• The inspiring prison art of exiled Kurd Zehra Doğan

    The recent work of artist Zehra Doğan is made from coffee, tea, cigarette ash, turmeric, bleach, menstrual blood, and tomato paste, whatever she could find in her Turkish prison cell where she was serving almost three years for her journalism and a painting she did that the Turkish government didn't take kindly to. She smuggled the work out in the laundry.

    An exiled artist who spent almost three years in jail in Turkey is shining a light on Kurdish feminism with a daring exhibition of works she created while behind bars.

    Zehra Doğan was among the thousands of people who have been caught up in arrests and detentions in Turkey since the 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government. Those detained are accused of either supporting the Gülenist movement, blamed for the failed putsch, or the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), a militant group, both of which are outlawed.

    Read the rest here.

    Images: Zehra Doğan

  • Harry Styles rocks a dress for Vogue, gets attacked by dopes

    The cover of Vogue's December issue features pop star Harry Styles in a dress and, predictably, dum-dums have a problem with it. Ben Shapiro and Candace Owens felt the need to chime in on what masculinity means to them, as if their opinions on someone else's gender norms matter at all.

    As predictable as the conservative offenses were, counter-tweets could be expected from people not threatened by a man in a dress, and they rained down upon Tweedle Nit and Tweedle Wit.

    Shade you had coming and shade you have received.

  • Second-by-second forensic recreation of Beirut explosion

    At 20 minutes long, no time is wasted in this forensic reconstruction of August's massive explosion in Beirut. Footage of the fire and the detonation are carefully timestamped and positioned, the smoke plume studied by experts, and both the scene and the explosion modeled in 3D to determine exactly where, why and what happened. I was particularly struck by the fastidious recreation of the warehouse, right down to 243 individual bags of fertilizer, determined by low-quality but unambigious footage from inside the building.

    Shortly after 6 p.m. on August 4, an explosion devastated the port of Beirut, killing more than 200 people and injuring more than 6,500 others. Forensic Architecture was invited by the Egyptian online journal Mada Masr to review the available open source information, including videos, photographs and documents, to help provide an accurate 3D timeline and modeling of events.

    Also some great tips on how to stack and store 800 tons of Ammonium Nitrate.

  • People in COVID-19 lockdowns listen to nostalgic music on Spotify Graphic from The Guardian showing the rise in plays of nostalgic songs during Covid-19

    I'm coming a bit late to this one, but Timothy Yu-Cheong Yeung recently analyzed Spotify listening trends, and found that people in COVID-19 lockdowns prefer to listen to the oldies.

    His paper reporting his findings is here, and there's a good story about it in the Guardian (they created that cool chart, above). Yeung based his analysis on almost 17 trillion songs streams in six European countries; significantly, he defined a nostalgic song as one that's only three years old or older — rather a shorter time-frame than I'd have picked, but hey.

    Nonetheless, a lot of much, much older hits also have been breaking into Spotify's top 200 during lockdowns, as the Guardian notes …

    Toto's Africa made Spotify's UK daily top 200 only 12 times in both February and March. But this had risen to 28 times by May. This increase was eclipsed by the huge surge in popularity of Electric Light Orchestra's 1977 classic Mr Blue Sky, which charted only once in January but peaked at 31 times in May. Another 1977 hit, Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way – one of several tracks by the band to make the top 200 – enjoyed similar success while Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles from 1969, which had never been in the UK's top 200 in the months leading up to Covid-19, made it into the listings 19 times in May and was played up to 63,000 times a day.

    Other old songs that benefited from the nostalgia trend include Oasis's Wonderwall and Don't Look Back in Anger from 1995, Queen's Don't Stop Me Now from 1979 and Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars from 2006. Elton John's Tiny Dancer from 1971 and Bryan Adams's 1985 hit Summer of '69 also crept into the UK top 200 during lockdown. On Friday, the reissue of the Rolling Stones' 1973 album Goat's Head Soup went to No 1 in the UK album charts.

    Nostalgic listening is a bit of a lagging indicator, apparently — as Yeung found in his paper, the peak of nostalgic listening is "roughly 80-100 days after the first day of the lockdown". We apparently need to be cooped up for a few months before we start sweatin' to the oldies.

    He also compared 2020 listening trends to pre-COVID 2019, and in most cases you can really see how nostalgic listening rose as the pandemic wore on. In this chart below, the blue line is 2020 listening, the dashed red line is 2019, and the Y axis is labelled — deliciously — "Average Nostalgia Level". The solid red line marks the point at which Yeung considers the pandemic to have begun in Europe …

  • YouTube to run ads on videos, monetized or not

    Not monetizing your videos? Not eligible to? Too bad. YouTube plans to monetize them anyway, running ads on them, and keep all the money for itself.

