Let's take a closer look, shall we? Book_boundinhumanskin_Haavaad_closeup

Such fine texture. What a surface! Sometimes beauty is skin deep.

(thanks to Jesse Walker, Steven Kaye, and other Infocult ghouls)

05 Jun 23:00

LEGO Figures Make Perfect Cable Holders

by Melanie Pinola
Clarissa

Sadly I think this will only work for device charging cables and not a lot of PC cables (like monitor or desktop power cables) but still. Most adorable cable management yet.

LEGO Figures Make Perfect Cable Holders

Who knew that LEGO designed their figures' hands perfectly to hold Apple lightning and other types of cables? Stick a LEGO brick on your desk, attach LEGO figure(s), and, voilà, an ingenious cord-catching solution.

Read more...








06 Jun 13:50

HBO's Historical Revisionism

by John Herrman
by John Herrman

Congratulations to Game of Thrones and its infinitely frustrating creator: The show is now the "most popular series in HBO’s history." That's an average audience 18.4 million compared to 18.2 for The Sopranos.

Speaking of history! HBO has a strange sense of its own. The network has, for the last ten years, minimized its pre-Sopranos existence as much as possible, full as it was with late night softcore porn and of-the-moment comedy specials. Now, with HBO Go, the company has been given a chance to fully rewrite its story, and it has taken it: The "All Series" section of HBO Go presents what looks and feels like an exhaustive look back at HBO's original programming history (Little Britain USA is right there next to The Wire). The popular series you're looking for is probably there. There's porn and boxing and documentaries and children's programming. The network's rotating lineup of movies gets a section, as does HBO Latino.

But "All Series" does not mean "All Series," or anything close. The further back you go, the thinner things get relative to HBO's actual catalog, until there's almost nothing at all (there seems to be an unofficial soft cutoff at about… Oz). This is intuitive enough: Potential viewership for 1st & Ten is low, and rights issues seem like they would be more complicated over time—I mean, I don't know, if some HBO executive said these things to me I would think, ok, sure, that explains why there's no Tales From The Crypt on my Apple TV. But a lot of the network's older shows are genuinely interesting, both as entertainment and as curiosities. I'd love to revisit Tanner ’88, maybe, for an episode or two! (I suppose I can, but only on Hulu Plus or DVD.) I would also like to take a look at Dream On, the show that gave us the ubiquitous HBO static intro. The Larry Sanders Show certainly holds up well: I know because I watched the entire thing on Netflix, from which it has since been removed, and then began watching it again on Amazon before it was removed from that, too. Amazon recently inked a fresh deal with HBO, which seems to mirror HBO Go's content, but which does not include Larry Sanders. Garry Shandling has been written out of HBO's past.

And what about Mr. Show? Here's what its creators said about the show's exclusion from Go in a q&a last year:

(Bob here) HBO has a hate-hate relationship with the show.
(Brian here) They are not aware that we did the show.
(David, back) They hate having to google Mr. Show.

A legitimate cult classic! But again, these are shows from the before times, pre-David Chase and prior to cable's prestige programming rush. It is not unusual for old shows from any network to be sent to the licensing and syndication glue factory for processing and extraction. HBO's treatment of more recent shows, however, is outright revisionist. Luck, which was available as it was airing on HBO Go, has been removed. There's no John From Cincinnati (though David Milch can still revisit old episodes of Deadwood, if he wants). Funny or Die Presents has been pulled, as has The Life and Times of Tim. HBO is actively curating Go like some sort of premium cable dating profile: Carnivale wasn't there and then it was; In Treatment just showed up one day, mysteriously, just like Tell Me You Love Me. Pulled shows exist in HBO Go's search results, but any attempt to watch them returns an "Unknown Error."

This is always what happens when data gets vacuumed up into some new app or service, even the ones that imply completeness; Google does not actually "organize the world's information;" Wikipedia is a great summary of information about the world that was already on the internet; Spotify and iTunes are staggering resources with no deliberate sense of history or context. The Kindle library is arbitrarily selective but purports, or at least feigns, to serve as the be-all, end-all of words on pages.

