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News 09.09.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 09.09.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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With the large number of women running for President this year, the word “shrill” is enjoying a resurgence in the national vocabulary, following its previous heyday, as an insult hurled at Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential campaign. This spike in usage is hardly a revelation; women who speak publicly and challenge authority have long been dismissed as “shrill” or “grating.” What’s less widely understood is how the design of the technology that transmits human voices has shaped this gendered invective since the dawn of the broadcast era: everything from microphones to modes of transmission have been optimized for lower voices.

Starting in the late nineteenth century, women made up the majority of telephone-switchboard operators, but, when the new medium of commercial broadcast radio became popular, in the nineteen-twenties, women’s voices fell out of favor. When station directors were interviewed by Radio Broadcast magazine in 1924, they asserted that women sounded “shrill,” “nasal,” and “distorted” on the radio, and claimed that women’s higher voices created technical problems. The criticism didn’t end with pitch and timbre, however: the personality, authenticity, and sense of humor of female speakers were also questioned. Newspapers and magazines repeatedly referred to women on air as “affected,” “stiff,” “forced,” and “unnatural.” W. W. Rogers, a publicist for KDKA, in Pittsburgh, declared that “a woman speaker is rarely a success, and, if I were a broadcast manager, which I am not, I would permit few women lecturers to appear.” Charles Popenoe, the station manager of both WJZ and WJY, in New York, justified his avoidance of female announcers by offering an unscientific survey claiming that ninety-nine per cent of listeners preferred male to female announcers.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 09.09.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.09.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

LOS ANGELES — “Faster alone, further together,” Brad Pitt murmured. Over his left shoulder hung Mars, reddish-brown and heartbreakingly small, while to his right, the much grander Jupiter was lit up like a disco ball.

We were seated opposite each other on the lowest level of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, inhabiting a closed-off exhibition called “Depths of Space,” mulling stoic men. Pitt has played his fair share of them in the movies, including two characters just this year: Cliff Booth, the stunt man who sauntered through the summer hit “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” and Roy McBride, an astronaut shuttled to lonelier, ever more remote outposts of the galaxy in the coming “Ad Astra.”

Movie stars have their specialties, and while Pitt has proved that he can play a motormouth in films like “12 Monkeys” and “Snatch,” he’s at his most alluring when he’s holding something in reserve. It feels like you’re watching a man who says no more than he needs to, which is a major feat for someone who has starred in two films from the notoriously loquacious Quentin Tarantino.

“I grew up with that be-capable, be-strong, don’t-show-weakness thing,” Pitt told me. He was raised in Springfield, Mo., the eldest of three children, his father the owner of a trucking company. Now, at 55, he’s reached a point where he sees his dad in every performance he gives. “In some ways, I’m copying him,” Pitt said. “He had grown up in extreme hardship and poverty, always dead set on giving me a better life than he had — and he did it. But he came from that stoic ilk.”

That lineage has served Pitt better onscreen than off, and in a year in which he has delivered two major performances, he’s giving hard thought to the person he’s become. “I’m grateful that there was such an emphasis on being capable and doing things on your own with humility, but what’s lacking about that is taking inventory of yourself,” he said, hunching over in his chair. “It’s almost a denial of this other part of you that is weak and goes through self-doubts, even though those are human things we all experience. Certainly, it’s my belief that you can’t really know yourself until you identify and accept those things.”

Hours later, long after we had spoken, the texts started to pour in from friends and family: What was Brad Pitt like, and how did he look? For most of our conversation, Pitt was both penitent and private, as though he were toggling between the person giving confession and the priest receiving it. As for what he looked like: Well, he was wearing a gray newsboy cap, gray T-shirt, and gray hair on his chin. Some surprising tattoos snaked down his arms, including a Rumi quote, a motorbike, the word “Invictus,” and a man and his shadow. Mostly, though, he looked just like Brad Pitt.

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

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Public discourse is in an accelerating downward spiral of coarse insult, free-flying contempt and general meanness. We will surely soon reach bottom, an inevitably inarticulate resting place where we quit wasting words and just mutely flip each other off. Since bemoaning our uncivil culture is almost as prevalent as incivility itself, let me forgo any ritual handwringing. I register the culture here because it so influences me: as public discourse grows crueller, nastier and more aggressive, my temptations to be uncivil increase apace, and I don’t like that.

My growing temptations to incivility are diverse and predictable. When one encounters disrespect, the desire to answer in kind is strong. Likewise, with so many pitched to provoke anger, one wants to give them just the outrage they invite. More basically, I find it ever harder to like people and so to act as if I like them – misanthropy does not seem so unreasonable as it once did. But incivility’s most powerful appeal is that it can seem downright righteous.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 09.09.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.09.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Valdimar Gray was delivering packages for Amazon at the height of the pre-Christmas rush when his three-ton van barreled into an 84-year-old grandmother, crushing her diaphragm, shattering several ribs, and fracturing her skull.

