The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Twice. I hit Ctrl+W *twice* while writing this post

Ctrl+W closes the active browser window, you see. I meant to type the word "Wade" in italics but somehow hit the Ctrl key instead of the Shift key. There may be some irony there.

Possibly the warmth has addled my brain? It's just gone above freezing for the first time since the wee hours of January 13th. It's also gloomy and gray, but those things go together.

Anyway:

  • Today is the 51st anniversary of the US Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade.
  • Michael Tomasky wants to know why the press seem to ignore the XPOTUS's obvious dementia.
  • Something fishy happened with the 2023 Hugo nomination process, but that certainly has nothing to do with the politics of the host country.
  • The City of London has embarked on an ambitious pedestrianization scheme that has, among other things, turned the area around the Bank Tube stop into a pleasant place to sit.

Finally, European researchers have published a report suggesting that domestic dogs wag their tails because humans like the rhythm. I will shortly go test this theory on my resident tail-wagger.

Busy weekend

I grabbed a friend for a couple of Brews & Choos visits yesterday, and through judicious moderation (8-10 oz of beer per person at each stop), we managed to get the entire West Fulton Corridor cluster done in six hours. So in a few minutes I'll start writing four B&C reviews, which will come out over the next three days.

Before I start, though, I'm going to read all these stories that have piled up since Friday:

Finally, the Roscoe Rat (really a squirrel) Hole got its own NPR story this morning. And in my social media I saw a photo of someone proposing to her boyfriend at the rat hole. Color me bemused.

Yet another infantile billionaire

Billionaire Bill Ackerman lobbied Harvard's board hard to get president Claudine Gay fired last month, harping on her plagiarism as a key reason she wasn't fit for the job. Business Insider then published two stories alleging what looks like even worse plagiarism by Neri Oxman—Ackerman's wife. So Ackerman did what any self-deceiving, childish, hypocritical billionaire would do: he leaned on the paper's publisher. Because of course he did:

At one point, Ackman wrote that a Harvard student who committed “much less” plagiarism than Claudine Gay would be forced out of the university. Gay resigned from the presidency last week.

But when Business Insider raised plagiarism concerns about his wife’s work, Ackman excoriated the publication, accusing it of unethical journalism, promising to review its writers’ work and predicting that it would “go bankrupt and be liquidated.” In one social media post, he implied that Business Insider’s investigations editor (whom he called “a known anti-Zionist”) may have been “willing to lead this attack” because Oxman is Israeli.

Neither Ackman nor Oxman, whose companies didn’t respond to requests for comment, have pointed to any factual errors in the articles.

Still, Ackman’s complaints seemed to get the attention of Axel Springer, the German media giant that owns Business Insider. On Sunday, the company released an unusual statement saying it would “review the processes” that led up to the articles’ publication, while acknowledging that the stories were not factually wrong.

While Ackman hasn’t raised factual issues with the articles, he has claimed that the outlet didn’t give him and his wife enough time to comment on the second story, about Wikipedia plagiarism, with a space of roughly two hours on late Friday afternoon between when his spokesman was asked for comment and when the story was published. But Ackman first went public with the Wikipedia allegations roughly an hour before the story was published by posting on social media about the impending article, which may have affected Business Insider’s publication schedule.

Cryptocurrency researcher (the good kind) and Wikipedia mega-editor Molly White the Tweet in question apart line by line:

What is it with these guys? I have to wonder if kvetching about how unfairly the world treats you is a prerequisite for amassing a huge fortune. They do tend to project a lot, don't they, these billionaires?

Part of me finds this sort of thing hilarious, another part finds it sad, and yet I have to remember that these whiny babies have a lot of money and the power that goes with it. Not being able to take criticism, especially when one is a public figure and one continually inserts oneself into public discourse, seems like weakness to me. Maybe that's why they get so agitated: deep down, they know the truth backing up their critics.

