Quick tab attic clean up

Clearing up a few tabs before things get completely out of control again, here are a few quality longreads from the last couple weeks.

Desperately Seeking Mitt:

Thanks to his campaign’s all but unprecedented restrictive vigilance in the media-access department, trying to penetrate the veneer of the Romney brand is like trying to split a billiard ball with a butter knife. Getting anywhere close to him will require you to suffer repeated, soul-depleting exposures to his campaign anthem, Kid Rock’s “Born Free.” You will also endure an uncountable number of citizens reciting this sentence verbatim: “I like his business background, and I think he’s got the best chance of beating Obama.” You will hear people applauding with dire fervor for huge transnational oil-bearing tubes, for voter-identification laws, for Mitt Romney’s plan to defund PBS: “Big Bird is gonna have to get used to cornflakes.” In lieu of actual access, you will be reduced to spending many stageside hours formulating new descriptions of the governor’s hair and speculating on which side he dresses to. (The evidence suggests it’s the left.) You will come to sort of adore Ann Romney and to believe her when she says that when Mitt wondered aloud whether he was the right man for the job, she asked her husband, “Can you save America?”

A story about the difficulty of finding missing kids if they’re autistic.

Because of his autism, Robert probably didn’t know that he was lost. If he heard people coming through the woods, he might well have taken cover from them, thinking it was a game of hide-and-seek. Or he might not have wanted to be found by a stranger, even one calling out his name. This made efforts to locate him extremely difficult, and it’s how Robert managed to elude what would soon become one of the largest search-and-rescue operations in Virginia history.

Awesome first person account of dealing with the Secret Service after an art project. “When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers’

That’s like “Do you know why I pulled you over?” I had to think for a moment before responding. On one hand, I’ve always heard that the last thing you want to do is give out information. That you shouldn’t answer questions unless you have to. On the other hand, I can’t stand the idea of any relationship based on a lack of communication. And I have a naive hope that if I tell them everything they’ll understand the project better. They’ll see that I did nothing “wrong,” I’m just dealing with some kind of uncomfortable topics.

The rough-and-tumble world of giving and grabbing on Craigslist

The Craiglist posting had read “FREE PARROT FOOD.” When I responded to say that I was interested in meeting, interested in discovering why someone would give away parrot food to strangers over the Internet, the e-mail reply—concerning a house fire and a dead macaw—was four paragraphs long. “His is an epic tale,” Reyna Abram wrote in the high style of Gilgamesh. “I was burned trying to save him, however I could not get him out before he perished.” That was five years ago in Montecito. Since then, Abram had wandered the country, toting a sack of parrot feed wherever she went, settling eventually on a forgotten block that cracks and buckles along the rim of South L.A. It was here that my car sat, outside a shuttered office complex whose signage read NORMA DESMOND PRODUCTIONS, one shard in a smashup of buildings as discarded and unused as the aged star in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. A trilevel Extra Storage structure was the only new edifice on the block. For the past 18 months Abram had lived in storage, working seven days a week as manager, sleeping on the property, knowing only her clients. In the aftermath of the fire and the death of her pet, she had seemingly placed her own life in storage. Now, Abram said, she wanted out. She longed to unburden herself of her parrot feed, of her story, of the anchorage of her past. I would take my time before crossing the street to our scheduled meeting. How was it that I’d landed of all places on this block? Abram’s tale, a heartsick footnote to the month I’d just spent monitoring the Craigslist free page, was as genuine as they come. Getting here, on the other hand, had been plain nuts.

Where pianos go to die.

The value of used pianos, especially uprights, has plummeted in recent years. So instead of selling them to a neighbor, donating them to a church or just passing them along to a relative, owners are far more likely to discard them, technicians, movers and dealers say. Piano movers are making regular runs to the dump, becoming adept at dismantling instruments, selling parts to artists, even burning them for firewood.

Tips to master the art of day drinking.

Use the buddy system.
Oysters with rosé? BBQ with a pilsner? Whatever you’re drinking make sure it’s paired up with something to eat. You’ll prolong the endeavor and enjoy it a hell of a lot more along the way.

Alternative currency.

