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In the News 06.25.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 06.25.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 06.25.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 06.25.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Jean-Michel Basquiat Is Still An Enigma

In may 2016, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $57.3 million. One year later, another painting of his from 1982, Untitled, sold for $110.5 million, making it the sixth-most-expensive work of art ever purchased at auction, and setting a record for an American artist. Basquiat is not the first painter to have a canvas sell for a price that strikes ordinary people as obscene. But when Jeffrey Deitch, a prominent curator and dealer, said after the sale, “He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” it was hard to pin down the precise meaning of the word league. Was Basquiat now considered as great an artist as Picasso? Or was he merely as expensive to own?

Basquiat became famous in the early 1980s, when the idea that artists were supposed to be commercial innocents fell apart for good, and when the idea of the “art star”—a funnily abbreviated inversion, if you think about it, of starving artist—first came into vogue. In 1985, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story on Basquiat, titled “New Art, New Money.” Its tone was both awed and suspicious, with constant references to a hot, possibly gullible, market in contemporary art. His work was said to be selling “at a brisk pace—so brisk, some observers joked, that the paint was barely dry,” and Basquiat himself was quoted as worrying he had become a “gallery mascot.” Whatever else was true, as the art historian Jordana Moore Saggese has said since, “this was not the starving artist the public was accustomed to seeing.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

The Strange And Mysterious Death Of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis


The killer was in his bedroom, behind the door of iron bars, as Sonny Daniels, the first ambulance man, moved down the long hall to the guest bedroom to check the report: “Unconscious party at the Jerry Lee Lewis residence.”

Lottie Jackson, the housekeeper, showed Sonny into a spotless room: Gauzy drapes filtered the noonday light; there was nothing on the tables, no clothes strewn about, no dust; just a body on the bed, turned away slightly toward the wall, with the covers drawn up to the neck. Sonny probed with his big, blunt fingers at a slender wrist: it was cold. “It’s Miz Lewis,” Lottie said. “I came in . . . I couldn’t wake her up . . . ” Sonny already had the covers back, his thick hand on the woman’s neck where the carotid pulse should be: The neck retained its body warmth, but no pulse. Now he bent his pink moon-face with its sandy fuzz of first beard over her pale lips: no breath. He checked the eyes. “Her eyes were all dilated. That’s an automatic sign that her brain has done died completely.”

Matthew Snyder, the second ambulance man, had barely finished Emergency Medical Technician school. He was twenty, blond, beefy, even younger than Sonny, and just starting with the Hernando, Mississippi, ambulance team. Even rookies knew there wasn’t anything uncommon about a run to Jerry Lee’s to wake up some passed-out person. But Matthew saw there was something uncommonly wrong now, as he caught the look of worry and excitement from Sonny over at the bed. “Go ahead and check her over,” said Sonny, and Matthew restarted the process with the woman’s delicate wrist. He saw, up on her forearm, the row of angry little bruises, like someone had grabbed her hard. He saw the little stain of dried blood on the web of her hand. He shook his head at Sonny: no pulse.

Lottie knew it was wrong, too. She was a stolid, hard-working black woman who’d taken care of Jerry Lee since before he moved down here from Memphis — more than ten years, that made it. She was crying as she moved down the hall and knocked at the door with the iron bars.

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
at Belgrave Crescent &

AI Rest My Case

The internet has for some time hummed with anxious murmuring about the Singularity. The rate of technological progress is accelerating exponentially; the Singularity refers to the moment when computers have become so smart that they escape our control and eventually become super-intelligences capable of stamping out humans like so much vermin. Those tuned into news of the coming catastrophe keep a beady eye on IBM, whose scientists are doing all they can to ensure their own survival as obsequious quislings to our future mechanical overlords. On Tuesday, the company announced that it had brought us one step closer to “real AI” (an intelligence as smart as a human) with its snappily named Project Debater: a supercomputer dedicated to the art of competitive debating. After years of research, this week it finally competed against two real-life human debaters. The result? A thumping one-all draw – according to an audience that I suspect was almost entirely made up of people who thought that HAL, the genial yet murderous computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, was the real hero of the film.

It was not quite John Henry versus the steam hammer. Even as IBM’s press office trumpeted the passing of another milestone on the road to true AI, one of the researchers offered the more-understated claim that Project Debater had managed to do something “sort of like what a human does when debating”. In fanfare terms, that is like hearing the Twentieth-Century Fox theme tune played on a kazoo. Most editors, even in the tech press, reached for their Brief-Recycled-Thinkpiece-on-the-End-of-Man button and left it at that. A good chunk of the rest of the internet just kept repeating the phrase “master debater”, as if it were actually a pun.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843


Where Is Barack Obama?

Barack Obama was six months into his post–White House life when Donald Trump found a new way to grab his attention. It was a Tuesday morning deep in the mid-Atlantic summer, and, feeling a world away from the Pennsylvania Avenue grind, the former president was reading the New York Times on his iPad.

The previous evening, Trump had visited West Virginia, where he spoke at the annual Boy Scout Jamboree. Addressing a crowd of roughly 40,000, who were expecting the usual talk about citizenship and service, the president uncorked a political diatribe packed with jabs at Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Washington, D.C., “cesspool”; reminders about the importance of saying “Merry Christmas”; and reminiscences of Election Night 2016 and the pundits he embarrassed. “You remember that incredible night with the maps, and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red it was unbelievable. And they didn’t know what to say,” Trump told the Scouts. They seemed bewildered at first but before long broke into chants of “USA!” Adult observers were openly horrified. Three days later, the Boy Scouts’ leader would apologize for Trump’s speech.

