Piketty on the "Brahmin left" and the "merchant right"

Thomas Piketty, the French economist behind 2014's game-changing Capital in the 21st Century, has a new book, Capital and Ideology (out in France now, coming in English in 2020), which uses the same long-run economic series that Capital 21C benefited from to understand the relationship between wealth and ideology. Central to Piketty's thesis: that it's not enough to use class to understand how people vote -- you also have to take account of peoples' beliefs about class (this is a neat way of resolving the tension between traditional left class analysis and contemporary "identitarian" theories of leftist politics). (more…)

Save over 25% on this open source portable gaming console

On the one hand, nostalgia is "a corruption of the historical impulse," according to William Gibson. On the other hand, "Super Mario Bros." will never not be cool. Luckily, there's a way to satisfy that retro gaming while still keeping an eye on the future: The GameShell Kit.

This thing is simultaneously the last handheld console you'll ever need and the potential first step into a limitless world of indie gaming and maker culture. It's embedded, open-source GNU/LINUX operating system comes pre-installed with Cave Story, Freedom and more, but can be used to play old-school hits from the NES, Atari, Game Boy, PS1 - you name it. Just hop on to PICO8, LOVE2D or one of several game engines and take your pick of the classics.

And that's just for starters. You can use ClockworkPi to mod your favorite games or fully create new ones. You can even use the customizable keypad on the GameShell as a mini-computer or controller for your own projects. After you get hold of this, any other handheld won't just seem retro - it'll be downright obsolete.

Originally priced at $199, you can now get the GameShell Kit: Open Source Portable Game Console for 28% off at $142.99.

New York Times: Brett Kavanaugh thrusting his penis in a woman's face "may seem like harmless fun"

The New York Times has a story out today about Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh's old schoolmates tattling on sexual misbehavior, and the FBI's refusal to talk to any of them in its abbreviated and crudely politicized investigation of him. Here's the tweet the NYT used to pitch it to readers:

This is what Richard Rorty described twenty years ago as the coming age of "jocular contempt for women" in public life. He was wrong, though, in thinking it would be a fashion of badly-educated Americans reacting against college graduates. You think the person who wrote that headline skipped school?

UPDATE: The NYT deleted the tweet, without apology, claiming it was "poorly phrased."

On the contrary, the sentiment contained in the tweet was phrased concisely and unambiguously. It is not the phrasing that was poor.

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert sentenced to 10 years in Iran prison

University of Melbourne lecturer and researcher Kylie Moore-Gilbert was sentenced to 10 years in an Iran prison for undisclosed reasons. Dr. Moore-Gilbert specializes in Middle East politics and youth democracy movements in the region.

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

She is being held in the same facility as Australian travel bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin who were arrested after allegedly flying a drone near a military zone near the Iranian capital. The three are being held in Evin Prison, a facility often used to house the country's political prisoners. Former detainees have described it as a frightening place where foreigners are often kept in extreme isolation.

Amnesty International's Eilidh Macpherson said this week she was concerned the Australian detainees may have been subjected to “serious human rights violations, including denial of access to a lawyer and even torture or other ill-treatment".

The exact charges Moore-Gilbert was facing have not been confirmed.

Here's a 2017 interview with Dr. Moore-Gilbert:

Image: YouTube

Painting freaky illusions on the road as virtual speed bumps

Photo of floating-bar illusion painted on a road

A town in Iceland has installed some innovative speed bumps -- a set of painted bars on the road that create the illusion of floating in the air.

As Bored Panda writes:

Not only does the innovative design give foot-travelers the feeling of walking on air, but the 3D painting also gets the attention of drivers, who will be sure to slow down their speed once they spot the seemingly floating ‘zebra stripes.’ Icelandic environmental commissioner Ralf Trylla called for its placement in Ísafjörður after seeing a similar project being carried out in New Delhi, India. With the help of street painting company Vegmálun GÍH, his vision of pedestrian crossing signs became a reality.

I love the concept, but almost wonder if it wouldn't cause some possible accidents on its own, as drivers unfamiliar with the illusion suddenly grind to a halt upon seeing bars apparently floating in the air in the road ahead.

