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News 02.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 02.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Before the song “Dance Monkey” hit No. 1 in 20 countries, it was a local attraction on the beachfront streets of Byron Bay, Australia.

Written by a busker named Toni Watson, 26, who performs as the solo act Tones and I, “Dance Monkey” uses a plunking keyboard and thumping bass line as a backdrop to describe the very specific life of a street musician: “Just like a monkey I’ve been dancing my whole life,” she sings. “And you just beg to see me dance just one more time.”

In an unlikely twist, that sentiment went global.

A one-time basketball prospect and surf shop employee, Watson moved to Byron Bay, a small resort town south of Brisbane, to play music in a busker’s paradise. She lived out of her van and relied solely on tips from passers-by, who were increasingly mesmerized by the singer’s distinct wail. From her sidewalk setup, Tones and I found a management team and local success with a single called “Johnny Run Away.”

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

News 02.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The question arises at this point, why are there so many black sheep in journalism? Why so many “fakes”? Why is the epidemic of “yellow journalism” so prevalent? This phrase is applied to newspapers which delight in sensations, crime, scandal, smut, funny pictures, caricatures and malicious or frivolous gossip about persons and things of no public concern.

This was Horace White, one of American journalism’s most esteemed elder statesmen, writing in 1904. He continued:

When I entered journalism, the press of the country, with only one exception that I can now recall, was clean, dignified and sober minded. It had various aims in life, aims political, literary, scientific, social, religious, reformatory and mixed, which were deemed by the conductors of the papers advantageous to the commonweal. To make money by pandering to the vices and follies of the community, and thus adding to the mass of vice and folly, was generally unthinkable.

Journalists are eternally nostalgic, and alarmed at how things are now. Jill Abramson’s Merchants of Truth, published last year, is modeled on David Halberstam’s The Powers That Be, published in 1979. Abramson remembers Halberstam’s book as a description of a “golden age” in journalism—the 1960s and 1970s. That attitude is typical of members of the generation now past fifty (including me), who find ourselves longing for a period some decades back in the past. Three other books under review here—Dan Bernstein’s on The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California; Frederic Hill and Stephens Broening’s on The Baltimore Sun; and Dan Kennedy’s on (mostly) The Boston Globe—also use the term “golden age” to describe the newspaper business during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Review of Books

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

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THE SCREAMING TWENTIES have barely drawn breath, and already we’ve been wallowing through the show-trials of white capitalist male supremacy’s largest and most untouchable adult sons: Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein. The similarities are more than circumstantial. Both are rich, powerful men outraged at being held to account for even a fraction of the crimes they’ve been accused of. Both have allegedly enjoyed a full curriculum of moral corruption, from rape and sexual assault to blackmail and intimidation to the use of foreign powers to undermine their enemies and lube their way to hectic impunity. And both spent many, many years grooming allies. Weinstein and Trump bet heavily on creating complicity—so much complicity that the institutions they occupied cannot hold them to account without damning themselves by association. Both of them bet on being too big to fail.

In Trump’s case, he won the bet. The doomed attempt to impeach the president drew to its inevitable end last week, as Washington and the world were forced to acknowledge that, as California Rep. Adam Schiff put it, Trump “has compromised our elections, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is.” Directly addressing any remaining Republicans in the Senate chamber with an inch of backbone, Schiff insisted that “you are decent. He is not who you are.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler

News 02.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Somewhere between stealing $4 million dollars, a multi-state trail of credit card fraud, and years of FBI scrutiny, the relationship between father and son had soured. Now, a courtroom of lawyers and spectators watched it dissolve over a proffered drink.

“Let me ask you, if I poured you a glass of water and brought it up there, would you drink it?” Archie Moretti asked his son, who was sitting on the witness stand.

“No,” Vincent Moretti replied.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t trust you.”

It was March 2013, and father and son were facing off in a courtroom in Portland, Oregon. Vincent’s mother, Marian, sat in the courtroom. Her white hair was pinned behind ears and she wore matronly glasses. She watched as Vincent’s father, the man whose respect had once meant more to him than anything else in the world, cross-examined him. Archie resembled a balding, life-hardened version of Mr. Rogers with a stern military bearing leftover from his service in the Vietnam War. Vincent was softer, seemingly more open and sensitive, despite a muscular build. In happier times he had a disarming smile. He wasn’t smiling now.

“You think the judge is going to let me bring poison, you think these marshals are going to let me bring poison into the courtroom?” Archie persisted. “I’m in jail. Let me pour you a glass of water and bring it up there.” Archie addressed the judge: “May I, Your Honor?”

“No. That’s absurd,” the judge responded.

Against the repeated advice of the court over several months of testimony, Archie was representing himself in a case that would decide whether he would spend the remainder of his life behind bars. His son Vincent was the prosecution’s star witness, the key to pinning nearly two decades of outlandish heists and assorted crimes — the family business, you might say — on his back. Archie’s only hope was to cast doubt on his son’s sanity.