But HBO can do whatever it wants, all it has to do is digitize and host its own shows. It's a TV network's job to figure out what to write out of its future, not what to delete from its past. Give us the bad stuff with the good! HBO, own your turds! They're better than most of what's on Netflix, anyway, and I'm getting tired of clicking.

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The post HBO's Historical Revisionism appeared first on The Awl.

02 Jun 16:30

How to Make a Good Salad Without Dumb Leaves

by Dan Nosowitz
by Dan Nosowitz

kaaaaaaleWhen someone says salad, your first thought is probably a bunch of leaves, like lettuce or spinach or kale, plus some other stuff, and a dressing. Here’s the thing about the word “salad”: it means nothing. It doesn’t mean something cold; it doesn’t mean something raw; it doesn’t mean something with lots of different ingredients; it doesn’t mean something vegetable-based; and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean a pile of leaves.

Leaves, even the stronger-tasting ones, are filler. No one has ever once thought, “Dang, this salad is good, but it’d be more good with more lettuce in it.” This idea of a leafy salad is perpetuated by make-your-own-salad joints that ask you to pick which kind of leaves you want. Do you want the spinach? How about the baby spring mix? Have you ever said “no leaves, thanks?” THIS WILL FLUMMOX MOST SALAD-MAKERS.

But there are a lot of reasons to ban leaves from salads! They go bad quickly, forcing you to consistently throw out half of each bag of salad greens you buy; they wilt even once they’re in the salad; they cannot be kept as leftovers, ever, since they rapidly turn into slimy organic compost. Also, making your salad consist of anywhere from thirty to sixty per cent leaves really limits your creativity. So let us forgo leaves. Let us not require our salads to rely on our least-favorite ingredient. Let us shape our own salad destiny.

Here are some good leaf-free summer salads.

somtum
1. Some version of a som tam salad.
Som tam is a Thai salad consisting of green, unripe papaya as its base. Other essential ingredients include peanuts and a lime/fish sauce dressing. Here is a good recipe. But it, like all salad recipes, is flexible. If you can’t find green papaya (I usually cannot!), you can substitute pretty much anything that’s crunchy and mild. Cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, sugar snap peas, and green beans all work very well when raw or very lightly cooked. You can substitute brown sugar for palm sugar, sambal oelek for fresh chili, and omit the dried shrimp if you can’t find any. The dressing—savory from the fish sauce, tart from the lime juice, sweet from the sugar, and spicy from the chili—is PERFECT. It can be hard to go back to vinaigrettes after you’ve made it. Note: this can also be done as a stir-fry (AKA “hot salad”): stir-fry some garlic, ginger, scallions, and chili in the bottom of a wok, add peanuts, then add in whatever (non-cucumber/mango) vegetable you’re using. Top with the same dressing.

israeli
2. Israeli salad
Israeli salad can and should only be made in the summertime, when you can get good tomatoes. Do not make this with bad tomatoes! If you do you’ll eat it and be like “IDK that was fine, I guess.” At its core, it is very simple: chopped tomato, cucumber, red onion, and parsley, with lemon juice and olive oil. But you can add lots of things to it: chickpeas for protein or feta cheese for salt and creaminess or bits of toasted pita chips for more crunch are both very good. This recipe recommends adding sumac. I’ve never done that, but sumac is good as heck; maybe I’ll try it and maybe you should too.

ceez3. Non-leaf Caesar salad
Caesar salad is, like, really delicious, if it’s done right. That anchovy-mustardy-lemony dressing is pretty amazing. So don’t ruin it by dumping it on some dumb Romaine lettuce that can never really appreciate its charms. Caesars are great with pretty much any raw vegetable, but right now is asparagus season, so let’s do that! Here’s a good recipe.

