"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Links - 20th May 2016

Don’t do this to our city, Internet users say of new KL tourism logo - "A new logo and tagline to promote tourism in Kuala Lumpur has drawn online criticism from Malaysians, who poked fun at the design and the words used to describe their beloved capital city."

A Point of View: Why people shouldn't feel the need to censor themselves - "We should remember, however, that offence can be taken even when it has not been given. There are radical feminists who search every innocent remark about women for the hidden sexist agenda. Even using the masculine pronoun in the grammatically sanctioned way, so as to refer indifferently to men and women, can cause offence and is now being banned on campuses all across America. It is not that you wish to give offence. But you are up against people who are expert in taking it, who have cultivated the art of taking offence over many years, and who are never more delighted than when some innocent man falls into the trap of speaking incorrectly. Typically a joke tries to cut things down to size, so that you can feel at ease with the thing you laugh at. Most ethnic jokes are like that - ways of dealing with ethnic diversity, by helping people to feel content with their own group, and not threatened by the others. Sometimes it is your own group that is cut down to size - as in the many Jewish jokes that show some Jewish foible to be an amusing eccentricity rather than a threat. Jokes become popular because they soften things, making reality, with all its divisions, less of a threat... Humour of that kind is pointing both to the absurdity of sectarian conflict, and also to the fact that it is a pretence, an excuse for hatred rather than a response to it. It is reminding us that the art of taking offence is used by small-minded people to gain an unwarranted advantage over the rest of us... You cannot legislate against offence. No legislation, no invention of new crimes and punishments, can possibly introduce irony, forgiveness and good will into minds schooled in the art of being offended. This is as true of radical feminists as of sectarians and radical Islamists. While we have a moral duty to laugh at them, they have also made it dangerous to do so. But we should never lose sight of the fact that it is they, not we, who are the transgressors.... Racist opinions won't go away just because we forbid their expression. Indeed, forbidding them may give them a special allure. What was most destructive about the Nazi propaganda against the Jews was not so much the expression of those nasty opinions, but the suppression of those who sought to refute them... black people in America earned their status as equal citizens partly because of free discussion, which persuaded ordinary Americans that racial stereotyping is both irrational and unjust. It is because they gave voice to their opinions that the racists were defeated... Self-censorship is even more harmful than censorship by the state. For it shuts down the conversation completely"

If Sweden and Germany Became US States, They Would be Among the Poorest States - "Since Sweden is held up as a sort of promised land by American socialists, let's compare it first. We find that, if it were to join the US as a state, Sweden would be poorer than all but 12 states, with a median income of $27,167... But, I'm really being too conservative with the US numbers here. I'm comparing OECD countries to US states based on a single nation-wide purchasing power number for the US. We've already accounted for cost of living at the national level (using PPP data), but the US is so much larger than all other countries compared here, we really need to consider the regional cost of living in the United States. Were we to calculate real incomes based on the cost of living in each state, we'd find that real purchasing power is even higher in many of the lower-income states than we see above... None of this analysis should really surprise us. According to the OECD's own numbers (which take into account taxes and social benefits, the US has higher median disposable income than all but three OECD countries. Sweden ranks below the US in this regard, as does Finland and Denmark"

