Trying to Separate Bill Cosby From Cliff Huxtable by Rachel L. Swarns [The New York Times]
"It was hard then to know where Dr. Huxtable ended and Mr. Cosby began. Mr. Cosby inhabited the role so completely that for a long time I thought character and creator were pretty much one and the same, at least until the allegations of rape began surfacing with increasing frequency. Then I went from feeling certain that Mr. Cosby was just like Dr. Huxtable, to wondering whether Mr. Cosby was like Dr. Huxtable, to desperately hoping that Mr. Cosby was the devoted family man I once thought he had been."
It's a legal, natural plant that has been used in Asian medicine for centuries. Indeed, a growing number of Americans are finding it to be a useful alternative to heroin and prescription pain relievers. But of course, there's a catch. Like the opioid drugs it is used to replace, this stuff can be addictive, and it can also cause serious nausea. Unlike other opioids, however, it seems to have an extremely low overdose risk, which has caught the eye of people working to fight the record high level of overdose deaths. It's called kratom. MeFi's Own Maia Szalavitz for Vice News. [more inside]
Planet Money's Adam Davidson ponders an emerging economic paradox in this week's NYT Magazine: Why are corporations hoarding trillions in cash? The cash stockpiles being held by many major corporations situation are unprecedented in size, and often vastly exceed any sum of money that these corporations could ever dream of spending. This behavior runs in direct opposition to most economic theories, violates assumptions about how rational corporations should act, and is being rewarded by the market (but only in some industries). So, what gives?
Leaders in different fields share the 10 books they’d take with them if they were marooned on a desert island. For his bookshop installation, One Grand, the editor Aaron Hicklin asked people to name the 10 books they’d take with them if they were marooned on a desert island. [more inside]
Even Insured Can Face Crushing Medical Debt, Study Finds. (slNYT) "I Am Drowning": The Voices of People with Medical Debt. (also slNYT)
"Painting is beside the point: the paintings in The Joy of Painting don’t matter." The joy of writing about The Joy Of Painting. In Which Bob Ross is Compared to God, Creator of Worlds. [more inside]
Kelvin Villanueva was almost home one night last June when a policeman stopped him for a broken taillight. From his truck, he could see his longtime girlfriend, Suelen Bueno... Before [she] reached them, the officer had arrested Villanueva. Bueno still had not revealed to any of the children that Villanueva had been deported. ‘‘It’s very difficult, because I don’t know how to explain it to them,’’ she said. ‘‘They’ve never been separated from him before. I don’t know what to say. I just keep telling them that he’s traveling for work, he’ll be home soon.’’ [more inside]
Take Flight [New York Times] [Magazine] The year’s best actors lift off in a series of tributes to the ultimate Hollywood magic trick. To watch in virtual reality on your phone, download our app. [more inside]
The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015 The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.
Writing for Agence France-Presse, Rob Lever details the struggles of major news organizations and online content aggregators to keep comment sections from devolving into ‘pie fights’ at best to hateful and abusive at worst. Some sites have simply eliminated comments rather than deal with the negativity. In 2014, The New York Times and The Washington Post announced that they would form a partnership, the Coral Project, aimed at creating a commenting system that, “might diminish the ‘incentive to be the loudest voice’ and would foster communities of commenters[.]” [more inside]
Friends call Constable Collins Rain Man or Yoda or simply The Oracle. But to Scotland Yard, London’s metropolitan police force, he is known as a “super recognizer.” He has a special gift of facial recall powers that enables him to match even low-quality and partial imagery to a face he has seen before, on the street or in a database and possibly years earlier.[slNYT]
Today's NYT sports section trolls Cubs fans with a 1908-inspired front page. The cover. More, from Talking New Media.
What do we really know about Osama bin Laden's death?
I saw this as more of a media story, a case study in how constructed narratives become accepted truth. This felt like a cop-out to [Seymour Hersh], as he explained in a long email the next day. He said that I was sidestepping the real issue, that I was ‘‘turning this into a ‘he-said, she-said’ dilemma,’’ instead of coming to my own conclusion about whose version was right. It was then that he introduced an even more disturbing notion: What if no one’s version could be trusted?
