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In the News 03.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 03.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 03.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
via @betapluspublishing
In the News 03.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Reddit and the Struggle To Detoxify the Internet

Which Web sites get the most traffic? According to the ranking service Alexa, the top three sites in the United States, as of this writing, are Google, YouTube, and Facebook. (Porn, somewhat hearteningly, doesn’t crack the top ten.) The rankings don’t reflect everything—the dark Web, the nouveau-riche recluses harvesting bitcoin—but, for the most part, people online go where you’d expect them to go. The only truly surprising entry, in fourth place, is Reddit, whose astronomical popularity seems at odds with the fact that many Americans have only vaguely heard of the site and have no real understanding of what it is. A link aggregator? A microblogging platform? A social network?

To its devotees, Reddit feels proudly untamed, one of the last Internet giants to resist homogeneity. Most Reddit pages have a throwback aesthetic, with a few crudely designed graphics and a tangle of text: an original post, comments on the post, responses to the comments, responses to the responses. That’s pretty much it. Reddit is made up of more than a million individual communities, or subreddits, some of which have three subscribers, some twenty million. Every subreddit is devoted to a specific kind of content, ranging from vital to trivial: r/News, r/Politics, r/Trees (for marijuana enthusiasts), r/MarijuanaEnthusiasts (for tree enthusiasts), r/MildlyInteresting (“for photos that are, you know, mildly interesting”). Some people end up on Reddit by accident, find it baffling, and never visit again. But people who do use it—redditors, as they’re called—often use it all day long, to the near-exclusion of anything else. “For a while, we called ourselves the front page of the Internet,” Steve Huffman, Reddit’s C.E.O., said recently. “These days, I tend to say that we’re a place for open and honest conversations—‘open and honest’ meaning authentic, meaning messy, meaning the best and worst and realest and weirdest parts of humanity.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Odds Of That

When the Miami Police first found Benito Que, he was slumped on a desolate side street, near the empty spot where he had habitually parked his Ford Explorer. At about the same time, Don C. Wiley mysteriously disappeared. His car, a white rented Mitsubishi Galant, was abandoned on a bridge outside of Memphis, where he had just had a jovial dinner with friends. The following week, Vladimir Pasechnik collapsed in London, apparently of a stroke.

The list would grow to nearly a dozen in the space of four nerve-jangling months. Stabbed in Leesburg, Va. Suffocated in an air-locked lab in Geelong, Australia. Found wedged under a chair, naked from the waist down, in a blood-splattered apartment in Norwich, England. Hit by a car while jogging. Killed in a private plane crash. Shot dead while a pizza delivery man served as a decoy.

What joined these men was their proximity to the world of bioterror and germ warfare. Que, the one who was car-jacked, was a researcher at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Wiley, the most famous, knew as much as anyone about how the immune system responds to attacks from viruses like Ebola. Pasechnik was Russian, and before he defected, he helped the Soviets transform cruise missiles into biological weapons. The chain of deaths — these three men and eight others like them — began last fall, back when emergency teams in moonsuits were scouring the Capitol, when postal workers were dying, when news agencies were on high alert and the entire nation was afraid to open its mail.

In more ordinary times, this cluster of deaths might not have been noticed, but these are not ordinary times. Neighbors report neighbors to the F.B.I.; passengers are escorted off planes because they make other passengers nervous; medical journals debate what to publish, for fear the articles will be read by evil eyes. Now we are spooked and startled by stories like these — all these scientists dying within months of one another, at the precise moment when tiny organisms loom as a gargantuan threat. The stories of these dozen or so deaths started out as a curiosity and were transformed rumor by rumor into the specter of conspiracy as they circulated first on the Internet and then in the mainstream media. What are the odds, after all?

What are the odds, indeed?

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

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

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In Conversation: Julian Casablancas

As the lead singer of the Strokes, Julian Casablancas became famous for embodying classic rock-and-roll nonchalance. These days, though, he’s more interested in showing how deeply he’s engaged. Both with his music — Virtue, the sprawling and impassioned second album from his politically charged band the Voidz is out March 30 — and with his words. “Can you make complex truth sexy?” asks the 39-year-old, sitting in a conference room at the Vulture offices, stylishly casual in ripped jeans and a black jacket adorned with the Public Enemy logo. “It’s a riddle I think about constantly: How do you get people to pay attention to what’s going on in the world and not tune out?” Casablancas rubs his eyes, then offers a wry smile. “I’ve got a lot of ideas.”

The lyrics on Virtue are almost as political as they were on the first Voidz album.Upon its release in 2014, Casablancas called Tyranny, the first Voidz effort, a “protest record” about how “corruption is king.” The project maintained the singer’s magnetically insouciant tone, but placed it in a more ‘80s-influenced setting. That was obviously a songwriting direction you wanted to continue going in, but were there things you wanted to do differently this time around?
I don’t know if this answers the question, but the easiest way to summarize it is that we wanted people to like Virtue as much as we liked Tyranny. So I don’t know. Essentially I’m disappointed so far in the internet.