Will Apple Music complete iTunes’ destruction of my will to collect music? - "Pinkstone claimed that he had lost 20 years’ worth of music files as a result of signing up for Apple Music; as he explained it, the service had hoovered up the collection of MP3 and WAV files he had been keeping in his iTunes library and replaced them with streaming versions that lived in an Apple-owned cloud. The original files, as Pinkstone understood it, had been deleted off his computer in the process. To his surprise, when he called Apple Support to find out what happened and how to fix it, he was told that this was exactly how Apple Music—the company’s year-old streaming service—was supposed to work... a lot of the songs Apple Music had allegedly removed from Pinkstone’s hard drive weren’t properly replaced. For example, instead of a rare, early version of a Fountains of Wayne song that Pinkstone had at some point downloaded or ripped to his computer as an MP3, Apple had plugged in a less distinctive, more widely available version of the song... Here was yet another reason to hate Apple’s music software—something I’d been doing for years, with iTunes as the primary source of my discontent. To date, that discontent had been fueled by the utter disarray in which iTunes had left my digital music library... As Farhad Manjoo wrote in Slate in 2012, in a piece titled “Won’t Someone Take iTunes Out Back and Shoot It?” the software had become a bloated monster that wasn’t good at doing any of the things that Apple was forcing it to do... when I thought for too long about the impact iTunes was having on the texture and structure of my music consumption, I was overcome with a bitter sense of loss... Apple has repeatedly wiped my digital collection clean of all the songs I ever downloaded, except for the ones I had purchased directly from the iTunes store. That’s how I remember it, anyway. The truth is I am a helplessly unreliable narrator in this story, because whenever I use iTunes, I find that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, or what the consequences of my actions will be... It doesn’t make sense that everyone I know who still uses iTunes despises it, and that many people, including me, have abandoned it in favor of streaming because managing their libraries became too much of a chore."

Of Course Facebook Is Biased. Its Real Problem Is That It Won’t Admit It. - "anonymous former Facebook “curators” described the subjective process by which they assembled the Trending section. Facebook had publicly portrayed the section—which you can find near the top right of Facebook.com or under the search tab on the Facebook app—as an algorithmically driven reflection of the most popular stories its users are reading at any given time. But the ex-curators said they often filtered out stories that were deemed questionable and added others they deemed worthy. One, a self-identified conservative, complained that this led to subtle yet pervasive liberal bias, since most of the curators were politically liberal themselves. Popular stories from conservative sites such as Breitbart, for instance, were allegedly omitted unless more mainstream publications such as the New York Times also picked them up... There are ways to grapple with this problem honestly—to attempt to identify and correct for one’s biases, to scrupulously disclose them, to employ an ideologically diverse staff, perhaps even to reject objectivity as an ideal and embrace subjectivity. But you can’t begin to address the subjective nature of news without first acknowledging it. And Facebook has gone out of its way to avoid doing that, for reasons that are central to its identity as a technology company... If the curators’ job was really just about cleaning up the data, Facebook seems to have forgotten to tell that to the curators themselves, who described their mandate very differently"
Addendum: Also reported as: "Facebook Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News"

Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English - "Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study"

“Why do all old statues have such small penises?” - "Firstly, they’re flaccid. If you compare their size to most flaccid male penises, they are actually not significantly smaller than real-life penises tend to be. Secondly, cultural values about male beauty were completely different back then. Today, big penises are seen as valuable and manly, but back then, most evidence points to the fact that small penises were considered better than big ones... A famous example of a small penis is Michelangelo’s David (1501 – 04), a Renaissance sculpture from Florence, Italy. There’s an interesting theory for why David’s penis is so small, apart from the Greek influence. In 2005, two Florentine doctors published a paper arguing that David’s penis was shriveled by fear"

Why Switzerland Airlifts Its Cows - "The sight of a cow flying through the air isn't so rare in Switzerland: When a cow is injured—or dead—a helicopter may arrive to bring it to safety, or, if dead, to incineration. The practice, Aeon reports, isn't just about caring for our bovine friends, or keeping the landscape free of dead cows. Instead, it's tied to the maintenance of Switzerland—environmentally, economically, and even culturally"

Reading 'Fifty Shades' linked to unhealthy behaviors, researchers warn - - "Reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” is linked to unhealthy behaviors, according to a researcher at Michigan State University. In fact, readers of this book are more likely than nonreaders to display evidence of eating disorders and have a verbally abusive partner. Plus, women who read all three books in the series are at a heightened risk of binge drinking and having numerous sex partners"

This Is What Gentrification Really Is - "Gentrification is a form of immigration, though almost nobody calls it that. People who gentrify are usually new transplants to a city, changing it to suit their particular cultural needs and whims. That's why the criticism of gentrification often sounds like a distorted version of anti-immigrant sentiment... The difference is that the people we call immigrants are usually not rich. Gentrifiers are... It's easier to blame the aliens for what's happened to your city rather than face up to the complicated reality of urban life. City planner Spiro Kostof writes that cities are not static — they are "a process," always changing over time. Today's Mission district in San Francisco, for example, was once a working class Irish and German neighborhood. And some of those "alien" techies invading it now come from the same Central and South American countries that its current residents do... San Francisco's anti-development policies are actually harming the low-income communities they were originally designed to protect"

That Lying Beggar Auntie - "So there is finally a newspaper report about her scams. Wanbao followed up on a lead through STOMP and discovered that this auntie makes over a thousand dollars a night begging, lying and scamming. She has asked me for $500 before, but then I uncovered her scam over 45 minutes once I bought her tea."