So the hippie apostle of no one in particular read up on the history of gold ownership and wrote his gospel on its potential to rescue us from a coming depression. The 21-page report, titled simply “To Know Value—An Economic Research Paper,” studied the devaluation of the dollar over the last century along with gold’s relative steadiness. Simplified charts were thrown in for good measure. And here’s the strangest part: It made a decent argument. NotHaus began selling copies of the paper for $3 to his friends in the neighborhood. “People thought, ‘Bernard has lost it!’” he says with a frenzy in his eyes that suggests he might have. “I didn’t even point out that private ownership of gold was illegal at the time!” That decades-old prohibition, intended to reserve the metal for federal purposes, would change shortly thereafter, in December 1974. And after reading NotHaus’s paper, several of his wealthy Hawaiian friends decided they wanted some gold of their own.

The fight between Procter & Gamble and Unilever for market share of the developing world.

Both firms started this decade by setting themselves ambitious goals. P&G’s was to add 1 billion new customers by 2015, a 25% increase. Unilever’s was to double its revenues by 2020, at the same time as halving its negative impact on the environment, under its “sustainable living plan”. Both firms made clear that growth in emerging markets would be crucial to achieving those goals. They promised to invest heavily in distributing and marketing their established products in developing countries and in creating new ones tailored to the tastes and pockets of poorer consumers at the “bottom of the pyramid”—where, according to the late C.K. Prahalad, a management guru, a fortune lies.

The fight for Guadalajara.

Calderón has pursued a “kingpin strategy,” like the “deck of cards” that the United States used in post-Saddam Iraq. In 2009, Mexican authorities listed the thirty-seven drug capos they most wanted. They have so far caught or killed twenty-two, and some cartels seem to have withered after losing their leaders. But organized crime controls more resources today, and sows more terror, than ever. The most common fallout from the kingpin strategy has been the fragmentation of narco-trafficking into smaller, warring, ultraviolent factions. This cops-and-robbers version of the drug war cannot, in any case, be taken at face value. The idea of a unified state that is furiously pursuing bad guys is pure pantalla. The low-grade civil war in Mexico takes place on the ground, among factions with shifting loyalties, in cities and villages with tangled histories. The “government” has innumerable faces—it has more than two thousand police agencies, for a start—and its corruption controls are too weak to counter the power of narco billions. Every local commander, every official, and every community must work out an accommodation with organized crime.

Ex-president and CEO of McDonald’s wants to open up hundreds of sustainable fast food restaurants:

I had come to the artisanally fed vale of Facebook and Tesla to sample the first fruits of Lyfe Kitchen, a soon-to-be-chain of restaurants that might just shift the calculus of American cuisine. At Lyfe Kitchen (the name is an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday), all the cookies shall be dairy-free, all the beef from grass-fed, humanely raised cows. At Lyfe Kitchen there shall be no butter, no cream, no white sugar, no white flour, no high-fructose corn syrup, no GMOs, no trans fats, no additives, and no need for alarm: There will still be plenty of burgers, not to mention manifold kegs of organic beer and carafes of biodynamic wine. None of this would seem surprising if we were talking about one or 10 or even 20 outposts nationwide. But Lyfe’s ambition is to open hundreds of restaurants around the country, in the span of just five years.

A look at two seminal hip op albums that came out in 1989.

Paul’s Boutique and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising took advantage of the brief window when technology and artistry pushed sampling to new levels of sophistication, and the folks who owned the publishing rights to the songs and sounds being sampled didn’t yet realize the immense power they possessed, or understand the windfall that could be gleaned from licensing samples to major artists. The two albums stand as apogees of sampling in part because they played by different rules than everyone who came after them, yet were beneficiaries of technology that didn’t really exist before them.

Louis C.K. interview from the AV Club.

AVC: How can you not be in a perpetual state of complete exhaustion?
LCK: You know what? That’s the central question of my life—how to manage all of that. There’s a woman I see who’s not my therapist, but she’s like an old friend who’s a therapist in profession. She lets me talk to her like a therapist once in a while, and she does a great thing. Whenever I have a big dilemma, like this is a big problem in my life, she always says, “Wow, you’re going to have to figure that out.” [Laughs.] That’s all she says. And so I had to figure it out. I had to put some time and effort into figuring out how to manage energy and time and brain effort and all that stuff. I’ve got a bunch of different things I do. I learned that sharks sleep parts of their brain, like rolling blackouts; they can’t fall asleep because they can’t stop moving or they’ll suffocate. So they sleep sections of their brain at a time. So I do kind of a version of that, where I shut down brain centers. I literally tell myself, “Don’t logistically problem-solve for the next three hours, but you can talk to folks. Driving my kid home from school—don’t think about all the professional things you have to do.”

Quick tab attic clean up

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