Friday, September 20th, 2013


Can You Just Sit There?

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there ... that's being a person." That quote comes from a person who is quickly become one of America's foremost philosophers when it comes to critiquing the digital age: Louis CK. He made that comment as part of a predictably awesome appearance on Conan O'Brien's show last night. Of course, he's right. That said, there's a decent chance you'll be reading this, and watching him, on your cell phone at a time when you'd otherwise be just sitting there. Oh well, maybe you can try being a person later.


Antisocial Media

In what a authorities describe as a gang-related shooting, someone opened fire at a park on Chicago's South Side and shot 13 people, including a three year-old boy. In Wired, Ben Austen provides an in-depth look at how social media is fueling gang wars in Chicago: "There are now an estimated 70,000 members in the city, spread out among a mind-boggling 850 cliques, with many of these groupings formed around a couple of street corners or a specific school or park. Young people in these areas are like young people everywhere, using technology to coordinate with their friends and chronicle their every move. But in neighborhoods where shootings are common, the use of online tools has turned hazardous, as gang violence is now openly advertised and instigated online."


Weekend Reads

C.D. Hermelin liked to sit on a bench on NYC's Highline and write stories for people on a small typewriter. Then the Internet found out about this practice and turned Hermelin into an object of ridicule. From The Awl: The Internet Hates Me. (Don't feel too bad, it hates the rest of us too...)

+ "If you never hear from me again, look for my body in the western Yunnan Province of China or the Yellow Mountains of Anhui. Just kidding. No, I'm really so excited." That was an email sent by David Sneddon to his mother shortly before he disappeared while hiking in China. Buzzfeed's Leslie Anne Jones asks: Was An American College Student Kidnapped By North Korea?

+ The NYT's Mary Pilon shares the story of Charlie Rowan, a cage match fighter who faked his own death. The story features some incredible illustrations by Attila Futaki, and if you don't feel like reading, you can sit back and listen as Bobby Cannavale reads it to you.

+ From Boulder: Notes on a thousand-year flood. And related: A collection of photos from InFocus: After the deluge.


(Another) Fiscal Showdown

The House has passed a spending bill that strips the necessary funding for the health care law. The move sets up what is certain to be a nasty confrontation -- one that could lead to a government shutdown. From President Obama: "They're focused on politics, they're focused on trying to mess with me, they're not focused on you."


The Background of Background Checkers

Many times, government-related background checks are performed by private contractors. USIS is one of the biggest players in that market. They performed a background check on Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis. They also handled the background check for Edward Snowden.


Redshirt Kindergarten

Among today's parents, there seems to be a growing consensus that it's better to start Kindergarten a little later. The theory is that kids who are older have an advantage in sports and academics, and tend to be more advanced in their emotional development. In The New Yorker's Maria Konnikova suggests that we may have it all wrong: "As it turns out, the benefits of being older and more mature may not be as important as the benefits of being younger than your classmates." Whether your kids start school earlier or later, they're gonna be pissed at you when they're teenagers.

+ When did competitive sports take over American childhood?


Cord Never

We've heard a lot about the threat "cord cutters" pose to cable and satellite providers. But there's a new threat that could be more pressing: Cord Nevers. There's a new generation of people who have never purchased a cable package and never plan to. This year is "on pace to be the first year ever that total U.S. pay-TV subscriptions will decline."

+ At the other end of the spectrum, you'll find people who watch NCIS. And there are a whole lot of them. Last season, more than eighteen million people tuned in to watch the CBS juggernaut each week. Amazingly, the show's audience continues to grow even though its been around for ten seasons.

+ Chrismukkah is back... Great news for fans of the show The OC. There's a remake. To really enjoy it, you'll need to speak Turkish. Here's a look at some crazy remakes of U.S. shows.


The Real Money in Fantasy Sports

People are pretty fired up to play fantasy sports. Last year, participants spent a cool $1.7 billion for the privilege. And now, there are a lot of businesses that are emerging at the edge of this somewhat bizarre ecosystem. There are insurance companies that will cover you in case one of your key players suffers an injury. And there are judges that can be hired to resolve disputes between participants. Now you just need private investigators to help you figure out where your friends and family went while you were focused on football.


Desktop Patterns

Is your desk messy or clean? According to studies, the answer could tell us a lot about you. There are advantages to having a clean desk (you probably eat better and will live longer), and advantages to working in a messy environment (you might be more creative). One thing both groups have in common: Neither really cares what their desk says about them.


The Bottom of the News

Here is a fantastically clear, concise explanation of why traffic happens. Spoiler Alert: It's mostly your fault.

+ A school board in North Carolina has banned Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. One board member said it was "a hard read" while another explained, "I didn't find any literary value."

+ The 10 Most James Franco Lines in James Franco's New Novel.

+ Travis Sigley: Cuddler for Hire.