What's Good: Jul. 23, 2021

Porn, a pyramid scheme, and barbecue sauce.

Hello, good afternoon, happy Friday. This was another weeks of ups and downs, although the highlights have been quite nice. I went to see the new Snake Eyes movie last night, and it was over two hours of nonstop ninja bullshit. It was outstanding. A perfect “movie theater movie.” Also, Ted Lasso’s season 2 premiere is today,1 and it’s great, but we’ll get to that. Finally, Lil Nas X dropped Industry Baby last night, and it absolutely slaps. The video is a banger, too, but also it is NSFW. New Deep Woods.

This weekend on my Minecraft server we are hosting a wedding ceremony and reception for two of my players. It is going to be delightful. Shenanigans will start sometime Saturday - I need to finalize logistics. But you can join us on Discord if you’d like to hang out.


Barbecue sauce

I really enjoyed this piece in the Tribune:

“Ted Lasso” co-creator Brendan Hunt calls himself a soccer missionary.

It’s a sport the Chicago native had little knowledge of — or interest in — before moving to Amsterdam in the late 1990s to join the Boom Chicago sketch comedy troupe. Jason Sudeikis, another expat from the Chicago comedy scene, would join him at Boom Chicago not long after, and between shows the two would convene to the green room to play FIFA on PlayStation, planting the seeds for a TV series that scored 20 Emmy nominations last week, including one for Hunt as supporting actor.

The Apple TV+ comedy is back for a second season, this time with Sudeikis’ aw shucks American football coach better acclimated to his job as the manager of an English soccer team. By his side, as always, is his semi-taciturn, surprisingly offbeat right-hand man, Coach Beard, played by Hunt.

Ted’s big-hearted embrace of the world contrasted with Beard’s weirder, quieter approach would first come to life in a 2013 promotional spot the pair made for NBC’s coverage of Premier League Football, as the sport is known outside the United States. “In that first spot, when I’m holding up flashcards to help him learn, was exactly what I was doing when Jason came to Boom Chicago,” said Hunt. “I was always ready to do that. Any time I’m at a bar, I’m hoping somebody asks me about the offside rule. Give me four bottles of beer and one bottle of ketchup and I’m going to explain this to you so well because I love explaining soccer.”

Something I find fascinating about so much of the media covering Ted Lasso is that the pieces themselves manage to capture or emulate the show’s charm. The opening credits for the show have Ted sitting down in the stands of his team’s stadium, and the seats around him are all blue, and many of them are covered with graffiti. But as he sits down, the blue around him turns to red, and the graffiti on the seats is erased as they change color. That slowly spreads throughout the stadium, and the end of the intro reveals that the changing colors have been spelling out “Ted Lasso,” because after all these are opening credits.

That scene is of course a metaphor for the man himself, and the way his presence brings joy and warmth and positivity to the people around him. But I think the show does the same thing, too. Especially for people who didn’t watch the show as it first aired (yes, hello, it me), there is a general sense that “Ted Lasso is all people are talking about and it’s kind of exhausting and it can’t really be that good, can it,” etc. I felt the same way! Especially because I did not want to pay for Apple TV Plus, and especially because I am generally outside the orbit of the Apple walled garden and have no interest in entering it.

But near the end of April, as I was going through a rough time, I decided to finally relent and to watch the first season. My reaction was the same as everyone else who has gone on that journey - mucho, mucho joy.

Ted Lasso is a show about finding your path if you may have lost it, and about opening your heart to joy if it may have become closed off, and about believing in believe.

And, in fact, I finally convinced a friend to start the show last night. Her whole live thread is great, but this right here, this is the magic:

Barbecue sauce.


Cry havoc

lol:

Hardcore porn is embedded all over regular-ass websites because a porn company has purchased the domain of a popular, defunct video hosting site. 

As pointed out by Twitter user @dox_gay, hardcore porn is now embedded on the pages of the Huffington Post, New York magazine, The Washington Post, and a host of other websites. This is because a porn site called 5 Star Porn HD bought the domain for Vidme, a brief YouTube competitor founded in 2014 and shuttered in 2017. Its Twitter account is still up, but the domain lapsed. 

There is a whole genre of cultural conversations that we have not really had yet about how the internet is in fact ephemeral but we regard it as permanent. Titans like Google and Amazon are not going to let their domains lapse any time soon, but advertisers and the like? Yes, sure, absolutely. And sites that rely on static embedded content served from other domains are going to be… vulnerable… as a result.

Should the domain at issue have been reserved to prevent this kind of thing from occurring? There’s not a right or wrong answer to that question - the vulnerability existed because of static expectations and technical debt, and maybe it’s the case that we should use this event as an opportunity to revisit best practices for relying on remote content! After all, this is just capitalism - the porn site saw an arbitrage opportunity. The market demanded porn, so the market got porn.


Sunlight

I have two stories about Activision Blizzard for you this week that dovetail. First:

Video game giant Activision Blizzard Inc., maker of games including World of Warcraft and Diablo, fosters a “frat boy” culture in which female employees are subjected to constant sexual harassment, unequal pay, and retaliation, according to a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

A two-year investigation by the state agency found that the company discriminated against female employees in terms and conditions of employment, including compensation, assignment, promotion, and termination. Company leadership consistently failed to take steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, the agency said.

According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, female employees make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” including “cube crawls,” in which male employees “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

Which perhaps goes hand in hand with:

Blizzard Entertainment's disastrous remake of the classic video game Warcraft III last year was the result of mismanagement and financial pressures, according to newly revealed documents and people with knowledge of the failed launch. The release also reflected Blizzard’s significant cultural changes in recent years, as corporate owner  Activision Blizzard Inc. has pushed the developer to cut costs and prioritize its biggest titles.

