Friday, October 24th, 2014
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Ebola, New Jersey

orangecones

The Peasant Grill in sleepy Hopewell, New Jersey, is a popular destination for hot drinks, baked confections, and sandwiches. It's usually packed during lunch hour, but it's been relatively empty since October 9th, when a black Mercedes with a woman wearing black sunglasses behind the wheel pulled up and disgorged a man, who went inside and picked up an order of soup. Some days later, the woman's name, her children's names, and the address of her home—a short drive from The Peasant Grill—appeared on posters hung on the public boards throughout downtown Princeton:


HELP PROTECT OUR COMMUNITY FROM:
EBOLA
NBC TODAY SHOW
TV CELEBRITY
NANCY SNYDERMAN

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New York City, October 23, 2014

weather review sky 102314★ For a while, off in the northwestern distance, there was one rumpled gap of brightness behind the gray rain. Then gray covered all. The rain dripped more vigorously down through the grate onto the subway tracks than it had been falling above. Downtown, the rain had wind behind it and was heavy enough to require the umbrella, allowing the discovery that one arm had snapped and gone dangling. The darkness held all day. By the time the rain stopped, it was too cold to duck out onto the fire escape, even with a jacket.

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How to Play the Airline Miles Game

I am a 30-year-old woman with an arts degree and some geographic commitment issues, so for much of my adult life, I’ve been in situations where I’ve earned unimpressive amounts of money, but have needed (or wanted) to fly to places semi-regularly. As a result, I’ve become a sort of unabashed, salivating fangirl for airline miles, and something of an expert when it comes to accumulating them. I offer here a primer on how you might join me in this rewarding hobby.

Not to be a scold right off the bat, but this method involves credit cards, so it may not be for everyone. You’ll need to have good credit, and pretty high levels of self-discipline for it to work right. If you’re the type who sees access to credit as an invitation to spend recklessly, I’m sorry, but this is not for you. You know that show on TLC about "Extreme Couponing" that is both inspiring and repulsive and you don’t know whether to pity the couponers or to cheer them on? This advice is going to be kind of like that, but for airline miles, so if you’re squeamish, don't read any further.  READ MORE

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Hobbits Take Flight Once Again In The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made

Brought to you by Air New Zealand

In anticipation of the December release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Air New Zealand takes flight once again with Dwarves, Orcs, and Elves in The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made.

Wrapping off a successful and exciting three-year collaboration with The Hobbit film series, Air New Zealand brings some of the Trilogy’s most beloved cast and crew, such as Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Dean O’Gorman (Fili the Dwarf), Sylvester McCoy (Radagast) and director Sir Peter Jackson, to a number of New Zealand’s Middle-earth locations for this in-flight safety video. Passengers, alongside other creatures from the Trilogy, embark on an epic journey through Middle-earth from their own seat.

The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made follows up the airline’s first Hobbit-inspired safety video, The Unexpected Briefing (2012).

Check out the video to discover how Air New Zealand can help make your journey to Middle-earth one you sure won’t soon forget. Then visit airnewzealand.com for the best offers to get you there.

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A Poem by Danniel Schoonebeek

Works and Days

Hesiod insists his name means the shovel.

And this life on my spade

“it will end

in two acts.”
ACT ONE
Before I grow up

& I die a legend to nobody
ACT TWO
I’ll grow up

get poorly

& ghost write

my brother’s life story.

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Not Just Any Apple

Golden Russet apples

New York has the best apples in the world. I say this grudgingly, since I am not a native New Yorker and prefer to argue about claims to New York’s superiority rather than accept them. But after four years of living in this ridiculous city, the facts are the facts: Washington may grow many more apples each year; Minnesota may have the best apple laboratories; and apples (well, besides crab-apples) may not even be native to this continent; but in terms of flavor and variety, I’ll hold up New York’s apples against anywhere in the world. That said, you’re probably buying the wrong ones.

I won’t even bother to dismiss the Red Delicious apple, still the most popular variety in the country; Sarah Yager at the Atlantic did a better job with that than I could. Instead I want to encourage New Yorkers, and other people who live in states which I’m sure do other things well but do not grow apples quite as well as New York, to try the ugly apples—the cheap and rough and blemished and unfamiliar apples.

