An Apple A Year

Aug 28 2014 @ 8:29pm
by Sue Halpern


What do I (think I) know about the new iPhone 6? That it’s going to have a bigger screen. That’s it’s going to have two bigger screens since there will be two models. That the model with the even bigger screen is not going to be available right away. That both screens are going to be made from “stronger than steel” sapphire glass. That it is going to have rounded edges, just like the old days. That it is going to have a whole new operating system. That it will be able to measure my heart rate and count my steps. That it will be my e-wallet. That it is being unveiled on September 9th. That it is going to be cool. Really cool. So very cool that something on the order of 80 million people will ditch their previously really cool phone and buy one of these new, cooler, ones.

What do I know about the new iPad? That’s going to have a bigger screen. Way bigger than the iPad mini, which the company was finally compelled to produce after Samsung, Asus and Google showed that a segment of the population wanted to downsize. And it was great. But this new iPad is going to be greater. Literally. By about four inches greater. Why is bigger better? Bigger is always better, except when smaller is better. (Let’s hear it for the diminutive 11 inch MacBook Air on which I am typing this!)

What do I know about the new iWatch? That Apple hired a marketing executive from an actual watch company, which must mean that it is finally about to enter the wearable tech sector. That the iWatch is going to be announced along with the new iPhones on September 9th. Maybe.

Read On

Golden Age of Radio, Ctd

Aug 28 2014 @ 8:01pm
by Bill McKibben

So many great responses to my musings on audio documentaries yesterday with lots of suggestions:, with the inimitable veteran Christopher Lydon and his equally inimitable producer Mary McGrath; 99% Invisible, hosted by Roman Mars; On the Media, which is probably the most useful sustained media criticism in American journalism, Hardcore History with Dan Carlin, which was new to me; and Stuff You Missed in History Class were among the many vote-getters.

I wanted to take the chance to plump for a show I’m always trying to get people to listen to, because I think it exemplifies what radio can do so well. Even though I’m not obsessed with popular music, I listen to Sound Opinions every single week without fail. It comes from WBEZ in Chicago, just like This American Life, and it’s executive produced by the same guy, Tory Malatia. And it’s very simple: two talented music critics, Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, review a couple of new records, maybe host a short live concert, and often dissect some classic album or genre. (This week it’s a thoughtful take on the new wave of the 80s for any Duran Duran fans out there). It hits the perfect middle ground between geeky-obsessive and overly broad and obvious: that is to say, between the Internet and TV. It’s companionable, smart, and a wonderful hour. I keep pitching it because I don’t want it to ever go off the air.

The Spiral Of Silence

Aug 28 2014 @ 7:32pm
by Sue Halpern

Pew Silence

When I read this Pew report last week, about how social media does not foster meaningful dialog about public policy among people who might not share one’s own view, I can’t say that I was surprised. Researchers, interested in finding out if Facebook and Twitter encouraged people to engage with each other on divisive current events, interviewed slightly less than 2000 Americans, asking them if they would share their views about Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations with their social media “friends.” Apparently, in the pre-Internet olden days, people were shy about voicing an opinion on controversial topics when they weren’t sure of the viewpoint of their listeners. This reticence was deemed “the spiral of silence.” Might social media turn that around?

The survey reported in this report sought people’s opinions about the Snowden leaks, their willingness to talk about the revelations in various in-person and online settings, and their perceptions of the views of those around them in a variety of online and off-line contexts. This survey’s findings produced several major insights:

People were less willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in social media than they were in person. 86% of Americans were willing to have an in-person conversation about the surveillance program, but just 42% of Facebook and Twitter users were willing to post about it on those platforms.

Social media did not provide an alternative discussion platform for those who were not willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story. Of the 14% of Americans unwilling to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in person with others, only 0.3% were willing to post about it on social media.

In both personal settings and online settings, people were more willing to share their views if they thought their audience agreed with them. For instance, at work, those who felt their coworkers agreed with their opinion were about three times more likely to say they would join a workplace conversation about the Snowden-NSA situation.

That people behave on social media much the same that they do in other parts of their lives probably should not surprise us. Social media is a platform; most likely it doesn’t change our instinctive behaviors when a real name is put to an opinion. (The kinds of behaviors encouraged by social media anonymity is another thing altogether.)

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Face Of The Day

Aug 28 2014 @ 7:12pm
by Dish Staff

Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone

A soldier inspects a woman with an infrared thermometer for signs of fever, one of the symptoms of Ebola, at a checkpoint in Nikabo, a village in Kenema, Sierra Leone, on August 27, 2014. According to the World Health Organization, the outbreak has now killed more than 1,500 people across four West African countries, including at least 120 healthcare workers. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Also, a reader passes along this heartbreaking update on Saah Exco, the ten-year-old Liberian boy we featured last week on the Dish.

