A 46-year old black man named George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on Monday, May 25, 2020. A police officer named Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck, after vaguely accusing him of forgery and/or public intoxication. He pressed his knee down so hard — and kept it there — that it cut off the air to Floyd's lungs, suffocating him. Three police officers stood around and watched as Floyd used his last breaths to cry for help; several bystanders filmed the scene, and tried to get the cops to stop, but to no avail.
Those 4 police officers were fired shortly after the video was released (by their official account, Floyd had been "resisting arrest," something which is a physically impossible to do while also dying under restraint). That sounds like good news on the surface — but thanks to Police Union rules, bad cops who get fired for misconduct usually just get re-hired in a nearby precinct. Their past behavior — even repeated, established patterns of violent misconduct — are left off their permanent record, or otherwise ignored.
And that's exactly how the police officer who killed George Floyd was in the position to do so in the first place. As Insider reports, Derek Chauvin had a long and ugly history of police brutality, long before he killed George Floyd:
Read the rest
[Chauvin] was involved in violent incidents before, including three police shootings. And he has been the subject of 10 complaints filed to the city's Civilian Review Authority and the Office of Police Conduct.
After Trump threw a tantrum over Twitter doing the bare-minimum to fact-check his deliberately misleading tweets, Trump announced plans to sign an Executive Order that forces social media to "protect" "free speech." Because government-approved top-down authoritarian control of private companies is apparently now a central tenet of the Republican Party.
Content Moderation expert Kate Klonick shared a draft of the order.
You can read the full document here, which hinges on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (as well as the continued wolf-crying fantasy of "conservative censorship"). If you want the sparknotes, Vice has a pretty comprehensive breakdown:
Read the rest
As far as legislation goes, the first subsection of 230 is concise and powerful: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
In the order, Trump also makes the argument that social media companies' actions should not "infringe on protected speech," which would be a massive change from Section 230 as it's currently worded, which makes an explicit carve-out for restricting protected speech. This will, unequivocally, change the internet as a whole and make it worse.
Latonya Lark wrote on Facebook:
My prior delimer... Mr Turtle was found at fault but he did not have insurance. He got escorted to the Wildlife reserve, I got stuck with the bill. So beware Savannah of flying turtle on the Truman Parkway. My brother almost lost his head. Besides my sugar going off the roof.. I am fine but disturbed..
The Savannah NBC affiliate has some more details on the incident, which took place on Harry S. Truman Parkway near Montgomery Cross Road in Savannah. It's not clear how or why this turtle was airborne; and unfortunately, we won't have any answers soon — the turtle lost a leg in the incident, and passed away during treatment at Savannah Animal Care.
Turtle smashes through Savannah driver’s windshield on Truman Parkway [Ashley Williams / WSAV] Read the rest
If you're looking for more quarantine activities — for yourself, or your kids, or something to do together! — the British rock magazine Kerrang! is now offering coloring book variants of some of their covers, featuring famous rock bands:
We have turned seven Kerrang! magazine covers (plus a bonus My Chemical Romance photo) into elaborate colouring-in pages for you to turn into Technicolor masterpieces. We’ve got Slipknot, Lemmy, BABYMETAL and Ozzy Osbourne [and more] to choose from.
Not only will it give you (or your young ones) a chance to practice your artistic skills, colouring-in is ideal for relieving stress and improving mental health.
You can download all available Kerrang! coloring book pages here. And if you email your best designs to the magazine, you could get featured in an upcoming issue!
Design your own Kerrang! Magazine Cover Read the rest
In my 90s childhood Star Wars obsession, I remember hearing a lot about the fabled NPR radio drama adaptations (read: "podcast") of the original trilogy. They were supposed to be canonical, in-as-much as they were Lucas-approved stories that expanded on the familiar ones we already knew.
Now, someone has finally compiled them all on YouTube (although apparently you can find the MP3s on Archive.org as well). And wow, they are expanded — the A New Hope radio drama is 13 hours long!
It's quite a stark departure from the movies I'm used to. The first chapter focuses exclusively on Luke, and highlights his relationships with his friends at Tosche Station — Cammie, Fixer, Deke, and the OG prodigal son, Biggs Darklighter (there's a version of some of this material floating as a deleted scene, but it's not nearly as expansive as this). Chapter Two turns more attention to Leia and her relationship with her father, as well as the information that lead them to the Death Star plans in the first place. It's not even until the third chapter that we get to the opening scene of the movie (that's as far as I've listened yet). It definitely conflicts with the newly established canon, especially Rogue One, but I'm enjoying the experience of re-discovering this world in a different format, with different and exciting details filling out the edges. I'm eager to find out what other ancillary characters might get more of a spotlight treatment here.
From the editor who posted these compilations on YouTube:
Read the rest
I have combined all episodes of the original radio drama using excerpts from John Williams' original soundtrack and Ben Burt's sound effects for a more seamless blending from one episode to the next.
Nate Powell is the writer and artist behind About Face, a brilliant webcomic about America's obsession with fascist fashion. His latest comic, Hide Out, is less of a macro-scale political analysis, and more of a quiet, reflective, internal piece about life in apocalyptic scenarios — but it's just as powerful, and just as much worth reading.
