Category Archives: Society

The Top 10 Movies of 2014 «

Wesley Morris has Norte, the End of History as his film of 2014.

1. Norte, the End of History

Lav Diaz’s contemplation of life after someone else’s death taxis a runway for the first 35 of its 250 majestic minutes. Once it takes off, you can’t believe you’re flying. You don’t want to land. The story, set in the Philippines, of a man wrongly imprisoned for murder, the wife he’s left behind, and the moral rot of the real killer, is like a work of philosophical and spiritual origami — Dostoyevsky with human levitation and mood lighting. The movie roves wastelands; it climbs to heaven. With each passing scene, Diaz finds new ways of compounding the visual and emotional scope of the film, reaching a degree of artistry that provokes an involuntary response. When it ended the first time I saw it, I stood up, with tears in my eyes, and clapped. The second time, I just sat in my seat, awed by what Diaz had achieved, and perplexed as to how. On neither occasion did I feel like I had simply gone to a movie. I had answered the call of God.

via The Top 10 Movies of 2014 «.

The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality – Quartz

The new middlemen

There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone. First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins.

Uber was founded in 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the worst financial crisis in a generation. As the ride-sharing app has risen, so too have income disparity and wealth inequality in the United States as a whole and in San Francisco in particular. Recent research by the Brookings Institution found that of any US city, San Francisco had the largest increase in inequality between 2007 and 2012. The disparity in San Francisco as of 2012, as measured (pdf) by a city agency, was in fact more pronounced than inequality in Mumbai (pdf).

Of course, there are huge differences between the two cities. Mumbai is a significantly poorer, dirtier, more miserable place to live and work. Half of its citizens lack access to sanitation or formal housing.

Another distinction, just as telling, lies in the opportunities the local economy affords to the army of on-demand delivery people it supports. In Mumbai, the man who delivers a bottle of rum to my doorstep can learn the ins and outs of the booze business from spending his days in a liquor store. If he scrapes together enough capital, he may one day be able to open his own shop and hire his own delivery boys.

His counterpart in San Francisco has no such access. The person who cleans your home in SoMa has little interaction with the mysterious forces behind the app that sends him or her to your door. The Uber driver who wants an audience with management can’t go to Uber headquarters; he or she must visit a separate “driver center.”

via The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality – Quartz.

Why Middle-Class Americans Can’t Afford to Live in Liberal Cities – The Atlantic

In a recent article, Kolko divided the largest cities into 32 “red” metros where Romney got more votes than Obama in 2012 (e.g. Houston), 40 “light-blue” markets where Obama won by fewer than 20 points (e.g. Austin), and 28 “dark-blue” metros where Obama won by more than 20 points (e.g. L.A., SF, NYC). Although all three housing groups faced similar declines in the recession and similar bounce-backs in the recovery, affordability remains a bigger problem in the bluest cities.

Super-Liberal Cities, Super-Unaffordable Houses

Trulia

“Even after adjusting for differences of income, liberal markets tend to have higher income inequality and worse affordability,” Kolko said.

Kolko’s theory isn’t an outlier. There is a deep literature tying liberal residents to illiberal housing policies that create affordability crunches for the middle class. In 2010, UCLA economist Matthew Kahn published a study of California cities, which found that liberal metros issued fewer new housing permits. The correlation held over time: As California cities became more liberal, he said, they built fewer homes.

“All homeowners have an incentive to stop new housing,” Kahn told me, “because if developers build too many homes, prices fall, and housing is many families’ main asset. But in cities with many Democrats and Green Party members, environmental concerns might also be a factor. The movement might be too eager to preserve the past.”

via Why Middle-Class Americans Can’t Afford to Live in Liberal Cities – The Atlantic.

The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed | WIRED

I was given a look at the Whisper moderation process because Michael Heyward, Whisper’s CEO, sees moderation as an integral feature and a key selling point of his app. Whisper practices “active moderation,” an especially labor-intensive process in which every single post is screened in real time; many other companies moderate content only if it’s been flagged as objectionable by users, which is known as reactive moderating. “The type of space we’re trying to create with anonymity is one where we’re asking users to put themselves out there and feel vulnerable,” he tells me. “Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s tough to put it back in.”