Read the rest of this article at: Vulture

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How Skin Care Became an At-Home Science Experiment

In the skin-care aisle at the CVS pharmacy closest to my office, there are 106 different products for acne. I lurked in the store for an hour last week tallying anything with the words “acne,” “blemish,” or “blackhead” on the packaging. I did not include products labeled “pore refining,” because that seems fake.

There are 101 antiaging products on the shelves. This includes anything that claims to fight wrinkles, or that is labeled “antiaging” or “age defying.” I did not count the following terms: “age perfect,” “lifting,” “for sagging skin,” or “for mature skin,” even though those were clearly meant to evoke antiaging effects without explicitly saying so.

There were 155 types of body lotion and 177 types of face lotion, although in certain cases it was hard to tell which category a particular product would fall under. I included anything called a “lotion,” “moisturizer,” “cream,” “gel,” “gel-cream,” “cream-gel,” “moisturizing oil,” “salve,” “hydrating mist,” “intense-hydration concentrate,” and in one case—may God have mercy on my soul— “daily liquid care.” I did not tally “cream cleansers,” “serums,” “treatments,” “fillers,” or “elixirs.”

These are just some of the over-the-counter skin-care products available at one drugstore. We haven’t even gotten into cleansers, let alone masks or scrubs or toners. Suffice it to say, figuring out what skin-care products to use can be daunting.

The skin-care industry uniquely straddles the line between health and aesthetics, between drugs and cosmetics. Acne and other skin conditions often require medical treatment and prescription drugs, yet it’s possible to treat some breakouts, or dryness, or redness, at home. Sometimes there may be nothing wrong, per se, but one’s skin could always be a little more even, a little softer, a little glowier, couldn’t it? There’s also a certain amount of care needed to maintain the status quo—to stay clean, moisturized, and protected from the sun.

All of these pursuits fall under the umbrella of “skin care.” The industry does little to help anyone make sense of it. In fact, it is often deliberately confusing.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

The Streaming Void

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THE DEFINING CULT FILM OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY is neither a mirror held up to nature or a hammer used to shape reality. The Room, released in 2003, is like a ninety-nine-minute episode of The Real World as performed by the inmates of the asylum of Charenton under the direction of no one. It is an incoherent broadside against evil women (or all women) and a backwards vindication of all-American male breadwinners who buy their girls roses and befriend at-risk teens. It’s a tragedy not just because it ends with a suicide, but also because sitting through it requires a robust Dionysian death drive. The Room is so bad that when you point out its idiocy, the idiocy of stating the obvious bounces back and sticks to you.

The plot is both simplistic and convoluted. The film’s writer, director, and producer, Tommy Wiseau, stars as Johnny, the only banker in America who’s also a stand-up guy. His fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), is a gold digger who spends idle days seducing Johnny’s best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero), and shopping with her manipulative mother (Carolyn Minnott). When Johnny learns about the affair, he kills himself. Fin. But first, Wiseau allows himself some inexplicable digressions. Johnny and his friends play football in tuxedos. Johnny and Mark save a teenage boy (Philip Haldiman) from a gun-wielding drug dealer (Dan Janjigian). The mom announces she has breast cancer. There are several endless, poorly blocked sex scenes. Some of this is funny; mostly, though, it’s boring.

It was Wiseau’s performance, mainly the dialogue studded with non sequiturs, that elevated The Room to its current “Citizen Kane of bad movies” status. In one famous scene, Johnny storms onto his building’s roof deck, ranting about a rumor Lisa’s spreading that he hit her, then greets his buddy with a casual, “Oh, hi, Mark.” It didn’t help that Wiseau was a creepy-looking dude in his late forties who styled himself like a romance-novel cover model and cast actors in their twenties as his peers. His accent, which is never explained in the movie, brings to mind a generic “foreigner” in an old sitcom.

Before you protest that I’m picking on a defenseless oddball, you should know how The Room got made and how it became a cult sensation. Wiseau was a wealthy man living under an assumed name, with residences in San Francisco and Los Angeles. An enthusiastic American patriot, he was cagey about his country of origin and claimed, flimsily, to have made his money flipping real estate. Sestero—Wiseau’s friend, collaborator, sometime roommate, and the co-author of The Disaster Artist, a memoir about The Room—once found a driver’s license in his friend’s name listing a date of birth thirteen years later than Wiseau was actually born.

Wiseau spent $6 million on the project—which used few locations and no complicated special effects—because its star wasted hours stumbling over simple lines and its director made dozens of expensive, absurd decisions. The Room was shot simultaneously on 35 mm film and digital video, for no good reason. Instead of filming an exterior scene in an alley outside the studio, Wiseau made his art director build an identical indoor alley set. It’s not that everyone just sat back and let a rich fool wreck himself—Wiseau ignored his crew’s advice, bullied actresses about their appearances, threw tantrums, and lied constantly. Minott once fainted because Wiseau refused to buy an air conditioner for the set.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler

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

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