Evening round-up

I can't yet tell that sunsets have gotten any later in the past two weeks, though I can tell that sunrises are still getting later. But one day, about three weeks from now, I'll look out my office window at this hour, and notice it hasn't gotten completely dark yet. Alas, that day is not this day.

Elsewhere in the darkening world:

  • Mike Godwin, the person who postulated Godwin's Law, believes that invoking it as regards the XPOTUS is not at all losing the argument: "You could say the ‘vermin’ remark or the ‘poisoning the blood’ remark, maybe one of them would be a coincidence. But both of them pretty much makes it clear that there’s something thematic going on, and I can’t believe it’s accidental."
  • Julia Ioffe watches with growing horror at Ukraine's looming money cliff.
  • The rings of a 200-year-old tree in Arizona show just how bad last summer was.
  • The Federal Highway Administration has revised the MUCTD after 14 years, this time after actually listening to people who don't drive cars.

Finally, Tyler Austin Harper shakes his head that university administrators and other people of limited horizons completely misunderstand why the humanities are important:

If we have any hope of resuscitating fields like English and history, we must rescue the humanities from the utilitarian appraisals that both their champions and their critics subject them to. We need to recognize that the conservatives are right, albeit not in the way they think: The humanities are useless in many senses of the term. But that doesn’t mean they’re without value.

It is often faculty who are trying to safeguard their fields from the progressive machinations of their bureaucratic overlords. But faced with a choice between watching their departments shrink or agreeing to hire in areas that help realize the personnel-engineering schemes of their bosses, departments tend to choose the latter. ... At the same time, a generation of Ph.D. students is eyeing current hiring practices and concluding that the only research that has a prayer of landing them a tenure-track position relates to questions of identity and justice.

Instead of trying to prove that the humanities are more economically useful than other majors—a tricky proposition—humanists have taken to justifying their continued existence within the academy by insisting that they are uniquely socially and politically useful. The emergent sales pitch is not that the humanities produce and transmit important knowledge, but rather that studying the humanities promotes nebulous but nice-sounding values, such as empathy and critical thinking, that are allegedly vital to the cause of moral uplift in a multicultural democracy.

The whole essay is worth a read.

Long day

I have tickets to a late concert downtown, which means a few things, principally that I'm still at the office. But I'm killing it on this sprint, so it works out.

Of course this means a link dump:

I promise to write something substantial tomorrow or Saturday. Promise.

Seasonal, sunny, and breezy

We have unusual wind and sunshine for mid-November today, with a bog-standard 10C temperature. It doesn't feel cold, though. Good weather for flying kites, if you have strong arms.

Elsewhere in the world:

  • The right wing of the US Supreme Court has finally found a firearms restriction that they can't wave away with their nonsense "originalism" doctrine.
  • Speaking of the loony right-wing asses on the bench, the Post has a handy guide to all of the people and organizations Justice Clarence Thomas (R) and his wife claim have no influence on them, despite millions in gifts and perks.
  • NBC summarizes the dumpster fire that was the XPOTUS and his family lying testifying in the former's fraud sentencing hearings.
  • Alexandra Petri jokes that "having rights is still bewilderingly popular:" "Tuesday’s election results suggest that the Republican legislative strategy of 'taking people’s rights away for no clear reason' was not an overwhelming success at the ballot box."
  • Earth had the warmest October on record, setting us up for the warmest year in about 120,000 years.
  • Could the waste heat from parking garages actually heat homes?
  • John Scalzi has a new film review column for Uncanny Magazine, with his first entry praising the storytelling of the Wachowski's 2008 Speed Racer adaptation.

Finally, Citylab lays out the history of San Francisco's Ferry Terminal Building, which opened 125 years ago. I always try to stop there when I visit the city, as I plan to do early next month.

Today's complaints from the field

With a concert on Sunday and other things going on in my life before then, I don't know how much I'll post this week. Tomorrow I get to walk Cassie to day care and hop on a train to my downtown office in the snow, which sounds really bad until you look at the data and see that October 31st is actually the average date of Chicago's first snowfall. The weather forecast promises it won't stick.