This Isn’t My Fantasy Apocalypse [Nate Powell / The Nib] Read the rest
Earlier this spring, more than 20 members of Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos pan flute orchestra left their homes in Bolivia and embarked on a European tour. They arrived in Germany on March 10, right as that country's government imposed a ban on large gatherings to fight the spread of coronavirus. Within days, their bus had broken down, and all of their performances had been cancelled, and their own government back home in Bolivia announced that it would close its own borders, leaving the orchestra stranded. Read the rest
We've been cleaning out and sorting through some stuff we had in storage, which I re-discovered this generous gift that someone (my mother-in-law?) bought me at some point in time. My sister picked it up, asking why I had a poop-shaped cookie cutter in the pile with my Star Wars cookie cutters. Normally, this would be a valid question to ask — it is certainly reasonable to think that I would own both poop and Star Wars cookie cutters. But then I had to remind her that, no, that was in fact, a Jawa, a member of the Tatooinian trader race that's also kind of uncomfortably anti-Semitic once you start to think about it.
Now, I'm not sure why this particular cookie cutter set came with a Jawa. An Ewok would have probably made more sense (while still remaining slightly poop-like). I can't find this particularly set available anywhere else on the Internet; William-Sonoma sells an 8-pack of Star Wars cookie cutters with the exact same Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3pO molds — but alas, no Poop Jawa. Walmart sells a lone Poop Jawa cookie cutter for a whopping $18. I'm assuming that someone at Williams-Sonoma decided to discontinue the Poop Jawa — not because it looks like a poop, but because, who the hell wants a Jawa cookie cutter anyway?
There is one link on Amazon for a Star Wars Press-and-Stamp Cookie Cutters, Set of 4 Droids and Aliens: R2-D2, C-3PO, Jawa and Chewbacca. Unfortunately, it has no pictures, and it's not available anyway. Read the rest
In a continuation from Trump's Do-As-I-Say-Don't-Say-As-I-Do approach to mail-in voter ballots, the Republican National Committee has sued the state of California in an effort to stop their vote-by-mail outreach ahead of November's election.
The suit comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced this month that the state would move to encourage all voters to cast their ballots by mail in November -- the most widespread expansion of vote-by-mail that has been announced as a result of the pandemic and in the nation's most populous state.
The RNC's lawsuit challenges that step, marking a significant escalation in the legal battles between Republicans and Democrats that are currently being waged in more than a dozen states.
"Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Governor Newsom's executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections," said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement.
"Newsom's illegal power grab is a recipe for disaster that would destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in the security of their vote."
To be clear: encouraging people to vote is not a power grab. Nor is it illegal. It is, in fact, a core tenet upon which the foundation of a functioning democracy — even a Representative Democracy! — is built. Curiously, it's also one of the only issues that make Republicans err on the side of extreme caution, infringing on clearly-stated Constitutional rights just in case a single vote ever goes awry. Read the rest
Dr. Steven Levine is a renowned New York plastic surgeon, best known for his face-lifts and breast augmentation work. And apparently, as he told The Cut, he's received a lot of requests for in-home service during this pandemic:
The volume of calls, and level of intensity, is probably higher during COVID than not COVID. Almost every virtual consult ends with “How quickly can you do this?” They want to take advantage of this perceived downtime. It seems like the perfect time to recover from a procedure like a face-lift, where you need at least two weeks to lay low (whereas for breast augmentation, you only need a few days to rest at home).
Extremely successful people are used to getting what they want, when they want it. That is the reality of their life. One very well-known entrepreneur wanted to come to my office on the Upper East Side and get her face done, like, yesterday. She offered me more than four times my usual fee, all cash, and told me she’d have her lawyer draft a nondisclosure that she wouldn’t tell anyone we did it. I told her, “I love you to death, but no.”
Beyond the obvious arrogance of this whole scenario, it also sounds like a horror movie waiting to happen. More at the link.
My Wealthiest Clients Are Begging for Plastic Surgery in Quarantine [Steven Levine as told to Alyssa Shelasky / The Cut]
Image: April L. Sanders / Flickr (CC 2.0) Read the rest
Journalist Patrick Radden Keefe has done plenty of extensive and gripping longform journalism, including his most recent book, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (which I could not recommend more highly). His newest project is a slight departure from covering topics of crime and radical separationists, but still deals heavily with espionage and subterfuge.
It's about the Scorpions, the English-speaking German rock band who rocked you like a hurricane. And also the CIA.
Here's the official blurb:
It’s 1990. The Berlin Wall just fell. The Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse. And the soundtrack to the revolution is one of the best selling songs of all time, the metal ballad “Wind of Change,” by The Scorpions. Decades later, journalist Patrick Radden Keefe heard a rumor: the song wasn’t written by The Scorpions. It was written by the CIA. This is his journey to find the truth.
Told through exclusive interviews with former CIA officers, on the ground reporting, and more - this podcast embodies the traditional tones of investigative journalism while keeping listeners on their toes through its cinematic pacing, simulating the theatricality of the critically acclaimed film Argo in a podcast. This 8-part series follows Patrick’s search for the truth, a 10 year investigation that traces the 70 year history of our government's meddling into pop music, including everyone from Louis Armstrong and Nina Simone, to Bon Jovi and the Beach Boys.
