Thursday, October 8, 2015

More of Those Overwhelming Tabs

As if yesterday's pile o' tabs wasn't enough, here are more. Those were just the ones from a single browser window. These are from some of my other windows.

Welfare makes America more entrepreneurial, from the Atlantic. Research shows that when governments provide citizens with economic security, they embolden them to take more risks.

Black patients fare better than whites when both get same healthcare, study finds. From the LA Times. The system studied was the VA, where black and white veterans have equal access to care, regardless of income, and (I'd say) black veterans may have easier access because they are more likely to live in or near large cities, where VA services are mostly located.

If you heard any of the brouhaha questioning whether Black Lives Matter advocate Shaun King is actually black (a rumor started by right-wing jerks), here's the piece King wrote explaining his life.

This one connects with some of the links about gun violence from yesterday: Mass shootings are not the real problem. "Everyday gun violence in black communities kills many more Americans. Why do we keep ignoring it?' By Jamelle Bouie. Not to mention this Mother Jones long read on guns: What does gun violence really cost?

The joyful, illiterate kindergartners of Finland. Playing is their "work," if anything is. Reading comes when the kid is ready for it.

No, Native Americans aren't genetically more susceptible to alcoholism. This is one of those cultural stories that I absorbed and believed.

Have we really ever tried sustained, targeted school funding for America’s neediest children? From School Finance 101. Which pairs well with this article from education professor Paul Thomas, What's Responsible for America's Persistent Achievement Gap? The truth is as simple as it is devastating. And this: Six reasons black boys without disability wind up in special education.

We've called autism a disease for decades. We were wrong. From Vox.

The case for open borders. Also from Vox.

The church of self-help: There’s a reason the poor don’t rise up over inequality. Because our culture shames them. By one of my favorite business writers, Helaine Olen, author of Pound Foolish.

Mychal Denzel Smith writes for the Nation: Abolish the Police. Instead, Let’s Have Full Social, Economic, and Political Equality. He says, "When people ask me, 'Who will protect us,' I want to say: Who protects you now?"

Most of your asparagus comes from abroad these days. Here's why.

And then some history lessons. No Blacks Allowed: Oregon’s dark past as a racist utopia explains why so few blacks are there today. And New York destroyed a village full of African-American landowners to create Central Park. And this about one of the lesser known heroes of the Civil Rights movement: Bayard Rustin and the Rise and Decline of the Black Protest Movement.

I've written about this research before, but here's a new article about it: The remarkable thing that happens to poor kids when you give their parents a little money. From the Washington Post's WonkBlog.

Then there's another really old tab with a Dave Roberts article from his Grist days: We can solve climate change, but it won’t be cheap or easy.

Hmmm. From Fortune: The resume gap: Are different gender styles contributing to tech's dismal diversity?

Welfare reform under Bill Clinton has been terrible for the poor, I'd say. This article from Harpur's on the real face of welfare reform provides details:

In 1995, about 14 million Americans were on welfare; today, that number is down to 4.2 million. Meanwhile, the benefits received by families with no other cash income now bring them to less than half the federal poverty line, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In 2014, the median family of three on welfare received a monthly check of just $428, and other government assistance programs have seen their budgets slashed even further. For every hundred families with children that are living in poverty, sixty-eight were able to access cash assistance before Bill Clinton’s welfare reform. By 2013, that number had fallen to twenty-six.
Finally, there's this transcript of an interview with Bryan Caplan, an economist who summarizes research on the effect of parenting on how kids turn out. As with the writings of Judith Rich Harris (which I've mentioned several times before), it turns out there's not a lot that comes from parenting. Kids who are adopted into a high-IQ family get an initial bump in IQ, but it goes away by age 18; kids adopted into a church-going family are no more likely to be church-going by the time they reach their 30s than kids who didn't go to church:
...what it looks like in the data is that there are some people who proverbially have the God-sized hole in their hearts, and other people who doubt. And out of people who are raised religiously who just don't feel it, they keep doing it for a while and then...there's a sharp decline in their 20s, and by the 30s we really just don't see anything. On the other hand there are plenty of people who are not raised religiously who do feel this God‐sized hole in their hearts and just start looking around for something to believe in once they become adults.

