Saturday, January 20, 2018

Graffiti zoom on the waterfront

20151126-P1110640

20151126-P1110643

New York 2140, Some notes about form and structure

The novel’s plot unfolds as an opportunistic linking of contingencies. Characters see opportunities and forge links. At first the contingencies and characters are remote from and independent of one another. But as links are made – for example, noticing that they live in the same building ¬–¬ contingencies collide and multiply until their density forces a climax – one that had been desired, envisioned, even planned for, but that is surprising in its realization, thus allowing for the relaxation we call an ending.

This unfolding chaos, with the appearance of emergent self-organization, is set within a novelistic apparatus of almost mechanical exactitude. That’s what I want to look at. New York 2140 is divided into eight main parts, each of which is in turn divided into eight, though in two cases, nine parts. Here’s how the first part lays out:
Part One. The Tyranny of Sunk Costs
a) Mutt and Jeff
b) Inspector Gen
c) Franklin
d) Vlade
e) a citizen
f) Amelia
g) Charlotte
h) Stefan and Roberto
The characters thus named are the central characters in the story, and they come from distinctly different walks of life. Mutt and Jeff – and yes, one rather suspects that KSR is playing off the iconic cartoon strip with those names – are computer programmers in finance. Inspector Gen is just that, a police inspector. She’s a strong tall black woman with an Icelandic (or at least Nordic) last name, Octaviasdottir (Octavia Butler?). Franklin (Goer) is a trader who likes to zip around the canals of Manhattan in his hydrofoil; he’s a protégé of Hector Ramirez, one of the uber-rich financial masters of this universe. Vlade is the superintendent of the Met Life tower, a job requiring the skills of a jack-of-all-trades handyman and a jack-of-all-trades engineer. All these characters live in the Met Life tower – though it takes them awhile to figure that out – except for a citizen, who goes by a different appellation in different parts of the book. The citizen provides Greek chorus commentary and wide-ranging miscellaneous information. Amelia is a media figure who glides around the world in her airship, the Assisted Migration, relocating endangered species; she has a large following, is something of an exhibitionist, but – we learn at the very end – a graceless dancer. Charlotte (Armstrong) is a lawyer and head of something called the Householder’s Union – representing “the renters, the paperless, the homeless, the water rats, the dispossessed”. Her ex-husband is head of the Federal Reserve. [Quick gloss: paperless = without identity documents; water rats = living on, in close proximity to, off of, the water.) Stefan and Roberto, tween-aged water rats who hang out with the old man, Hexter, who has good collection of old maps.

These characters are a quasi-representative sample of the lower 99%, with two connections into the upper 1% (Ramirez, Fed Reserve). They’re the ones who see opportunities among swirling contingencies and make the links out of which KSR constructs his story. That representativeness, along with the KSR’s manifold historical information-drops, gives New York 2140 something of an encyclopedic feel – I’m thinking here of Edward Mendelson, “Encyclopedic Narrative: From Dante to Pynchon”, MLN 91, 1267-1275 [1]. But then, that’s how you build a world, isn’t it? You craft an encyclopedia.

One more thing. The book is full of quotations, which are on pages between the alphabetical sections, and come from various sources. Part One lists Henry James, Frank Ackerman, Ken Thompson, Ambrose Bierce, Valdimir Mayakovsky, Rem Koolhaus, Carl Van Vechten, Abbie Hoffman, Fran Lebowitz, Herman Melville, and several short passages with no attribution.

Each of the book’s eight parts is constructed on the same plan – I’ve outlined the whole book in an appendix. All the subsections are designated alphabetically and named for one of those eight actors, though here and there one actor names two sections and another actor’s name, correspondingly, must dropped. Of course, the actor named in a section-head isn’t the only one who appears in that section, especially as lifelines become linked and intertwined. Quotations between sections.

So, the constructed narrative is contingent, opportunistic, chaotic, and self-organizing, but the framework is highly ordered and mechanical. What are we to make of that? Is that how we operate in the world, individually and collectively? Are those fortuitous links ultimately imposed though a mechanical superstructure? Inquiring minds want to know.

Finally, worlds within worlds within worlds. The story extends across, around, the whole world. But 95-99% of the action takes place in New York City, and a significant part of that action takes place in the Met Life tower. “Denver” becomes  both metaphor and metonymy for the indifferent and ruling 1%, while “the intertidal” is the major growth region, and locus of rebellion as well. Manhattan below 50th belongs to the intertidal while Manhattan above belongs, more or less, to Denver. The coastal region, the intertidal, is legally ambiguous, and physically precarious. The two things, we know, are linked.

