October 3rd, 2012
chasewhiteside

Grizzly Bear May Be Indie-Rock Royalty, But That Doesn’t Mean They Make Any Money

Nitsuh Abebe writes for Vulture magazine about Grizzly Bear’s origins and unlikely success, and the surprisingly humble lives of its members as they make their way in a changing music industry:

Musicians often find themselves in the position they occupied before the rise of the LP, working as accessories to other, more profitable industries: nightlife, advertising, film and television, “music discovery” engines, streaming services, press, social networks, branding. (Grizzly Bear once licensed an unreleased track to the Washington State lottery.) But these industries also require musicians to approach what they’re doing as an art—something with authentic, organic connections to style, aesthetics, and youth culture—not a craft to be dutifully plied for a living. And in a trend-driven art, success has a tendency to end.

Droste doesn’t expect a middle-class living, but he wouldn’t mind one. “I’d like to someday own a house, and be able to have children, and be able to put them through school, in an urban environment that one enjoys living in,” says Droste. “A lot of people do it. And doing it through music is harder than doing it as a lawyer.” I ask him if Grizzly Bear, with all its success, offers the beginnings of that. “No,” he says, very quickly. “I’d have to keep doing this forever. But the biggest thing you can’t do is focus on money.”

Read the full article here.

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August 7th, 2012
chasewhiteside

How Apple’s Lax Security Allowed One Man’s Digital Life To Be Erased

Mat Honan writes for Wired about the pitfalls of having interconnected online accounts, and the ease with which 19-year-old hackers were able to erase his digital life (and takeover Gizmodo’s Twitter) via security oversights in Amazon and Apple’s systems.

 At 5:02 p.m., they reset my Twitter password. At 5:00 they used iCloud’s “Find My” tool to remotely wipe my iPhone. At 5:01 they remotely wiped my iPad. At 5:05 they remotely wiped my MacBook. Around this same time, they deleted my Google account. At 5:10, I placed the call to AppleCare. At 5:12 the attackers posted a message to my account on Twitter taking credit for the hack….

On Monday, Wired tried to verify the hackers’ access technique by performing it on a different account. We were successful. This means, ultimately, all you need in addition to someone’s e-mail address are those two easily acquired pieces of information: a billing address and the last four digits of a credit card on file. Here’s the story of how the hackers got them….

As of Monday, both of these exploits used by the hackers were still functioning. Wired was able to duplicate them. Apple says its internal tech support processes weren’t followed, and this is how my account was compromised. However, this contradicts what AppleCare told me twice that weekend. If that is, in fact, the case — that I was the victim of Apple not following its own internal processes — then the problem is widespread….

I bought into the Apple account system originally to buy songs at 99 cents a pop, and over the years that same ID has evolved into a single point of entry that controls my phones, tablets, computers and data-driven life. With this AppleID, someone can make thousands of dollars of purchases in an instant, or do damage at a cost that you can’t put a price on. 

Read the full article here.

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July 12th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Can Tumblr Embrace Ads Without Selling Out?

Rob Walker writes for the NY Times Magazine about David Karp, Tumblr, and the social blogging companies efforts to turn a profit :

The features Tumblr eliminates are as important to the way it feels as those it adopts. Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, an early Tumblr investor who sits on its board, says that it is “normal behavior” for a founder to be excited about adding new bells and whistles, but Karp seems excited about doing the opposite: “He’ll tell us, ‘Hey, got a new version coming up — and I took four features out!’ ”

Karp’s thinking about the comments section, which is generally assumed to be a core blog feature, helps illustrate his broader ideas about how design shapes behavior online. Typically, a YouTube video or blog post or article on a newspaper’s site is the dominant object, with comments strewed below it, buried like so much garbage. Thus many commenters feel they must scream to be noticed, and do so in all caps, profanely and with maximum hyperbole. This, Karp argues, brings out the worst in people, so Tumblr’s design does not include a comments section.

Like lots of so-called Web 2.0 companies, Tumblr is now reckoning with the very banker-ish concern of figuring out how to make money. It has tried, over the last five years, to do so by selling tools that allowed users to snazz up their blogs or promote posts. But efforts like those haven’t generated nearly enough cash to offset its expenses — let alone justify the $800 million valuation suggested by its most recent round of venture-capital investment last year.

Shortly before Facebook’s initial public offering, Karp started talking about making money from advertising — which seemed to run counter to a declaration he made in 2010 that advertising “really turns our stomachs.” Then again, pretty much every social network chieftain, including Mark Zuckerberg, seems sour on ads until the moment they start making ads the center of their entire business.

Karp has said Tumblr could be “wildly profitable” overnight by simply incorporating conventional online ads into the platform, but he believes that would spoil the community and the creativity that have taken shape there. His proposed solution entails advertisers’ being just as creative and expressive as Tumblr users. For now, that means that a spot on the Tumblr dashboard generally used to highlight the company’s picks for the coolest stuff happening in its network will include occasional content from paid sponsors. The first participants included Adidas, Calvin Klein and the movie “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” generating more than $150,000 in revenue within a month.

