Sunday Recap / August 17

This experiment in tracking the things I read and sharing them has made me realize how much media I consume. I don’t read as many books as I would like, but I’m clearly reading more than I ever have before. This list is gonna be long, and it’s not exhaustive. I read a lot of other things that I didn’t think were interesting enough to pass along.

Politics and such

The New Racism

The Republican party is a frightening machine. It is ruthless, and it is institutionally racist. Alabama has essentially become a single party state. Whether you are conservative or liberal, single party governance is a dangerous thing.

“There’s been a total collapse of Madisonian Democratic government,” says Gerald Johnson, an Auburn University emeritus professor of political science. “There’s no debate, no compromise, and no minority participation—and by minority, I mean Democratic or African American.”

The Jihadi Gift Shop

It’s fascinating to watch political and religious groups in the age of branding.

“The popularity of ISIS clothing—most notably T-shirts emblazoned with the group’s initials flanked by AK-47s—demonstrates the next phase of ISIS’s international branding campaign.”

The Question Doctors Can’t Ask

The gun lobby is ridiculous and unreasonable. End of debate.

“It’s not a value judgment, it’s a health-related judgment. You can’t let the state interfere with that.”

The Most Wanted Man in the World

Long read interview with Edward Snowden.

He began to consider becoming a whistle-blower, but with Obama about to be elected, he held off. “I think even Obama’s critics were impressed and optimistic about the values that he represented,” he says. “He said that we’re not going to sacrifice our rights. We’re not going to change who we are just to catch some small percentage more terrorists.” But Snowden grew disappointed as, in his view, Obama didn’t follow through on his lofty rhetoric. “Not only did they not fulfill those promises, but they entirely repudiated them,” he says. “They went in the other direction. What does that mean for a society, for a democracy, when the people that you elect on the basis of promises can basically suborn the will of the electorate?”

The Right-Wing Press’ New Climate Change Lie

Does this surprise anyone?

Needless to say, the conservatives have it all wrong. And the science really isn’t that hard to understand.

Marriage issue is one of law

I think it’s impressive that a newspaper in Alabama has come out in support of marriage equality. That’s kind of awesome.

The tide toward marriage equality in Alabama is rising, as it has in many other states, and it’s unlikely to be stopped.
Nor should it be. The constitutional argument that the right to marry should be extended to same-sex couples is simply too sound.

War Gear Flows to Police Departments

It was impossible to avoid news from Ferguson, Missouri this week.There are different issues at hand, the initial shooting and the military style response of the police to the following protests. We, as a nation have lost our way. One thing is certain though, if you arm the police with military surplus, they will use their toys.

“It just seems like ramping up a police department for a problem we don’t have,” said Shay Korittnig, a father of two who spoke against getting the armored truck at a recent public meeting in Neenah. “This is not what I was looking for when I moved here, that my children would view their local police officer as an M-16-toting, SWAT-apparel-wearing officer.”

Racial History Behind the Ferguson Protests

Situations like the one in Ferguson don’t just happen. The racial history of St. Louis is long and complicated. Another great look into a part of that history is the documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth.

But it doesn’t take a federal investigation to understand the history of racial segregation, economic inequality and overbearing law enforcement that produced so much of the tension now evident on the streets. St. Louis has long been one of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas, and there remains a high wall between black residents — who overwhelmingly have lower incomes — and the white power structure that dominates City Councils and police departments like the ones in Ferguson.

Culture and Science

I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me

More Facebook hacking. There is nothing natural about the way people interact on Facebook. And algorithms are just weird.

“Sometimes, liking is counterintuitive. My friend Hillary posted a picture of her toddler Pearl, with bruises on her face. It was titled “Pearl vs. the concrete.” I didn’t like it at all! It was sad. Normally, it would be the kind of News Feed item that would compel me to leave a comment, instead of hitting the little thumbs up button. Oh well. Like. The only time I declined to like something was when a friend posted about the death of a relative. I just had a death in my family last week. It was a bridge I wasn’t going to cross.”

Why Names Are So Easy to Forget

I’m terrible with names. It’s nice to know science has an answer for that. Science!

​The name, meanwhile, “is both completely arbitrary and somewhat familiar (for common names) and ends up neither connecting to what you already know nor standing out as unusual,” Reber said. “So you get this funny phenomenon where you can remember lots about a person you recently met—everything except their name (this happens to me all the time).”