Watching Baybayan’s work makes terrifyingly clear the amount of labor that goes into keeping Whisper’s toothpaste in the tube. (After my visit, Baybayan left his job and the Bacoor office of TaskUs was raided by the Philippine version of the FBI for allegedly using pirated software on its computers. The company has since moved its content moderation operations to a new facility in Manila.) He begins with a grid of posts, each of which is a rectangular photo, many with bold text overlays—the same rough format as old-school Internet memes. In its freewheeling anonymity, Whisper functions for its users as a sort of externalized id, an outlet for confessions, rants, and secret desires that might be too sensitive (or too boring) for Facebook or Twitter. Moderators here view a raw feed of Whisper posts in real time. Shorn from context, the posts read like the collected tics of a Tourette’s sufferer. Any bisexual women in NYC wanna chat? Or: I hate Irish accents! Or: I fucked my stepdad then blackmailed him into buying me a car.

via The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed | WIRED.

Where Young College Graduates Are Choosing to Live – NYTimes.com

“There is a very strong track record of places that attract talent becoming places of long-term success,” said Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard and author of “Triumph of the City.” “The most successful economic development policy is to attract and retain smart people and then get out of their way.”

The economic effects reach beyond the work the young people do, according to Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The New Geography of Jobs.” For every college graduate who takes a job in an innovation industry, he found, five additional jobs are eventually created in that city, such as for waiters, carpenters, doctors, architects and teachers.

“It’s a type of growth that feeds on itself — the more young workers you have, the more companies are interested in locating their operations in that area and the more young people are going to move there,” he said.

About 25 percent more young college graduates live in major metropolitan areas today than in 2000, which is double the percentage increase in cities’ total population. All the 51 biggest metros except Detroit have gained young talent, either from net migration to the cities or from residents graduating from college, according to the report. It is based on data from the federal American Community Survey and written by Joe Cortright, an economist who runs City Observatory and Impresa, a consulting firm on regional economies.

via Where Young College Graduates Are Choosing to Live – NYTimes.com.

Russell Brand: what monkeys and the Queen taught me about inequality | Culture | The Guardian

We then watched a clip on YouTube where monkeys in adjacent cages in a university laboratory perform the same task for food. Monkey A does the task and gets a grape – delicious. Monkey B, who can see Monkey A, performs the same task and is given cucumber – yuck. Monkey B looks pissed off but eats his cucumber anyway. The experiment is immediately repeated and you can see that Monkey B is agitated when his uptown, up-alphabet neighbour is again given a grape. When he is presented with the cucumber this time, he is furious – he throws it out the cage and rattles the bars. I got angry on his behalf and wanted to give the scientist a cucumber in a less amenable orifice. I also felt a bit pissed off with Monkey A, the grape-guzzling little bastard. I’ve not felt such antipathy towards a primate since that one in Raiders of the Lost Ark with the little waistcoat betrayed Indy.

Slingerland explained, between great frothing gobfuls of munched hazelnut, that this inherent sense of fairness is found in humans everywhere, but that studies show that it’s less pronounced in environments where people are exposed to a lot of marketing. “Capitalist, consumer culture inures us to unfairness,” he said. That made me angry.

via Russell Brand: what monkeys and the Queen taught me about inequality | Culture | The Guardian.

This Guy Makes Millions Playing Video Games on YouTube – The Atlantic

The YouTube personality with the most subscribers isn’t Justin Bieber (8 million) or Rihanna (12.5 million). That honor goes to a 24-year-old Swede named Felix Kjellberg, better known by his YouTube handle, PewDiePie.

PewDiePie doesn’t sing or dance, no. PewDiePie has made his name—and a fortune—posting videos of himself playing video games. In one November video, for instance, he plays the Xbox Indie game “Techno Kitten Adventure,” helping a feline avatar navigate dangerous terrain filled with unicorns and narwhals, and shrieking in frustration each time his cat crashes into an obstacle.

via This Guy Makes Millions Playing Video Games on YouTube – The Atlantic.