Read the full article here.

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July 10th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Will Citizens United Doom Obama’s Reelection?

Robert Draper writes for NY Times Magazine about the post-Citizens United Super PAC race for cash, one which Democrats are losing badly:

Two years later, President Obama repeatedly denounced the conservative super PACs that had cropped up in the wake of the Citizens United decision. In so doing, Obama ended up unilaterally disarming Democrats while animating Republicans. “When Obama attacked us by name in the fall of 2010, accusing us of taking money from the Chinese, it was basically the best fund-raising pitch we could’ve made,” says Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC conceived by Karl Rove and the Republican consultant Ed Gillespie. “We raised $13 million the week after they attacked us.” Burton and Sweeney watched from the White House — more with rueful admiration than moral outrage — as the Republicans turned the tables, outspending Democratic groups by $100 million and taking back the House….

During the first 10 months of its existence, Priorities USA Action managed to raise only $7 million. (Of this, $2 million was seed money from Jeffrey Katzenberg, the C.E.O. of DreamWorks Animation; another $1 million came from the comedian Bill Maher.) Their travails to some degree reflect the Democratic Party’s greater struggle with its prim self-perception. From the perspective of many Democrats, this year’s foray into post-Citizens United campaigning calls to mind an “Apocalypse Now”-like journey into the maw of something darker than death itself — namely, a morality-free zone in which Republicans alone can thrive. “I think that many Democrats feel that participating in the system would be validating Citizens United, which was a bad and destructive decision,” Geoff Garin says.

A sentiment commonly held by Democrats — so much so that it’s part of the standard Priorities pitch to donors — is that their only motivation to contribute is a moral one, while Republicans like the Koch brothers donate because they stand to make gobs of money if their pro-business candidate is elected. One of Priorities’ big donors told me another reason that conservatives are more suited to a post-Citizens United climate than progressives. “To me, a lot of the super-PAC money on the Republican side comes from hatred,” he said. “We Democrats just don’t hate like that.” 

Read the full article here.

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May 31st, 2012
chasewhiteside

Reading is Fun

I hope everyone who has been following RTNT this week is enjoying our “favorites” lists in celebration of our 6 months of existence.

Sometimes I worry that people think long-form journalism is drab, over-serious, problem and solution oriented—just not very fun to read. But this is hardly the case! Here are five of my favorite, deeply insightful but wild and fun pieces that I’ve come across over the years:

1. Upon This Rock
The author’s laugh-out-loud voyage to the country’s largest Christian Rock festival—and so much more…
John Jeremiah Sullivan, GQ, February 2004

2.  The Kentucky Derby is Decadent & Depraved
One of the first appearances of “Gonzo Journalism,” the author focuses less on the derby than on the depraved celebration of Louisville.
Hunter S. Thompson, Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1970

3. Viva Morrissey!
On Morrissey’s perhaps unexpectedly large Mexican fanbase.
Chuck Klosterman, Spin Magazine, August 2002

4.  Consider the Lobster
In this classic, the author worries himself with the ethics of boiling a creature alive in order to enhance consumer pleasure.
David Foster Wallace, Gourmet Magazine, August 2004

5.  In the Jungle
The story of how the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” made its way from a South African village singing troupe into a global hit.
Rian Malan, Rolling Stone, 2000

Thanks again to everyone for following, and reading, and reblogging, and what not. We’ll be back to our regular schedule on Monday.

 - Chase Whiteside, Editor

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May 17th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Is Mitt Romney a Bully?

Jason Horowitz delicately examines Mitt Romney’s years at the Cranbrook Academy, talking with dozens of former classmates to draw a picture of Romney has a young, sometimes overly aggressive, prankster:

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

Read the full article here.

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May 3rd, 2012
chasewhiteside
Hunter Moore Makes a Living Screwing You
NSFW Village Voice profile of Hunter Moore, the unrepentant founder of Is Anyone Up?, a website that gleefully publishes “revenge porn”—cell-phone nudes submitted by scorned exes, embittered friends, malicious hackers, etc. :

"People will do anything for the extra couple followers on Twitter," Moore says. "Honestly, what other fucking reason? You know who I am. You know what I do. It’s been a little over a year now of me fucking doing this. It’s fucking weird. I’m going to Portland in a few days. And I have about 25 different threesomes with other girls who want me to take pictures of them while having sex with me." He has been arranging some of these on Twitter; you can go see for yourself. "I’m going to make a couple thousand dollars off these girls. All I see is dollar signs." He sees dollar signs in the page views he’ll get by writing about these situations, using their real names and actual photos and describing their scents, and that will convert to ad revenue in some arbitrary account. "The girls don’t give a fuck because they’re kind of seeing dollar signs—or cool factor online. The more people you have following you or subscribed to you on Facebook or Tumblr, people are going to think you’re cooler."

