As they stare into the mirror and perceive only the myth of their exceptionalism, Americans remain almost bizarrely incapable of seeing what has actually become of their country.
Activist Anthropologist and Public Ruminator Wade Davis discusses the decline of the American Empire. But his former colleague at UBC Deanna Kreisel counters with her own attempted take-down of smug Canadian exceptionalism.
100 years ago this week, the Battle of Warsaw raged. Two years after the War to End All Wars, the just-established Soviet Union was invading Poland, hoping to stir revolution in central Europe. Polish forces were falling back and defeat looked likely, until a surprise attack yielded a stunning victory.
Realistic render of Frédéric Chopin by Hadi Karimi. (Also, Chopin’s cartooning on his manuscript) “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of my violin.” Shostakovich Posing with a cat and a kitten. Also, a pig. Shostakovich working on Symphony 8 Saint-Saens in his amazing pajamas. Early 1900s Colorized Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff. Also, Listz 4 months before he died. Extra, My great great Grandfather chilling with Rachmaninoff Alfred Schnittke’s gravestone. (And Stockhausen’s)
Even before the pandemic, the whole US fashion industry had started to unravel. What happens now that no one has a reason to dress up? (NYT).
Some choice quotes:
If in the last decade you’ve gone looking for a simple cashmere sweater and instead encountered ones with zippers, giant animal faces, glitter shoulders or “distressed” anything — that’s novelty. If you found yourself annoyed, you were not alone. “That was so we could sell to Saks, Neiman, Barneys, Nordstrom, Colette, and everybody could have their own special thing,” Sternberg recalled. “I was basically making stuff I didn’t like because I thought a buyer wanted it, not even the customer.”
So detrimental was the cycle of overproduction and discounting to luxury goods that in 2018, Burberry, the British label, revealed that it had been burning — not metaphorically but literally: burning — $37 million of worth of merchandise per year to maintain “brand value.”
fashion might go the way of other industries, like film, in which there are the blockbusters and the tiny indies and nothing in between. “Band didn’t need to be a $100 million brand,” Sternberg said. “But is there a place for a $30 million brand that can self-sustain and be around year after year? Certainly not with big backers, because that’s not interesting to them. Wholesale used to be able to support that, but it also ultimately killed it.”
If you’ve used up your NYT reads this month, here is a link to the unlocked article.
Yakko Warner sings the nations you can currently travel to from the US without restrictions
The New York Academy of Medicine Library, for the fifth year in a row, has released their #ColorOurCollections free coloring pages based on material from over 50 library/museum/archive organizations around the world.
With Steven Universe and She-Ra both having ended this year, PAPER invited showrunners Rebecca Sugar [non-binary, she/her/they/them] and Noelle Stevenson [non-binary, any pronouns] to sit down with one another and reflect on the legacies of their respective series, getting their start in comics, the state of representation in the animated field and where things go from here.
(No pullquotes because I would just end up pullquoting the entire article.)
Here’s Another Pokemon is a weekend column on Kotaku by Zack Zwiezen which explores interesting, unusual, and startling Pokedex entries (with a fair amount of assistance from Bulbapedia). Each entry discusses a different Pokemon at length, with random facts, personal observations, and highlighted fan art and comments.
Xatu Can See The Future And Is Scared Of It – One entry simply stats “This odd Pokémon can see both the past and the future.” I would not use the word “odd” to describe a mythical creature who can actually see through time. I would also probably end the sentence with something like “Dear God, we must never anger this being.”
Bewear Will Crush You To Death With Its Hugs – Bears in real life are dangerous and can easily kill you. It seems in the Pokemon world this is true too. But unlike our bears, which will just bite and eat you, Bewear will actually hug you so hard you might die.
Spoink Will Die If It Ever Stops Bouncing – Life is hard for Spoink. So many things they can’t do. Though I think they could get a hug. Catch them in the air, hug for a moment and then slam them back down.
Whimsicott Will Sneak Into Your Home And Move Your Furniture – It will also leave behind cotton balls sometimes, which doesn’t seem like a great prank. I feel like I have cotton balls in my home, but I don’t remember buying them. They just exist. So maybe Whimsicott has already pranked me?
