Important thoughts

Worth Reading: Media meltdowns, women pirates, and questionable sci-fi remakes

On this blessed Easter day, let’s read some stories.

Important thoughts

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Important thoughts

Worth Reading: Media meltdowns, women pirates, and questionable sci-fi remakes

On this blessed Easter day, let’s read some stories.

What the hell is going on with New York media? On Friday, New York magazine, which used to be the personification of a perfect read (to me) demonstrated how it seems to be trapped in the same kind of centrist sinkhole The New York Times finds itself in. Need evidence? Check out this completely tone deaf / brain dead essay by the formerly-retired (should-retire-again?) Andrew Sullivan. What starts out as an ostensibly obvious screed about the failing of the Democrats picks up some interesting steam at the end as it suggests racism doesn’t exist in America because Jews and Asian-Americans have achieved some perceivable measure of success. This myopic view is well addressed by a Jackie Robinson quote Bomani Jones tweeted after the Sullivan article started trending:

If Sullivan thinks the American Dream is alive because some people who aren’t white have “made it,” his bubble of whiteness is so complete that it might as well be a VR simulation of life.

On a similar note, last week I wrote about The New York Times’ strange flail as it heaped praise on Trump’s Syrian war machine. The paper — which is in the midst of a rebirth of sorts thanks to the unpopularity of the president coupled with its machine-gun reporting post election of his many failings — seems to have forgotten why people got there in the first place. It doubled-down on its path this week by hiring legitimately awful columnist Bret Stephens, who is perhaps best known for denying climate change and saying that the “the Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind.” Good get!

Also worth reading on the topic: Leah Finnegan’s critique of the paper’s public editor. Who is bad.

Speaking of bad things: we should all really stop paying attention to CNN. I can think of no media outlet in recent memory that has contributed to divisiveness and noise in this country more effectively than the quasi-news entertainment machine. Besides being headed by Jeff Zucker — a quivering slimeball who made Trump a star and fucked over Conan O’Brien — this odious stack of soundbites is actively engaged in the process of war-mongering. Need proof? Check out its hot exclusive from inside a Tomahawk missile factory.

On that point, it’s either a testament to how truly deranged the president is, or the cozy relationship with Zucker that Trump felt it necessary to send a threatening letter to the executive:

“The dumbest thing I ever did was get you the job at CNN — you are the most disloyal person. Just remember, I always seem to find a way to get even.

Best wishes, Donald J. Trump.”

Very professional. Very cool. Very adult.

In happier news news: I loved this short Bloomberg piece on Le Canard Enchaîné (aka Le Canard), apparently France’s “most feared” paper thanks to its sometimes-satirical and always no-bullshit writing. It makes me wish I spoke French. And lived in France. Bonjour.


I was not familiar with the history of women pirates, but luckily the Smithsonian Magazine exists. Read this fascinating interview with Laura Sook Duncombe, who’s just published an entire book on the matter called Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas. You’ll never look at Pirates of the Caribbean the same way (and not just because Johnny Depp is a terrible and abusive guy).

Anne Bonny and Mary Read, female pirates.

Anne Bonny and Mary Read, female pirates.

Is it a good idea to start throwing every classic sci-fi franchise at the same director because he’s made a couple of stylish films? That seems to be what’s happening with Denis Villeneuve, who is not only helming the Blade Runner sequel (the terribly named Blade Runner 2049), but will also be taking a stab at Frank Herbert’s beloved Dune. Look, I’m not saying the guy doesn’t have a couple of good moves up his sleeve, but Arrival was a touch overrated in my opinion, and his previous pictures look and feel more important than they actually are (Prisoners is an excellent example). Remember what happened with Zack Snyder, who seemed promising at first but has gone on to smash entire franchises to pieces.

On that topic, whatever happened to Chris Cunningham, the brilliant director who was tapped to head up the Neuromancer film?

Algorithms are everywhere. “Fixing” gender pay discrimination, playing Go to get smarter, and forcing artists to make art. Increasingly we’re reliant on automated systems to get where we’re going, and now Samsung is adding its own character to the mix: Bixby. When the company releases its new phones this week, users are going to be asked to hand over all sorts of personal information to the electronics giant, but I’ve got one good question: what have they done to earn our trust? Unlike Apple, Google, and Microsoft, Samsung has not had years to prove it can handle sensitive personal data, and Bixby will be analyzing your on-screen data, photos you take, and the things that you say to your phone. Increasingly every tech company wants a piece of your life — mostly for advertising purposes — and I think it’s healthy to take a hard look at the ask before you give your consent, no matter how many breathless articles are written about what Samsung wants to do for you.


It’s something of a dream of mine to build a motorcycle from scratch — and yes I know how that sounds coming from a person who collects mechanical keyboards. It’s probably never going to happen, but if it was going to happen, I would find this guide on how to plan such a project extremely helpful.

Bury me with these

A post shared by Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) on

And last but not least, we’re starting a daily podcast where we brief you on our most interesting stories in a whole new way. I think you’ll love it, and you should subscribe to it.

Okay have a wonderful Easter. I hope the Easter Bunny does not attack and maim you or your family — that’s what happens sometimes, right?