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Author Topic: Long Reads- Journalism, Essays, Fiction  (Read 37140 times)
HyperGlavin
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« Reply #40 on: October 07, 2012, 09:31 am »

Double-posting since I ain't give a fuck:

Top 5 Ways Bleacher Report Rules the World! - By Joe Eskenazi

A deep look inside a sports-themed content farm that relies on gamification to harness its thousands of unpaid contributors for ridiculous profits.

Quote
The road to the promised land is paved with virtual sapphires and diamonds — and real pageviews and revenue generated for the organization. Bleacher Report's higher-ups have provided neophyte writers a wealth of materials to help them thrive, and thereby meet the site's bottom-line needs. The first lesson offered to students of "Bleacher Report U." — a self-guided new-media training curriculum — is to "key on a keyword." In short, write about the stuff people are searching for: "The Hot Keyword Database is an updated catalog of the web's most popular search terms — and your ability to incorporate these terms in your articles will be instrumental in your efforts to generate visitor traffic and maximize your exposure."

One of Bleacher Report's top-five strategies for up-and-comers is to pen "hyperbolic headlines" and "always aim to either overstate or understate your position." As such, "NBA: LeBron James Signs with the Miami Heat," while accurate, is an unacceptable headline. The right take is "LeBron James Signing Makes the Miami Heat the Best Team in NBA History."

Finally, writers are urged to "cater to the masses." "For better or worse, readers love breezy sports-and-culture stories. If you really want to maximize your fanbase, your best bet is to give the people what they want." But, at the same time, don't forget to "beat against the mainstream." The exemplar of contrarian thinking offered within the site's curriculum is a Bleacher Report article titled "Why Tom Brady Is the Most Overrated Quarterback in NFL History."
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« Reply #41 on: October 28, 2012, 05:08 am »

David Attenborough reflects on 60 years of work in wildlife television, and the challenges of climate change.
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Karlski
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« Reply #42 on: November 06, 2012, 06:35 pm »

A piece written by a friend of mine who is a comedian:

Quote from: @robbotron
“Nice Boots”

Here’s a brief history of my relationship with the word “faggot”. “Faggot” was what I was called in high school by groups of young men who were terribly interested in showers and rugby. They wore ties and blazers to train for business and used bathrooms and fields to train for prison. Since they didn’t know who they were yet, nobody else was allowed to show any spark of personality.
This meant that anything that wasn’t “the same” needed a thump or a fuck – and since they didn’t know what they wanted to fuck, the thumping would have to do.

It was a stupid time – private boys’ schools are an expensive way to have your kid messed up by another kid in knee- high socks and a dumb hat. Every class was a small room with young pimpled wannabe thugs dressed like old wrinkled wannabe millionaires. The richest white boys pretended they were gangstas, while everyone else pretended not to find this exceptionally funny. It’s a matter of scientific fact that nobody whose father owns a boat can convincingly say the word “motherfucker”.

(I’m fairly sure the first thing our metalworks teacher taught us to make was a shiv. He called it a chisel, but since there were no pyramids to decorate or blocks of marble that needed shaping, we all took our little shivs and chiseled parts out of the fat kid.)

“The fat kid” was a representative of the underclass of the thumped. The awkward lads who didn’t gel socially and so sometimes had to bleed publicly. We were The Fat Kid Whose Mum Couldn’t Tell Right From Left, The Other Fat Kid Whose Dad Owned A Dress Shop, The Orphan Who Kept Shitting, The Stupidly Honest Boy and The Faggot. We weren’t friends with each other, since it was generally acknowledged that while The Faggot couldn’t be The Fat Boy or The Orphan, any of them could become a faggot at any time.

The Stupidly Honest Boy was the best of us. This is an actual conversation between him, me and the captain of the rugby team.

Captain: If I was a girl, I reckon I’d play with my tits all day.

Me: If I was a girl, I’d fuck other girls.

SHB: If I was a girl, I’d fuck guys.

Bless him; he just wasn’t good at judging his environment. When a thick-necked, ostensibly heterosexual rugby player wants to pretend to be a girl, dammit, everybody else better want to be a lesbian. Sure, lesbians are by their very definition gay, but we were playing on boys’ school rules, where anything without a penis is a good thing - and if by some fluke we all had gender reassignment surgery then we’d all damn well make out with each other and like it.