Disneyland Evil Queen slays it

There are actors and then there are people who really get into a role and make it theirs! This Evil Queen at Disneyland is definitely in the latter category. Watch her play around as her big, bad, narcissistic, villainous self with guests of the park.

Here are longer videos of the Queen from Fatima Lakhani, a YouTuber who specializes in "character interactions":

screenshot via GMA

Thieves steal golden toilet

Two years ago, I informed you of the fully-functional golden toilet created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, then available for use at the Guggenheim. The installation, currently on tour, was stolen last night from Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. One man was arrested; police are hunting for the rest of the gang—and for the precious pissoir.

A gang broke into the Oxfordshire palace at about 04:50 BST and stole the artwork, Thames Valley Police said.

The working toilet - entitled America, which visitors had been invited to use - has not been found but a 66-year-old man has been arrested.

The burglary caused "significant damage and flooding" because the toilet was plumbed into the building, police said.

The toilet was previously assailed by a yarn bomber.

French city makes its buses free, spurring new ridership and decreasing car use

Photo of a bus in Dunkirk, France, by harry_nl

A year ago, the city of Dunkirk in France made its bus system entirely free -- causing a boom in ridership, as well as a drop in car usage.

In the year since, as France 24 notes, an academic study of the system has found ...

... that ridership has spiked over the last year, more than doubling on weekends and increasing by around 60 percent during the week.

More revealing than the simple increase is the way that the free buses are changing residents’ habits. In a town where a large majority of residents (about two-thirds) have typically depended on their cars to get around, half of the 2,000 passengers surveyed by researchers said they take the bus more or much more than before. Of those new users, 48 percent say they regularly use it instead of their cars. Some (approximately 5 percent of the total respondents) even said that they sold their car or decided against buying a second one because of the free buses.

The free buses are also unlocking entirely new activity -- of those new riders, 33% say they're taking new trips they wouldn't have taken before at all. (I gleaned this from reading the academics' preliminary report here, via my rudimentary Canadian French and some Google Translate.)

I'm not surprised it unlocks new demand; if you make something free to jump on and off, you remove not just the sticker price (significant, obviously) but the fiddly little transactional costs (do I have the right change/money/pass on hand right now?), prompting evermore spur-of-the-moment usage.

On top of that is the potent symbolism, as the editor of a city magazine in Dunkirk observes:

It’s become a synonym of freedom,” she says, attracting those who might not otherwise have used public transport. In this largely working-class city, “people of limited means say they’ve rediscovered transport” – a prerequisite to finding a job, maintaining friendships or participating in local arts and culture. But it’s not only disadvantaged or working-class people who take the bus. It is also attracting white-collar workers, students and pensioners, according to Delevoye.

Me, I'd love to see an analysis of the impact on a few other aspects of city life. One is the economic ledger -- i.e. the cost of making the system free, measured against its economic benefits. (I'd imagine that on top of attracting new residents, it'd spur all manner of economic and cultural activity, and improve the efficiency of how people access government services.) The other is the environmental and climate impact; shifting so much travel from cars to buses probably reduces emissions, and I'd love to see how much.

(CC-2.0-licensed photo of a Dunkirk bus courtesy the Flickr stream of harry_nl)

This is your smartphone on feminism

Maria Farrell admits that comparing smartphones to abusive men (they try to keep you from friends and family, they make it hard to study or go to work, they constantly follow you and check up on you) might seem to trivialize domestic partner violence, but, as she points out, feminists have long been pointing out both the literal and metaphorical ways in which tech replicates misogyny. (more…)

Boost your data analytics skills with this master class on Tableau

The field of data analytics can get intimidating, even for business professionals who constantly rely on it. But at its heart, its purpose is to simplify. To take mounds of information and distill their insights into a single clear picture.

Currently, the go-to software for painting that picture is Tableau. And if you want to use it to its fullest potential, there's no quicker way than the Mastering Tableau Certification Bundle.

Even if you're just diving into Tableau - or data analytics in general - this five-course package will have you wrangling datasets in no time. It focuses primarily on Tableau Desktop 10 and its ability to easily handle multiple streams of data, rendering them into intuitive (even interactive) charts and dashboards. In under 20 total hours, you'll learn how to create your own dashboards with practice sets, design effective visualizations and execute cross-database joins and other data prep essentials,

Right now, you can get lifetime access to the complete Mastering Tableau Certification Bundle for $25 today.

