News 10.10.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 10.10.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 10.10.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 10.10.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In August, it was SoulCycle and Equinox. The month prior, Home Depot. Back in 2017, L.L.Bean. These are only a few of the companies to ignite the collective ire of progressive consumers over corporate ties to Trump. In the case of the boutique fitness studios, it was a Trump fundraiser hosted by their majority stake investor Stephen M. Ross; with the home improvement chain, it was co-founder Bernie Marcus’s promise to donate to Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign; with the duck boot and outdoor apparel brand, it was Bean descendant and board member Linda Lorraine Bean’s $60,000 donation to Trump super PAC Making America Great Again, LLC (itself a violation of the Federal Election Commission’s permitted donor limit of $5,000).

For Americans opposed to Trump’s policies — from the inhumane treatment and targeting of detained migrants, to detrimental inaction on climate change, to refusal to regulate guns in the wake of unprecedented mass shootings — shopping at retailers connected to the celebrity-entrepreneur-turned-sitting-president is tantamount to hypocrisy.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 10.10.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It takes a strong philosopher to assume control of a preposition and propel it into a foreign language. That is what Friedrich Nietzsche did with the word über. In German, it can mean “over,” “beyond,” or “about.” You are reading an essay über Nietzsche. As a prefix, über is sometimes equivalent to the English “super”—übernatürlich is “supernatural”—but it has less of an aggrandizing effect. Nietzsche altered the destiny of the word when, in the eighteen-eighties, he began speaking of the Übermensch, which has been translated as “superman,” “superhuman,” and “overman.” Scholars still debate what Nietzsche had in mind. A physically stronger being? A spiritual aristocrat? A kind of cyborg? “Overperson” might be the most literal equivalent in English, although it is unlikely that DC Comics would have sold many comic books using that title.

In 1903, three years after Nietzsche’s death, George Bernard Shaw published his play “Man and Superman,” in which he equated the Übermensch with an overflowing “Life Force.” Three decades later, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Cleveland teen-agers, created the first “Super-Man” story, depicting the character not as a caped hero but as a bald, telepathic villain bent on “total annihilation.” Super-Man soon reëmerged as a muscle-bound defender of the good, and during the Second World War he jumped into the fight against the Nazis. It’s unclear whether Siegel and Shuster knew of Nietzsche in 1933, but the word “superman” hardly existed in English before the philosopher’s ideas began to spread.

As Nietzsche worked his wiles on generations of English-speaking college students, the word Übermensch increasingly stood on its own, and “über” slipped into English as a prefix. In the nineteen-eighties, Spy described the Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz as an “über-agent.” The umlaut-free car-sharing service Uber, originally known as UberCab, is a related development, hinting at Silicon Valley fantasies of world domination. In the late twentieth century, the word “super” rebounded into German as all-purpose slang for “very”; if you wish to describe something as really, really cool, you say that it is super super toll. Somewhere, Nietzsche is laughing hysterically while screaming in anguish.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
at Belgrave Crescent &

Gordon’s wine bar is reached through a discreet side-door, a few paces from the slipstream of London theatregoers and suited professionals powering towards their evening train. A steep staircase plunges visitors into a dimly lit cavern, lined with dusty champagne bottles and faded newspaper clippings, which appears to have had only minor refurbishment since it opened in 1890. “If Miss Havisham was in the licensing trade,” an Evening Standard review once suggested, “this could have been the result.”

The bar’s Dickensian gloom is a selling point for people embarking on affairs, and actors or politicians wanting a quiet drink – but also for pickpockets. When Simon Gordon took over the family business in the early 2000s, he would spend hours scrutinising the faces of the people who haunted his CCTV footage. “There was one guy who I almost felt I knew,” he says. “He used to come down here the whole time and steal.” The man vanished for a six-month stretch, but then reappeared, chubbier, apparently after a stint in jail. When two of Gordon’s friends visited the bar for lunch and both had their wallets pinched in his presence, he decided to take matters into his own hands. “The police did nothing about it,” he says. “It really annoyed me.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 10.10.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 10.10.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I glanced down at my left thumb, still resting on the Tab key. What have I done? Had my computer become my co-writer? That’s one small step forward for artificial intelligence, but was it also one step backward for my own?

The skin prickled on the back of my neck, an involuntary reaction to what roboticists call the “uncanny valley”—the space between flesh and blood and a too-human machine.

