Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Night On Earth - Rome

[ed. See also: Night on Earth - Paris and New York]

The Kid Brother

Consider yourself lucky if you have one

Yes, we tossed him like a football when he was two years old. We did. And yes, we folded him like a smiling gangly awkward puppet into a kitchen cabinet. We did that. Yes, we painted his face blue once, and sent him roaring into our teenage sister’s room to wake her up on a Saturday. We did that, too. Yes, we stood in the hospital parking lot with our dad and waved up at the room where our mom stood in the window brandishing our new kid brother who looked from where we stood like a bundle of laundry more than a kid brother. Yes, we gawped at him with disappointment when he came home and was placed proudly on the couch like a mewling prize and we muttered later quietly in our room that he seemed totally useless, brotherwise. We kept checking on him the rest of the day and he never did do anything interesting that we noticed, not even wail or bellow like babies did in the movies and on television, even when you poked him with a surreptitious finger. He just sprawled there looking perfect, and after a while we lost interest and we went upstairs to plot against our sister.

As he grew, he remained the most cheerful compliant complaisant child you ever saw, never complaining in the least when we tossed him or decked him or chose him last for football games or sent him in first as lonely assault force in conflicts of all sorts, and we were always half-forgetting him when we dashed off on adventures and expeditions, and we were always half-absorbed by and half-annoyed with his littlebrotherness, happy to defend him adamantly against the taunts and shoves of others but not at all averse to burling him around like a puppy ourselves. We buried him in the sand up to his jaw at the beach. We spoke to him curtly and cuttingly when we felt that he was the apple of the grandmotherly eye and we were the peach pits, the shriveled potato skins, the sad brown pelts of dead pears. We did that.

And never once that I remember did he hit back, or assault us, or issue snide and sneering remarks, or rat on us to the authorities, or shriek with rage, or abandon us exasperated for the refuge of his friends. Never once that I can remember, and I am ferociously memorious, can I remember him sad or angry or bitter or furious. When I think of him, I see his smile, and never any other look on his face, and isn’t that amazing? Of how many of our friends and family can that be said? Not many, not many; nor can I say it of myself.

But I can say it of my kid brother, and this morning I suggest that those of us with kid brothers are immensely lucky in life, and those of us without kid brothers missed a great gentle gift unlike any other; for older brothers are stern and heroic and parental, lodestars to steer by or steer against, but kid brothers, at least in their opening chapters, are open books, eager and trusting, innocent and gentle; in some deep subtle way they are the best of you, the way you were, the way you hope some part of you will always be; in some odd way, at least for a while, they were the best of your family, too, the essence of what was good and true and holy about the blood that bound you each to each.

by Brian Doyle, The American Scholar |  Read more:
Image: markk

Finding the Right Fit for Flying Private

[ed. I usually keep a G450 or AS350 (AStar) on standby, but loan them out to friends occasionally.]

Carlos Urrutia's job is to fly a private jet. But when he is on board the Bombardier Challenger 300, which he has flown for tens of thousands of hours, he does much more than that.

He welcomes the passengers on board. He stows their luggage. He offers each passenger a drink before takeoff, anything from water to coffee to a cocktail that he will mix. If someone can’t figure out how to work one of the eight seats that swivel, or close the lavatory door, he’ll walk back while his co-pilot takes over and explain how it works.

Mr. Urrutia’s plane will also arrive at the destination faster and with less frustration than any first-class traveler on a commercial airline could dream of. It’s a nice way to travel — if you can afford the $10,000 an hour for the trip.

This is the world of private aviation. But even in that world, there are degrees of convenience, comfort and, to many, excess.

“Sometimes people don’t know the difference between their needs and wants,” said Kevin O’Leary, president of Jet Advisors, which offers advice on private aviation options. “We help them analyze their need first and then look at services.”

Those services break down into four categories: chartering a jet, buying a set number of hours in a jet program, getting a fractional interest in a plane or putting down tens of millions of dollars for your own aircraft. Each one has its defenders and its detractors. But Mr. O’Leary says what matters the most is how a private plane is to be used, whether by just one person or several executives.

Chartering a jet works best for those who can plan their trips in advance and are less concerned with the type of aircraft they get.

“Charter is the most flexible,” said Mark H. Lefever, president and chief operating officer of Avjet, a broker and adviser. “You have no monthly bills. You make up how much you want to spend per year and how many trips you want to do.”

He said the cost of a trip from Los Angeles, where Avjet is based, to Martha’s Vineyard would depend on how many people are flying and the level of comfort desired. A smaller Gulfstream G150 would cost about $35,000 one way, while the larger, newer Gulfstream G450 would be $55,000. (...)

The next step up is an hours program, commonly called a jet card. VistaJet allows people to fix their costs by buying the hours they think they’ll need, and adding more if they go over.

The company has 50 Bombardier jets in two sizes — one for flights up to a cross-country trip and another for trans-Atlantic travel — and it is trying to appeal to a global audience with a service branded like a luxury hotel, said Thomas Flohr, VistaJet’s chairman and founder.

For the longer-range Bombardier Global, the cost is $16,000 an hour, meaning 200 hours a year would cost $3.2 million. Over five years, that works out to be about as much as the upfront cost of a quarter share of the same plane, which would be about $14 million, but any share program has additional membership fees and fuel surcharges.

by Paul Sulivan, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Christopher Capozziello

Monday, June 29, 2015

[ed. So many incredible photos here it was impossible to pick the best, so I just selected the first. Definitely, check this out.]

Trey Ratcliff

Hudson Tattoo

The Vote on the Greek Referendum

[ed. And in other news, the Shanghai Composite Index has lost more than 20 percent since June 12, and Puerto Rico is defaulting on its debt. Batten down the hatches.]

[ed. Addendum: See also: Trillions Spent, but Crises Like Greece’s Persist. I especially like this comment: 

If you have ten trillion but use it only to swap private debt into public debt with even more progressively draconian terms, if you use some of these billions to guarantee a lifeline to corporations and oligopolies that are otherwise illiquid and insolvent in order to arrest the creative destruction of capitalism, the status quo will limp along but otherwise there will be no burst of growth or even of investment. In fact, everything will remain more or less morosely frozen into place.

But, if those $10 trillion had actually been spent in *people* in the mode of subsidies for education, in creating entire new industries such as solar or space, in bringing healthcare and child care to folks otherwise unable to work without it, in paying the unemployed to start new businesses and educate our youth, and in actually funding main street and everyday folks with an entrepreneurial spirit, what a world this would be!

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands.

We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies.

But why would Europe do this? Why are European Union leaders resisting the referendum and refusing even to extend by a few days the June 30 deadline for Greece’s next payment to the IMF? Isn’t Europe all about democracy?

by Joe Stiglitz, The Guardian |  Read more:
Image: via:

Carol Staub, Mixed Emotions 7

The Lonely End

Three months ago in an apartment on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan, Haruki Watanabe died alone. For weeks his body slowly decomposed, slouched in its own fluids and surrounded by fetid, fortnight-old food. He died of self-neglect, solitude, and a suspected heart problem. At 60, Watanabe, wasn’t old, nor was he especially poor. He had no friends, no job, no wife, and no concerned children. His son hadn’t spoken to him in years, nor did he want to again.