And in this sea of school pride, short shorts, shanked legs and confused young men, the word “faggot” was a catcall and a signal, a warning that a small, effeminate creature approached, a creature that, if provoked, was likely to bugger you. To be fair, had I been at all interested in boys, it would have been one hell of a defence mechanism, or maybe a compliment, if the lads had ever been comfortable with themselves.

(Let’s get this clear: I’m not saying the school’s athletics teams were exclusively made up of repressed homosexuals, I’m just saying that when sweaty young men with greasy faces and lank hair have to feel worried about the slightest bulge in their speedos, nobody wins. Coming to terms with yourself is stupidly difficult when you’ve been made to think that who you are is some manner of crime.)

So to me the word “Faggot” is a relic from a childhood spent saying, “Ha! I’m not a bundle of sticks” and then running away, because a smart faggot was also a dumb faggot and all faggots were made for burning. As a result, I still consider its presence in conversation to be one of the basest of insults, not quite the fairest and best proof that the people around me are slobbering Nazis hell-bent on violence and rape, but close enough to determine who gets invited over for dinner.

(Side note: I have witnessed occasions online when the word “faggot” hasn’t been used to expressly mean “homosexual”, but instead has been a more general insult. You know, a word that is somehow both meaningless and yet harmful – a word like… let me give you some examples… just give me a second… oh, you know? Damn… some completely meaningless, yet somehow still harmful word like… no, wait… hang on, that’s right, there aren’t any words that are both meaningless and offensive. Words are offensive because they carry a meaning – and while meanings can change, if you’re using a word with a dominant and hostile definition – and you’re just doing it to be offensive, you can’t later argue, “I didn’t mean that.” If you didn’t mean to say, “faggot”, you shouldn’t have said, “faggot”. Okay, faggot?)

Now, here’s a brief history of my relationship with the TV series, Invader Zim. When I was eighteen, all the young ladies I knew began to speak with an inflection that gradually rose during a sentence, with the final word being drawn out and half-projected, as though vowing theatrical vengeance. It helped if you also shook your fist and tilted your head upwards at the end. Have a go yourself. Read this sentence aloud, “I… am… talking like THIIIIIS!” while shaking your little hand in the air. I congratulate you; you have successfully replicated every conversation I had between the years 2003 – 2007.

This was the speech pattern used by the main characters on Invader Zim, a show beloved of all the young ladies I met between ages 18 and 22. They also liked me. They didn’t call me a faggot, in fact some of them found my penis quite neat – and as far as penises go, mine went as far as it needed to. The point is that Invader Zim was (and remains) the only television show I can identify entirely by the rhythm of its dialogue.

Flash-forward to 2009 and I hadn’t been called a faggot in a decade, except constantly by 9 year- old Korean boys while playing multiplayer anything. I stepped off a plane in Brisbane, the major Australian city closest to the town I was born in. I hadn’t been there in fifteen years and my memories were of a brutal place that was strange and humid and filled with the sort of man whose fist would have already broken your jaw before you finished saying, “I’ll have a lemon, lime and bitters, please.”

The city didn’t look the same. I stepped off the plane, hopped on a beautifully- appointed train and arrived at a major inner-city station in the middle of a hyper-modern shopping district. The sliding doors opened, I walked onto the street and a crinkle-faced old lady regarded my appearance with absolutely naked loathing.

She was old, I was young, she wore a muu-muu, I wore a pair of knee-high checkered boots. She looked me up; she looked me down and delivered her verdict by spitting on the ground and shouting, “NICE BOOTS, YOU FAGGOT!”

It was a good welcome, the hostility was honest and most people on the street seemed reasonably interested in whether or not the faggot had nice boots. It was the kind of greeting that makes the left-wing city dweller start looking for signs of banjos and I wondered if she was the former captain of my rugby team, fuelled with anger at not having become the girl of his dreams, but rather her grandmother.

