Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
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The Case for Abolishing Juvenile Prisons

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Last month, archaeologists identified the first of the fifty-five human bodies recently exhumed at Florida’s Dozier School for Boys—a now-shuttered juvenile prison where, for decades, guards abused children, sometimes to death, despite cyclical scandals and calls for reform spanning almost a hundred years. Dozier represents an atrocious extreme, but the failures of America’s juvenile justice system are widespread. Whether labeled “boot camps,” “training schools,” “reformatories,” or other euphemisms, juvenile prisons have long harbored pervasive physical and sexual abuse. In one survey, twelve percent of incarcerated youth reported being sexually abused in the previous year—a figure that likely understates the problem.

During the “tough-on-crime” years of the eighties and nineties, states confined larger numbers of children than ever before, with the proportion of youth in prison reaching an all-time high in 1995. Since then, the tide has turned. Between 1997 and 2010, the rate of youth confinement dropped forty percent nationwide, partly because of declining crime rates, but also because of changes in how states respond to youth misbehavior. Fueled by a mix of family advocacy, costly lawsuits, scandals like the Dozier case, and recession-era pressures on state budgets, many states have enacted reforms to transfer youth out of statewide institutions into community-based programs. California, for instance, “realigned” its juvenile justice system in the aughts; New York passed similar legislation in 2012 and has recently closed several juvenile prisons, including the once-notorious Tryon Residential Center.

Even with recent declines, the United States still incarcerates tens of thousands of teenagers—about two hundred of every hundred thousand kids. (State-by-state data is available here.) Racial disparities are stark: Black kids are locked up at four times the rate of white kids. And forty percent of youth held in residential facilities are there for lower-level offenses like probation violations, nonviolent property crimes, and truancy.

In her recent book, Burning Down the House, journalist Nell Bernstein argues that juvenile prisons should be abolished altogether. “Bart Lubow at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which supported this book, talks about the ‘my child’ test,” Nell told me. When reading about conditions in juvenile prisons, “we should ask ourselves, Would this be acceptable for my child if he had committed a very serious crime? If the answer is no, we have a moral responsibility to stop it. I have two thirteen-year-olds, so I think about that a lot.” I recently spoke to Bernstein about her book.

You don’t propose any reforms in your book because you say this is a system that can’t be reformed; it needs to be shut down. Did you come into writing the book with that position, or was it a conclusion you came to over time?

READ MORE

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whiteppl

An electorate reshaped by a growing presence of liberal millennials, minorities, and a secular, unmarried and educated white voting bloc will most likely force Republicans to recalibrate. … When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, white voters without a college degree made up 65 percent of the electorate; by 2012, that number had dropped to 36 percent.

The latter statistic is more complicated than it seems, in large part because more people than ever are getting college degrees—33.5 percent of people between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine had a bachelor's degree in 2012, versus 24.7 percent in 1995 versus 21.9 percent in 1975, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Given that the rise has benefitted minorities and, in particular, women, while the share of people from low-income families attaining those degrees has "remained relatively flat over the last several decades," what's been eroded, in part, is the bastion of white men who were able to skip college and attain a middle-classish existence, leaving the remaining uneducated whites exposed and isolated, economically and, increasingly, socially—making them angrier and louder and, unfortunately for them, their views ever more toxic to the nationally minded politicians who once clamored for their votes. If Democrats can win today on issues of reproductive rights and gay marriage in the South—if only occasionally, for now—who will be left representing the poor, conservative white man in a decade?

Photo by Pierre

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Exploring the Hidden Racist Past of the Looney Toons

rabbitstewI have an uncomfortable confession to make: I have never liked the Looney Tunes. Despite the cultural pervasiveness of these characters, and a lifelong love of animation on my part, they’ve always struck me as annoying, repetitive, and boring—for all the pandemonium that Bugs Bunny and his ilk ostensibly represent, their chaos is bland, their destruction is predictable, and their lineage is corporate.

To be fair, my exposure to Looney Tunes at the time bore that out pretty well: I grew up in the age of Space Jam and the slew of jerseys, sneakers, McDonald’s toys, pogs, and cookie jars that film spawned. Today is no better, with the Roadrunner and Foghorn Leghorn perhaps most recognizable as shills for companies like Time Warner and GEICO.

