Political Science

Hannity was treated in Texas like a member of the Administration because he virtually is one. The same can be said of Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch. Fox has long been a bane of liberals, but in the past two years many people who watch the network closely, including some Fox alumni, say that it has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States. Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor of Presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the author of “Messengers of the Right,” a history of the conservative media’s impact on American politics, says of Fox, “It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.”

From here.

Analog, Not Digital

A library book I borrowed recently had this on the inside front cover. It’s a wonderful artifact of the way library books used to look; I had to take a photo, not only for nostalgia purposes but also the aesthetic purpose. I mean, look how wonderful this looks.

Being As Far As We Are

That can mean big money for the families of kidfluencers. Kyler Fisher, the father of 2-year-old identical twins who have more than two million followers on Instagram, said a sponsored post on the girls’ account could fetch between $10,000 and $20,000.

The twins, Taytum and Oakley, have promoted car seats and Carnival Cruise Lines on Instagram. They are also central to the success of their parents’ YouTube channel, Kyler & Mad, which has about three million subscribers. Promotions on the family YouTube channel can draw $25,000 to $50,000.

Fans are so interested in the family that their third child, due the first week of March, already has 112,000 Instagram followers.

“My kids complete the package, man,” Mr. Fisher said. “If we didn’t have the girls, I can’t imagine being as far as we are.”

From here.

“Always There To Confuse And Fool You”

I can still remember the first time I heard this song, surprisingly clearly; I was in the upstairs living room of the house I grew up in — we called it the “TV room,” for some reason, despite the fact that we didn’t use it to watch TV, and for much of my childhood, there wasn’t even a TV in there — and it was summer, or at least sunny. I was listening to Jakki Brambles on Radio 1, and she was very excited to play this for… maybe the first time, perhaps? How much of this actually happened, versus how much I’ve imagined and convinced myself is true, is entirely open to conjecture.

The song, though, fits that period in my memory. It sounds dated and uncertain, as Weller rips off “Dear Prudence” and marries it to audio that sounds as if he was still trying to get over his Style Council days. Was he still technically calling himself “The Paul Weller Experience” at the time this was released as a single? Perhaps.

All of that, from the awkward horn stabs to the early Brendan Lynch beeps and boops to the idea that “The Paul Weller Experience” was anything other than an embarrassment, make up the early 1990s as they exist in my head; an era of no-one quite knowing what anything is going to be, but trying out new things and seeing how they feel. It’s not the Paul Weller who became known as The Modfather just yet, but all the ingredients are there, waiting to be mixed right.

The same could be said for me at the time, perhaps, although I wouldn’t be mixed right for years after that (if it’s ever happened, I add, self-consciously). But I can’t help but feel as if this song was me, in a way, back then: Making tentative steps into the future and getting as much wrong as right in terms of what would stick around.

I love it more because of that personification, arguably (certainly) more than it deserves. It’s a song that even Weller fans would admit is one of his lesser singles, but every time I hear even a snippet of it, I find myself wanting to listen to the whole thing, remembering the uncertainty it represents with undisguised fondness.

Markmaker, Markmaker, Make Me A Mark

Two more sketches from iPad-ery, from a recent lazy evening. I’m drawing more than I have done in a number of years, but not enough to really consider myself doing it regularly; I feel like I’m teaching myself how to do it again, but with absolutely no expectations of the results. Which, to be honest, is remarkably relaxing; I’m sure that’s actually supposed to be the point…!


The Dark Side

The moderators told me it’s a place where the conspiracy videos and memes that they see each day gradually lead them to embrace fringe views. One auditor walks the floor promoting the idea that the Earth is flat. A former employee told me he has begun to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. Another former employee, who told me he has mapped every escape route out of his house and sleeps with a gun at his side, said: “I no longer believe 9/11 was a terrorist attack.”

Chloe cries for a while in the break room, and then in the bathroom, but begins to worry that she is missing too much training. She had been frantic for a job when she applied, as a recent college graduate with no other immediate prospects. When she becomes a full-time moderator, Chloe will make $15 an hour — $4 more than the minimum wage in Arizona, where she lives, and better than she can expect from most retail jobs.

The tears eventually stop coming, and her breathing returns to normal. When she goes back to the training room, one of her peers is discussing another violent video. She sees that a drone is shooting people from the air. Chloe watches the bodies go limp as they die.

She leaves the room again.

From here. The story of those who moderate content on Facebook is haunting and infuriating.

Zeroes And Ones Will See You Through

I’ve had this website for years now; it was a weird side site at first, somewhere personal for me to write things for fun — remember fun? —  while I also had a theoretical “work site,” since taken over by a German squatter for some mysterious reason. And it was fun; a place to just ramble and dissemble without the audience I’d built up on Twitter or the pressure (or focus) of one of my professional outlets.