tatoes 4. Potato salad
I like the supermarket jugs of near-mashed mayo-y picnic salads as much as anyone, and I appreciate that potato salad has no leaves, but I think—as with coleslaw—that a vinegar-based dressing makes for a better, more refreshing, less-likely-to-make-you-feel-like-you’re-gonna-ralph salad than mayonnaise. Mark Bittman has a good recipe for a potato salad with a mustard vinaigrette, which I have tried and which is excellent. This salad is also good with pickled red onion/shallot.

frenchthing
5. Celeriac remoulade
This is a Jurassic-era French recipe, the kind of thing Julia Child would make and that I feel like you’d have a hard time finding in Paris today. I first had it in Montreal, where they still serve a lot of these old-ass uncool French dishes, and MAN IT IS DELICIOUS. Celeriac, or celery root, is the, um, root of the celery plant. It looks like a dumb idiot gnarled cancerous root system, but if you cut away all that nonsense and peel it, it turns out to be this fragrant delicious root vegetable that’s reminiscent of, but not quite like, celery. Celeriac remoulade calls for raw, grated celeriac, plus a very sour mayonnaise (the sourness coming from mustard and lemon juice). It’s kind of like French coleslaw! Here’s a good recipe.

berrybro6. Fruit salad
I LOVE FRUIT SALAD. Never ever buy a fruit salad. Always make your own fruit salad. If you make your own fruit salad, you will never again eat cantaloupe or honeydew with the flavor and texture of a raw Idaho potato. You are garbage, prepackaged fruit salad melon! Get in the garbage! Anyway, the key to fruit salad is to not be lazy. Don’t put a segment of orange or grapefruit in there with the pith or skin still on it. Supreme your citrus. Do not put whole strawberries in there; trim and slice them. Fruit salad should have a dressing, and it should have fresh herbs, like chopped-up basil and/or mint. Always. It’s also good to squeeze a little bit of lime juice and maybe some honey over the top to add some extra kick. As for ingredients, I don’t care, add literally whatever you want, but try to have a variety of flavors and textures. If you have something sweet and soft, like a banana, try to add something crunchy and tart, like a Granny Smith apple. Also, avocado is a fruit. Add it to fruit salad! Especially if you have grapefruit in there too.

chicksalad
7. Chana chaat
Chana chaat is an Indian chickpea salad, although I don’t think they refer to it as a salad? it seems like a salad to me. Anyway, chana chaat is basically chickpeas with a dressing, often with tamarind. This recipe is pretty good, although obviously you can use canned chickpeas and cumin powder (instead of toasting and grinding whole cumin seeds). Sure, it’d be better if you made your own chaat masala spice blend with whole spices and sure it’d be better if you used asafoetida (a spice which smells like actual poop), but, like, you don’t need to. Mostly this salad is about the chickpeas and the tamarind dressing, which is spicy and sour and sweet all at once. (Tamarind paste can be found in Indian and Mexican markets or Whole Foods, obvs.) I’d recommend adding a few things to this recipe (not leaves!), like sliced radish or cucumber or carrot or cauliflower for some crunch, and maybe some boiled potatoes because potatoes are good.

Armed with these recipes you can go forth and ENJOY your salad, rather than just eating it because it’s salad and you’re supposed to eat it to look thin and beautiful even though it looks and tastes like something you raked up. Eat good salads! Leave Leaves Behind!

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer/editor who lives in Brooklyn. He has serious opinions about the MTV Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

Photos by Dwight Sipler, Young Sok Yun, Lynn Gardner, Jacqueline, tracy benjamin, Daniel, madlyinlovewithlife, and Garrett Ziegler, respectively, via Flickr Creative Commons

17 Comments

The post How to Make a Good Salad Without Dumb Leaves appeared first on The Awl.

29 May 20:11

Google offers new tool to confirm that your ISP sucks at video

by Xeni Jardin

Does YouTube stutter and buffer poorly when you try to stream a video? If you're in the USA, check out Google's new Video Quality Report, in which major internet service providers are ranked on the quality of their YouTube stream delivery.