Amazon has posted (on Medium, natch) an aggressive response to the “everyone at Amazon is miserable but also paid well but also crying all the time” story in the New York Times [Previously]. This story and its aftermath represent a bit of a trap, particularly in discussions on Twitter: If you think the original story contained both valuable information and flaws, your default position is to go to bat for the Times; if you read this story as a portrait of a tough workplace written to cast it in the worst possible light, but acknowledge that it contained some worrying anecdotes, then your tendency will be to defend Amazon.
But these too reveal themselves as proxy positions. It’s not story versus story, or publication versus tech company. It’s media versus tech. [more inside]
But these too reveal themselves as proxy positions. It’s not story versus story, or publication versus tech company. It’s media versus tech. [more inside]
"There are two kinds of women: those who knit and those who unravel. I am a great unraveler. I can undo years of careful stitching in fifteen gluttonous minutes. It isn't even a decision, really. Once I see the loose thread, I am undone. It's over before I have even asked myself the question: Do I actually want to destroy this?" [more inside]
The Passion of Nicki Minaj: "To put down a woman for something that men do, as if they're children and I'm responsible, has nothing to do with you asking stupid questions, because you know that's not just a stupid question. That's a premeditated thing you just did." [SLNYT]
The Pernicious Rise of Poptimisim, by Saul Austerlitz.
A Dying Young Woman’s Hope in Cryonics and a Future - (SLNYT) Kim Suozzi knew she was dying, but believed that cryonic preservation had a “1 or 2 percent chance” of offering her another shot at life. And for that, it was worth trying.
new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.
‘Moment’ Is Having a Moment [New York Times]
“What, exactly, is a cultural moment? How long does it last? Who participates in it? Who on earth gets to decide? Can you marshal literally anything that has happened in the last 10 years, or 10 months? What are the parameters? Is there a minimum Q rating? Who has to experience a thing, be aware of it, find satisfaction (or prestige) in discussing it? And how do we distinguish kairos from chronos — a moment from an ordinary shred of time? How do we distinguish a meaningful, fateful, crucial moment from all the other moments that fall all over the place like bread crumbs out of an overturned toaster?”
Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber collaborate on a song and talk about the process in this NYT mini-doc.
Merl Reagle, the imaginative and irrepressibly amusing verbal virtuoso who created the crossword puzzles published each week in The Washington Post Magazine and in many newspapers, died Aug. 22 in a hospital in Tampa. He was 65. (Washington Post obituary) [more inside]
"What you want to avoid is panic. What you want to teach yourself is that you deserve better than lying alone in a dark room, imagining yourself buried." || Diana Spechler for NYT's Opinionator: 10 Things I'd Tell My Former (Medicated) Self, the final installment in Going Off, a series of essays recounting the challenges Spechler has faced in gradually discontinuing her regimen of psychiatric medications.
Japan’s new geostationary satellite Himawari-8 captures an image of Earth every 10 minutes. The New York Times combined some of them into a spectacular view of a single day over the Pacific Ocean.
Colorado’s Effort Against Teenage Pregnancies Is a Startling Success, by Sabrina Tavernese, New York Times [more inside]
The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá:
After a hospital error, two pairs of Colombian identical twins were raised as two pairs of fraternal twins. This is the story of how they found one another — and of what happened next.A fascinating and improbable tale of coincidence, family, class, and genetics. [SLNYT]
Grilling with Lava [New York Times]
This July Fourth, we offer an intense, but minimalist way to grill steak. It requires 800 pounds of Wisconsin basaltic gravel heated to 2,000 degrees. New York Times food writers have advocated cooking directly on hot coals this Fourth of July, but the truly adventurous may want to consider another approach: lava-grilled steak. The Syracuse University professors Bob Wysocki and Jeff Karson, the leaders of this minimalist technique, say the key is to start with thin-cut steaks, the more marbled the better. You then find the nearest retrofitted bronze furnace. (Very likely, that is the one the professors have built for themselves in Syracuse as part of the university’s Lava Project. When not cooking dinner with it, Mr. Wysocki, an artist, and Mr. Karson, a geologist, create lava for scientific research and sculptures.)[more inside]
A short game sheds light on government policy, corporate America and why no one likes to be wrong. [SLNYT]
A case against "glamping". Unless you are for glamping (especially during music festival season). [more inside]
The Agency is every online community member's worst fears come to life: a real honest-to-goodness troll/noise factory where dozens of employees using hundreds of accounts post thousands of highly targeted and coordinated attacks as awful comments on Twitter, Facebook, and forums in order to sway public opinion about geopolitics. From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities...
