News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In a type of neoclassical painting one might call The Apotheosis of X, the dead hero is bundled up to heaven by a host of angels, usually in a windswept tumult of robes, wings and clouds. A crowd of grieving mortals watches from below as their hero becomes divine. It’s a celestial scramble: in Rubens’ sumptuous Apotheosis of James I, heaven is chaos and James looks terrified at having arrived.

In Barralet’s Apotheosis of Washington, the dead president has his arms outstretched in a crucified pose, while Father Time and the angel of immortality bear him up to heaven. In a mid-1860s Apotheosis, a freshly assassinated Lincoln joins Washington in the sky, and clings to him in a tight hug. In Fragonard’s Apotheosis of Franklin, the new god reaches back to Earth with one hand while a stern angel, grasping his other hand, drags him upward.

In 1785, in a Covent Garden theatre, a spectacle premiered depicting Capt James Cook’s voyages in the South Pacific. During the final scene of Omai, or A Trip Around the World, at the words “Cook, ever honour’d, immortal shall live!” an enormous oil painting descended from the ceiling – Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg’s Apotheosis of Captain Cook, commissioned for the occasion. Cook is carried up to heaven by the angels Britannia and Fame, but his gaze is directed back at the vertiginous earth, where ships and canoes are facing off in Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay. His expression is queasy and his eyes seem to plead: “Don’t drop me!”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When foreign athletes and select visitors arrive in China for the upcoming Winter Olympics, they will have the option of using China’s new central bank digital currency (CBDC). The e-RMB, or e-CNY, is as a convenient alternative to the familiar paper redback, the RMB. The move is part of a long running effort to internationalize China’s currency, but it is also central to a broader campaign for control that has rapidly moved from the analog to the digital realm, the subject of my recent book “Retrofitting Leninism.”

China’s rulers have long sought to optimize authoritarian control. These aspirations have typically manifested in coercion of the physical world, from labor camps to closed borders to mismanagement in the economic realm, where crises and shortfalls abound. In today’s China, control is increasingly exercised in the digital domain, where over one billion internet users — and nearly as many surveillance cameras — are networked into a sprawling system of monitoring and intimidation.

Heterodox economists like Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises have long argued that control regimes are bound to stumble due to their inability to collect all the information needed to make optimal decisions and the computational complexity of processing the information they have — challenges that that only a liberal society and free market can resolve. Indeed, central leaders still struggle with data fabrication and information hoarding across China’s vast administrative structure. Even in areas where micromanagement is strong, anecdotal evidence suggests attention remains as ever on loyalty, not efficiency.

The political mood of the present need not distract from the technological prospects of the future. China’s leaders are growing increasingly confident they can resolve the computational problems of managing a complex society without letting go of control. In recent years, authorities have overcome some top-down information gaps by enlisting the help of average citizens who volunteer bottom-up input, investing in centralized databases, and rapidly expanding artificial intelligence.

Read the rest of this article at: Noema

News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On September 4, 2018, Nauman Hussain, a 28-year-old professional paintball player, was working at his family’s business when a state inspector arrived for a routine visit. Nauman’s father owned Prestige Limousine, a small company touting “modern, classy vehicles” for “exquisite wedding, prom, event, and special occasion” transportation in the Albany area, and Nauman operated it day to day, sometimes answering to his father’s name. The inspector examined Prestige’s vehicles and placed an orange-and-white sticker roughly the size of a license plate on the windshield of its workhorse, a Ford Excursion. “OUT-OF-SERVICE,” it read. “This motor vehicle has been declared UNSERVICEABLE.”

The Excursion was a beast, a 10,000-pound SUV that had been chopped in half and welded back together with 12 extra feet of carriage in the middle, effectively turning it into a bus. It was a party vehicle, or a party gag, the kind of limo that made you wince and check the leather seats for stains. State inspectors knew Prestige’s Excursion well. They regarded it as an insult to their profession and “violated” it whenever they could.

