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Living The Dishhead Dream

Chas Danner —  Feb 6 2015 @ 10:30am
by Chas Danner

I’m a reader. That’s how this ride started for me. Seven years ago there was, and still is, no better place on the Internet for keeping abreast of news, arguments, ideas, and the penetrating thoughts and experiences of complete strangers – the Dish’s readers. Finding the Dish was a revelation. I was hooked.

In the spring of 2009, I knew the Iranian elections were ramping up because I read the Dish, and it was a story that captured my attention like nothing else previously or since. When their election day came and went wrong, I devoured all the news I could find, living the story in real-time from afar. I started chas-inbox-iranhammering the Dish inbox with scraps of news, videos, and tweets, reloading constantly to see if and when my contributions made it on the blog. I also began volunteering my efforts for HuffPo’s live-blog on the story, and started collecting those chilling videos of Iranians chanting Allah-o Akbar from their rooftops. When that project got a plug on the Dish, from “blogger Chas Danner”, I was floored. It was during those few summer months that I first caught the journalism bug, mostly because I found myself doing the job I had been watching the Dish do for years.

In 2012, when I applied for and somehow got a Dishternship, I suddenly found myself under the hood, revamping our Facebook feed, helping the Dish cover a presidential election, getting chastised by Patrick for not “feeding the beast” enough, and eating mini-cupcakes in the green room at Colbert.

When my internship ended, right as the Dish was about to go independent, I refused to stop working until they hired me back on. When they finally relented and I was asked what I wanted my new title to be, I suggested “Special Teams”, a football term for a collection of players with specific skills used for special situations. It was an apt title, as my job often required some self-taught skill the rest of the team lacked, and there ended up being virtually no part of producing the Dish, or keeping our company going, that I didn’t get to play some role in.

When we needed a new website, I designed it and managed its launch. I found our technology partners Tinypass, 10up, and WordPress VIP and managed those relationships. When we needed to shoot and edit VFYWC-224videos, or produce podcasts, or find meeting spaces we could rent, I figured it out. When some gear inside the Dish broke, I was the one who got the call. And I edited others’ drafts, became a headline specialist, wove together contest entries, and found most of the Dish’s Mental Health Breaks and Faces Of The Day these past few years. But, for me, nothing was more exhilarating or more challenging than parachuting into some breaking news event and connecting the dots, tweets, images, and posts, staying up late and waking up early to squeeze some extra ounce of understanding out of the confusion and chaos.

Now, at the end, I’m the Dish’s Managing Editor, and so proudly so. For while I’ve loved being a jack of all trades, what I’ve loved even more is helping maintain and improve the overall system of human and technological resources that make the Dish possible. The Dish is a super-organism. Each individual part – our staff, Andrew, the readers, and the blogosphere – making up the essential whole. It is a complex and magical machine, and I for these past few years I have felt like its faithful mechanic.

For me, the ultimate special project has been the entire thing itself, making sure Andrew’s spirited campaign against sponsored content left no outrage unturned, helping Patrick try to reimagine our dish-prep-assignment-buttonscompany’s future, or version after updated version of his brilliant RSS processing system, having passionate arguments with Chris about the nature and future of Dishness, working with Jessie to relaunch our Twitter feed so that the hundreds of other writers we depend on for our content would know we’ve featured their work, relaying tweets and posts to Jonah so he can be the best damn foreign-policy blogger on the planet, and the countless, marvelous conversations with Matt about what journalism is, should, and can be. These incredible people, these co-workers who have become my best friends, have inspired me in ways I could have never imagined. Anything I ever do, everything I ever accomplish, will be because of them.

And then there are all of you, our readers. For those of you who have written in with your votes of confidence in our staff continuing on, please know how much that has meant to us. We have read all of them. And if you saw some tall guy sobbing on the F train last Friday, that was me after reading how one Dishhead was willing to up his subscription to $5,000 to save the Dish. Please know how badly we wanted the Dish to live on somehow, and how hard we fought for that possibility. Working for all of you has been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life. I would have done it all for free, or paid to keep it alive myself, as so many of you have done. I know how important the Dish is to all of you, because I’m one of you too. And I don’t know what I’m going to read tomorrow when I wake up either.

