This week, profiting from antiquities, public parks for billionaires, net neutrality, deleting the internet, the ethics of selfies, McDonald’s that won’t decay, and more.
Are museums and educational organizations treating antiquities as cash cows?
In September 2014, word that the AIA-St. Louis planned to auction the Treasure of Harageh began to circulate around the web and media outlets. The auction was set for October 2, 2014, at British auction house Bonhams, with the estimated bidding price at $130,000–190,000. News of the auction prompted strong and negative reactions by scholars in the academic community. In an op-ed published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Douglas Boin and Thomas Finan, professors in the department of history at St. Louis University, wrote, “One of the things we adore about our city is that so much of its art and culture are free. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Society of the Archaeological Institute of America has their own ideas about art and culture—and how to profit from it.”
Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.
That is why I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.
Writer Inga Saffron believes billionaires in the US are turning our public parks into personal playgrounds:
But the billionaire’s island, as some New Yorkers have called the project, is the latest, most extreme example of how big money and business elites are warping the way America’s urban parks are funded, widening the amenities gap between rich and poor neighborhoods. Until the 1980s, upkeep of America’s urban parks was mainly the responsibility of city parks departments. But as the crises of the 1960s and 1970s hollowed out municipal budgets, public spaces were increasingly neglected. Elegant limestone balustrades crumbled, and graffiti ran wild as kudzu. Urban parks became scary, unsafe places. The deterioration of those public spaces was a big factor in driving people out of American cities.
Scenes from life inside ISIS-controlled (aka Islamic State) Mosul, with illustrations by Molly Crabapple:
Christians once constituted the largest religious minority in Nineveh, the province of which Mosul is the capital. Shortly after capturing Nineveh province, ISIS gave non-Sunni minorities an ultimatum: convert, pay extra taxes, or “face the sword.” Under those conditions, the sole alternative left for Christians was to depart, leaving their property behind. The jihadist group claimed these properties as its own. They were labeled with the discriminatory Arabic mark “ن,” the equivalent of the letter “N” [short for Nasrani, or “Christian”]. This shop is one of many which was commandeered merely because its owner is a Christian. Thousands of Christians lived in Mosul. Some were rich. Many were poor. All were uprooted from a past that dates back thousands of years.
In case you thought the internet was forever, writer Carter Maness discusses the fact that most of the blogs he has written for have been deleted, leaving no trace online. He writes:
We assume everything we publish online will be preserved. But websites that pay for writing are businesses. They get sold, forgotten and broken. Eventually, someone flips the switch and pulls it all down. Hosting charges are eliminated, and domain names slip quietly back into the pool. What’s left behind once the cache clears? As I found with that pitch at the end of 2014, my writing resume is now oddly incomplete and unverifiable. Ex-editors can provide references, but I have surprisingly few examples of published work to show beyond scanned print features from my early days, so I’ve started backing up my work.
For media companies deleting their sites, legacy doesn’t matter; the work carries no intrinsic value if there is no business remaining to capitalize on it. I asked if RCRD LBL still existed on a server somewhere. It apparently does; I was invited to purchase it for next to nothing. I could pay for the hosting, flip the switch on, and all my work would return. But I’d never really look at it. Then, eventually, I would stop paying the bills, too.
Portland, Oregon, decided to save its namesake building by Michael Graves, which many consider one of the most iconic postmodern buildings. Here’s the story and why many people don’t “get” pomo:
It isn’t just my students who don’t get PoMo. Or the good people of Portland. John King, the architecture critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote last year of a goofy downtown San Francisco clock tower, circa 1989, that was about to be lopped off from its perch on a former savings and loan headquarters. When built, it was the sort of faux historical flourish that city planners believed enhanced the character of historic neighborhoods. “PoMo,” King wrote, is the embarrassing uncle who won’t shut up about the first time he saw Depeche Mode.”
One Bollywood songwriter was told by India’s Central Board of Film Certification that he couldn’t use the name “Bombay” in a song, since authorities are enforcing the city’s post-1995 name, Mumbai. Very strange:
He chose “Bombay” in the second line of the song, he said, because he needed a rhyme with “today.” But by doing so, Mr. Joshi stumbled into one of India’s many unresolved tugs of war over history and identity …
“If the name of this city has been changed, it’s only fair that we adhere to the new name,” said Meenal Baghel, editor of The Mumbai Mirror, a daily newspaper. “But should it have been bleeped as if it is a four-letter word? I think that’s ridiculous.”
The film censor’s decision drew considerable criticism and mockery on Monday, but the board’s top official, Pahlaj Nihalani, said he stood by the decision, which was made by his predecessor. (Mr. Nihalani became the board’s chairman in January.)
Here’s the song without the bleep:
How a crazy coincidence sparked a plagiarism inquiry at the Telegraph newspaper. Here’s a taste:
Writing for BuzzFeed, Joseph Bernstein explores the strange history of the “internet’s favorite anti-semitic image“:
What is most significant about this image isn’t the thing itself — there is far more creative, and far more disturbing, anti-Jewish imagery out there — but its sheer ubiquity. A Google reverse image search for “Jew-bwa-ha-ha.gif,” as the file is most frequently, but not always, named, returns 1,210 matches. It’s unquestionably the most popular anti-Semitic image on the internet, and if one pauses to think about the scope and reach of the internet, it’s easy to make an argument that “Jew-bwa-ha-ha.gif” is the most widely seen anti-Semitic image in history.
So where did it come from, and how is it used?
BuzzFeed published its new editorial standards and ethics guidelines, including this bit about selfies:
Selfies are fantastic and you should take them as often as possible with friends and loved ones. But when celebrity visitors come to a BuzzFeed office, please don’t ask for photographs unless the staffer who brought them in has checked that it’s OK. BuzzFeed News reporters should use good judgment when taking images with their subjects. Ultimately, all staffers should answer this question when it comes to photographs: “Would taking a photo with this subject undermine the work I’m doing?”
After the economic crash in 2008/9, the McDonald’s fast-food chain decided to close its restaurants in Iceland. On October 30, 2009, the day before one closed down, Hjörtur Smárason went to McDonald’s and bought a burger. “Not to eat, but to keep and it was put in the original emballage on a garage shelf,” the website explains. “Three years later he opened it again to find it looking exactly like it was when he left it. So he donated it to the national museum in Iceland where it was in storage for a year.” Now, it’s on display at Bus Hostel Reykjavik in Iceland, and there’s also a live video stream where you watch the hamburger rot on live camera — though it looks rather untouched. This says a lot about the state of fast food: