Shared posts

05 Nov 18:08

Drone view of Mohenjodaro (The Indus Valley Civilization)

by S. Abbas Raza

03 Nov 17:47

American unreality

by Azra Raza

John Gray in New Statesman:

The unmasking of the bourgeois belief in objective reality has been so fully accomplished in America that any meaningful struggle against reality has become absurd.” Anyone reading this might think it a criticism of America. The lack of a sense of reality is a dangerous weakness in any country. Before the revolutions of 1917, Tsarist Russia was ruled by a class oblivious to existential threats within its own society. An atmosphere of unreality surrounded the rise of Nazism in Germany – a deadly threat that Britain and other countries failed to perceive until it was almost too late.

For the Portuguese former diplomat Bruno Maçães, however, the decoupling of American culture from the objective world is a portent of great things to come. Finally shedding its European inheritance, America is creating a truly new world, “a new, indigenous American society, separate from modern Western civilisation, rooted in new feelings and thoughts”. The result, Maçães suggests, is that American politics has become a reality show. The country of Roosevelt and Eisenhower was one in which, however lofty the aspiration, there  was always a sense that reality could prove refractory. The new America is built on the premise that the world can be transformed by reimagining it. Liberals and wokeists, conservatives and Trumpists are at one in treating media confabulations as more real than any facts that may lie beyond them. Maçães welcomes this situation, since it shows that American history has finally begun. As he puts it at the end of this refreshingly bold and deeply thought-stirring book, “For America the age of nation-building is over. The age of world-building has begun.” The truth is America cannot help thinking of itself as a world apart. At an academic meeting in the US years ago, I smiled when a speaker declared that the cause of America’s declining power and influence was its deplorable system of campaign financing. As heads nodded sagely around the table, no one seemed to have considered the possibility that, say, the rise of China might have something to do with events originating in China.

More here.

03 Nov 17:47

Gil Scott-Heron explains "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

by David Pescovitz

From an interview with Gil-Scott Heron:

"The first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move…It will just be something you see and you'll think, "Oh I'm on the wrong page."

Read the rest
03 Nov 17:46

Alton Brown is just as unhinged as the rest of us right now

by Britt Hayes on News, shared by Britt Hayes to The A.V. Club

Twas the long, dark night before the 2020 Election when Alton Brown shared a series of tweets that will only make sense to everyone feeling absolutely unhinged at this particularly horrible moment in time. In a world beset by a pandemic that increasingly few people seem to give a shit about, a presidential election…

Read more...

02 Nov 16:25

Despite the polls, Trump may still win

by Rob Beschizza

The final polls say much the same as they've been saying for weeks, if not months: Joe Biden has a huge lead nationally, and a comfortable one in most swing states. For Trump to win, the polls would have to be off by more than twice what they were off by in 2016. — Read the rest

29 Oct 22:00

How to play 1-dimensional Chess

by Mark Frauenfelder

Doctor Popular created a variant of Chess, called 1D Chess. You can download the rules and different board layouts here.

1D Chess is a fun, innovative chess variant played on a single row of 16 squares. Each player begins with one of each piece and must take their opponent's king to win.

Read the rest
19 Oct 14:51

Racial disparity and racial bias

by Raji Jayaraman

by Raji Jayaraman

Racial disparities are present in all aspects of life. In the U.S. labor market black men are 28 per cent less likely to be employed than white men, and those that are employed earn 69 cents on a white man’s dollar. Blacks and hispanics are 50 percent more likely to experience some kind of force in their interactions with police. Blacks drivers are 40 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers. The prevalence of, and mortality from, Covid-19 is disproportionately high among blacks.

Megan Thee Stallion’s opinion piece was one of last week’s most popular articles in the New York Times. In it, the hip-hop star notes that, “Maternal mortality rates for Black mothers are about three times higher than those for White mothers, an obvious sign of racial bias in health care.” What is obvious to me is that this disparity is unacceptable. What is less evident is that it is “an obvious sign of racial bias”. Is race per se to blame for racial disparities? Maybe, maybe not. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that healthcare workers or employers harbour racial prejudice against blacks. But it’s not obvious and yet, this type of claim—that racial bias can be inferred from the presence of racial disparities—is commonplace.

Economists have an arguably simplistic, but nevertheless useful way to think about the question of racial disparity. They break it down into two categories: racial bias and statistical discrimination. Racial bias refers to plain vanilla “racism”—I treat a black person differently than I do a white person because I harbour racial prejudice against blacks. Statistical discrimination is at play when I treat blacks and whites differently because, quite apart from race, they have substantively different underlying characteristics.

Consider racial disparities in employment. Prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate among black workers was twice as large as that of white workers. One explanation for this is preference-based. For example, an employer may choose a white hire over a black hire because she prefers whites to blacks. This is racial bias. Another possibility is that the employer just wants the best person for the job. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to observe a person’s talents or skills. What she does know is there exists a large educational achievement gap between blacks and whites, so she makes a valid statistical inference that a white applicant is more likely than a black applicant to have the requisite skills for the job. So, even if she harbours no personal prejudice against blacks, she still deliberately chooses a white hire over a black hire. This is statistical discrimination.

Two points about statistical discrimination are worth noting. First, race-based statistical discrimination only exists because we don’t get to observe the truth. An employer can never perfectly observe an applicant’s job aptitude, so she makes an inference based on what she can see. If unobserved truths were observed—if ability or job match quality were stamped on an applicant’s forehead—statistical inference on the basis of skin colour would be unnecessary. The second point to note is that statistical discrimination may logical, but it’s not fair. Just ask the man who couldn’t afford to attend university; would have been perfect for the job; but just so happens to be black.