For three months no one called, no one knew, no one cared. For three months Watanabe rotted in his bedsheets, alongside pots of instant ramen and swarming cockroaches. The day that someone eventually called, he came not out of concern but out of administration. Watanabe had run out of money, and his bank had stopped paying the rent. The exasperated landlord, Toru Suzuki, had rung and rung, but no one had picked up. Sufficiently angry, he made the trip from his own home, in downtown Osaka, to the quiet suburb where his lodger lived. (Both men’s names are pseudonyms.)

First, there was the smell, a thick, noxious sweetness oozing from beneath the door frame. Second, there was the sight, the shape of a mortally slumped corpse beneath urine-soaked bedsheets. Third, there was the reality: Suzuki had come to collect his dues but had instead found his tenant’s dead body.

Disgusted, angry, but mostly shocked that this could happen to him, the landlord rang the police. The police came; they investigated with procedural dispassion and declared the death unsuspicious. This wasn’t suicide in the traditional sense, they said, but it did seem that the deceased had wanted to die. They’d seen it before, and it was an increasingly common occurrence throughout Japan: a single man dying, essentially, from loneliness.

They noted down what was required by their forms, wrapped up the body in officialdom, tied it with red tape, and removed it amid gawps and gags of inquisitive neighbors. The police then departed for the cemetery, where, because no family member had stepped forward to claim the body, they would intern Watanabe in an unmarked grave alongside the rest of Japan’s forgotten dead.

Suzuki was now left to his festering property and precarious financials. He was concerned. He didn’t know who to call or how to deal with the situation. In Japan, suicide can dramatically reduce the value of a property, and although this wasn’t suicide, his neighbors had seen enough; the gossip would spread fast. He heard whispers of kodokushi, a word bandied about since the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995, when thousands of elderly Japanese were relocated to different residences and started dying alone, ostracized or isolated from family and friends. But what did that really mean for Suzuki, and how was he going to deal with it? Like most Japanese, he had heard of the “lonely death” but had not really believed in it; he certainly didn’t know what to do in such circumstances. So he turned to the Internet, and after hours of fruitless searching found a company called Risk-Benefit, run by a man named Toru Koremura. (...)

Watanabe was, at 60 years old, the average age of most male victims, and having suffered from a heart problem, he died in the manner most common to kodokushi.

“Around 90 percent of the cases I deal with are men,” Koremura says. “Unlike women, men seem incapable of integrating themselves into a community when they live alone.”

Watanabe was a child of the “boom years” and of the “Japanese dream,” and it is therefore probable that his death was linked to the faltering economy. In Japan, the identity of many businessmen, or “salarymen” as they are commonly known, is fused with that of their business. During the boom years many of these workers sacrificed family and friends for the growth of their companies. However, when the Japanese economy eventually crashed in the early ’90s, many of these salarymen lost their jobs or were forced into smaller, less prestigious roles with less social security. Having lost their status they found they had no purpose in life. Scott North argues that “the fact that most deaths are between 60 and 64 [years old] supports the idea that separation from the workplace community and inability to adapt to retirement may contribute to isolated deaths.”

Although the apartment is crammed with ephemera, it is empty of identifying belongings. There are no letters. There are no postcards. There are no family photographs, no paintings or pictures. The nicotine-stained walls are bare but for the ominous shadows of the workers, whose faint silhouettes are the dead man’s gruesome legacy. Family, so important in Japanese tradition, is absent here.

by Matthew Bremner, Roads and Kingdoms |  Read more:
Image: Matthew Bremner

Ghosting: The Ultimate Silent Treatment

[ed. Whatever the term, this method of ending a relationship has to be one of the most hurtful and destructive things a person can do to someone that once loved you. In the end, it's just simple cowardice and a lack of character, no matter how it's rationalized.]

It was not long ago that Sean Penn and Charlize Theron were a happy couple: appearing together in the front row of fashion shows and at film festivals, hugging on the beach. Recently, though, it was reported that Ms. Theron had stopped responding to Mr. Penn’s calls and text messages. She was “ghosting” him.

What’s Ghosting?

Ghost, a word more commonly associated with Casper, the boy who saw dead people and a 1990 movie starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, has also come to be used as a verb that refers to ending a romantic relationship by cutting off all contact and ignoring the former partner’s attempts to reach out.

Who’s Doing It?

The term has already entered the polling lexicon: In October 2014, a YouGov/Huffington Post poll of 1,000 adults showed that 11 percent of Americans have “ghosted” someone. A more informal survey from Elle magazine that polled 185 people found that about 16.7 percent of men and 24.2 percent of women have been ghosts at some point in their lives.

Victims of Ghosting Speak

Justine Bylo, 26, an independent account manager in publishing, has felt what this is like firsthand. She once invited a man she had been dating casually for about eight months to a wedding. As the day approached, he stopped responding to Ms. Bylo’s text messages, and she ended up attending the wedding alone. A few weeks ago, she found out that he had been dating another woman at the time.

“It happens to me so often that I’ve come to expect it,” Ms. Bylo said. “People don’t hold themselves accountable anymore because they can hide behind their phones.”

Elena Scotti, 27, a senior photo editor and illustrator at Fusion, the media company, has also been a victim of ghosting. She once flew to Chicago to attend Lollapalooza and spend time with a man she had fallen for while studying abroad. “We were inseparable,” Ms. Scotti said. “I was talking to him every day and sleeping in the same bed with him for six months.”

After the one date in Chicago: crickets. “He fell off the face of the planet,” said Ms. Scotti, who didn’t see him again until he moved into her building in Brooklyn with his girlfriend three years later. The silent treatment continued, Ms. Scotti’s former flame ignoring her even as they passed each other in the hallway.

In a less dramatic but similarly confounding fashion, Aaron Leth, 29, a fashion editor, found his texts unanswered when a man he had been dating for a month disappeared after he and Mr. Leth had bought the ingredients for a dinner they planned to cook later that evening. “He went home to take a nap and said, ‘I’ll call you,’ ” Mr. Leth said. “I’m still waiting, two years later.”

But Wait. Let the Ghosts Explain Themselves.

Many of those who have ghosted are contrite, citing their own fear, insecurity and immaturity. Jenny Mollen, 36, an actress, avid Twitter user and the author of “I Like You Just the Way I Am,” a collection of essays, had been dating a man for three months when she told him her grandmother died, and froze him out of her life.

Her grandmother had died — months earlier. “He came to my house one night banging on my door, and I pretended I wasn’t there,” Ms. Mollen said. “I didn’t know how else to extricate from relationships. It was me being young and not knowing how to disappoint.” She theorized that people who fade away do so out of a desperate need to be loved, even after a breakup. “If you disappear completely, you never have to deal with knowing someone is mad at you and being the bad guy,” she said.

by Valeriya Safronova, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Seattle Pride

June 28, 2015 
photos: markk (more pics after the jump)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Reasonable Part of the House

There was, in most homes, a small, boxy machine affixed to the wall, usually in the kitchen, and this machine was called a telephone. —Wikipedia, 2030
The home telephone had a good hundred-year run. Its days are numbered now. Its name, truncated to just phone, will live on, attached anachronistically to the diminutive general-purpose computers we carry around with us. (We really should have called them teles rather than phones.) But the object itself? It’s headed for history’s landfill, one layer up from the PalmPilot and the pager.

A remarkable thing about the telephone, in retrospect, is that it was a shared device. It was familial rather than personal. That entailed some complications.