...there indeed seem to be genes for religiosity, and so in religious families they are, at a genetic level, probably on average a lot more religious. And they pass those genes on to their kids and then normally those kids keep doing it. But in the cases where you happen to get different genes, then those kids really have a very strong tendency to just give up on it.
Beyond religiosity and intelligence, Caplan covers health/longevity, happiness, success, educational attainment, and likelihood of divorce. The upshot for parents is that they should
do the stuff that you actually enjoy doing, the activities that you would do with your kids that you would do even if you didn't think there is any long run benefits.... On the other hand, the stuff that's painful, the part of parenting that makes you wish that you didn't have kids, this is the part where I say this stuff looks like you really could stop doing it without doing any long run damage. Especially as is often the case, where kids don't want to do the stuff that you're forcing them to do either. It really is an across the board win, where the parents are happier, kids are happier and the long run looks like it's going to be the same either way.
That doesn't include consequence-free choices for kids, though, from Caplan's perspective.
If you have a roommate and they're not acting well, and you can figure out some way to treat them so they will behave, that's a good reason to do it. If someone says yeah, but when they're 50, they'll be back to their usual tricks -- who cares? Then you won't be living with them anyway.
So enforcing some discipline (like not kicking or hitting, or cleaning up after yourself) is worth doing if only because it makes the parent's life with their child-roommate better, not because it will change the kid forever.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Half a Year of Tabs

It's been quite a while since I did a Too Many Tabs post, and you know what that means: the browser is crawling on its knees while the spinning pizza of death whines over its head like a rainbow mosquito.

Here are a few... some very old, but that's what happens when you let tabs sit open for six months.

From Harvard Business Review: Why do so many incompetent men become leaders? The answer, simplified: because "arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent."
America's competition fetish kills creativity and produces human sheep. An interview with author Margaret Heffernan. Her most recent book is A Bigger Prize: Why Competition Isn't Everything, and How We Do Better. One quote from Heffernan: "...the more a country believes in competition, the steeper the hierarchies tend to be. And the steeper the hierarchies, the higher the level of corruption."

25 examples of male privilege from a trans guy’s perspective. This article, from Everyday Feminism, is written by a white trans man who looks like "a regular guy" to most people. His experiences as a perceived woman or girl and then later as a perceived man, are enlightening.

Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore riots didn't start the way you think. Baltimore teachers and parents tell a different story from the one you've been reading in the media.

From Dave Roberts when he was still at Grist, which tells you how long ago this tab is from: None of the world’s top industries would be profitable if they paid for the natural capital they use. Externalities, as the economists call them.

Not too long before he stepped down as the New York Times' food writer, Mark Bittman wrote a commentary called Why Not Utopia? for the Sunday Review. He discusses how things need to change as our economy shifts to more automation and fewer living wage jobs. Guaranteed basic income, expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, 100 percent taxation on income over a billion dollars... lots of thoughts here.

Why are Americans more afraid of ISIS than racism and climate change? From Grist.

Racial segregation and silenced Voices: why mixed-income developments can't solve the affordable housing crisis. The 'renovation' of a Chicago housing project reveals what can go wrong with mixed-income developments. An interesting article to read while watching the recent David Simon mini-series Show Me a Hero.

From Science magazine: Poverty may affect the growth of children’s brains. And this from the New Republic: Poor People Don't Have Less Self-Control. Poverty Forces Them to Think Short-Term.

How your local jail became hell: An investigation. "The modern American jail — which is distinct from prison, the place where those convicted of crimes go — primarily houses the legally innocent. There are 731,200 people inside American jails — substantially more than the population of Washington, D.C. — and three out of five of those inmates have not been convicted of anything at all."

Jesus would hate you all — and you didn’t build that: The truth about the ultra-rich and their New York Times apologists. "Conservatives are fighting a war on poverty, which really means a war on poor people -- and a defense of the rich."

Three ways inequality is making life worse for everyone: Here's what you won't hear from Republican presidential hopefuls. A summary of the three ways: It reduces upward mobility, decreases economic growth, and degrades democracy.

Confessions of an ex-Republican: I used to be a serious Republican who planned for a career in politics. But there's no place for a moderate like me in today's GOP.

Imagining a post-coal Appalachia.

