CNET’s Interview with Chadwick Boseman   ◆

I linked to this CNET article in my previous post about Chadwick Boseman’s death to highlight his influence on the authenticity of Black Panther, but it deserves its own post.

It’s a great interview that really demonstrates how thoughtful he was, and I specifically wanted to highlight this bit:

Q: You spent a lot of time thinking about how the king of an advanced African nation speaks, specifically your accent, your intonation. Tell us about it.

Boseman: People think about how race has affected the world. It’s not just in the States. Colonialism is the cousin of slavery. Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his education comes from Europe. I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. If it’s supposed to not have been conquered — which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it — then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.

If I did that, I would be conveying a white supremacist idea of what being educated is and what being royal or presidential is. Because it’s not just about him running around fighting. He’s the ruler of a nation. And if he’s the ruler of a nation, he has to speak to his people. He has to galvanize his people. And there’s no way I could speak to my people, who have never been conquered by Europeans, with a European voice.

Just brilliant.

Chadwick Boseman Dies of Colon Cancer   ◆

Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer yesterday, after being diagnosed—and working—with it in 2016. This makes me incredibly sad. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, who also happened to be supremely talented.

Black Panther was an epic moment in Black culture. At the time, it felt like literally every Black person in the world was anticipating this movie, and he brought King T’Challa to life with grace and humility.

This movie was a profound revelation. It filled theaters with people from all walks of life, of every creed and race, and for two hours, immersed them in an unbounded, unapologetic celebration of Black excellence.

Chadwick’s portrayal (and, from what I’ve read, his insistence on authenticity, with accents and more) was a huge part of what gave this move its heart.

Thank you Chadwick for your talent and your humanity.

You are with the ancestors now.


“Black Panther” Is Inspiring Black Brazilians to Occupy Elite, White Shopping Malls   ◆

It makes me want to win. It makes me want to fight. It makes me like myself more, like my own skin tone, like my kind of hair, like the shape of my nose, like the shape of my lips, like myself more. Because you start to see people who are like you and you see how they carry themselves — empowered, happy with themselves — and you start to like yourself better. And you see there’s nothing wrong with you — that, really, black is beautiful, black is capable, black is incredible, and blackness needs to be respected.

A movie, about fictional superheroes. This is what representation can do.

(I’ve seen the movie twice, plan on seeing it again, and will be preordering the Blu-Ray. It’s a very good movie.)

Why I Quit Google to Work for Myself   ◆

Michael Lynch came to a realization:

Wait a second. I was in a business relationship with Google.

It may sound strange that it took me two and a half years to realize it, but Google does a good job of building a sense of community within the organization. To make us feel that we’re not just employees, but that we are Google.

That conversation made me realize that I’m not Google. I provide a service to Google in exchange for money.

This is a realization everyone in corporate America comes to, eventually. I came to mine about a quarter century ago, after getting unexpectedly fired from a job I loved, for reasons that were lies.

I’ve been at my current job just a couple years shy of two decades. I have no illusions about our relationship, though I have managed to build up some significant loyalty to them. They, like Google, work very hard to make you feel like you are the company.

It might be time to revisit, or exploit, that loyalty….

Oh yeah, and the review and promotion process at Google sucks. But at least it’s documented.

How to Buy a Gun in 15 Countries   ◆

Yemen has the second highest gun ownership rate, behind the United States. To buy a gun in Yemen, you

1 Go to a gun market or find a seller online. 2 Buy a gun.

The process for the U.S. is ever so slightly stricter:

1 Pass an instant background check that includes criminal convictions, domestic violence and immigration status. 2 Buy a gun.

This is where I note that Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, and recently went through a coup d’état.

The process for buying guns is much different in countries such as Japan, Australia, and Canada, where mass shootings are practically non-existent.

We need to fix our country’s obsession with guns.

Why Are There Few Women in Tech? Watch a Recruiting Session   ◆

Jessi Hempel in Wired, on a study of introductory sessions held by tech companies at a university (likely Stanford):

The chilling effect, according to Wynn, starts with the people companies send to staff recruiting sessions. As students entered, women were often setting up refreshments or raffles and doling out the swag in the back; the presenters were often men, and they rarely introduced the recruiters. If the company sent a female engineer, according to the paper, she often had no speaking role; alternatively, her role was to speak about the company’s culture, while her male peer tackled the tech challenges. Of the sessions Wynn’s research team observed, only 22 percent featured female engineers talking about technical work. When those women did speak, according to the sessions observed, male presenters tended to interrupt them.

The study may have focused on women, but I assure you other poorly represented groups notice similar things about their demographic.


The paper also describes recruiters using gender stereotypes. One online gaming company showed a slide of a woman wearing a red, skin-tight dress and holding a burning poker card to represent its product. Another company, which makes software to help construct computer graphics, only showed pictures of men—astronauts, computer technicians, soldiers. Presentations were often replete with pop-culture images intended to help them relate to students, but that furthered gender stereotypes. One internet startup, for example, showed an image of Gangnam style music videos that featured a male artist surrounded by scantily clad women.

How clueless does your recruiting team need to be to not flag and fix this?

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.