In his monumental study of the forms of human interlocution, published posthumously in 1992 as the two-volume Lectures on Conversation, the sociologist Harvey Sacks explained how the arrival of the home telephone introduced a whole new role in conversation: that of the answerer. There was the caller, there was the called, and then there was the answerer, who might or might not also be the called. The caller would never know for sure who would answer the phone — it might be the called’s mom or dad rather than the called — and what kind of pre-conversational rigamarole might need to be endured, what pleasantries might need to be exchanged, what verbal gauntlet might need to be run, before the called would actually take the line. As for the answerer, he or she would not know, upon picking up the phone, whether he or she would also be playing the role of the called or would merely serve as the answerer, a kind of functionary or go-between. Each ringing of the telephone set off little waves of subterranean tension in the household: expectation, apprehension, maybe even some resentment.


“Is Amy there?”

“Who’s calling?”

In non-professional settings by and large, it’s from among the possible calleds that answerers are selected; answerer being now a merely potential resting state, where you’ve made preparations for turning out to be the called right off when you say “Hello.” Answerers can become calleds, or they can become non-calleds-but-talked-to, or they can remain answerers, in the sense of not being talked to themselves, and also having what turn out to be obligations incumbent on being an answerer-not-called; obligations like getting the called or taking a message for the called.
As I said: complications. And also: an intimate entwining of familial interests.

The answerer, upon realizing that he is not the called, Sacks continues, occupies “the least happy position” in the exchange.
Having done the picking up of the phone, they have been turned into someone at the mercy of the treatment that the caller will give them: What kind of jobs are they going to impose? Are they even going to talk to them? A lot of family world is implicated in the way those little things come out, an enormous amount of conflict turning on being always the answerer and never the called, and battles over who is to pick up the phone.

“I’ll get it!”

But what exactly will you get?

And so here we have this strange device, this technology, and it suddenly appears in the midst of the home, in the midst of the family, crouching there with all sorts of inscrutable purposes and intents. And yet — and this is the most remarkable thing of all — it doesn’t take long for it to be accommodated, to come to feel as though it’s a natural part of the home. Rather than remaking the world, Sacks argues, the telephone was subsumed into the world. The familial and social dynamics that the telephone revealed, with each ring, each uncradling of the receiver, are ones that were always already there.
Here’s an object introduced into the world 75 years ago. And it’s a technical thing which has a variety of aspects to it. It works only with voices, and because of economic considerations people share it … Now what happens is, like any other natural object, a culture secretes itself onto it in its well-shaped ways. It turns this technical apparatus which allows for conversation, into something in which the ways that conversation works are more or less brought to bear … 
What we’re studying, then, is making the phone a reasonable part of the house. … We can read the world out of the phone conversation as well as we can read it out of anything else we’re doing. That’s a funny kind of thing, in which each new object becomes the occasion for seeing again what we can see anywhere; seeing people’s nastinesses or goodnesses and all the rest, when they do this initially technical job of talking over the phone. This technical apparatus is, then, being made at home with the rest of our world. And that’s a thing that’s routinely being done, and it’s the source for the failures of technocratic dreams that if only we introduced some fantastic new communication machine the world will be transformed. Where what happens is that the object is made at home in the world that has whatever organization it already has.
“Who is it?”

“It’s me.”

by Nicholas Carr, Rough Type |  Read more:
Image: Bell System advertisement, circa 1960

Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Fat-Free Chocolate and Absolutely No Smoking: Why Our Guilt About Consumption is All-Consuming

During a recent visit to California, I attended a party at a professor's house with a Slovene friend, a heavy smoker. Late in the evening, my friend became desperate and politely asked the host if he could step out on the veranda for a smoke. When the host (no less politely) said no, my friend suggested that he step out on to the street, and even this was rejected by the host, who claimed such a public display of smoking might hurt his status with his neighbours … But what really surprised me was that, after dinner, the host offered us (not so) soft drugs, and this kind of smoking went on without any problem – as if drugs are not more dangerous than cigarettes.

This weird incident is a sign of the impasses of today's consumerism. To account for it, one should introduce the distinction between pleasure and enjoyment elaborated by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan: what Lacan calls jouissance (enjoyment) is a deadly excess beyond pleasure, which is by definition moderate. We thus have two extremes: on the one hand the enlightened hedonist who carefully calculates his pleasures to prolong his fun and avoid getting hurt, on the other the jouisseur propre, ready to consummate his very existence in the deadly excess of enjoyment – or, in the terms of our society, on the one hand the consumerist calculating his pleasures, well protected from all kinds of harassments and other health threats, on the other the drug addict or smoker bent on self-destruction. Enjoyment is what serves nothing, and the great effort of today's hedonist-utilitarian "permissive" society is to tame and exploit this un(ac)countable excess into the field of (ac)counting.

Enjoyment is tolerated, solicited even, but on condition that it is healthy, that it doesn't threaten our psychic or biological stability: chocolate, yes, but fat-free; Coke, yes, but diet; coffee, yes, but without caffeine; beer, yes, but without alcohol; mayonnaise, yes, but without cholesterol; sex, yes, but safe sex …

So, what is going on here? In the last decade or so there has been a shift in the accent of marketing, a new stage of commodification that the economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin designated "cultural capitalism". We buy a product – an organic apple, say – because it represents the image of a healthy lifestyle. As this example indicates, the very ecological protest against the ruthless capitalist exploitation of natural resources is already caught in the commodification of experiences: although ecology perceives itself as the protest against the virtualisation of our daily lives and advocates a return to the direct experience of sensual material reality, ecology itself is branded as a new lifestyle. What we are effectively buying when we are buying "organic food" etc is already a certain cultural experience, the experience of a "healthy ecological lifestyle". (...)

What we are witnessing today is the direct commodification of our experiences themselves: what we are buying on the market is fewer and fewer products (material objects) that we want to own, and more and more life experiences – experiences of sex, eating, communicating, cultural consumption, participating in a lifestyle. Michel Foucault's notion of turning one's self itself into a work of art thus gets an unexpected confirmation: I buy my bodily fitness by way of visiting fitness clubs; I buy my spiritual enlightenment by way of enrolling in the courses on transcendental meditation; I buy my public persona by way of going to the restaurants visited by people I want to be associated with.

by Slavoj Žižek, The Guardian | Read more:
Image: Prix Pictet Hong Hao My Things No 1

Fear of Longer Commutes

[ed. See also: Many options, no single solution.]

At 4:35 a.m. each weekday, Stan Paul drives out of his Southern California suburb with 10 passengers in a van, headed to his job as an undergraduate counselor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Some 80 miles and 90 minutes later, the vanpoolers finally arrive to start their workday.

On the return trip, Los Angeles' infamously snarled traffic often stretches their afternoon commute to three hours. Since Paul joined in 2001, he has spent roughly 1 1/2 years aboard the vanpool and traveled far enough to complete a round trip to the moon.

"These super commuters, they don't just give you a day's work," he said. "They give you their lives."

Transportation experts say Paul's long journey offers a warning for the future, when traffic rivaling a major holiday might someday be the norm for many more Americans.

"If we don't change, in 2045, the transportation system that powered our rise as a nation will instead slow us down," the Department of Transportation said in report earlier this year titled "Beyond Traffic."

"Transit systems will be so backed up that riders will wonder not just when they will get to work, but if they will get there at all," the report said. "At the airports, and on the highway, every day will be like Thanksgiving is today." (...)