In China, Myths of Social Cohesion - NYTimes.com - "“The story that most Chinese know is completely made up,” said the man, an ethnic Uighur, who asked that his name be withheld for fear of angering the authorities. “The truth is she isn’t even buried here.” In the six decades since coming to power, China’s Communist Party has devoted enormous resources to composing historical narratives that seek to legitimize its rule and obfuscate its failures. The disastrous famine that claimed millions of lives last century is said to have been caused by bad weather, not Mao’s misguided policies. Chinese history books often blame the United States for starting the Korean War, not the Communist troops from North Korea who, most historians agree, first invaded the South. When it comes to China’s ethnic minorities, the party-run history machine is especially single-minded in its effort to promote story lines that portray Uighurs, Mongolians, Tibetans and other groups as contented members of an extended family whose traditional homelands have long been part of the Chinese nation... James A. Millward, a professor at Georgetown University who studies China’s ethnically diverse borderlands, said the drive to shape history, while not unique to China, was zealously practiced by each succeeding dynasty in an effort to malign an emperor’s predecessors and glorify his own rule. But the Communists have also sought to use history as a tool against separatist aspirations and to legitimize their efforts to govern potentially restive populations."

5 Things the Star Wars Prequels Did Right - "1) Aesthetics
2) New Worlds (and Worldbuilding Generally)
Whether or not we like the story Lucas chose to tell in the prequels, it's pretty easy to reconcile with the original trilogy we all know and love, which may be one of the reasons fans rebel against the prequels so much - they blend too easily with what we originally loved, so that it's difficult to separate the two entirely.
3) Politics
The prequels were always going to be political, there's basically no two ways around it. They're movies about the fall of the Republic - a democratic if corrupt system - and its replacement by the Empire, a totalitarian regime based on a principle of might makes right. Unless Lucas was going to ignore what was happening in the Republic altogether, the prequels were going to have to deal with politics.
4) The Jedi and the Sith
5) The Chosen One
The Chosen One story of the prequels doesn't follow most of the usual rules... It's hard to think of another case where a messianic prophecy goes so wrong; other examples exist I'm sure, but it's a rare choice in storytelling"

The Myth of the Fag Hag and Dirty Secrets of the Gay Male Subculture - "In my mid-twenties, I learned that taking your female friends to a gay bar is like taking a vegetarian to a butcher shop. There is a lot of meat, a lot of prime cuts, and even a little tripe, but nothing they can eat... If there isn't any kind of transactional exchange happening, then women lose their value in gay male subcultures... "I'm gay" gets handed down as an acceptable excuse for gay men to probe and disrespect women's bodies... The crux of McIntosh's argument focuses on male and white privilege, but is very applicable to how gay privilege is fomenting and replicating... McIntosh's comments about white male privilege can be ported to gay male privilege. As gay men, we are being wholesale conditioned to believe that when we diminish women, it's okay, because we have been victims of oppression ourselves and we're gay and women "understand.""
If homosexuality is no longer seen as making you more of a "minority" than being a woman, maybe drag will soon no longer be acceptable

Why has drag escaped critique from feminists and the LGBTQ community? - "a drag queen named Daytona Bitch was fired from a Toronto Pride event for a blackface performance in which, as Laura Kane reports, “she dressed up as Miss Cleo, a kitschy telephone psychic from the late ‘90s, complete with black face paint”... it feels as though drag queens are given free reign to insult women and adopt over-the-top sexist language (bitch, ho, etc.) and objectified depictions of women in ways that women don’t even get away with, within a feminist context."
Not all "minorities" are equal
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