For several days, I had been trying to ignore the suggestions made by Smart Compose, a feature that Google introduced, in May, 2018, to the one and a half billion people who use Gmail—roughly a fifth of the human population. Smart Compose suggests endings to your sentences as you type them. Based on the words you’ve written, and on the words that millions of Gmail users followed those words with, “predictive text” guesses where your thoughts are likely to go and, to save you time, wraps up the sentence for you, appending the A.I.’s suggestion, in gray letters, to the words you’ve just produced. Hit Tab, and you’ve saved yourself as many as twenty keystrokes—and, in my case, composed a sentence with an A.I. for the first time.

Paul Lambert, who oversees Smart Compose for Google, told me that the idea for the product came in part from the writing of code—the language that software engineers use to program computers. Code contains long strings of identical sequences, so engineers rely on shortcuts, which they call “code completers.” Google thought that a similar technology could reduce the time spent writing e-mails for business users of its G Suite software, although it made the product available to the general public, too. A quarter of the average office worker’s day is now taken up with e-mail, according to a study by McKinsey. Smart Compose saves users altogether two billion keystrokes a week.

One can opt out of Smart Compose easily enough, but I had chosen not to, even though it frequently distracted me. I was fascinated by the way the A.I. seemed to know what I was going to write. Perhaps because writing is my vocation, I am inclined to consider my sentences, even in a humble e-mail, in some way a personal expression of my original thought. It was therefore disconcerting how frequently the A.I. was able to accurately predict my intentions, often when I was in midsentence, or even earlier. Sometimes the machine seemed to have a better idea than I did.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

To succeed on the pop charts these days, songs (and videos) have to do more. Producers and editors have to be able to rework the visual and sonic material in an ever-expanding number of ways while still creating something that’s legible to Billboard as the same piece of intellectual property. For example, crucial to the recent months-long battle between Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” for the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100, for instance, was what Slate’s Chris Molanphy calls “remixability” — how open a song is to being iteratively reworked, meme-style, without becoming substantially different.

Since Billboard, for ranking purposes, groups the original song together with remixes that don’t change all that much (e.g., those that merely add a new verse from a clickbait-y guest artist), it is easy for artists and producers to game the system. “Lil Nas X has been a total master of this gambit,” Molanphy argues, writing a tune in “Old Town Road” that exhibits both “sturdiness and adaptability,” lending itself to many remixes without exhausting it. Lil Nas X’s now legendary use of memes and social-media video to promote the song both exemplifies and clarifies the importance of those companion media forms for contemporary pop music. Memes and apps like TikTok allow fans to participate in reworkings of their favorite records, allowing a single record to do even more than it could if its re-editing was left only to professionals. It helps too if an original release is adaptable enough to transgress boundaries between things like genres or demographics.

Chart success is now measured in the same terms that 21st century neoliberalism measures value: what political theorist Lisa Adkins, in The Time of Money, calls “capacity.” Whereas earlier forms of neoliberalism relied on markets and quantification to determine political and economic value, new forms have since emerged, according to critics like Adkins and Melinda Cooper, that push past quantification and derive value from speculation, affect, and other qualitative forms of rationality. Under these 21st century forms of neoliberalism, which are associated with the use of derivatives, success involves resiliently transgressing the material limitations of any assets (like real estate or wages) and making your money do more than mere assets can. In other words, it’s not how much money you have that matters, but how much your money can do. At the level of individuals — a.k.a. “human capital” — this translates into an imperative to always maximize one’s capability. The point is to be legible as having capacity, as being adaptable, as being resilient.

Records now work the same way: To succeed on the charts, they need not only raw quantities of sales and clicks but also the potential to secure more numbers from derivative versions. Both Lil Nas X’s and Eilish’s tracks express this new regime of value at the level of aesthetic form. Eilish tried to unseat “Old Town Road” by beating X at his own game, releasing a remix of “Bad Guy” featuring Justin Bieber, and eventually triumphed, according to Buzzfeed’s Michael Blackmon, by releasing a new vertical video for the song.

But the aesthetic of “Bad Guy” moves beyond resilient remixability to exemplify another aspect of the emerging neoliberalisms. It rewards ever more privatized listening, which means that invites a practice that conscripts audiences into producing “capacity” not merely by participating in memes but also by putting private listening to work in privatizing value.

Read the rest of this article at: Real Life

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