Young and free: one writer's thoughts on over-parenting in our current culture. "...the presumption of the imminent dangers of youth is not built on facts. Such feelings emerge from animal spirits, cultural drift, and vague convictions about the state of the world that are usually wrong. Those forces now compel many among us to imagine the duty of a parent as akin to that of a smiling, benevolent prison guard, and they are prepared to enforce that notion."

Permafrost may not be the ticking “carbon bomb” scientists once thought. From Grist.

What Kansas gets wrong when it tries to control what poor people can do with welfare. Emily Badger, writing for the Washington Post's WonkBlog.

Matt Bruenig wrote about taxes and social expenditures back in April... love this one. After establishing that the U.S. funds its social expenditures (retirement and health care especially) in inefficient ways, he ends:

The question is not whether you want to have these tax-funded social expenditures, but rather who you want to levy the taxes and orchestrate the spending. Do you want the employer to levy these taxes on you and plan the social expenditures? Or do you want the state to do it? When the employer does it, the benefits are often unavailable to a large class of people and extremely inefficient. See our country. When the state does it, the benefits are typically universally available and very efficient. See Northern Europe. Personally, I'd rather the state tax me than the boss, and rather social expenditures be carried out in an efficient manner that provides economic stability to everyone.
 A long think-piece from Aeon called Out of the Ashes. "It took a lot of fossil fuels to forge our industrial world. Now they're almost gone. Could we do it again without them?"

Struggle and progress: Civil War historian Eric Foner on the abolitionists, Reconstruction, and winning “freedom” from the Right. From Jacobin magazine.

Poor people need a higher wage, not a lesson in morality. A response to one of David Brooks's many stupid columns.

Heet Jeer contemplates whether the American Revolution was a mistake. "Basically, the American Revolution was bad for blacks and Indians but good for white southerners." Now that's some revisionist thinking I haven't thought of before.

How Ayn Rand became Libertarians’ sociopathic pixie dream girl. "You're not a misogynist if your hero is Ayn Rand, and Ayn Rand is the ultimate shield and sword for the kind of arguments regularly entered into by the kind of man who worships Ayn Rand."

Most Americans don’t vote in elections. Here’s why. "The rise of the donor class and the influx of corporate cash have caused many voters to lose faith in politics."

The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system. How a promising but oversimplified idea caught fire, then got co-opted by conservative ideology. By education gadfly Alfie Kohn.

And, pulling back even farther to see the problems of our education system, this essay on what the modern world has forgotten about children and learning:
If Americans are outliers among outliers [compared to other world cultures], then the subculture of American institutional schooling, which makes increasingly rigid demands on very young children and suppresses more and more of their natural energies and inclinations, is an outlier to that. Traits that would be valued in the larger American society –– energy, creativity, independence –– will get you into trouble in the classroom, and sadly, it turns out that some of our children just can’t follow us that far out on the bell curve.
Stacey Patton is an activist and writer working to end corporal punishment of children in the black community. I've been following her on Facebook for a while and her thoughts are revelatory. Here's an intro to her world view. Are black mothers beating their sons into misogyny?

What happens when countries offer birthright citizenship? Big surprise: legal status seems to encourage cultural assimilation. From Pacific Standard magazine.

Richard Florida, writing for CityLab: Private Conflict, Not Broken Windows. Why community policing should focus on helping to resolve personal and domestic disputes, not signs of physical decay.

By fetishizing freshness, we’re wasting a lot of edible food. From Pacific Standard magazine.

You heard it here first (maybe): white fragility.  And here's a bit of evidence to support it: White people react to evidence of white privilege by claiming greater personal hardships.

If you didn't already get a chance to read Ta-Nehisi Coates's latest long read in the Atlantic (which appeared just before he won a MacArthur genius grant), here's your chance. It's called The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, and it talks a lot about Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

A commentary from the Atlantic on one of our latest idiocies: Why High-School Rankings Are Meaningless—and Harmful. How much value can there be in an index that rates thousands of schools? When it reinforces the worst tendencies in our education system, not much.

From the National Journal: How politics breaks our brains, and how we can put them back together. Wow, our brains are screwed up.

From the Nation, following the most recent mass shooting (in Oregon): Combat Vets Destroy the NRA’s Heroic Gunslinger Fantasy.