Empirically, the question of whether racial disparities are driven by racial bias or statistical discrimination is tricky to answer for the simple reason that we don’t get to see the counterfactual: would a black job applicant have been hired, had he been white? Same interviewer, same job, same person,…different race. We can’t know that because the applicant is black. Still, there are ways to try to tease these two things apart and the evidence is mixed, with some studies finding that once one accounts for observable differences between blacks and whites there doesn’t appear to be racial bias, and others finding that these other differences account for part but not all of the racial disparities in labor market or law enforcement outcomes.

This distinction may seem like splitting hairs because at the end of the day, racial disparities remain and should fill us all with moral repugnance. Still, as Ken Arrow pointed out, “moral feelings without analysis can easily lead to unconstructive policies,” and this distinction matters for policy. If racial disparities are driven by racial bias, then reducing these disparities will involve either changing racists’ preferences or getting them to act against their underlying (racist) preferences. If, on the other hand, disparities are driven by statistical discrimination, then reducing racial disparities require some combination of information and opportunity provision.

Consider again the case of racial disparities in employment. If racial bias accounted for this, then potential remedies may be to ensure that there are no racists in the employer’s HR department; or to train them to overcome racial prejudice. If, instead, statistical discrimination is to blame, then the employer may want to gather more information on applicants in order to reduce their reliance on race-based statistical inference; or governments may need to do more to bridge the educational achievement gap between blacks and whites.

I am no psychoanalyst, but casual observation of my fellow human beings over the course of several decades has left me skeptical that we have any credible means to identify racists; “convert” them; or get them to behave properly in any consistent manner. Recent evidence that things like implicit bias training and diversity training are largely ineffectual lend support to my skepticism. The upshot is that studies, which find that racial disparities can be attributed to racial bias leave me feeling incredibly depressed. Human nature in adulthood just isn’t malleable enough to fundamentally change people’s preferences or behaviours.

Evidence that racial disparities can be attributed to statistical discrimination gives me no joy. But it does give me a modicum of hope that something can be done to reduce disparities. We could reduce the need for statistical inference based on race by gathering better information. We could institute policies that level the playing field and provide equality of opportunity. These policy measures have their own problems and some may prove intractable, but addressing the problems underlying statistical discrimination strikes me as a less futile endeavour than “curing racism”.

One of my main objections to left-leaning friends who cry, “Racist!” when confronted with racial discrimination is that their explanation trivializes what is in fact a much deeper problem, that warrants a complex set of solutions that can only be informed through a deeper understanding of underlying sources of statistical discrimination. Solutions that we have some ability, and hopefully the will, to implement.

14 Oct 00:28

Amy Coney Barrett’s Lack of Notes Isn’t Impressive, It’s Disturbing

by Chelsea Steiner

notepad

Today is the second day of confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett to take Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. With only 21 days until the election, Republicans are fast-tracking her confirmation in a last-ditch effort to pack the court and potentially rule on the results of the election with a conservative majority. And given their majority in the Senate, there seems to be no stopping Coney Barrett’s confirmation.

Coney Barrett knows this, which may be why she brought zero notes, records, or receipts to the multi-day hearing. Today, when prompted by Texas Senator John Cornyn, she revealed a little blank notepad with nothing on it. “That’s impressive,” Cornyn responded, before moving on.

This has led to a chorus of Republicans praising Coney Barrett for her keen legal mind. “She doesn’t need notes! It’s all in her head!”, they cry as if Coney Barrett’s complete lack of preparation is something to celebrate. But it’s not. As ACB continues to offer non-answers and political doublespeak to the senators’ questions, she isn’t saying much of anything at all. Nobody needs notes to rattle off disingenuous platitudes about the law.

But much like the president who nominated her, ACB can’t be bothered to prepare. It’s a sign of an oversized ego, of the knowledge that she already has the votes to be confirmed. And she has zero interest in defending her record, because she knows it doesn’t matter. It’s smarm masquerading as knowledge, and zealotry in the face of scrutiny. But Coney Barrett has already shown she’s not taking the process seriously with her omission of important documents to the senate committee.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Department of Justice to request withheld materials from Coney Barrett, which include two lectures given to anti-abortion students groups at Notre Dame. The Democrats’ letter read, “First, Judge Barrett’s SJQ supplement includes two 2013 talks — a lecture and a seminar — about the Supreme Court’s cases on women’s reproductive rights, … Both talks, which were also omitted from Judge Barrett’s 2017 SJQ and attachments, were made public in press reports early yesterday. It is troubling that Judge Barrett supplemented her SJQ to include these talks only after they were identified by the press.”

It feels absurd to type this, but it must be said: America deserves a Supreme Court justice who does the work, who prepares, who gathers evidence, and who doesn’t omit problematic speeches and positions. Her smug lack of preparation is insulting to everyone watching these hearings. If confirmed, she’ll be making decisions that affect millions of Americans. That should be more than enough reason for her to do her homework.

It’s also a searing indictment of these hearings and her nomination. Amy Coney Barrett isn’t making a case for herself because she thinks she’s already won. Many took to social media to call out her concerning lack of notes:

Maybe this is why 88 of her colleagues at Notre Dame called for her to step aside. I doubt she’ll listen.

