The cure

22 September 2019

The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.

~  Karen Blixen

Rap Lyrics in Court

22 September 2019

From The New Yorker:

This week, in a New York district court, one of music’s least sympathetic characters, the Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, took the stand to testify against alleged members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, the gang with which he associated himself. The rapper, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, became a star witness, pointing out gang members who appeared in his music videos, explaining gang signs, and detailing the hierarchy of Nine Trey and its alleged leaders. At one point, prosecutors asked him about the lyrics for his hit song “GUMMO,” and whether the words included any threats against rivals. “It’s a song towards, like, somebody who I didn’t get along with,” the rapper said. “I don’t know. I thought it was cool at the time.”

It’s a cautionary tale; 6ix9ine’s outlandish antics rocketed his music up the charts, but he thought he needed street clout. His efforts to skirt one hip-hop faux pas—being a poser—crash-landed him into another: snitching. And, in doing so, he had to confirm what many had already figured out: nothing about his persona or his lyrics was authentic, which cast a light on the disconnect between the optics of hip-hop music and reality. The independent journalist Matthew Russell Lee reported on Twitter that 6ix9ine claimed he was never initiated into the gang, but he had an arrangement to “keep making hits and giving financial support,” and, in return, he got his “career, credibility, protection, all of the above.”

. . . .

The extraordinary confession of 6ix9ine comes on the heels of several trials involving high-profile rappers, such as those of the Texas rapper Tay-K, the Florida rapper YNW Melly, and the California rapper Drakeo the Ruler, where rap videos and lyrics have been introduced into the courtroom. Andrea Dennis, a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law and the co-author of the forthcoming book “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” described how law enforcement weaponizes rap lyrics to convict and incarcerate rappers, a legal assault that is unique to hip-hop. “We have searched widely, and, based on our research, rap is the only fictional art form treated this way,” she said. “No other musical genre and no other art is used in the same way or to the same extent.”

In April of 2017, the rapper Tay-K was under house arrest and awaiting trial, in Texas, for capital murder after his involvement in a 2016 robbery that left one person dead. He cut off his ankle monitor and fled the state, evading authorities for three months; he was arrested in New Jersey, in June, and brought to trial in July. The rapper’s music, particularly his single “The Race”—which, as its title suggests, was built around his status as a fugitive (and some otherwise cliché shit-talk)—was not really needed as evidence in the courtroom. Though he pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, Tay-K and his co-defendants had already taken deals that confirmed his role in the robbery. Nevertheless, during sentencing, prosecutors introduced the video and lyrics for “The Race,” along with the cover of his EP, #LivingLikeLarry, which depicts the then sixteen-year-old rapper holding a gun. The goal, it seems, was to dehumanize the rapper in the eyes of a jury through the use of his music.

. . . .

In many of these cases, an artist’s very participation in hip-hop is painted as a moral shortcoming that suggests a propensity for real-world violence and degeneracy. One Louisiana judge went so far as to tell the perpetually troubled rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again, “Your genre has a lot to do with the mindset people have. Your genre has normalized violence.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

100,000 Faces Generated By Ai Free For Any Use

22 September 2019

From Muzli:

Link to the rest at Muzli

Here are some of the AI-generated faces:

PG says that these look pretty good to him. They’re downloaded from a Google Drive of 100,000 AI – generated images you can access at the OP on Muzli.

PG hasn’t gone through all the images, but some of them he stumbled across have some computer artifacts that tell you this is not a real person.

However, for an experimental start, he thinks this is impressive.

How the CASE Act Benefits Authors

22 September 2019

PG has posted items about the proposed CASE legislation. While virtually any law can be abused, I thinks this legislation can help authors who are afflicted by small-time copying of their work.

From the Executive Director of the Authors Guild via Publishers Weekly:

Copyright law is the backbone of the publishing industry and the lifeblood of writers and other creators. It puts food on the table and pays the rent. It allows an author to write the next book or article, the photographer to set up the next shoot, the songwriter to keep writing music. The internet has made it easier for writers, composers, filmmakers, photographers, designers, and other creatives to distribute their work to the world—but it also makes it easier to steal or exploit others’ creative works.

Today, the vast majority of individual and small business copyright owners do not have the ability to enforce their copyrights. Copyright claims can only be brought in federal court, and such litigation generally costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is true even if the copyright owner simply seeks a reasonable license fee of a few hundred or thousand dollars. Such a system is absurd. A bill to create a much more sensible alternative to federal litigation has been working its way through Congress and promises to make copyright meaningful again for the millions of individuals and small businesses whose welfare depends on it.

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act would create an administrative tribunal within the U.S. Copyright Office to handle small copyright infringement cases. It would provide a streamlined, less formal process than federal court and would be drastically cheaper and more efficient. The parties would not need to hire attorneys, and all proceedings would be conducted remotely. To ensure impartiality, the Librarian of Congress would appoint a three-“judge” panel, with at least two of the panelists possessing previous experience representing a diversity of copyright interests. To address constitutional concerns, the process would be entirely optional for both parties.