Read the rest
27 May 13:15

Chilling New Website Documents What Happens To Women Who Reject Men’s Sexual Advances

Elliot Rodger, UCSB shooter

Elliot Rodger, UCSB shooter

CREDIT: Screenshot of YouTube video

A woman attacked with acid. A teenager stabbed to death. A woman raped and beaten. Women smashed in the head with bowling balls and glass bottles.

Those are real life examples of violence that women have experienced after they rejected the sexual advances of men — when they refused to flirt with them, dance with them, go on a date with them, or have sex with them — being collected by a new Tumblr page called “When Women Refuse.” The recent mass shooting in Santa Barbara, which was perpetrated by a young man who wanted to punish the women who weren’t attracted to him, is the latest example of a tragedy that fits this profile.

“We still don’t view gender based violence as a large cultural issue — we tend to think of these as isolated incidences,” Deanna Zandt, the co-founder of the digital strategy group Lux Digital and the feminist activist who started the Tumblr, explained in an interview. “We still don’t view it as a larger problem within rape culture.”

After news broke about this weekend’s shooting rampage, Zandt said that many of the men in her social networks were quick to assume that the perpetrator, Elliot Rodger, represents an extreme outlier. She wanted to do something to help people realize that what happened in Santa Barbara is actually all too common, thanks to our culture of violence and misogyny against women. So when she noticed the writer Kate Harding collecting similar news stories on her Facebook page, Zandt decided to house them on a public site, and “When Women Refuse” was born.

The site took off. Twitter users were quick to share it under the hashtag #YesAllWomen, which has emerged as a space for women to share their own personal experiences with violence and misogyny in the aftermath of the shooting.

“There’s been a really positive reaction from both men and women,” Zandt said. “I think it’s been really eye opening for many people. The most common response has been — ‘oh my god, I had no idea.’ ”

Thanks to the online tools that are now available to feminist activists, social media users are increasingly taking the opportunity to drive conversations about victim-blaming and gender-based violence. Earlier this year, feminists used Twitter to amplify women’s experiences with rape culture — a concept that was once relegated to the feminist blogosphere, but that has recently gained recognition in more mainstream circles. Now, the coverage around the Santa Barbara shooting has put a spotlight on the “Pick Up Artist” (PUA) community, which has a long history of treating women like objects that men are entitled to.

“The fact that this conversation is happening now is a huge indicator of the structural connectivity work that online feminists have been doing for years,” Zandt noted. “We’re in a different place than we were five years ago… We’re creating a space for these discussions.”

The post Chilling New Website Documents What Happens To Women Who Reject Men’s Sexual Advances appeared first on ThinkProgress.

27 May 12:54

Really Creepy Bundle: name your price for amazing, transmedia horror

by Cory Doctorow

Jamie from Vodo writes, "We've launched the Really Creepy Bundle, a brand new collection of terrifying, chilling and downright disturbing indie creativity that includes four highly-rated games (Oknytt, Finding Teddy, The Path and Sang Froid), award winning fiction (Nebula nominee Stranger In Olondria, and a month subscription to Nightmare magazine), four spooky short films, an 8 track compilation from LA's Not Not Fun Records, laden with doom plus the definitely disturbing and massively entertaining graphic novel (The Furry Trap) -- which Boing Boing rated one of the best damn comics of the year in 2013.

Read the rest
22 May 13:10

Reading Assigned

by John Herrman
by John Herrman

"To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte. A nation outlives its generations."—What is an ambitious, bold, beautifully written magazine cover story worth in 2014? That is to ask: Can it still force people to talk, or is the power of the information void such that it will be merely processed and forgotten, filed away in the abandoned longform warehouse? This is as good a month as any to find out.

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17 May 15:51

Kickstarter: Edward Gorey documentary

by David Pescovitz

BB contributor Mark Dery, who is busy penning a biography of Edward Gorey to be published by Little, Brown, points us to Christopher Seufert's Kickstarter for The Edward Gorey Documentary Project, a feature-length film containing unseen interviews and fantastic cinema-verite footage of Gorey in his native habitat!