Finally, here's a headline that pushes my buttons: Quebec gave all parents cheap day care — and their kids were worse off as a result. But once you read the story, you realize that the problem wasn't the fact that the Quebec children were in child care instead of at home: it was because the care they got was substandard. So duh, in a way, but it's still an important study to know about.

That's all the tabs for now, from one browser window. Whew. Maybe some more tomorrow from the other windows.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

An Adolescent and Selfish Obsession

Another week, another mass shooting in our insane country. Remember, though, that these events are responsible for only a tiny percentage of American deaths by gun. In 2010, there were:

  • 19,392 suicide deaths by gun
  • 11,078 homicide deaths by gun (574 of which were men killing women in domestic violence...source, page 7)
  • 26 active shooter incidents, in which 37 people were killed (not counting the killers)
  • 606 unintentional gun deaths (source for suicides, homicides, and unintentionial deaths)
Even though mass shootings have been increasing in number and frequency, they have a long way to go before they can begin to compete with domestic violence gun killings, men shooting men to death, or suicide.

While mass killings are not responsible for many of our country's deaths by gun, they can't  help but command our attention. A commentary in today's Star Tribune by Kent Nerburn, an author and former Minnesotan who now lives in Oregon, expressed a lot of my thoughts about this. His main point is that our country's gun culture underlies these acts, and the all-too-common obsession with Second Amendment rights does not explain it.
There are otherwise perfectly normal human beings in northern Minnesota, where I lived, who can barely feed their families but who have 25 rifles, pistols and semi-automatic weapons in their closets.

Why? You don’t have 25 refrigerators, or 25 pipe wrenches or 25 of anything other than perhaps baseball caps and pairs of shoes, and those things are questionable enough. So, what is it about a gun? Is it some feeling of power? Is there some crypto-sexual thrill in holding it? Shooting it? Stroking it?

....[guns] disgust me and it makes me ashamed that such an adolescent and selfish obsession can be one of the few sacrosanct things in our country.

What drives it? Why are we like this?

Sometimes I think it is part of this culture of fear that comes with our out-of-control capitalist society where every advertisement is based on fear and perceived deficiency, and a gun is just the physical embodiment of a sense of control. Sometimes I think it has a subterranean racism at its heart, where fear of the terrifying black man at the door drives white people to want to have the fantasy of a protective weapon at hand.

Sometimes I think it is the residual frontier ethic. But the Canadians have every bit as strong a frontier ethic, and they don’t share this cultural mental illness.

And, yes, that’s what it is — a cultural mental illness, fomented and fanned by an armament industry that needs, or, at least, wants every man, woman and child to be packing a weapon in the name of freedom or security or whatever abstraction they can sell us.
Nerburn's ideas for fixing our cultural mental illness wouldn't limit just mass shootings: they would affect all of the other categories of gun deaths as well, because it's access to a gun in the first place that makes death more likely in suicides or homicidal incidents. 

A recent Mother Jones story about efforts to identify mass shooters before they act sheds light on the shooters, generally, beyond the obsession with guns. They have an "unshakable sense of grievance," which then takes a particular shape in our gun- and media-fame-obsessed culture.

Removing their general access to guns won't stop them from being aggrieved or fame-obsessed. But it could make it a lot harder for them to take so many people with them when they strike out in rage.

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's That Time of Year

While I was busy posting about Ellen Raskin, fall arrived.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ellen Raskin: Figgs of Her Imagination

The Kerlan Collection's box for Ellen Raskin's book Figgs & Phantoms is chock full. There are several versions of the manuscript, plus many sketches of the visual bits that lighten the text and relieve the child reader's eye.

Figgs is one of the strangest books ever written for children. It wouldn't be published today, in my opinion. Too esoteric, too morbid, too much and not enough story (as defined today). I should really reread it before making that pronouncement, but that's what I remember from reading it a decade or so ago.

It is, in part, Raskin's homage to type, and especially the Caslon 540 italic ampersand. But it didn't start out as Caslon. Check out the crazy ampersand in this type sketch:

Raskin must have made up those flourishes without referencing real ampersand designs. By the time she was closing in on the cover, though, she had settled on Caslon 540 italic:

In this photo of the final cover type, you can see that she carefully cut apart and spaced the capital letters in FIGGS and PHANTOMS as she wanted.

