Imagine my surprise to see my old friend, Pagan Kennedy, being talked about Friday night in a "New Rules" segment on Real Time with Bill Maher. Pagan's opinion piece in the Times, and Maher's Real Time bit about it, make the rather obvious, but still important, point that you can obsess all you want over your own personal health, but if the environment around you and the public policy that governs it are diseased, your health is still in jeopardy. As Kennedy puts it in the Times: "It’s the decisions that we make as a collective that matter more than any choice we make on our own."
In the article, Pagan catalogs many of the paragons of health nuttery (Pritikin, Rodale, Euell Gibbons, Adelle Davis, Clive McKay) and how they didn't even live an average lifespan. Maher makes funny work of this, and the rest of piece, while making sobering points about the health perils we all face. Maher: "No matter what you do for yourself, how right you eat, if the air is full of lead and the bug populations are out of control and your city is under water, it doesn't matter. You can eat kale until it comes out of your ears. You can stay hydrated, slather on sunblock, steam your vagina, eat your placenta, work at a standing desk, and put a healing crystal up your ass, but there is no escaping the environment we all live in.
(My favorite line from the bit: "Back [in the 1970s] when Scientific American was the name of a magazine. Read the rest
The New York Times doesn't like to call Donald Trump (who is a compulsive liar) a liar; they deploy the squeamish euphemism "falsely claimed" in place of "lied" -- with Gabriel Gironda's NYT Speak Chrome extension (source code here), you can remedy this situation. (Thanks, Gabriel Gironda!)
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Matthew Dessem's I Am the Very Model of a New York Times Contrarian is a zeitgeisty bit of doggerel that neatly sums up many of my frustrations reading the Grey Lady, stretching all the way back to the paper's shameful sell-job for George W Bush's disastrous Iraq invasion.
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The New York Times is now available as an "Onion Service" on the Tor network, at the address https://www.nytimes3xbfgragh.onion/ -- meaning that anyone with Tor access can securely and privately access the Times without giving away any information about what they're looking at, even to state-level actors who control the ISPs.
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Similar to web page evolution, watch the New York Times' evolution from just text to images with every front page since 1852 in about one minute. Read the rest
The critically acclaimed War Is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict examines the ways in which the newspaper happily propagated the Bush Administration's lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that resulted in a senseless war that hurt millions of people and immensely enriched Halliburton, Blackwater, the Carlyle Group and other companies with close ties to the Bush and the Cheney families.
As Ben Collins of the Daily Beast writes, "The book makes an artful, journalistic point: Photography on the front page of the paper of record depicted the conflict in rosy, gorgeous, cinematic ways, like the first scene in Apocalypse Now." And the book's author, David Shields bought the rights to use all the photos in the book. Why then, is the The New York Times suing the publisher for $19,000? Because the inside back cover of the book is decorated with 64 thumbnail photos from the front pages of the NYT.
“We didn’t expect we’d have a First Amendment fight,” Daniel Power, owner of Powerhouse Books told The Daily Beast. “Plus, we licensed the damn images and compensated these photographers for their work.”
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Now, the paper contends, they’re just trying to collect an invoice for $19,000, even though this is almost definitively a textbook case of fair use. Thumbnails of copyrighted materials were protected speech, dating back to a very specific case just like this one about Grateful Dead posters ten years ago.
“Licensing content is not ‘quelling speech,’” said Rhoades Ha.
Mostly lost in the past week's media gossip around NYT executive editor Jill Abramson's ouster, and Dean Baquet's promotion to her role: Baquet is the former LA Times editor who killed the biggest NSA leak pre-Edward Snowden. Read the rest
There is no single definition of comfort. My newest column for The New York Times Magazine explores the different cultural definitions of pleasant living, how those traditions affect energy use in different countries, and how globalization changes both the culture and the fossil fuel consumption. Fun fact: Engineers have a unit of measurement that helps them account for clothing when they're trying to figure out what temperature an office building should be. It's called the Clo, and 1 Clo is equivalent to one full business suit. As I discovered, that fact has a big impact on women, business people in the tropics, and basically anybody who doesn't wear a suit to work. Read the rest
The New York Times Sunday Review had an article this week linking autism with the hygiene hypothesis. Written by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, the piece is part of the Times' opinion coverage, not reported news. It was also one of those sort of stories that comes across as highly persuasive ... until you start looking at the details. About halfway through reading it yesterday, it occurred to me that Velasquez-Manoff was making a lot of big statements—"perhaps 1/3 of autism, and very likely more, looks like a type of inflammatory disease", for example—without citing the sources to back those statements up.
That's easy to do when you're writing a relatively short article summarizing the contents of a much bigger book, as Velasquez-Manoff seems to be doing here. But the problems go deeper than that, according to biologist and science writer Emily Willingham. In a must-read blog post, she goes through the NYT piece and points out many flaws in argument and detail. The main problem, though, is a pretty simple one: Moises Velasquez-Manoff presents what seems to be a largely speculative hypothesis as sure-fire truth. To make that case as persuasive as it is, he leaves out lots of evidence that doesn't match up with his thesis. Read the rest
Good news for those of you who require some kind of public justification for your love of junk food. The Paper of Record has published a positive review of Taco Bell's Doritos Loco taco. Fair warning, though, food critic William Grimes advises against springing for the Supreme version, as the tomatoes are flavorless and the "sour cream is just wrong." Read the rest
What a steaming turd of an opening line in David Streitfeld's otherwise serviceable New York Times piece about the Ellen Pao/Kleiner Perkins sexual harassment lawsuit, and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.
Here's the opening graf (bold-ing, mine):
MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.
You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.
Radia "Mother of the Internet" Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.
"Men are credited with inventing the internet." There. Fixed it for you. Read the rest