Elected officials and transportation professionals generally agree on the nation's intensifying traffic congestion but are divided about how to address it.

The Obama administration leans heavily toward getting people out of their vehicles, a solution preferred by many urban planners. New highway lanes aren't enough, the theory goes, because they will simply attract drivers who had been taking other routes and encourage more sprawl. Soon congestion will be as bad as ever.

One alternative is to encourage people to trade suburban amenities for more densely developed neighborhoods where they can easily take transit, walk or bike to jobs, stores and entertainment.

"As the population surges, we're going to have more bottlenecks, so giving people another option is really important," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an interview. Rail transit can be a release valve for highway congestion, he said, taking enough vehicles off the road to help traffic move more smoothly.

Although ridership for trains and buses is at a 50-year peak, it remains only a tiny fraction of all trips nationally.

Conservative lawmakers in Washington and many state capitals tend to advocate road building, which better serves their primarily suburban and rural constituents. They question the effectiveness of enlarging big-city rail systems, which typically carry people from suburbs to jobs in the urban core, when so much commuting today is from suburb to suburb.

by Joan Lowry and Justin Pritchard, AP |  Read more:
Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Gay is Not Enough Anymore

From Capitol Hill in Seattle to Dupont Circle in Washington, gay bars and nightclubs have turned into vitamin stores, frozen yogurt shops and memories. Some of those that remain are filled increasingly with straight patrons, while many former customers say their social lives now revolve around preschools and playgrounds.

Rainbow-hued “Just Be You” messages have been flashing across Chase A.T.M. screens in honor of Pride month, conveying acceptance but also corporate blandness. Directors, filmmakers and artists are talking about moving past themes of sexual orientation, which they say no longer generate as much dramatic energy.

The Supreme Court on Friday expanded same-sex marriage rights across the country, a crowning achievement but also a confounding challenge to a group that has often prided itself on being different. The more victories that accumulate for gay rights, the faster some gay institutions, rituals and markers are fading out. And so just as the gay marriage movement peaks, so does a debate about whether gay identity is dimming, overtaken by its own success.

“What do gay men have in common when they don’t have oppression?” asked Andrew Sullivan, one of the intellectual architects of the marriage movement. “I don’t know the answer to that yet.”

John Waters, the film director and patron saint of the American marginal, warned graduates to heed the shift in a recent commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers,” he said, adding, “Gay is not enough anymore.”

No one is arguing that prejudice has come close to disappearing, especially outside major American cities, as waves of hate crimes, suicides by gay teenagers and workplace discrimination attest. Far from everyone agrees that marriage rights are the apotheosis of liberation. But even many who raced to the altar say they feel loss amid the celebrations, a bittersweet sense that there was something valuable about the creativity and grit with which gay people responded to stigma and persecution.

For decades, they built sanctuaries of their own: neighborhoods and vacation retreats where they could escape after workdays in the closet; bookstores where young people could find their true selves and one another. Symbols like the rainbow flag expressed joy and collective defiance, a response to disapproving families, laws that could lead to arrests for having sex and the presumption that to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was shameful.

“The thing I miss is the specialness of being gay,” said Lisa Kron, who wrote the book and lyrics for “Fun Home,” a Broadway musical with a showstopping number sung by a young girl captivated by her first glimpse of a butch woman. “Because the traditional paths were closed, there was a consciousness to our lives, a necessary invention to the way we were going to celebrate and mark family and mark connection. That felt magical and beautiful.”

by Jodi Kantor, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: John Waters by Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lavanderia #1, 2002, Christina Fernandez

The Burger That Could Fix Fast Food

The cooks at Coi, Daniel Patterson’s tiny, two-Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco, are used to producing dishes of supreme delicacy and surpassing refinement. Morels stuffed with ricotta and fava greens. Wild king salmon wrapped in yuba with charred cabbage and dried-scallop ginger sauce. The kind of food, in short, that has earned Coi a reputation as the best restaurant in one of America’s finest food cities and a perennial spot on San Pellegrino’s list of the top 100 restaurants in the world.

Yet the dish that Patterson has just put in front of me seems like the opposite of all that.

“This is our veggie burger,” Patterson says. He watches, tentatively, as I take my first bite.

“So what do you think?” he asks.

Over the past six hours, Patterson and his partner, Roy Choi, the Los Angeles street-food savant who, with his stoner vibe and hip-hop threads, is the yin to Patterson’s professorial yang, have transformed the Coi kitchen into a secret laboratory for LocoL, their forthcoming restaurant project.

LocoL (the name is a cross between “local” and “loco,” the Spanish word for “crazy”) has been in the works for a while now. In August 2013, Choi delivered a speech at MAD, the cutting-edge annual food conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, about Californians living in hunger. Patterson was impressed. A few weeks later, he flew to Los Angeles with a proposition: What if he and Choi used everything they knew as chefs, from the latest food science to the most ancient cooking methods, to create a new fast-food chain that was good for you, good for the planet, and just as guilty-pleasure delicious as, say, Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme? What if they opened in America’s notorious “food deserts” — the large, mostly urban swaths of the country where it’s hard to find anything to eat or drink besides a Big Mac and a Big Gulp? And what if they went toe-to-toe with McDonald’s and company by pricing everything from $.99 to $6? (...)

“Our business model revolves around volume,” Patterson explains. “If we don’t do a good job making delicious food, we’re going to have a problem.”

Today’s research-and-development session is the fourth that Patterson and Choi have conducted since the start of the year, but it’s the first, they say, at which they’re starting to settle into a groove.

It’s also the first time they’ve allowed a total outsider to taste their prototype menu items. Hence the veggie burger that Patterson has set before me.

I behold it before taking a bite. The thing is hefty. Not huge like those behemoths they serve at upscale Manhattan bistros. But much denser and weightier than your typical Whopper. The patty is mostly made of grains — raw, sprouted and cooked. There’s some jack cheese on there, some grilled-scallion-and-lime relish and a spunky concoction that Patterson and Choi have taken to calling Awesome Sauce: tomato, onion, garlic, vinegar, oil and gochujang, or Korean chili paste. Layer all the above onto a long-fermented bun custom-made, partly with rice flour, by renowned San Francisco baker Chad Robertson of Tartine, who also serves on the LocoL board, and press it on the griddle like a panino until the crust gets crispy and the cheese starts to ooze — a recent Choi brainstorm meant to improve the burger’s “mobility” and “make it easier to eat while skateboarding or riding a bike” — and there you have it: LocoL’s mission statement in sandwich form.

Patterson chimes in as I chew. “We wanted it to be addictive,” he says. “You have to want to take another bite, and then another. We wanted it to be so good that someone who eats meat would willingly choose this instead. You wouldn’t even think of it. You’d just think of it as food.”

“So,” he repeats. “What do you think?”

Sadly, I’m too busy taking another bite to tell him what I think. This isn’t just the best veggie burger I’ve ever tasted. It’s one of the best burgers, period. (...)

Could LocoL be the future of fast food?

It’s clear the industry is at a crossroads. Thanks to a steady stream of exposés (“Fast Food Nation,” “Super Size Me,” “Food, Inc.”), many human beings now accept that a Big Mac is basically inhumane: to the animals that become it, to the workers who serve it, to the customers who eat it and to the planet that absorbs it. Meanwhile, various food movements — organic, anti-GMO (genetically modified organism), slow-food, vegan and so on — have popularized healthier, more sustainable ways of producing and consuming calories. That’s why fast-casual chains such as Chipotle and Shake Shack, with their locally sourced veggies and antibiotic-free beef, are all the rage these days; it’s also why last August marked the worst sales month for McDonald’s in more than a decade, and why the company sacked its president and CEO in January. Customers are gravitating toward more “natural” meals.