Warcraft III: Reforged was a long-awaited reimagining of one of Blizzard’s most popular games. Blizzard President J. Allen Brack called the original title “monumentally important” when Reforged was announced in 2018. The company promised “over four hours of updated in-game cutscenes and re-recorded voice-overs.” But the project was never a priority for the company, in part because a remaster of an old strategy game had little chance of becoming the type of billion-dollar product that Activision wanted, according to the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak on company matters. With Blizzard pressured to focus on its biggest franchises, Warcraft III: Reforged couldn’t get the ambitious budget that its leaders wanted.

Obviously, there is a lot going on over there. Bungie famously bought out their independence from Activision in early 2019, and fans of Destiny have been broadly thrilled about the creative control that the independence has afforded the studio. But it’s not just creative control that matters! Activision was panned by players for shoving many fan favorite game elements and rewards behind microtransactions, leading many to be “disappointed but not surprised” that Activision’s apparent profits-over-people attitude isn’t just limited to how it treats its players. (Bungie tweeted about workplace culture last night.)

This isn’t just limited to Activision. Ubisoft and Riot have both famously dealt with public confrontations about toxic workplace culture, and the problems are rampant throughout the industry. I hope, though, that reporters taking these stories seriously and being willing to tell them will help make things better. Still, it’s incumbent upon the employers themselves to be committed to creating equitable and hospitable work environments for all of their employees.

By the way, did you hear that the NLRB found the use of Scabby the Rat doesn’t violate the National Labor Relations Act this week?


Get up, come on, get down with the sickness

It is remarkable how bad Facebook’s content moderation team is. Truly I can think of no better application for the “you had one job” meme:

Some anti-vaccination groups on Facebook are changing their names to euphemisms like “Dance Party” or “Dinner Party,” and using code words to fit those themes in order to skirt bans from Facebook, as the company attempts to crack down on misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

The groups, which are largely private and unsearchable but retain large user bases accrued during the years Facebook permitted anti-vaccination content, also swap out language to fit the new themes and provide code legends, according to screenshots provided to NBC News by multiple members of the groups.

I mean if you actually sincerely cared about keeping this kind of crap off your platform, it would not be all that hard to detect this kind of thing, especially because several of the groups apparently have “legend” posts used to explain the coded language. Nevertheless, knowledge is power, now you know to report this bullshit if you see it.


Minority report

Speaking of irresponsible data management:

It finally happened. After years of warning from researchers, journalists, and even governments, someone used highly sensitive location data from a smartphone app to track and publicly harass a specific person. In this case, Catholic Substack publication The Pillar said it used location data ultimately tied to Grindr to trace the movements of a priest, and then outed him publicly as potentially gay without his consent. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the outing led to his resignation.

This seems bad, to me.


If you’re reading this, it’s too late

Please get vaccinated and tell your friends and family to do the same:

Dr. Brytney Cobia said Monday that all but one of her COVID patients in Alabama did not receive the vaccine. The vaccinated patient, she said, just needed a little oxygen and is expected to fully recover. Some of the others are dying.

“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” wrote Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, in an emotional Facebook post Sunday. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

Three COVID-19 vaccines have been widely available in Alabama for months now, yet the state is last in the nation in vaccination rate, with only 33.7 percent of the population fully vaccinated. COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations are surging yet again due to the more contagious Delta variant of the virus and Alabama’s low vaccination rate.


Old MacDonald had a pyramid scheme

The thing about late capitalism is that people will still insist that the marketplace is demanding all of the various redundant and ridiculous products that get created, when in reality the marketplace is creating an incentive to develop pyramid schemes:

On November 21, 2019, 25-year-old Recep Ataş stepped onto a shooting range in the Istanbul suburb of Başakşehir. He fired several rounds at the target, before suddenly aiming the weapon directly against his heart and pulling the trigger. The single shot killed him. 

The next day, Ataş’ father told local media that his son was depressed  — a large bank loan loomed over him. The money Ataş had borrowed evaporated after he’d invested it in Farm Bank, a smartphone app similar to the once-popular Facebook game Farmville. But unlike Farmville, Farm Bank had a real-world twist. 

Launched in 2016, Farm Bank was billed as a way for players to “win as they play, and have fun as they win,” and encouraged them to invest in what they thought was actual livestock and agricultural land. Spurred on by friends and relatives, who claimed to have received returns on their investments, thousands of people rushed to put their money in Farm Bank. In actuality, Farm Bank was a smartphone-based pyramid scheme. 


Fedsoc sucks

Nicholas Wallace has an incredible story and a correct opinion:

Two months ago, on the eve of my graduation from Stanford Law School, I learned that the Stanford chapter of the Federalist Society had filed a complaint against me over a satirical flyer I sent to a law school listserv in January. The flyer advertised an event at which Senator Joshua Hawley and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both long-time Federalist Society members, would make “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection.”

The flyer was a joke, but the officers of the Stanford Federalist Society weren’t laughing. Instead, in a letter of complaint filed with Stanford’s Office of Community Standards, these third-year law students alleged that I had defamed Hawley, Paxton, and the Federalist Society itself. The immediate implications of this allegation were serious: Stanford put a hold on my diploma pending the outcome of their investigation, jeopardizing my graduation and admission to the bar.


You deserve some good animal content


Have a good weekend.

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Addendums

Final Fantasy 14 is desperately trying to fix its housing crisis. How Pork Rinds Ditched the ‘Junk Food’ Label. Gaming is entering its fashion-forward phase. Gunshot-Detecting Tech Is Summoning Armed Police to Black Neighborhoods. From Radical Activist to Senate Obstructionist: The Metamorphosis of Kyrsten Sinema. Is BYU Virginity Club Real? I'm a Psychiatrist and Even I Kept My Mental Health Meds a Secret.