3 stars

The Enduring Legacy of Elijah McClain’s Tragic Death | 5280

In summer 2020, the nation’s attention turned to the killing of a 23-year-old Aurora man. His death prompted a flood of more than 8,500 letters from outside the state of Colorado—all begging Governor Jared Polis for justice. We read every one. […]

It took Shannah Wischik 15 minutes to write 141 words. She composed them late one night last summer from her home in Seattle, under the dimmed lights of her kitchen table overlooking her children’s backyard play set. She wrote the words with a fine-tipped, blue ink pen on white printer paper. Wischik was exhausted that evening—mentally, physically, emotionally. Three young children and a pandemic will do that. Some nights, from a mile away, she could hear the echoes of flash-bang grenades launched at people protesting the police in her city. She held her children tightly in those times, not because she feared for their immediate safety, but because she worried about their futures.

She was 42, a former financial reporter turned stay-at-home mother. If you ask, she’ll say it was an Instagram post urging people to write to Colorado’s governor that made her slip that letter into an envelope. She’d never heard of Jared Polis before June 2020. But Wischik had spent several days learning about the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man from Aurora, Colorado. His story was only now becoming known amid the wave of protests nationwide over the country’s ongoing epidemic of police brutality against Black men and women.

There had been so much to understand about McClain’s life and death, not the least of which were the awful details of that night on August 24 in Aurora, when he was walking home from a convenience store with iced tea for a younger sibling. Wischik read that McClain had been wearing a ski mask because his anemia made his body run cold; that he was likely dancing to music on his phone; that someone saw a man in a mask, moving unevenly in the street, and that the person phoned the police. The call led to a violent takedown of the young man, which led to the large dose of ketamine that was injected into his body and ultimately induced a series of heart attacks that ended his life a week later.

Wischik never got through the audio recording of the police encounter from that night—of McClain politely begging for his life. She knew McClain was a masseur, that he played his violin for shelter cats, that he was different. His death haunted her, as it did the tens of thousands of people who were posting about it on their social media feeds. Wischik, who is white, knew she couldn’t fully know what it was like to be Elijah McClain’s mother. She wondered about the hurt Sheneen McClain was feeling, what it would be like to lose a child and never expect justice.

So, on a night in late June, with her children asleep, Wischik sat at her kitchen table and began to write.


Margaritaville and the Myth of American Leisure | Eater

Margaritaville, as Parrotheads will tell you, is a state of mind. But it’s also — delightfully, sometimes inexplicably — a real place now open in Times Square. […]

The 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar does not open until 5 o’ Clock, which puts a crimp in trying to live out the metaphor of its name. The whole point of the phrase is a justification to start drinking early, before the workday is done, because somebody, somewhere is off work. But no, for the 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar, one of four restaurants and bars at Manhattan’s new Margaritaville Resort Times Square, you must wait until the workday is over. I am furious about this. Sure, the License to Chill Bar opens at 2, but it’s the principle of the thing. Jimmy Buffett would not wait until the boss says you can go home.

The Margaritaville Resort Times Square sounds like an oxymoron. “Resort” conjures pristine beaches with reservable cabanas, room service delivered with an orchid, spas, and restaurants that will just charge your room, so you needn’t worry about even carrying a wallet on the grounds. To me at least, it does not mean a 32-floor hotel in Times Square. Like, I have been to a Times Square hotel bar before, and while I’ve enjoyed myself, it has never been a transformatively relaxing experience.

I’m biased though; being from here makes it hard to view the city through a tourist’s eyes. But while I can picture wanting to visit New York for many things — the museums, the theater, the history, the chance to meet a pigeon who’s eaten a whole slice of pizza — I can’t imagine coming here to engage in leisure. The kind of leisure where you get on a plane and check into a resort just to not leave for a week, to see no other sights besides the novelty tiki drink cups lining the hotel’s bars.

But this is the kind of leisure Margaritaville is built on. Almost all the Margaritaville restaurants and resorts — a vaguely tropics-themed hospitality empire inspired by one of Jimmy Buffett’s most popular songs — exist within massive tourist destinations like Cozumel, Mexico, or Atlantic City, New Jersey. On the surface, Times Square feels like a natural addition. But while other locales can at least offer some seclusion from the world in the form of a beach or an island, Times Square is in the middle of everything. It is hectic, crowded, overpriced, and blatantly capitalistic, a place where no one actually lives and few New Yorkers hang out unless they’re seeing a show or bringing their out-of-town niece to the Disney Store. It has no chill. But maybe the point is it’s not unsalvageable. Amid the stress and the noise, if you delude yourself enough, you can turn off your brain and have fun. So for 24 hours, I tried.


