----- 3 stars -----

1838-2019: Street Photography - A Photo For Every Year / Kottke

This 20-minute film is a collection of photography of street scenes, from the very first photo ever taken of a person in 1838 (by Louis Daguerre) to a crowded market in Glasgow in 1869 to a ghostly Norwegian street scene in 1882 to NYC’s Mulberry St in 1900 to a newsie selling newspapers about the Titanic disaster in 1912 to more modern scenes, presented chronologically one photo per year. Along the way, you see the development of history, fashion, and technology — the people in the photos get crisper and clearer as shutters quicken and film improves.

----- 2 stars -----

‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers / New York Times

The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier. The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase. After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife. Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey Into the World of a Man Gone Wild / Texas Monthly

He called himself the Tiger King and plastered his face on highway billboards in Texas and Oklahoma. He bred big cats, bears, baboons, and more. He lived, with a parade of partners, on the grounds of his private zoo. He threatened a rival with murder—repeatedly, on YouTube—and tried to hire a hit man to do the deed.

How Many Bones Would You Break to Get Laid? / The Cut

“Incels” are going under the knife to reshape their faces, and their dating prospects. [...] Truth4lie was 27, depressed, and living in a student apartment after a year in a psychiatric hospital on suicide watch when a friend showed him Neil Strauss’s pickup-artist guidebook, The Game. Together they practiced lines from the book, planning to use them on girls in nightclubs. “Would you like to kiss me? I didn’t say you could.” In real life, pickup artistry made Truth4lie anxious. One rule stated he needed to initiate conversation with a woman three seconds after seeing her, which felt like taking an exam. Still, he tried the techniques for a few years, with middling success. Eventually, he stumbled on a forum called Sluthate, where anonymous men gathered to “discredit the effectiveness of pickup art.” In one post, a user described coming to the realization that it didn’t matter what he said because of the way he looked. The user uploaded a selfie, and other Sluthate posters agreed, mocking the flaws in his face. They congratulated him for “taking the black pill,” shorthand for waking up to the tragedy of being ugly. Ugly people, especially ugly men, they said, are destined to lead unhappy lives and die alone. Reading this, Truth4lie felt exhilarated. In the mental hospital, counselors had told him the roots of his depression and anxiety were repressed childhood traumas. In therapy, he relived getting in physical fights as a kid with his dad and the time he punched his sister in the head. Cognition determined emotions, the counselors told him. By changing his mind-set, he could change his behavior. But what if his problems weren’t inside him but outside? Looks can’t be changed with a mind-set adjustment; neither can the cruelly superficial world that values them above all else. The realization was awful and great all at once, as if someone were finally telling him the truth about himself after a lifetime of fake validation.

Eating Way Too Much Rice Almost Doomed Japan's Imperial Navy / National Interest

Sixteen per cent of all disease and injury in the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1882 stemmed from this one sickness. Beriberi. It was a great shame on the nation that one young doctor hoped to cure. Beriberi—kakke in Japanese—affected all levels of Japanese society, but it became especially prevalent among the urban residents of Edo, the classic name for Tokyo. The disease became known as the “Edo sickness.” Art from the period shows men in wheelchairs afflicted with beriberi. The malady completely immobilizes its victim, as discussed by English explorer Isabella Bird in her 1880 book Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. “Its first symptoms are a loss of strength in the legs, ‘looseness in the knees,’ cramps in the calves, swelling and numbness.” “The chronic [form] is a slow, numbing and wasting malady,” Bird continued, “which, if unchecked, results in death from paralysis and exhaustion in from six months to three years.” At the time, the causes of the disease were unknown. It became the subject of great debate among Western medical personnel in Japan. Basil Hall Chamberlain, a preeminent Japanologist, demonstrated the lack of understanding of the disease’s causes in his 1890 Things Japanese: Being Notes on Various Subjects Connected with Japan. [...] In March 1885, he instituted his solution—protein-rich barley mixed with rice. Many of the enlisted personnel in the navy came from the lowest strata of Japanese society. They grew up in poor villages on a diet of brown rice and millet. Too poor to eat fish and vegetables, the highest they could aspire to was the all-you-can-eat polished white rice of the navy and army. These sailors resisted a return to a poor man’s diet. “By last year’s experience, we have found that most of the men dislike meat as well as bread, and we do not know what we shall do next,” Takaki said. “But if we leave the matter to their own choice, we shall certainly have a great many cases of beriberi as has hitherto been the case.”