This was real. Even more than the success of our business or editorial models, what the Dish proved is that you, our readers, exist. There are at least thirty, maybe fifty or a hundred thousand of you out there who get it. That’s enough. You have all proved that the future of media, of reading and thinking, doesn’t have to be constrained by the bullshit of clickbait, faux-inspiration, take-pieces, regurgitated Times articles, listicles, and advertising masquerading as journalism. You have proved that the homepage lives. You have proved that editors matter. The Dish existed because of you. Now we dream forward.

The Dish may be dead, but I will always be a Dishhead. I still believe, even now at the very end. And I always will.

The View From Your Window Contest

Chas Danner —  Dec 20 2014 @ 12:00pm
by Chas Danner

VFYWC__236

You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts.  Be sure to email entries to contest@andrewsullivan.com. Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book, a new Dish mug,  or two free gift subscriptions to the Dish. Have at it.

Last week’s contest results are here. Browse a gallery of all our previous contests here.

by Chas Danner

VFYW-Contest-235

A reader is thinking Central America:

Only a guess, but I went to Guatemala years ago and it was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. This has the same feel.

Another argues that “palm trees and high mountains suggest an equatorial highland location such as Bogotá, Colombia, where the McDonald’s (near right edge) would not be out of place”. Then again, maybe it’s Bosnia:

Some of the architecture looks like old Soviet-style buildings … there are some fir trees … city has a vague Eastern European feel to it … and there is a mosque on the far right of the picture …the multi-variate correlation that fits is Sarajevo. Here’s to hoping I’m right.  BTW, these contests alone are worth the $20 subscription.

Another shares a vivid memory:

I remember standing on the parapet of Chapultepec Castle on a remarkably clear day in Mexico, DF and seeing the spectacular view of the mountains Iztaccihuatl (Sleeping Woman) image005and Popocatepetl (Smoking Man). This was in the ’90s and the air was rarely clear enough to afford such an opportunity.  I asked a gentlemen in my poor Spanish how often you could see the mountains and he replied maybe two days a year.  It’s a much more frequent sight now, but only the Mexican calendar artists can give you this [seen above].

The most popular incorrect guess ended up being Rio, with other readers throwing their darts at Tehran, Lima, Scottsdale, Bogota, Taipei, Barcelona, Jakarta and Yavin IV (again). And this reader has hobbits on the brain:

This is clearly taken from the Galadriel Suite (Room 407) of the Sheraton Minas Ithil and Suites (formerly the Trump Morgul). That modernist geometrical building is the Osgiliath Convention Centre, designed by Daniel Liebeskind. The post-war (of the Ring) Gondor official plan called for low density housing and parkland in much of the Anduin Valley lands, but a succession of Wardens of the White Tower allowed for the condominium developments that now dominate the view of most Minas Tirith residents (small mountain at rear on left).

Either that or Santiago, Chile.

Another explains:

At first I thought this might be an untypical view of Rio – that iconic mountain from some other angle. But with my limited ability to manipulate Google Earth, I couldn’t make it work. And what really bothered me were what appeared to be Italian cypress trees. They grow in a Mediterranean climate, of which there are several outside the Mediterranean itself. (I went down the Sicily path for a while, but to no avail.) I know from my environmental scientist sister that Brazil does not have a Mediterranean climate, but Chile does. AND it has the Andes! So on that flimsy evidence, I’m going with Santiago de Chile. With my luck, this is really in Southeast Asia …

Southwest Asia, actually, where this reader arrives, nailing the right country:

There is no useful Street View in Ankara, Turkey but I’m pretty convinced that’s where we’re looking. I’d love to spend more time on it, but I’m at a conference with terrible WiFi. Hope I’m not a hemisphere off!

Another sets the city straight:

I see you threw in some Rio-esque mountains in the background just to trick us. I started my search with pyramid buildings in Rio  there actually is one! But it’s nothing like this one. So I moved on to searching for pyramid buildings around the world, and spent about 5 minutes before finding one that looked a hell of a lot like this one. Antalya, Turkey! A beautiful place I’d never heard of … I’ll put it on my “places to go some day” list. Then I just lined up the view with objects from Google Maps satellite view.. the pool… the green structure … the gazebo. It’s gotta be the Falez Hotel. But I can’t find any matching balcony photos or anything like that  the railing and the overhang don’t seem to look like anything I can find. So I’m just saying the 6th floor to say something.

I wouldn’t recommend staying in this hotel. All the pics submitted to TripAdvisor are of broken things, dirty things, and a Russian woman with her hands on her hips.