Do you know what Benoit Mandelbrot said about the length of coastlines? He said they’re of fractal dimensionality and hence of infinite length. Look it up.

This is a book steeped in statistical order. In distributions and representativeness. I do not know how steeped KSR is in statistical knowledge – though, come to think of it, I believe he does talk of representation in the statistical sense. But then still, yes, he has to be. He’s alive, aware, and curious. In the 21st century.

Pop goes the peek-a-boo, Japanese style

Be sure to play the film clip.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Yellow

20171225-P1150048

New York 2140: What IS fiction, anyhow?

I slipped over to Manhattan yesterday for a panel discussion about artificial intelligence that was held – wouldn’t you know? at the New York Yacht Club, an honorable establishment with old money written all over it, not to mention a handsome stash of full and half-hull ship models – and was delighted with the Times Square area at night. It’s like something from the future, all bright and slithering lights. Next time I’ll take my camera.

Would the New York of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2140 be like that? Time Square itself, of course, would be under water, but many of the tall buildings would still be sticking around, their middle and upper floors rising above the water. And that’s where a lot of the electronic signage was. That would be quite a sight, to see all those animated lights reflecting in the water.

So, I ask you: Does New York 2140 exhibit a distinctive mode of fictional being? That’s perhaps not the best way to put the question, but there’s no really good way. What I have in mind is the way Robinson combines rich array of details about New York’s past – something Adam Roberts reminded me of on Facebook – with a richly imagined future. We’ve got the real and the imaginary combined into one seamless extended novelistic present. I could almost have said “the real past–as Robinson imagines it–and the future–as Robinson imagines it”, for the imagination is a faculty we use for everything, not just fantasy and fiction. It’s all imaginable, and some is real, some not so real.

What’s real?

Indeed.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s there was something called “the new journalism”, in which writers like Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, and Hunter Thompson wrote about real events using literary techniques. They gave up the conventions of journalistic objectivity and entered into the events they chronicled. At the same time E. L. Doctorow was earning praise for his “fictionalized history”. What about alternate history, for example, P. K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, set in a world where Japan and Germany won World War II? How does New York 2140 fit into that, whatever that is?

This, it seems to me, is something for Latour’s world of modes of existence, where each mode has its own truth conditions. What is the mode for New York 2140, versus, say, The Tale of Genji, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Interpretation of Dreams, or On the Origin of Species, and what are the respective truth conditions for each?

For extra credit: What about Donald Trump’s Twitter stream?

Small yacht in fog in Weehawken Cove

20180112-_IGP2306

Micro-timing in conversation

Tanya Stivers, et al. Universals and cultural variation in turn-taking in conversation, PNAS June 30, 2009 vol. 106 no. 26 10587-10592
Abstract:Informal verbal interaction is the core matrix for human social life. A mechanism for coordinating this basic mode of interaction is a system of turn-taking that regulates who is to speak and when. Yet relatively little is known about how this system varies across cultures. The anthropological literature reports significant cultural differences in the timing of turn-taking in ordinary conversation. We test these claims and show that in fact there are striking universals in the underlying pattern of response latency in conversation. Using a worldwide sample of 10 languages drawn from traditional indigenous communities to major world languages, we show that all of the languages tested provide clear evidence for a general avoidance of overlapping talk and a minimization of silence between conversational turns. In addition, all of the languages show the same factors explaining within-language variation in speed of response. We do, however, find differences across the languages in the average gap between turns, within a range of 250 ms from the cross-language mean. We believe that a natural sensitivity to these tempo differences leads to a subjective perception of dramatic or even fundamental differences as offered in ethnographic reports of conversational style. Our empirical evidence suggests robust human universals in this domain, where local variations are quantitative only, pointing to a single shared infrastructure for language use with likely ethological foundations.

Ross Douthat on Opus Dei and the consecrated life

I remember all the gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments, and the wailing of women, boys, and men when Ross Douthat got the nod as a NYTimes Op-Ed writer. I remember having a vague sympathy with this commotion, weak and vague, but no more. After all, I do not live and die on the Gray Lady Op Ed page. I suppose I read a column or three a weak, and I've read a few by Douthat, even some I've been in sympathy with, which is a bit of a surprise as he writes as a conservative Catholic, which is not my part of the world. Anyhow, he's been interviewed by Tyler Cowen, the ostentatiously well-read libertarian economist at a school in northern Virginia that was once upon a time referred to as a "cow college" but is now a R1 research institution, George Mason University.