The Hussains always managed to get it back on the road. Six months earlier, the limo had failed inspection for a long list of deficiencies, including corroded and compromised brakes. Someone had crudely disabled one of the lines with a vise grip. The Excursion’s regular driver, a 53-year-old named Scott Lisinicchia, knew the vehicle had problems and preferred to operate Prestige’s other limousines. But on Saturday, October 6, a little after 9 a.m., Lisinicchia got a call. Nauman Hussain wanted him to take the Excursion out on a job. The windshield sticker was gone.

At 1 p.m., Lisinicchia pulled the limo up to a home in the town of Amsterdam. Axel Steenburg, a 29-year-old bodybuilder who worked at a semiconductor plant, was organizing a 30th-birthday celebration for his wife, Amy, and a big crew. Seventeen of them, including Amy’s three sisters, Axel’s brother, and several other young couples, were going day-drinking at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, some 50 miles away. The Steenburgs had figured that hiring a sober driver seemed like the safe thing to do.

As the celebrants piled into the Excursion, they found sickly neon-colored lights, padded benches, and floorboards that had rusted through. One of the partygoers texted a friend who had planned to attend but backed out.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

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News 24.01.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How on earth did my mother know that Led Zeppelin was composed of satanists? Specifically, how did she know that Jimmy Page had “a great interest in the occult,” and owned a bookshop “somewhere down in London” dedicated to these pursuits? Presumably, some furtive Christian network or back channel had provided the information. It was more than I or my elder brother knew, and gave her a sinister advantage over us. In my memory, she looms as a column of judgment in the doorway of the sitting room, as Angus and I watch the closing frames of the concert film “The Song Remains the Same” on television. It was 1979, I think. Angus, five years older than me and provider of all musical contraband, was eighteen. He may have lost his soul already; mine was still in the balance.

Our evangelical parents always managed to materialize while something awkward was on the TV, but our mother, who could find inappropriately suggestive moments in “Doctor Who,” had surpassed herself this time. On the screen, the stage at Madison Square Garden had become a diabolical altar: half naked, Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, Robert Plant, was screaming and writhing like a downed angel, and its drummer, John Bonham, was stolidly abusing what appeared to be a flaming gong. And surely Jimmy Page was a bit suspect? We had watched him during “Stairway to Heaven,” grimacing in bliss, dazed in ecstasy, leaning back as he throttled his dark, double-necked guitar, like a man wrestling with some giant shrieking bird of the night. My brother was involved in his own spiritual struggle. A school friend of his had tickets to a Led Zeppelin summer show, at Knebworth; he was desperate to go. Stairway to Heaven? Chute to Hell, more like. Our parents had told him that if he went to Knebworth he would cease to be a Christian. Watching from the wings, learning how to deceive, I was mainly impressed by his honesty—why hadn’t he just told them he was going to see Peter, Paul and Mary?

In those days, stuck in provincial northern England as we were, musical information seemed to reach us years late, like news from panting messengers of wars that had already fizzled out. New to Led Zeppelin’s music, I had no idea that the group had become a ponderous joke, that Knebworth was to be its last gasp. Having an older brother was a mixed blessing in this regard. He both curated and retarded my education. The thirteen-year-old pupil was not expected to show any independence of taste. “Listen to this”—said as he flipped the LP onto the turntable—was a command more than an invitation. The stylus lay down in the groove, and wrote the law.

And, as my mother intuited, this law was a potent rival dominion, a law of negation, out to invert everything held sacred and respectable by parents, churches, principalities. Alice Cooper, who played alongside an equally uncelebrated Led Zeppelin at an early gig in Los Angeles, in January, 1969, voiced the essential rebellion with perfect ingenuousness in “I’m Eighteen”: “I’m eighteen / And I don’t know what I want / Eighteen / I just don’t know what I want / Eighteen / I gotta get away / I gotta get out of this place / I’ll go runnin’ in outer space.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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