Lately, it is not the red delicious that’s raised my ire, but the Honeycrisp, an apple developed just a few decades ago in labs in Minnesota. The Honeycrisp is an excellent walking-around apple, a hardy variety that lasts for weeks off the tree and boasts a spectacularly crisp texture. Perhaps no other apple boasts the *snap* of a Honeycrisp. But at the farmers market I see customers walk past a dozen other varieties in favor of the Honeycrisp, and this saddens me, for two reasons. First, the Honeycrisp is not especially flavorful; its sweetness and tartness is well balanced, but it lacks the punch-in-the-face apple flavor of other varieties. Second, it’s very expensive; a grower I know in Pennsylvania refers to them as “Moneycrisps” because he can charge two or three times as much for them as for other varieties, though it’s not really any harder to grow.

Now, if I’m in a grocery store and the choices are Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp, I’d usually opt for the Honeycrisp. But not in New York, in the fall! Not when there are literally hundreds of heirloom varieties out there, crazy apples with flavors of pear and pineapple and spice and with a huge range of colors and textures. Branch out! Try the ones you’ve never heard of!

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Dramedy and the Grim Future of Comedy

louie elevator 2In a recent Salon interview, Bob Odenkirk warns aspiring writers to “get out of comedy, because it’s about to collapse.” Sketch comedy, he says, is having its time in the sun now — what with YouTube, Comedy Central’s burgeoning lineup and the legions of theater sketch teams popping up all over—but the market is becoming saturated. What’s next then? He suggests that once the market tires of short sketches, it may turn to more long-form, dramatic material. “I do think that after sketch comes story,” he speculates.

And when you look at the TV landscape, that makes sense. (Plus, Odenkirk’s been ahead of the game for years. Why wouldn’t you listen to him now?) Louie and Girls, two shows that are nominally considered comedies but regularly flirt with drama within their svelte 30-minute timeframes, are setting the tone for many of the new comedies cropping up everywhere. Some of that influence manifests itself in different ways, whether it’s other series copping their surface premise (Maron), their intimate, semi-vérité style (Broad City, Looking) or their personal, insular subject matter (Transparent, Hello Ladies).

But regardless of exactly how each show borrows, the bottom line is that all these series are following Louie and Girls’ lead by digging beneath the obvious elements of comedy to explore the uncomfortable or painful issues that lie beneath any good punchline. In short, they’re acting more like dramas.  So that begs the question: are we entering some new era dominated by that nebulous thing known as the “comedy-drama”? READ MORE

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Checking in with the Ebola Day Traders

A few days ago, there was a sense among the addled death-shorting Twitter community that "Ebola stocks"—by then shorthand for a specific set of companies that mostly make protective equipment—weren't a great investment. Sure, demand for their products must be up, and their prospects for making money must have improved, but their ability to rain down hot cash on fast-clicking maniacs was diminished. Of course the existence of a horrible virus that has killed thousands of people and will kill thousands more is categorically bad news, but that's beside the point. What isn't beside the point, is a better question to ask of our financial markets.

There was now mostly unease and regrouping, after a legendary (among Twitter day traders) run on Ebola stocks following the cases in Texas.

The subject, which days earlier hosted thousands of messages, had been overtaken by spam.

The day traders were either ignoring the stocks or thinking about shorting them. Many apparently did.

But then, mid-afternoon, a tremor.

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Screaming Females, "Wishing Well"

A walk-around-with-headphones track that rummages through a drawer of twenty-year-old chord progressions and flourishes and somehow comes up with exactly what it needs.

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New York City, October 22, 2014

★ Discouraging rain, dark and soaking. The plastic cover for the stroller had picked up a crust of thick black grime as it rode around unused in the bottom cargo basket. The rain eased off and came back on again. Outside the barbershop, a bent cigarette, dropped half-finished, trailed smoke eastward low over the wet sidewalk. A turn of the chair and it had burned out. It was too cold out on the office fire escape to duck out for a break without a jacket. The rain made sure to come on heavily again for rush hour. Little golden leaves made crumbling jetties or failing dams in the gutters.

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Intern Deluxe: The Rise of New Media Fellowships

My first unpaid media internship was in the summer of 2010. Like most college students, previous semesters spent whiffing on applications made landing one feel like a reward, regardless of pay—I’d move to New York and even have the chance to write (mostly) professionally. The “unpaid” part always loomed, but my friends and I made it work through varying levels of cost-cutting and couch-crashing. Besides, we were all believers in that age-old internship axiom: As stressful as working for free was, we’d be getting the experience and exposure needed to compete for real, paid jobs. The problem with “climbing up to minimum wage” as an employment strategy never really crossed our minds.