Some of the other typographic and illustration goodness in the Kerlan storage box:

The title page of one of the fictional books in the Figg family book shop. I love the expression on that poor, benighted whale's face.

This tissue sketch gives specifications to the typesetter (at right) for the type that appears on page 35 of the book. The typefaces she called out: Janson, Playbill, Bodoni Bold Italic, PT Barnum, Litho Bold, Hellenic Wide, and Ultra Bodoni Italic.

The two versions of the isle of Caprichos.

Some of the sketches for the various ads that appear throughout the book...

And the typeset mechanicals of some of the other ads, with incredible borders drawn by Raskin.

And then there's the cover. First, the box included an early cover idea:

But instead, this is what the final cover ended up looking like:

Late in the process, Raskin was considering changing the tones in the faceless cover girl. While the coat ended up black, she tried out three other options for the coat, face, and hair:

These are the final mechanicals...

...showing that Raskin indicated the whole back cover should be made solid black, using one of her blue-pencil notes. She doesn't dictate, however, that the type on the spine should be reversed out of black, but the printer must have inferred that from her order to make the spine black.

This cover does not use process colors as in all of the previous work. Instead, Raskin specified two Pantone matching colors:

So the next time you get a trivia question to name the colors used on the cover of Ellen Raskin's Figgs & Phantoms, you'll know where to look it up!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ellen Raskin: The Tattooed Green Potato

Ellen Raskin's third novel was The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues. I've written about the book's content before, but the Kerlan collection has the production materials for the cover, plus a bonus bit of fun history.

First is the black-and-white artwork Raskin created with pen and ink:

Note (if you zoom in) that the inking is done in the pointillist style used by tattoo artists.

Then there are the rubylith overlays, cut by Raskin, to indicate the color use. These would have been photographed by the printer and made into negatives, just like they would photograph the black-and-white artwork. (Red is seen as black by the camera.)

This is the yellow plate, covering the entire background of the book.

Here's the red (magenta) plate, which calls out the flowers, wooden base of the easel, and a few other items.

On this (and the blue) separation, you'll see there are blue pencil notes indicating different percentages of coverage -- 60 percent, 30 percent, and so on. (Blue pencil like this is invisible to the camera.) The printer would have dropped half-tone screens with the appropriate dot coverage into those areas on the negatives, rather than leaving them solid.

Note that if two areas of different tints were touching, then Raskin used ink to draw a keyline around the area, rather than cutting rubylith. For instance, check out the cloth drape that covers the left side of the canvas in the illustration -- she drew a keyline for the shape and marked inside it to indicate it should be 100 percent red (magenta). When you overprint that transparent magenta ink onto the 100 percent yellow from the other plate, you get a bright, solid red on the final printed cover.

Finally, the blue (cyan) plate. This also has heavy coverage over the background (with the 100 percent yellow, that will make a solid green background). Raskin has also indicated some blue tints to create lighter green colors for the back cover's plant foliage.

The overlays are taped on in layers over the primary black artwork. Here they are all stacked up (and held in place by the hands of Daughter Number Three-Point-One). The only parts that show through as white are the painting's canvas -- where the title will be printed -- plus the clock face and a couple of small parts on the pipe and the paintbrush. (I can't figure out why the title area on the spine, which is white in the printed version, is set up to be yellow on this rubylith. It makes me think perhaps Raskin changed her mind about that color use after she saw the final proof.)

When you print all of those overlapping inks, as in this printed copy of the cover... get more colors -- 100 percent yellow overlaying 100 cyan for the deep green, or yellow overprinting magenta to make red. Notice the darker orange in the spine banner and the lighter orange in the easel and flower.

The fun extra bit of history was a note, dated November 18, 1974, from Raskin's publisher that accompanied the artwork and separations in the Kerlan box:

In the note, the production department suggested that they pull back the blue from the background because they thought the green was too dark, and therefore "the color values are too equal overall." Instead of 100 percent cyan, they suggested changing the blue to 60 or 70 percent. This would be more attractive, they thought, "and not fight with all the other color values."