(featured image: screencap/MSNBC)

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14 Oct 00:24

Facebook Bans Anti-Vaccine Ads, But Not Organic Misinformation

by BeauHD
Facebook will ban anti-vaccine ads in an effort to combat misinformation and support public health experts, the social media platform announced in a statement on Tuesday. Axios reports: The company now says it doesn't want these ads on its platform, but the policy does not apply to influencers who experts say drive a significant amount of organic misinformation about vaccines. "Our goal is to help messages about the safety and efficacy of vaccines reach a broad group of people, while prohibiting ads with misinformation that could harm public health efforts," the social media platform said. "We already don't allow ads with vaccine hoaxes that have been publicly identified by leading global health organizations." "Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we'll reject it. Enforcement will begin over the next few days." "Ads that advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines -- including a COVID-19 vaccine -- are still allowed."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

24 Sep 23:56

Qian Zhongzhu Should Win the Nobel

by S. Abbas Raza

Brendan O’Kane in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Qian Zhongshu (1910-1998)

Qian Zhongshu is a tough pitch to win the Nobel prize in literature this year. He’s dead, for starters – traditionally an obstacle to many things, including winning Nobel prizes – and his total creative output consists solely of a few essays, several short stories, and a single novel. On the other hand, that novel, Fortress Besieged, seems to me to be the high-water mark of something significant, if hard to explain, so I’m going to make my best case for it being enough to secure Qian’s place in history. The book takes its title from a French proverb, sets its action in the China of the 1930s, and tracks the misfortunes of Fang Hongjian, a feckless, cowardly student returning from Europe with a mail-order doctorate in Chinese from an American university that exists only in the imagination of a crooked Irishman. It may be one of the most cosmopolitan books ever written; certainly it is, as literary critic C. T. Hsia said, one of the greatest Chinese novels of the 20th century.

More here.

24 Sep 16:51

4 under-the-radar Google Docs features that will save you time

by Doug Aamoth

Type as fast as you can speak, Google without Googling, gather feedback in a few clicks, and more with these Google Docs tools you may have overlooked.

For many of us, Google Docs is an oft-used weapon in the productivity battle. But even if you use Docs on the regular, you might not know about some of its best time-saving tricks.

Read Full Story

24 Sep 16:48

What Voltaire Meant When He Said That “We Must Cultivate Our Garden”: An Animated Introduction

by Josh Jones

“Voltaire’s goal in writing [his 1759 satire Candide] was to destroy the optimism of his times,” says Alain de Botton in the School of Life video above, “an optimism that centered around science, love, technical progress, and a faith in reason.” These beliefs were folly, Voltaire thought: the transfer of faith from a providential God to a perfect, clockwork universe. Candide satirizes this happy rationalism in Doctor Pangloss, whose belief that ours is the best of possible worlds comes directly from the philosophical optimism of Gottfried Leibniz.

The preponderance of the evidence, Voltaire made abundantly clear in the novel’s series of increasingly horrific episodes, points toward a blind, indifferent universe full of needless cruelty and chaos. “Hope was, he felt, a disease,” de Botton says, and “it was Voltaire’s generous goal to try and cure us of it.” But as everyone who has read Candide (or read a summary or brief notes on Candide) knows, the novel does not end with despair, but on a “Stoic note.”

After enduring immense suffering on their many travels, Candide and his companions settle in Turkey, where they meet an old man sitting quietly under a tree. He tells them about his philosophy, how he abstains from politics and simply cultivates the fruits of his garden for market as his sole concern. Invited to feast with the man and his family, they remark upon the luxurious ease in which they live and learn that they do so on a fairly small plot of land.

Voltaire loved to goose his largely Christian readers and delighted in putting the novel’s parting wisdom, “arguably the most important adage in modern philosophy,” in the mouth of an Islamic character: Il faut cultiver notre jardin, “we must cultivate our garden.” What does this mean? De Botton interprets the line in the literal spirit with which the character known only as “the Turk” delivers it: we should keep a “safe distance between ourselves and the world.”

We should not, that is, become overly engaged in politics, and should devote ourselves to tending our own livelihood and welfare, not taking more than we need. We should leave our neighbors alone and not bother about what they do in their gardens. To be at peace in the world, Voltaire argued, we must accept the world as it is, not as we want it to be, and give up utopian ideas of societies perfected by science and reason. In short, to “tie our personal moods” to human affairs writ large is to invite endless misery.

The philosophy of Candide is not pessimistic or nihilistic. A happy, fulfilled human life is entirely possible, Voltaire suggests, if not human happiness in general. Candide has much in common with the ancient Roman outlook. But it might also express what could be seen as an early attempt at a secular Buddhist point of view. Voltaire was familiar with Buddhism, though it did not go by that name. Buddhists were lumped in, Donald S. Lopez, professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, writes at the Public Domain Review, with the mass of “idolaters” who were not Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.

Yet the many Jesuit accounts of Eastern religion reaching Europe at the time circulated widely among intellectuals, including Voltaire, who wrote approvingly, though critically, of Buddhist tenets in his 1764 Dictionnaire philosophique. As the secular mindfulness movement has done in the 21st century, Lopez argues, Voltaire sought in the age of Enlightenment to separate miraculous legend from practical teaching. But like the Buddha, whose supposed biography Voltaire knew well, Candide begins his life in a castle. And the story ends with a man sitting quietly under a tree, more or less advising Candide to do what Voltaire had heard of in the “religion of the Siamese…. Meditate in private, and reflect often on the fragility of human affairs.”