Unpaid internships, long a due-paying rite of passage for college students, became entrenched as a stopgap solution for employers with spots to fill but without the money to properly fill them.  This was (and is) very bad. In cases where full-time work was carried out under the auspices of internship programs, it was also illegal. And, as the ways that many unpaid internships violated labor laws became common knowledge, former interns began taking their employers to court.  The earliest lawsuits, filed around late 2011, challenged the argument that interns weren’t technically employees and didn’t qualify for protections like minimum wage because they were getting educational or professional benefits by being in the office.  After a federal judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures was illegally using unpaid interns on the movie Black Swan in June 2013—the first major ruling against unpaid internships—a wave of lawsuits followed against media companies like Conde Nast, NBC Universal and Gawker Media. (A similar case against the Hearst Corporation, filed in 2012, is currently under appeal.)

The media industry adapted swiftly: Slate began paying its interns in December 2013; Conde Nast shuttered its intern program entirely; and the Times ended its sub-minimum wage internships in March. But other high-profile employers have turned to a new way to temporarily employ students or recent grads: fellowships.

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Ghosts Of My Youth

sp00000kyThe first ghost story I ever heard was from my mother. She described how once, while sleeping in an upstairs bedroom in her sister’s house, she woke to the feeling of twin icicles curling around her ankles. They were hands, but she didn’t see a body, exactly. More like an abstract interpretation of a body, female, crouched at the foot of the bed. It yanked once, hard, and she opened her pink teenaged mouth and screamed, causing it to let go and vanish. The details shift uneasily when she retells this story—sometimes there is a horrible, unseasonal rainstorm beating the roof, sometimes she is 15, or 17. But these two details remain the same: The bed belonged a dead woman and she never went into that portion of the house again.

There's a lot of paranormal activity in my family. Whether it is more than most other families is hard to say, but we seem to have more than most. During holidays and family events, after the adults wander into the kitchen to drink coffee or head off to bed, us cousins gather in some remote part of the house and talk about the things that go bump in the night. These are our heirlooms, a series of signals and omens that help us make sense of each other and our shared family history, which is by turns strange, mysterious and murky. These stories open up a portal to the parts of life that don’t seem to make much sense but as still just as real as the rest of it. Over the years, I've come to realize that sometimes a ghost isn't always a ghost. Sometimes, telling a ghost story is a way to talk about something else present in the air, taking up space beside you. It can also be a manifestation of intuition, or something you’ve known in your bones but haven’t yet been able to accept. But sometimes a ghost is exactly what it is—a seriously fucking scary spirit. READ MORE

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We Chased Another Woman Off Twitter, Good Job Everyone

Utah-born writer and model Christine Teigen (also the spouse of John Legend) is leading the way off Twitter because you're all really stupid, possibly illiterate, and have no impulse control. We encourage you to follow her. No not "follow" her on social media. Follow her off social media. Oh yes, her evil crime?

Uh huh? Accurate. Anyway, she gave it a good college try, engaging with enraged loons for as long as possible. This was particularly deft:

But we all know how this story ends: with a stupid "balanced" write-up in a newspaper. Sad times!

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Everything Except Rap and Country

There is something that reviewers are not quite saying about Taylor Swift's new album, 1989. It's on the tips of their tongues. Jon Caramanica comes closest:

Modern pop stars — white pop stars, that is — mainly get there by emulating black music. Think of Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber. In the current ecosystem, Katy Perry is probably the pop star least reliant on hip-hop and R&B to make her sound, but her biggest recent hit featured the rapper Juicy J; she’s not immune.

Ms. Swift, though, is having none of that; what she doesn’t do on this album is as important as what she does. There is no production by Diplo or Mike Will Made-It here, no guest verse by Drake or Pitbull. Her idea of pop music harks back to a period — the mid-1980s — when pop was less overtly hybrid. That choice allows her to stake out popular turf without having to keep up with the latest microtrends, and without being accused of cultural appropriation.

That Ms. Swift wants to be left out of those debates was clear in the video for this album’s first single, the spry “Shake It Off,” in which she surrounds herself with all sorts of hip-hop dancers and bumbles all the moves. Later in the video, she surrounds herself with regular folks, and they all shimmy un-self-consciously, not trying to be cool.

See what Ms. Swift did there? The singer most likely to sell the most copies of any album this year has written herself a narrative in which she’s still the outsider. She is the butterfingers in a group of experts, the approachable one in a sea of high post, the small-town girl learning to navigate the big city.