Towards the abolition of animal farming | Noahpinion

I love meat. As a Texan I pride myself on my steak-grilling abilities, but I have to admit the Argentinians have us beat. I love siu yuk, Italian sausage pizza, kurobuta chashu. I will load down my hot pot with beef until the other people at the table complain. Kalbi is wonderful, as is yakiniku. A good burger is priceless — I always eat it rare. Ribs of all kinds are amazing. Duck is great in a bowl of ramen. Fried chicken is the most perfect food combination ever invented. Texas still has the best barbecue in the country, but Brooklyn is surprisingly strong.

And here is another thing that’s true: Animal farming is a barbaric, morally hideous practice. Pigs are confined in tiny stalls for their entire lives, forced to stand in their own feces, malnourished and force-fed hormones and tortured until they turn to cannibalism. Living chickens are vacuumed into giant machines, dairy cows regularly abused, free range cattle castrated without painkillers. And all this as a prelude to being slaughtered. The farming industry is the kind of industrialized, mass nightmare of torture and cruelty that, when done to human beings, acquires the status of totemic evil. Yet because we do it to animals instead of humans, we don’t think twice about it.

Animals are not humans. Though a substantial number of people say “animals should be given the same rights as people” in surveys, in practice only the wackiest fringe activists would reorder society so as to put a pig’s happiness on par with a human being’s. I certainly would not. But to countenance and excuse the nightmare of our farming industry requires that we put effectively zero weight on the happiness of pigs and cows and other animals. It requires that we tell ourselves that they don’t matter even a tiny, tiny bit. To place even the slightest moral importance on the life experience of a pig requires admitting that our society is based on a monstrous, systematized horror.

And if you look at the direction that morality in advanced nations is headed, it’s clear that concern for animals’ welfare is increasing. Animal Precinct, a show valorizing police who rescue abused animals, has been on the air for 20 years. Governments and individuals are fighting hard to get service animals out of Afghanistan. Abuse of pets is rapidly becoming the universal market of evil in the stories we tell.

In other words, to morally countenance the practice of animal farming, we are forced to tell ourselves that a pig’s well-being matters infinitely less than a dog’s or a cat’s. We draw bright lines between the animals we care for and protect and turn into members of our family and the other animals that we systematically brutalize and torture in order to devour their flesh.

Of course, making that kind of arbitrary and absolute distinction is very hard, so we make it easier on ourselves by just not thinking about it. […]

So given these grim numbers and even grimmer moral realities, why am I optimistic about the possibility of abolishing animal farming? Because, as with climate change and many other problems, technological progress is changing the tradeoffs we face. Within my lifetime, it may be possible for humanity to relegate animal farming to the history books, without seriously inconveniencing our selfish lifestyles. […]

And crucially, tissue-culture meat is real meat. These are animal muscle cells, without the animal. Of course, getting fat into the muscle in a realistic way — reproducing the marbling in your steak — is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.


2 stars

Putting the Meme Stocks in the Index | Money Stuff (Bloomberg)

One of my favorite genres of corporate stories is the one I call “who controls a company?” The basic form of the story is:

  1. Somebody (the board of directors, the chief executive officer, a division head) at some company is doing something.

  2. Someone above that person in the theoretical legal hierarchy of control decides to fire them. The shareholders vote out the board, the board fires the CEO, the CEO fires the division head, whatever.

  3. The fired person says “no thank you,” changes the locks on the company’s front door (or the password on its Twitter account), and keeps doing what they were doing.

  4. The people who fired them are puzzled.

  5. Everyone goes to court.

  6. For a while there are in some sense two companies, one run by the fired person and the other run by the people who did the firing, and employees and customers have to choose which one to be loyal to.

  7. It’s all sort of fun and confusing.

That’s usually as far as it gets? I write about the situation once or twice, I make some jokes, and then the tension resolves. A court will usually sort it out quickly enough. And anyway there are powerful incentives to settle. The company is valuable; its network of relationships and contracts and customers and suppliers and employees is worth a lot of money. If you split it into confusing infighting, a lot of value is destroyed. Better for everyone to settle the fight quickly, before the value can be destroyed. If you go on fighting too long, you might end up controlling all the value in the company, but that value might have gone to zero. […]

Ah! Well! Cool! I mean in general it is value-destructive to have a drawn-out legal battle about who is in charge of the company, especially where (as here) the parent company refuses to transfer more intellectual property to the joint venture. But if you can take the company and run with it and develop your own IP and freeze out your shareholders entirely then maybe that is better than just being fired? (“Wu, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, pulled back from signing settlement agreements worth tens of millions of dollars if he would leave the company,” Bloomberg reported in April, presumably because staying was worth more?)


China’s Hottest New Rental Service: Men Who Actually Listen | Sixth Tone

Zheng’s favorite hangout is a “butler café” — a new concept that’s generating enormous buzz on Chinese social media by offering women the kind of male attention they desire.

Originally from Japan, butler cafés allow customers to spend time with a team of dashing young waiters for an hourly fee. They’re a counterpart to the more mainstream “maid cafés,” which feature waitresses dressed in maid costumes serving a primarily male clientele.