The New York Times has been around long enough to report on more or less everything, and its First Glimpses feature occasionally dives into the archives to see when some notable thing was mentioned for the very first time. This week, it's cheeseburgers. [more inside]
MeFi's own John Scalzi, author of numerous popular books and a blog almost as popular as said books, has done okay.
"At most restaurants, you are served what you ask for so routinely that your eyes glaze over with boredom. Javelina does not fall into the trap of dull predictability. One night after I left, I realized the guacamole I’d ordered had never arrived; it’s not every restaurant that gives you something to think about on your way home. Meanwhile, people at the next table were presented with a dish they insisted they hadn’t asked for. “You didn’t order brisket?” the server asked, keeping up the playful spirit." Move over, Flavortown: NYT's Pete Wells reviews Javelina
“We host one of the most renowned faculty in the world,” boasts a woman introduced in one promotional video as the head of a law school. “Come be a part of Newford University to soar the sky of excellence.”
Yet on closer examination, this picture shimmers like a mirage. The news reports are fabricated. The professors are paid actors. The university campuses exist only as stock photos on computer servers. The degrees have no true accreditation.
In fact, very little in this virtual academic realm, appearing to span at least 370 websites, is real — except for the tens of millions of dollars in estimated revenue it gleans each year from many thousands of people around the world, all paid to a secretive Pakistani software company.Declan Walsh for The New York Times
The Last Day of Her Life. When Cornell psychology professor Sandy Bem found out she had Alzheimer’s, she resolved that before the disease stole her mind, she would kill herself. The question was, when? [more inside]
The Men of Condé Nast Photographed in Their Natural Habitat (New York Times)
Sally Mann's Exposure An essay by Sally Mann about the publication, and subsequent reaction to, her second book of photographs, Immediate Family. [Many of the photographs featured naked images of her young children.]
The Machines Are Coming by Zeynep Tufekci
Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who’s in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. In applications around the world, software is being used to predict whether people are lying, how they feel and whom they’ll vote for. To crack these cognitive and emotional puzzles, computers needed not only sophisticated, efficient algorithms, but also vast amounts of human-generated data, which can now be easily harvested from our digitized world. The results are dazzling. Most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. But computers do not just replace humans in the workplace. They shift the balance of power even more in favor of employers. Our normal response to technological innovation that threatens jobs is to encourage workers to acquire more skills, or to trust that the nuances of the human mind or human attention will always be superior in crucial ways. But when machines of this capacity enter the equation, employers have even more leverage, and our standard response is not sufficient for the looming crisis.[more inside]
A Field Guide to the American Sandwich, with introduction. Both by Sam Sifton. Possibly related to yesterday's ode to the BEC and last week's roast beef tutorial (all NYT).
Fit to Print documents the ways in which the New York Times writes around expletives even as it is often drawn to the very words it deems unprintable.
The concept first bubbled up out of the pop-cultural ether when competitive reality shows hit upon their formula, in the form of “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race.” TV enthusiasts — part fan, part Roland Barthes with a TiVo — congregated on online message boards like Television Without Pity, creating a new slang with which to dis and deconstruct their favorites. Fifteen years later, the critical language used to carve up the phonies, saints and sad-sack wannabes of reality shows has migrated, and the loser edit has become a limber metaphor for exploring our own real-world failures. Colson Whitehead: The ‘Loser Edit’ That Awaits Us All
The most optimistic people often struggle the hardest. They can’t quite square what’s going on in the world with their beliefs, and the disparity is alarming. [slnyt]
According to a British linguist's research on Twitter users in the U.S. (direct link to 55-page PDF), what do young Southern black women and young Northern and Western white men have in common? They're "lexical innovators" whose slang creation skills are on fleek. [more inside]
A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis talk about what the Oscars mean today and how they paradoxically reach more people than the movies they celebrate. [SLNYT]
I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.