A fun thing to do in LA on 9/22/19: screening of The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952)

If you live in Los Angeles, I highly recommend paying a visit to Japan House in Hollywood. It's an event and cultural center created by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and features art exhibits, lectures, architecture and technology exhibits, and more. Its upcoming "Movie & Bites" event is a perfect reason to visit:

Sunday, September 22
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM | $20
JAPAN HOUSE Salon | Level 5

A meal brings people together in more ways than one. As well as nourishing the body with sustenance, a meal can evoke forgotten memories and renew bonds that have weakened over time and distance. In this installment of “Movie & Bites,” a combined screening and culinary event featuring acclaimed works in Japanese film and television, these themes will be explored in The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952) by legendary filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu.

Taking place in 1950s Tokyo, a wealthy middle-aged couple find themselves growing apart and their marriage slowly disintegrating. Taeko, a sophisticated, city-bred housewife, is bored and resentful of her marriage to Mokichi, a humble and provincial businessman whose simple pleasures include cheap cigarettes and a taste for the unassuming, eponymous dish: green tea over rice (ochazuke). The couple’s marital woes are heightened by the arrival of Taeko’s vivacious niece, Setsuko, whose modernizing ways come into conflict with Taeko and Mokichi’s traditional views. Ozu, a master of observational storytelling, crafts an emotionally powerful yet austere film that shows the gentle unraveling of a marriage, the growing pains of acceptance, and the timorous, hesitant first steps at reconciliation over a mutual understanding of each other’s flaws and humanity.

This event features a discussion with lecturer and filmmaker Brandon Wilson, MFA. Wilson, a fan of Ozu's works who has taught classes on Japanese cinema at Columbia College Hollywood, will share his thoughts on the relationship between food and culture, and how its depictions in cinema reveal insights about everyday lives.

Participants will be served salmon ochazuke and popcorn to enjoy throughout the screening.

Register here.

No trains or buses from Narita to Tokyo after the category 3 typhoon = chaos for thousands

I touch down at Narita Airport on schedule and feel lucky to have just missed Typhoon Faxai, a category 3 storm which had passed through the area hours earlier. I’d received a note from the airline that, depending on how fast the typhoon was moving, my flight (which was scheduled to land just after 3 pm) could be canceled or delayed, but we left on time and the updates during the flight suggested all was clear.

As a resident of Japan, I get to use the special “reentry permit holder” lines at immigration which tend to take about 5 minutes to get through, which is incredible compared against the sometimes hour-long queue for visiting foreigners. Once through customs, I have to decide how to get home. Some airports offer no transportation, Narita for all its faults (mostly that it’s so far from Tokyo) offers many. I bounce between taking the Narita Express train or the Airport Limousine bus. Both options will get me to Shinjuku for about $40 and take roughly an hour and a half. From Shinjuku station, I can transfer to a local line and I’m walking in the door of my house about 15 minutes later. I tend to prefer the train because I’m tall and the reserved seats have more legroom, but it runs only once an hour, while there tends to be a bus leaving every 10-15 minutes so the bus is often more convenient. Anyway, my point is as I was walking off the plane at 3 pm I expect to be home by 5pm.

As I approach immigration I’m shocked by the giant crowd flowing into the lines blocking the entire entranceway. The airport greeter, an older gentleman who usually just reminds people to fill out their forms, seems a bit flustered by the crowd. I tell him I have a reentry permit and ask him how to get to the line for that since it’s blocked by a few hundred people. He kindly lifts a barrier strap and points me towards a smaller, yet still much larger than usual, line. It takes about 15 minutes to get through immigration. I assume all of the delayed flights from the morning must have just landed at once. The immigration agent confirms that to be the case, and says it was quiet all morning until just now. I thank her and head down the escalator expecting to pass through Duty-Free and be on a bus moments later. Instead, I’m met by an even larger crowd just outside of customs that seem confused and panic-y.

I think to myself, what a shame all these first-time visitors don’t know how to quickly get out of there like I do. I quietly laugh at their collective n00bness and walk up to the bus counter to buy a ticket. I realize that while the counter is fully staffed all the lights are off, the employees are holding “Closed” signs and sending people away. I’ve never seen that before but didn’t give it much thought either as I beeline for the escalators that lead down to the train platform. This plan is immediately thwarted by a strap across the escalators, which are also turned off and a Japan Rail employee shooing people away. “All trains canceled,” she tells me.