Then, years later than everyone else, I discovered Tumblr, and more or less migrated there for both the ease of the platform and also the social side of things — it felt like an inviting cross between this site and Twitter, and who wouldn’t want that? I more or less abandoned this site, unintentionally; I rarely had enough time to write something up for here, and Tumblr seemed more appreciative of shorter posts.

Cut to now, post-Tumblr becoming a wasteland and also somewhere obsessed with wrongfully declaring everything porn. My Tumblr love feels, if anything, more misguided than my Twitter addiction, and I find myself upset at the missed opportunity to make more of this site, which I own and control. There’s something to that last part, especially; I feel like the “Don’t use someone else’s platform, that way you don’t control your content” conversation repeats itself every couple of years or so, but I’m finally listening.

(The number of people who left Tumblr and talked about downloading all their content and posting it elsewhere was fascinating to me; I imported all my Tumblr posts to this site and am slowly working through that, curating the stuff worth keeping and deleting the rest.)

So, I’m here again, still rambling and dissembling, but on my own terms. Is this what anyone else wants to read? I doubt it, but it doesn’t really matter — it’s something that feels good to be doing once again, and something that makes me feel in control of my digital life even in a small way. That’s enough.

Bad News Stuff

Quasars arise from supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies; they are the brightest objects in nature, and can be seen clear across the universe. As standard candles, quasars aren’t ideal because their masses vary widely. Nevertheless, the researchers identified some regularities in the emissions from quasars, allowing the history of the cosmos to be traced back nearly 12 billion years. The team found that the rate of cosmic expansion deviated from expectations over that time span.

One interpretation of the results is that dark energy is not constant after all, but is changing, growing denser and thus stronger over cosmic time. It so happens that this increase in dark energy also would be just enough to resolve the discrepancy in measurements of the Hubble constant.

The bad news is that, if this model is right, dark energy may be in a particularly virulent and — most physicists say — implausible form called phantom energy. Its existence would imply that things can lose energy by speeding up, for instance. Robert Caldwell, a Dartmouth physicist, has referred to it as “bad news stuff.”

From here.

“I Could Have Burned Your Fate In The Sand”

I didn’t hear the T-Rex version of “Life’s A Gas” for years; I knew it from an Alex Chilton cover that — maybe it was on a bootleg, or on a live recording off the radio or something? I remember that I didn’t come by it honestly, if that makes sense, and I remember to this day how lazy and scuzzy it sounded. I think Teenage Fanclub were being Chilton’s backing band, and the whole thing sounded near-shambolic, which just made it so much more compelling to listen to, over and over and over again.

I remember going to record stores and toying with the “Electric Warrior” CD over and over again, as well, wondering if it was worth the money just for that one track. (This was before my interest in Bolan set in, and back when I was poor enough that buying a CD was a commitment that I didn’t make easily.) It never seemed fully worth it, and so it was years later when I finally heard the original version of the song, with Bolan’s ethereal vocals feeling the very opposite of Chilton’s, with the pristine guitar feeling light and airy compared to the version I knew.

The original version of the song, to this day, feels almost like a ghost, or perhaps like a skeleton or structure that exists as much in its absence than what is actually present. I feel, when I listen to it, as if I am following that guitar line through a physical space, through the bones of the song. It feels spacious.

This despite the lyrics of the song, which are almost comically lackadaisical, bordering on depressed: “I could have placed our love in the sky, but it really doesn’t matter at all, no, it really doesn’t matter at all…” It’s a proto-slacker song, perhaps, made decades too early. Something that, almost fittingly, I never got around to actually properly listening to until it was easy enough for me to do so without expending any significant effort. Maybe Marc would have approved.

And, Doggone It

So, I asked for a raise from one of my outlets.

(I would have asked for a raise from more than one, but I suspect doing so from the second might have ended with either a no or, worse, a “What if we paid you less instead?” which, as surreal as it sounds, is what happened last time I tried.)

The entire notion of asking for more money is a fraught one for me, tied up with issues of self-worth and selfishness and the like; the very idea that I could think, “You know, I do so much for you guys and it’s actually much more than it used to be, I think I deserve to be paid in such a way that reflects that,” comes with a sense that I somehow have ideas above my station and deserve to be swatted down for it. It’s not a good way to be, I know — I’m in therapy for a number of reasons, after all — but it’s there and I have to deal with it nonetheless.

All of this was exacerbated by the way in which I had to ask, which saw me screw my courage to the sticking post and make my case to my immediate supervisor and then, following his okay, have to make my case in more detail, with an argument for why I’m worth it, to his boss. (Admittedly, my imposter syndrome has to deal with the fact that I have been approved once already, but still.) It’s this weird, awkward experience that forces me to wrestle with my own insecurities multiple times, with me thinking, Actually, never mind, I’m fine, the whole time.

I’ve not heard back, yet, as to whether or not I’ll get the raise. It’s the limbo part where decisions have to be made and balances have to be checked and I’m here, feeling simultaneously anxious and self-consciously proud for having raised the subject it the first place. But if I don’t get it…? That’ll be awkward.