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News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Kara Rosenlund

The meaning of Brad Pitt — as actor, star and supreme visual fetish — can be traced to the moment in the 1991 film “Thelma & Louise” when the camera pans up from his bare chest to his face like a caress. William Bradley Pitt was born in 1963, but Brad Pitt sprung forth in that 13-second ode to eroticized male beauty, initiating a closely watched career and life, dozens of movies, and libraries of delirious exaltations, drooling gossip and porny magazine layouts.

The delirium has resumed with Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” in which Pitt plays the Pitt-perfect role of Cliff Booth, a seasoned stunt man and coolest of cats. Everything about Cliff looks so good, so effortlessly smooth, whether he’s behind the wheel of a Coupe de Ville or strolling across a dusty wasteland. The novelist Walter Kirn once wrote that Robert Redford “stands for the [movie] industry itself, somehow, in all its California dreaminess.” In “Once Upon a Time,” Tarantino recasts that idea-ideal with Cliff, exploiting Pitt’s looks and charm to create another sun-kissed, golden and very white California dream.

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

News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The muffled screams escaped through the narrowly cracked window and into the frigid winter afternoon air. That’s what drew attention to the blue pickup truck, otherwise inconspicuous in the grocery store’s side lot.

Wrights Corners is a hamlet within the towns of Lockport and Newfane, some 35 miles north of Buffalo, and Tops Friendly Market is in the bustling part of town. It sits just off a two-lane highway, a little past a quiet stretch of modest ranches and colonials; unspoiled land where a property line has room to breathe, some playing host to a pop-up camper or ride-on lawnmower. A man could wash his car, get insured, buy a case of beer and order a Big Mac Value Meal all within a few hundred yards.

This is where James Moscato, a decorated police officer seven years out of the academy, found himself, responding to a dispatch about a distressed man in the back seat of a parked vehicle. Moving closer, he saw the guy’s neck was tied to the metal bars that support the driver’s seat headrest with a length of rope. His hands and feet were bound together with duct tape.

A thick snow flurry moved through, piling on the windshield as Moscato pulled out his knife to slice the tape and bag it for DNA evidence. Ever-so-slight ligature marks peeked out from behind his black hooded sweatshirt. He was older, in his 60s. Sandy hair, hazel eyes, goatee. He told Moscato how he’d been kidnapped two days earlier by a pair of men, robbed of the $16,000 in cash he was carrying and forced to drive around the area—everywhere from Rochester to Lewiston—while the captors plotted their next move. He told them of the first night, when he slept in a hallway of a stash house with a cap pulled over his eyes but couldn’t risk running even when he was sure his captors had fallen asleep; he was certain he’d be shot. The second night, he said, they’d discarded him here along with his truck, just off where New York routes 78 and 104 merge, a good 30 minutes north of his North Tonawanda home.

He might have recognized one of the two—he was from work, Tim. Maybe. But he wasn’t sure and didn’t have a last name. The other guy? No clue. But he figured they were ducking security cameras based on their erratic movements when they arrived at Tops.

Read the rest of this article at: Sports Illustrated

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More beguiling to Chayka are artists who have no interest in directing the lives of others. He writes about Agnes Martin—who considered herself an Abstract Expressionist but whose poised, transcendent paintings have been claimed for Minimalism—and Walter De Maria, whose installation “The New York Earth Room,” a field of dirt in a mostly empty white space, has been quietly confounding people in SoHo since 1977. He visits Donald Judd’s “100 Untitled Works in Mill Aluminum,” in Marfa, Texas, which defies any attempt to ascribe emotional meaning to it—the aluminum boxes are “just there,” Chayka writes, “empty of content except for the sheer fact of their physical presence, obdurate and silent, explaining nothing and with nothing to explain.” Such a sculpture might sound “deathly boring, more math problem than artwork,” but, as you walk through the exhibit, with the desert sun setting the silvery containers alight, they become a “constant affirmation of the simple possibility of sensation.” Elsewhere in the book, he writes about the philosopher Keiji Nishitani, who described ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, as a practice that links beauty to ephemerality and death.

These are the models for a deeper, more honest, less self-centered minimalism, Chayka believes: a way of living that makes “simple things more complicated, not the other way around.” Still, he is not immune to shallower forms of the aesthetic. When he flies to Tokyo, hoping to understand concepts like mono no aware—the Japanese idea of sensitivity to impermanence—the first thing he encounters is the stark, white, dehumanized Airbnb where he will be staying. Despite his intent to critique, he is being catered to, sometimes successfully. A developer puts up a condo building across the street from his Brooklyn apartment, and stages one of its units as an “Instagram-ready tableau of white bed, white nightstand, white table, white kitchen cabinets,” visible through big windows. Chayka admits, grudgingly, that the place looks stylish.

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

News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Gabriel Whaley, the chief executive of MSCHF, outside the company’s Brooklyn office.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

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In recent years, stars have lent their names to all kinds of sneaker collaborations. Puma had Rihanna. Reebok had Gigi Hadid. Adidas had Kanye West. Nike had … Jesus Christ?

