Miscellanea: March 2019

Links

The Weird World of Vegan YouTube Stars Is Imploding – Emily Shugerman at The Daily Beast.

Does Homework Work? – Joe Pinsker at The Atlantic

Inside the Secret Facebook War For Mormon Hearts and Minds – Kevin Poulsen at The Daily Beast. “At at time when the nation is focused on Facebook’s whack-a-mole game against covert influencers, MormonAds offers lessons from a quieter kind of Facebook manipulation, a campaign of much smaller scale but equal consequence for those involved. Jones took advantage of the same commodities market in consumer attention that Russia inhabited so effectively in the 2016 election. But MormonAds throws a novel new question into the mix. We may be resigned to faceless corporations buying their way into our thoughts, but are we ready for a world where our neighbors and in-laws can do the same?”

The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center – Bob Moser at The New Yorker.

Fake Outrage Machine on the Right Also – David French at National Review

Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate was once a paid GOP operative – Holly K. Michaels at Helena Independent Record. See also GOP Donors Funded Entire PA Green Party Drive.

Could fake news create fake memories? – Dean Burnett at IAI.

This month in China news: China’s Looming Crisis: A Shrinking Population and No Exit: China’s Growing Use of Exit Bans Violates International Law.

How I Would Cover the College-Admissions Scandal as a Foreign Correspondent – Masha Gessen at The New Yorker

Crowdfunding research flips science’s traditional reward model – Holly Else at Nature.

Polarization in Poland: A Warning From Europe – Anne Applebaum at The Atlantic. “Poland’s economy has been the most consistently successful in Europe over the past quarter century. Even after the global financial collapse in 2008, the country saw no recession. What’s more, the refugee wave that has hit other European countries has not been felt here at all. There are no migrant camps, and there is no Islamist terrorism, or terrorism of any kind…More important, though the people I am writing about here, the nativist ideologues, are perhaps not all as successful as they would like to be (about which more in a minute), they are not poor and rural, they are not in any sense victims of the political transition, and they are not an impoverished underclass. On the contrary, they are educated, they speak foreign languages, and they travel abroad…What has caused this transformation? Were some of our friends always closet authoritarians? Or have the people with whom we clinked glasses in the first minutes of the new millennium somehow changed over the subsequent two decades? My answer is a complicated one, because I think the explanation is universal. Given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy. Indeed, if history is anything to go by, all societies eventually will.”

Videos

Why Cosmic Horror is Hard To Make – Screened at YouTube. Especially interesting in light of the movie Annihilation, which I reviewed in January’s Miscellanea and still consider one of the most thought-provoking movies in recent memory.

The Future of War, and How It Affects YOU – SmarterEveryDay at YouTube. One of the most important videos you’ll see all year, and the prelude to a still-incomplete series on social media manipulation and disinformation campaigns.

Books

Can’t Hurt Me, by David Goggins (3/5). Goggins’ story is an inspiration: raised in an environment of abuse, extreme poverty, and racism, a young man wallows in self-indulgence and feeds his worst tendencies before reaching the breaking point, deciding once and for all to push past the limits that society has placed on him—and that he’s placed on himself. As a memoir, Can’t Hurt Me is at least a solid 4/5. If you struggle with feelings of victimhood or self-limitation, you may get a lot out of Can’t Hurt Me. As a self-improvement manual, however, it didn’t do a whole lot for me except provide a jolt of motivation.

The Science of Intelligent Achievement, by Isaiah Hankel (4/5). Hankel’s book starts and ends with solid, actionable advice that applies to nearly everyone. The only flaw is that the middle third is packed with solid, actionable advice that applies to at most 1% of the population. The middle act is where Hankel takes a detour from psychological research and organizational skills to promote a very specific type of “intelligent achievement:” content marketing. While I’m all in favor of people learning the skills he describes in this section, it’s a weirdly specific path to success for an otherwise general-audience book to prescribe. It’s as if a book titled The Science of Health and Fitness spent the middle 30% describing all the ins and outs of deadlifting—deadlifting is great, and more people should do it, but it’s incredibly out of place.

 

Music

Black Stone Cherry – Soul Machine

Devin Townsend Project – Deadhead

Tiamat – Cain

Twenty-One Pilots – Jumpsuit

 

TV

Game of Thrones, Seasons 3-4: Two of the best seasons of the entire show, especially the absolutely incredible season 4. As of this writing, the first episode of the final season has already aired, and I didn’t get to finish my rewatch before viewing that episode, but going through the previous seasons was worth it anyway.

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