That weekend I hosted a stage at a massive sci-fi convention. These things are terrific, colourful, excitable affairs that attract a mix of genuinely interesting people and tedious monkey-men hunting for a spectacle. I’ve seen a lot of the thicknecks I went to school with walk around the show floor in a state somewhere between pure elation and total fear. “There’s Val Kilmer!” they’ll say, “And the cheerleader from Heroes! There’s… my God… and that’s… what is that? What are those? Man, this is great, let’s leave.”

The guests who are brought in are sometimes creative powerhouses at the height of their ability and fame, sometimes they actors between work and sometimes they people who were famous for being famous so briefly that only they remember their names. It’s a good life for all involved – you only need to get drunk with one of your childhood heroes to die happy. When I die, I’ll die so pleased that my funeral will go on tour – and after some warm-up from the priest, everyone will love the audacity of my new act, an hour of total stillness followed by the casket closing. There will be no encores.

In 2009, one of these guests was Jhonen Vasquez, creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, noted Twitter fiend, filmmaker and the diabolical genius behind Invader Zim. I had recognised him over dinner by sheer virtue of him talking liiiike THIIIIIIS.

I like Jhonen a lot; when I created The Dark Room he was excellent enough to promote it online. He wrote that the last time he’d seen me I wasn’t a floating head. From memory, neither is he. He is a good-looking, slender man whose brain hums with invention while his mouth reassembles the English language into quotable bites of acid-drop blackness. When I stood next to him, I looked like the low-budget security detail they assign to all rockstars of the animation world.

We had eaten a meal at a fine Turkish restaurant with about twenty other people – and three of us had broken off afterwards to walk back to the hotel. We were halfway across the bridge in the centre of Brisbane when a tremendously drunk young lady bumped into Jhonen and then fell screaming to the pavement. This brought the attention of her brothers, who were five colossal monster men who began screaming, “WHYAREYOUHITTINGAWOMANMATEWHYAREYOUHITTINGAWOMAN” while setting their biceps and fists to “murder”.

All it took from Jhonen was one amazed, American “I didn’t do anything!” and the problem was settled, as the five big boys silently acknowledged a few universal truths:

1. He was right.

2. She was fine.

3. It’s bad form to kill a tourist.

So they walked past Jhonen, walked past the next guy and walked past me. As they went by, one of the brothers gave me a glance and muttered, “Nice boots, faggot.”

They were nice boots.
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« Reply #43 on: January 07, 2013, 05:08 am »

http://lfeffortposts.wordpress.com/

So there was once a section of Something Awful called Laissez's Fair (LF). It was known for having extremely long posts to inform about various topics. Among other things. It had a strange and glorious history.

(click to show/hide)
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« Reply #44 on: January 22, 2013, 11:53 am »

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/04/16/070416fa_fact_colapinto

Nifty little story centered around a reclusive Amazonian tribe with a unique language & culture. They don't have past tenses, numbers, or subordinate clauses. The article is an exploration what this means to Chomskyian linguists, as well as a brief history of a linguist's interactions with the tribe over the past 30 years.
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« Reply #45 on: March 08, 2013, 07:31 am »

http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us/

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Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation’s economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth. In the U.S., people spend almost 20% of the gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.
 
According to one of a series of exhaustive studies done by the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm, we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia. We may be shocked at the $60 billion price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We spent almost that much last week on health care. We spend more every year on artificial knees and hips than what Hollywood collects at the box office. We spend two or three times that much on durable medical devices like canes and wheelchairs, in part because a heavily lobbied Congress forces Medicare to pay 25% to 75% more for this equipment than it would cost at Walmart.
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« Reply #46 on: March 08, 2013, 08:52 am »

I don't know why I didn't post this here before, but:

The science and business of food in America
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« Reply #47 on: July 31, 2013, 02:25 am »

Ants are laying siege to the world's chocolate supply

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Ants have been farming for millions of years longer than humans. These particular ants herd mealybugs — small, sap-sucking insects that look like woodlice dipped in flour. The ants shepherd and protect the mealybugs so they can ‘milk’ the sugary nutritious fluids in their waste. The bugs used to drink primarily from local rainforest trees, but when humans started clearing the forest to make way for cocoa, the ants adapted, by driving their livestock into the fresh cocoa pastures.