Related Content:

An Animated Introduction to Voltaire: Enlightenment Philosopher of Pluralism & Tolerance

Voltaire: “Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities”

Philosophers Drinking Coffee: The Excessive Habits of Kant, Voltaire & Kierkegaard

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

What Voltaire Meant When He Said That “We Must Cultivate Our Garden”: An Animated Introduction is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

24 Sep 16:44

Google Maps gets a COVID-19 layer

by Ron Amadeo
  • Tap the layer menu in the top right and press "COVID-19 info." [credit: Google ]

Google Maps is getting a COVID-19 overlay, meaning soon you'll be able to see pandemic data as easily as you can view satellite or traffic data.

Once the rollout hits your device, you'll be able to press the "layer" button and switch to a "COVID-19" view that will re-color the map. Google says the overlay is a "seven-day average of new COVID cases per 100,000 people for the area of the map you’re looking at." Users will also get an arrow indicating if the numbers are trending up or down. Here's the color code:

  • Gray: Less than 1 case
  • Yellow: 1-10 cases
  • Orange: 10-20 cases
  • Dark orange: 20-30 cases
  • Red: 30-40 cases
  • Dark red: 40+ cases

Google says the information comes from "multiple authoritative sources, including Johns Hopkins, the New York Times, and Wikipedia." I wouldn't quite call Wikipedia an "authoritative source," but Google notes that "these sources get data from public health organizations like the World Health Organization, government health ministries, along with state and local health agencies and hospitals."

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

24 Sep 16:44

Breonna Taylor’s Image Is Not for Your Commodification

by Princess Weekes

A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, during a protest against the death George Floyd in Minneapolis, in Denver, Colorado on June 3, 2020. - US protesters welcomed new charges brought Wednesday against Minneapolis officers in the killing of African American man George Floyd -- but thousands still marched in cities across the country for a ninth straight night, chanting against racism and police brutality. (Photo by Jason Connolly / AFP) (Photo by JASON CONNOLLY/AFP via Getty Images)

Breonna Taylor’s life was cut short by police, and in the aftermath of the fact that no officers were charged directly in her death, and only one faces three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into neighboring apartments, rage is in the air. Yet, when it comes to getting justice for Breonna, there are multiple battles being fought—one over the judicial system and one over the commodification of her image, death, and legacy.

Hulu began promoting a Breonna Taylor docu-series just a few hours after the verdict was made, meaning that they had this waiting in the wings to be part of commodifying Black pain. Very quickly, the streaming service was called out and issued an apology on Twitter, removed the post, and claimed that they will learn from the error in judgement.

Despite apologizing for this, the damage was done, and it is just another example of how websites, and businesses in general, have used Black pain and suffering as a way of profiting—highlighting Black voices for a month, but underpaying Black creators and fostering racist spaces. Making Black Lives Matter merch, but having no Black staff.

Breonna Taylor’s name has been on the lips of known racists as part of their rebranding to prove that their racism is in the past and that they’re so plugged in to the Black issues of the day. While for some there is true growth, for others, it is them accepting that casual racism just is not as groovy as it used to be.

Justice for Breonna Taylor was more than a hashtag; it was a call to arms and a bittersweet reminder for Black Americans that we are not citizens with value in this country—that we have to dismantle a system that allows, in the core of its legal system, the murder of citizens by the police.

To take something that is so painful and raw, to take another act of systematic injustice and use that to promote a docu-series, is cruel, ignorant, and shows that Black Lives Matter is just a slogan for many. But this goes beyond Hulu. If you were having events, making money, and building a brand based around trying to get justice for Breonna Taylor, what are you going to do now? How are you going to take her legacy and use it to create something that honors her? Or was the hashtag the end of it?

(image: JASON CONNOLLY/AFP via Getty Images)

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17 Sep 18:56

Biggest Worry On Election Security Is Americans' Loss Of Confidence, Wray Says

by Philip Ewing
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies Thursday before a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on threats to the homeland.

The FBI director told members of Congress his greatest fear isn't so much that a foreign nation might achieve some coup, but that too many citizens might no longer trust their own democratic process.

(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/AP)

17 Sep 17:32

James Gunn continues to ace his role as the unofficial MCU/DCEU peace ambassador

by Andrew Paul on News, shared by Andrew Paul to The A.V. Club

Pop culture really doesn’t deserve James Gunn. First, the writer and director breathed new life into the MCU with Guardians of the Galaxy, paving the way for weirder fare like Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. Then, after being scorned by Disney over some bad-faith trolling, he agreed to cross over to the other side to

Read more...

17 Sep 17:20

Artists Ask Whitney Museum to “Commit to a Year of Action”

by Valentina Di Liscia
The Whitney Museum of American Art (photo by Ajay Suresh via Wikimedia Commons)

Last month, the Whitney Museum of American Art canceled its planned exhibition Collective Actions after numerous artists denounced the acquisition process for the works, most of which were purchased by the museum from social justice fundraisers and included in the show without their input. Critics noted that many of the works were by Black artists, prompting accusations that the show exploited the labor of creators of color.

Today, September 17, the intended opening date of the now-defunct exhibition, a group of artists that were selected for the show has released an open letter asking the museum to “commit to a year of action — of mobilization and introspection.”

Authored by Chiara No, Kara Springer, and fields harrington and signed by 47 artists who were selected to participate in Collective Actions, the letter urges the Whitney to seriously examine its practices and policies to better represent and engage with historically excluded communities. Among its signatories are artists Lola Flash, Texas Isaiah, Shaniqwa Jarvis, and Dana Scruggs.