Still, a fundamental problem remains: Fast food is incredibly cheap, and fiendishly tasty, and a lot of Americans can’t afford, and don’t have access to, much else.

Not many people are bothering to come up with alternatives. On one end of the spectrum, there’s the industry itself, which in recent months has sought to improve its image by getting rid of artificial colors and flavors (the Yellow No. 6 dye in Taco Bell’s nacho cheese, for instance) andpromoting items that more closely resemble actual food (McDonald’s “premium” sirloin burgers). A Penn State food-science professor accurately described these maneuvers as a way for the fast-food Goliaths to give their products “a healthy glow without making meaningful changes to their nutritional profiles.”

On the other end of the spectrum are Silicon Valley biochemists like Pat Brown of Impossible Foods, who is trying to invent a “plant-based burger that bleeds like beef, chars like it, and tastes like it.” It’s an inspiring idea, but it’s also unlikely to filter down to the streets of South Central Los Angeles anytime soon.

Patterson and Choi think they’ve hit upon a more sensible approach — one that goes much further than the industry’s inconsequential, image-conscious tinkering but still has the potential to be a blockbuster business before, say, the end of the century. They want to reengineer fast food in the kitchen, not the lab. We’ve seen how corporations make quick, cheap, addictive food for the masses, they say. But how would chefs do it?

In January, Choi invited me to one of his newest restaurants, POT, to elaborate on LocoL’s vision. I wandered through the sci-fi lobby of The Line hotel in Koreatown — Choi is a partner — and past a glowing neon “Pot” sign in medical-marijuana green. “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio was blasting on the stereo. It was still early — 5 p.m. No one else had arrived yet. Choi and I snagged a table, ordered some marinated rib-eye bulgogi, crab hot pot, uni dynamite rice and pickled sea beans and began to talk.

Choi is a good talker. Occasionally he’ll cop the streetwise swagger of the SoCal gangbanger he briefly was, but most of the time he sounds like a thoughtful, heartfelt dreamer riffing on big ideas in the mellow haze of a late-night bull session. (...)

Chefs who want to make good, cheap food, Choi continued, have some tricks of the trade at their disposal. The first is waste. According to a 2012 report, the amount of wasted food in the U.S. has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s, to the point where more than 40 percent of all food grown or raised in the United States now goes to waste somewhere along the supply chain. Fast-food joints are the worst offenders, with “large portion sizes, standardized menu items that use only parts of animals and quality-control codes that mandate, for example, that McDonald’s fries must be thrown away if they’re not sold within seven minutes of being cooked.”

LocoL will be different. “We’re following a zero-waste model,” Choi told me. “Everything we buy, we use, and the things we use are going to be things we can shred, chop, braise, cook down, pickle, peel and turn into something else. We’ll transform bruised, misshapen vegetables into purées and sauces. We’ll buy off-cuts of meat and make them work.”

The chefs’ second secret weapon is culinary science — the techniques and tactics that the world’s finest kitchens use to wrest extraordinary flavors from ordinary ingredients.

“The beef burger is our biggest example,” Choi explained. (LocoL will offer both vegetarian and nonvegetarian patties.) “Cutting the burger with cooked grains so that it’s not all meat. Processing the grains to the same size and mouthfeel as ground beef, then finding a way to bind it and emulsify it so it eats just like a regular patty. That obviously reduces cost and creates a healthier burger — but it also tastes just like a burger.”

And then there’s tradition. Most of this planet’s inhabitants are poor, but the cuisine that has arisen from poverty — tacos, stews, noodles, shawarma and so on — is delicious. Seasoning doesn’t cost much. Neither does brining, braising or curing. They’re all methods for making the most with the least. Why can’t a fast-food restaurant operate the same way?

Choi sucked the last bit of crabmeat from a little red claw. “What we’re trying to do is, like, ask a question,” he said. “Are these our only choices as humans? Is this the only way to be a profitable business? To do this to animals? To do this to each other? To fill foods with so many chemicals and preservatives that it basically changes the whole ecosystem of someone’s body?

“LocoL is me and Daniel saying, ‘We don’t believe you,’” Choi added. “‘You’re telling us these are the only options on the table? We don’t agree with that — and we’re going to show you why.’”

by Andrew Romano, Yahoo News |  Read more:
Image: Tiffany Yam

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Morning coffee

Yuko Shimizu, Asian Super-Girls

Gmail Formally Adds ‘Undo Send’ Option

An email meant for your husband goes to your boss. A message meant for your bridesmaids goes to your mother-in-law. Or the nuclear option: an awkward workplace reply all.

Just reading about it brings a familiar feeling of dread, the one that sets in about a millisecond after an email is sent too soon.

If you are a Gmail user, you will be relieved to know that Google will now assist you in snatching a premature message back from the ether.

After years of experimenting with it as a Labs feature, Google announced that it was formally adding an “undo send” option for web-based Gmail users. (If you are a repeat offender on mobile, the Inbox app also has an undo feature.) The new tool allows users to choose a delay time from 5 to 30 seconds in case of a change of heart.

by Katie Rogers, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: uncredited

Of Weapons Programs in Iran and Israel

A country in the Middle East has a clandestine nuclear development program, involving facilities hidden in the desert. After several years, the country is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, even though the United States has been using all its resources to prevent that from happening. Frantic communications fly behind the scenes, between Washington and Tel Aviv.

And where is the nuclear program located? Israel.

Although Iran’s nuclear program dominates the headlines now (and did apparently have a military dimension at one time), that program has yet to produce a nuclear weapon, judging from the available public evidence. Meanwhile, the country pushing most aggressively for complete elimination of any prospect of an Iranian bomb—Israel—has an unacknowledged nuclear arsenal of its own. Although others project higher numbers, nuclear arsenal experts Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris estimate that Israel has roughly 80 warheads, built in secret.

It is noteworthy that while negotiations over limiting Iran’s enrichment program have taken center stage in news coverage—and will likely dominate the headlines as a final agreement is or is not reached at the end of this month—the history of Israel’s covert nuclear program draws relatively little media attention. Israel has long maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor directly denying that it has a nuclear deterrent, and the United States government has officially taken the same stance, prohibiting its officials from stating that Israel is a nuclear weapons country.

But as shown in the Bulletin’s coverage over the years, the Israeli government does indeed have a robust nuclear program that began decades ago; it continues to operate outside the international nuclear nonproliferation regime to this day. This program has a convoluted history.

In a July 2013 article, nuclear proliferation scholar Leonard Weiss outlined the Lavon Affair, a failed 1954 Israeli covert operation against Egypt, undertaken in hopes it would destabilize the regime of Egypt’s leader, Gamel Abdel Nasser. In a complicated way, the bungled effort eventually deepened the Franco-Israeli military cooperation that helped Israel create its nuclear arsenal.

The details of the Lavon Affair are complex, but essentially Israeli Military Intelligence (often known by its Hebrew abbreviation AMAN) activated a sleeper cell tasked with setting off a series of bombs in Egypt, targeted against Western and Egyptian institutions, in hopes that the attacks could be blamed on Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Communist Party. AMAN apparently figured that the ensuing chaos would persuade Western governments that Nasser’s relatively new regime was unstable and, therefore, unworthy of financial aid and other support.