“Do you believe it’s possible for me to bring poison into this courtroom and poison you in front of the judge and the Government? Do you think that’s possible?”

“No, but I also don’t want to take anything from your hand either,” Vincent answered.

“Why? If it’s not possible for me to poison you, surrounded by marshals and the Government and a federal judge, what have you to fear?”

“It’s not about fear.”

“What is it about?”

“I don’t trust you and I don’t want anything more to do with you,” Vincent told his father.

It was the sanest thing he could have said.

The family drama unfolding in the courtroom was the consequence of a series of incredible events that began in Wisconsin in 1995. Vincent couldn’t have known how that fateful day would shatter his family and cast a cloud over the rest of his life. He was 22-years-old that summer and had just returned home on leave from the Army, where he served as a paratrooper. He and his dad weren’t close, so it meant something when his father asked him to go for a walk after dinner one evening. Vincent’s older brother Anthony had always been the family favorite. Now that Vincent was an adult, he had all but given up on having a loving relationship with his dad.

Milwaukee was in the middle of a hot summer, and heat rose up from the pavement and warmed the evening air. Archie was silent for a time, and Vincent could tell his father had something important to say. Eventually, the old man started talking and explained that something had happened at the armored car company where he worked as a driver. Some money had gone missing from a truck — around $150,000 — and the FBI was looking into its disappearance.

Silence descended again. A few moments later, Archie turned to his son. He had stolen the money, he confessed.

Read the rest of this article at: Medium

News 02.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2008, Yuval Noah Harari, a young historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, began to write a book derived from an undergraduate world-history class that he was teaching. Twenty lectures became twenty chapters. Harari, who had previously written about aspects of medieval and early-modern warfare—but whose intellectual appetite, since childhood, had been for all-encompassing accounts of the world—wrote in plain, short sentences that displayed no anxiety about the academic decorum of a study spanning hundreds of thousands of years. It was a history of everyone, ever. The book, published in Hebrew as “A Brief History of Humankind,” became an Israeli best-seller; then, as “Sapiens,” it became an international one. Readers were offered the vertiginous pleasure of acquiring apparent mastery of all human affairs—evolution, agriculture, economics—while watching their personal narratives, even their national narratives, shrink to a point of invisibility. President Barack Obama, speaking to CNN in 2016, compared the book to a visit he’d made to the pyramids of Giza.

“Sapiens” has sold more than twelve million copies. “Three important revolutions shaped the course of history,” the book proposes. “The Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution, which got under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different.” Harari’s account, though broadly chronological, is built out of assured generalization and comparison rather than dense historical detail. “Sapiens” feels like a study-guide summary of an immense, unwritten text—or, less congenially, like a ride on a tour bus that never stops for a poke around the ruins. (“As in Rome, so also in ancient China: most generals and philosophers did not think it their duty to develop new weapons.”) Harari did not invent Big History, but he updated it with hints of self-help and futurology, as well as a high-altitude, almost nihilistic composure about human suffering. He attached the time frame of aeons to the time frame of punditry—of now, and soon. His narrative of flux, of revolution after revolution, ended urgently, and perhaps conveniently, with a cliffhanger. “Sapiens,” while acknowledging that “history teaches us that what seems to be just around the corner may never materialise,” suggests that our species is on the verge of a radical redesign. Thanks to advances in computing, cyborg engineering, and biological engineering, “we may be fast approaching a new singularity, when all the concepts that give meaning to our world—me, you, men, women, love and hate—will become irrelevant.”

Harari, who is slim, soft-spoken, and relentless in his search for an audience, has spent the years since the publication of “Sapiens” in conversations about this cliffhanger. His two subsequent best-sellers—“Homo Deus” (2017) and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” (2018)—focus on the present and the near future. Harari now defines himself as both a historian and a philosopher. He dwells particularly on the possibility that biometric monitoring, coupled with advanced computing, will give corporations and governments access to more complete data about people—about their desires and liabilities—than people have about themselves. A life under such scrutiny, he said recently, is liable to become “one long, stressing job interview.”

If Harari weren’t always out in public, one might mistake him for a recluse. He is shyly oracular. He spends part of almost every appearance denying that he is a guru. But, when speaking at conferences where C.E.O.s meet public intellectuals, or visiting Mark Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto house, or the Élysée Palace, in Paris, he’ll put a long finger to his chin and quietly answer questions about Neanderthals, self-driving cars, and the series finale of “Game of Thrones.” Harari’s publishing and speaking interests now occupy a staff of twelve, who work out of a sunny office in Tel Aviv, where an employee from Peru cooks everyone vegan lunches. Here, one can learn details of a scheduled graphic novel of “Sapiens”—a cartoon version of Harari, wearing wire-framed glasses and looking a little balder than in life, pops up here and there, across time and space. There are also plans for a “Sapiens” children’s book, and a multi-season “Sapiens”-inspired TV drama, covering sixty thousand years, with a script by the co-writer of Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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