News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
via @lightanddwell
News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Will Jackson, CEO of robotics company Engineered Arts, says he isn’t sure what’s worse: the angry emails that accuse him of building machines that will one day overthrow humanity or the speculative ones enquiring if the sender can fuck the robots.

“Everybody wants to see a humanoid robot,” Jackson says. “They love to imagine all these things that are going to happen. Part of what we do is fulfilling that desire.” (Though not, he is careful to stress, the sex-robot stuff.)

Footage of Engineered Arts’ most recent creation, a gray-skinned bot named Ameca, went viral last December with clips showing an android with an exposed metal torso and eerily realistic facial expressions interacting with researchers. (“Android” being the correct term for a human-shaped robot, from the ancient Greek andro for “man” and eides for “form.”)

In one video, Ameca frowns as an off-screen employee reaches out to touch its nose before smoothly reaching up to stop his arm in a whir of electric motors. It’s an uncanny moment that sets off alarm bells for the viewer: the shock is that a robot would want to establish this boundary between it and us — a desire that is, ironically, very human.

“Got just a tad scared when it raised its hand to his arm. Thought it was just gonna snap it.” Says another, “I know this is scary, but I love this and I want more.”

It’s these emotions — curiosity, fear, excitement — that are Engineered Arts’ stock-in-trade. The company makes its money selling its robots for entertainment and education. They’re used by academics for research; by marketing teams for publicity stunts; and placed in museums, airports, and malls to welcome visitors. “Anywhere you’ve got a big crowd of people to interact with,” says Jackson.

Read the rest of this article at: The Verge

News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

LAST FALL, IN the stagnation of pandemic life, I became fascinated with videos of influencers standing in their bedrooms and trying on clothes from a company called Shein.

In the TikToks, hashtagged #sheinhaul, a young woman would hold up a big plastic bag and rip into it, releasing a cascade of smaller plastic bags, each containing a neatly folded item of clothing. The shot would then cut to the woman wearing one piece at a time, rapid-fire, interspersed with screenshots from Shein’s app showing the prices: an $8 dress, a $12 swimsuit.

Down this rabbit hole were variations on the theme: #sheinkids, #sheincats, #sheincosplay. The videos invited the viewer to marvel at a surreal collision of low cost and abundance. The comments, in keeping with the mood, were performatively supportive (“BOD GOALS”). At some point, someone would question whether such cheap clothing could possibly be ethical, but a chorus of voices would leap in to defend Shein and the influencer with equal zeal (“There so cute tho.” “It her money, leave her alone.”) and the original commenter would go silent.

What made this more than random internet arcana is that Shein has stealthily become an enormous business. “Shein emerged very quickly,” says ​​Sheng Lu, a professor at the University of Delaware who studies the global textile and apparel industry. “Two years ago, three years ago, nobody had ever heard of them.” Earlier this year, the investment firm Piper Sandler surveyed 7,000 American teens about their favorite ecommerce sites and found that while Amazon was the clear winner, Shein came in second. The company claims the largest slice—28 percent—of the US fast-fashion market.

In April, Shein reportedly raised $1 billion to $2 billion in private funding. The company was valued at $100 billion—higher than the combined worth of fast-fashion titans H&M and Zara, and higher than that of any private company in the world besides SpaceX and Byte-Dance, the owner of TikTok.

Shein’s success at attracting this kind of capital startled me, given that the fast-fashion business is among the most harmful industries in the world. Its dependence on synthetic textiles damages the environment, and, by encouraging people to refresh their wardrobes nonstop, it produces tremendous waste; the volume of textiles in US landfills has nearly doubled over the past two decades. Meanwhile, the workers stitching the clothes are paid little to labor in exhausting, sometimes dangerous conditions. In recent years, many of the largest fashion companies have felt pressure to make small moves toward reform. Now, though, an emerging generation of “ultrafast-fashion” companies has come along, and many are doing little, if anything, to adopt better practices. Among them, Shein is by far the biggest.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

Before we get to the deep dive on the internal drama at Netflix — the internecine battles among top leadership that more than one source calls “the Hunger Games” — let’s pause to let the town enjoy this moment.

The thing about schadenfreude is that the freude (joy) is usually savored when the schaden (the bad thing) happens to someone else. In the case of Netflix’s ongoing debacle, however, the streamer’s competitors acknowledge that they are damaged themselves by the sudden discovery that maybe the sky is not the limit when it comes to streaming. But they are relishing the bad news anyway.

Yes, says a top executive at one of Netflix’s legacy-studio rivals, the news has dinged valuations and been bad for his business, but “it sure fucking feels good.” This executive rattles off a brief history of Netflix in Hollywood, including the A-word that arises in almost every conversation about the streamer. “The entire town’s rooting against them,” he says. “It’s not just the arrogance of announcing that you’re the leaders, not respecting executive contracts and [poaching] everybody and the way they carry themselves. There was a feeling of anger and then despair — are our businesses over?”

Now those studios get to feel a little sexy again, as Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav made clear in an April 26 earnings call when he noted that he heads “a far more balanced and competitive company.” Says a key executive at a big media company: “Cable networks may be on the decline, but they still generate a lot of revenue. … Maybe try keeping the lights on. Maybe don’t kill theatrical so fast.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Hollywood Reporter

News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When news broke earlier this year that the modest but attractive house on Long Island known as Geller I was going to be demolished, the outcry was immediate. The home’s significance in architectural history was beyond question. Its designer, Marcel Breuer, was among the most acclaimed of the mid-20th-century modernists and one of the few whose name is familiar to those with only a passing interest in architecture. These facts ultimately meant little. Geller I—the first of two buildings that Breuer designed for the same client in Lawrence, New York—was torn down in January to make way for the tennis court of a new, larger house.