But the best-laid schemes often go astray, and the entire Israeli operation was exposed; its members were eventually tried and convicted by an Egyptian court. This caused Israel to conduct a retaliatory military raid into Gaza that killed 39 Egyptians, upsetting Egypt still further. The Egyptians, in turn, moved closer to the sphere of the old Soviet Union, concluding an arms deal that angered American and British leaders. This led to the West’s withdrawal from previously pledged support for the building of Egypt’s Aswan Dam; Nasser retaliated by nationalizing the Suez Canal; and Israel, France, and Britain subsequently tried (and failed) to invade Egypt and topple Nasser. In the wake of the failed invasion, France expanded and accelerated its ongoing nuclear cooperation with Israel, which eventually helped enable the Jewish state to build nuclear weapons.

It is easy to see why the average news editor might blanch at diving into these complicated waters to give a full, warts-and-all explication of the Israeli nuclear weapons program from its earliest days. But that is no reason to fail to report about the weapons program as a fait accompli; Israel’s program is as much a legitimate subject for media debate as the Iranian program—especially when Israel criticizes the proposed Iranian nuclear agreement.

Also given relatively short shrift in mainstream news coverage of Middle Eastern nuclear matters is the NUMEC affair, in which Israel apparently stole 100 kilograms of US bomb-grade uranium in the 1960s from a Pennsylvania nuclear fuel-processing plant. The theft was not discovered until years later, and President-elect Jimmy Carter was apparently not briefed about it until December 1976. The unexplained loss of large amounts of bomb-grade fissile material is a matter of concern, no matter what the context, but in this case it also involved a close ally—and Israel’s bomb-making program could have derailed the Carter administration’s Middle East peace efforts.

by Dan Drollette Jr, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | Read more:
Image: uncredited

Monday, June 22, 2015

John Pollard

All My Cats Are Dead

My cat died last month. He had a good life—fifteen long, treat and cuddle-filled years during which he loved parties, burly men, sleeping with his head on mine, eating cardboard—and a good death.

Scientists who study such things say that we should all aim for “compression of mortality”—a long and healthy life, and then you die real fast. You don’t linger, you don’t make any tough decisions; you just live and then you die. My cat did compression of mortality like a champ. He started acting odd, was quickly diagnosed with a serious brain tumor, and went a couple of days later.

It’s hasn’t been that hard to accept that he’s being dead; it’s been hard to accept living without him. I’ve been crying a lot. For the first time in more than twenty years, I don’t have a cat. There is no one excited to see me when I get home, there is no one who will watch BBC period pieces TV with me and think they are having the best time ever, and there is no one whose delight in a piece of string can take my mind off of things. (I’m single!)

Of course, everyone keeps telling me to get a new cat. Or just assumes I will. But no fucking way. No fucking way am I getting another lovable, adorable, cuddly, affectionate, loyal little creature who is in fact a ticking time bomb set to explode my heart into a thousand pieces at some unknown point in the future. (I’m single.)

My first cat, Monster, was unplanned. I was going through a breakup—in the nineties, I was always going through a breakup—and had scuttled out of my apartment for errands before going back inside to lie on the couch, watch the OJ Simpson trial, and mull over whether life was worth living. At the hardware store on Santa Monica Boulevard, they had just found a little teeny black and white kitten, who had been pretty horribly abused. She had cuts and what seemed to be burns. She looked like the world had let her down and no one could be trusted; she looked like how I felt. I left my groceries at the hardware store and took her home.

The kitten, who turned out to be a year or two old—she was just tiny for her age— immediately went under the bed. She stayed there for about six months, with the only proof of life being a pair of glowing green eyes staring back whenever I put my head down to check on her or to introduce her to someone. My friend Ron asked if I was sure she wasn’t an owl. I got her out to go to the vet and get a clean bill of health, but otherwise my main contact with Monster was when I lay in bed at night, motionless, until she thought I was asleep: I’d listen to her scurry out to eat her food and use the litterbox before scurrying back under the bed as quickly as possible.

One night, as I was lying there, I felt a little beat of warm breath on the right side of my neck, and a faint purr. She had snuggled her tiny self on my shoulder, trusting and trembling at the same time. I held my breath and didn’t move, and she lasted about two minutes before diving back to her hideaway. (This, of course, is why I named her Monster—what else lives under the bed?)

by Mikki Halpin, The Hairpin |  Read more:
Image: Mikki Halpin

Daddy Issues

Until recently, I’d never been on the website AskMen.com, I suppose largely because I never had the occasion to ask a man anything. The site’s tagline touts that it is a place where men can become better men, though on my first visit I’m already suspicious that any of my questions will be answered or that I will become a better man. (...)

“Are her daddy issues to blame?” asks the post I land on. In it, the author describes the symptoms of diagnosable daddy issues, which your girlfriend or hookup partner may be suffering from, adding that he plans to advise you on how best to “handle” them if you are tasked with the daunting, unfortunate task of reversing years of neglect and mistreatment from a woman’s father.

Sexual aggressiveness is listed as a the first symptom of daddy issues, excessive flirting the second, and clinginess the last, all of these comprising the holy triumvirate of characteristics you do not want to see yourself dealing with in a girlfriend. If you end up with a woman who exhibits any one of the these behaviors, you do your best to curb them, as with a dog:
Every woman wants care and assurance from her partner and, of course, girlfriends want to spend quality time with their boyfriends. But a girl with daddy issues wants those things in excess. She may throw a fit whenever you make plans without her. She might beg and bargain whenever you try to leave her apartment. It’s important to keep her daddy issues in check by establishing strict boundaries. Stick to your guns and maintain a separate social life. If you give in to a bout of clinginess once, you’re sunk forever.
Sunk forever, broham, is not where you’d like to be.

As I’d expected from even my first seconds on AskMen.com, this was grade-F male-advice “locker room” pandering, the kind that seems almost too perfect to be true or available for the casual reader of the web. Because of its home, there was no reason for me to be taking any of this seriously or thinking of it as a representative of what most rational people would conjure up when the term “daddy issues” arose. (...)

The term “daddy issues” has been so ingrained as to become commonplace, almost forgotten—one of those colloquialisms that no longer seems significant or relevant. It can be brushed aside and dismissed almost as a joke, a Lana Del Rey song so obvious that it’s surprising. But the connotation is still singular. Unlike a man who’s a “mama’s boy,” a woman with “daddy issues” has nothing soft or pleasant circling the problem. If you have daddy issues, you are certainly, without question, fucked up. Don’t ask me—ask men:
If her dad failed to show her love and affection, she might grow up expecting the worst from men. If you find her blowing up over minor screw-ups, it might be because your mistake reminds her of her father’s poor parenting.
The term “daddy issues” originates from Carl Jung’s theory of the Electra complex, a counteracting theory to the Oedipus complex that suggests women want to compete with their mothers in possession of their fathers. It’s cropped up again and again in pop culture, most notably in Sylvia Plath’s poem “Daddy,” where the author claims to be through with her issues surrounding her father after killing them at the conclusion of the poem.