Yet this was not always the case, as demonstrated by the excellent Chuck Jones exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Entitled “What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones”, this retrospective illuminates the originality and charm of Jones in particular and the Looney Tunes in general. I learned that Bugs Bunny’s smart-alecky attitude and cigar-like carrot were based on Groucho Marx, and Wile E Coyote’s design was inspired by Mark Twain’s description of the coyote as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton…with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face…The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want.”

I was also surprised to discover how topical these cartoons were—as a kid watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, I didn’t catch many of the forty-year-old references. Yet Looney Tunes was a definite forerunner to the adult animation of today, poking fun at contemporary politics and pop culture. These cartoons were far from the squeaky-clean version of today: they were vibrant, innovative, and often subversive. While this certainly makes these shorts more interesting, it also means that some of the uglier elements of the time are on full display.

Such elements are abundantly clear in the Censored Eleven, shorts from the Warner Bros catalogue that were withheld from syndication due to racially offensive content. These cartoons have not been broadcast since 1968, though they are available online. I present them below, not to glamorize them but to shed some light on an occasionally fascinating—and often appalling—corner of an American institution. READ MORE

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Raury, "Seven Suns"

You can listen to Raury's debut here, in its entirety. It's the work of someone who is, by any traditional indication, about to explode—he's signed, rumored to be working with Kanye West—and it's shot with surprises. Raury is also 18, which is impossible not to think about as this strange and astonishing album weaves and wobbles through folk, pop, R&B and collage without breaking step.

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"David Albouy, an economics professor at the University of Illinois, has created a metric, the sacrifice measure, which essentially charts how poor a person is willing to be in order to live in a particular city. Portland, he discovered, is near the top of the list."

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Tonight, New York City Crowns Its Best New App! But Will It Be the Racist One?

Tonight, Big Bill de Blasio awards the winners in the NYC BigApps competition. That's a project of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. With mentors and judges from many, if not "all" walks of life, this project is one of the few rare ways that New York City might actually help a small business, while also helping to improve the lives of New Yorkers, or even making the city a better place in general. Cash prizes go to the best apps created out of city data.

But Mayor Bill will be treading on dangerous ground. Will the judges set him up for a disaster? Because among some great ideas and great executions in the finalist pool are some real nightmares. For instance, the infamous and much-derided app SketchFactor is actually a finalist in this program. Yeah, that's the thing that lets various forms of app-using gentrifiers rate neighborhoods for just how uncomfortable they feel whilst passing through.

Certainly less evil—even good at heart!—but still as annoying is Reported, which was founded by a man who was unhappy that people don't complain about taxis enough. ("There are 175 million NYC cab trips each year. Yet only 13,000 consumer complaints in 2013 about drivers," is how his mission statement begins. Uh… huh.) He's written an incredibly detailed piece (on Medium, of course) about how he kept a spreadsheet about all the cabs honking outside his house. He gives himself away early on when he says that Uber is a great experience because of the constant rider surveillance. His New York of the future: we're all narcs, and we're all customers.

READ MORE

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New York City, September 14, 2014

weather review sky 091414★★★★★ Cool, fresh air through the window vied with frying bacon and won. The children were in long pants, newly sorted through to account for a summer of growth. The clarity out the window was prodigious, unreal, like eagle vision. A dignified old brown-brick apartment building, stair-stepping as it rose, stood out deep and solid among its flatter-faced neighbors. What was the light, the two-year-old asked, standing on the radiator cover, gesturing southward: six or eight blocks away, a tiny bright orange pinprick. It took binoculars to identify it as an ordinary sodium security lamp, burning in the dark shade of a rooftop superstructure. And far beyond that, what looked like the Newark Airport control tower was just that, and even past that, the National Newark Building. And a fat waning gibbous moon, like a painting of the moon, in among high cirrus clouds and little lower ones, now lavender-tinted, now peach, moving quickly downriver. And—yes, a dark shape flapping northward, presenting in the glasses the chocolate-brown body and wings, the white head and tail, an eagle itself. Out the door, bright streaks threaded the dark falling sheets of water in the fountain. Someone was wearing a puffy jacket; two other people, walking together, were in flip-flops. Clouds in the west briefly dulled the afternoon light. A wide battery-powered kiddie car, a red Mini Cooper, hummed slowly down the sidewalk. The playground was dreamlike, meaning a little bit numbing and unreal. Chalk had been scrawled heavily on the pavement, up and all over the kneeling concrete camel statue, and finally then just detonated into piles of colored powder. The two-year-old was subdued, clinging to the chain link or walking along a bench. Then a schoolmate arrived, and they mounted an assault on the slopes of the camel together, smearing themselves with chalk from collar to shoes. Sunset was total and overwhelming, the whole visible sky out the windows cycling from opulent through shocking and on to moody.

