In the News 15.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 15.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 15.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 15.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Bitcoin Paradox

You are an inmate in a luxury hotel. Locked in your soundproof suite, you hear nothing and see nothing. Liveried butlers bring you meals on silver carts. You have plenty of time to read, think, and listen to music. All the riches of culture can be called down at your whim. But you are trapped, too, and desperate to talk.

One day, you look under your dinner service and discover a note. ARE YOU THERE? You write back, tucking your reply under the plate. YES, WHO ARE YOU, WRITE SOON. In the morning you find replies. It doesn’t take long before you realize that notes are being shared, passed, and shuffled, among perhaps dozens of inmates being held in dozens of rooms.

Communication is easy, but it’s hard to tell who knows what. Messages pass one another in corridors; conversations fragment. When A replied to B, had she received your message yet, or was she reading C’s? Did she ignore what you said because she didn’t like it, or because it had yet to be delivered? When D proposes a simultaneous attack on the wardens as they deliver dinner, how many people received it? When A confirms to D that she’s in, will D see the message in time? Will D know that B saw it?

Here’s one solution, if a strange one. Write a message with a very difficult mathematical problem on it—a problem so hard that it would take a month of concentration to solve. Now wait.

Perhaps nothing happens. But perhaps, just perhaps, you find the answer under breakfast one morning.

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus


Mimi O’Donnell Reflects on the Loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Devastation of Addiction


The first time I met Phil, there was instant chemistry between us. It was the spring of 1999, and he was interviewing me to be the costume designer for a play he was directing—his first—for the Labyrinth Theater Company, In Arabia We’d All Be Kings. Even though I’d spent the five years since moving to New York designing costumes for Off-Broadway plays and had just been hired by Saturday Night Live, I was nervous, because I was in awe of his talent. I’d seen him in Boogie Nightsand Happiness, and he blew me out of the water with his willingness to make himself so vulnerable and to play fucked-up characters with such honesty and heart.

I remember walking into the interview and anxiously handing Phil my résumé. He studied it for a few moments, then looked up at me and, with complete sincerity and admiration, said, “You have more credits than I do.” I felt myself relax. He wanted to put me at ease and let me know that we would be working together as equals. After the meeting, I called my sister on one of those hilariously giant cell phones of the time, and after I had raved about Phil, she announced, “You’re going to marry him.”

Working with Phil felt seamless—our instincts were so similar, and we always seemed to be in sync. Though there was clearly a personal attraction, both of us were involved with other people, so we fell in love artistically first. Over the next two years, we continued to work together—I designed the costumes for everything he directed—and, along the way, I was invited to become a company member of Labyrinth, of which Phil was the artistic director. As an ensemble, we produced Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, which put us on the map. Then, seven years to the day since I’d moved to the city, 9/11 happened. It was disorienting to be finding our place as the world seemed to be collapsing around us.

Read the rest of this article at: Vogue

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The Early Days of Skid Row, Once Known as ‘Hobo Corner’

It was Christmastime in Los Angeles in 1902. The Los Angeles Timessent a reporter out to the saloon-lined intersection of First Street and Los Angeles Street, more commonly known to Times readers as the “Hobo Corner,” epicenter of Victorian LA’s Skid Row. “It was the toughest night of the year on the “Hobo Corner,’” the sensation-minded reporter wrote. “The tenderloin was literally swarming with tramps. Most of them were beastly drunk and the rest were sorry they weren’t. They were filthy dirty; some of them fairly squirmed with tenants—their steady company as it were.”

Such was the patronizing, romanticized, and often cruel language that Angelenos used to describe the itinerant population that arrived in the city with the coming of the railroads.

In 1876, Los Angeles became the end of the line of the transcontinental railroad. According to historian Glen Creason, the railroads were constructed east of LA’s historic core. That year, the main Southern Pacific Rail Yard and passenger terminus, known as River Station(now the site of the Los Angeles State Historic Park), opened. In 1888, it was joined by the Arcade Station at Fourth and Alameda.

Thousands of men, many displaced veterans of the Civil War, began to “ride the rails,” stowing away in empty boxcars and jumping trains. Because of this, many cities saw a great increase in the number of transient visitors.

They tended to congregate around or nearby the rail yards in cheap hotels, saloons, and brothels which sprung up to service them. In 1889, it was reported that 18 “tramps” had been arrested at the Southern Pacific Yard in one morning and would be forced to work on the chain gang, ironically building roads for the city.

LA leaders knew what to blame for this “tramp harvest”—the increased mobility offered by the railroads.

Read the rest of this article at: Curbed

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The Reckoning: Women and Power in the Workplace

“Revolution will come in a form we cannot yet imagine,” the critical theorists Fred Moten and Stefano Harney wrote in their 2013 essay “The Undercommons,” about the need to radically upend hierarchical institutions. I thought of their prophecy in October, when a private document listing allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by dozens of men in publishing and media surfaced online.