Speaking of sticking around:

  • David French believes President Biden has threaded the needle well with his response to the war in Gaza, even though his poll numbers have declined.
  • US Sen. Kristen Sinema (I-AZ) may have done more to enable the lunatic fringe of the party she claims to oppose than any other Democratic senator (before she became "independent"), save perhaps Joe Manchin (D-WV).
  • Author Anne Lamott, who recently turned 70, offers a plea to let yourself age gracefully.
  • Bruce Schneier points out a hack long known to Scandinavians: you can avoid EU alcohol tax by taking a ferry from Helsinki or Stockholm to the Finnish archipelago Åland.

Finally, John Kelly interviewed some expert sources to find out what language tics really irk them. For example, to someone who rows, saying "a crew team" is like saying "an ATM machine." Don't do it.

Writers approve contract with studios

The Writers Guild of America membership ratified the contract with the AMPTP yesterday by a vote of 8,435 to 90. The Guild provided a summary of what the contract contains, compared with what the studios didn't accept on May 1st, and it's clear the writers won almost everything they demanded:

The ratification marks the conclusion to the WGA’s turbulent 2023 bargaining cycle, which sparked a historic 148-day strike. After holding a strike authorization vote during a brief break from negotiations in the spring, union leaders officially called a work stoppage of around 11,500 scribes on May 2. As the strike got going, WGA members not only ceased their writing work but also set up picket lines in front of ongoing productions, seeking to shut them down as crew members and other workers refused to cross these barriers in solidarity. The strategy proved to be effective in disrupting day-to-day set work in Hollywood even before SAG-AFTRA called its own strike (which scrapped virtually all production) on July 14.

Multiple stops and starts to the talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ensued, and in the meantime a broad swath of industry workers were affected: Food insecurity among industry workers spiked as the months dragged on, and some workers reported facing eviction. Ultimately, only the entrance of some of the industry’s top leaders was able to finally break the impasse. Starting in late September, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Disney CEO Bob Iger and NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman and chief content officer Donna Langley began attending regular bargaining sessions and speaking with guild leaders directly. The deal then got wrapped up in a matter of (marathon) days: The WGA announced a tentative deal on the evening of Sept. 24, after a long weekend of negotiations.

Congratulations to the Guild! I hope this is the first of many successes for labor taking back its power from management.

With 33 hours to go in the 3rd Quarter...

Somehow, it's already the end of September. I realize this happens with some predictability right around this time of year, but it still seems odd to me.

Of course, most of the world seems odd these days:

Finally, just look at this happy dog and all his new human friends playing a fun game of keep-away...during a professional football game in Mexico. I've watched it about five times now. The goodest boi was having such a great time. I hope one of the players or refs adopted him.

"Content" is rude: Emma Thompson

The English actor does not make widgets or suffer fools:

At some point a few years back, an unholy union of like-minded tech bros, studio suits, media water-carriers and social media personalities settled on their own “widget,” a catchall phrase that would both encompass and minimize the various forms of entertainment they touch: “content.” And when news broke on Sunday night that the monthslong Writers Guild of America strike was coming to an end, Variety, the industry bible, gave this term its most skin-crawling deployment to date, noting that the W.G.A. strike had taken “a heavy toll across the content industry.”

Variety itself had run, just a few days earlier, a pointed rebuke to the term from no less an authority than the Oscar-winning actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson. “To hear people talk about ‘content’ makes me feel like the stuffing inside a sofa cushion,” she said at the Royal Television Society conference in Britain last week.

“It’s just a rude word for creative people,” she added. “I know there are students in the audience: You don’t want to hear your stories described as ‘content’ or your acting or your producing described as ‘content.’ That’s just like coffee grounds in the sink or something.”

Way back in business school, the very first thing our finance professor said was, "An asset is a series of cash flows." When I asked him if assets had intrinsic value, he said "that is not a relevant consideration in corporate finance." These are the people running the studios and streamers.

Thank you for reading my content. I hope you feel content.