A few miles away in Brooklyn, meanwhile, another hard-fought preservation battle was gearing up. The owner of 300 State Street, a pleasant if unremarkable Italianate house on the edge of Boerum Hill, wanted to replace the building’s front door. Because 300 State is a landmarked building, the project required approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the agency charged with carrying out New York City’s preservation laws. A 15-page document was submitted for the LPC’s consideration explaining the design of the replacement door, to be built by a local firm whose specialty, according to its website, is “expertly crafted custom and reproduction doors for historic and landmark properties.” But the proposal did not find favor with the commission. In a unanimous decision, its members ruled that the current front door was “historic and integral to the building’s design,” and a new one would “remove significant historic fabric.” The original door would stay.

It seems incredible that a mid-century marvel like Geller I should fall victim to redevelopment while a government agency nearby intervenes to prevent someone from replacing an old front door with a similar-looking new one. In the world of historic preservation, however, a loose relationship between a building’s historical value and its likelihood of being protected is all too common. In Los Angeles, the iconic Brown Derby restaurant is gone, but a Chevron station in Brentwood is on the city’s list of “historical-cultural monuments.” Washington, D.C.’s infamous Yellow House—a focal point of the city’s early-19th-century slave trade—was lost generations ago, but a strip mall and its parking lot a few miles away are landmarked. New York City, which has long had a particularly assertive preservation movement, has roughly 30,000 lots situated within historic districts today. Most of these buildings are of little inherent importance on their own but are considered by the LPC to be significant because of the way they relate to one another—and can remain so only if all are protected en masse. In Manhattan, once famed for its ever-evolving skyline, an astonishing 27 percent of the borough’s lots now fall under the purview of the landmarks commission.

To be sure, preservationists have a proud history of ensuring that buildings of great historical importance, as well as lesser-known structures that teach us about our past, are protected from demolition. Philadelphia is unquestionably a richer place for having Independence Hall, New York for its Tenement Museum, and Boston for its African Meeting House. As many cities today grapple with unprecedented housing shortages and cost-of-living issues, however, the degree to which historic-preservation laws can function as a pretext for preventing change entirely is clearer than ever. This problem doesn’t just present an identity crisis for preservationists. It’s part of a much larger, unresolved question in urban life: whether our major cities can be sites of social progress in the 21st century, or whether the change-averse ideology that has come to dominate their local politics will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 09.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2015, the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country.” If you have paid attention to mainstream progressive politics in recent years, you have likely heard some version of this message: that privileged women — middle- and upper-class women, cis women, white women — are not going to experience much of a change to their circumstances when Roe v. Wade goes. In September 2021, on the day Texas’s sweeping anti-abortion law, SB8, went into effect, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts asserted that “when abortion is illegal, rich women still get abortions. Women with resources still get abortions.” It has become common wisdom, so much so that a December article on Bloomberg Law confidently predicted that “restrictive abortion laws will have little effect on professional women or those in their orbit.”

There are a lot of very good reasons to point out the structural inequities that indeed make restrictions on reproductive-health care racist and particularly punishing for the poor. Abortion bans, as Warren says, hurt “the most vulnerable among us,” a statement that is rooted in extremely correct racial and class analysis. It perfectly sums up the circumstances of the past 40 years, when the Hyde Amendment and state restrictions made abortion all but inaccessible to many poor, Black, brown, immigrant, and Indigenous communities while middle-class white people could feel assured about the umbrella protection of Roe.

There is also an understandable desire among advocates for abortion access to convey a crucial and salient reality: that people of all classes will continue to get abortions, just as they have always gotten abortions throughout history when the procedures were both legal and illegal. And that’s important to know, to make clear, that the reasoning behind abortion bans is a lie. Bans do not stop abortions from happening. Rather, they are meant to punish people for asserting control over their bodies, lives, and families, and the people who get punished more cruelly and regularly in this country have always been people who are not white and not wealthy. The drive to make this point is also a reminder that white, privileged women’s experiences are not at the center of this ongoing injustice.

But as we teeter on the threshold of the post-Roe world, it’s worth considering that the message that privileged women will be just fine is inaccurate and that its repetition, while well meaning, is counterproductive to the task of readying an unprepared public for massive and terrifying shifts on the horizon. It’s worth pointing out that it is simply not true that the reproductive options of white, middle-class, and even wealthy people are going to remain the same. Because while circumstances will certainly be graver and more perilous for the already vulnerable, the reality is that everything is about to change, for everyone, in one way or another, and to muffle that alarm is an error, factually, practically, and politically.

The question before us is not only about who can get safe abortion care. The fear arising from recollections of a world before Roe centered on the ability to access surgical procedures, many of which were performed at great risk to the bodies and fertility of those people who sought them out. Access to abortion providers will certainly be a part of the future picture, and many will need to travel across state lines in order to see those medical professionals. A post-Roe future will also certainly involve some people seeking abortion turning to dangerous self-remedies that will result in injury and death. But we are not going to make a full return to the era of back alleys and women bleeding out on motel-room floors.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

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