With so many threats staring down 21st-century creators—many of them enabled by the digital transformation—a small claims court for copyright disputes is needed more than ever. Take book authors, for example. According to a recent Authors Guild survey, writing-related earnings plummeted to a median of $6,080 in 2017—down 42% since 2009. Full-time U.S. authors, meanwhile, earned a median of only of $20,300 from their writing. That’s well below the federal poverty line for a family of three or more. Over half of the authors surveyed reported earnings from their writing that were below the poverty line for an individual. These are not your typical federal court litigants.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Fat Fingers

21 September 2019

PG fat-fingered TPV offline for a while today and is happy to have it back, apparently none the worse for wear.

Once again Annette in tech support at Hosting Matters saved PG’s bacon, reversed his foolishness and the sun is shining and birds are singing once again.

The Adults Who Treat Reading Like Homework

21 September 2019

Second article from The Atlantic today. PG usually doesn’t post excerpts of two items from the same source during the same time period, but he thought visitors to TPV would be interested in the topic of reading.

From The Atlantic:

When Stevie Peters was a kid, she used to read books for pizza. She remembers participating in Pizza Hut’s reading program, which still exists today, as her first experience with reading challenges. “When I was a kid, I read all the time, even if it wasn’t for school, so the idea of reading 200 books just so you could get a pizza was the best thing ever,” she told me. Peters, now 31 and living in Swansea, Wales (though she grew up in the United States), started participating in reading challenges again in 2016, though no one is giving her free pizza for doing so now that she’s an adult. Every January, she logs into her Goodreads account and sets a goal to read 50 books that year. She hasn’t hit that number yet—she said she usually makes it to 45 or so. Still, “I can definitely do 50,” she said. “I just want to keep challenging myself to read as much as I can.”

Though surely people have had personal reading goals for as long as there have been books, the book-tracking social-media site Goodreads seems to have institutionalized and popularized the practice of setting yearly reading targets. The Goodreads Reading Challenge started in 2011 and had 149,716 participants that year, according to the website. This year, more than 3 million people have pledged to read an average of 59 books before the end of 2019. (This number is skewed by some particularly ambitious folks—the majority of people pledged to read 1 to 24 books.) Other sites, such as Book Riot and PopSugar, have their own yearly reading challenges, and on Reddit, users strive for 52 books a year, one a week.

In 2018, only 16 percent of participants in the Goodreads Reading Challenge actually completed it, finishing 21 percent of the total books pledged. In earlier years of the challenge, those stats were sometimes higher—in 2011, 29 percent of participants finished the challenge, and in 2013, participants read 56 percent of the books pledged.

. . . .

Still, the fact remains, more and more people are making reading goals that most of them will not meet. Why set yourself an unattainable goal? Why quantify your leisure reading at all?

Perhaps the most intuitive reason is the most common: Adding some structure to your reading life can be a way of making sure that you actually read. In 2011 and 2012, Donalyn Miller, a reading ambassador with Scholastic and the author of two books about reading habits, conducted a survey of adult readers’ practices, trying to figure out what keeps people reading when they no longer have the structural support of having to read for school. One of the key things she found was that “the only difference between a nonreader and a reader is that a reader has a plan for future reading and a nonreader does not,” she told me. It’s easy enough for reading to fall by the wayside with the responsibilities of adult life and the on-demand pleasures of Netflix and the like. “A plan for future reading” might just mean putting books one is interested in on hold at the library, or a loose plan to dedicate more time for reading. Or it might mean a yearly reading challenge.

. . . .

Indeed, some people find the challenges to be the opposite of motivating. Sue, a 50-year-old teacher who lives in Crowthorne, England, just joined Goodreads this year and set a goal of reading 20 books. (She asked to be identified by her first name only so that her students won’t see her private information.) So far, she’s not enjoying her experience with the challenge. She’s kept a list of every book she’s read in a notebook since she was in secondary school, and can see from that record that she actually used to read more books in a year when she didn’t set a numerical goal.

“I put down 20 books, which I thought was not a lot compared to what I have done,” she told me. “Ever since I’ve done that, I found my reading rate has slowed down. I keep getting messages from Goodreads saying, ‘You’re behind target on your reading schedule.’ I’m wondering if psychologically it made it feel more like a chore as opposed to pleasure. I almost wish I hadn’t gone onto Goodreads. It’s making me feel like I’m back in my school days.”

This is the curious thing about reading goals—they are essentially homework that people make for themselves. Like homework, reading challenges can feel like pointless busywork for those who aren’t feeling intrinsically motivated to read. Or they can bring a sense of learning and accomplishment.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

If forced to choose between eating and reading, PG would have to think for a while.

While he’s not reading books all the time, he is interacting with words on screens or words on paper almost all the time he’s not watching the Chicago Cubs play baseball.