Anyhow, I'm reading my way through the interview, skipping much of it, and was struck by this exchange:
COWEN: As you know I come at all of this as very much an outsider, so let me ask a very naive question.

If I look at the Catholic Church, there’s a movement, as you know, called Opus Dei. The priests of that movement, they seem to be less caught up in sex scandals. Parts of the movement seem to have some understanding of what you might broadly call conservative economics. In Spanish politics in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s they were actually considered a liberalizing force, so they don’t have to be seen as reactionary per se.

Why aren’t they simply the good guys? They don’t come up much in your writings. I’m reading you and I think, “Where’s Opus Dei?”

DOUTHAT: I mean, I’m pro–Opus Dei overall. I think that my only . . . It seems to me sometimes that Opus Dei is a particular apostolate, right, and the particular idea of Opus Dei is that it’s not primarily supposed to be a priestly order, even though there are of course priests of Opus Dei.

The central idea, and with apologies to Opus Dei members if I’m getting this at all wrong, but the central idea is that it’s a ministry. It’s an apostolate for laypeople who are at work in the business world, the journalism world, the corporate world, the communications world, and so on. And as such, I think it has an admirable and important vocation in the life of the world and the life of the church. But it seems to me in part that there is a sort of . . . There’s a kind of, not set-apartness exactly, but there’s an element of . . .

Well, I think a big part of the crisis in Catholicism in the last 60 or 70 years can simply be distilled to a collapse in the sense of the importance of religious life, of consecrated life, of the priesthood, religious orders, sisters and brothers, and so on. And it’s as easy for me to say because I did not become a priest and so it’s always easier once you haven’t become a priest to say, “Oh, well, you need more people to become priests.” But to the extent that that’s true, Opus Dei seems like it’s very well tailored in certain ways to secular society as it exists right now.

But I think the ultimate revival of the church is likely to come from a slightly more radical view of the proper relation to the world — that essentially what the church needs now is the equivalent of the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Jesuits, these kind of orders from previous eras that are sort of . . . I mean, Opus Dei asks laypeople to take vows of various kinds; celibate laypeople are part of the Opus Dei structure. And I think that there is . . . Essentially, there is just a straightforward need for a more old-fashioned model of just priests and nuns. The church needs more priests and nuns. Catholicism can’t function without priests and nuns, which doesn’t take anything away from what Opus Dei is doing and, of course, they have many vocations and many priests.

But yeah, to the extent that it doesn’t get the due maybe that it deserves in my writings, that’s probably, maybe, the root of it. Again, you’re teasing out things I haven’t even begun to think about before, which is . . .

There’s no particular reason why. The sacramental life of the church depends on a strong priesthood, depends on men becoming priests; it depends on religious orders and so on. And so full revival in the church would need a priestly center to it, in a way, and not just a focus on sort of apostolates and evangelization within the world. Catholicism has been caught up in the idea that this is the Age of the Laity for the last 50 or 60 years. I think the Age of the Laity has kind of been a disaster for the church in certain ways.
It's that phrase, "consecrated life". Can we have consecrated lives without the Catholic Church? Douthat would likely think that, in asking that question, I reveal that I haven't got the foggiest idea of what "consecrated life" means. Perhaps. Perhaps. Still, I ask the question: Can we have consecrated lives without the Church? Can we have consecrated lives without ... ?

And before too long Douthat is talking in praise of Watership Down, a children's book I've heard of, but not read.
...it’s such a great book and it’s a book about — essentially, it’s about a founding.

It’s connected, in a sense, to the kind of things that the Straussians are always arguing about and so on. What does the founding mean, and so on? But you have a group of rabbits who go forth and encounter different models of political order, different ways of relating to humankind, that shadow over rabbit-kind at any point.

You have a warren that has essentially surrendered itself to humanity and exists as a kind of breeding farm, and you have a warren that’s run as a fascist dictatorship essentially. And then you have this attempt to form a political community that is somewhere in between the two, getting back to the Hegelian synthesis and so on. And you have sort of this primal narrative where the problem is of course that they don’t have any females, and so there’s this competition, this competition for reproductive power that’s carried out between these different warrens where the rabbits from the good warren have to literally — not kidnap, because the does come willingly — but steal women from the fascist dictatorship, which maintains a ruthless control over reproduction.