I look around at the crowd and the chaos and it starts to hit me that something strange is going on. I pull out my phone to check Twitter or the news and don’t find anything useful. I overhear a few conversations that suggest all trains and buses had been canceled due to the typhoon throwing debris all over the tracks and the highways being closed. Surely there had to be other options for the likely tens of thousands of people arriving at the airport, right? I walk outside the Arrivals terminal and am immediately struck by both the 90+ degree/80% humidity weather and the longest taxi line I’ve ever seen in my life.

I could guess that there were 3,000 people in the line and that might be a bit conservative. I stand there sweating, partially from the heat and partially from immediate stress of not knowing what to do next. A taxi from Narita to Tokyo was likely to cost 30,000 Yen (about $300) which was not appealing, and that line made it even less so.

I check twitter again and as luck would have it a journalist I follow in Tokyo just retweeted Yan Fan, who was already in the taxi line and asking if anyone else was at NRT and wanted to share the fare into Tokyo. I reply immediately - “Me!!”

A few tweets later and we find each other though unfortunately she’d only just gotten in the line recently herself and wasn’t too far along. Yan introduced me to the others she’d joined with and our quick math suggests that we’ll each be on the hook for 10,000 Yen (about $100) which was more than double the $40 I was expecting from the bus but was fine considering the circumstances and much better than having to foot the whole bill myself.

A half-hour later when we’ve moved maybe 10 feet and the reality of the situation began to hit us. The “#standedatnarita” hashtag was filling up with similar stories and photos of people stuck, without any option to get anywhere. The crowd was growing by the moment. The heat was oppressive, with no breeze of any kind. While Japan usually operates like a finely oiled machine, this was a Grade A clusterfuck. We realize that the reason the taxi line is moving so slow was that there are no taxis to speak of. Every 5 minutes or so a single taxi rolls up, a few people pile in and the whole line takes a step or two forward -- then we wait another 5 minutes for the next single taxi to arrive. At this rate, we weren’t going to get a taxi for hours. The 4th person in our group bails, saying they were going to try to find some other option, but we quickly replace them a coworker of Yan’s who had coincidentally just landed as well.

Some people were opting out of the line and taking hotel courtesy buses either to just crash overnight and hope the trains and buses were running the next day or maybe to have better luck getting a taxi at the hotel. We debate the idea and decided it’s too risky. None of us wants to spend the night in Narita. The line we are in is on the ground floor, at Arrivals -- for people who have just arrived in Japan.

Someone tweeted that they had gone upstairs to Departures and were able to grab a taxi that was dropping someone off in just a few minutes. We send one of our crew up to scope it out, they report back that it seems possible. So we decided to go for it. We jump out of line and head back into the terminal. People behind us probably thought the line was moving now! Once we get to the 4th floor Departures area and look down, the scope of the crowd waiting at Arrivals takes on a whole new level of insanity, but we don’t have time to linger or take photos as we rush towards the area where taxis are dropping people off.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones rushing over there, the airport police are aiming for the same place. At this point I need to explain something about Japan - this is the land of zero flexibility. If something that is being done by three people can more efficiently and easily be done by one person, rest assured it will forever continue to be done by three people because that’s how many people the policy says should be doing it. Ironically it’s this unwillingness to make decisions on the fly that caused me to move to Japan in the first place to help run Safecast when the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station melted down in part because the people running the plant looked disaster in the face and rather than adapting to quickly changing circumstances decided to follow the rules in the book, word-for-word.

But that’s a different story. Currently, at NRT taxis are dropping people off on the 4th floor at Departures, and are then expected to drive down to the 1st floor to pick people up at Arrivals. However, the entire airport is almost gridlocked. A driver we’d spoken to earlier had told us it took him almost 45 minutes to get to Arrivals from Departures. This is probably why so few taxis are down at Arrivals -- they are just leaving to get away from this chaos. On top of that planes are continuing to land and buses and trains are still shut down. Taxis are the only way to reduce the growing number of people waiting outside. But the rule is that taxis are supposed to go down 4 floors before they pick anyone up, and the police are there to enforce that rule. As we walk up with our luggage we see the cops stepping in front of people trying to get in taxis, jumping in front of other taxis that had just loaded people in, blowing their whistles, and generally ensuring that a messed up situation remains messed up.