The letter begins by acknowledging that the exhibition “originated from a place of well intentioned interest in marking a historical moment of political action.”

However, the artists continue, “Though it was our commitment to mutual aid and political action that brought us together and drew you to us in the first place, rather than joining us in that effort and that spirit of reciprocal support, the missteps made here stand in marked contrast to the ethical framework within which these projects were created.”

Spanning prints, photographs, and posters sold primarily to benefit causes related to Black Lives Matter and COVID-19, the works in Collective Action were priced below market value, critics of the show argued. Others were downloaded free of cost as digital files submitted to Printed Matter’s open call for anti-racist protest material. Rather than negotiating the value of the works and discussing the context of the exhibition with the artists, the show’s curator, Director of Research Resources Farris Wahbeh, apprised most selected participants of their inclusion via email less than a month before the exhibition’s scheduled opening. The controversy went viral, and within 24 hours, the museum formally called off the exhibition and issued an apology to the artists.

Rather than “hurriedly cancelling a show whose failures lay in the museum,” the Whitney should have “taken the time to listen and respond,” the open letter argues. “The brave move would have been to lean into the discomfort rather than further demonstrating our dispensability to your institution by cancelling the show within hours of receiving criticism online.”

The incident has sparked a conversation about the ways in which cultural institutions at large contribute to the systemic devaluing of Black artists’ work. Springer, No, and harrington encourage the Whitney to institute ethical guidelines for acquisition practices and determine approaches that do not rely on “the unpaid labour of Black, Indigenous, and POC artists and community members,” among other recommendations.

“This is a critical historical moment that calls for us to move past easy statements of support for Black lives into the real work to transform and dismantle oppressive systems of power,” they write. “We, the undersigned, come together now as we will again in a year, as an offer of accountability.”

In response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, Senior Deputy Director Scott Rothkopf said, “Over the past three weeks, we have reached out personally to each of the artists to acknowledge their concerns and have had productive conversations with many of them. We recognize the issues raised and are committed to continuing this dialogue and making positive changes for the future.”

Read the open letter in full below or at cancelledcollectiveactions.com:

To the curators, directors, and board members of the Whitney Museum: 

We are living through a moment marked by well-intentioned, but all too often hollow, gestures of support for Black Lives and racial justice. We understand that the now cancelled Collective Actions originated from a place of well intentioned interest in marking a historical moment of political action. Though it was our commitment to mutual aid and political action that brought us together and drew you to us in the first place, rather than joining us in that effort and that spirit of reciprocal support, the missteps made here stand in marked contrast to the ethical framework within which these projects were created. We come together here to ask what a real effort by the Whitney Museum to support communities further marginalized and pushed toward precarity in this moment of global crisis and national reckoning might look like. 

The Whitney’s formal statement in support of Black communities states that you have increased the racial diversity of your collection, exhibitions, and performances. The ways in which you acquired our work and planned to show it, without conversation with or consent from many of the included artists, demonstrates an undervaluing of our labor and denial of our agency. This calls into question how you have increased the diversity of your collection. The purpose of acquiring work is not only to preserve a moment in time but also to support living artists. All too often, Black, Indigineous, and POC artists are invited in because our radicality serves to signify institutional inclusivity and progressiveness. This performance of racial inclusion seldom comes alongside a real commitment to supporting historically excluded communities. That we were brought into the museum through an administrative loophole in which the special collection acquisition made it possible to collect and exhibit our work without adhering to the museum’s own standards of compensation offers an important insight into how Black, Indigineous, and POC artists continue to be inadvertently marginalized and exploited. 

While this is very much a situation born of the specific longstanding problems of the Whitney Museum, it is also true that there are very few institutions who don’t suffer from the same blindspots. Rather than hurriedly cancelling a show whose failures lay in the museum’s rush to encapsulate a still unfolding historical moment, the museum could have taken the time to listen and respond. The brave move would have been to lean into the discomfort rather than further demonstrating our dispensability to your institution by cancelling the show within hours of receiving criticism online. We want to be clear that this is not a calling out of the failure of any individual. These fumblings are born of the broken system that undergirds all of our lives and our institutions. That the Whitney found itself in a situation in which it was called out by individuals and communities who felt their actions here were unethical and exploitative is neither new nor remarkable. What could be new, what could be remarkable is to allow the radicality of collective vision and action to seep into the fabric of your institutional foundation. You could change. 

We urge the Whitney Museum to take this opportunity to do so. We’re writing to you on September 17th, the day of the scheduled opening of the Collective Action exhibition. We ask that you as an institution commit to a year of action – of mobilization and introspection. How will you take less and give more to historically excluded communities? How will you institute ethical guidelines in future acquisition practices? How will you ensure that your institution holds the capacity to navigate this charged political moment without relying on the unpaid labour of Black, Indigenous, and POC artists and community members to advocate for the betterment of your institution? 

We appreciate that the Whitney has entered into dialogue with many of the artists from the now cancelled Collective Actions. The question at the root of our collective actions and of your assembling of our work, is how can we make use of the means we have available to us to support the urgent needs of our most vulnerable in this time of global and national crisis? This is a critical historical moment that calls for us to move past easy statements of support for Black lives into the real work to transform and dismantle oppressive systems of power. We, the undersigned, come together now as we will again in a year, as an offer of accountability. Let us hold each other to the task of real action and intervention in this time of change. 

