Omnium Gatherum: 7nov2021

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for November 7, 2021

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

  • V Isn’t Always for Vendetta“—”But, ironies abound. The copyright for the mask is owned by one of America’s largest corporations, so each one purchased helps fill their coffers. And, even though Guy’s image and face has never been more well known, Bonfire Night as a holiday is losing ground at a rapid pace to the popularisation of Halloween through the proliferation of American culture (though Halloween’s roots can be traced back to the Celts, the British seem reluctant to claim it as their own). Most ironic, is that a plot designed to pit one faction of Britain against another, has in reality had the opposite effect. London, Wales, and most of other regions of this United Kingdom come together to commemorate 5 November. The historical purpose for the celebration holds little importance to the families that congregate in the muddy fields across the country. They gather in their communities, clinging to their glow-sticks, and ketchup-covered chips, much as they cling to their fading traditions. They ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ together at the exploding lights in the sky before wandering off home, content that they have enjoyed a shared experience of wonder, regardless of their religion or political affiliation. And, maybe, that’s what Guy Fawkes was going for after all.”
  • Stonehenge breakthrough as ‘revolutionary technology’ exposes ‘previously unseen features’. Researchers have made the breakthrough discovery that engraved chalk plaques at Stonehenge depict real objects and not only abstract patterns, as was previously thought.”—”Engraved chalk plaques were an important cultural marker in the Neolithic period. Utilising the advancement of photographic techniques, it is possible to suggest that Neolithic artists used objects known to them in the real world as inspiration for their artistic expression.” “The application of modern technology to ancient artefacts has allowed us not only a better understanding of the working methods of the Neolithic artists. But also a rare glimpse into their motivations and mindsets.”
  • Stop intellectualising pop culture. The response to ‘Dune’ shows an over-educated society reading profundity into mere entertainment.” Tweet—”lol, it’s Dune.” Tweet—”Dune has pages upon pages of discussion about the conflicts between religion and politics, and how things like monarchical power and capitalism have an impact on religious observance or indigenous people. It’s overwhelmingly political.” Tweet—”Imagine reading a book or watching a movie explicitly about how colonialist, extractivist capitalism paired with an overwhelmingly white Christian theocracy leads to endless war with and displacement of Muslim peoples, and then demanding that people “stop intellectualising it.” Tweet—”author of that piece will have an aneurysm if they ever make a movie out of God Emperor of Dune.” Of course, this is about the recent movie, but also about the Dune series.
  • Ancient History Shows How We Can Create a More Equal World. New research on humanity’s deep past holds lessons for the future.” Adapted from The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by David Graeber and David Wengrow—”A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation. For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction to powerful critiques of European society posed by Indigenous observers and intellectuals. Revisiting this encounter has startling implications for how we make sense of human history today, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery, and civilization itself. Drawing on pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we learn to throw off our conceptual shackles and perceive what’s really there. If humans did not spend 95 percent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organization did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of human history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful, hopeful possibilities, than we tend to assume. The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision, and a faith in the power of direct action.”
  • What Created the American Crisis of Subminimum Pay? Saru Jayaraman on the System’s Roots in Slavery.” Excerpt from One Fair Wage: Ending Subminimum Pay in America [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Saru Jayaraman—”Before the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the country, more than six million people earned their living as tipped workers in the service industry. They served us in cafes and restaurants, they delivered food to our homes, they drove us wherever we wanted to go, and they worked in nail salons for as little as $2.13 an hour—the federal tipped minimum wage since 1991—leaving them with next to nothing to get by. These workers, unsurprisingly, were among the most vulnerable workers during the pandemic. As businesses across the country closed down or drastically scaled back their services, hundreds of thousands lost their jobs. As in many other areas, the pandemic exposed the inadequacies of the nation’s social safety net and minimum-wage standards. One of New York magazine’s ‘Influentials’ of New York City, one of CNN’s Visionary Women in 2014, and a White House Champion of Change in 2014, Saru Jayaraman is a nationally acclaimed restaurant activist and the author of the bestselling Behind the Kitchen Door. In her new book, One Fair Wage, Jayaraman shines a light on these workers, illustrating how the people left out of the fight for a fair minimum wage are society’s most marginalized: people of color, many of them immigrants; women, who form the majority of tipped workers; disabled workers; incarcerated workers; and youth workers. They epitomize the direction of our whole economy, reflecting the precariousness and instability that is increasingly the lot of American labor.”
