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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August 6th, 2012
atomvincent

Dropping Acid

Writing for the Morning News, Tim Doody profiles Dr. James Fadiman,  investigates the back-and-forth history of government involvement with psychedelic drugs, and explores the broad benefits - both personal and societal - that could (and have) stemmed from the use of psychedelics.

Who knows, their latest findings may one day affirm some ancient hypotheses. If reality isn’t shaped with the psychically aware, self-organizing units that Giordano Bruno called monads in the sixteenth century, then perhaps it’s woven with Indra’s net, the jeweled nodes of which stretch into infinity, each one a reflection of all others. To entertain such ontologies is to re-contextualize one’s self as a marvelous conduit in a timeless whole, through which molecules and meaning flow, from nebulae to neurons and back again. If certain of these molecules connect with our serotonin receptors like a key in a pin tumbler, and open a door to extraordinary vistas, why shouldn’t we peek?

Read the full article here.

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August 1st, 2012
arvindsuguness
Fiction and Philosophy
Gore Vidal, the American writer and political activist, died yesterday at the age of 86. In this 1974 interview for The Paris Review, he discusses the art of fiction and why so many people hated him:

INTERVIEWER
Why will you always get a bad press?
VIDAL
That’s more for you to determine than for me. I have my theories, no doubt wrong. I suspect that the range of my activity is unbearable to people who write about books. Lenny Bernstein is not reviewed in The New York Times by an unsuccessful composer or by a student at Julliard. He might be better off if he were, but he isn’t. Writers are the only people who are reviewed by people of their own kind. And their own kind can often be reasonably generous—if you stay in your category. I don’t. I do many different things rather better than most people do one thing. And envy is the central fact of American life. Then, of course, I am the enemy to so many. I have attacked both Nixon and the Kennedys—as well as the American empire. I’ve also made the case that American literature has been second-rate from the beginning. This caused distress in book-chat land. They knew I was wrong, but since they don’t read foreign or old books, they were forced to write things like “Vidal thinks Victor Hugo is better than Faulkner.” Well, Hugo is better than Faulkner, but to the residents of book-chat land Hugo is just a man with a funny name who wrote Les Misérables, a movie on the late show. Finally, I am proud to say that I am most disliked because for twenty-six years I have been in open rebellion against the heterosexual dictatorship in the United States. Fortunately, I have lived long enough to see the dictatorship start to collapse. I now hope to live long enough to see a sexual democracy in America. I deserve at least a statue in Dupont Circle—along with Dr. Kinsey.

Read the full article here.
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Fiction and Philosophy

Gore Vidal, the American writer and political activist, died yesterday at the age of 86. In this 1974 interview for The Paris Review, he discusses the art of fiction and why so many people hated him:

INTERVIEWER

Why will you always get a bad press?

VIDAL

That’s more for you to determine than for me. I have my theories, no doubt wrong. I suspect that the range of my activity is unbearable to people who write about books. Lenny Bernstein is not reviewed in The New York Times by an unsuccessful composer or by a student at Julliard. He might be better off if he were, but he isn’t. Writers are the only people who are reviewed by people of their own kind. And their own kind can often be reasonably generous—if you stay in your category. I don’t. I do many different things rather better than most people do one thing. And envy is the central fact of American life. Then, of course, I am the enemy to so many. I have attacked both Nixon and the Kennedys—as well as the American empire. I’ve also made the case that American literature has been second-rate from the beginning. This caused distress in book-chat land. They knew I was wrong, but since they don’t read foreign or old books, they were forced to write things like “Vidal thinks Victor Hugo is better than Faulkner.” Well, Hugo is better than Faulkner, but to the residents of book-chat land Hugo is just a man with a funny name who wrote Les Misérables, a movie on the late show. Finally, I am proud to say that I am most disliked because for twenty-six years I have been in open rebellion against the heterosexual dictatorship in the United States. Fortunately, I have lived long enough to see the dictatorship start to collapse. I now hope to live long enough to see a sexual democracy in America. I deserve at least a statue in Dupont Circle—along with Dr. Kinsey.

Read the full article here.

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July 24th, 2012
arvindsuguness
Can Our Brains Become Immortal?
Writing for The Chronicle Review, Evan R. Goldstein explores the mapping of the human brain to create a “connectome” - the brain equivalent of our cellular genome - and whether it will allow us to preserve our brains and achieve immortality:

Among some connectomics scholars, there is a grand theory: We are our connectomes. Our unique selves—the way we think, act, feel—is etched into the wiring of our brains. Unlike genomes, which never change, connectomes are forever being molded and remolded by life experience. Sebastian Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a prominent proponent of the grand theory, describes the connectome as the place where “nature meets nurture.”
Hayworth takes this theory a few steps further. He looks at the growth of connectomics—especially advances in brain preservation, tissue imaging, and computer simulations of neural networks—and sees something else: a cure for death.
…
J. Anthony Movshon, of NYU, takes a dimmer view. More than 25 years after the C. elegans connectome was completed, he says, we have only a faint understanding of the worm’s nervous system. “We know it has sensory neurons that drive the muscles and tell the worm to move this way or that. And we’ve discovered that some chemicals cause one response and other chemicals cause the opposite response. Yet the same circuit carries both signals.” He scoffs, “How can the connectome explain that?”

Read the full article here.
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Can Our Brains Become Immortal?