Author Explores Irony And Identity In ‘A Chinaman’s Chance’

This was a fun interview with an interesting guy. I really like his perspective on what immigrants bring to the United States. I think our “rugged individualism” has definitely gone overboard and exacerbates almost every political schism we face.

This awareness of the web of obligations that we are woven into — which you find in Chinese language, you find in Chinese values, you find in Chinese ways of raising families — is something the United States could use a giant, corrective dose of right now. Paying attention a bit less to rugged individualism, and a bit more to context and mutual obligation is something that I think Chinese-Americans can bring to the table.”

This Is The Face of My Mental Illness

It was difficult this week facing all of the news about Robin Williams’ death. Friday night I even lost my cool when a person I was talking to spoke of depression as a “gift.” After my expletive laden rebuttal that suffering through a disease is not a gift in any way, the person back pedaled from their comment very hastily. Mental illness should not be thought of as a gift, it should not be stigmatized. Those who commit suicide aren’t weak, they aren’t cowards. They are people who didn’t survive their illness. This is one of the best things I’ve read about depression. It echoes the reasons I’m so open to talk about my depression.

“This is the face of my mental illness. This is the face of my sadness when it is at its most inexplicable and its most pronounced.
I am not ashamed of it.”

It’s time for us to take back control from our computers

Eric Spiekermann is a fantastic designer. He also has a great critical perspective on our modern digital lives.

So far, Google et al only target our purses. But we know that the NSA and its buddies abroad (notably the UK) accumulate just as much data. And there is good reason to suspect that the gathering does not stop at their own servers but suck information from all the ‘clouds’ out there. As far as the data is concerned, a shopper and a terrorist leave the same traces. A computer cannot choose between them but still makes decisions.

Who Gets First Dibs On Transplanted Liver? Rules May Change

I believe in organ transplants. They save peoples’ lives. Often unthought of are the rules that govern how organs are distributed and it looks like those rules could change. Regardless of how those rules change, the shortage, and disparities, would not be as bad if more people were donors. If you aren’t, you should consider becoming one.

Either it’s a jackpot and you have very, very easy access to a lifesaving liver — if you lived in Indiana or if you lived in Louisiana or Florida. But if you live in California or New York or New England the chances are significantly worse.

A Spacecraft for All

Not a video, not an article exactly, but this is fun and exciting. Citizen science!

The ISEE-3 was launched to study the Sun in 1978, but ended up redefining space flight. Now it’s on a new mission to become citizen science’s first spacecraft, with data accessible by everyone.

Art and Design

How Apple Uses Picasso To Teach Employees About Product Design

Design is much more often about saying no. Otherwise it’s just decoration. It’s fascinating to see how Picasso can be used to illustrate that lesson.

Picasso’s The Bull, created in late 1945, reveals how a great artist turns an idea into a masterpiece. Starting the series with a realistic drawing of a bull, Picasso used the following 10 lithographs to mutate and dissect its form, stripping away details and stylizing its anatomy. In the end, Picasso turned a highly literal representation of a bull into an intertwined series of abstract elements that balance and counterbalance each other to make up a powerful and expressive work of art. The last image is a single sinuous line that is still unmistakably a bull.”

The Sound of Sports

Who knew sound design could be this fascinating. Another reminder that what we perceive to be real is quite often a manipulation. Fake often seems more truthful than reality. Also, 99% Invisible has become my favorite podcast. Great storytelling and always interesting topics related in some way to design.

The Sound of Sports“The experience of “live” events can be highly produced, very different from the experience of being there. Is this enhanced sound so very different from that of a film or a video game? We meet a Hollywood sound effects specialist and a video game sound designer to find out what they do to create a sense of authenticity and excitement. Are they raising our expectations of how “real” sport should sound?”

The Southeastern Conference’s Retro Logo Is a Brilliant Work of Modern Design

More sports and design. A great take on branding against what’s trendy.

“The genius of SEC branding is that it wholeheartedly embraces a logo with such an antiquated style. Doing so allows the conference to project an image steeped in tradition, heritage, and authenticity, one that resonates with its fans, particularly in the South, where nostalgia for an idealized past remains strong.”

Follow that robot: the hi-tech tour guides taking over Tate Britain at night

Interesting or gimmick? I’m a little torn on this one…

After the gallery closed on Saturday, Hadfield logged on from his Toronto office, drove a robot around the 20th-century sculpture gallery, and described the experience as “pretty amazing”. “You forget about the robot in your hands, and it just becomes an extension of your mind – that’s how technology ought to be,” he said.