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Snackwave: A Comprehensive Guide to the Internet's Saltiest Meme

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Over the past few years, an aesthetic we like to call "snackwave" has trickled up from Tumblr dashboards. Now a part of mainstream culture, snackwave is everywhere: it's printed on American Apparel clothes and seen in Katy Perry music videos. It's the antithesis to kale-ridden health food culture and the rise of Pinterest-worthy twee cupcake recipes. It’s the wording in your Instagram handle, a playful cheeseburger selfie, Jennifer Lawrence announcing on the red carpet that she’s hungry for a pizza. In snackwave world, everyone is Claudia Kishi, and your junk food drawer is also your blog.

What we’ve written here is merely a guide to understanding the rise of this very Internet 3.0-specific aesthetic. Snackwave is no longer a lowbrow joke bonding tweens across Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs. It’s being co-opted by corporate Twitter accounts and fashion companies, both of whom are seeking to talk just like their ‘net-savvy young consumers.

Both of us are very much a part of this scene—in fact, we’ve got McDonald’s Sweet 'n Sour sauce IVs hooked up to our veins right now. We know snackwave inside and out. So grab a bag of Funyuns, a sleeve of Oreos, and get ready to ride the snackwave. READ MORE

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When Your Grandmother Loses a Toe

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Business Insider assistant editor Hayley Hudson tells us more about a note she wrote to her grandmother as a young child about the prospects of having only four toes on one foot.

Hayley! So what happened here?

When I was eight, my family learned that my grandma—my mom’s mom—needed surgery on her foot. She had skin cancer, and it had started to spread. Her doctor caught it early enough that operating would take care of everything and she would be fine, but as you can gather from reading the note, she was going to be losing a toe. 

So my mom sat me down to write a card to mail to my grandma’s house in Iowa. I don’t remember the exact instructions she gave me, if there were any. She probably assumed that I’d say something sweet, and the whole thing would be effortless. Instead my words came out sounding like an answer to a test question at a medical school for sociopaths. READ MORE

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The Delicate Nature of Asking Your Parents for Financial Help

Spectacular NowI have not asked my parents for very much, mostly because they've never had much, financially, to give. As a child, if you grow up with not that much, you don’t know what you’re missing. For so long, your worldview is only as big as the two-block radius you’re allowed to travel, and since you return home every night like a little boomerang, you only understand what it is that happens inside your house. You only understand the world within the context of what you’re living with, so when I was growing up, I understood on a very basic level that we had enough to get by.

After college, I had a few friends who always seemed to struggle a little less, friends who would be unemployed for languorous stretches of time, drifting through the mire of our early twenties with ease. "Their parents are paying for everything," we would whisper into happy hour beers. "Must be nice."

I found jobs with tenacity, because I was responsible for my rent and my bills and the looming spectre of student loans—the latter of which I generally ignored, stuffing the unopened envelopes into the back of various day planners. I had to pay my own way, because there was no one there to help me, really, and that was just fine. I have always valued the independence that comes with knowing that every wrinkled dollar I paid my rent with was with money I earned. I didn’t want help, because I knew that we didn’t have it, but I was proving that I could at least support myself.

That said, I have asked for parental help, but it has been done grudgingly and only in times of great need. READ MORE

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Mr. Balazs insists on privacy, discouraging cellphone pictures by guests. Employees surrender their phones during working hours and submit to “the most draconian sort of confidentiality agreements,” he said.

A recent breach at Mr. Balazs’s Standard, High Line in New York—the leak of a video of Jay Z and Solange Knowles fighting in an elevator—heightened the need for such measures. Mr. Balazs said that the employee who leaked the video was fired within 24 hours, and that he and Jay Z are considering legal action.

In this age of (slightly) renewed concern for labor issues, one wonders if TMZ's compensation for video footage now takes into account that the leaker will surely be fired, and possibly even sued; it must be payment for services rendered, a severance package, and provide for potential legal fees, all in one (presumably very) lump sum. If it doesn't, will anyone picket TMZ in support of its exploited leakers?

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Which cascading threat are you afraid of, personally, as the end of the year crests the horizon? Cascading disease?