  • ‘I Am Disgusted with Things as They Are.’ Ralph Ellison on the Injustice and Poverty of 1937 New York. In a Letter to His Mother, the Author of Invisible Man Describes His Life in Harlem.” From From Letters of Note: New York City [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] compiled by Shaun Usher, part of the Letters of Notes series—”An exciting new volume of letters about the Capital of the World–from George Washington, Kahlil Gibran, Audrey Hepburn, Martin Scorsese, and more–from the author of the bestselling Letters of Note collections. Peter Schagen writes to the Dutch West India Company about the purchase of ‘Manhattes.’ Mayor Ambrose Kingsland urges the city council to create what became Central Park. E. B. White bemoans taxi cab design to Harold Ross, cofounder of The New Yorker. Bianca Jagger sets the record straight about that white horse in Studio 54. New York City goes by many names–Gotham, Empire City, the City That Never Sleeps–and once served as the capital of America. It came together as we know it in 1898 and has become one of the world’s most powerful, most important megacities, shaping art, culture, finance, and media across the globe. This iconic collection of thirty letters smartly explores the history of life in the five boroughs. You’ll need more than a New York minute to enjoy it all.”
  • Belabored: Work Without the Workers, with Phil Jones“—”How do you take industrial action when your workplace is your computer? In his new book, Phil Jones considers the millions of ‘microworkers’ around the world who process data for digital platforms.” About Work Without the Worker: Labour in the Age of Platform Capitalism [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Phil Jones—”An accessible analysis of the new forms of work whose seismic changes will increasingly determine the future of capitalism. Automation and the decline in industrial employment have lead to rising fears of a workless future. But what happens when your work itself is the thing that will make your job obsolete? In the past few years, online crowdworking platforms – like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Clickworker – have become an increasingly important source of work, particularly for those in the Global South. Here, small tasks are assigned to people online, and are often used to train algorithms to spot patterns, patterns through machine learning those same algorithms will then be able to spot more effectively than humans. Used for everything from the mechanics of self-driving cars to Google image search, this is an increasingly powerful part of the digital ecomomy. But what happens to work when it makes itself obsolete. In this stimulating work that blends political economy, studies of contemporary work, and speculations on the future of capitalism, Phil Jones looks at what this often murky and hidden form of labour looks like, and what it says about the state of global capitalism.”
  • Justice Department files antitrust suit to block $2 billion merger of Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster. The administration said the proposed merger ‘would likely harm competition in the publishing industry.’ That loss of competition would undermine authors’ power to obtain advances and other services crucial for their books and careers, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division alleged in a civil lawsuit.”
  • Scientists trace origin of Mars meteorites on Earth to ‘Tooting Crater’. It looks like bits of Tooting likely tooted out into space and later landed on our planet.”
  • Organic molecules revealed on Mars by Curiosity’s new kind of experiment“—”An international team of space researchers working with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has found previously unknown organic molecules on Mars using a new experiment aboard the Curiosity rover.”
  • This bizarre ‘superbubble’ spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope has scientists scratching their heads. Scientists aren’t exactly sure how it formed.”
  • An ancient fireball turned miles of this desert to glass“—”The Atacama Desert in Chile has been used as a way to simulate alien environments, like Mars on Earth. Now, researchers believe it was the site of an ancient comet explosion intense enough to create giant slabs of silicate glass, according to a new study.” Also “Stargazers in Chile’s Atacama Desert search for alien life and ‘dark energy’“—”In Chile’s dry Atacama Desert, stargazers are scanning the clear night skies to detect the existence of life on other planets and study so-called ‘dark energy,’ a mysterious cosmic force thought to be driving the accelerating expansion of the universe.”
  • James Webb: Hubble telescope successor faces ‘two weeks of terror’. Engineers like to describe the process of landing a rover on Mars as the ‘seven minutes of terror’.”—”The successor observatory to the mighty Hubble telescope has been built to see the very first stars to shine in the Universe. These very faint, very distant targets require a huge telescope design, one that is so big it has to be folded to fit inside its launch rocket, and then, once in orbit, unfolded again to begin taking pictures of the cosmos. This unfurling has been called an origami exercise in reverse, where the delicate figure is the size of a tennis court. It all takes place over a period of about 14 days, immediately after the launch in mid-December.”