The Birthday of Food Continues

ALS Icebucket Challenge

The Collector // ca. 2007, reworked 2014

Liberace ! // BHM 1969

1969 / Ads were creepy

Stare / Hair / 1969

Week of August 4 in Links

I’ve had the idea for a while to try and create a recap of interesting things I read throughout the week. Today I finally got around to giving it a go. What follows are some of the stories and other items I’ve come across this week that I thought were interesting, along with a quick thought from me and what I consider a salient excerpt from each piece. I hope you enjoy the insight into what informs me, or what I think is worth reading. Moving forward, I’ll hopefully keep slightly better track of things during the week and it can become more comprehensive. Do let me know if you enjoy this.

Tricking Facebook’s Algorithm
We all hate Facebook. It would be fun to game it, but really, is it even possible.

And that was the rub. At first I was pretty proud of myself for messing with Facebook’s algorithms. But after a little reflection I couldn’t escape the feeling I hadn’t really gamed anything. I’d created a joke that a lot of people enjoyed. They signaled their enjoyment, which gave Facebook the confidence to show the enjoyable joke to more people. There was nothing “incorrect” about that fake news being at the top of people’s feeds. The system—in its murky recursive glory—did what it was supposed to do. And on the next earnings call Mark Zuckerberg can still boast high user engagement numbers.

The Story Behind the Ancient Map That Invented Red and Blue States
What’s old in new is old… Our politics have looked very much the same for a very long time.

The map may not look advanced today, but in 1883 it broke new ground by enabling Americans to visualize the spatial dynamics of political power.

Obama’s Extravagant Summer Break? More Like, America’s Vacation-Deficit Disorder
America. Land of working yourself into the grave and never having the time to enjoy it.

But among all the world’s advanced economies the United States stands out for what should be called a serious case of vacation deficit disorder. We are the only country that does not have mandatory paid vacations for its workers. Not one day. Zilch.

Here’s why Alabama has it backward: Opinion
Gov. Bentley is a jackass. Let’s take money out of the education fund to provide incentives for economic development. Not just a jackass, but a bassackwards one at that.

Raising Alabama’s high school graduation rate by just 10 points – from 80 to 90 percent — would “produce an economic impact to the state’s economy similar to landing an industrial mega-project,” said the study, which used modeling by AUM Economics Professor Keivan Deravi.

We’re All Freaks
Oh the Clermont.

I couldn’t believe there was a place like the Clermont: a strip club housed in the basement of a flophouse hotel (which had recently been shuttered for a bedbug infestation) showcasing dancers whose average age is a ripe 46.5.

Why Tea Party Members of Congress Act So Darn Crazy–And Liberal Democrats Don’t
Partisan re-districting is a major issue plaguing our government. Both parties do it. But can we agree that objectively, Republicans are currently better at it. And considering their views, particularly the over-represented views of the far right, don’t represent the majority of this country, they really shouldn’t be the ones making “demands,” because they really do not have the mandate they claim.

In Congress, liberal Democrats make requests, while conservative Republicans make demands.

The problem with OKCupid is the problem with the social web
Nothing is free. The unfortunate thing is that it is nearly impossible to pay for free services because we’ve become far to valuable as the product being sold.

I’m not just a user of your service, somebody who reads the things that you show it to me: I’m one of the reasons you have anything that you can show to anyone at all.

Wired mag off-​​base on Roboto typeface
Don’t click unless you are a design / type nerd. Or, click if you want a glimpse into our world. Needless to say, designers get really annoyed with puff-piece journalism that gets our profession wrong.

Aside from the business of being first with a dedicated custom UI font, if Google and Apple were to explain that they are making their UI font choices for design reasons, that’s fine. But when they (or Wired) start touting the awesome legibility and functionality of their choices, I have to call them out on it. Nonsense.

John Oliver on Native Advertising
John Oliver has been killing it on his new show, Last Week Tonight on HBO. Every segment I’ve watched online has been fantastic. This is as good a starting point as any.

This is not necessarily on par with Oliver’s best work, but I did find it to be a startlingly effective splash of cold water thrown onto the changing face of publishing.

RODAK / City Fed

Adding to the Original Idea / Visual Thinking