In a worst-case hypothetical scenario, should the outbreak continue with recent trends, the case burden could gain an additional 77,181 to 277,124 cases by the end of 2014.

Cascading militancy?

Turkey’s failure thus far to help choke off the oil trade symbolizes the magnitude of the challenges facing the administration both in assembling a coalition to counter the Sunni militant group and in starving its lifeblood. ISIS’ access to cash is critical to its ability to recruit members, meet its growing payroll of fighters, expand its reach and operate across the territory of two countries.

Cascading machine intelligence?

In a lot of these models [for the expansion of artificial intelligence], you have what amounts to a population explosion of digital minds, to the point where you drive down the wages to subsistence level. The subsistence level for digital minds would be a lot lower than for biological minds. Biological humans need to have houses—we need to eat, we need to transport ourselves. Digital minds could earn, like, a penny an hour. The wage level would fall; humans could then no longer earn a wage income. It looks very questionable, in this free-for-all competitive world, that we would find a niche for our small, stupid, obsolete minds…

Cascading environmental collapse?

It is a rare moment when scientists can point to an animal at the edge of extinction and predict when it might disappear forever. But it is happening here, under the golden waters of the desert-rimmed sea, where a small porpoise has almost vanished.

Cascading brands?

The world’s biggest beverage company will begin selling 12-packs of the sweet citrus drink on Amazon Monday, according to a statement, marking the first time Coca-Cola has sold a product exclusively online… “Future plans for the brand will depend on the level of excitement exhibited by fans across the country,” Wendy Clark, president of sparkling and strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America, said in the statement.

This is really more a question of self-soothing: Which of these can't you put out of mind with an "it'll slow down, eventually" or a "what rises fast falls fast" or a "but think of the real estate opportunities" or an "if this was going to happen an alien civilization would have seen it through millions of years ago and the hyperintelligence would have already found and destroyed us?"

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The Whole New Perfume Genius Album Is Streaming

NPR is streaming the whole new Perfume Genius album. For those who like to try before they buy, I suppose.

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New York City, September 11, 2014

weather review sky 091114★ Not only did it not conform to any fixed ideas of what other day it might resemble, it would not even conform to itself. The morning sky was a softly rumpled gray, with cool air coming through the windows and the floors feeling damp under bare feet. Little openings of blue passed now and again, moving north fairly quickly. The ropes of the waterproofing crew's rig swayed darkly back and forth across the windows. A moment of sun passed, and the air got more and more stuffy. By the end of the school day, the cloud cover had come apart into streaks and ripples of white on blue. Then came near-full sun and sweltering air, hide-in-the-shade heat. That in turn gave way to a darkening sky, with a reddish tinge upriver, holding for a long menacing movement—and then surrendering too, till returning sun lit the sides of the rigging rope bright manila. Sunset was colorful, but nothing extraordinary.

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This Week in Lines

NYU 4:18 A.M. Monday, September 8 — NYU Orientation
Location: Bleecker and Mercer
Length: At least two hundred backpacked cattle
Weather: 75 and mostly sunny
Crowd: Literal fresh-faced fresh-persons
Mood: "Zomg so excited!!!1"
Wait time: Four or five years, depending on major
Lingering question: How many mansions could you purchase with the amount of student debt accumulated the occupants of this line? READ MORE

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Eat the Skin

kiwi

Before eating many fruits and some vegetables, some people—bad, or perhaps ignorant people—do something which renders the produce less tasty, less colorful, less texturally interesting, and much less nutritious. The worst of these offenses involves one of my favorite fruits: the kiwi.

California grows the vast majority of domestic kiwi, and California’s kiwi growing season starts in October, which is mere weeks away. This is exciting, because the kiwi is a spectacular fruit: its color is otherworldly; it leans wonderfully to the tart side of the sweet/tart scale; and it has more vitamin C than an orange. But an awful lot of people don’t buy them, because they are seen, incorrectly, as being in the grand tradition of difficult-to-eat tropical fruits.

Just as it takes practice to properly carve a mango (the first method here is the correct one, since you should never peel a mango before cutting it), or to remove the spiky, dangerous skin of a pineapple (like this), the kiwi has the reputation of a fruit that requires…work. Typical ways to eat it include skinning it with a vegetable peeler and slicing into rounds or cutting it in half and scooping out the insides with a spoon. These options require not one but TWO utensils. Jesus Christ.