“Daddy issues” may not be the hottest term in psychobabble right now, as women are encouraged to Lean In and take responsibility for themselves despite what their fathers have wrought, but something about how normalized the term is is troubling. When it appears that we’ve let this concept slide relatively unnoticed through our cultural dialect, is there ever a way to correct and reverse that harmful language—or is it like this forever? When “she might grow up expecting the worst from men” is written down as symptom of a problem women suffer, who exactly is to blame?

by Dayna Evans, Jezebel |  Read more:
Image: Mad Men

The Suffering of Dustin Johnson

[ed. See also: Dustin Johnson’s Dream Turns Real on No. 18, Then Nightmare Sets In.]

Congratulations to Rory McIlroy, who just earned a prize that eluded Tiger Woods for his entire career: A true rival.

That's how I planned to end this piece, back when I sat on the bank overlooking the 14th hole on Sunday, dead sure that Jordan Spieth would win the U.S. Open. I had just left Dustin Johnson behind after two bogeys and a three-putt par on 12 that might as well have been a bogey. I was supposed to stay with him all day, but when the energy starts to gather around a player like Spieth, you'd be an idiot to stay away. The prospect of walking up the 13th hole with DJ while the real action was taking place by the water was too daunting to consider, and so I abandoned him.

Johnson's playing partner, Jason Day, wasn't much better. He couldn't hit a short putt all day, and was visibly sagging after his bout with vertigo that led to an on-course collapse Friday. The heroism of Saturday's 68 was long past, and now he looked impossibly feeble. At times, the stiffness of his gait, the pained expressions, and the way he used his club as a cane all took on the appearance of melodrama -- he couldn't bend down to pick up his tee on the 11th, but he scooped it with ease on the 12th -- and it never felt quite as compelling as it had a day earlier. The geniuses at Fox didn't help matters by dedicating a camera to watching him walk between holes, even using a pointless split screen to follow his movements when actual golf was being played elsewhere. How, I wondered, is it possible to make even vertigo tacky? All they were missing was a sensational slogan: "When he collapses, we'll be there!" A few Internet wits on my Twitter feed theorized that if Day didn't oblige them by crumpling into a heap at some point, a Fox executive would appear on site with an elephant gun loaded with tranquilizers...or maybe they'd take the coward's way out and just fly a drone into his head.

In reality, the drama never transpired. Instead, Day played like he usually plays in these moments: Lots of missed putts. On nine and 11 and 12, his tee-to-green game looked fine, but his short putts slid by the hole -- USGA czar Mike Davis, looking on, gave a "wow!" after the miss on 10, possibly inspired by the fear that a mutant stalk of poa annua had shot up at the last moment to stop the ball in its tracks -- and then he lost his chance for good with a double bogey on 13.

Dustin's fade was slower, and somewhat less agonizing, but it followed a similar formula: Opportunity after opportunity wasted, sometimes against all logic. He bogeyed again on 13 after I had cut across the fescue to the 14th fairway, so I wrote him off and came up with that cute line about Rory and Tiger.

I felt I had learned something about Dustin anyway -- something debilitating and a little bit sad -- stemming from the fact that he rarely spoke with his brother and caddie Austin. It presented a stark contrast with Spieth, who kept up a neurotic monologue with Michael Greller all day, constantly seeking and receiving reassurance about the wind, the terrain, the distance, the break, and god knows what else. He uses Greller as his own personal security blanket, and Greller knows exactly how to play the role. Even in the moments of tension, the caddie is careful not to break character. On 15, for instance, Spieth had to make a short but tricky par putt after a tee shot that, despite his exhortations, rolled down a false front after flirting with the flag. A recovery putt set up the par chance, and when the ball went in the hole, Greller turned away from Spieth and just stared into the distance, his face taut as the skin of a drum. You could feel his desire to scream in relief, to let the tension emanate like doppler waves and knock us all over, but that's not his role -- he's the rock in Spieth's never-ending storm of emotions, and even a simple "oh thank God" isn't in the cards. So he just stared out over our heads for a nonverbal moment, and then he turned back to Spieth with an encouraging word. Greller's mask doesn't slip, and that's what it means to be a pro.

With Dustin, though, there's a sense of anarchy that doesn't go very well with the tension of a major championship. Austin is not the caddie with the exhaustive plan, or the supportive word. On Sunday, he didn't even serve to loosen his brother up at critical moments -- it was all silence and a few awkward laughs. I've heard a theory going around the media center that -- let's just put it bluntly -- Dustin is too dumb to be affected by nerves. But nerves are like water seeping through the cracks in a rock, and they will always find a way. The idea that a lack of intelligence makes someone immune is nonsense, and Chambers Bay proved it for the third time in Johnson's career. What he needed instead was a comprehensive plan.

With Spieth, there was always the sense that a meticulous, all-encompassing strategy was being deployed, with plan Bs and Cs where A wouldn't fly. This is what a golfer covets -- it's why they all use the royal "we" when talking about themselves in press conferences. One person strikes the ball, but a whole team can take part in the preparation and at least give the helpful illusion of collaboration. In some kind of metaphysical way, I believe this kind of group forethought somehow makes a golfer luckier, as though he can convince the universe to be on his side.

But where were Dustin's collaborators? Where was his brother when I saw him shaking his head vigorously after a poor approach on 10, as if trying to rid himself of a bad thought? By the time he struck his tee shot on the 13th hole after the run of bogeys, I felt a surge of pure pity toward him. I realize how strange that sounds, since he has the body of a god and the money of a king, but in that moment I saw him laid bare in a state of pure solitude. He had nobody to help curb the terrible loneliness inherent in golf, and he had to stand up to the relentless pressure all by himself. It was like watching a hurricane make landfall, and while Team Spieth had a fortified underground bunker ready, Dustin didn't even have the sense to strap himself to a tree.

by Shane Ryan, Golf Digest |  Read more:
Image: Getty

Sunday, June 21, 2015


[ed. Dachsunds on Parade festival, Ellensburg, WA. June, 2015.]
photos: markk
More pics after the jump.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Massimo Polello


The fine arts don’t matter any more to most educated people. This is not a statement of opinion; it is a statement of fact.

As recently as the late 20th century, well-educated people were expected to be able to bluff their way through a dinner party with at least some knowledge of “the fine arts” — defined, since the late 18th century, as painting, sculpture, orchestral or symphonic music, as distinct from popular music, and dance/ballet. (“Starchitects” notwithstanding, architecture has never really been one of the fine arts — it is too utilitarian, too collaborative and too public).

A few decades ago, in American gentry circles, it would have been a terrible faux pas not to have heard of Martha Graham. You were expected to know the difference between a French impressionist and an abstract expressionist. Being taken to the symphony and ballet as a child was a rite of initiation into what Germans call the Bildungsburgertum (the cultivated bourgeoisie). (...)

There is still an art world, to be sure, in New York and London and Paris and elsewhere. But it is as insular and marginal as the fashion world, with a similar constituency of rich buyers interacting with producers seeking to sell their wares and establish their brands. Members of the twenty-first century educated elite, even members of the professoriate, will not embarrass themselves if they have never heard of the Venice Biennale.

Many of the Arts Formerly Known as Fine seem to have lost even a small paying constituency among rich people, and live a grant-to-mouth existence. In the old days, bohemian painters lived in garrets and tried to interest gallery owners in their work. Their modern heirs — at least the ones fortunate to have university jobs — can teach classes and apply for grants from benevolent foundations, while creating works of art that nobody may want to buy. Born in bohemia, many aging arts have turned universities into their nursing homes.