The list — a Google spreadsheet initially shared exclusively among women, who could anonymously add to it — was created in the immediate aftermath of reports about sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. The atmosphere among female journalists was thick with the tension of watching the press expose the moral wrongs of Hollywood while neglecting to interrogate our own. The existence of the list suggested that things were worse than we even imagined, given all that it revealed. It was horrifying to see the names of colleagues and friends — people you had mingled with at parties and accepted drinks from — accused of heinous acts.

A few days after the list appeared, I was in a van with a half dozen other women of color, riding through the desert on our way to a writing retreat. All of us worked in media; most of us had not realized the extent to which harassment polluted our industry. Whisper networks, in which women share secret warnings via word of mouth, require women to tell others whom to avoid and whom to ignore. They are based on trust, and any social hierarchy is rife with the privilege of deciding who gets access to information. Perhaps we were perceived as outsiders, or maybe we weren’t seen as vulnerable. We hadn’t been invited to the happy hours or chats or email threads where such information is presumably shared. The list was F.T.B.T. — for them, by them — meaning, by white women about their experiences with the white men who made up a majority of the names on it. Despite my working in New York media for 10 years, it was my first “whisper” of any kind, a realization that felt almost as hurtful as reading the acts described on the list itself.

As a young business reporter, no one told me about the New York investor known for luring women out to meals under the guise of work. I found out the hard way. I realized he was a habitual boundary-crosser only after The New York Observer reported on him in 2010. Most recently, after I complained in a media chat room about a man who harassed a friend at a birthday party, everyone chimed in to say that he was a known creep. I was infuriated. That information never made its way to me, and worse, it was taken as a given. Was keeping that secret hidden worth the trauma it caused my friend?

The list’s flaws were immediately apparent. It felt too public, volatile and vulnerable to manipulation. But its recklessness was born out of desperation. It detonated the power and labor dynamics that whisper networks reinforce. Information, once privileged to a select few, became decentralized and accessible to all. And the problem of sexual harassment no longer belonged solely to women to filter and share.

Once the list leaked beyond its initial audience and men became aware of it, it was effectively shut down. But who knows what would have happened if it lasted longer? Maybe a better mechanism for warning and reporting harassment could have been finessed; it’s clear we still need one. Even now, amid the torrent of reports of sexual misconduct, women of color are conspicuously absent. It’s still not safe enough for many of us to name our abusers in public.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

The Human Cost of the Ghost Economy

Last year I worked undercover at a temp agency in Los Angeles. While I took the assignment for an article I was working on, I’d also been unemployed for over a year. It seemed I was in that middling space of over-qualified for entry-level jobs, under-qualified for the jobs I most desired, and aged out or irrelevant as a labor union organizer, where I’d gained the bulk of my work experience.

One altered resume later I joined a temp agency and became the biggest ghost of them all, a member of America’s invisible workforce: people who ship goods for big box stores like Wal-Mart or Marshalls, sort recyclables for Waste Management, fulfill online orders for Nike, bottle rum for Bacardi. I’d found my squad, a cadre of screw-ups, felons, floozies, single moms, the differently abled, students, immigrants, the homeless and hungry, the overqualified and under-qualified, all of us ghosted by the traditional marketplace.


There is a story about an invisible hand that guides the free market. There is a story about ghosts. There is a story about a ghost economy. The distance between the main employer, the company that hires the temp agency, and the worker who fulfills these gigs, allows for the same type of casual cruelty that is exchanged between people who meet on online dating apps.


Temp jobs began after the second world war, offering work at companies like Kelly Girl, a billion-dollar staffing company based in Michigan, on a short-term basis. Today, the temporary or “on-demand” industry employs over 2.9 million people, over 2 percent of America’s total workforce. As temping has grown, the quality of jobs has deteriorated, and temps now earn 20 to 25 percent less an hour than those who work as direct hires, according to government statistics.

To think of The Ghosted is to think of injustice, a cataloging of fist-fights, tuberculosis, detention centers, scabies, crabs, lice, roaches, hot plates, Section 8 housing, laborers hiding under blankets in the backs of trucks, children lying stiff against the tops of trains, assembly lines in windowless heat-filled rooms — a type of economic violence many consumers try to close their minds to. We do not want to think of them because of what it says about us.


It has never been clearer to me than when working temporary jobs that I am a merely a body. Yet. Here in the temp job, the narrative of this body no longer matters. This is both refreshing and sobering.

The worksites are like prison yards in that these bodies aggregate by race. I get notices on my cell phone to dig a ditch or clean up construction sites or serve cocktails at a corporate party. People live like this for years, responding to a text message every day, holding out for the promise of a permanent position. The city is alive and abuzz with Hail Marys. Hail Mary, give me a job. Hail Mary, may I not get hurt. No health insurance, no unemployment insurance, no workers’ comp. There’s no maternity leave, no way to plan a life, sign a lease, pay off debt. Many temps get their job alerts on prepaid phones that charge for each text message.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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