The pyramid was of course the key breadcrumb for most correct guessers this week:

Pretty easy one after last week’s stumper.  I’m sure the ratio of mud brick houses to glass pyramids (not in Paris or Las Vegas) is a million to one or better.

Capture

Lots of readers flagged the right building but named the wrong hotel (the Ozkaymak Falez), and this former winner explains why:

Much easier this week.  The contest picture contained so many clues that Turkey’s southern coast became the only place to search.  Antalya, Turkey popped up right away with this beautiful image.  Once in Antalya, the position of the beach, the McDonald’s and the hills of the Beydağları Coastal National Park to Antalya’s west led to a particular hotel.  Google Maps incorrectly identifies the hotel as the Ozkaymak Falez Hotel, a rundown establishment popular with both male and female Russian tourists and garners scathing reviews on TripAdvisor.  Luckily for the person that submitted the contest picture, he or she stated next door to the Falez Hotel at the Rixos Downtown Antalya (a former Sheraton).

As for the window, massive hotels are always difficult.  The window is on the hotel’s west side on a fairly low floor.  Because the tennis court lights are visible but the trees block us from seeing the courts’ surface, I’ll guess the 5th floor.  The hotel contains a few curves on its west side.  Because the hanging lattice shows the building curves right where the contest window is positioned and because the balcony railing goes only a short distance before curving away to the north, I’m guessing that the contest window is in a room right at the southernmost curve on the hotel’s west side.  My window guess is highlighted:

hotel view with label

Another veteran took a different route:

A tricky contest. The clue that eventually gives the country away could also get you bogged down. The mosque at the right end of the picture tells you that this is (probably) an Islamic country; but another photo of that same mosque is nowhere to be found. After a fruitless (and very boring) search, you give up and begin simply looking for a city at the foot of a mountain range; since those minarets have their closest counterparts in Turkey, this is the country to start with (well, actually I started with Indonesia and Malaysia: all those palms got me a little off track). And in fact, this week’s picture was taken from the Rixos Downtown Hotel (Sakıp Sabancı Boulevard, Konyaaltı Beach) in Antalya, Turkey. As for the mysterious mosque, it belongs to the Faculty of Theology of the nearby Akdeniz University. There are not many photos of the mosque because it isn’t there yet  at least not entirely  it’s still in construction:

mosque

For you new players out there, this is how it’s done:

Good thing there was a McDonalds in the picture.  That was the big giveaway.

 image003

My first thought was “Great. Deciduous, conifer AND palm trees.”  But the tall, dark, narrow conifers appeared to be Mediterranean Cypress, so that narrowed the search area. Then there was the mosque in the far right background.  That narrowed it further. Of course, it was the “Cam Piramit”, that determined the correct city. This picture shows another view of the Can Pirimit with that uniquely shaped hill behind it:

image002

Flying video tour of the Cam Piramit here, complete with resounding music:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPRXvg1rRsU]

The picture you posted was taken from what is now the Rixos Downtown Antalya but used to be the Sheraton Voyager Hotel. Here is another picture from that hotel, but one taken from before the trees grew up to mask the tennis courts of the “Antalya Tenis İhtisas ve Spor Kulübü” next door. The picture also clearly shows the yellow ball topped sculpture:

image005

OK.  So correct building.  What about the window? It is on an inside curve, so my best guess as to which window is this one.  At least I’m closer that I was last week in Morocco:

image008

Another reader laments the changes the city has undergone:

I am not going to look for the exact hotel room, because this gets depressing. Many of your readers share wonderful memories of those hotels from where the picture comes. I have not been to the hotel, but the contest does bring up memories of the location. Growing up as an expat in Istanbul, I have been on vacation on those beaches west of Antalya in the late seventies. There was a little country road running parallel to the beach, towards Kemer, and there were a few primitive campgrounds tucked away under the pine trees, where you’d set up the tent in the sand (or you didn’t, because it wouldn’t rain anyway), and a crazy guy called Arap Mustafa would cook wonderful village food for dinner, on a gas stove set up on a concrete slab under a makeshift roof. Sandy beach, crystal-clear clean water, pine trees. Nothing else.

Seeing how today the entire stretch of beach between old Antalya and the mountains, a good 10 km, is occupied by urban sprawl, unregulated industry, freeways, ugly cheap hotels, and ugly expensive hotels, I want to cry. Or puke. There are many places in Turkey I want to go back to. But Antalya I am not going to visit before the next massive earthquake or tsunami.