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

I want to thank the Dish readers who responded to my recent post on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Yes, even the furious ones. You’ve helped clarify my thoughts on the topic. Below, I respond to several (overlapping) dissents. One reader writes:

Regarding Phoebe’s post “It really doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the Israeli government’s policies,” I think she and others are misreading the NYT’s letter to the editor, or at least I (and I’m sure the many others to whom this letter is not “jumping out”) read it very differently. I do not read the reference to “patrons” to mean Jews living outside Israel. I read “patrons” to mean countries (obviously, most specifically in this instance the United States). The term “patron” is routinely used in the context of foreign affairs (and in the NYT) to describe one country that provides some kind of support (financial, military, etc.) to another country or entity. This is particularly true in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian/Hamas/Hezbollah conflict. The United States is routinely described as a patron of Israel, and Iran and Syria are routinely described as patrons of Hamas and Hezbollah. Given the context it is far less likely that the writer intended “patrons” to mean Jews or some “nice little loophole” than that the writer was simply using common vernacular to refer to the countries who aid and support Israel and who most certainly do have influence over the Israeli government.

These angles of the issue should really be addressed in a post like this on the Dish. While there should not be any connection between anti-semitism against Jews (whether in the U.S., Europe, or anywhere) and the Israeli government’s policies, it is a simple fact that there is a connection. Does Phoebe contend that there is not a connection between Israel’s policies and anti-semitism? (which, again, is plainly a different question from whether there should be a connection). And, if there is a connection then what exactly is objectionable in the writer’s paragraph about Israel’s patrons if “patrons” is read to mean the United States and other Western governments, as that term is widely used in foreign affairs?

I’ll address the second paragraph later, but first, the first: I agree that “patrons” is ambiguous, and that it’s entirely possible that Bruce Shipman meant countries (or just the US), not global Jewry. Indeed, the most charitable explanation I can come up with, reading, rereading, and rereading the letter some more, is that, by “patrons,” he meant the US government. If that was what he meant, though, he might have said so, and not relied on highly sophisticated readers catching the foreign-policy jargon. There would have been a clear way to indicate exactly which parties he was holding accountable, and he opted against. What reads to me, and to some other Jews, as a dog whistle doesn’t read that way to all. That’s… the trouble with dog whistles. Either you hear it or you don’t. As it stands, he used roundabout language that leaves very much open the possibility that he means Jews. After all, as another reader points out, many Jews do patronize Israel:

Read On

The View From Your Window

Aug 28 2014 @ 6:18pm
by Dish Staff

IMG_20140826_064748910_HDR (1)

Los Angeles, 6.48 am

Teaching A Fish To Walk

Aug 28 2014 @ 5:44pm
by Dish Staff

Carl Zimmer unpacks a fascinating new study on bichirs (a type fish that “mostly live in lakes and rivers” but “will sometimes crawl across dry land with their fins”):

McGill scientists wondered what would happen if they forced the fish to grow up out of the water. To find out, they reared eight bichirs in a terrarium with a pebble-strewn floor. To prevent the bichirs from drying out, the scientists installed a mister to keep their skin moist. The fish grew for eight months, clambering around their terrarium instead of swimming.

Then the scientists examined these fish out of water. They found that eight months on dry land (or at least moist land) had wreaked profound changes to the bichirs.

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Is The Islamic State A State?

Aug 28 2014 @ 5:12pm
by Dish Staff


D.B. revisits the question of whether ISIS can really live up to its self-proclaimed “statehood“:

IS’s mission is to create its own caliphate, but until now many of its sources of revenue have depended on its host states. … IS has not proven adept at running anything other than the most basic functions of a state in the past—dispensing justice and, in most cases, providing bread, the staple food. In 2013 in Raqqa it attempted to take over the opposition’s civilian-run local council, which had continued to pay road sweepers and keep ambulances on the road. Locals say it soon handed back control after it failed to deliver, angering residents. The IS model of stealing from and feeding off the Syrian and Iraqi states has worked well so far. But it will become much more difficult for IS to rule its territory if the Damascus and Baghdad governments stop being so helpful.

That’s why a massive humanitarian aid effort is a big part of Zalmay Khalilzad’s suggested action plan for how to defeat ISIS:

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Literary “Self-Segregation”

Aug 28 2014 @ 4:46pm
by Dish Staff

Jess Row ponders why “most white writers, like most white Americans, particularly those over 30, still feel a profound psychic distance between themselves and black people”:

[T]he defining experiences for people my age (that is, Generations X and Y) fall in the tumultous years between 1988 and 1992—the years of Tawana Brawley, Howard Beach, the Central Park Five, and the L.A. Riots—when a furious debate over canonicity and inclusion raged in the academy, when Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton came to prominence, Malcolm X superseded MLK, when Ice Cube talked about killing blue-eyed devils, and t-shirts everywhere said “It’s a Black thing…you wouldn’t understand.”

That era seems like ancient history now, but it has everything to do with why American fiction and poetry remain relentlessly segregated spaces, even though many of our greatest and most visible artists are artists of color. For many white Americans, the takeaway message of that complicated time, consciously or sub- or un-, was like a second, post-Civil-Rights response to “The White Negro”: that for a white person to try to say anything meaningful about race, or racism, was not only ridiculous, but shameful, and also somehow dangerous.

Row concludes by addressing a likely counterargument: So what if white writers ignore race?

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Mental Health Break

Aug 28 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

A super-close supercut:

(Edited together by Jaume R. Lloret. Hat tip: Justin Page)