  • Discovery of Pompeii slaves’ room sheds rare light on real Roman life. Cramped room contains beds, chamber pot and other items used in slave family’s ‘precarious’ existence.”
  • Tweet—”My new favorite historical artifact is this 1,000 year old, 14-sided die from Korea with instructions for a drinking game.” “Known as a juryeonggu (주령구, lit. ‘liquor command tool’), each side of the die has an action, like ‘drink two cups’ or ‘dance without music’.”
  • Top psychologist group apologizes for its role in perpetuating racism. ‘APA sincerely and formally apologizes to communities of color for these actions and inactions,’ the apology read.”
  • Dr. Aaron T. Beck, Developer of Cognitive Therapy, Dies at 100. It was an answer to Freudian analysis: a pragmatic, thought-monitoring approach to treating anxiety, depression and other mental disorders, and it changed psychiatry.”
  • MIT researchers create AI system that could make robots better at handling objects. The system can manipulate more than 2,000 objects.”—”A team of scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has developed a system that could one day give robots that same kind of dexterity. Using a model-free reinforcement AI algorithm, they created a simulated, anthropomorphic hand that could manipulate more than 2,000 objects. What’s more, the system didn’t need to know what it was about to pick up to find a way to move it around in its hand.”
  • Watch “#InBetweenSneak | Adobe MAX Sneaks 2021″—”A picture speaks a thousand words…but what if it could say more? Project In-Between presents a new way to cherish your memories of times past. Let’s say for example you have two images taken moments apart. Project In-Between utilizes the power of Adobe Sensei to generate an animated bridge between the pair of pictures, breathing new life into old photos. This isn’t just for static images though — by providing a short video clip Project In-between can also produce silky smooth slow-motion footage so you can savor every moment again and again.”
  • Fb now attacking anyone who’s had the letters “meta” in their name, applied retroactively. Tweet—”…Cripes. :/” Also Tweet—”Facebook filed its trademark application for Meta this week and I’ve never seen anything like this.” And “Wow! Facebook (Meta) just unpublished our game studio page.
  • Amazon takes another swipe at union as Alabama rematch looms.”
  • Tweet—”Today is the 50th Anniversary of the 1st Edition of Unix…. It was targeted at the PDP-11/20 with 8kW of memory (16,384 bytes)….”
  • He predicted the dark side of the Internet 30 years ago. Why did no one listen? Philip Agre earned his PhD in 1989 in computer science, but his greatest impact came when he left the technical side of the field and helped create the field of social informatics, or the study of how technology and humanity interact. Then he disappeared, leaving behind a legacy of work that was eerily prescient in predicting how technology would impact society.”
  • Newsmax reporter’s tweets blocked for claiming Covid vaccine contains satanic marker“—”Twitter suspended Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson for posting blatant misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine, including claims the shots contain tracking devices linked to the devil.” “‘Dear Christians: the vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked. Read the last book of the New Testament to see how this ends,’ Robinson wrote in a now-deleted tweet. That claim has been debunked: The Covid-19 vaccines do not contain luciferase.” By the by, lucifrase sounds cool, but not the way they make it out to be. Via Wikipedia—”Luciferase is a generic term for the class of oxidative enzymes that produce bioluminescence, and is usually distinguished from a photoprotein.” As an aside, check out Luciferase [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Sam Branton—”Luciferase is a collection of monochrome drawings. They follow on from Branton’s previous series Deluge which imagined the aftermath and impact on wildlife after a great flood. In Luciferase, Branton uses light from an arcane phenomena to illuminate, and to catch off guard, what might be taking place if animals were left in the dark for too long.”
  • HPV vaccine cutting cervical cancer by nearly 90%. The human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine is cutting cases of cervical cancer by nearly 90%, the first real-world data shows.”