It is one of the most egregious instances, where one of the most beautiful regions of one of the most beautiful countries in the world has been mindlessly sacrificed to global tourism. And, of course, the push to open the next pristine beaches or nature preserves for tourism development continues full throttle, so that the buddies of the Erdoğan administration can make more money.

Apologies to the reader who is probably enjoying their vacation there. I hope you had a great time. But to me, it was a reminder how deeply ambivalent modern tourism is in third- and second-world countries.

Another master class:

I was pleased to see minarets on the left side of the photograph as they are among my favorite architectural elements. The style was reminiscent of those in Istanbul and other major cities of Turkey and the vegetation was also consistent with landscaped sections of these cities. None, however, had the distinct and dramatic mountains of the contest photograph. Eventually I found them in a photograph of Antalya. Once there, the hotel, its ample grounds, the tennis courts, swimming pool, and the glass pyramid in the contest view were fairly obvious.

vfyw_HMcollage_12-13-2014 copy

The photograph was taken from a balcony where a major turn occurs in the hotel’s curving exterior. This change in angle is clear in the railing and sun shade alignments in the foreground of the contest photograph. The line-of-sight along the balcony railing appears to extend along this entire section of the hotel’s façade, including railings for five or six rooms, until the railing turns out-of-sight around the next bend. This is the only location I could find that explains these bends while also avoiding views of other sections of the hotel’s façade (see illustration). The floor chosen was based roughly on the height of the trees seen in the contest photograph and their relative heights in photographs of the grounds.

Chini reminds us:

It’s been two years since we last visited this country in VFYWC #126, a contest which I remember only because it was the same weekend Hurricane Sandy arrived. This one takes place under far less hellish circumstances and, given the wealth of clues, I suspect someone is gonna have to nail the right room number to win their VFYW book.

VFYW Antalya Bird's Eye Reverse Marked - Copy

This week’s view comes from the Rixos Downtown Hotel in Antalya, Turkey. The picture was taken on roughly the fourth floor (room #443, perhaps?) and looks west-south-west along a heading of 257.85 degrees.

Wow that’s a close guess, as this week’s photographer explains:

It is from the Rixos Hotel, Room 445, Sakip Sabanci Bulvari, Konyaalti Sahili, in Antalya,  Turkey.  We had a great time there.  There was a film festival happening when we were there at the pyramid-shaped building seen in the photo.

This week’s winner got pretty close too:

I must say, I thought this week’s contest was going to be hard, but all the clues, as Chini says are right there: Mountains, palm trees, sports (tennis anyone or swimming?), minarets in the background, etc all point to Turkey. The pyramid building was the big fat clue and that place, the Sabanci Congress and Exhibition Center just puts everything into place.

The shot was from the Sheraton Voyager Otel hotel. Now the room, without a map, and a good photo, I’m going to guess that it’s on the 4th floor, and room 455.

In perusing the various websites (Tripadvisor, Hotels, etc.) I can’t believe how cheap the resort hotels are in Antalya are. I also found out that Antalya is ranked third behind London and Paris for international arrivals. There’s Greek, Ottoman, Byzantine and Turkish history all over this town with ruins, clock towers, etc. As of the 2010 census there are over a million people living there. Another interesting place in the world!

Well, I know I’ll lose to a better room finder than I, but just in case this week’s contest is too damn hard and I won’t enter – I want to wish everyone at the Dish a Happy Holidays – you guys often make my day. Here’s to a great 2015!

Same to you, though be advised our final contest for 2014 arrives this Saturday. Until then, here are some more of the images you submitted this week:

VFYWC-235-Guess_Collage

(Archive: Text|Gallery)

Mental Health Break

Chas Danner —  Sep 4 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Chas Danner

Perhaps the most epic pet POV of all time:

Alternate view of the same run:

by Chas Danner & Chris Bodenner

VFYWC-220

A reader sees the Far East:

Aberdeen Fishing Village, Southern edge of Hong Kong Island, China.

A much more detailed entry:

My guess is that this a view of the Mediterranean coast of Peniscola, Spain. Several factors lead me to draw this conclusion. The piece of land appears to be a peninsula because part of it juts out farther than the rest, creating two inlets of water. The water is almost certainly the salt-water ocean, as indicated by the crashing waves and decreasing water level on the shoreline. The leaves of the trees in the center and top left corner of the image suggest there are palm trees, which do, in fact, grow in Peniscola.