This strategy shift entangled the cocoa trees in a web of pests and pestilence. When mealybugs drink from trees, they inject them with a pathogen called cacao swollen shoot virus (CSSV). In local rainforest trees, the effects of CSSV are mild, but cocoa — a newcomer to these forests — hasn’t had a chance to evolve countermeasures. As a result, the virus pummels the trees, swelling their shoots and roots well beyond their usual size while draining the colour from their leaves. Before long, often only a few years, the trees die.

The trees’ woes don’t end there, for these ants are builders as well as farmers. They strip cocoa pods to build tents for themselves and their mealybugs, protecting them from predators and pesticides. But the pods don’t have to be fresh. The ants are happy to harvest building materials from pods that have blackened with rot, thanks to two funguslike parasites — Phytophthora megakarya and Phytophthora palmivora. As they do so, they move spores from the parasites into uninfected trees, spreading black-pod disease in their wake.
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HyperGlavin
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« Reply #48 on: August 11, 2013, 07:09 am »

Marcus London Ain't Someone U Fuck With

A profile piece on a porn star/director that was originally behind a paywall, but released to the public for free after the subject sent violent threats to the author for her unflattering honesty. Well worth a read.
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HyperGlavin
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« Reply #49 on: August 26, 2013, 12:51 am »

Mark Lynas, an environmentalist who helped found the anti-GM movement gives a lecture in which he explains why he changed his stance to support research into genetically modified crops.

Quote
My second climate book, Six Degrees, was so sciency that it even won the Royal Society science books prize, and climate scientists I had become friendly with would joke that I knew more about the subject than them. And yet, incredibly, at this time in 2008 I was still penning screeds in the Guardian attacking the science of GM – even though I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding. I don’t think I’d ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science even at this late stage.

Obviously this contradiction was untenable. What really threw me were some of the comments underneath my final anti-GM Guardian article. In particular one critic said to me: so you’re opposed to GM on the basis that it is marketed by big corporations. Are you also opposed to the wheel because because it is marketed by the big auto companies?

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But this was still only the beginning. So in my third book The God Species I junked all the environmentalist orthodoxy at the outset and tried to look at the bigger picture on a planetary scale.

And this is the challenge that faces us today: we are going to have to feed 9.5 billion hopefully much less poor people by 2050 on about the same land area as we use today, using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides and in the context of a rapidly-changing climate.
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« Reply #50 on: August 27, 2013, 07:46 am »

http://www.aeonmagazine.com/being-human/david-berreby-obesity-era/

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Yet the scientists who study the biochemistry of fat and the epidemiologists who track weight trends are not nearly as unanimous as Bloomberg makes out. In fact, many researchers believe that personal gluttony and laziness cannot be the entire explanation for humanity’s global weight gain. Which means, of course, that they think at least some of the official focus on personal conduct is a waste of time and money. As Richard L Atkinson, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin and editor of the International Journal of Obesity, put it in 2005: ‘The previous belief of many lay people and health professionals that obesity is simply the result of a lack of willpower and an inability to discipline eating habits is no longer defensible.’

Consider, for example, this troublesome fact, reported in 2010 by the biostatistician David B Allison and his co-authors at the University of Alabama in Birmingham: over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas.

the whole article ranges from stuff you'll probably nod your head along with to fascinating stuff I wouldn't have considered. a good read.
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« Reply #51 on: August 27, 2013, 04:48 pm »

If the cause of obesity is the obesity trap whereby the transition from poor-to-middle class causes obesity, then why do we see it in laboratory mice, who as he points out have been eating supposedly the same portion controlled diet for generations? Maybe the animal diets changed too.  Aren't those produced by big-food companies like Purina and shit?

Second, the "simple thermodynamics" argument may not be as simple as some simpletons make it out to be, but this guy's glib dismissal of it is just flat out wrong.

energy stored = energy input - energy use
                     = energy input - (1-metabolic efficiency) * physical work done

One way of looking at his argument that personal responsibility is irrelevant is that energy input and work done can be considered constant (the mice supposedly got fatter without their food and exercise changing).  Therefore, the metabolic efficiency (the only thing biochemistry can affect) must have increased. So this guy's argument is that our bodies, because of biochemistry in the modern world, are capable of doing the same amount of work with less energy.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but that's pretty far fetched.