  • That escalated quickly. “Why some alleged Capitol rioters are acting as their own attorneys“—”Speaking to Judge Lamberth, Hostetter said he wanted to represent himself, in part, to save on expensive legal bills, and also to expose what he views as a ‘corrupt’ prosecution. The judge proposed appointing a standby attorney to help Hostetter with some of the legal intricacies of his case. Hostetter agreed on the condition that the attorney not have ‘any association with secret societies such as Yale’s Skull & Bones, Freemasonry, or other organizations that require oaths or vows of secrecy that often feed into the masonic lodges such as the Elks Club, for example, which could potentially be a big part of my case.'”
  • Alleged Jan. 6 Rioter Tries to Sell Home on Zillow, Inadvertently Reveals Cache of Explosives: FBI“—”But it was a picture included in a sales listing for his house on Zillow that led to his latest troubles. In a photo from ‘what appears to be Brown’s office,’ FBI agents spotted a whiteboard with columns labeled ‘Food,’ ‘Clothing,’ ‘Shelter,’ ‘Currency,’ ‘Communicate,’ ‘Move,’ and ‘Shoot,’ the warrant states. In the ‘shoot’ column, it continues, ‘there are numerous firearms listed and explosive devices such as ‘flash bangs.” The entry on the whiteboard indicated that Brown had the flash bangs ‘on hand,’ the filing says, adding that Brown ‘is not registered to possess explosive devices.'”
  • Tweet—”The endpoint for millions of QAnon followers appears to be a bloodbath against Democrats and Jews. The movement, meanwhile, is in the midst of change. Will they become a new religion, or end up a terrorist group like the Klan?” Also “Is Qanon a Tragedy, a Danger, or a Terrorist Group? Freedom of religion is one of America’s top values and deserves respect. Terror groups, on the other hand, have no place in a civilized society.”
  • Texans pass all 8 state constitutional amendments, including COVID-19 shutdown protections for churches. With only nine percent of registered voters casting a ballot, Texans handily approved Propositions 3 and 6, which were both drafted to skirt pandemic restrictions.”
  • Authorities Arrest Analyst Who Contributed to Steele Dossier. Igor Danchenko, a Russia analyst who worked with Christopher Steele, the author of a dossier of rumors and unproven assertions about Donald J. Trump, was taken into custody as part of the Durham investigation.”
  • You Damn Karens Are Killing America. Democrats aren’t going to win over the majority of white women, and they need to stop trying and instead court the diverse coalition that can save this country from itself.”
  • Milk, it does a body political-economic good. Tweet and replies—”‘A gallon of milk was $1.99. Now it’s $2.79. When you buy 12 gallons a week times four weeks, that’s a lot of money.’ @EvanMcS goes grocery shopping with the Stotlers and shows us how badly inflation is hitting the middle class.” Tweet—”Interviewing the family who adopted 14 children about how much their groceries cost” is the new ‘finding an Obama-Trump voter in a diner in Ohio’.” Tweet—”12 gallons of milk is the new 30-50 feral hogs.” Tweet—”The whole milk retail price per gallon in this country has not been $1.99 since 1979. Also, who is buying 12 gallons of milk a week? Did CNN stop to ask any of these questions?” Tweet—”The average price of a gallon of milk in America has has not been $1.99 at any time in the last 26 years. (The tables I found didn’t go past 1995.) It’s currently around $3.64; last year, it was in the $3.50 range. Exceedingly few households buy a dozen gallons of milk per week.” Tweet—”Instead of making jokes about milk we should make the case to the Stotlers that we passed a $300/per child/month tax credit that both of their Republican senators voted against.” Tweet—”there’s always some story like ‘people are suffering because milk went up 5 cents’ and never ‘we have to budget for milk because our rent went up $500, our health care is $10,000/year, my kids’ college fund requires $100k and every house in our budget is now $100k more expensive’.” Tweet—”You spoke to a family with 9 kids? Because that’s representative of a typical family? Did you discuss the $2250/mo (or more depending on ages) in CTC they are getting as parents now (and those of us without kids aren’t) to help with basic child needs costs?” Also “CNN Explains How Joe Biden’s Inflation Hurts Typical American Family With Nine Kids.”—”The Stotlers seem like a pretty nice family, with their nine kids, because don’t most American families in 2021 have nine kids? We guess 11 people in a family is pretty close to the national average of 3.15 members, so good enough for CNN. Let’s watch this perfectly atypical family make sense of all the terrible inflation that’s happening these days. Listen carefully, because we have a feeling some of the numbers these nice folks rattle off just might be the teensiest bit inaccurate…”
  • Israeli government brands human rights groups ‘terrorists’“—”Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz declared six prominent Palestinian NGOs and human rights groups ‘terror organisations’ in October. They include the oldest Palestinian human rights organisation, Al-Haq, which was established in 1979, as well as two political prisoner advocacy groups: Addameer and Defence for Children International-Palestine. The latter campaigns specifically for the rights of Palestinian child political prisoners.”