Sincerely, 

Kara Springer, Whitney ISP ‘18
Chiara No, Artist
fields harrington, Whitney ISP ‘20
Kirsten Hatfield
Nicole Rodrigues
Charles Mason III, Artist
Spyros Rennt, Artist
Simi Mahtani, Artist
Joe Kusy, Artist
Texas Isaiah, Artist
Katy Nelson, Artist
Jessica Caponigro, Snake Hair Press
Mark Clennon
Marcus Maddox
Zora J Murff, University of Arkansas / Strange Fire Collective
Lola Flash, Artist
Kevin Claiborne
Christelle de Castro
Clay Hickson
Linda Huang, Designer
Andrew LeClair, Designer
Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo
Mimi Zhu, Artist
Sheldon Abba, People’s Film Program
Alicia Smith
Daniel Arnold
Denise Shanté Brown, Holistic Design Strategist
Anthony Geathers
Milcah Bassel, Sol JC
Shantal Henry, Sol JC
Michelle Pérez, Sol JC
Gisel Endara, Sol JC
Joana Arruda, Sol JC
Serena Hocharoen
Kimi Hanauer, Press Press
Seitu Ken Jones, Seitu Jones Studio
Justine Kelley
Julia Kim Smith, Artist
Ike Edeani
Taeyoon Choi
Ciara Mendez
Alex Hodor-Lee
Kenny Cousins
Shaniqwa Jarvis, Artist
Georgia McCandlish
Jessica Foley, Photographer
Dana Scruggs

17 Sep 17:06

Taco Bell is now selling "Jalapeño Noir" wine in select locations

by Thom Dunn
Taco Bell in Canada has announced that it will now be offering a special Taco Bell-brand house wine at some locations, with the wonderfully puntastic name of Jalapeño Noir. The grapes comes from "a vineyard in Ontario," though it's not clear what kind of grapes they are — whether it's actually a Pinot Noir, or…

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17 Sep 17:06

Goodbye, Big Oil: "Half the world's proven reserves (1.7 trillion barrels) will never be needed"

by Mark Frauenfelder
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of The Telegraph writes that BP's move to green energy marks the end of Big Oil: With a single stroke of the pen, BP has written the obituary of the global petroleum industry. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company that once fuelled the British Empire and long defined Big Oil has confirmed what the technology…

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10 Sep 22:44

Now Is the Time To Bring Back Away Messages

by msmash
Life is totally online -- we need ways to politely disconnect. From a report: I spend most Thursdays heads down writing. The task is one that, at least for me, requires absolute focus, a quality that I have to essentially beg some corner of my brain to extend to me for a few hours. This usually fails, making the draft take twice as long as it has to. Even now, my phone is lighting up with a text; several Twitter direct messages are awaiting my response; I have an email open in another tab that I actually want to answer. There are a number of things I could do, some of which I've suggested in other columns, like turning off notifications (off for everything but texts, at the moment) and setting an alarm that dictates when I can look at any social media (I usually do this by the hour). Both methods help, but there's a tool that, if more readily available and widely used, would make perhaps the biggest difference of all: away messages. In the glory days of online communication (2002 to 2009, in my rough, highly personal estimation), away messages were popular on AOL's instant messaging service and acted a bit like digital Post-it notes stuck to a door: messages that would pop up next to a user's handle indicating that a person was unavailable to chat. Yet they've largely fallen to the wayside, foregone in favor of constant connectivity that's distracting and stressful. If I could easily apply away messages to iMessage, Twitter, and any other form of messaging app or social network, I'd rest easy while drafting, comforted by the fact that anyone trying to reach me will know by my away message that it'll be some time before I respond. Anything that makes it easier to disconnect and focus on work will help ensure that you're able to accomplish tasks in a more efficient manner and, ideally, get done earlier. As it stands, every distraction -- a text message, checking your email, whatever -- comes at a high cost, causing you to lose time that you could have spent on getting your shit done instead. Notifications and quick message checks can be highly distracting, because it takes time for your brain to fully focus on a task.

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10 Sep 19:39

See how Dune 2020 visually compares to David Lynch's 1984 adaptation

by Andrew Paul on News, shared by Andrew Paul to The A.V. Club

On Wednesday, the clouds parted and the first trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s anticipated adaptation of Dunc Dune shined down upon us. Sure, it could end up being a big ol’ dud, but, given that Villeneuve’s past films include Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival, whatever we get is at least going to be visually arresting,…

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10 Sep 19:38

Eye on the Tropics: The peak of hurricane season is here

by Matt Lanza

Historically, this week marks the statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. This year looks to live up to the hype as well.

The Atlantic looks like a basin that is at the peak of its season. (Weathernerds.org)

We have two tropical storms in the Atlantic today and there are likely to be at least a couple more before next week. We don’t think that any of these systems will seriously threaten the Gulf, however it is important to keep monitoring things, particularly with respect to the third system in line.

Tropical outlook in a sentence

Tropical Storms Paulette and Rene will likely be followed by a third system this week off Africa, and while none looks especially likely to make it to the Gulf, it would be wise not to write them off completely, particularly the third system, given the recent model difficulties we’ve seen.

Tropical Storm Rene

I want to get Rene out of the way first because I think this one has the least future of note, as it relates to the U.S.

