‣ Jeff Ernsthausen explains for ProPublica how private foundations provide tax breaks to wealthy donors — including, unsurprisingly, art collectors:
For the ultrawealthy, donating valuables like artwork, real estate and stocks to their own charitable foundation is an alluring way to cut their tax bills. In exchange for generous tax breaks, they are supposed to use the assets to serve the public: Art might be put on display where people can see it, or stock sold to fund programs to fight child poverty. Across the U.S., such foundations hold over $1 trillion in assets.
But a ProPublica investigation reveals that some foundation donors have obtained millions of dollars in tax deductions without holding up their end of the bargain, and sometimes they personally benefit from donations that are supposed to be a boon to the public. A tech billionaire used his charitable foundation to buy his girlfriend’s house, then stayed there with her while he was going through a divorce. A real estate mogul keeps his nonprofit art museum in his guesthouse and told ProPublica that he hadn’t shown it to a member of the public since before the pandemic. And a venture capitalist couple’s foundation bought the multimillion dollar house next to their own without ever opening the property to the public.
‣ Screenwriter Simon Rich has some bleak news about the future of AI-generated humor, writing for Time:
I can’t speak for every writer in the WGA, particularly not the really good ones. But I’m not sure I personally could beat these jokes’ quality, and certainly not instantaneously, for free. Based on the secret stuff Dan’s shown me, I think it’s only a matter of time before AI will be able to beat any writer in a blind creative taste test. I’d peg it at about five years.
‣ For their Summer 2023 fairy tale issue, Orion Magazine‘s Kim Schmidt experimented with the limits of AI in conjuring up fairy-tale worlds, and the results were as uneven as you might expect:
Every princess StarryAI generated was skinny and white, with impossible proportions. (It’s unclear if this is a result of AI’s notorious sexism or if ‘princess’ prompts narrowed the tool’s focus onto classic, Disney-esque female forms.) Either way, it perturbed me. I tried being more specific in my directions, giving the AI descriptors such as, “a Black girl”, “a fat princess with tan skin and dark hair”, even “a princess who is not white and not skinny” – but the tool still kept spitting out images of thin, white, scantily clad women. So I turned to the more-than-human world to see if StarryAI was any better at that.
‣ For the Guardian, Manuela Lazic delves into the state of criticism in the influencer era, asking, “Who needs film critics when studios can be sure influencers will praise their films?”:
It isn’t news that many people perceive critics as pessimistic writers and frustrated artists who never like anything – thanks, Ratatouille. If critics can seem harsh, however, it is because they love cinema and want what is best for it. They want it to be as artful and life-changing as it can be, rather than a purely commercial enterprise meant to make us buy more things. But even that cliche has changed lately. As the writers and actors’ strike began – in an attempt to get streamers and studios to remunerate workers properly – and cast and crew found themselves unable to promote their work, many wondered whether film critics continuing to write reviews would be crossing the picket line, further evidence that the difference between critics and PRs is blurring in the public consciousness. Somehow, we have gone to the other end of the spectrum: a critic is now perceived as someone who loves every film, automatically and uncritically.
‣ J.K. Rowling was recently removed from Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture due to her long history of transphobia, David Mouriquand reports for Euronews:
While memorabilia from the Harry Potter films will still be displayed in the museum’s “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic” exhibit, any mentions of the author have been scrubbed from the exhibit.
“While the Harry Potter series is a major player in the pop culture sphere, we wanted to give credit to the work of the actors, prop makers, and costume designers in our Fantasy gallery,” the post added. “We learned that You-Know-Who was a problem, which is why you’ll see the artefacts without any mention or image of the author.”
‣ Over 200 writers signed an open letter urging the Pulitzer Prizes for Literature to include noncitizens, which it historically excludes from consideration. Signatories include Hyperallergic contributor Faith Adiele, several previous winners and finalists, and a host of other figures in the literary community, who write in LitHub:
From this place of gratitude, and in hopes to speak to your alignment with the past work you have done, we implore you to update your requirements for the Pulitzer Prize to include the work of our peers who through accidents of geography, of violence perpetrated on our lands, and the personal familial reckonings with survival, have come to have or have been born into a mixed or undocumented status.
We were dismayed to learn, through Javier Zamora’s op-ed piece, It’s Time for the Pulitzer Prize for Literature to Accept Noncitizens, that in the categories of Fiction, Biography, Memoir, Poetry, and General Nonfiction, the Pulitzer Prize requires authors to be United States citizens.
‣ Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, was 31 when cervical cancer cells were extracted from her without her consent months before her passing. Last week, her family settled with biotech giant Thermo Fisher, and Anil Oza and Mariana Lenharo explain what this could mean for the future of research for Nature:
But Ayers notes that the circumstances under which Lacks’s cells were taken from her are unique, and that this case’s outcome might not extrapolate to others involving the use of ‘medical waste’ in research. “Litigation on behalf of the Lacks family would not open the floodgates to litigation by others that have voluntarily donated tissue or cells for other types of medical research,” he says.
Other specialists say that the case does play into a larger discussion regarding the use of people’s tissue or other biological specimens in research. Much of the human tissue used in medical research is ‘waste’ discarded during surgery. Even if a person consents to a procedure, they should “have the legal right to decide whether to allow the use or not of cells derived” from it, says Stephen Sodeke, a bioethicist at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
‣ Apparently Gen Z-ers in China have started turning mango pits into fluffy little pets, and the results are strange and adorable:
‣ And finally, an incredible ranking of various tassels at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (gotta appreciate the creator’s Lord Farquad fit and wig, too):
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.