January 22nd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Robot love, a glimmer of shutdown ending hope, Oscar noms, and Rudy being Rudy.

“Now you may describe yourself as polyamorous or demisexual — that last one is people who only feel sexual attraction in close emotional relationships. Perhaps you best identify as aromantic (that’s people who don’t feel romance) or skoliosexual (that’s a primary attraction to people of no, or multiple, or complex genders). Self-identification is not the same as identity, and some classes of description now may be closer to metaphor. But the idea that flesh-and-blood humans may actually forge fulfilling emotional, or even sexual, relationships with digital devices is no longer confined to dystopian science fiction movies.” A school administrator in Tokyo married a hologram. An engineer in China married a robot of his own design. The NYT’s Alex Williams on the coming age of digisexuals: Today we fall in love through our phones. Maybe your phone itself could be just as satisfying? Do You Take This Robot… (I’m not judging. When my wife rolls over in bed and is awakened by something hard, it’s almost always my Macbook Air.)


Scotus Operandi

“The Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban to go into effect on Tuesday, dealing a blow to LGBT activists who call the ban cruel and irrational. The Justices did not rule on the merits of the case, but will allow the ban to go forward while the lower courts work through it.” (The rule should be pretty simple: If you’re willing to risk your life for America, you are allowed to be in the military. Unless you have bone spurs in your heels.)

+ SCOTUS also took no action on DACA, leaving policy in effect for now.

+ The court’s DACA nonaction could take that issue off the negotiating table when it comes to the government shutdown. But then again, no one is at the negotiating table anyway. It’s been more than ten days since Dem leaders and the president have spoken (unless you count Twitter). Here’s the latest on the shutdown.


The Space Between

It was a very good year to be a billionaire in India. India’s billionaires added $308 million a day to their wealth in 2018. And “India’s nine richest billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the country.” The key element of this story is that India is not at all an outlier. According to the latest Oxfam report, the world’s 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%. The widening economic gap is one of the most important global stories of our era. And it’s getting wider. “Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day. The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population.”


Out of the Frying Pan Into the Liar

“There’s no shortage of amazing journalists at work, clear-eyed and courageous, broad-minded and brilliant, and no end of fascinating innovation in matters of form, especially in visual storytelling. Still, journalism, as a field, is as addled as an addict, gaunt, wasted, and twitchy, its pockets as empty as its nights are sleepless. It’s faster than it used to be, so fast. It’s also edgier, and needier, and angrier. It wants and it wants and it wants. But what does it need?” (If you think journalism looks wasted and twitchy, you should see aggregators.) Jill Lepore in The New Yorker: Does Journalism Have a Future?


The Roma Empire

Netflix latest stop on the path to taking over entertainment is a best picture nod for its film Roma. Alfonso Cuaron’s movie and The Favourite lead the way with 10 nominations a piece. Here’s a look at all of the year’s Oscar noms.

+ Black Panther just became the first superhero film nominated for best picture. (At the risk of being too heretical, I liked Into the Spider-Verse more than Black Panther, and more than just about every other superhero movie…)

+ And here’s a look at this year’s snubs and surprises, including the omission of Mister Rogers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? in the best doc category. (I thought King Friday was a shoe-in for best supporting actor nod.)


Meat Me Halfway

“I wanted a change, so I purchased 40 pounds of steak. Not being a seasoned carnivore, I simply loaded up my cart with what I thought would sustain me for a month. With $170 worth of meat in hand, I kicked off my 30-day journey with a steak and eggs breakfast. I felt fine: full but not bloated, sated but not groggy. And then came the diarrhea.” Andrew Zaleski in Outisde: What I Learned from a Month on the Carnivore Diet.

+ BBC: A high carb diet may explain why Okinwans live so long. (Editor’s note: Linking to this article is part my long tradition of choosing to believe nutritional news that validates my own lifestyle.)


Insurance Hike

“The NFL no longer has general liability insurance covering head trauma, according to multiple sources; just one carrier is willing to provide workers’ compensation coverage for NFL teams. Before concussion litigation roiled the NFL beginning in 2011, at least a dozen carriers occupied the insurance market for pro football, according to industry experts.” And the situation could be even worse at lower levels. Here’s Pop Warner’s executive director John Butler: “People say football will never go away, but if we can’t get insurance, it will.” ESPN: For the NFL and all of football, a new threat: an evaporating insurance market.

+ The Ringer: The Fight Over the Future of Football Has Become a Battle for California’s Soul.

+ NYT: Grab and Go: How Sticky Gloves Have Changed Football. “The grippy polymer used on the new generation of gloves, said to be developed first by a Canadian wide receiver and a chemist in a Pakistan laboratory in 1999, is about 20 percent stickier than a human hand.”

+ Ted Rath “stands behind head coach Sean McVay and pulls him out of the way when he ventures too far onto the field or into the path of the official.” This Has Got To Be The Weirdest Job In Pro Football.


Social Currency

“With so much money flooding into a largely unregulated, still-developing market, all sorts of ethical lapses are bound to ensue, and indeed they have.” NY Mag: Is It Time to Regulate Social Media Influencers? (How about regulating them out of existence?)

+ AdAge: Meet 10 influencers under 10.


Peter Pan

One of the most complex questions of our time is this: What exactly is Rudy Giuliani trying to accomplish? An answer does not emerge in his interview with The New Yorker: Even If He Did Do It, It Wouldn’t Be a Crime. When asked by Isaac Chotiner if saying things for Trump and not always being truthful about it made Rudy worry that this will be his legacy, Giuliani responded: “Absolutely. I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’ Somehow, I don’t think that will be it. But, if it is, so what do I care? I’ll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter.” (Unless St Peter is the name of a new morning show on Fox News, I don’t think anyone will be convinced…)

+ Very interesting reporting from WaPo: Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen.


Bottom of the News

“This is my life. The artists live their life, and I live my laundry life.” NYT: He Knows the Stars’ Dirty Laundry. Because He Washes It.

+ Comedy is fine. But it’s never as funny as when two friends riff on something absurd and it just gets rolling. Pete Davidson and John Mulaney pulled that off on SNL. They achieved comedy flow. It’s rare. It’s excellent. Pete Davidson & John Mulaney Review Clint Eastwood’s The Mule. (Also, avoiding unwanted chitchat by bring an urn with you.)

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