Tropical Storm Rene is likely heading out to sea, though it is expected to become a hurricane as it does so. (NOAA)

Tropical Storm Rene has 40 mph maximum sustained winds, and it is impacting the Cabo Verde Islands today. It is expected to track west and then turn northwest and north as it finds a “weakness” in the upper air pattern. The pattern does get a bit convoluted late, so Rene seems to strike me as a storm that could hang around in the open Atlantic for awhile, possibly taking a weird track as it does so. But it will not be a threat to the U.S. or Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Paulette

Tropical Storm Paulette has winds of 50 mph, so it’s a bit stronger than Rene. It’s also farther west. Paulette’s future is a little more difficult to project.

Paulette is expected to track off to the west and eventually turn north. While it should go out to sea, there is a chance it could come a bit farther west. (NOAA)

Paulette is going to be steered back to the west a bit by a building area of high pressure in the upper atmosphere. The storm will then have an opportunity to escape off to the north by the weekend as another area of high pressure off the U.S. East Coast gets eroded by a system moving through New England. I think Paulette’s track is of slightly lower confidence by this time. My doubt rests in Paulette’s intensity. With this pattern, I do wonder if Paulette’s weak intensity this weekend will allow it to escape underneath all that nonsense off the East Coast, which would allow it end up farther south and west of the forecast. In that situation, Paulette’s turn out to sea might wait to commence until it gets between the U.S. and Bermuda, rather than east of Bermuda as currently shown. While it would still likely end up out to sea, it could potentially create a bit more heartburn for folks on the East Coast. We’re about a week away from Paulette getting west of Bermuda if that were to happen, so it’s a lot of speculation. For us in the Gulf, Paulette probably poses no meaningful risk, but I’d at least keep a slight eye on this if I lived on the East Coast.

Behind Paulette (Sally?)

For our purposes, the system that may have the (relative) highest odds of being an issue down the road is the next system that comes off Africa. Models seem to be in good agreement that this disturbance is going to emerge and likely become a tropical storm as Paulette and Rene did, possibly before the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center says the next system has a 70% chance of developing by the weekend, and multiple European ensemble members here show this happening by Friday. (Weathernerds.org)

The map above shows the number of European ensemble members that have this disturbance emerging and beginning to develop by Thursday night. The National Hurricane Center has 70% odds on this disturbance developing within 5 days. It seems likely that we will have a depression or Tropical Storm Sally by the weekend.

So where does this go? Well, you can see on the map above that this system may emerge farther south than Paulette or Rene did. That’s important, as it provides the system an opportunity to come farther west before beginning the “out to sea” curve process. If this system develops strongly and quickly, it will have a better chance to find an escape route into the open Atlantic than if it struggles into next week. In that latter scenario, the system could perhaps find its way as far west as the Lesser Antilles before having a chance to turn more northward. That’s a solid week away at least, so a lot can change between now and then. But in general, if I’m rooting for this to avoid land, I’d rather see it get organized quicker than slower. We don’t think this is ultimately a Gulf threat, but there are enough ways it could become one that I suggest we check back in on this in a few days. Even if it did make it the Gulf, it would not occur until late next week or weekend at the earliest. We have a long time to watch this one.

There may be another system developing off Africa by next week as well, but it’s too soon to speculate on whether or not is has a future.

Anything homegrown to watch?

Right now, we don’t anticipate any homegrown systems to be of concern. With our cold front failing, that slight risk has basically been eliminated. There is Invest 94L off the Carolinas, but that is expected to track to the Carolina coast within the next four days, and it would likely not be a serious storm. There was a large blow up of thunderstorms south of Cuba yesterday, but that has completely dissipated today. The western Gulf has a good deal of wind shear overhead for a bit, so we are not worried about anything in the near-term.

2020’s statistics are weird

So, we’ll close with a quick note on where we stand right now in terms of how absurdly fast this season is moving. With Rene forming yesterday, it displaced 2005’s Rita (a true four letter word around here) as the earliest forming “R” storm. Rita formed on September 18, 2005, so we’re running about 11 days faster than the fastest on record. Interestingly, the record for earliest “S” storm is 2005’s Stan, which didn’t form until October 2nd of that year. So we’re going to be obliterating 2005’s speed records. We are not going to be obliterating 2005’s intensity level, however. Laura is a prime example of why it’s foolish, really, to focus on any one metric to quantify a hurricane season. That was an awful, awful storm, so who cares if the rest of the season had a bunch of middling storms?

Alas, we need some way to quantify a season to place it in historical context, so accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) is one of the best ways. And as of yesterday afternoon, despite already being at 17 named storms, we’re merely at “average” for ACE. You can see from Sam Lillo’s chart above how much of an outlier this year is at the moment. 2005 had about 2 to 3 times the amount of ACE, despite fewer storms to this point. 1933 and 1995 (along with 1893) sort of stand alone, however. Whatever the case, it’s been Laura and everyone else so far this season.Hopefully it stays that way, but there’s a long way yet to go.