“Oh my god!” screamed Gray as he leaped out of his van. It was a bright, clear afternoon on Dec. 22, 2016, and the 29-year-old had been at the wheel of the white Nissan since early that morning, racing to drop Amazon packages on doorsteps throughout Chicago. He stood in anguish next to Telesfora Escamilla as she lay dying, her blood pooling on the pavement just three blocks from her home. After the police arrived, Gray submitted to drug and alcohol tests, which came up clean. He would later be charged with reckless homicide.

The officers who investigated the crash didn’t ask Gray about the constant pressure for speed he faced as a driver for Inpax Shipping Solutions — one of hundreds of small companies that make up Amazon’s gigantic delivery network across America. If they had, they would have discovered that the company’s drivers worked under relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift — for a flat rate of around $160 a day — at the direction of dispatchers who often compel them to skip meals, bathroom breaks, and any other form of rest, discouraging them from going home until the very last box is delivered.

Amazon issued Inpax hand scanners that could monitor the progress of its drivers as they delivered their packages and dictated the routes they drove. It had sent Gray’s bosses at Inpax a memo just days before the accident, criticizing lackluster delivery rates in the area and instituting a “no package left behind” policy during the critical holiday week. The number of deliveries drivers were expected to make each day was way up, and dispatchers were urged to keep as many of their vans on the road for as long as possible — even if it meant driving long into the bitter winter night.

But when Escamilla’s grieving family sought redress — suing Amazon, Inpax, and Gray for wrongful death — the e-commerce giant refused to accept any responsibility. “The damages, if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by third parties not under the direction or control of Amazon.com,” its lawyers said in a court filing.

Inpax had by then been repeatedly cited by the Department of Labor for withholding pay from its drivers. Its owner had several cocaine-related felony convictions and had previously declared bankruptcy after missing insurance payments, failing to pay taxes, and defaulting on loans and other obligations amounting to $15 million. And the company was struggling to make ends meet on the razor-thin margins of a system set up by Amazon to squeeze contractors while minimizing its own costs at every turn.

Read the rest of this article at: BuzzFeed

The trash on the Venice boardwalk sparkles like Wet n Wild lip gloss. This is what people forget about Los Angeles beaches: They’re part of the city, inundated with the city’s grit. Half-melted Icees in Styrofoam cups, one flip-flop, taco foil, condoms, a dead vape pen. Needles. But also: a Swarovski crystal earring. A pinwheel unmoored from its handle. A streak of gooey glitter. Coins of many lands. A few miles up the Pacific Coast Highway, away from the skateboarders and homeless people, WASPs sun themselves at country clubs as employees sweep the sands. But their brooms can’t clear the ocean.

“I’m mostly at the beach!” Lana Del Rey exclaimed in a recent interview, explaining her cultivated disconnect from the Hollywood pop machine. Reading this, I wonder where she goes and what she does after she unfolds her towel and sets up her umbrella. Does she drive past Malibu to El Matador, where the water is the cleanest but the one Porta-Potty often overflows? Down to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, near the aquarium where schoolkids swarm? In her songs she dwells on Venice and Long Beach, two places where the red signs the city uses to warn of excess sewage in the water show up the most. I think she goes to the beach but she spends her time looking at that filthy, shiny sand.

Lana Del Rey is up to her elbows in water in the video for “F*** It I Love You,” one of the singles that built excitement for Norman F****** Rockwell! (referred to hereafter as NFR!), her fifth album and the one that has cemented her status as a serious artist among critics who may or may not have thought her previous work problematic, or at very least, incomplete. In several shots, she holds onto a surfboard. Her hair is in in Dutch braids, similar to the styles cholas wore in the 1990s. See, there’s the slippage, the step away from an authentic or even consistent narrative: Few Latinas from East L.A. would have made it the 15 miles west to the beach 20 years ago, or even at the height of the surfing craze in the 1960s, when as a kid the writer Jack Lopez almost got beaten up by a tough guy for walking down Western Avenue in board shorts, clutching a copy of Surfer magazine. “Cholo meets surfer,” he wrote in his memoir. “Not a good thing.” But Lopez was insistent in violating the boundaries of the acceptable; that wrongness, he wrote years later, endangered him but also helped him get free.

Music videos juxtapose disconnected images to induce a kind of dream state in the viewer: to approximate the effect of music itself. There’s a subtle tension within many popular songs, however, between the unsettling effect of juxtaposing disparate elements — say, English folk melodies and Delta blues (that’s Led Zeppelin) or Caribbean inflections and Nordic electronic beats (many Rihanna singles) — and the comfort of a unified narrative, the songwriter’s art. The rise of the singer-songwriter in the 1960s reinforced the value of narrative pull and shored up other hierarchies: rock over disco, sitting and listening over dancing, lyrics over sound. (Exhibit A: The Poetry of Rock.) Hip-hop, a revolution in fragments, challenged this order, yet it still exerts itself in most discussions of what makes great songs.

Read the rest of this article at: NPR

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