What happened? How is it that, in only a generation or two, educated Americans went from at least pretending to know and care about the fine arts to paying no attention at all?

The late Hilton Kramer, editor of The New Criterion, blamed the downfall of the fine arts on purveyors of Pop Art like Andy Warhol. And Jeff Koons, who replaced Arnoldian “high seriousness” and the worship of capital-c Culture with iconoclasm, mockery, and irony. A Great Tradition of two millenia that could be felled by Andy Warhol must have been pretty feeble! But the whole idea of a Phidias-to-Pollock tradition of Great Western Art was unhistorical. The truth is that the evolution (or if you like the degeneration) from Cezanne to Warhol was inevitable from the moment that royal, aristocratic and ecclesiastical patronage was replaced by the market.

Having lost their royal and aristocratic patrons, and finding little in the way of public patronage in modern states, artists from the 19th century to the 21st have sought new patrons among the wealthy people and institutions who have formed the tiny art market. It was not the mockery of Pop artists but the capitalist art market itself which, in its ceaseless quest for novelty, trivialized and marginalized the arts.

The dynamic is clearest in the case of painting and allied visual arts. Markets tend to prize fashionable novelty over continuity. The shocking and sensational get more attention than subtle variations on traditional conventions and themes. Capitalism, applied to the fine arts, created the arms race that led to increasingly drastic departures from premodern artistic tradition, until finally, by the late 20th century, “art” could be everything and therefore nothing.

by Michael Lind, The Smart Set |  Read more:

The Geek’s Chihuahua

Rather than thinking of the iPhone as a smartphone, like a Treo or a BlackBerry or, eventually, the Android devices that would mimic it, one would do better to think of the iPhone as a pet. It is the toy dog of mobile devices, a creature one holds gently and pets carefully, never sure whether it might nuzzle or bite. Like a Chihuahua, it rides along with you, in arm or in purse or in pocket, peering out to assert both your status as its owner and its mastery over you as empress. And like a toy dog, it reserves the right never to do the same thing a second time, even given the same triggers. Its foibles and eccentricities demand far greater effort than its more stoic smartphone cousins, but in so doing, it challenges you to make sense of it. (...)

At the start of 2015, fewer than eight short years since the first launch of the iPhone, Apple was worth more than seven hundred billion dollars—more than the gross national product of Switzerland. Despite its origins as a computer company, this is a fortune built from smartphones more than laptops. Before 2007, smartphones were a curiosity, mostly an affectation of would-be executives carting BlackBerries and Treos in unfashionable belt holsters. Not even a decade ago, they were wild and feral. Today, smartphones are fully domesticated. Tigers made kittens, which we now pet ceaselessly. More than two-thirds of Americans own them, and they have become the primary form of computing.

But along with that domestication comes the inescapability of docility. Have you not accepted your smartphone’s reign over you rather than lamenting it? Stroking our glass screens, Chihuahua-like, is just what we do now, even if it also feels sinful. The hope and promise of new computer technology have given way to the malaise of living with it. (...)

Technology moves fast, but its speed now slows us down. A torpor has descended, the weariness of having lived this change before—or one similar enough, anyway—and all too recently. The future isn’t even here yet, and it’s already exhausted us in advance.

It’s a far cry from “future shock,” Alvin Toffler’s 1970 term for the postindustrial sensation that too much change happens in too short a time. Where once the loss of familiar institutions and practices produced a shock, now it produces something more tepid and routine. The planned obsolescence that coaxes us to replace our iPhone 5 with an iPhone 6 is no longer disquieting but just expected. I have to have one has become Of course I’ll get one. The idea that we might willingly reinvent social practice around wristwatch computers less than a decade after reforming it for smart- phones is no longer surprising but predictable. We’ve heard this story before; we know how it ends.

Future shock is over. Apple Watch reveals that we suffer a new affliction: future ennui. The excitement of a novel technology (or anything, really) has been replaced—or at least dampened—by the anguish of knowing its future burden. This listlessness might yet prove even worse than blind boosterism or cynical naysaying. Where the trauma of future shock could at least light a fire under its sufferers, future ennui exudes the viscous languor of indifferent acceptance. It doesn’t really matter that the Apple Watch doesn’t seem necessary, no more than the iPhone once didn’t too. Increasingly, change is not revolutionary, to use a word Apple has made banal, but presaged.

Our lassitude will probably be great for the companies like Apple that have worn us down with the constancy of their pestering. The poet Charles Baudelaire called ennui the worst sin, the one that could “swallow the world in a yawn.” As Apple Watch leads the suppuration of a new era of wearables, who has energy left to object? Who has the leisure for revolution, as we keep up with our social media timelines and emails and home thermostats and heart monitors?

by Ian Bogost, Longreads | Read more:
Image: LWYang

Definition of Race Becoming Fluid

[ed. See also: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Let Rachel Dolezal be as black as she wants to be.]

Rachel Dolezal, born to white parents, self-identifies as black - a decision that illustrates how fluid identity can be in a diversifying America, as the rigid racial structures that have defined most of this country's history seem, for some, to be softening.

Dolezal resigned as the leader of the NAACP's Spokane, Washington, branch after questions surfaced about her racial identity. When asked directly on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday whether she is "an African-American woman," Dolezal replied, "I identify as black."

Her parents identified her as white with a trace of Native American heritage, and her mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, has said Rachel began to "disguise herself" as black after her parents adopted four black children more than a decade ago.

Dolezal isn't the first person to make this type of change. Millions of Americans changed racial or ethnic identities between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, even though their choices may have contradicted what their skin color appeared to be, or who their parents said they are.

"It forces us to really question whether or not this biological basis for identity is a smart path to continue down in the future," said Camille Gear Rich, a University of Southern California law and sociology professor who writes about elective race choices.

Americans have become comfortable with people self-identifying their race, Rich said, "but often that invocation of identity based on a biological claim isn't backed up by anything else after the claim is made."

In the United States, there is an expectation that people would have a biological connection to a racial or an ethnic identity they are claiming, said Nikki Khanna, a University of Vermont sociology professor. She co-authored a 2010 study that found increasing numbers of biracial adults were choosing to self-identify as multiracial or black instead of white.

"There really is no biological basis to race, but what I'm saying is that in our society the everyday person tends to think race must have some link to ancestry," Khanna said. "So we expect that when people self-identify with a particular group they must have some ancestral link to that group."

In the past, race was determined mostly by what other people thought a person was. For example, the Census Bureau's enumerators would determine on their own what a person's race was, and classify them as such. By the 1960s and 1970s, census officials were allowing people to self-identify.

Currently, the Census Bureau allows people to choose a racial category, or even multiple categories, to which they think they belong. The census identifies races as white; black or African-American; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and "some other race" for those claiming more than one race. There is also a Hispanic ethnic category.

People have been using that freedom since the early 2000s to move back and forth. They switched between races, moved from multiple races to a single race or back, or decided to add or drop Hispanic ethnicity from their identifiers on census forms.

Last year, a study showed that 1 in 16 people - or approximately 9.8 million of 162 million - who responded to both the 2000 and 2010 censuses gave different answers when it came to race and ethnicity. In addition, in the 2010 census, more than 21.7 million - at least 1 in 14 - went beyond the standard labels and wrote in such terms as "Arab," "Haitian," "Mexican" and "multiracial."

by Jesse J. Holland, AP |  Read more:
Image:Dan Pelle/AP