So there’s just a lot of fascinating stuff there, and then it’s all interspersed with storytelling. There’s the sort of rabbit folktales that Richard —

COWEN: So, narrative again.

DOUTHAT: Narrative again.

— that Richard Adams came up with, that are just brilliant, about El-ahrairah, the great rabbit folk hero, and his relationship. There is actually the rudiments of a rabbit theology in Watership Down.
Rabbit theology indeed.
And then there’s even, right, there’s even a mystical element. The book begins with this rabbit Fiver, who is sort of a runt, who has visions — and the whole founding is based on various prophecies and visions that he has throughout the beginnings of this rabbit warren, that these rabbits go out and found. So he has a vision of apocalypse, so there’s an Aeneid element, clearly, where — probably he uses quotes from the Aeneid; he has quotes before every chapter — where the city falls and you have to go found a new city and there’s religious visions along the way that relate to the legitimacy of the founding.
Hey, Ross, my man. I wouldn't get too uppity about secular consecration if I were you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How about a splash of red?

20180102-IMGP2152 flipR

20180102-IMGP2152 flip ΩVrt

Getting from HERE to THERE: New York 2140

IMGP1636rd
Science fiction isn’t just thinking about the world out there. It’s also thinking about how that world might be—a particularly important exercise for those who are oppressed, because if they’re going to change the world we live in, they—and all of us—have to be able to think about a world that works differently.
– Samuel Delaney
As I began reading Kim Stanley Robin’s latest book, New York 2140, I was thinking about that old cliché:

Science fiction’s not about the future, it’s about the present.

But then isn’t all fiction like that? No matter when and where it’s set, it is necessarily about the authorial present, because that’s what the author lives, day in and day out. The rest is window dressing.

That’s what I was thinking. But I was also thinking that THAT’s not why I’m reading New York 2140, not at all. It’s about NYC after the climate apocalypse, and that’s why it interests me: How do we get through it? How do we live afterward? Not, mind you, that I think KSR actually knows, not, mind you, that I somehow think KSR is a prophet. He isn’t (a prophet) and he doesn’t (know the future). But he’s a smart guy with a good imagination and really, that’s the best we can do under the circumstances, no?

And I kept thinking that as I read the book. It’s as though I was almost looking for a how-to-do-it book. I say “almost” because when you put it that baldly it seems silly and I wasn’t really thinking that. But sorta, kinda’, almost.

As I read through the book – which is both complex (lots of interacting characters) and simple (little in the say of intricate scheming, but some) – I read about the financial collapse of 2008. That’s something very real to me, as it depressed my $$ net worth and hence my wellbeing. Hurricane Sandy – again, very real, I was without power for four or five days (I forget which), but others were without power for two or more weeks–not to mention flooding and homes destroyed, and the effects ripple out from there. They’re still rippling.

By the time I got to the end I was telling myself, whoa! this isn’t about the future, it’s about the present! Financial collapse, massive debilitating storm crushing New York City, those may well happen in the future, but I’ve already lived through them. And as for a spontaneous uprising of people in protest, that’s Occupy Wall Street: I marched in that!

Trapped by a cliché!

But just what is THE PRESENT? That’s a very tricky question.

What time scale do we use to measure the present? There’s a body of research in psychology that pegs the perceptual present at about three to four seconds. That’s certainly not the appropriate scale. But what is? A year, a decade, a century? There’s a reasonable sense in which the financial crash of 2008 and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are nonetheless part of my present. They’re certainly in the time horizon Stanley invokes/evokes in his book. And, if I’m going to extend my present a decade into the past, then perhaps I can also extend it a decade into the future, call it 2030. That’s still over a century short of Robinson’s D-Days. But then climate change looms large in his imagination and surely we can push that back to the beginning of the carbon-spewing Industrial Revolution. Now we’re going two centuries back to the beginning of the 19th century, and that entitles us to push two centuries into the future, to the end of the 22nd century. Our imaginative present, Robinson’s novelistic present? now runs roughly from 1800 to 2200, leaving him a little wiggle room after the imaginary events he’s detailed for us.