Raskin's response is written at the bottom:

11/21 - Called. No. I like it just as is. ER
Here's what the difference in the two greens would have been like:

That change would have been pretty significant, changing the look of the palette from primary colors to something that's more springy or hopeful or something... I think Raskin made the right call.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ellen Raskin: Mysterious Disappearances

The first book I read by Ellen Raskin was The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), and it's probably still my favorite among all of her works. 

It's a silly mystery book, full of clues, jokes, and puns. It's thoroughly steeped in the cultural world of the 1960s, too. Reading it not long after it appears in 1971 was a literary highlight of my childhood.

The Kerlan Collection doesn't have a lot of material from Leon, though: Just some of the inside artwork. But it's still worth seeing.

These are pen and ink drawings, with one exception: The dress of the main character (Caroline Fish/Mrs. Carillon), which is cut from a sheet of asterisks printed on photo paper from a phototypesetting machine. (Remember those patterned dresses on the We Alcotts book cover?)

Here, the young Caroline Fish is manhandled by Miss Anna Oglethorpe while at school.

After marrying Leon Carillon, and then losing him to his mysterious disappearance, Mrs. Carillon contemplates her search for him across the United States.

Here, Mrs. Carillon is joined by her tall banker (named Mr. Banks), her adopted Siamese twins Tony and Tina (no, they are not the same sex), and her new/old friend Augie, in the football helmet.

At the book's end, I don't think it's giving too much away to say there's a happy ending, and Mrs. Carillon finally gets to change out of the asterisk dress.

The hand-lettering in these drawings is incredible. If you zoom in to look closer, you can see that Raskin meticulously retouched along the edges of almost every letter with white paint.

There are eight other illustrations in the book, including the cover, which are not in the Kerlan Collection, as far as I could see. I wonder where they are? Maybe they're in another box that I missed... I will have to go back and check.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Tweets of September 2015

September 2015: Not a bad month. (Compared to 2014, at least, when the ebola crisis started. Remember that?)

First, there are a few about the latest Republican debate:

GOP debate in a nutshell: I'll unite the country! That's why I oppose women's rights, pot smokers, the Supreme Court, and minorities.
By Hemant Mehta

The idea that the president is a national Father responsible for “keeping us safe” is right up there with “homeland” on the creepy scale.
By David Roberts

"My brother, he kept us safe." In that "other than that how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?" kind of way
By Tom Tomorrow
Which runs right into the latest Trump tweets:
Donald Trump would not enjoy being president. At all. I wonder if he knows that. The presidency is massive responsibility and accountability in a context of highly, highly constrained action. Bluster won’t get you sh*t.
By David Roberts

To paraphrase Sam Kriss, what's the point of keeping Iran from getting the bomb if we're going to give it to Donald Trump?
By Ludovic Lesage

New poll shows Fiorina gaining ground with gullible rubes, but Trump's support staying strong with racist shitheads.
By Frank Conniff

We're never getting back all these hours we've had to spend thinking about Donald Trump.
By Tom Tomorrow

This [watching Donald Trump and Bobby Jindal trade insults] is like watching herpes fight lead poisoning.
By Saladin Ahmed

Best Possible Outcome: Trump is a Borat sequel.
By Aaron Fullerton

The aesthetics of the Trump campaign look like a political campaign as represented in a Batman movie.
By Christopher Hayes
Then there was the kerfuffle over Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage licenses in Kentucky:
To say this Kim Davis thing is evidence of a war on Christianity is like saying there's a war on cars because you can't drive on the sidewalk.
By Andy Richter

Sigh. —Kim Davis is not Rosa Parks. Kim Davis is the bus driver, unjustly prevented from being able to force Rosa Parks to sit in the back.
By Kip Manley

No one's being jailed for practicing her religion. Someone's being jailed for using the government to force others to practice her religion.
By Rachel Held Evans

If your religion says that allowing two consenting adults to live happily ever after is punishable by eternal torture, maybe examine that.
By Todd Ditchendorf
There were a good number of education tweets this month, once again:
The fact that children across the United States are not guaranteed the right to play is an abomination.
By Nikhil Goyal

Learning is not a ladder. Children are far more complex than a linear progression model implies.
By Alison Peacock