Peniscola has a peninsula and the Serra D’Irta mountain range behind it. The intense blue of the water and golden color of the sand in the image very closely resemble the colors of the coast of where the Mediterranean Sea borders Spain. The architecture of the buildings along the coast – the salmon colored rooftops and white stone – are also extremely similar in appearance to images of buildings on the coast of Peniscola. In comparing an image of the Peniscola peninsula to this view, the architectural style of buildings, mountain range, and vegetation including palm trees in the two photographs appear to be very similar. One difference, however, is that the view from the window has more vegetation such as heavy tree growth and fewer houses. I believe the photographs were taken from different angles and in different points along the coast. The view from the window is more distant from the main hub of houses, possibly closer to the mountains and more isolated.​

Another finds a loophole:

You’ve ruined every one of my Saturdays for over a year now with your obscure locales, wild goose chases and Google Street View shenanigans.  But finally, I can say with absolute certainty where this photo is located – my balcony:

View from your window

Yee-haw, gimme my book.

Another reader is thinking the south of France:

I took one look at that picture and the words from a song in the early-1960s British Musical Stop The World – I Want To Get Off popped from my lips:

Give me half a chance
In the South of France
To make my pitch
And I’ll be dirty, rotten, stinkin’ filthy rich.

Of course I’m probably whole continents off from where this actually is, but now I should get out the vinyl and listen to the original cast recording for the first time in decades since it’s going to be going through my head all afternoon anyway.

A whole continent off, sadly. An eagle-eyed player notes an essential clue for amateur hotel reviewers:

Wherever it is, they are automatically going to lose a star on Trip Advisor.  Why can’t building staff take care of all those annoying dead bugs in webs on the outside of the windows?

Another finds the view within:

Green mountains, white beaches, palm trees … I’ve never been there but this is how I imagine the Caribbean Sea.

Wrong coast. Another try:

Catalina Island, California.

Wrong country, but the following reader nails the right one:

santa cruz huatulco

In April our cruise ship docked at the port of the Pacific beach resort village of Santa Cruz Huatulco, Oaxaca State, Mexico.  The coast line there has several small bays, each with a cluster of resort hotels and condos.  Every thing looks new and fresh and clean, all perfect for the comfort of the turista.  I couldn’t make an exact match from the Google satelite images, but my educated guess is the Huatulco coast.

A few other readers guessed Acapulco, but the following reader remembers the view, even after four decades and the march of Mexico’s progress:

There are some immediate dead giveaways that this view is of the Pacific coast of Mexico: the vaguely Moorish, white-stucco hotel turrets, the white-painted trunks of the palm trees, the golden sand, the nearby mountain range, the banana trees, the little turista-jaunt boats anchored just off shore, and the multiple bays. We are looking at the Tesoro Manzanillo resort in Manzanillo. I have no idea from what window.

But allow me a Dishian digression. In 1970, while on Christmas break from college, I drove with two other girlfriends from San Antonio down the Gulf Coast, stopping in Veracruz and then on through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to Oaxaca. We foolishly scored grass everywhere we went, bought embroidered blouses, got very tan, drank fresa con leche, dallied with cute boys, and endured the rudimentary toilets of Pemex stations all to the soundtrack of the recently released Plastic Ono Band:

Ah, youth. In Oaxaca we asked the locals where we should go on the West Coast that was beautiful but not touristy. “Manzanillo,” they said. Four years later Las Hadas opened, the prototype for all other Moorish-turreted Manzanillan resorts and put the little fishing village on the map. Asi es la vida.

A previous winner notes:

Manzanillo hosts the fleet of Mexico’s Navy Region 6 and the city is home to the only statue of Snoopy outside the United States. Both of which, sadly, are in the opposite direction from this view out of Villa Las Cumbres.

Another reader:

This is the first contest where I recognized the subject of the photo. Years ago my wife and I traveled to the state of Colima, in which Manzanillo is located, to visit her sister. She arranged a two-night stay for us at Las Hadas Resort, also on the Peninsula de Santiago, where we enjoyed very inexpensive accommodations in exchange for sitting through a hard-sell time share “opportunity”! Las Hadas, being the location for the Blake Edwards film “10” which popularized white-girl cornrows, showed that film nightly in the guest rooms.

