Archive for June, 2024

A Field Guide to Gay Animals

A fascinating and risqué new podcast from the creators of Canadaland. Some viewer discretion advised.

From gay swans to self-pleasuring elephants and amorous giraffes, they learn how scientists have been understanding and misunderstanding queerness in nature for centuries. And they introduce us to a bold researcher in the 1990’s who helped us see nature for what it is – queer as fuck.

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Oil Tank Park

This is an old oil tank converted into a great looking public space.

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The Rarest Move in Chess

I am terrible at chess, but I also love it. I also love these kind of intense deep-dives into esoteric subjects.

Your Mind is Being Fracked

Ezra Klein‘s episode this week with D. Graham Burnett had a good analogy for the current state of the attention economy, fracking for oil once the easier reserves are exhausted:

The only way you can get the remaining petroleum and natural gas resources out of the deep earth is to pump down in there high pressure, high volume detergent, which forces up to the surface this kind of slurry, mixture of natural gas, crude oil, leftover detergent, and juice and nasty stuff, which you then separate out, and you get your monetizable crude.

This is a precise analogy to what’s happening to us in our contemporary attention economy. We have a, depending on who you ask, $500 billion, $3 trillion, $7 trillion industry, which, to get the money value of our attention out of us, is continuously pumping into our faces high-pressure, high-value detergent in the form of social media and non-stop content that holds us on our devices. And that pumping brings to the surface that spume, that foam of our attention, which can be aggregated and sold off to the highest bidder.

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251 Words You Can Spell on a Calculator

A fun little diversion: here is a great old list of words you can spell on a calculator, from bee to Zoe.

See the whole list →

Via Present and Correct

Origin of Term 'Caucasian'

I’ve often wondered about the origin of the term ‘Caucasian’. My assumption was that there was some logical reason to link all white people to this relatively small area in Eurasia. It turns out to be much more nonsensical, racist, and creepy.

While reading through Jason Roberts‘ truly excellent Every Living Thing, which explores the history of classifying living things into groups, he couldn’t help but touch upon the arbitrary nature of the term ‘Caucasian’. Here Roberts talks about the ridiculous origins of the term, which first appeared in On the Natural Variety of Mankind, by the German Johann Friedrich Blumenbach:

Blumenbach, however, did not hesitate to declare racial superiority. He was a collector of skulls, and in his opinion the prettiest specimen (in terms of pleasing proportions) in his collection was that of a female from the Caucasus, a mountain range between the Black and Caspian seas. Guided purely by personal aesthetics, Blumenbach wrote, “I have allotted the first place to the Caucasian,” explaining, “I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus… because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men…”

Continues Roberts: “Blumenbach effectively combusted modern racism into existence.” I strongly recommend this book (Roberts’ not Blumenbach’s).