  • Only 1 Black Juror Is Chosen for Trial Over Ahmaud Arbery’s Killing. After a grueling selection process, opening statements in the case against three white men accused of chasing down and killing Mr. Arbery are expected to begin on Friday.” Tweet—”Reminder that jury selection regularly weeds out people w/ similar life experience to the alleged victim of race- or gender-based violence but not those w/ similar experiences— or BELIEFS— to the alleged perpetrators. Another way white is rendered ‘neutral’ while Black is ‘Other’.”
  • A High School Suspended a 15-Year-Old After She Reported Sexual Assault. The student is now also required by her school to attend a class called ‘Sexual Harassment is Preventable.'”
  • Marilyn Manson’s accusers detail his alleged abuse. ‘He’s so much worse than his persona’.”—”For three decades, goth rock singer Marilyn Manson reveled in his image as the ultimate pop-culture villain. In a U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, the British-born actor Esmé Bianco is waging a legal battle to prove that his menacing persona was all too real.”
  • Profit-hungry hippies aren’t progressive“—”In the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, locals pride themselves on their reputation for progressive thinking and sustainable living. Before the pandemic, this meant that residents could avail themselves of whale-song healing sessions, and specialists were available to perform reiki on ailing trees. Alternative medicine posed no serious risk to the community at large: only its purchasers might experience non-fatal overdoses of “detoxifying” frog poison or waste money on fraudulent ‘cures’ for serious illnesses. But things have taken a more sinister turn since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. NSW’s regional counterculture capitals have experienced a political awakening, emerging as some of country’s most concentrated and stubborn anti-vaccine communities.”
  • Meet Australia’s Batshit Insane Mining Billionaires. If you want to know why a country that regularly catches fire has such disastrous climate policy, start here.”
  • Drug Users Are Nostalgic for ‘Old-School Heroin’ as Fentanyl Takes Over. In many former heroin strongholds in the U.S. and Canada, the opioid is disappearing, fueling fentanyl overdoses and prompting some users to push for a renaissance.”
  • The Ketamine Cure. The once-taboo drug has been repurposed to treat depression and is even available for delivery. But how safe is it?”
  • Eliza Clark Sees a Future for Y: The Last Man“—”We’ve talked in the writers’ room about how the first stage of the apocalypse is grief and scrambling. The second stage is sex. I think there’s a way in which the second season would be expansive and queer and exciting. Now we’ve shed our old identities and are starting to actually make our lives in the present instead of being so attached to the past.”
  • Tweet—”Labor education power point, circa 1949.”
  • Monkeys and Pole Assassins and Longhorns, oh my! Texas special teams coach implicated in bizarre #MonkeyGate animal-attack scandal.” Also “A Texas football coach’s monkey bit a child and started the strangest sports story of the year. The monkey, ‘Pole Assassin’ and Halloween have made everything go wild.”—”The monkey’s jaws apparently had to be pried off the small child.”
  • The Empathy Racket. The pious and dreary insistence on heightened empathy as a proper or desirable response to art is made only by those with a stunted understanding of what art is.”
  • Finneas, a Pop Star’s Secret Weapon, Strides Into the Spotlight. He’s won eight Grammys alongside his sister, Billie Eilish, and worked with some of the genre’s biggest stars. Now the 24-year-old musician is arriving as a solo artist with ‘Optimist.'” Optimist [Amazon, Apple, Spotify, YouTube] by Finneas.
  • Unpacking: A zen puzzle game about unpacking a life. Unpacking is a game about the familiar experience of pulling possessions out of boxes and fitting them into a new home. Part block-fitting puzzle, part home decoration, you are invited to create a satisfying living space while learning clues about the life you’re unpacking. Over the course of eight house moves, you are given a chance to experience a sense of intimacy with a character you never see and a story you’re never told.”