At my son's middle school, "tests" are now referred to as "celebrations of knowledge." George Orwell would be proud.
By Jonathan Mugan

I think we worry too much about test scores and not enough about the mental health of our kids in schools today.
By John Gunnell

I say it again: “zero tolerance” school policies are machines, to be operated by unskilled labor, that grind up kids.
By Andy Ihnatko
Those segue into the story of Ahmed Muhammed, the 14-year-old Texas boy who made the mistake of bringing a homemade clock to school…
Saying "We mistook the clock for a bomb" is a real greasy way of side-stepping the truth: "We mistook the kid for a bomb-maker."
By J.A. Myerson

Was the bomb squad called? Was the school evacuated? No. They knew this wasn't a real threat, they just wanted to put a kid in his place.
By dansinker

STEM: how to build a clock.
HUMANITIES: how to build world in which students of color are not arrested for building clocks.
By Jonathan S.
I don't know what kind of country arrests a kid for building a clock, but suspect it's not one that will be a leader in science in 20 years.
By Cate Huston
And then on to the best of the rest.
Hard to mock ancient cultures for relying on mystics when our justice system is based on what five dudes think dead slave-owners would want.
By Sean McElwee

Deray McKesson on the Nightly Show:

By ShordeeDooWhop

"30 writers under 30 who are telling the same old fucking stories using the same old fucking forms." How about an award list/big magazine spread for writers who published their first book *after* 30? Stop fetishizing pretty young rich kids.
  • A literary award open only to working mothers.
  • A literary award where you're ineligible if your parents paid for your college.
  • Women who raised kids before publishing, PoC who weren't born into networks, working class writers -
'Under 30' lists diss all these folks.
By Saladin Ahmed

Portland has met the Kyoto carbon emission reductions, even while growing.
By jennifer keesmaat

Twitter: A series of messages in bottles. Facebook: A Christmas letter about everything forever.
By Chris Steller

Protip: it’s easier to get a nation addicted to warm, sugary milk if you call it "coffee."
By David Roberts

What I find to be the most common dynamic in American discussions of race is the desire for cheap absolution. Or false comparatives. "Other people have done worse." Like Pol Pot saying "But what about Stalin?" Often this takes the form of minimization or acceptance of fanciful narratives that make slavery out to be a sort interracial collaboration. This all-consuming desire for a false innocence leads to bizarre conclusions -- like blacks should be grateful for the end of slavery.
By jelani cobb

It sees to me the argument against reparations is essentially an argument against government.
By Patrick LaSalle

Heartwarming! Experts say divestment has grown into 'large, threatening' force for oil, coal companies.
By Bill McKibben

"Opinions are like nipples. Everybody has them, but men get to share theirs in public." via Isaac Wolkerstorfer
By Jess Erickson

How few Americans ever question the colonies' justifications in taking up arms against the British Crown, though the privations of the American colonies were minor in comparison to what the enslaved populace suffered for centuries. Yet the same Americans who praise the colonists for fighting over comparatively minor excesses deride slavery as oppression. The American Revolution was born of disputes that arose after the 7 years war. The revolutionary ferment grew quickly and led to war. But the British never created an organized regimen of rape toward the colonies. Never declared them literal property.
By jelani cobb

Truck driver is the No. 1 occupation in a number of U.S. states.
By David Roberts

Stop talking about WMDs falling into 'the wrong hands,' and start asking why on Earth you believe there's such a thing as 'the right hands.'
By Saladin Ahmed

Forget 'developing' poor countries, it's time to 'de-develop' rich countries.
By Nikhil Goyal

If it's a silent majority, why does it use caps lock so much?
By Josh Barro

Volkswagen's deceit is just 1 example of many in the auto industry, thanks to weak, underfunded govt regulation.
By Alfie Kohn

Complaining about parking meters = classic first world problem.
By William Lindeke

Honestly, the fact that he's willing to cry in public is about the only thing I *don't* find utterly despicable about John Boehner.
By Saladin Ahmed

When someone tells you "this isn’t a game,” they usually mean it is a game but you need to follow their rules.
By Aparna Nancherla

Here's the problem with the people who talk about stopping climate change and ending poverty: Very few of them are talking about capitalism.
By Nikhil Goyal