Now, the businesses are spreading rapidly in major Chinese cities; the review site Dianping lists dozens of outlets offering “butler” services. Posts about the cafés have frequently gone viral on the Instagram-like social platform Xiaohongshu in recent months.

The outlets have found success by tapping into the frustrations of Chinese women, many of whom feel society remains far too patriarchal. Studies have found that China’s wives are less happy in their relationships than their husbands in all age groups. […]

Wang Qian, a 24-year-old student, is a regular visitor to the café. She tells Sixth Tone she enjoys the feeling of empowerment she gets from spending time there.

According to Wang, many of the men she meets in normal life are pu xin nan — a term popularized by the female comedian Yang Li that roughly translates as “men who are so average, yet so confident.” The butlers, however, are considerate and never mansplain anything to her, she says. […]

The butlers, however, have a far less rose-tinted view of the café. Many of them pay a heavy price to satisfy their female clients’ desires.

The Promised Land is ruthless in policing its servers’ physical appearance. Unless they’re deemed extraordinarily handsome, butlers must be at least 185 centimeters tall. They’re also obliged to follow a strict skincare and makeup routine.

“The customers aren’t here to pay to see ugly faces,” says Mero.

Junxi, a 23-year-old who’s been working as a butler for five months, says his life has come to revolve around making himself look attractive. Each night, he goes to bed early to ensure he looks fresh-faced the next day. In the mornings, he spends a long time getting ready: adding foundation to cover up any blemishes, painting his eyebrows, and finishing with a bit of lipstick.

“This is the bare minimum we can do to show respect to our customers,” he says.

The butler feels he has to be flawless to progress at The Promised Land. The café imposes a rigid hierarchy. Butlers are divided into three levels: entry, advanced, and celebrity — with each priced differently. To spur competition, the managers hang a board on the wall displaying the number of tips each server has received.


Airbus A321LR versus the Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Which do pilots prefer for transatlantic flights? | The Points Guy

In my career, I’ve spent just over 3,000 hours flying the A321 (7,000 hours total with the A320 family) and nearly 4,000 hours flying the 787 Dreamliner. As a result, I feel I’m in a good position to compare and contrast how it feels to fly the two aircraft, particularly on routes with longer flight times.

Each aircraft has its own little quirks, some of which many pilots like, others which pilots may not prefer. It’s like the difference between driving a Mercedes and BMW: They both offer quite a different driving experience, but ultimately either will get you safely to your destination. […]

You’ll see most Boeing pilots with a clipboard for their inflight paperwork. This is because there are few places to store it and, more to the point, it is difficult to write with the control column in the way. As a result, we use a clipboard to keep the paperwork together and to provide a flat surface on which to keep a track of our route and fuel status.

It is also difficult to eat your food properly as you can’t fit the tray onto your lap without moving the seat back away from the controls. As a result, to ensure that one pilot is able to reach the controls at all times, we sometimes have to take it in turns eating.


You Are Not Who You Think You Are | New York Times

David Brooks:

We grew up believing that “imagining” and “seeing” describe different mental faculties. But as we learn more about what’s going on in the mind, these concepts get really blurry really fast.

This is happening all over the place. Over the centuries, humans have come up with all sorts of concepts to describe different thinking activities: memory, perception, emotion, attention, decision-making. But now, as scientists develop greater abilities to look at the brain doing its thing, they often find that the activity they observe does not fit the neat categories our culture has created, and which we rely on to understand ourselves.

Let me give you a few more examples:

Reason/EmotionIt feels as if the rational brain creates and works with ideas, but that emotions sweep over us. But some neuroscientists, like Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University, argue that people construct emotions and thoughts, and there is no clear distinction between them. It feels as if we can use our faculty of reason to restrain our passions, but some neuroscientists doubt this is really what’s happening. Furthermore, emotions assign value to things, so they are instrumental to reason, not separate from or opposed to it.

Observation/Memory. Observation feels like a transparent process. You open your eyes and take stuff in. In fact, much or most of seeing is making mental predictions about what you expect to see, based on experience, and then using sensory input to check and adjust your predictions. Thus, your memory profoundly influences what you see. “Perceptions come from the inside out just as much, if not more, than from the outside in,” the University of Sussex neuroscientist Anil Seth has observed. The conversation between senses and memory produces what he calls a “controlled hallucination,” which is the closest we can get to registering reality.


1 star

Texas Republicans Got What They Wanted. They Might Regret It. | The Atlantic

David Frum, with what may prove to be a bit of wishful thinking:

This result has provoked dismay, and not only from the Texas women who will be surveilled and policed by the law. Yet the Supreme Court’s permission to Texas Republicans to proceed with their scheme should be welcomed—including by those who support abortion rights—as the crucial step toward a resolution of a half-century-long national culture war.

Pre-Texas, opposition to abortion offered Republican politicians a lucrative, no-risk political option. They could use pro-life rhetoric to win support from socially conservative voters who disliked Republican economic policy, and pay little price for it with less socially conservative voters who counted on the courts to protect abortion rights for them.


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