Writing for The Chronicle Review, Evan R. Goldstein explores the mapping of the human brain to create a “connectome” - the brain equivalent of our cellular genome - and whether it will allow us to preserve our brains and achieve immortality:

Among some connectomics scholars, there is a grand theory: We are our connectomes. Our unique selves—the way we think, act, feel—is etched into the wiring of our brains. Unlike genomes, which never change, connectomes are forever being molded and remolded by life experience. Sebastian Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a prominent proponent of the grand theory, describes the connectome as the place where “nature meets nurture.”

Hayworth takes this theory a few steps further. He looks at the growth of connectomics—especially advances in brain preservation, tissue imaging, and computer simulations of neural networks—and sees something else: a cure for death.

J. Anthony Movshon, of NYU, takes a dimmer view. More than 25 years after the C. elegans connectome was completed, he says, we have only a faint understanding of the worm’s nervous system. “We know it has sensory neurons that drive the muscles and tell the worm to move this way or that. And we’ve discovered that some chemicals cause one response and other chemicals cause the opposite response. Yet the same circuit carries both signals.” He scoffs, “How can the connectome explain that?”

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 31st, 2012
arvindsuguness
Science Journalism is Hard
As the RTNT contributor with the greatest focus on science, I have read far too many articles that opt for sensationalism over trying to inform. Of course, as Chase would tell you, this is true of the news media in general.
For our six month anniversary, I’ve put together some of my favorite science writing. Here are pieces that grapple with the immensity of the scientific endeavour: the ethical quandaries, the difficulty of progress, and the basic questions of well-being that lie at the root of our desire for knowledge.
1. The Limits of KnowledgeWhy knowing does not always lead to understanding.Jonah Lehrer, Wired Magazine, December 2011 
2. The Torture of Solitary ConfinementTens of thousands of inmates in the United States are subjected to long-term solitary confinement. Research into the lasting psychological effects of this treatment makes a good case that it amounts to torture.Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, March 2009 
3. Are We Biological Machines?The problem with the mechanistic understanding of biology familiar to students everywhere.Stephen L. Talbott, The New Atlantis, Fall 2010 
4. A Life Worth EndingIn an age where it seems as though medicine can prolong life indefinitely, a son grapples with letting his mother go.Michael Wolff, New York Magazine, May 2012 
5. Curing The Common ColdIn the near future anti-viral drugs could cure everyday illnesses. But should we use them?Carl Zimmer, Wired Magazine, March 2012
Have you read any great science writing lately? We’d love to hear from you.
-Arvind Suguness, Contributor
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Science Journalism is Hard

As the RTNT contributor with the greatest focus on science, I have read far too many articles that opt for sensationalism over trying to inform. Of course, as Chase would tell you, this is true of the news media in general.

For our six month anniversary, I’ve put together some of my favorite science writing. Here are pieces that grapple with the immensity of the scientific endeavour: the ethical quandaries, the difficulty of progress, and the basic questions of well-being that lie at the root of our desire for knowledge.

1. The Limits of Knowledge
Why knowing does not always lead to understanding.
Jonah Lehrer, Wired Magazine, December 2011 

2. The Torture of Solitary Confinement
Tens of thousands of inmates in the United States are subjected to long-term solitary confinement. Research into the lasting psychological effects of this treatment makes a good case that it amounts to torture.
Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, March 2009 

3. Are We Biological Machines?
The problem with the mechanistic understanding of biology familiar to students everywhere.
Stephen L. Talbott, The New Atlantis, Fall 2010 

4. A Life Worth Ending
In an age where it seems as though medicine can prolong life indefinitely, a son grapples with letting his mother go.
Michael Wolff, New York Magazine, May 2012 

5. Curing The Common Cold
In the near future anti-viral drugs could cure everyday illnesses. But should we use them?
Carl Zimmer, Wired Magazine, March 2012

Have you read any great science writing lately? We’d love to hear from you.

-Arvind Suguness, Contributor

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May 30th, 2012
atomvincent

Nothing So Beautiful

For most of my life, I have found whales to be utterly fascinating. Their size, grace, and intelligence ignite in me a child-like curiosity and enchantment. I have thus far not indulged this interest on RTNT, but in celebration of our six months in existence, I want to share this small part of myself with you.

Here, I offer a few pieces that illuminate the foundations of my interest in our brothers of the deep, whose minds and lives are at once unknowable and familiar. 

1. Watching Whales Watching Us
A fascinating look at the evolving relationship between man and whale in Baja California Sur, and research into the highly evolved brains of whales.
Charles Siebert, The New York Times, July 2009

2. On the Minds of the Whales
A history of the hunting and scientific investigation of whales across the twentieth century.
Tim Flannery, New York Review of Books, February 2012 

3. The Fall and Rise of the Right Whale
On the (very slowly) increasing population of right whales in the Atlantic and the efforts put forth to protect and study them.
Cornelia Dean, The New York Times, March 2009 

4. Of Man and Whales and Apes
Cetaceans can recognize themselves, use tools, and communicate in structurally complex ways - are they more like us than we have ever considered?
Brandon Keim, Wired, June 2009 

5. The Auditory Life of Sperm Whales
One of Arvind’s early posts from the RTNT vaults, this piece looks at how acoustic imaging is used to investigate the relationship between sperm whales and that other, mythical giant of the deep, the giant squid.
Eric Wagner, Smithsonian Magazine, December 2011 

6. Seeing Whales
A beautiful poem that invokes (among other things) the breathtaking sight of a whale.
Michael Dickman, The New Yorker, January 2008 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whales (politically, scientifically, spiritually, or otherwise), if you have any to share. At the very least, I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about the largest creatures in our world, and perhaps you’ll find yourself as enchanted by those kings of the sea as I find myself.
- Atom Vincent, Managing Editor 

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