News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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When Planes, Trains and Automobiles roared into theaters on November 25, 1987, it was somehow both a sure thing and a big risk. Its writer/producer/director, John Hughes, was coming off a string of hits (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off among them), modestly budgeted character-driven dramedies whose big grosses meant big profits; leading actors Steve Martin and John Candy were among the biggest comedy stars in the country. But Hughes, who had established himself as the poet laureate of ’80s teendom, was telling a story about grown-ups for a change. Martin, whose biggest film successes thus far had come in broad comedies, was attempting to remake himself as a more intellectual screen presence. And although Candy was one of the brightest lights of the SCTV ensemble, he had found precious few film roles that put his tremendous talent to full use.

But these three comic legends collaborated to make movie magic, and in the 35 years since its release, Planes, Trains and Automobiles has become not only a holiday perennial, but one of the most beloved comedies of the ’80s. To mark that anniversary—as well as its recent 4K Blu-ray and video-on-demand release, featuring over an hour of previously unseen footage for those who purchase it—Vanity Fair spoke to nearly 20 members of the movie’s cast and crew, as well as the children of the late John Hughes and John Candy.

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In May of 1985, following the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s final defeat of the Somoza regime, the Reagan administration imposed an embargo on Nicaragua. The White House paired this open economic aggression with more covert forms, channeling money and weapons to counterrevolutionary forces — Contra groups who counted industrial terrorism among their tactics, burning literal tons of product in raids on government-allied coffee cooperatives. This multifront attack made the Nicaraguan coffee industry a Cold War hotspot. Some members of the Third World solidarity movement in the North even volunteered as coffee “brigadistas,” flying down to pick beans in the mountains. To complete the circuit, a few dudes working for a food co-op warehouse near Boston began importing Nicaraguan beans from a Dutch roaster through a loophole in the embargo, selling them at a coffee shop they called Equal Exchange. Thus began the modern American ethical consumption movement.

The ethics of capitalist consumption have plagued us poor capitalist consumers for at least as long as that system has prevailed. In Capitalism and Slavery, Eric Williams detailed the moral appeals made by the original free-traders against the ghastly Caribbean sugar monopoly. Abolitionists in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century attempted to boycott goods produced by enslaved labor, agitating for “free produce.” In the twentieth century, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union urged buyers to “look for the union label” in what became an iconic jingle. But over the past 40 years, as world capitalism shook off its last rival, bosses appropriated the idea of ethical consumption, too. These days, ethical impact is first and foremost a branding tool. Unwilling to compete on prices or quality in an era of globalization and commodity gluts, producers rely on advertising instead, and conscious marketing has become standard operating procedure, especially for direct-to-consumer brands that cut out the retail middlemen.

The triumph of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal slogan that “There is no alternative” (as in, to market policies and government austerity) — commonly known by the acronym TINA — has yielded a corresponding left-wing truism: “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” or “TINECUC.” As a retort, TINECUC works on capitalists whether they’re using morality to hawk shoes or alleging hypocrisy when they see a communist holding an iPhone. And it works among fellow anti-capitalists who demand collective adherence to rarified purchasing patterns. If TINECUC, then there’s no ethical reason to forego a pandemic Hawaiian vacation or to buy the optional carbon offsets. As a result, most anti-capitalists currently understand consumption to be strictly personal: politicizing consumption only serves to marginalize leftists as picky eaters within mainstream society and welcomes capitalism’s salespeople at the same time. Better to insulate consumption from accountability than to set ourselves up to be played by marketers and bad-faith fellow leftists who see litigating consumption choices as an easy way to jockey for power, prestige, attention, or even money itself.

Read the rest of this article at: The Drift

If you read Brandon Fleury a story when he was three, he’d recite it back to you word for word. His father Patrick, then a professional tennis coach, was both bemused and impressed by his physically awkward son. He would tell people about Brandon’s capacity for mimicry – eventually he found himself explaining it to a jury.

Brandon had a tough childhood. One night when he was five and lying in bed with his mother, she had a pulmonary embolism and died. Fleury became a full-time single dad to Brandon and his younger brother. Brandon had always needed extra attention, but after his wife died Fleury began to pick up on more unusual elements of his son’s behaviour. A girl from the neighbourhood would pull him around in a wagon “like he was a puppy”; Brandon seemed uneasy with it yet unable to articulate his discomfort. At their home in Santa Ana, California, he would repeat phrases and questions over and over again, or open and shut doors repeatedly. Sometimes he would flush the toilet 30 times in a row, giggling.

Doctors diagnosed Brandon with attention-deficit disorder, then attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. When he was seven, they added obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger’s syndrome to the list (Asperger’s is now classed as a form of autism).

Fleury tried to help Brandon regulate his behaviour but nothing the doctors suggested – therapy, medication, a teaching assistant – seemed to make a difference. He taught his son at home for a while, then sent him to high school, which turned out to be a disaster. Desperate to be accepted, Brandon became the plaything of a group of bullies he believed were his friends. They took his money and beat him up. “They would mess with him in every imaginable way; they’d make a fool of him,” Fleury says. “He didn’t know any better.” Brandon dropped out before his final year.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843 Magazine

News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

From an office suite on the 26th floor of the iconic Frost Bank Tower in Austin, Texas, a little-known recruiting firm called Crossover is searching the globe for software engineers. Crossover is looking for anyone who can commit to a 40- or 50-hour workweek, but it has no interest in full-time employees. It wants contract workers who are willing to toil from their homes or even in local cafes.

“The best people in the world aren’t in your Zip code,” says Andy Tryba, chief executive of Crossover, in a promotional YouTube video. Which, Tryba emphasizes, also means you don’t have to pay them like they are your neighbors. “The world is going to a cloud wage.”

