Tuesday, August 30th, 2016


Punching the Golden Ticket

Oompa Loompa Doopity Doo, I've got another edition for you. But today's news won't be quite the same, since Gene Wilder has stepped out of the frame. Gene Wilder made many of us smile and feel good a whole lot of times. But there was something more to his magic. He was one of those people you felt you knew through his movies, and you could tell he was a good guy. Gene Wilder was the diametric opposite of an Internet troll. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease and likely forgot many of the performances the rest of us never will. Gene Wilder has died. (Strike that. Reverse it.)

+ Wilder kept his Alzheimer's a secret so kids wouldn't know that Willy Wonka was sick.

+ He came up with the idea of giving Willy Wonka a limp. Here's why.

+ Remembering Wilder through his five greatest performances.

+ Go home and hug your sheep tonight.


Yeah, But I Shoot With This Hand

"There is no national database of guns. We have no centralized record of who owns all the firearms we so vigorously debate, no hard data regarding how many people own them, how many of them are bought or sold, or how many even exist. What we have instead is Charlie." GQ's Jeanne Marie Laskas takes you inside the bureau of way too many guns, where "computers are illegal and detective work is absurdly antiquated. On purpose."


The Frisco Kids

"It was said that the deterioration of old urban cores would push everyone who could afford it out to 'edge cities.' Most recently, we were promised that information tech and the virtual office would make cities largely unnecessary." Well, it turned out that a seemingly endless parade of cash, people, and Ubers rode into a select few cities -- where a lot of people have been completely priced out of the market. From The New Yorker: Why the high cost of big-city living is bad for everyone.


Never Doubt What Nobody is Sure About

In Hollywood, the promise of social media was that it would enable celebrities to communicate directly with their fans and expand their followings. The reality of social media is that it's become a major channel for advertisers to target consumers. And unless you're really paying attention, you'll be hard-pressed to know whether what you're reading is a real opinion or a marketing message (bet on the latter). From the NYT's Sapna Maheshwari: Paid $75,000 to Love a Brand on Instagram. But Is It an Ad?


A Little Nonsense Now And Then Is Relished By The Wisest Men

"I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world." Was that Colin Kaepernick remarking on his refusal to stand during a recent NFL preseason game? Nope. It was Jackie Robinson. CNN on the surprising history behind Colin Kaepernick's protest.

+ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "Sam Kendricks was sprinting intently in the middle of his pole vaulting attempt when he heard the national anthem playing. He immediately dropped his pole and stood at attention, a spontaneous expression of heartfelt patriotism that elicited more praise than his eventual bronze medal. Last Thursday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand with his teammates during the national anthem ... both men, in their own ways, behaved in a highly patriotic manner that should make all Americans proud."

+ The Atlantic on the complexities of patriotism, from honoring the troops to playing professional sports. I have a slightly contrarian view of all this. I have a feeling no one really cares all that much about what Kaepernick does during the National Anthem, but we're addicted to stories that can help us make conversation and take our minds off our own problems. It's a big deal precisely because it's no big deal.


Start the Revolution Without Me

"If you could transport someone from the year 1916 to the present, we ask a little proudly, wouldn't that person be stupefied by the changes? And, of course, he would be, at least for a few days, until he figured out how everything worked. But one thing would be very familiar to such a time traveller: the pride, and the anxiety, we feel about being so modern." In The New Yorker, Adam Kirsch asks: Are We Really So Modern?


It’s Simply a Matter of Creative Accounting

From WaPo: "European authorities ruled Tuesday that Apple owes more than $14.5 billion in back taxes after striking a sweetheart deal with Ireland that allowed the tech giant to underpay for more than a decade." (Luckily, in the time it took you to read that lede, Apple made about $14.5 billion.)

+ So wait. The EU says Apple owes Ireland taxes. And Ireland is on Apple's side of the fight? Here's Fortune on why Ireland doesn't want Apple's money. (Apple should acquire Ireland.)


Pure Imagination

How do you improve education at poor schools? Even if you've pondered that question for a long time, it's doubtful that you came up with the idea of installing washing machines on campus. But it turned out that move dramatically improved attendance at one school.


The Producers

What happens if Trump loses? Well, given that his campaign is being run by someone from Breitbart, he's getting advice from Roger Ailes, and he has a past as a TV celebrity, more than a few people are suggesting that Trump TV could be coming to a screen near you. From WaPo's Margaret Sullivan: "Will that something else be a new television-and-digital-media venture? As the candidate himself might phrase it, 'a lot of people think so.'"


Bottom of the News

So Facebook got rid of its human editors and let algorithms take over the task of presenting the trending news of the day. And it was almost immediately a disaster. I've been trying to tell everyone on the Internet this for years. I am the algorithm.

+ NPR: Dogs understand tone and meaning of words. (But they probably don't understand why researchers keep sliding them into brain scanning machines.)

+ Exclusive: Donald Trump's Unabridged Health Assessment.

+ "New lookouts often have all these plans, they're going to read all these books, or paint, or photograph, or learn an instrument. Then they're amazed by how much they just sit there on the catwalk, watching weather. Those who can be content with themselves, and not having a list, have the most success." From The Guardian: Freaks on the peaks: the lonely lives of the last remaining forest fire lookouts.