We are momentarily defeated until we spot an empty taxi one lane over, almost about to pull out of the drop off area. With the police focused on people curbside we decide to go for it. We run out across a lane of traffic to the other side and through the window ask the driver if he can take 4 people to Tokyo. He looks at us, looks at our bags, looks at the cops, then back to us and says “get in!” We pile in as fast as possible loading the back up with our suitcases and struggling to close the back door. As the latch finally engages we can see a pair of police officers walking towards us waving their hands. “Let’s go!” we cried, and the driver hits the gas. Very briefly, as he can only move a few feet, because that’s all the room there is between us and the car stopped in front of us. We look back and the police are still coming, then look ahead just in time to see a barricade that had previously been blocking the onramp for the highway being pulled away. “Highway is open!!” the driver says, and he makes a hard left and guns it out onto the open highway, not a single car ahead of us. We’ve escaped!

As we drive away from the airport we can see the oncoming lanes are completely packed, and dead stopped. Those people are going to be missing some flights for sure. It was at this point the driver laid out the hard truth for us. The roads are still mostly closed, so the usual hour and a half drive is going to take closer to 3. Also, the rate is doubled. We can expect a final charge of around 60,000 yen. We gulped, and nodded, knowing the only other option was back at the airport and we didn’t want any of that. We were glad he’d taken the chance to rescue us.

Air condition blasting and finally headed home, we rip into leftover snacks from our respective flights -- snack bars, chips, fiery Cheetos -- you know, travel comfort food. We check the internets and see how much of a disaster things remained at the airport. I accidentally caught a fellow not to be named traveler licking Red No.5 off their fingers -- “this is a low moment for me” they said. “Don’t worry, the secret is safe.” We sank back into our seats, scanning the side of the road for further evidence of the typhoon that put this all into motion hours earlier.

We had to drive quite far out of the way to get in due to road closures but also gave us a chance to reroute to a functioning train station on the edge of Tokyo rather than going all the way to the center. This let us dump the expensive taxi and go our separate ways on local lines without anyone backtracking which made more sense anyway. Final taxi bill was about 8,000 yen each. Just after 9 pm, I walked in the door at home, feeling like I’d escaped a war.

Image: Twitter/Sean Bonner

The creepy chemist behind CIA's search for a mind control drug

In the 1950s and 1960s, creepy chemist Sidney Gottlieb headed the CIA's efforts to find a mind control drug. Gottlieb and his delightful associates in the MK-Ultra project thought LSD, still legally manufactured, held the most promise. So they bought every drop of acid in the world and ran numerous horrible experiments on unwitting civilians to test its efficacy. Journalist Stephen Kinzer tells the tale in a new book out this week titled Poisoner In Chief. From an NPR interview with Kinzer:

Some of Gottlieb's experiments were covertly funded at universities and research centers, Kinzer says, while others were conducted in American prisons and in detention centers in Japan, Germany and the Philippines. Many of his unwitting subjects endured psychological torture ranging from electroshock to high doses of LSD, according to Kinzer's research.

"Gottlieb wanted to create a way to seize control of people's minds, and he realized it was a two-part process," Kinzer says. "First, you had to blast away the existing mind. Second, you had to find a way to insert a new mind into that resulting void. We didn't get too far on number two, but he did a lot of work on number one..."

Whitey Bulger was one of the prisoners who volunteered for what he was told was an experiment aimed at finding a cure for schizophrenia. As part of this experiment, he was given LSD every day for more than a year. He later realized that this had nothing to do with schizophrenia and he was a guinea pig in a government experiment aimed at seeing what people's long-term reactions to LSD was. Essentially, could we make a person lose his mind by feeding him LSD every day over such a long period?

Bulger wrote afterward about his experiences, which he described as quite horrific. He thought he was going insane. He wrote, "I was in prison for committing a crime, but they committed a greater crime on me."

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control (Thanks Doug Rushkoff!)

Next 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9