In Washington, where the former president still works and lives with his wife, Michelle, and his younger daughter, Sasha, Obama stewed. Ever since the shocking election, he had resisted condemning his successor directly. Early on, he would muse to senior aides in private about what it meant that the country had chosen Trump, bouncing between writing off the election as a freak accident and considering it a rejection of his own vision of America. In the months after the inauguration, Obama referred publicly to the new president only sparingly — but still more than he expected to. He issued careful statements defending the Affordable Care Act and supporting the Paris climate-change agreement, avoided mentioning Trump by name, and largely let the resistance speak for itself. But the Boy Scouts speech really troubled him. Kids their age are the most impressionable group there is, Obama reminded friends at the time, likening them to sponges. If the president shoves a divisive political argument at them, that’s what they will absorb.

It was a very Barack Obama thing to get agitated about. Throughout his entire political career, he has attached an unusual degree of significance to storytelling, and he has often spoken of the importance of modeling what it means to be a good citizen. He had recently concluded a two-month stretch full of international travel and was just starting to settle into his post-presidency, and that week was a busy one in Washington — Republicans were zeroing in on a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Boy Scouts speech was relatively unimportant (mostly improvised, probably something Trump would forget about within a week), but perhaps it presented an opportunity. One of the most potent tools in Obama’s arsenal, as a retired president, is rhetoric. Even if he no longer enjoyed the bully pulpit, he could, if he wanted, fill the vacuum of moral leadership Trump had created and offer, to not only the Scouts but the entire country, a lesson in civics that no other Democrat is positioned to give.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

Joe And The Whale


The day Joe Howlett died dawned perfectly. The water in Shippagan Harbour was flat like glass, the winds calm, the sun rising into a dark blue sky as Joe maneuvered the Shelagh—the Canadian Whale Institute’s research vessel—into the Gulf of St. Lawrence for a day of surveying North Atlantic right whales and sampling for zooplankton off the coast of northern New Brunswick. Out on open water, Joe, and any on-board scientists not still in their bunks at that early hour, marveled at the morning’s perfect golden light—and the three tall ships they encountered, arriving in full sail for a summer festival. Joe, 59 years old and a near-lifelong sailor and fisherman, was ecstatic over spotting the boats.

The weather was a blessing in more ways than one: besides their regular scientific tasks, the crew knew that Joe, along with Philip Hamilton, the Shelagh’s chief scientist, might attempt a whale rescue on the open water. The previous night, they’d received a call from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO): A right whale was tangled up in crab-trap lines near their location. When the fisherman who’d spotted the whale tried to get close, it went wild, thrashing in the water, its huge body criss-crossed with the characteristic deep white scars borne by whales who’ve been entangled in fishing gear. (Eighty percent of the world’s 450 right whales have been snared at least once in their lifetime, 50 percent twice or more. Instead of their smooth, natural jet-black skin, many right whales’ bodies are now covered in bright white scars.)

When the call came in, Hamilton—also a biologist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium—had just plotted the team’s course for the next day. He plugged in the whale’s GPS coordinates and saw they’d be working less than two kilometres away. Sure, he told DFO, they’d try to find it.

It wasn’t an unusual request: Joe was one of the founding members of the Campobello Whale Rescue team, a group of fishermen volunteers who’ve worked since 2002 to free whales caught in fishing line off the coast of the Maritime provinces. He was one of the world’s foremost disentanglers, a veteran of countless intimate encounters with trapped, distressed whales weighing up to 70 tonnes.

Last year was unprecedented for the critically endangered animals. Fishermen and researchers were finding more dead right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence than ever before, either killed by ship strikes or tangled in fishing gear. Often unable to swim freely or feed, entangled whales die of starvation, or infection from the ropes cutting deep their flesh—day-after-day, month-after-month, sometimes slicing into the bone. By July 9, 2017, the day the Shelagh crew got that call, seven dead whales had been found in four weeks, and biologists were hauling in the carcasses for necropsies.

Joe’s last disentanglement had been only five days earlier, when DFO officers had joined the Shelagh in the Gulf for a rescue. The Shelagh had been trying to get close to the whale for more than an hour before it suddenly, surprisingly, stopped resisting and floated limply in the water. That’s when the DFO officers arrived. After that, Joe was able to cut the lines in just 15 minutes, an incredibly efficient operation, since it typically takes hours to free a whale—especially right whales, notoriously agile and wild.

As a fisherman, Joe knew that the way these creatures were snared, year after year, was a by-product of his own livelihood. (A few years ago, gear from a boat he worked on actually turned up on a right whale off Daytona Beach.) Joe rescued whales first and foremost because he felt that he owed it to the ocean. He was driven by a desire to give back. But not unlike the whalers of old, he thrilled to the open ocean and the rush of adrenaline that comes with sidling up to a giant, some of the largest animals ever to have lived. For more than 1,000 years, humans have been climbing into tiny boats for the chance to slay a whale. Joe was a member of the first generation to do the same thing to save them.

Read the rest of this article at: The Deep

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

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