How Sackler Became the Most Toxic Name in Philanthropy / Town & Country

It’s not a great time to be a Sackler. For decades, if you knew the Sackler name, it was probably because you saw it engraved on a towering museum wall or a university building—there is the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, the Louvre’s Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities in Paris, and plenty of others. But now members of the side of the family that owns Purdue Pharma stand accused in numerous lawsuits of helping fuel the opioid crisis by using deceptive marketing to promote the opioid-based drug OxyContin as non-addictive, then doubling down on sales efforts even as evidence mounted that the drug was being abused. And while the charges themselves are not new—Purdue and three of its top executives pleaded guilty in 2007 to criminal charges and paid a $634 million fine—it has been only recently that the focus has turned to the family. But the specific reason I’ve been trying to speak with Joss is the Facebook post. On February 20, Matthew Schneier, a reporter for the New York Times Style section, wrote an article titled “Uptown, Sackler Protests. Downtown, a Sackler Fashion Line.” He described a collection of activewear that Joss had unveiled at New York Fashion Week under the label LBV, her nascent clothing brand. He also brought up recent protests directed at Joss’s husband’s family, which owns Purdue Pharma. (“If Mrs. Sackler’s name sounds familiar, it is probably not for the reasons she would like,” Schneier wrote.) The next day Joss posted a letter on Facebook. “Dear Matthew Schneier:” it began. “If a male entrepreneur’s business was prospering and popular, would the New York Times dare publish an article so focused on the family business of his wife?” “I was flattered that you came to our LBV presentation,” the post continued, “but what better truth for this sad media reality than what you have done here—using the same bait-and-click language to malign LBV, my own women’s initiative unrelated to Purdue, aimed at promoting women’s empowerment. What you accomplished in your bait-and-switch text was to relegate my identity to only being someone’s wife, thereby erasing any signs of my successes or accomplishments as a woman.”

What Changed My Mind About Climate Change? / The Bulwark

I spent the better part of my professional life (1991-2014) working at a libertarian think tank—the Cato Institute—arguing against climate action. As Cato’s director of Natural Resource Studies (and later, as a senior fellow and eventually vice president), I maintained that, while climate change was real, the impacts would likely prove rather modest and that the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions would greatly exceed the benefits. I changed my mind about that, however, because (among other things) I changed my mind about risk management. If we think about climate risks in the same fashion we think about risks in other contexts, we should most certainly hedge—and hedge aggressively—by removing fossil fuels from the economy as quickly as possible. Let me explain.

Female Spies and Their Secrets / The Atlantic

“What is required,” Knight wrote, “is a clever woman who can use her personal attractions wisely.” And there you have it—the conventional wisdom about women and spycraft. Intelligence officers had long presumed that women’s special assets for spying were limited to strategically deployed female abilities: batting eyelashes, soliciting pillow talk, and of course maintaining files and typing reports. Overseeing operations? Not so much. Historically, women had indeed counted on their charms in practicing espionage, mostly because charms were often the only kind of weapon permitted them. During the American Civil War, when a group of elite hostesses relied on their social connections to gather intelligence for both sides, Harriet Tubman was an outlier who actually ran spying efforts. But the aggression, vision, and executive capacity required to direct an operation were not considered within the female repertoire. Even as Knight was ordering his memo typed, however, change was at hand. World War II, a “total war” that required all able male bodies for global fighting, offered new opportunities.