The line on the new album's music is: Less country, more pop. But not just any pop! Maybe…white pop. READ MORE

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Bing & Ruth, "The Towns We Love Is Our Town"


As everything becomes progressively more terrible and the pace of the progression accelerates at a clip that, each time I notice it, seems even more aggressive and unlikely when compared with the speed at which the previous increase in awfulness occurred, it seems that the few new things in which I find comfort are those which reduce or eschew altogether the use of words. Words are terrible. Our only hope is in everyone shutting up. The future is wordless sound. Listen to this. [Via]

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'I'd Like to Dispute These Charges, Please'

TJsYesterday, I received a text from my bank alerting me of some possibly fraudulent activity on my debit card. Despite the fact that it was tucked securely in my wallet, right next to my Qdoba rewards card, someone was using the number at a gas station in Lebanon. I can only assume they used the $97.60 to buy a tank of gas and then 57 hot dogs.

The matter was resolved very quickly, but my bank prompted me to comb through my recent activity and ensure everything else was kosher. Well, USAA, you were right. I have found some charges that must be fraudulent because I would never spend money so irresponsibly.

Over the last 30 days, these charges amount to:

$45.17 at J.P. Licks, an ice cream store. This absolutely could not have been me, because I'm lactose intolerant! Granted, I love ice cream. Granted, sometimes all I need after a long day is a cup of strawberry ice cream with hot caramel topping. Granted, I absolutely ate here 9 times last month. I’d like to dispute these charges. READ MORE

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"So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them—a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook."

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Mood Disrupted

Each quarter a gaggle of Bay Area venture capitalists are asked, you know, how does everything feel? Aside from totally great, of course. What's your sense of things, other than that you are changing the world utterly for the better?

This quarter’s index measurement fell [to 3.89] from the previous quarter’s index reading of 4.02. The Q3 reading is the first recorded decline in confidence in two years.

In the new report Professor Cannice indicates that “The lower Q3 index reading raises some concern for the near to medium term outlook for the high-growth venture environment.”

The concept of Valley investor "confidence" is unusual. In a survey context, confidence is usually something that respondents have in outside entities: in a government, in an economy in general, in markets that are subject to a wide variety of outside forces. But here, the question seems almost circular. The respondents are asked how confident they are in "the future high-growth entrepreneurial environment," the growth of which is, when things are going well, disproportionately contingent on venture capitalists' confidence. A very confident venture capitalist is a venture capitalist who can say, "I have a shot at turning this company, which makes no money, into a billion-dollar acquisition target for one of a small handful of large flush companies," or, much less often, "I think one of my very savvy early investments might be able to go public soon." There are factors that they cannot control, which might make them less confident; if just one giant tech company slows down its spending, hundreds of startups' prospects suddenly get dimmer. But the way investors respond, here, does not suggest they are too concerned about that, at least for now. They seem to be more concerned with talk. "The ‘bubble’ talk has grown louder, especially discussion about high valuations and burn rates," says one investor (this despite "rampant disruptive innovation," the report later adds). His answer to the question about confidence, in other words, is to note that, while everything is great, some other people sound less confident, talking about "burn rates" and "revenue" for reasons that he cannot fathom and which are certainly not at all strategic, and none of this makes any sense to him, because the fundamentals are just so strong, but there you have it, there's been some talk, oh well. It's the confident leading the confident, in Silicon Valley! Which, counter-intuitively, is why this metric actually might mean something.

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New York City, October 21, 2014

★★ Purple sheets of dawn clouds went away, and gray, white, and blue vied for the skies. Humidity, chill, and brightness were in a marine or tropical-feeling imbalance: a little uncomfortable, a little comfortable, but only provisionally so either way. The sun ceded its share, then reclaimed it and more. Clouds gathered in the late west, edges rumpled and glowing like an illustration of gates to the mansions of paradise. Then the sun went lower and the mass of cloud was dark and grim. Later, in full night, light pollution cast bright auras on the low clouds as lightning glimmered and flared and eventually flashed. A hissing downpour arrived, and the patterns of light fuzzed away.

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A Brief Conversation with the Internet Concerning Renée Zellweger

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 3.58.50 PMHere Are Some Pictures of Renée Zellweger

but

Here is Renée Zellweger’s Awesome Response To Trolls Over Her Appearance

however, this is

What’s Really Behind The Ridicule Of Renée Zellweger’s Face

and actually

If You Looked at Renee Zellweger's Plastic Surgery, You Need to See These Photos

which will remind you that people are dying, specifically of Ebola, despite the fact that

This Ohio man has the perfect reaction to Ebola

and anyway

Don’t panic over Ebola in America

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