Stantler Pulls Santa’s Sleigh And Has Magical Antlers That Warp Reality – Imagine going out to hunt Pokemon and having to deal with deer that can create magical illusions, bears that will hug you to death and toads that will stab and poison you with deadly fingers. Hunting probably isn’t a popular hobby in the Pokemon universe.
It’s also worth reading the comments of these posts, particularly those of Pokemon superfan MegaBlastoise, who typically adds additional factoids and commentary.
Several serious ethical crises emerging at online therapy companies like Talkspace and BetterHelp are gaining mainstream attention. Consumer beware: there are credible allegations of fake reviews on a grand scale (NYT), a CEO who openly advocates data mining of “confidential” (and undeletable) therapy transcripts (NYT), blatant HIPAA violations such as openly revealing patient emails (Forbes), and much more.
At Talkspace, Start-Up Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns (NYT): The therapy-by-text company made burner phones available for fake reviews and doesn’t adequately respect client privacy, former employees say.
“We need data. All of our data. Mine and yours.” (NYT): Talkspace CEO pens op-ed supporting mining data from patients’ undeletable therapy transcripts.
Talkspace Reveals Clients’ Email, Violating Clinical Confidentiality (Forbes): “Talkspace explicitly defines itself as a “Platform.” It is a business with customers and not a healthcare provider with clients or patients. And it is as a business they promise both anonymity and confidentiality. They use the language of a clinical relationship. But that is not what Talkspace is. When Talkspace promises confidentiality it is done with all the limitations in trust inherent in any company’s marketplace promises. Talkspace defines itself and is only accountable as a business, not as a healthcare provider.”
BREAKDOWN: Inside the messy world of anonymous therapy app Talkspace (Verge): This lengthy expose discusses how mental health counselors are exploited via low pay, unpredictable pay, unmanageable hours, and being forced to violate professional ethics in service of business concerns. It also details patient rights violations: everything from leaky privacy, professionally irresponsible anonymity, predatory/bogus charges, patient abandonment, and overall failure to provide medical care while misleading patients.
YouTube’s BetterHelp mental health controversy, explained (Polygon): Not only do many YouTube’s celebrity creators have lucrative sponsorship deals with BetterHelp, YouTube itself has ties with BetterHelp and often displays ads for BetterHelp under the videos of any creator discussing mental health. Backing away from the sponsorship does mean a loss of impressive affiliate money for creators; that’s part of the issue. Most of the videos that have BetterHelp sponsorships revolve around a creator discussing their own issues. While these are valid, viewers have complained that it feels like profiteering off mental illness at best, and causing serious harm to mentally ill people at worst. (BetterHelp’s terms of service state that the company can’t guarantee a qualified professional. “We do not control the quality of the Counselor Services and we do not determine whether any Counselor is qualified to provide any specific service as well as whether a Counselor is categorized correctly or matched correctly to you.”)
Therapy app Talkspace accused of ethically questionable practices (MobiHealthNews): “The notion that the company can read the chats – and isn’t entirely clear about the circumstances in which it does – raises concerns about privacy and confidentiality and may have spurred the August HIPAA complaint by a therapist on the platform. It also threatens to undermine the trust relationship between patients and therapists. So does the notion that a therapist might be required to insert a script into a therapy session, promoting or advertising additional Talkspace services – a practice The Verge says Talkspace has engaged in.”
Olga Tokarczuk has written first-person stories, coincidentally with mild SF/F themes, e.g. “All Saints’ Mountain” and “Borderland.” There’s also Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead (excerpt), “a suspenseful murder mystery and a powerful and profound meditation on human existence” (review). But her Nobel Prize lecture contemplates the potential “tenderness” of stories told in wide perspective, e.g. in her novel Flights (excerpt 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) and perhaps stories like “Dress Rehearsal,” “The Knight,” “An Evening with the Author,” and “Preserves for Life.” In “On the Highs and Lows of Translating Olga Tokarczuk,” Jennifer Croft comments on how Tokarczuk’s upcoming The Books of Jacob relates to that project. See also Croft’s “When an Author You Translate Gets Death Threats” and recent status update.