Not exactly. In October, a pair of “Jesus shoes” — customized Air Max 97s whose soles contained holy water from the River Jordan — appeared online for $1,425. They were designed by a start-up called MSCHF, without Nike’s blessing.

The sneakers quickly sold out and began appearing on resale sites, going for as much as $4,000. The Christian Post wrote about them. Drake wore them. They were among the most Googled shoes of 2019.

The only thing that didn’t happen, said Kevin Wiesner, 27, a creative director at MSCHF, was a public disavowal of the shoes by Nike or the Vatican. “That would’ve been rad,” he said.

Now, in the MSCHF office in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, a pair stands like a trophy.

MSCHF isn’t a sneaker company. It rarely even produces commercial goods, and its employees are reluctant to call it a company at all. They refer to MSCHF, which was founded in 2016, as a “brand,” “group” or “collective,” and their creations, which appear online every two weeks, as “drops.”

Many of those drops are viral pranks: an app that recommends stocks to buy based on one’s astrological sign (which some observers took seriously), a service that sends pictures of A.I.-generated feet over text, a browser extension that helps users get away with watching Netflix at work.

As Business Insider recently noted, the present and future profitability of these internet stunts is dubious. Yet, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, MSCHF has raised at least $11.5 million in outside investments since the fall of 2019.

In the high-risk, maybe-reward world of venture capital, the group’s antics are well known. Nikita Singareddy, an investment analyst at RRE Ventures, compared MSCHF to Vine and Giphy. All three, she said, offer “lots of delight” and encourage content sharing.

“Sometimes investors are a little too serious about monetizing something immediately,” Ms. Singareddy said. “With MSCHF, there’s faith that it’ll pay off. There’s an inherent virality and absurdness to all the projects that they’ve created, and it’s something people want to share and ask questions about.”

For starters: What is it?

The MSCHF office says as much about the company as any of its products.

A giant white pentagram covers the entrance floor. On a visit in December, an inflatable severed swan’s head dangled from a ceiling beam, and a rubber chicken bong — a recent drop — sat on a coffee table, full of weed.

“My mom thinks we make toys,” said Gabriel Whaley, 30, the chief executive.

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

News 01.31.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Woody Bledsoe was sitting in a wheelchair in his open garage, waiting. To anyone who had seen him even a few months earlier—anyone accustomed to greeting him on Sundays at the local Mormon church, or to spotting him around town on his jogs—the 74-year-old would have been all but unrecognizable. The healthy round cheeks he had maintained for much of his life were sunken. The degenerative disease ALS had taken away his ability to speak and walk, leaving him barely able to scratch out short messages on a portable whiteboard. But Woody’s mind was still sharp. When his son Lance arrived at the house in Austin, Texas, that morning in early 1995, Woody immediately began to issue instructions in dry-erase ink.

He told Lance to fetch a trash can from the backyard—one of the old metal kinds that Oscar the Grouch lives in. Lance grabbed one and set it down near his father. Then Woody sent him into the house for matches and lighter fluid. When Lance got back, Woody motioned to two large file cabinets inside the garage.

They’d been around ever since Lance could remember. Now in his late thirties, Lance was pretty sure they hadn’t been opened since he was a kid. And he knew they weren’t regular file cabinets. They were the same kind he’d seen when he worked on sonar equipment for US nuclear submarines—fireproof and very heavy, with a strong combination lock on each drawer. His father slowly began writing numbers on the whiteboard, and to Lance’s astonishment, the combination worked. “As I opened the first drawer,” he tells me almost 25 years later, “I felt like Indiana Jones.”

A thick stack of old, rotting documents lay inside. Lance began removing them and placing them in his father’s hands. Woody looked over the piles of paper two inches at a time, then had his son toss them into the fire he’d started in the burn barrel. Some, Lance noticed, were marked “Classified” or “Eyes only.” The flames kept building until both cabinets were empty. Woody insisted on sitting in the garage until all that remained was ash.

Lance could only guess at what he’d helped to destroy. For nearly three decades, his father had been a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, working to advance the fields of automated reasoning and artificial intelligence. Lance had always known him to be a wide-eyed scientific optimist, the sort of man who, as far back as the late 1950s, dreamed of building a computer endowed with all the capabilities of a human—a machine that could prove complex mathematical theorems, engage in conversation, and play a decent game of Ping-Pong.

But early in his career, Woody had been consumed with an attempt to give machines one particular, relatively unsung, but dangerously powerful human capacity: the ability to recognize faces. Lance knew that his father’s work in this area—the earliest research on facial-­recognition technology—had attracted the interest of the US government’s most secretive agencies. Woody’s chief funders, in fact, seem to have been front companies for the CIA. Had Lance just incinerated the evidence of Washington’s first efforts to identify individual people on a mass, automated scale?

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

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