    When advertisements run on YouTube videos, those creators typically receive a portion of the revenue through their role in YouTube's Partner Program. With the new monetization rules, a creator who is not in the partner program "may see ads on some of your videos," according to an update to the platform's Terms of Service.

    Prior to the update, YouTube says these videos only received ads in limited circumstances, like if they were monetized by a record label as part of a copyright claim. The update will mostly affect smaller creators without a huge viewership; YouTube's Partner Program requires creators to have accrued 4,000 total hours of watch time over the last 12 months and have more than 1,000 subscribers.

    This makes YouTube trivially useless for any purpose for which advertising would be inappropriate: instructional videos, portfolios of work, movie trailers (!), music videos (!!), public service announcements, and so on. Obviously the likes of Vevo and Hollywood studios will be exempt, as will people and organizations who have established channels with a large enough following to qualify for the partner program. But the age of YouTube as something you can just toss a video on is coming to an end. Indeed, it is time to start thinking about what happens when YouTube gets in a clean-out-the-clutter mood and starts eyeing all those old, low-traffic clips.

  • The Levo II makes creating oil infusions from your favorite botanicals brilliantly simple

    While it's a process that's been used for centuries, you'd be surprised by the way infusion has taken cooking and medicine by storm. 

    For those not as familiar, infusion is sort of like seasoning on steroids, extracting all components of an herb–including its flavor, scent, color, and nutrients–and transferring those properties into another carrier, like an oil or butter. Whether you're seeking nutritional, therapeutic, medicinal, or culinary benefits, infusion can be just the means to deliver the essence you seek from your botanical of choice.

    On the negative side, infusion can often be messy, tedious and ineffective in the wrong hands. The Levo II Herbal Oil Diffuser makes its case for being just the right hands, a premium kitchen appliance that streamlines the infusion process to make it incredibly efficient and easy.

    Whether you're making salves or soaps, smoothies or salad dressing, the Levo II automates all the steps for herbal infusion. Users just add their herb of choice into the Levo II's power pod, then run the plant through a dry or activate cycle, dehydrating and heating the herb to bring out its base qualities. The smell control technology also reduces aroma dispersion, locking in the scent so it says with your finished product, including items like scented candles.

    From just a quarter ounce of crushed herbs, you can turn it into 19 ounces, or just over 2 cups, of infused and highly potent oil or butter. The durable silicone stirrer doesn't aerate your ingredients, which helps it achieve a longer shelf life with no solvents, additives, or emulsifiers required.

    And, just like any good 2020 appliance, the Levo II can be monitored wirelessly through the Levo app on your iPhone or Android smartphone. With the app, users can not only control their infusions from anywhere, but also access their history, use the time and temperature calculator, share and find recipes, and more. Plus, with dishwasher safe components, the whole thing breaks down easily for a quick clean-up. 

    You can hop on the infusion bandwagon with the Levo II Herbal Oil Diffuser and save almost $40 off the regular price. With the current offer, you can get it now for only $211.99.

    Do you have your stay-at-home essentials? Here are some you may have missed.

  • A watch embedded with pieces of Stephen Hawking's desk Photo of the back face of a Bremont wristwatch that incorporates pieces of Stephen Hawking's desk

    The UK watchmaking firm Bremont has just announced it'll be making a limited edition wristwatch that includes small pieces of the desk of pioneering theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

    They're not cheap, starting at $9,995, but they are pretty, and it connects your wrist to Hawking's work, as Monochrome notes:

    The Bremont Hawking incorporates a sample of wood taken from a vintage desk drawer that Hawking inherited from his grandmother. It had been gifted to her as a retirement present, marking her role in founding Yorkshire's Boroughbridge girl's school. It became the desk that Hawking would sit at to recall fond childhood memories and to compose some of his theories on.

    There are some other cool design details on the back of the watch that connect to Hawking's work, as A Blog To Watch notes:

    While the wood samples may be the most dramatic Hawking artifacts on display, they are far from the only ones. A meteorite sample at the center of the design reinforces Hawking's connection to outer space, and the serial number at 6 o'clock is printed on paper from original copies of Hawking's massively influential 1979 research paper "The 'nuts' and 'bolts' of gravity." Completing the scene is a complex etching of the stars visible over Oxford, UK on the night of Hawking's birth along with one of his equations, flanked by the title of his seminal book "A Brief History of Time." Despite the classical appearance, the case still manages a respectable 100 meters of water resistance.