In his penultimate chapter, attributed merely to ‘the citizen’–who functions a bit like a Greek chorus, commenting on the action–he tells us:
Every moment is a wicked struggle of political forces, so even as the intertidal emerges from the surf like Venus, capitalism will be flattening itself like the octopus it biomimics, sliding between the glass walls of law that try to keep it contained, and no one should be surprised to find it can squeeze itself to the width of its beak, the only part of it that it can’t squish flatter, the hard part that tears our flesh when it is free to do so. No, the glass walls of justice will have to be placed together closer than the width of an octopus’s beak–now there’s a fortune cookie for you! And even then the octopus may think of some new ways to bite the world. A hinged beak, some super suckers, who knows what these people will try.
For you see, capitalism had just suffered a crushing defeat. But the book’s gone on for 604 pages at this point, so it really must come to an end – though I note that KSR’s Mars adventure extended over three volumes. But we mustn’t think that the end of the book is also the end of the causal forces it cast into wicked struggle.
So no, no, no, no! Don’t be naïve! There are no happy endings! Because there are no endings! And possibly there is no happiness either!
Though there a few more sentences in this chapter and then, yes, there's one final chapter. It takes place in “some submarine speakeasy” called “Mezzrow’s” – named, we presume, after a mid-20th century jazz musician and scenester who hung with the cats and supplied them with joints (aka mezzes) – where we dance to West African rhythms.

And the take-home? The lesson, what does it tell us about, I suppose, radical historical change? That’s tricky. Perhaps I should write another post about that. Or perhaps not. Whatever it is, it would be about chance favoring the prepared mind and how in this case, in KSR’s New York City and the world of 2140, there were lots of minds prepared by decades upon decades of subservience to the 1% (which, we know, is actually a tiny fraction of the 1%) in which 100s of millions managed to eek out a more or less self-sufficient existence in the tidal boondocks created by massive coastal flooding.

• • • • • S P O I L E R • • • • •

                                                                                                                           Not so long after the storm hit, displacing millions of New Yorkers, the message went out and a massive world-wide rent and mortgage strike brought capitalism to its knees.

For awhile.

What's up with the extended evolutionary synthesis (ESS) in biology?

Despite the excitement of all the new data, it’s unlikely to trigger an evolution revolution for the simple reason that science doesn’t work that way – at least, not evolutionary science. Kuhnian paradigm shifts, like Popper’s critical experiments, are closer to myths than reality. Look back at the history of evolutionary biology, and you will see nothing that resembles a revolution. Even Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection took approximately 70 years to become widely accepted by the scientific community, and at the turn of the 20th century was viewed with considerable skepticism. Over the following decades, new ideas appeared, they were critically evaluated by the scientific community, and gradually became integrated with pre-existing knowledge. By and large, evolutionary biology was updated without experiencing great periods of ‘crisis’.

The same holds for the present. Epigenetic inheritance does not disprove genetic inheritance, but shows it to be just one of several mechanisms through which traits are inherited. I know of no biologist who wants to rip up the textbooks, or throw out natural selection. The debate in evolutionary biology concerns whether we want to extend our understanding of the causes of evolution, and whether that changes how we think about the process as a whole. In this respect, what is going on is ‘normal science’.

Why, then, are traditionally minded evolutionary biologists complaining about the misguided evolutionary radicals that lobby for paradigm shift? Why are journalists writing articles about scientists calling for a ‘revolution’ in evolutionary biology? If nobody actually wants a revolution, and scientific revolutions rarely happen anyway, what’s all the fuss about? The answer to these questions provides a fascinating insight into the sociology of evolutionary biology.

Revolution in evolution is a misattribution – a myth propagated by an unlikely alliance of conservative-minded evolutionists, creationists and the press. I don’t doubt that there are a small number of genuine, revolutionarily minded evolutionary radicals out there, but the vast majority of researchers working towards an extended evolutionary synthesis are simply ordinary, hardworking evolutionary biologists.

We all know that sensationalism sells newspapers, and articles that portend a major upheaval make for better copy. Creationists and advocates of ‘intelligent design’ also feed this impression, with propaganda that exaggerates differences of opinion among evolutionists and gives a false impression that the field of evolutionary biology is in turmoil. What’s more surprising is how commonly conservative-minded biologists play the ‘We’re under attack!’ card against their fellow evolutionists. Portraying intellectual opponents as extremist, and telling people that they are being attacked, are age-old rhetorical tricks to win debate or allegiance.
However:
If the extended evolutionary synthesis is not a call for revolution in evolution, then what is it, and why do we need it? To answer these questions, we need to recognise what Kuhn got right – namely, that every scientific field possesses shared ways of thinking, or ‘conceptual frameworks’. Evolutionary biology is no different, and our shared values and assumptions influence what data is collected, how that data is interpreted, and what factors are built into explanations for how evolution works.