Tryba’s video has 61,717 views, but he is no random YouTube proselytizer. He worked in sales at Intel for 14 years before serving in the White House as an advisor to President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Since 2014, Tryba has been the right-hand man of Joe Liemandt, one of the most mysterious and innovative figures in technology.

In the 1990s Liemandt was the golden boy of enterprise software, a 30 Under 30 wunderkind before there was a Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Like Bill Gates before him, he dropped out of college, in his case Stanford, to start a company, Trilogy, and build his fortune. In 1996, at the age of 27, he made the cover of Forbes, and a few months later he appeared as the youngest self-made member of The Forbes 400, with a $500 million net worth.

[Read Forbes‘ original cover story on Joe Liemandt from 1996.]

In its first iteration, Trilogy Development Group sold product configuration and sales software to the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Boeing (think of the zillion variations of computers and airplanes those companies sell). Trilogy became the hot place for young coders to land in the late 1990s. Known for its testosterone-fueled work environment and an alcohol-infused mix of long hours, fast cars, gambling and sex, Trilogy served as the model for Silicon Valley’s boys club. Its programmers were paid like rock stars and partied like them, too.

It made sense back then, because at the time coding was a rare and unique skill. Companies like Trilogy, eBay, Apple and Microsoft were making groundbreaking, innovative software, the first versions of everything from Web browsers to e-commerce platforms. But it makes no sense in a world of $200 laptops, where any kid in Cairo can learn to code on YouTube. And mostly what they are coding is updates to old versions of stuff like payroll and inventory management software. You pay an artist to design a Maserati; you pay a mechanic to change its oil.

And the new version of Trilogy, now part of ESW Capital, Liemandt’s Austin private equity firm, is all about changing the oil.

Tryba argues that the current cloud wage for a C++ programmer, for example, is $15 an hour. That’s what Amazon pays its warehouse workers. Crossover, which is actually the recruiting wing of ESW, has amassed an army of 5,000 workers in 131 countries from Ukraine to Pakistan to Egypt. In the past 12 years, ESW has quietly acquired some 75 software companies, mostly in the U.S., and it exports as many as 150 high-tech jobs every week.

After the dot-com crash, Trilogy faded from view, but from its ranks numerous successful tech companies, including Nutanix and SendGrid, were spawned. It also played a big part in Austin’s emergence as a technology hub. Like others with dot-com fortunes, Liemandt dropped off The Forbes 400 in 2001. He stopped giving press interviews, outsourced Trilogy’s U.S. workforce and took his public company private. Most assumed Liemandt had burned out, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Read the rest of this article at: Forbes

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News 25.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Octavia Estelle Butler was named after two of the most important people in her life: her mother, Octavia Margaret Guy, and her grandmother, Estella. Her grandmother was an astonishing woman. She raised seven children on a plantation in Louisiana, chopping sugarcane, boiling laundry in hot cauldrons, and cooking and cleaning, not only for her family but for the white family that owned the land. There was no school for Black children, but Estella taught Octavia Margaret enough to read and write. As far as Butler could tell, her grandmother’s life wasn’t far removed from slavery — the only difference was she had worked hard enough and saved enough money to move everyone out west during the Great Migration, to Pasadena, California, in the early 1920s.

Octavia Margaret worked from an early age; she attended school in California but was pulled out after a few years to help earn money. When Butler was very young, her family used to “stay on the place,” meaning they lived on the property of the family they worked for. Her father, Laurice James Butler, worked as a shoeshiner and died when she was 3 years old. Later, her mother would rent a spot for the two of them in Pasadena and work as a day laborer for wealthy white women. Octavia Margaret’s dream was to have her own place where she could tend her garden. She was quiet and deeply religious, and she read Butler bedtime stories until she was 6, at which point she said, “Here’s the book. Now you read.”

In her family, Butler went by Junie, short for Junior, and in the world, she went by Estelle or Estella to avoid confusion for people looking for her mother. As a girl, she was shy. She broke down in tears when she had to speak in front of the class. Her youth was filled with drudgery and torment. The first time she remembered someone calling her “ugly” was in the first grade — bullying that continued through her adolescence. “I wanted to disappear,” she said. “Instead, I grew six feet tall.” The boys resented her growth spurt, and sometimes she would get mistaken for a friend’s mother or chased out of the women’s bathroom. She was called slurs. It was the only time in her life she really considered suicide.

She kept her own company. In her elementary-school progress reports, one teacher wrote that “she dreams a lot and has poor concentration.” That was true. She did dream a lot, and she began to write her dreams down in a large pink notebook she carried around with her. “I usually had very few friends, and I was lonely,” Butler said. “But when I wrote, I wasn’t.” By the time she was 10, she was writing her own worlds. At first, they were inspired by animals. She loved horses like those in The Black Stallion. When she saw an old pony at a carnival with festering sores swarmed by flies, she realized the sores had come from the other kids kicking the animal to make it go faster. Children’s capacity for cruelty stayed with her. She went home and wrote stories of wild horses that could shape-shift and that “made fools of the men who came to catch them.”

She found a refuge at the Pasadena Public Library, where she leaped into science fiction. She especially liked Theodore Sturgeon, Ursula K. Le Guin, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Zenna Henderson, whose book Pilgrimage she would buy for her friends to read. She was a comic-book nerd: first DC and then Marvel. When she was 12 years old, she watched Devil Girl From Mars, a black-and-white British science-fiction movie about a female alien commander named Nyah who has mind-control powers, a vaporizing ray gun, and a tight leather outfit with a cape that touches the floor. Butler thought she could come up with a better story than that, so she began to write her own: temporary escape hatches from a life of “boredom, calluses, humiliation, and not enough money,” as she saw it. “I needed my fantasies to shield me from the world.”

Read the rest of this article at: Vulture

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