    And at first I wondered whether this whole concept had some ghoulish backstory — how in god's name did these watchmakers get their hands on Hawking's desk?

    But as UK GQ notes, apparently the Bremont brothers have been working closely with the Hawking family on it; they're going to donate some part of sales to Hawking's foundation:

    Bremont worked with the Hawking family on the watch and has pledged to donate a percentage of the proceeds from sales of the collection to the Stephen Hawking Foundation, which supports cosmological research and people with motor neurone disease, the debilitating condition Hawking lived with for almost his entire adult life

  • What realtors are finding in empty offices right now

    Back in March, thousands of offices shuttered and set up their employees to work from home, often with no notice. We saw jokes in the summer about people returning to their offices and finding their plants dead. Months later, some of those offices are closed for good, either because they went out of business or because working from home became permanent, and that real estate is no longer needed. Emilie Goldman is one of the people tasked with subleasing those office spaces.

    She's been reentering deserted offices and showing them to potential subtenants, and encountering some nasty vestiges of office life past. There's the rotten milk in office fridges, half-eaten and now rotting snacks on desks, and moldy coffee cups, as well as sad tableaux of dead plants, disheveled desks, and paperwork abandoned mid-completion.

    "No one really tidied up their office, like, 'Oh, let me clean up my office because I might not be back here for a year, or there might be people coming around to take our office.' That thought didn't cross anyone's mind," Goldman says. "And the responsibility is slightly on me to tidy that up, because it's my job to sublease the space for my client."

    However, office space is going for a fraction of its previous price, so potential tenants might be willing to deal with a smell or two. Read about the business of unlocking those grody abandoned offices at Fast Company.

  • Druids prop up faerie stone knocked over by a bull to stop bad luck, sparking government investigation

    The story begins in 2009 in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland. Donal Bohane had been renting some land from his cousin for farming, and on that land stood a neolithic standing stone that had been placed there and propped up some time in the Bronze Age — which is to say, a long-ass time ago.

    And on that stone, a bull liked to rub itself.

    As Mr. Bohane explained to the Irish Times:

    Every day you would be passing, you would see the bull scratching himself on the stone – it was a nice itching spot but the problem was there was nothing around the stone. I was always told these stones were as much underground as overground but that was not the case with this one. The ground around it was eroded so the bull didn't have much to do to knock it.

    At first, Mr. Bohane tried to contact some authorities. Normally, the Irish National Monuments Service would be in charge of taking care of things of such historical relevance; he also reached out to the nearby University College at Cork. But no one seemed to notice or care, so the stone just kind of stood there, laying on its side about 150 feet away from the roadside. And Mr. Bohane let it be.

    Unfortunately, over the decade that followed, climate change and other uncontrollable issues have made life difficult for Mr. Bohane — and he began to wonder if that spate of bad luck had anything to do with the bull-toppled stone:

    When you look back to 2009, things seemed to be very good but we have had every sort of problem, particularly over the last few years when animals got sick. In August, we had this really bad flooding and we lost 18 acres of maize when the field was flooded to a depth of nearly five feet.

    Finally, Mr. Bohane decide to enlist in the aid of two druids* from the Grove of Anú in County Kerry, part of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, to help reinstate the stone. With a little help from a bulldozer, they held a ceremony, "…in the presence of the elements, the directions, three people, and with a request to the unseen, we stated our good intentions: to place the stone in its original location and position. The intention was to clear the spirit road or energy line of any blockage and to put an end to the misfortune cast upon the cattle using the field"

    And now the National Monuments Service is pissed. Again, from the Irish Times:

    The majority of archaeological monuments in Ireland, including standing stones, are protected under the National Monuments Acts and anyone wishing to carry out work on one must give two months' written notice to the Minister for Heritage.

    So to recap: a bull knocked over an ancient stone, which caused a spree of misfortune, so they finally put the stone back where it was, and now everyone's luck is even worse because the bureaucrats are mad about it.

    I'm normally not that cynical about local government agencies, especially the historical/cultural preservation ones, which I assume to be working with good intentions. But an investigation feels a little overkill here.

    Investigation launched after Cork standing stone reinstated by farmer and druids [Barry Roche / The Irish Times]

    Cork farmer believes his bad luck goes back to standing stone [Neil Michael / Irish Examiner]

    Kerry druids work their magic on Skibbereen standing stone [Jackie Keough / Southern Star]

    Image via YouTube

    *As I understand it, modern-day neo-pagan Druidism is different from what we typically understand as "traditional" "druids," which may not have actually been real, but rather were just a name given by the Romans to people they didn't understand, likely derived from a mutation of "draíocht," the Irish Gaelic word for "magic." I may be confused about some of this.