Meanwhile, Chini figures that many were frustrated by this week’s view:

Between the holiday and US Open tickets I was hoping for a quick hunt this weekend and we got just that. Unfortunately, it probably made some view-hunters miserable. Finding this view is all about using small clues to locate an otherwise generic resort. If you did it right (as I’m guessing a ton of folks did) this one was a near insta-find. But if you misinterpreted them you could spend hours searching Hawaii, Indonesia or the like.

This week’s view comes from the shores of Manzanillo, Mexico:

VFYW Manzanillo Bird's Eye Marked - Copy

The pic was taken next to a potted plant at the top of a staircase in the main hallway of the Villa Las Cambres bed and breakfast and looks north by northwest along a heading of 332.75 degrees over Ascencia harbor.

Another has a pic of that potted plant:

I spent a good amount of time Saturday afternoon scanning the coast of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica. Eventually I gave up on the Caribbean because most of the large resorts didn’t really have fishing boats close in, and there weren’t that many places with mountains that large close to the sea.

I switched my focus to smaller peninsulas along the Pacific coast of Mexico, and a few minutes later found the Santiago Peninsula in Manzanillo, Mexico. We are looking down at the Tesoro Manzanillo resort from a rental house called Villa Las Cumbres. Helpfully, they have a Facebook page with quite a few photos.

Along the top floor (just inside the front door?), there are two large windows:

cumbres_1

A view from the street level provides a view through the right window, which is close but too far right.

cumbres_2

So that leaves us with the left window. I tried to find a decent exterior view, but the best I could get is a crop of a wide angle Panoramio photo from way, way down on the beach:

long-view1

This week’s picture was taken by someone standing on the landing, through the window highlighted below. Quick and dirty Photoshop reenactment created with help from Shutterstock:

vfywc_guy

Good contest – not so hard to find the location, but getting the window was a bit tricky because the geography made street view useless.

This week’s winner was last week’s runner up and another veteran player from our list of long-suffering Correct Guessers:

This week’s picture was taken in Manzanillo, Mexico, from the northwest side of Villa Las Cumbres B&B (43 Avenida de los Riscos). Here is the window, on the 2nd floor:

villa-las-cumbres-ext

A tough one, at least for me. It was fairly easy to tell that this was probably some tropical
American country; the obvious clue to follow afterwards was the hotel in Moorish-Mediterranean style in the bottom right corner of the picture, but for some reason it took me nowhere at first. A Tesoro – “treasure”– so is named the resort – a little hard to unearth.

From the view’s submitter, a contest veteran himself:

I was pleasantly surprised to see my window submission show up as this week’s contest. I don’t get to travel much, and when I saw this view I knew it would make a good contest.

Here’s some more detail about the location: The shot was taken from the entry hall of a rental vacation home at Avenida de los Riscos 43, Manzanillo, Mexico. The property is also called Villa Las Cumbres (House of the Summits). Every year, we take a trip with my kids and my brother’s kids to a beach somewhere, usually Oregon, Washington or Texas. We call it the “Cousins’ Trip” and this year we splurged and went out of the country to Manzanillo. I’d never been to the Pacific coast of Mexico before and it was breathtaking. We managed to luck out and find this house that sleeps 10 on AirBnB the day before and the views were spectacular.

villa

Above is a shot of the house from the beach, with the window highlighted. My only regret is that I have to wait until next week to solve a contest.

(Archive: Text|Gallery)

Mixing With The Classics

Chas Danner —  Aug 30 2014 @ 1:28pm
by Chas Danner

A reader responds to Wednesday’s Mental Health Break:

Mozart Rap is nothing new – see the above version by Turkey’s rap superstar, Ceza. The text is not quite as wholesome as the one you showed, but it is a trenchant comment on the ills of Turkish society and politics today. Mozart’s Turkish March is something like the secret anthem of Turkey (at least for the secular Westernized part of society), and has been taken up several times by Turkish musicians. My favorite is this one, showing how music is a truly global art in a unique way:

Another reader senses an opportunity:

I feel compelled to turn this into a “dudes rapping to classical music” thread, because yes please. That clip reminded me of one of my favorite rap songs, Jedi Mind Tricks’ “Animal Rap”:

Although not Mozart (sounds like it though), the actual sample is a bit more obscure: Dave Grusin’s 43 second “Coma” from the Bonfire of the Vanities soundtrack.

