Keith Olbermann ends #TheResistanceGQ   ◆


NEW VIDEO: The last episode of #TheResistanceGQ. The good news: I’m finishing it because I think – especially after “Pocahontas” – Trump is unavoidably, inevitably, and in every possible path open to him, FINISHED

I wish I could honestly say I agreed with him. I’m truly sad he won’t be doing any more of these commentaries1. I very much enjoyed them, so much that I bought Trump Is F*cking Crazy, his book based on these commentaries.

Still, until it happens: “Resist. Remove. Peace.”

  1. Unless he’s right. 🤞 

Project Veritas fails an attempted undercover sting against The Washington Post   ◆

A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

A remarkable story of careful investigative reporting on the part of The Washington Post. In the videos, one of the reporters, Stephanie McCrummen, seems both tenacious in her questions and genuinely concerned for the woman making the false accusations.

Even more remarkable is that Project Veritas is defending Roy Moore’s behavior by trying to discredit his actual accusers with fake ones.

The Culture Caught Up With Spike Lee — Now What?   ◆

Wonderful profile of a filmmaker who’s had an undeniable impact on filmmaking and culture, by Thomas Chatterton Williams in The New York Times.

In 31 years, Lee has achieved a rate of productivity that is rivaled in America only by Woody Allen. His body of work is prodigious: 22 feature movies, of which at least three are absolutely first-rate; a half-dozen more are flawed classics, and all of them are at least sporadically brilliant, artistically daring and always intellectually ambitious. There are also many documentaries, which cover a wide range of black American topics, including two on Michael Jackson and one on Kobe Bryant. Of these, “4 Little Girls” (1997), about the Birmingham church bombing, and “When the Levees Broke” (2006), about Hurricane Katrina, are two of the best documentaries ever made about black life — or perhaps just life — in the South.

I assume “Do the Right Thing” is one of the three that “are absolutely first-rate”. It’s one of the great movies in cinema history, and remains surprisingly relevant and topical, nearly 30 years later. Williams writes:

I told him that I recently rewatched “Do the Right Thing” and was astounded by the degree to which it felt au courant and even prescient. The scene late in the film when an N.Y.P.D. officer places Radio Raheem in an illegal chokehold, killing him, was shattering to watch, melding in my mind with phone-camera footage of Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 on Staten Island in similar fashion. And the question at the heart of the drama — just whose vision of black life can (or should) prevail, anyway, Malcolm’s or Martin’s — was trenchant. Lee’s own views on that question remain satisfyingly ambiguous. While the film seems to imply that it is Malcolm who personifies genuine integrity, Lee has also observed that Radio Raheem could have behaved differently and avoided his violent fate.

The movie also brought us Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez, Giancarlo Esposito, and Martin Lawrence.

I’ll be watching the Netflix reboot of “She’s Gotta Have It”. It’s been a long time since I saw the movie, but I vividly remember reading “Spike Lee’s Gotta Have It: inside Guerrilla Filmmaking” as an aspiring 18-year-old actor and filmmaker. The book is Lee’s journal of his struggles to make the movie. It’s a great look at how a burning desire to create will never be stopped by such mundane things like “lack of money or equipment”.1

Finally, I loved this bit (Lee has a massive Yankee’s flag over his house in Martha’s Vineyard that backs a golf course):

It is fun, I learned, to stroll around with Spike Lee and to gauge other people’s reactions. Everyone recognizes him. No sooner had we set foot on the fairway than a Boston Brahmin kind of white woman called out: “Spike, what’s with your flag? We’re Red Sox fans around here!”

“Twenty-seven world championships! Thank you!” Lee shot back without missing a beat or betraying the least bit of surprise to be addressed so familiarly by a perfect stranger.

A shame he’s a Yankee’s fan.

  1. Curiously, the book is only available at a reasonable price on Amazon in “used” condition. A “new” copy will set you back $900! 

Human-Like Bots Infilitrate U.S. Lawmaking Process   ◆

FiscalNote, on the use of Natural Language Generation (NLG) to create apparently fraudulent support for ending Net Neutrality:

Form letters, or comments with identical language, are neither a new development nor a foolproof indicator of fraudulence. Many form letters are submitted legitimately by humans at the prompting of a public figure or interest group, while others are submitted automatically by basic computer programs. The NLG activity unearthed by FiscalNote differs from form letters in that the resulting comments are distinct from one another, are generated by more advanced and human-like bots, and are definitive evidence of fraudulent behavior. Each of these NLG-driven comments, like human speech, is formed via a sequence of phrases. Bots generate these linguistically distinct comments by swapping out the phrases in one for different phrases with identical meaning in another.

The bots can generate “[n]early 4.5 septillion unique permutations”.

The piece’s conclusion:

But NLG technology, like artificial intelligence more broadly, is only continuing to advance and mature, as machines acquire enhanced understandings of human-generated content. The net neutrality debate thus serves as a prominent warning that, soon enough, the distinction between human- and computer-generated language may be nearly impossible to draw.

Faking comments to influence public policy represents a significant problem for a democracy.

Deadspin: Joe Morgan Doesn’t Think Willie Mays Belongs In The Hall Of Fame   ◆

OK, Deadspin’s headline is a lie (or more charitably, clickbait), but their position on Morgan’s concerns about who belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame are spot on:

Yes, this shit again. There are two full months until the next class of inductees is revealed; this will be two full months of arguing about steroids and Barry Bonds and what exactly “character” entails with regards to evaluating the career merits of the big men who play a game with a stick and ball, triviality at its most insufferable; and the reliably grating discourse being especially so was kicked off with a bang today upon the deliverance of Morgan’s letter in the inboxes of Hall voters today.

Baseball’s always had different “eras”. It’s crazy to compare players from a hundred years ago to today’s, yet we do so all the time, despite modified rules, improved fitness levels, and changed fan expectations. The Hall of Fame should be all about on-the-field production, relative to the players’ peers.

Four stages of competence   ◆

The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence.

A reminder that we often don’t know what we don’t know1. You have to first figure out you don’t know something, then consciously decide to begin to know it.

It’s how we learn and grow.

  1. The last part of the “things you know you know, things you know you don’t know, and things you don’t know you don’t know” triumvirate. Or, as popularized by Donald Rumsfeld, “known knowns”, “known unknowns”, and “unknown unknowns”. 

Open Apple, closed Apple   ◆

Fun article from Christopher Phin in Macworld:

You can date an Apple user as accurately as a botanist counting rings to date a tree, and you don’t even have to cut them in half first.

What you do is work out what they call the Mac’s secondary modifier key. This is trickier to do than you might think, as evidenced by how I had to come up with that awkward description rather than name it myself and so skew your response.

I won’t spoil it, but I’m definitely what Phin calls “a more seasoned veteran”, though I certainly could be a “true keeper of the flame” considering my pre-Macintosh Apple experience.

Seeing White   ◆

From the Scene on Radio podcast, a 14-part series on “whiteness”:

Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story.

Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for?

Fourteen utterly compelling episodes. A must listen, regardless of your “race”.

T La Rock, the Man Who Forgot He Was a Rap Legend   ◆

Gorgeously written story in GQ.

T La Rock was one of the pioneers of hip-hop, an old-school legend sampled by Public Enemy and Nas. But after a brutal attack put him in a nursing home, he had to fight to recover his identity, starting with the fact that he’d ever been a rapper at all.

The embedded music brought back memories of my youth in New York.