  • Some male spiders tie up females before sex so they don't get eaten alive

    Spider cannibalism — the tendency for female spiders to eat their mates during or after sex — is fairly common knowledge at this point. There's a surprising evolutionary benefit to this copulatory suicide, too, as Ed Yong explained in National Geographic in 2016:

    In 1996, Maydianne Andrade found that sexual encounters between redback spiders are longer if the male allows himself to be cannibalized. By sacrificing his life, he can fill his partner with more sperm. The female keeps that sperm in two storage organs, and can control when she uses those stockpiled cells to fertilize her eggs. If she mates again, the second male's sperm might displace those of the first now deceased suitor. But Andrade showed that females that eat their first mate are more likely to reject a subsequent one.

    So, by committing "copulatory suicide," the males guarantee their future fatherhood.

    In that same article, Yong also explains how some male widow spiders "can use their fangs to create openings in the [immature] females' outer shells and access their genitals."

    But this, apparently, is not the only way for a male spider to live to fuck another day. According to a new study in the Journal of Animal Behavior, focusing on the Thanatus fabricii spider:

    We found that males always bit and bound females before and during mating. The bitten females quickly fell into a state of immobility, during which males copulated with them. […] Binding by silk prolonged the state of immobilization, allowing males to perform more insertions. After copulation, females were less successful in catching their prey (ants), suggesting that this mating strategy negatively affects female fitness.

    Essentially, the male spiders drug and bound the females in order to ensure their survival. "Spiders sometimes spend hours luring females to court them, but these guys just go and bite," explained Lenka Sentenská, one of the study's authors, to New Scientist.

    That being said, it's not clear if this behavior is necessarily coercive (read: rape-y), or if the sedation is actually a sign from the females that they are "receptive" to being mated with. "Females that fall into the state of immobility will allow the male to mate, while unreceptive females will continue struggling and thus will reject the male," it says in the paper.

    Also: in 11 percent of observed cases, the male spiders failed to immobilize the female, and ended up dead anyway.

    Biting and binding: an exclusive coercive mating strategy of males in a philodromid spider [Lenka Sentenská, Ondrej Šedo, and Stano Pekára / Journal of Animal Behavior]

    Some male spiders tie up females before mating to avoid being eaten [Joshua Rapp Learn / New Scientist]

    Image: JJ Harrison / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

  • These courses show you how to take the reins as a qualified project or product manager

    Even with all of our admiration and respect for innovators and trailblazers, the business world often follows a 'monkey-see, monkey-do' mentality. If one company finds success with a certain product or methodology, many take notice and then adopt those measures to their own operations.

    That's why when companies like IBM, Microsoft, AT&T, Cisco, and Apple achieved positive results incorporating the Agile method into their product and decision-making processes, it quickly became the world's leading project management approach for creating software and more.

    An experienced Agile management expert can easily command a six-figure paycheck, so if that's a salary range you'd like to achieve, the training in The 2021 Project and Product Manager Essentials Bundle can get you on the right track to reach that level.

    With over nine courses, learners get a 360-degree view of how to lead projects and develop products using the Agile system, minimizing bad outcomes and maximizing opportunities for success.

    The Project Management Foundation Course serves as an overview of the entire field, helping students quickly earn an understanding of Agile principles and how they work. These fundamentals include key concepts and tools, the difference between projects, programs, and portfolios, the most common cost categories, scheduling best practices, and even how to be more confident that you're making the right decisions in executing projects.

    Meanwhile, other courses dig into various ways of putting Agile processes in motion with everything from how you develop roles for project personnel and determine risk areas, to how User Stories can help push a project forward successfully.

    No project methodology works with the right tools, so this package also includes courses that offer experience working with the elements that make Agile projects and product creation happen. Once you're finished with these courses, you'll understand how to use Kanban boards, as well as how tracking software like Jira and Trello can guide your work toward milestones, while making sure nothing is overlooked.

    Finally, the Scrum Master Training: Case Studies and Confessions course offers hands-on examples of Agile Scrum in action. Through real case studies, students learn how to improve their Agile Scrum practices, feel confident implementing Scrum improvements, and use Agile Scrum to deliver complex projects without paying thousands for training.

    You can launch a new career as a certified project manager with the training in this nearly $1,800 collection, now on sale for just $39.99.