As far as featuring more examples from the genre, challenge accepted. Here’s the almighty KRS-One:

Know some good classical-driven raps or remixes? Send them in: dish@andrewsullivan.com

Injury To Insult

Chas Danner —  Aug 29 2014 @ 6:23pm
by Chas Danner

As the tallest staffer (6’4″) here at the Dish, feels like I should be the one to steer us into the airline legroom debate that’s flared up this week. For the uninitiated, on Monday a Newark-to-Denver flight was diverted after a scuffle broke out between two passengers when one used a $21.95 device called a Knee Defender to prevent the other’s seat from reclining. In short, a laptop’s airspace was temporarily defended, a little plastic cup of water was thrown, and an airplane full of helpless bystanders was annoyed when the flight had to land to eject the combatants. Then another recline-related fracas happened yesterday with a similar result. Anyway, because the Internet exists and we lucky few get paid to put things on it, a civility war has broken out between pro and anti-recline advocates. In one corner were tall people like Bill Saporito:

I don’t travel with a Knee Defender, but I do travel with knees. Just being an airline passengers makes everyone cranky to begin with. Being 6 ft. 2 in. and long of leg, I’m in a near rage by the time I wedge myself into a coach seat. And now you want to jam your chair back into my knees for four hours? Go fly a kite. It’s an airline seat, not a lounge chair. You want comfort, buy a business class seat. What’s surprising is that there haven’t been more fights over Knee Defender. Or perhaps these incidents haven’t been reported. I’ve gotten into it a few times with people in front of me who insist that the space over my knees is theirs, as if they have some kind of air rights. And I’m sure I will again.

In the other corner, the air-libertarians going on about the “social contract”:

Buying a Knee Defender is cheating. It is like insider trading, but worse, because not everyone expects to get rich. Everyone does expect to recline.

Christopher Ingraham notes that most Americans probably agree with that. Here’s Barro examining an economic angle:

When you buy an airline ticket, one of the things you’re buying is the right to use your seat’s reclining function. If this passenger so badly wanted the passenger in front of him not to recline, he should have paid her to give up that right. I wrote an article to that effect in 2011, noting that airline seats are an excellent case study for the Coase Theorem. This is an economic theory holding that it doesn’t matter very much who is initially given a property right; so long as you clearly define it and transaction costs are low, people will trade the right so that it ends up in the hands of whoever values it most. That is, I own the right to recline, and if my reclining bothers you, you can pay me to stop. We could (but don’t) have an alternative system in which the passenger sitting behind me owns the reclining rights. In that circumstance, if I really care about being allowed to recline, I could pay him to let me.

Rejecting that argument, Damon Darlin stands up for knee defense:

The problem seems akin to people walking on a 48-inch city sidewalk with those ridiculous 54-inch-wide golf umbrellas. Or is a better analogy the range wars of the American West in which cattlemen try to stop the farmers until Shane fights back with his ivory-handled Colt revolver? Using a Knee Defender may seem uncivil, but it is not: It just evens the playing field. Instead of having the guy in front of you slam the seat back and wait for $50, as Mr. Barro suggests, with a defender you can now negotiate.

“It gives you the chance to be human beings,” says Ira Goldman, the inventor of the Knee Defender, who has seen traffic to his online store rise 500 times above average since an altercation last weekend on a United flight involving his device. “Do you want the conversation to start before the laptop screen is cracked or after it is cracked?” he asks. “Like Max Bialystok and Leo Bloom in “The Producers,’ the airlines sell 200 percent of that space.”

The airlines have also failed to establish property rights for armrests, but there is a generally understood code for that: The person in the aisle has room to stretch, the person in the window seat has the fuselage to lean against, and the person in the middle has nothing, so he or she gets the armrests.

And of course human beings tend to peacefully navigate these small disputes with alarming regularity, from fitting our cars into a Jersey-bound tunnel to, you know, not getting your plane diverted for any reason, ever. But Dan Kois points out the real ridiculousness of economy airline seats:

Obviously, everyone on the plane would be better off if no one reclined; the minor gain in comfort when you tilt your seat back 5 degrees is certainly offset by the discomfort when the person in front of you does the same. But of course someone always will recline her seat, like the people in the first row, or the woman in front of me, whom I hate.