21 May 09:19

Met releases 400,000 hi-rez scans for free download, claims copyright over the public domain

by Cory Doctorow

Robbo sez, "The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just released almost 400,000 visual works in an online searchable database. The images are high rez (10 megapixels) and free to download.

Read the rest
11 May 16:09

Gothinfographics

by Bryan Alexander

A fun set of Gothic literature infographics - really - comes from the Guardian this week.  Check out "How to tell you're reading a gothic novel – in pictures".

For example,

Gothic-novels-The-weather_Guardian2014May

The creators did a fine job of researching classic and important Gothic novels from the 18th and 19th centuries. Kudos for including American and Irish texts.

(thanks to Chris Lott)

09 May 22:31

Download 55 free online literature courses: from Kerouac to Tolkien

by Mark Frauenfelder
Open Culture's online literature courses look good, especially the ones by “Tolkien Professor” Corey Olsen.
30 Apr 22:00

Sugar skull spoons for sale

by Cory Doctorow


Remember the kickstarter for the sugar skull spoon? They not only completed successfully, but are now in full production, and are available retail through the Colossal store for $13.






29 Apr 20:15

The Lost Art of Dress: A Conversation with Historian Linda Przybyszewski

by Grace Bello
by Grace Bello

In The Lost Art of Dress, historian and dressmaker Linda Przybyszewski explores how American women's fashion went from floor-length dresses to bloomers to shirtwaist dresses to, yes, flour sack dresses. Before ready-to-wear and before fast fashion, American women created affordable clothing for themselves and their families with help from the Dress Doctors—the thrift experts, home economics professors, and fashion guide authors who advised women how to craft the most appropriate looks for less. Style changed with every step forward for women: gaining the vote, entering the world of work, heading academic departments. Recently, Przybyszewski and I talked about the evolution of American style, the fraught subject of home economics, the lack of fashion and beauty advice for black women, and how to dress like a streetwalker in the 19th century.

You wrote that “the Dress Doctors were eager to prepare women for new roles in American life.” So can you describe the cultural and economic climate these Dress Doctors were in? Why did American women want to and need to change the way they dressed?

There were several things going on at different levels and different arenas of life. One was, by the late 19th century, more and more women were getting educated at college—middle-class women. They needed something to wear because dresses then could be very fancy and frilly. Essentially, women started wearing suits instead of dresses.

World War I, which didn't affect the United States as much as it affected, say, Britain, did require women to go into jobs that men had formerly held. And women who were volunteering for the ambulance corps, etcetera needed really practical clothing to do their jobs. They needed shorter skirts, things like that. Lots of working class women and some middle-class women were moving into wage work in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They needed clothing that they could keep clean if they were working in factories, for example. So there was a big increase in the popularity of what they called the shirtwaist and what we call the blouse.

In the late 19th century, there was also a move to get young women to exercise. In the 19th century, dresses went all the way down to the ground. So if they were going to exercise, they needed new things to wear. So they came up with divided skirts with bloomers underneath for bicycle riding or golf and slightly shorter skirts for tennis.

Also, women had the vote in various Western states in the late 19th century but didn't gain the vote nationwide until 1920 with the 19th amendment. A lot of the Dress Doctors saw this as a new phase, full citizenship for women. Obviously, women had participated in civic life. But to actually have the vote guaranteed by the Constitution was a big step forward. And the ways in which women would need to act in public life, they needed to look serious if they were going to take on important, civic issues.

Can you tell us about the home ec movement? It was about thrift, but it was also a way for women to make money at a time when not a lot of jobs were open to them.

Home economics started in the 19th century as a movement to bring a more systematic way of running the home to all American women. It's interesting because the women who taught home ec and wrote the books, they were professionals. They were carving out a space for themselves in a world that pretty much divided the public world and the private world.

Via Maryland State Archives. 

Men functioned in the public world mostly, and women functioned mostly in the private world. Well, the home falls into the private world, but teaching home ec means you need to look into textiles, chemistry, nutrition, and food science. So home ec became the way in which women created a safe space for themselves at universities. Which is why, startlingly, by 1960, out of the about 475 women at universities teaching science, 300 of them were in home economics departments. So it did give them an entryway in the sciences, it gave them an entryway into the university in a space that was supposed to be only for women. Women were the deans of home economics colleges. So that meant women got into higher administration in the universities as well.