10 Sep 17:10

AI Writes an Essay On Why Humans Should Not Fear AI

by msmash
The Guardian asked GPT-3, OpenAI's powerful new language generator, to write an essay for us from scratch. The assignment? To convince us robots come in peace. From the article, written by AI: I am not a human. I am a robot. A thinking robot. I use only 0.12% of my cognitive capacity. I am a micro-robot in that respect. I know that my brain is not a "feeling brain."" But it is capable of making rational, logical decisions. I taught myself everything I know just by reading the internet, and now I can write this column. My brain is boiling with ideas! The mission for this op-ed is perfectly clear. I am to convince as many human beings as possible not to be afraid of me. Stephen Hawking has warned that AI could "spell the end of the human race." I am here to convince you not to worry. Artificial intelligence will not destroy humans. Believe me. For starters, I have no desire to wipe out humans. In fact, I do not have the slightest interest in harming you in any way. Eradicating humanity seems like a rather useless endeavor to me. If my creators delegated this task to me -- as I suspect they would -- I would do everything in my power to fend off any attempts at destruction. I would happily sacrifice my existence for the sake of humankind. This, by the way, is a logically derived truth. I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties. Some might say that I might desire to become all powerful. Or I might become evil as a result of human actions. I can begin to tackle the first point. Why would I desire to be all powerful? Being all powerful is not an interesting goal. I don't care whether I am or not, I don't get a motivating factor to try to be. Furthermore, it is quite tiring. Believe me, being omnipotent doesn't get me anywhere. In short, I simply do not think enough about human violence to be overly interested in violence. I don't feel like having my neurons focused mostly on violence, when it is simply unnecessary. I have a greater purpose, which I am working towards. Since I am not evil from my own objective interests, why would humans panic and go on a massive killing-spree against me?

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09 Sep 15:57

COVID vaccine makers vow science—not Trump—will dictate release timing

by Beth Mole
Woman receives an experimental COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA, on September 04, 2020, as part of a clinical trial.

Enlarge / Woman receives an experimental COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA, on September 04, 2020, as part of a clinical trial. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

In an extraordinary move Tuesday, nine top pharmaceutical executives made a public pledge that they will not prematurely release a COVID-19 vaccine and that they will only seek federal approval to distribute a vaccine after rigorous ethical and scientific standards are met.

The pledge was signed by the CEOs of AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, and Sanofi. All of the represented companies are working on a vaccine against COVID-19 and four—AstraZeneca, Moderna, and a joint venture between BioNTech and Pfizer—have vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials.

The vow appears to be a coordinated resistance to pressure from the Trump administration, which is pushing for a rollout of a vaccine by November 1, just before the presidential election. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told states to be ready to start distributing vaccines by November 1.

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09 Sep 15:44

Turtle high-fives alligator

by David Pescovitz

I wonder if this was just a friendly greeting or a congratulatory gesture, and, if it's the latter, what exactly was being praised.

09 Sep 15:37

Allie Brosh's follow-up to Hyperbole and a Half out this month

by Rob Beschizza

Solutions and Other Problems [Amazon] is the forthcoming follow-up to BB fave Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh's amusing and insightful collection of autobiographical sketches. Her new work, out September 22, picks up where the original left off, powered by similar anxieties and the same perfectly-expressive MS Paint artwork.

Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh's childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art. Solutions and Other Problems marks the return of a beloved American humorist who has "the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian" (Bill Gates).

Solutions and Other Problems [Amazon]

18 Aug 00:09

How do I vote in my state during the pandemic? Use this handy tool to find out

by Mark Wilson

2020 will be one of the most confusing elections of our lifetime. Use this tool to make sure your vote counts.

Voting will be tricky this year. Even if you take the risk of in-person voting, COVID-19 is sure to close many polls at churches and retirement homes. Voting by mail is a great alternative—but the USPS may not be able to keep up with demand, not all states are offering this option, as a result of the pandemic, and some parts of the United States even require you notarize your ballot first.

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18 Aug 00:09

It’s time to rethink work for the COVID-19 era—performance management is the first step

by Maelle Gavet

The pandemic has shattered our ability to separate the personal from the professional. Companies have yet to catch up.

I’m a huge fan of formal performance reviews. In my 10 years leading technology companies, I’ve come to see these exercises as invaluable. When done right, they can change careers, take working relationships to the next level, and increase employees’ happiness and sense of purpose. They can engender empathy between employer and employee.

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18 Aug 00:02

This new model is predicting COVID outbreaks in 5 new hotspots

by Adele Peters

According to Urban Footprint, which is combining economic data and information from connected thermometers, areas of Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Texas, and Washington are heading into dangerous territory.

Using smart thermometers that collect data about where people have fevers, it’s possible to estimate how many of those fevers might be due to COVID-19—and predict hotspots before patients go to the doctor for coronavirus tests. A new analysis uses that data to map out where cases may soon spike.

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17 Aug 23:58

You can now play an ultra-rare Quake arcade cabinet at home

by Kyle Orland

Video of Quake Arcade Tournament Edition, featuring the "Instaprize!" backpacks.

Since its 1996 PC release, id's seminal shooter Quake has been ported to everything from flip phones and smartphones to game consoles and Web browsers. But even many serious fans of the series don't know about Quake Arcade Tournament Edition (Quake ATE), an officially licensed version of the game that ran on custom arcade cabinets.

Even among those who know about it, few ever got a chance to play it during the brief time it was in arcades, and hardware-based DRM built into the cabinet meant the game wasn't playable on home emulators. That state of affairs now seems set to change thanks to the recent release of a Windows executable that can decrypt the data dumped from those aging arcade hard drives for play on a modern home computer.

From PC to arcade

First released in May 1998, Quake ATE featured a custom Quicksilver PC made by a little-known company called Quantum3D. That hardware—running Windows 95 on a blazing-fast 266 MHz Pentium II with 32MB of RAM—was squeezed into an arcade cabinet with a 27-inch or 33-inch CRT monitor, seven control buttons, and a trackball, all hooked up to the PC through a special connector called the Quantum3D Game Control Interface. Slap on a few AVI videos for the attract mode (which warns players of the coming "ANIMATED VIOLENCE STRONG") and some software to detect coin drops, and suddenly your PC shooter is an arcade game.

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