(While it’s still a mathematical possibility, things don’t look good for the Cubbies making it into the post-season this year.)

Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers

21 September 2019

From The Atlantic:

They can be identified by their independent-bookstore tote bags, their “Book Lover” mugs, or—most reliably—by the bound, printed stacks of paper they flip through on their lap. They are, for lack of a more specific term, readers.

Joining their tribe seems simple enough: Get a book, read it, and voilà! You’re a reader—no tote bag necessary. But behind that simple process is a question of motivation—of why some people grow up to derive great pleasure from reading, while others don’t. That why is consequential—leisure reading has been linked to a range of good academic and professional outcomes—as well as difficult to fully explain. But a chief factor seems to be the household one is born into, and the culture of reading that parents create within it.

. . . .

The size of the American reading public varies depending on one’s definition of reading. In 2017, about 53 percent of American adults (roughly 125 million people) read at least one book not for school or for work in the previous 12 months, according to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Five years earlier, the NEA ran a more detailed survey, and found that 23 percent of American adults were “light” readers (finishing one to five titles per year), 10 percent were “moderate” (six to 11 titles), 13 percent were “frequent” (12 to 49 titles), and a dedicated 5 percent were “avid” (50 books and up).

“Every society has some group of people—somewhere between a minuscule amount and half the adults—that read a lot in their leisure time,” says Wendy Griswold, a sociologist at Northwestern University who studies reading. Griswold refers to this group as “the reading class,” and—adding up the NEA’s “frequents” and “avids,” and considering rates of serious reading in other similarly wealthy countries—reckons that about 20 percent of adults belong to the U.S.’s reading class.

. . . .

Some people are much more likely than others to become members of the reading class. “The patterns are very, very predictable,” Griswold told me. First, and most intuitively, the more education someone has, the more likely they are to be a reader. Beyond that, she said, “urban people read more than rural people,” “affluence is associated with reading,” and “young girls read earlier” than boys do and “continue to read more in adulthood.”

. . . .

Willingham also talked about the importance, which many researchers have examined, of the number of books in one’s childhood home. Studies looking at “family scholarly culture” have found that children who grew up surrounded by books tend to attain higher levels of education and to be better readers than those who didn’t, even after controlling for their parents’ education.

The mere presence of books is not magically transformative. “The question is, I take a child who’s not doing very well in school, and I put 300 books in their house—now what happens?,” Willingham said. “Almost certainly the answer is, not a lot. So what is it? Either what are people doing with those books, or is this sort of a temperature read of a much broader complex of attitudes and behaviors and priorities that you find in that home?”

. . . .

As Willingham explains in his book Raising Kids Who Read, three variables have a lot of influence over whether someone becomes a lifelong reader. First, a child needs to be a “fluent decoder,” he told me—that is, able to smoothly “go from print on the page to words in the mind.” This is something that schools teach, but parents can help with it by reading to and with their kids—especially when that reading involves wordplay, which particularly helps kids with the challenge of identifying the “individual speech sounds” that make up a word.

Second, Willingham said, these fluent decoders benefit from having wide-ranging background knowledge about the world. “The main predictor of whether a child or an adult understands a text is how much they already know about the topic,” Willingham noted. So parents can try to arm their kids with information about the world that will help them interpret whatever they come across in print, or make sure their kids have some familiarity with whatever it is they’re reading about.

Once those two things are in place, the final component is “motivation—you have to have a positive attitude toward reading and a positive self-image as a reader,” Willingham said.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

A ‘Grass Roots’ Campaign to Take Down Amazon Is Funded by Amazon’s Biggest Rivals

21 September 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

About 18 months ago a new nonprofit group called Free and Fair Markets Initiative launched a national campaign criticizing the business practices of one powerful company: Amazon.com Inc.

Free and Fair Markets accused Amazon of stifling competition and innovation, inhibiting consumer choice, gorging on government subsidies, endangering its warehouse workers and exposing consumer data to privacy breaches. It claimed to have grass-roots support from average citizens across the U.S, citing a labor union, a Boston management professor and a California businessman.

What the group did not say is that it received backing from some of Amazon’s chief corporate rivals. They include shopping mall owner Simon Property Group Inc.,  retailer Walmart Inc. and software giant Oracle Corp., according to people involved with and briefed on the project. Simon Property is fighting to keep shoppers who now prefer to buy what they need on Amazon; Walmart is competing with Amazon over retail sales; and Oracle is battling Amazon over a $10 billion Pentagon cloud-computing contract.

The grass-roots support cited by the group was also not what it appeared to be. The labor union says it was listed as a member of the group without permission and says a document purporting to show that it gave permission has a forged signature. The Boston professor says the group, with his permission, ghost-wrote an op-ed for him about Amazon but that he didn’t know he would be named as a member. The California businessman was dead for months before his name was removed from the group’s website this year.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Next Page »