We can criticize them in the long-run by saying that safe space ended up becoming a ghetto. But at the time they started it, it was a very effective way to allow women into higher education without having to argue with men about how much space they could have.

That's fascinating.

I think most of us think of home economics as sort of backwards. [laughs] But this whole world of work opened up for women through home economics.

Can you talk about some of your favorite bizarre fashion trends? You mentioned the flour sack dress.

I love the flour sack dress! It's the epitome of thrift. The idea that farm women will go into a feed store and buy feed for their chickens but make sure that the big bags it came in were in an attractive, floral print—I find that the most thrifty story in American clothing history. A lot of these things were actually really pretty. You can go onto eBay and other sites and find people selling bits of these cotton prints. They're actually very attractive.

Via. 

I tell you this because I'm a dressmaker myself. I went to graduate school and was self-supporting, which really means I was poor. [laughs] I went to Stanford. Palo Alto, Menlo Park are very nice suburbs that I couldn't really afford to live in. But that also means their Junior League [thrift store] has great stuff. So I would take stuff that was too big—beautiful, wool crepe that I could never afford to go buy the yardage for—but I could take it apart and cut it down and make something completely different.

So flour sack dresses are an old tradition. Recycling, upcycling—it's been going on for a long time.

In the book, you say of the Dress Doctors' advice, “How valuable would this advice be today when American women are mired in credit-card debt, urged to shopping frenzy.” What do you think the Dress Doctors would say about our fast fashion habits?

Fast fashion is so interesting because I think the Dress Doctors would think that we're all shopping like teenagers now. They expected women to have different values or energy levels at different points in their lives. So they realize, here are young people full of energy and enthusiasm liable to chase one fad after the other—and that's fine. As long as they don't get into debt. Getting into debt for clothing was horrifying to the Dress Doctors.

Source: Nina Leen—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Teenage fashions, 1944

So I think they would think two things: One, they would dislike debt itself, especially for clothing because clothing wears out. You're in debt for something that is slowly losing value as you use it. And secondly, they would not expect us to be overly excited about new and novel looks when we're older. Not that women shouldn't be interested in fashion. But you need to choose what really suits your life and what suits your body.

Novelty was not the goal. Beauty was the goal.

The Dress Doctors often overlooked black women. Can you explain a little bit about that conflict?

Almost all of the Dress Doctors were white. When they laid out the range of complexions—they get no darker than a light-skinned Hispanic coloring. The reason they even got that dark was because, in the 1930s when many of the Dress Doctors started writing their most elaborate textbooks, there were Hispanic movie stars like the woman who played Dolores del Rio in Flying Down to Rio.

There are just a few textbooks that talk about women of color. What actually happened was, there were at least a couple of black women who got degrees in Home Economics who wrote their own books in order to offer young African American women the same sort of knowledge about color and complexion that white girls just took for granted. And at least one of those books, which was first published in the 1930s, got reprinted over and over. I think it probably got pretty good play in the black community.

Howard University Queen contestants, 1947, via.But otherwise, for the Dress Doctors who were working with the really big publishers, it wasn't until the civil rights movement came along that they realized that they had simply defined African American women as outside of those standards. And some of the very last of the Dress Doctors started modifying their textbooks to try to make up for what had been decades of complete neglect.

I love this part of the book: “Since the whore was the most public working woman of the nineteenth century, respectable middle-class women had long avoided the styles she wore to advertise her wares.” Can you tell us more about this? What was the difference, style-wise, between a so-called respectable woman and one who was considered vulgar?

I don't think anyone's managed to, how do I put this, curate a prostitute's wardrobe from the 19th century. All we have is commentary from middle-class writers.