Like Kois, I too have a “shall not pass” policy when it comes to the chain reaction of reclining-seats. I know what it’s like to get up at the end of a flight and have my knees buckle underneath me because they’ve been cut off from my circulatory system by a seat-back for six hours. So I refuse to recline my seat if there is ever a person (of any height) behind me. I try to break the chain. And I also fetch top-shelf cans for elderly women at the grocery store, and try to stand relatively still at rock concerts so the people behind me can expect a consistent viewing angle. Tall people aren’t all ogres, nor do we naturally excel at basketball, nor do we like having to special order our size-15 shoes, nor enjoy suffering mild concussions by accidentally walking into door frames. But back to the legroom, Kois has another good point to make about airline seats:

The problem isn’t with passengers, though the evidence demonstrates that many passengers are little better than sociopaths acting only for their own good. The problem is with the plane. In a closed system in which just one recliner out of 200 passengers can ruin it for dozens of people, it is too much to expect that everyone will act in the interest of the common good. People recline their seats because their seats recline. But why on earth do seats recline? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if seats simply didn’t?

Reclining seats have been with us as long as airlines began making human passengers a priority. In the 1920s and 1930s, people were an afterthought; planes were meant to carry airmail and cargo, and any humans who wanted to come along were welcome to pay an astronomical fare and sit in wicker chairs.  … In the beginning, reclining seats—along with footrests and in-seat ashtrays—were designed as part of airlines’ commitment to deluxe accommodations, as captains of industry in three-piece suits sipped martinis on board, stretching their legs one way and tilting their seats the other.

The seats persisted, even as airlines moved to the tiered service model we know now, which required packing more and more customers into economy in order to keep RPK (revenue per kilometer) high. “They didn’t want to give up the idea of luxury altogether,” Hill notes. But these days, flying is simply an ordeal to be survived. In the era of cheap tickets and passengers crammed onto flights like sardines, reclining seats make no sense.

That I totally agree with. We’re not talking about La-Z-Boys here, the additional comfort of a reclined economy seat is minuscule – more of a placebo at this point – and faux courtesies like this are especially aggravating when you consider the worsening state of economy airline travel. The prices go up. The legroom goes down. That free extra bag isn’t free anymore, and sometimes neither is the first one (and you better pre-weigh both bags at home). Used to be that tall folk like me could do some extra legwork to secure an exit or bulkhead row, but then the airlines figured that out so on came the extra fees for those seats, or the economy-plus sections that inched you $50-100 closer to the first class curtain.

On that note, I’m no Marxist, but one thing I have always hated about flying is how it feels like the Victorian class system’s last stand, one of the only situations where your place in society is explicitly and unapologetically stratified by how much money you don’t have (and yes, of course I realize this is a quintessentially First World argument, and that many people can’t afford to fly at all, etc). But seriously, for most people, first and business class are offensively more-expensive, designed to cater only to the very rich and those privileged enough to be traveling at some corporation’s expense. Save the Jetblues and Southwests of the world, there’s no recourse to this scrunched-in relegation. In-seat TVs are about the only thing in my lifetime that’s made flying coach more tolerable (streaming romantic comedies, the real opiate of the masses).

Unfortunately, I think we’re likely stuck with reclining seats and, for some of us, squished knees. After all, airlines couldn’t possibly get away with subtracting anything else from economy, could they?

[S]ome airlines, including Allegiant and Spirit, have installed non-reclining seats. Result: no more altercations (plus they could squeeze in some more seats on the planes). Other airlines, including Delta and American, are installing articulating seat pans on some of their planes in which the seat moves forward as it tilts back, so you essentially are taking away legroom from yourself instead of the guy behind you.

Progress. At least until the rise of the sardines.

By the way, Mark Orwoll, whose piece I just excerpted, also contributes this helpful etiquette list in order to avoid getting an air marshall involved in your seating arrangements:

  1. Never recline during meal service. When the rolling food trays come out, seats go upright.
  2. Don’t recline fully unless it’s a night flight and people are sleeping.
  3. Don’t recline suddenly and forcefully. You might spill your rear neighbor’s Bloody Mary or damage her Macbook Pro (it almost happened to me!).

I’ll add a #4: Before you recline, see if there’s an uncomfortable tall person behind you, and if so, have mercy – they might help you get your bags down when the plane lands.