I've listened to the first two episodes available so far (which is also embedded below), and I'm absolutely hooked. Read the rest
Deaths from motor vehicle crashes and fatal injuries are the biggest source of organs for transplant, accounting for 33% of donations, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the nation's organ transplant system.
But ever since the coronavirus forced Californians indoors, those accidents have declined. Traffic collisions and fatalities in the state dropped by half in the first three weeks of shelter-in-place restrictions, according to a study by the University of California, Davis. Drowning deaths dropped 80% in California, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Stop Drowning Now.
From March 8 to April 11, the number of organ donors who died in traffic collisions was down 23% nationwide compared with the same period last year, while donors who died in all other types of accidents were down 21%, according to data from UNOS.
Well this is awkward.
Organ Transplants Down As Stay-At-Home Rules Reduce Fatal Traffic Collisions [April Dembosky / NPR]
Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons Read the rest
According to a new study from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in the Netherlands, our speaking voices actually register subtle changes along with our gesticulating limbs.
It’s all about acoustics: the pitch and volume of a voice change together with the movement of arms and hands. "That change is very subtle with a wrist movement," says Pouw. “It is less subtle with an arm movement. The pitch jumps up slightly whenever a movement slows down.”
According to Pouw, there are two different causes for these acoustic differences. One of the causes is the creation of vibrations. The forces involved in a movement cause vibrations in your body. Through the connective tissue that holds your body together, vibrations end up in your lungs, affecting the pressure in your lungs.
The second cause is muscle tension around your lungs that is needed to maintain balance. We do not merely use our arm muscles when we move our arms. “When starting the process of stopping your arm from moving, for example, other muscles are suddenly addressed to prevent your body from falling over. These muscles that maintain balance include muscles around your lungs.”
Acoustic information about upper limb movement in voicing [Wim Pouw, Alexandra Paxton, Steven J. Harrison, and James A. Dixon / PNAS]
Body language can also be heard [Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour]
Image: Public Domain via NeedPix Read the rest
How do you take a song that's already brooding and spooky, and turn it into something infinitaly creepier? Read the rest
On the same night that he fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, a watchdog who was allegedly investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over any number of potentially corrupt activities, Trump also terminated a watchdog working for the Department of Transportation. As Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington explains:
At DOT, the acting IG was overseeing a high profile investigation of Secretary Chao’s alleged favoritism benefiting her husband Senator Mitch McConnell’s political prospects, but has now been replaced with a political appointee from within the agency. The acting IG’s ouster calls into question the future of the Chao-McConnell investigation, other critical oversight, and whether the watchdog was dismissed for unearthing damaging information.
Trump’s decision to sideline DOT acting IG Mitch Behm (who has 17 years of experience with OIG) was lost in the shuffle of outrage following the announcement that Trump planned to fire the State Department IG, but potential conflicts of interest abound. The most high profile is the DOT OIG’s review of allegations that Secretary Chao gave Senator McConnell’s constituents special treatment and helped steer millions of federal dollars to Kentucky as he is facing low approval ratings and a tough reelection bid.
Secretary Chao also served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation under President George HW Bush and Secretary of Labor under President George W Bush. Her father is a wealthy and successful Chinese-American shipping magnate who has donated tens of millions of dollars to Senator Mitch McConnell, even before he married Chao in 1993 (McConnell's first wife, Sherrill Redmon, is a feminist scholar at Smith; neither she or their Democrat daughters discuss their relationship with McConnell). Read the rest
In 2017, musician/activist Toshi Reagon began creating an operatic stage adaptation of Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Sower — the 1993 Afrofuturist sci-fi novel about an America in the year 2020 that's ravaged by climate change and income inequality and greedy politicians who appeal to imaginary racists pasts while also promising to build a wall around the wealthy.
Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower: A Concert Experience received renowned productions from Boston to New York to Los Angeles. And now — since it is 2020, and we're living in an America ravaged by climate change and income inequality and greedy politicians who appeal to imaginary racists pasts while also promising to build a wall around the wealthy — the arts program at Emerson College (my alma mater) has announced a year-long residency with Reagon called Parable Path Boston, which will continue to explore Butler's work alongside real-time climate activism in Boston.
To kick off the program, ArtsEmerson will be hosting a one-night screening of the show on Friday, May 22 at 6pm, followed by an online talkback with Toshi Reagon. I'm pretty sure it's free, but you have to register ahead of time for a link.
I have some friends who were involved in the early workshops of the play, who still talk about it as one of their most formative artistic experiences. I know what I'm doing Friday night; but if you're not convinced to join me yet, there's more links below.
Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower [Toshi Reagon / ArtsEmerson]
Parable of the Songwriter: Toshi Reagon Explains Why an Octavia Butler-Inspired Opera Is More Relevant Than Ever [Maiysha Kai / The Root]
A Prescient Sci-Fi ‘Parable’ Gets Set to Music [Jeremy D. Read the rest