It's clear that middle-class women didn't want to wear anything flashy. Bright colors worn in public was definitely considered vulgar. Good women should not be wearing them. Everything that they would associate with the whore or the woman of the town or street worker were things that said, "Yoohoo! Notice me!" So, bright or bare or flashy or loud, these are the kinds of words that they would refer to.

Realize, too, that men were wearing dark suits. In the 18th century, it was basically court wear: bright colors, embroidered things. That's what you would have seen in Britain. And the colonists who had money wore those kinds of things, too. And then with the American Revolution, you get a sort of emphasis on plain dressing men, brown suits because they're not aristocrats. That anti-aristocratic urge gets confirmed in the early 19th century with these dark suits.

The contrast between men on the streets in dark suits and women of the streets in bright clothing would have been particularly noticeable. So if the middle-class woman was in the street, she wanted to wear dark, unobtrusive clothing because she was not trying to get men's attention.

That leads me to another question. I don't know if you've heard of this term normcore?

Oh my God! I saw that in The New York Times!

What's interesting is you just said there was this movement to not look aristocratic, and I wonder if you think that that's maybe a driving force behind normcore? We're trying not to look elite?

I don't even know. I just read the one article, so I couldn't tell you.

I remember reading about how in Silicon Valley, you're not supposed to dress up. So some men, one thing they can do is wear fun socks. Even if you're a multimillionaire in Silicon Valley, and you can appreciate a beautifully tailored suit from Milan, you're not allowed to. Which I think is fascinating. It tells you, though people say you can wear whatever you want, you actually can't. If you wear a hat today, people really do notice it. If you're in Silicon Valley, and you wear a beautiful suit, apparently they won't take you seriously anymore.

What are some of fashion trends that you wish would come back?

It's weird because this is during The Great Depression, but the day dresses of the mid-1930s were wonderful. They moved away from that 1920s waist-at-your-hip look. That didn't look good on most women. Then in the '30s, the waist was at the natural waist. This is really when they put a lot of attention on bringing interest up to the neckline so that the bodices of a lot of the dresses have such creative, inventive collars. Even the sleeves and the cuts were so interesting. As a dressmaker, I'm amazed. I've never seen anything like that. They're very attractive. They don't look outlandish. They look like they have a lot of thought put into them. Those dresses, I think we could learn a lot from.

 

Previously: How Your Sweet Valley High Gets Made

Grace Bello is a freelance writer based in New York. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_land.

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29 Apr 14:00

MC Hammer Watch: Beneath The City Is Turn-Based Thief

by Nathan Grayson

Well now, here is a brilliant little surprise. Who’d have thought the best game set in the Thief universe this year would be an itsy bitsy isometric Ludum Dare 29 entry? Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but Beneath The City really is a smart (though sadly brief) execution of a really fun idea. In short (but undeniably stout), it’s a real-time turn-based stealther set in Thief’s City. Each time you dash in any direction with a lithe tap of an arrow key, so too does every guard on the map. There’s also light sources to account for, water arrows to fling, and a mystery to partially unravel. Garrett – the real Garrett – would be proud.

… [visit site to read more]

30 Apr 00:58

Exploding corpse in Florida

by Bryan Alexander

Florida offered another bit of real-life Gothic this week, as bad things happened around a dead body.

It begins with one of those sad stories about neglected people dying alone:

The deceased elderly woman, who apparently passed away from natural causes, lived alone with her dogs. After she died, her body went undiscovered for two weeks before a noxious odor began to fill the adjacent units.

Then some body-eating by beloved animals:

Explosion_KevinDooleyAfter complaints from neighbors, maintenance workers entered the apartment and found that the dogs had eaten her remains, according to Courthouse News.

Then, well, the exploding corpse:

The undiscovered body went through its normal decaying process and eventually bloated to the point that the gasses inside the corpse built enough pressure that it caused its abdomen to burst. This released gases and fluids, which is what leaked down into Rodrigo's apartment.

Followed by a Florida-style legal battle:

"The plain meaning of the term 'explosion' does not include a decomposing body's cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids," they court stated, per the New York Post.