GDPR After One Year: Costs and Unintended Consequences / Truth on the Market

GDPR is officially one year old. How have the first 12 months gone? As you can see from the mix of data and anecdotes below, it appears that compliance costs have been astronomical; individual “data rights” have led to unintended consequences; “privacy protection” seems to have undermined market competition; and there have been large unseen — but not unmeasurable! — costs in forgone startup investment. So, all-in-all, about what we expected. [...] Prior to GDPR going into effect, it was estimated that total GDPR compliance costs for US firms with more than 500 employees “could reach $150 billion.” Another estimate from the same time said 75,000 Data Protection Officers would need to be hired for compliance. As of March 20, 2019, 1,129 US news sites are still unavailable in the EU due to GDPR. Microsoft had 1,600 engineers working on compliance. During a Senate hearing, Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, estimated that the company spent “hundreds of years of human time” to comply with the new privacy rules. [...] One study estimated that venture capital invested in EU startups fell by as much as 50 percent due to GDPR implementation. 55% of respondents said they had worked on deals that fell apart because of concerns about a target company’s data protection policies and compliance with GDPR.

What happened when I met my Islamophobic troll / The Guardian

True Brit immediately shook my hand and welcomed me into his home, warning me not to take off my shoes in case I accidentally stepped in cat poo. He introduced himself as Phil. He was short, with broad shoulders that rolled forward as he moved into his default slouch. In harsh light, a slight paunch was visible. He had thin wisps of light brown hair that barely covered his receding hairline and uneven stubble covering his face. Phil lived on his own. On his kitchen walls were drawings by his young daughter and photographs of them together at theme parks, restaurants and outside Cardiff Castle. Since Phil’s divorce a year earlier, his daughter had moved to a different area of Birmingham with her mother. Phil said that the end of his marriage “broke me emotionally”. He didn’t want to talk about it much, but told me that since then, he had spent most of his time alone and at his computer, watching YouTube videos, reading articles and browsing message boards. “I started off just wanting to read about politics,” he said as he made us tea. “I voted for Brexit – the first time I’d ever properly voted – so I used to spend my time reading about the whole process, how the government would negotiate with the EU. I wasn’t really that political, but it was just seeing everything that happened during the referendum. All the fighting, name-calling and the hypocrisy from the media – how they were insulting anyone who voted leave, but they just don’t understand what we go through.”

----- 1 star -----

Frigid Offices Might Be Killing Women’s Productivity / The Atlantic

As their goosebumps have long suggested, women perform better on tests of cognitive function at toastier room temperatures.

Pushy bonobo mothers help sons find sexual partners, scientists find / The Guardian

Their mothers are so keen for them to father children that they usher them in front of promising partners, shield them from violent competitors and dash the chances of other males by charging them while they are at it. For a bonobo mother, it is all part of the parenting day, and analysis finds the hard work pays off. Males of the species that live with their mothers are three times more likely to father offspring than those whose mothers are absent.

Our Love for Dogs May Be Coded in Our DNA / Psychology Today

These Swedish researchers looked at 35,035 pairs of twins, and determined whether they were identical (MZ) or fraternal (DZ) and then determined whether each of the twins had gone on to become dog owners. If there is a genetic factor then the "concordance rate" should be higher for the monozygotic twins. Concordance would be shown when both twins owned dogs, or both twins did not own dogs while a lack of concordance would be shown by the fact that one twin owned a dog and the other did not. The researchers conclude that "MZ twins had higher concordance rates and tetrachoric correlations (0.58 for females and 0.52 for males) than DZ twins (0.35 for females and 0.30 for males), in line with presence of genetic effects."

High-Def Queen Victoria / Kottke

In the 1890s and 1900s, the Biograph Company sent film crews around the world to capture moving images to bring them to audiences that, up until this point, had no access to seeing what life was like outside of their own locales. This footage was acquired by MoMA in 1939 but not analyzed until recently. This footage is astoundingly crisp and clear — one of the highlights is a short clip of Queen Victoria shot on a visit to Ireland in 1900, just a year before her death. In a shot starting at 1:45, the queen is seen sitting in a carriage, exchanging greetings with well-wishers, and wearing a pair of now-trendy tiny sunglasses. [...] The film images are so incredibly clear because Biograph shot them in 68mm at 30fps, aka “the IMAX of the 1890s”.

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