Friday, December 19th, 2014


Gag Me With a Spoon

"We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States, because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they'll do when they see a documentary that they don't like, or news reports that they don't like -- or even worse, imagine if producers or distributors or others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended." That was President Obama on the North Korea hack of Sony during his year-end press conference. Pay attention to the words self-censorship. This will be a big issue in the age of increasing transparency. A bad joke on Twitter can get you crushed. A leaked email can ruin your reputation. A secretly recorded conversation can destroy your career. The risks associated with broadcasting your thoughts might be enough to turn the era of digital communication into the age of STFU.

+ With the help of some activists and a few balloons, North Koreans might see The Interview before you do.

+ "They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they're afraid." In an interview with Deadline, George Clooney shares some interesting takes on Hollywood and the Sony hack.

+ "in recent days, when they had something vulgar or highly sensitive to share, they have found themselves going back to the old-fashioned phone call. Some are even walking down the hallway to deliver profanities in person." Nick Bilton in the NYT: How the Sony Corporation hack revived the lost art of the call.


A Chain Redaction

Matthew Cole of NBC News tells the story of a high-ranking CIA official who was connected to a failure of her organization to share key information with the FBI prior to the 9-11 attacks. That was before she backed (and participated in) the torture program, and later made false claims about its effectiveness. "U.S. officials who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity confirmed that her name was redacted at least three dozen times in an effort to avoid publicly identifying her. In fact, much of the four-month battle between Senate Democrats and the CIA about redactions centered on protecting the identity of the woman."


Holiday Reads

It's the holiday season, so you'll probably want to load your devices with excellent content. With that in mind, I've decided to aggregate the other aggregators of longform content. Keep your hands and feet in, because if someone aggregates me aggregating them, we could all be sucked into a black hole. First, from my friends at Longreads: Here are the best longreads of 2014, organized by category. Second, Longform recommended 1,642 articles from 1,364 writers this year (relax, there won't be a quiz). Here are their favorites. And finally, Businessweek's 2014 jealousy list; the 44 best stories we didn't write.


But I Play One on TV…

A new study found that half of the medical claims made by Dr. Oz on television are either wrong and/or baseless. Not a surprise. Everyone knows that if you want information you can trust, you look to the Internet.

+ The Atlantic on the cold-medicine racket.

+ Is getting a hug the best way to ward of a cold this winter? (Let's settle for waving to each other over Skype.)


Los Desaparecidos

"Perhaps it was the scale of the violence, or the sheer brutality, or that the victims were college students, or that the perpetrators were mostly municipal police, or that the mayor of Iguala, his wife, and the police chief were probably behind the attack, or that the state and federal governments were deceptive in their investigation and callous in their treatment of the mothers and fathers of the murdered, wounded, and disappeared." In California Sunday Magazine, John Gibler makes the case that all these factors associated with the disappearance of 43 students resulted in a day that changed everything in Mexico.


Correctile Dysfunction

"That version included what purported to be an interview that Kanye West gave to a Chicago radio station in which he compared his own derrière to that of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Mr. West's quotes were taken, without attribution, from the satirical website The Daily Currant. There is no radio station WGYN in Chicago; the interview was fictitious." Needless to say, that was the media correction of the year. But there were plenty of others. (As my football coach used to say; if you're going to fail, at least fail going all out.)


We Wish Yiwu a Merry Christmas

You've probably never heard of Yiwu. But its six hundred factories produce 60% of all the Christmas decorations in the world. (And probably a lot of the dreidels too...)

+ How one man is terrorizing his neighbors with a hostile holiday decoration display (all year long).


Cuba Dot Com

"If rates of Internet exposure remain the same in two years, Obama's experiment could be judged a failure." Jeffrey Goldberg on how to tell if Obama's Cuba gamble is a success.

+ Only five percent of Cuba's population is online.


Jocasta La Vista

"My mother had invited us on an all-expense-paid beach vacation at a resort in France. There was just one problem. As I told my sons in our living room, 'It's a nude resort.'" In the NYT, Charity Robey on vacationing with mom.

+ Adam Rogers in Wired: What 800 nerds on a cruise ship taught me about life, the universe, and snorkeling.

+ I love nerds and respect their rise to power. But I'm not sure I want to live in world where the creator of Minecraft has enough dough to outbid Beyonce for a house.


The Bottom of the News

Twenty years of street photography has identified one clear trend. We're all pretty boring.

+ Mysterious Boston woman is top Amazon reviewer. Everyone wants to be a star (or five).

+ Lumberjack Chic is wielding its mighty power as L.L. Bean faces a backlog on its iconic rubber and leather boots. It currently stands at 100,000 pairs. (By the time you get them, the trend will be over.)

+ A bank just valued Instagram at $35 billion. (Caveat: They were using the crazy-ass filter.)

+ And finally, a "study" suggests that people who tweet while watching TV have fewer brain cells. (Spoiler alert: It's the not the multitasking. It's that they're high out of their minds.)