I am about to blow your minds, friends. (Unless you already know this, in which case, cool, let’s make a salad together sometime.) The proper way to eat a kiwi is exactly the way you would eat a peach. READ MORE

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Disrupters, Disconnectionists, and Dicks

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On Tuesday, Nev Schulman took a selfie in an elevator. The photo shows him standing with his hand over his heart, staring all serious straight into his iPhone. In the corner, a bag of groceries and a water bottle rest against the door to block it from closing. The light in a closed elevator is rarely flattering; when you have upwards of 740K followers, there’s not much room to fuck around.

“Cowards make me sick,” read his accompanying tweet. “Real men show strength through patience & honor. This elevator is abuse free. #RESPECT.”

Schulman is the star of the 2010 documentary Catfish, a film about the time he fell in love with an impostor on Facebook, as well as the host of MTV’s Catfish: The T.V. Show, where he counsels people who fall in love with impostors on Facebook. The tweet was ostensibly inspired by his outrage over the recently leaked video of Ray Rice hitting his fiancée in a (different) elevator.

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7 NYC Nightlife Adventures That Will Remind You Why You Moved to the City

Brought to you by Heineken.

It’s been said that the essence of city life is the chance encounter—the idea that at any moment you could stumble upon something new and exciting you’ve never experienced before. The sheer number of people, places, neighborhoods and cultural attractions packed in to NYC can feel overwhelming in the best possible way. However, even with the city’s frenetic pace, it’s easy to get locked in to a routine. Before you know it you’re living your entire life along one Subway line and spending Friday nights in your underwear watching Netflix.

So how do you make the transition from jaded New Yorker back to enthusiastic city dweller? Just try your hand at these NYC adventures below.

NYC Night Cruise (AKA Party Boat)

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The oft-forgotten NYC Night Cruise (AKA “Party Boat” AKA “Booze Cruise”) is one of those magical opportunities that tourists seem to love but New York residents think they’re too good for. This is unfortunate because there’s nothing like a party-on-a-boat to remind you of the majestic beauty of the city you’ve been taking for granted. While there are plenty of amazing cruises departing from Chelsea Piers at any given night, here is just one: The Spirit of New York dinner cruise. The Spirit City New York outdoor deck is a perfect spot to gaze at the stars on New York Harbor. Grab a brew in the lounge or head for the dance club and move to the latest sounds. There’s a full food menu, attentive service and Broadway style entertainment. Not a bad environment in which to enjoy the world’s most dramatic skyline, right? Photo: vtravelled.com

Live Piano Karaoke at the Manhattan Inn

ManhattanInn

You’ve been to more karaoke nights than you can count. That’s all fine and good. But why not re-invigorate your sad spirit with a new variety of intimate, live piano karaoke? Every Tuesday at The Manhattan Inn in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, pianist Joe McGinty “holds court behind a grand piano, enthusiastically accompanying anyone with the desire to croon, sing, belt, or whisper their favorite song.” (There are over 200 to choose from). The Manhattan Inn’s dim, inviting atmosphere is the perfect spot to relax the nerves and prepare you for a night of pouring your heart out in public. Photo: The Manhattan Inn

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'Shy People' and the Consequences of Excavating a Lost Film

shypeople

-Look over there.

-I don't see anything.

-You don't see them. They'll see you.

Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky's Shy People opened in New York and Los Angeles in December of 1987 after winning the award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and receiving a handful of rave reviews. The film was seen by few people and nominated for even fewer awards, even though its lead actors—Barbara Hershey, Jill Clayburgh, and Martha Plimpton—teetered somewhere on the mostly recognizable and well-liked edge of B- and C-list. In May of 1988, the film was given a slightly wider release, allowing it to take one final gasp of air before falling into the murky depths of forgotten films and becoming an official bomb.

Considering the fact that major publications failed to get even its general plot correct in their Fall movie previews, the fate of Shy People was unsurprising—most notably to Roger Ebert.

Of all of the great, lost films of recent years, "Shy People" must be the saddest case. Here is a great film that slipped through the cracks of an idiotic distribution deal and has failed to open in most parts of the country…If you want to see it, move decisively; it will be pushed aside soon by the big summer releases. With slightly different handling, "Shy People" could have been a best-picture Oscar nominee.

Roger Ebert

May 20, 1988

In 2014, Shy People barely exists. READ MORE

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