Required Reading

We didn’t patent the basic idea, but for a few years McCoy tried to popularize it, with limited success. Our first demo might just have been ahead of its time. The system of verifiably unique digital artworks that we demonstrated that day in 2014 is now making headlines in the form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, and it’s the basis of a billion-dollarmarket. Head-spinning prices are now being paid for artworks that, just a few months ago, would have been mere curiosities. Last week, Kevin Roose, a technology writer for The New York Times, offered a digital image of his column for sale in a charity auction, and a pseudonymous buyer paid the equivalent of $560,000 in cryptocurrency for it. McCoy has just put up for sale the very first NFT we created while building our system. Capturing an animation called Quantum, it could go for $7 million or more, Axios reports.

I have no financial stake in that sale. The only NFT I own is the one I bought for $4, and I have no plans to sell it. I certainly didn’t predict the current NFT mania, and until recently had written off our project as a footnote in internet history.

Queen Victoria went so far as to have a purpose-built exhibit made for such objects stolen in violent dethronements of rival monarchs. On Friday 18 June 1897, the 10-day “Queen’s week” celebration of Victoria’s diamond jubilee commenced with the opening of a new permanent display of stolen artefacts. Ten polished-oak, electric-lit plateglass vitrines were installed in the Grand Vestibule at Windsor Castle, creating what was billed at the time as “a museum of relics of past sovereigns”. From India to Ghana, from Sudan to Nigeria, and across the British Empire objects taken in the process of deposing kings, emirs and sultans were brought out of storage and installed in the part of the state apartments used to receive international visitors. Victoria even received a dog named Looty – a pekinese taken from Empress Dowager Cixi at the destruction of Beijing’s Summer Palace in 1860 and shipped to Balmoral.

Modern computing frameworks (not just programming, but computing technologies in general) are often focused on efficiencies, logics, and choices that are typically not as valued in Indigenous cultures. Similarly, activities the computer does have evolved from notions of time and behaviors that don’t always reflect Indigenous concepts of “natural” orders. So an Indigenous computing framework puts into practice Indigenous concepts and knowledge. It may not necessarily change or alter the way the computer handles instructions, but it changes the philosophies used in construction and development of software and hardware such as my Cree programming language; and a syllabic keyboard that does not conform to the horizontal rowed keyboards that are ubiquitous to modern computing practices.

  • California, and nine other US states, mark the birthday of the famed labor organizer Cesar Chavez with a holiday every March 31. Gustavo Arellano, who is a must-read columnist at the LA Times, examines the complex legacy of the renowned figure, including some of the warts. He writes:

He opposed undocumented immigrants to the point of urging his followers to report them to la migra. He accepted an all-expenses-paid trip from a repressive government and gladly received an award from its ruthless dictator despite pleas from activists not to do so.

He paid his staff next to nothing. Undercut his organization with an authoritarian style that pushed away dozens of talented staffers and contrasted sharply with the people-power principles he publicly espoused. And left behind a conflicted legacy nowhere near pure enough for today’s woke warriors.

Whitmore, a fast-talking, curly-haired 11th-grader, says she knew that 432 Park Avenue was trouble when she first saw it as a 14-year-old on a family trip to New York. She stood at the top of 30 Rock, taking in the glory of Manhattan, only for all of the big-city delight to be shattered by the supertall building. “I couldn’t stop staring at it,” she told me with a giggle, Zooming from home in Vancouver. “I couldn’t believe it existed. I couldn’t believe it could stand up … I thought, Surely it won’t last!

  • It’s hard to explain being a journalist nowadays and the harassment we receive to those who have no idea. Honestly, it’s hard to explain to fellow journalists most of the time, since you are often blamed by people who think it’s your fault (victim blaming is common, sadly). Lyz Lenz and Talia Lavin explain their experiences with this scourge:

Even stupid internet jokes were mobbed. I once joked about how a man unmatched with me on a dating service. “What’s he hiding?” I tweeted. The truth was, I didn’t even remember his name. It was just a stupid joke. The internet is still not over it. Screenshots float up every once in a while on Twitter or in my DMs. “Did you say this?” they’ll ask. The implication is somehow that I doxed a poor, poor innocent man. That never happened, but the truth doesn’t matter.

This all culminated in September 2019, when I co-hosted the LGBTQ forum and Joe Biden called me a “real sweetheart.” That’s when the bomb threats came.

  • “Virus du mal” is the title of Dario Gambarin’s latest land artwork. It was created on a 27,000-square-meter plot in Castagnaro, near Verona, Italy, using a tractor, plow, and rotary harrow, without the use of any previously drawn images.
Dario Gambarin’s “Virus du Mal” (2021) Credit: Dario Gambarin
  • It appears Alabama is vying for most ridiculous state in the Union, and there is stiff competition, be assured. It appears yoga is banned in the state’s schools. No, really. The Independent reports:

At a public hearing on Wednesday, representatives from two conservative groups said they were worried it could lead to the promotion of Hinduism or guided meditation practices. The bill did not advance in the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee. 

… The Alabama Board of Education voted in 1993 to prohibit school personnel from “using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga.”

“As soon as we tie masculinity to spirituality, we turn masculinity into something ‘sacred’ as well as distinct and exclusive of women,” says Leek. “I’m not entirely sure that is something that can be done in a way that doesn’t reinforce or naturalize inequalities.” These retreats seem to be encouraging strong behavior from a group — White, ruling-class men — who are already the most privileged in our society. But you also see this core message about strong men in socially conservative packaging. There’s a fear of women getting too powerful and a veneration of the housewife that, frankly, reminds me of the Proud Boys, the alt-right group with a history of violence that believes women are best left at home raising children.

“The wellness and spirituality world is very parallel to the evangelical Christian world, especially when it comes to the messaging around masculinity,” Leek explains. “The mythopoetic aspect of the men’s movement is very much rooted in patriarchal notions of chivalry and men as protectors and warriors. Evangelical masculinity is basically identical.” He wasn’t surprised to see the QAnon Shaman beside evangelical groups at the Capitol. QAnon, with its fixation on pedophilic conspiracies led by Hollywood and the liberal elite, can give a certain kind of man in search of purpose a way to feel like a literal protector.

Required Reading is published every Saturday, 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.

This week, the first-ever NFT and lost promise, a Cree-based programming language, a 16-year-old architecture critic, Queen Victoria’s drug habits, and more.Read MoreArt, Required Reading, WeekendHyperallergicRead More

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