    Do you have your stay-at-home essentials? Here are some you may have missed.

    Prices are subject to change.

  • Georgia On My Mind

    Georgia has been on my mind a lot lately.  

    It feels a little strange to think so much about a state that I've only been to two or three times. Sure, some of my favorite records were made by artists from The Empire State of the South: Vic Chesnutt's 'West of Rome,' Otis Redding's 'The Soul Album,' 'In an Aeroplane Over the Sea' by Neutral Milk Hotel, and, duh, Outkast's 'Speaker Boxxx/The Love Below,' to name a few. 

    But my recent thoughts about Georgia have not been about music. Rather, like a good portion of our country, I've been thinking about the January runoff for the two seats that will determine which party controls the Senate. Although voting in this runoff is limited to the fine folks who reside in Georgia, it will impact the country in a big, big way. Which actually makes it America's runoff. 

    Georgia voting law requires a candidate to procure over 50% of the vote in order to be elected. That did not happen for either of Georgia's two Senate seats. Hence, we now have a runoff between Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, versus Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The Senate currently stands at 50 seats for Republicans and 48 for Democrats. If both Ossoff and Warnock win, each party then holds the same number and, in the case of a tie, the decisive vote is cast by our Vice President, Kamala Harris. This, in essence, gives Democrats control of the chamber and paves the way to Joe Biden to get a whole hell lot of done when he takes office.

    Both Republican candidates are straight out of central casting. They are white, business owners, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and are staunch Trump supporters. Perdue, who was elected in 2014, doesn't believe in climate change.  Loeffler, who was appointed just last year, has openly disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement. Both have publicly backed Trump's baseless claims of election interference and went as far to call for the resignation of Georgia's Secretary of State. Lovely.

    On the other end of the spectrum, John Ossoff is a 33-year-old filmmaker and journalist who is not a stranger to tight political races.  In 2017 he narrowly lost in a congressional special election. He supports women's rights and health care, financial assistance for families and individuals over large corporations, and would like to see the U.S. as a world leader in clean energy and sustainability. Raphael Warnock is black, a pastor, and a Georgia native (he grew up in public housing in Savannah). This is his first campaign but he recently led a statewide initiative to expand Medicaid as well as chaired the New Georgia Project. Criminal justice reform, expanding the affordable care act, and protecting voter's rights are central to his agenda. He is also pro-choice and a supporter of gay marriage.

    Historically, there is a drastic decline between voter turnout an initial election and a runoff. According to Fair Vote, in 2016  and  2018 nationwide runoffs, the average  decreases in turnout were greater than 45%. Given what's at stake, the expectation is that we will not see nearly as steep of dip. But we all can help keep the energy up, encourage people to return to the polls, and bring out some new voters. Below are a few ideas on how to do so.

    Use your platform:

    Spread information about the candidates and the election via your social media accounts. Amplify Ossoff and Warnock's messages. A simple or retweet helps. Share resources for voters such as deadlines (below) and polling place locations. As evidenced by the turnout on November 3, social media makes an impact. You can begin by sharing these dates:

    December 7 – Voter Registration Deadline. Voters can check their status here and register to vote here.

    December 14 – Early voting begins. Locations can be found here.

    January 5 – Election Day. Polls close at 7 pm EST.

    Get out the vote: 

    If you have friends or loved ones in Georgia, call or email early and often.  You can phone bank for Ossoff or Warnock, text or phone bank with Fair Fight, or write letters via Vote Forward.

    If you don't have time but have money:

    A mountain of cash will be spent on this race. Republicans, who were largely outraised nationally during the general election, have reached DefCon Four level of fundraising. Last week they dispatched George W Bush mastermind Karl Rove to lead the Georgia Battleground Fund.

    To counter, you can donate directly Jon Ossoff or Raphael Warnock. Another great option is donating to Fair Fight. Founded by Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight was responsible for registering 800,000 new voters in Georgia. Given that Biden won the state by less than 13,000 votes, it doesn't take a math major to recognize the impact

    Fair Fight is the highest profile, but there are number of other Georgia based grassroots organizations doing important work on the ground:

    In addition to needing money, NGP has created an Amazon wish list for supplies for their efforts.

    America certainly doesn't feel like 50 united states much of the time these days.  What's happening in Georgia, however, demonstrates just how intertwined we remain. We are all, including myself, extremely burned out when it comes to politics. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Six more weeks of work and, fingers crossed, we can begin rolling back the damage caused by the Trump administration. Democratic control of the Senate would make a world of difference to, well, the world.

    art: Shepard Fairey