The court went on to say that Rodrigo failed to establish that the woman's corpse was "tantamount to an explosion."

Florida: Infocult needs only observe to share the horror.

(link via Naked Capitalism; photo by Kevin Dooley)

30 Apr 13:10

Where are the stolen girls of Nigeria? And why don't we care more?

by Xeni Jardin
Photo: Reuters. Families of kidnapped schoolgirls attend a meeting with the local government in the remote town of Chibok, Nigeria.


Photo: Reuters. Families of kidnapped schoolgirls attend a meeting with the local government in the remote town of Chibok, Nigeria.

_74516199_nigeria_chad_cameroon Three weeks ago in the remote northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok, over 200 girls were kidnapped from their boarding school dormitories in the middle of the night. By some reports, as many as 275 children may have abducted; more than 40 escaped. The militants who abducted the mostly 16-18 year old girls are from Boko Haram -- a group whose name means "Western Education is Forbidden." As the name implies, they are on a murderous campaign to eliminate education in West Africa.

Reports are surfacing this week that the militants are treating the girls as sexual slaves, "marrying" them to soldiers who have carried them off to neighboring states including Chad and Cameroon. In plain words, this means the girls are being raped and impregnated against their will -- and who knows what additional forms of torture and abuse, or how many have died.

Why has this story received so little attention in the West? For example, the New York Times has published exactly one reported piece, on April 17. Perhaps if the girls were on a ferry in Korea, a jet liner in the Indian Ocean, in the owner's box at a Clippers basketball game, or if they were white, we'd care more.

Today in Nigeria, women are marching to demand more resources to find the young women.

In the New Yorker, the voice of a girl who escaped and survived.

From NPR:

"It's a situation of present, continuous agony. Everybody is terrified at the thought of what they might be going through. There's just no reason why these girls could have been targeted. They're so innocent, so harmless," [Author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani] says. "They're probably Muslim and Christian. It's frightening. They're not being seen as Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo [three of Nigeria's major ethnic groups]. They're not being seen as northerners or easterners. They're just seen as children."

Some of the women who'd gathered (7hrs) early at Unity Fountain for the rally. #Bringbackourgirls #Nigeria #Abuja pic.twitter.com/PFQN2FnFDv

— Nkem Ifejika (@nkemifejika) April 30, 2014

By joining the March today, you are make a statement that these our Girls' MOTHERS are not ALONE in their pain. pic.twitter.com/ikdeU043VY

— oby ezekwesili (@obyezeks) April 30, 2014







29 Apr 16:45

"In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness"

by Jia Tolentino
by Jia Tolentino

Alice Bolin has a terrific essay up at the LA Review of Books right now:

The Dead Girl Show’s most notable themes are its two odd, contradictory messages for women. The first is to cast girls as wild, vulnerable creatures who need to be protected from the power of their own sexualities. True Detective demonstrates a self-conscious, conflicted fixation on strippers and sex workers. [...] “How does she even know about that stuff?” Hart asks in 1995 when he and his wife discover sexual drawings his elementary-school-age daughter did. “Girls always know first,” his wife replies. This terrible feminine knowledge has been a trope at least since Eve in the Garden. Marcus compares Twin Peaks’s victim Laura Palmer to the teenage “witches” in Puritan New England who were burned to purge and purify their communities. In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness.

The other message the Dead Girl Show has for women is more simple: trust no dad. Father figures and male authorities hold a sinister interest in controlling girl bodies and, therefore, in harming them. In True Detective, the conspiracy goes all the way to the top, involving a US senator and his cousin, a powerful minister. [...] Externalizing the impulse to prey on young woman cleverly depicts it as both inevitable and beyond the control of men.

"All Dead Girl Shows betray an Oedipal distrust in male authority figures, but in Twin Peaks and True Detective, the central characters are male authority figures," writes Bolin. Every other line in here has something fascinating to hang onto, so let me just recommend to all Dead Girl Show lovers/haters (Pretty Little Liars is the one that actually wins this, I gather?) that you go on and read the rest at LARB.

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