That is why pluralism in science is healthy. Lakatos stressed that alternative conceptual frameworks – what he called different ‘research programmes’ – can be valuable to the extent that they encourage new hypotheses to be generated and tested, or lead to novel insights. That is the primary function of the EES: to nurture, or even open up, new lines of enquiry, and new productive ways of thinking.
And so:
The EES, at least as my collaborators and I frame it, is best viewed as an alternative research programme for evolutionary biology. Inspired by recent findings emerging within evolutionary biology and adjacent fields, the EES starts from the assumption that developmental processes play important roles as causes of novel (and potentially beneficial) phenotypic variation, causes of differences in fitness of those variants, and causes of inheritance. In contrast to how evolution has traditionally been conceived, in the EES the burden of creativity in evolution does not rest on natural selection alone. This alternative way of thinking is being used to generate fresh hypotheses and establish new research agendas. It’s early days, but there are already signs that this research is starting to yield dividends.

If evolution is not to be explained solely in terms of changes in gene frequencies; if previously rejected mechanisms such as the inheritance of acquired characteristics turn out to be important after all; and if organisms are acknowledged to bias evolution through development, learning and other forms of plasticity – does all this mean a radically different and profoundly richer account of evolution is emerging? No one knows: but from the perspective of our adapting dog-walker, evolution is looking less like a gentle genetic stroll, and more like a frantic struggle by genes to keep up with strident developmental processes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

First snow (I think), December 9, 2017

20171209-P1140654

Barbie, Bratz, IP, and #MeToo

Jill Lepore has a fascinating article in The New Yorker about an IP (intellectual property) squabble over Barbie and Bratz dolls, which do billions of dollars in business. Yes, tells us a bit about the history of copyright, which is at issue in several law suits she discusses. But the article also discusses sexual harassment and feminism. Here's two paragraphs near the end:
Empowerment feminism is a cynical sham. As Margaret Talbot once noted in these pages, “To change a Bratz doll’s shoes, you have to snap off its feet at the ankles.” That is pretty much what girlhood feels like. In a 2014 study, girls between four and seven were asked about possible careers for boys and girls after playing with either Fashion Barbie, Doctor Barbie, or, as a control, Mrs. Potato Head. The girls who had played with Mrs. Potato Head were significantly more likely to answer yes to the question “Could you do this job when you grow up?” when shown a picture of the workplaces of a construction worker, a firefighter, a pilot, a doctor, and a police officer. The study had a tiny sample size, and, like most slightly nutty research in the field of social psychology, has never been replicated, or scaled up, except that, since nearly all American girls own a Barbie, the population of American girls has been the subject of the scaled-up version of that experiment for nearly six decades.

#MeToo arises from the failure of empowerment feminism. Women have uncannily similar and all too often harrowing and even devastating stories about things that have happened to them at work because men do very similar things to women; leaning in doesn’t help. There’s more copying going on, too: pornography and accounts of sexual harassment follow the same script. Nobody writes anything from scratch. Abandoning structural remedies and legislative reform for the politics of personal charm—leaning in, dressing for success, being Doctor Barbie—left women in the workplace with few choices but to shut up and lean in more and to dress better. It’s no accident that #MeToo started in the entertainment and television-news businesses, where women are required to look as much like Barbie and Bratz dolls as possible, with the help of personal trainers, makeup artists, hair stylists, personal shoppers, and surgeons. Unfortunately, an extrajudicial crusade of public shaming of men accused of “sexual misconduct” is no solution, and a poor kind of justice, not least because it brooks no dissent, as if all that women are allowed to say about #MeToo is “Me, too!” The pull string wriggles.
The final sentence: "Mattel owns Barbie. MGA owns Bratz. And corporations still own the imaginations of little girls."

A fascinating visual illusion


Look carefully at the coloring on the lines. On one set of pairs the coloring alternates between peaks and troughs; on the other set it alternates between the slopes. Though the wave forms are exactly the same for these pairs, they're perceived differently against the medium gray background.

Cool!