That said, I don't think biochemistry is completely irrelevant. I am absolutely in favor of getting the bullshit out of our food, because I think it causes all kinds of crazy problems. I am absolutely in favor of providing access to healthy foods to people of all economic classes.  I am absolutely in favor of policies that address the systematic global economic disorder and attempt to straighten things out. But I still find it silly to suggest that somehow our desk jobs with nonexistent exercise and 800 calorie double whoppers are actually the secondary effects.
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« Reply #52 on: August 27, 2013, 05:24 pm »

because he is not saying that the cause of obesity is the obesity trap. he calls it an "alternative theory" after a section where he describes such theories as "fugitive possibilities." he's running through a range of research on non-willpower-related causes, which may or may not be central factors, to show that scientific research is trying to cover the many bases of the problem. the whole point of the article is that there is no singular, easy-to-target-and-scapegoat cause.

One way of looking at his argument that personal responsibility is irrelevant

that is not his argument. he doesn't glibly dismiss thermodynamics; he glibly dismisses the glib usage of science to justify overconfident ideology

Quote
These theories are important for a different reason. Their very existence — the fact that they are plausible, with some supporting evidence and suggestions for further research — gives the lie to the notion that obesity is a closed question, on which science has pronounced its final word. It might be that every one of the ‘roads less travelled’ contributes to global obesity; it might be that some do in some places and not in others. The openness of the issue makes it clear that obesity isn’t a simple school physics experiment.
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« Reply #53 on: August 27, 2013, 05:47 pm »

because he is not saying that the cause of obesity is the obesity trap. he calls it an "alternative theory" after a section where he describes such theories as "fugitive possibilities."

Yes, but the point is that the alternative theory (which is not a throwaway to him, he devotes like 8 paragraphs to it) is patently contradicted by the other facts he uses to support his argument.  It's like the Michael Moore approach to journalism. You just go scattershot on interpretations that buck the supposed opposing narrative without regard to whether those interpretations are self-consistent. It doesn't lend much credibility to the analysis.
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« Reply #54 on: August 28, 2013, 07:59 am »

I didn't say it was a throwaway to him; clearly he finds it fascinating. his whole point is that there are multiple factors and that the situation is more complicated than most public faces will allow; he makes that point first, then considers the range of research on the topic (some of which addresses certain gaps in knowledge, some of which addresses others), takes some time near the end to focus on a fringe aspect of the topic that he finds interesting because of its sociological implications (without ever implying it's the most important or central piece of research; instead he calls it the "most epic" of the alternative theories, which seems to suggest it's both academically fascinating enough to merit inspection and slightly more specious than the more straightforward possibilities discussed earlier), and ends by reiterating that, whatever the truth is, we don't have it as well and obviously in hand as guys like Bloomberg would like to assert.

I think comparing it to Michael Moore is silly. again, if the whole thesis is "this is not a simplistic causal relationship," of course he's going to run the gamut of alternative explanations. the wide and "scattershot" range of possibilities helps to prove his point.
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« Reply #55 on: August 28, 2013, 08:01 am »

I mean he ends with that anticipatory rebuttal of people who might say "so should we just sit on our hands and do nothing?" because that would be the logical reaction to an argument "you can't act on the presumption that this has all been figured out, because look at all of this uncertainty in the research." it would not be the logical reaction to "that's not the reason obesity happens, this is the reason it happens"
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« Reply #56 on: September 27, 2013, 07:27 am »

Postmodern geekdom as simulated ethnicity, by Kom Kunyosying and Carter Soles

A critical reading of the rise of geeks within popular culture and their position within dramatic narratives as a virtuous other, which places them at odds with their privileged white male status in real life.
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« Reply #57 on: September 27, 2013, 11:47 am »

I've only read the first page, but that's already fantastic.
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« Reply #58 on: October 01, 2013, 07:02 am »

That was very good. Read this, you nerds
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« Reply #59 on: October 01, 2013, 11:43 am »

http://bostonreview.net/us/seth-abramson-criminal-justice

A useful guide to America's criminal justice system by a public defender.
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