Read the full article here.
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Hunter Moore Makes a Living Screwing You

NSFW Village Voice profile of Hunter Moore, the unrepentant founder of Is Anyone Up?, a website that gleefully publishes “revenge porn”—cell-phone nudes submitted by scorned exes, embittered friends, malicious hackers, etc. :

"People will do anything for the extra couple followers on Twitter," Moore says. "Honestly, what other fucking reason? You know who I am. You know what I do. It’s been a little over a year now of me fucking doing this. It’s fucking weird. I’m going to Portland in a few days. And I have about 25 different threesomes with other girls who want me to take pictures of them while having sex with me." He has been arranging some of these on Twitter; you can go see for yourself. "I’m going to make a couple thousand dollars off these girls. All I see is dollar signs." He sees dollar signs in the page views he’ll get by writing about these situations, using their real names and actual photos and describing their scents, and that will convert to ad revenue in some arbitrary account. "The girls don’t give a fuck because they’re kind of seeing dollar signs—or cool factor online. The more people you have following you or subscribed to you on Facebook or Tumblr, people are going to think you’re cooler."

Read the full article here.

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May 1st, 2012
chasewhiteside

What Good is Wall Street?

On this May Day, which has seen thousands of Occupy Wall Street and labor-related strikes and protests in cities across the country, we present this 2010 essay for the New Yorker, wherein John Cassidy argues that much of what investment bankers do is not beneficial to society:

In effect, many of the big banks have turned themselves from businesses whose profits rose and fell with the capital-raising needs of their clients into immense trading houses whose fortunes depend on their ability to exploit day-to-day movements in the markets. Because trading has become so central to their business, the big banks are forever trying to invent new financial products that they can sell but that their competitors, at least for the moment, cannot. Some recent innovations, such as tradable pollution rights and catastrophe bonds, have provided a public benefit. But it’s easy to point to other innovations that serve little purpose or that blew up and caused a lot of collateral damage, such as auction-rate securities and collateralized debt obligations. Testifying earlier this year before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, said that financial innovation “isn’t always a good thing,” adding that some innovations amplify risk and others are used primarily “to take unfair advantage rather than create a more efficient market.”

Despite all the criticism that President Obama has received lately from Wall Street, the Administration has largely left the great money-making machine intact. A couple of years ago, firms such as Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs faced the danger that the government would break them up, drive them out of some of their most lucrative business lines—such as dealing in derivatives—or force them to maintain so much capital that their profits would be greatly diminished. “None of these things materialized,” Altman noted. “Reforms and changes came in, but they did not have a transformative effect.”

Read the full article here.

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April 26th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Can Psychedelic Drugs Help You Face Death?

Lauren Slater for the NY Times Magazine:

Sakuda learned of a study being conducted by Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death… When the research was completed in 2008… the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer… “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Despite the promise of these investigations, Grob and other end-of-life researchers are careful about the image they cultivate, distancing themselves as much as possible from the 1960s, when psychedelics were embraced by many and used in a host of controversial studies, most famously the psilocybin project run by Timothy Leary. Grob described the rampant drug use that characterized the ’60s as “out of control” and said of his and others’ current research, “We are trying to stay under the radar. We want to be anti-Leary.” Halpern agreed. “We are serious sober scientists,” he told me.

Read the full article here.

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April 5th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Our Addiction to Stupid Games

Why do millions of people spend hours each week playing purposeless and endless games like Angry Birds? Sam Anderson chronicles our long obsession with stupid games, from Tetris to smart phones, for the NY Times Magazine:

There are people who see the proliferation of stupid games as a good thing. In fact, they believe that games may be the answer to all of humanity’s problems. In her book “Reality Is Broken,” Jane McGonigal argues that play is possibly the best, healthiest, most productive activity a human can undertake — a gateway to our ideal psychological state. Games aren’t an escape from reality, McGonigal contends, they are an optimal form of engaging it. In fact, if we could just find a way to impose game mechanics on top of everyday life, humans would be infinitely better off. We might even use these approaches to help solve real-world problems like obesity, education and government abuse. Some proponents point to successful examples of games applied to everyday life: Weight Watchers and frequent-flier miles, for example.

Corporations, of course, have been using similar strategies for decades, hooking consumers on products by giving them constant small victories for spending money (think of the old Monopoly game promotion at McDonald’s). The buzzword for this is “gamification” and the ubiquity of computers and smartphones has only supercharged these tendencies. Gartner, a technology research firm, predicted last year that, in the near future, “a gamified service for consumer-goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon.” Companies have already used online games to sneakily advertise sugary cereals directly to children.

Although there is a certain utopian appeal to McGonigal’s “games for change” model, I worry about the dystopic potential of gamification. Instead of just bombarding us with jingles, corporations will be able to inject their messages directly into our minds with ads disguised as games. Gamification seeks to turn the world into one giant chore chart covered with achievement stickers — the kind of thing parents design for their children — though it raises the potentially terrifying question of who the parents are. This, I fear, is the dystopian future of stupid games: amoral corporations hiring teams of behavioral psychologists to laser-target our addiction cycles for profit.

Read the full article here.
(And play the addictive built-in game that allows you to destroy the New York Times website!)

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