To consider persons & events & situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell. - Thomas Merton
By Saladin Ahmed

Today’s Right Wing doesn’t want "religious liberty," they want Christianity affirmed as the dominant religion. Can we all stop pretending otherwise?
By David Roberts

Disappointment is a dish best served to the person next to you.
By Aparna Nancherla

Neocolonialism loves to disguise itself as meritocracy.
By Arash Daneshzadeh

Guitar solo faces make so much more sense when the guitars are replaced with slugs:

By Matt Bloom

Fares are for rationing, not revenue. Policing costs can be added to the long list of auto sprawl subsidy.
By Free Public Transit

Here's a little secret: If you are partnered with the IMF and the World Bank, you will not end poverty. You will massively increase it.
By Nikhil Goyal

The construct of masculinity is toxic as fuck. It is actually hurting you. Gender binaries & forced conformity to gender roles IS TOXIC. One of the major differences between feminism & men's rights is that feminism actually seeks to liberate men from a toxic gender role.
By Elle of Oakland

Disappointed to learn that the International Cave Bear Symposium is a gathering of palaeontologists, not cave bears.
By Ed Yong

What’s up with this marxist pope? Jesus explicitly told us to acquire pharmaceutical companies and jack up prices 5,000% for cancer patients. “Actually R&D is pretty expensive, you selfish AIDS patient" were, I think Jesus' exact words. In the Bible. Which is true.
By Matt Bors

You know our pharmaceutical industry is totally broken when it attracts people who would otherwise be hedge fund mangers.
By Katherine Elliott

Conservatives love the welfare state for soldiers and unions for cops. Not contradictory because people always want good things for their people.
By Matt Bruenig

"Turbulent year for race relations" = black Americans refusing to remain second class citizens.
By Bree Newsome

The way to end mass incarceration: stop putting most people in prison, let lots of people out. Fewer cops, fewer crimes, shorter sentences.
By David Kaib

I heard a guy today spell "Prima Donna" as "PRE-Madonna.” You know, like someone who's so obnoxious they're almost becoming Madonna.
By Jonathan Foley

Have you never had an abortion? Will you never need an abortion? Do you not understand abortion? GREAT! You're in charge of abortion!
By jamiekilstein

"Motorized vehicles create remoteness which they alone can shrink." —Ivan Illich, 1973:

By Taras Grescoe

Ad revenue will continue to play a key role in funding journalism, but ad-blocking is a direct response to incredibly user-hostile choices.
By Christa Mrgan

Why run a country like a business? Why not like a family or like a community?
By Soul Khan

The ability to appear “authentic” in a public setting is a skill that has virtually nothing to do with authenticity.
By David Roberts

One of the most vile discourses in the US right now (spreading cancerlike through anglophone media) is that wanting to be paid is mercenary.
By Katherine Cross

Protip: "Militant" does not necessarily mean "violent."
By Occubrarian Rachel

The problem with gyms is that they're run by people who like to work out.
By Rainbow Rowell

There's nothing wrong with black folks that eliminating racism wouldn't cure. But it's surprising how hard that is for some folks to believe
By blackink12

You mark my words, hipsters:

By bruce lawson

If your Personal Beliefs deny what’s objectively true about the world, then they're more accurately called Personal Delusions.
By Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is called "crown shyness." In some tree species the canopies don't touch. [photo: Patrice78500]:

By Ziya Tong

If only people dedicated half as much energy toward stopping rapists as they do telling survivors how to heal and live their lives...
By Occubrarian Rachel

Show me a plate of sweet potato fries, and I will show you a diner who wishes they'd ordered regular fries.
By Greg Morabito

Reform is cute, has social capital, gets attn. Organizing is DAILY ARDUOUS work that rarely gets the credit it deserves.
By Camara Mpinduzi

When cars took over cities we lost our civic space. Can we make infrastructure useful and beautiful again?
By Sprawl Repair Manual

Invoking 9/11 to attack diplomacy with Iran would be like criticizing Nixon going to China because of Pearl Harbor.
By Christopher Hayes

You are not sitting in traffic. You are causing a global climate crisis, destroying the social cohesion of your community, and getting fat.
By Bike Lobby

[On September 11th] Today is the day that people who don't want us to remember slavery, Jim Crow, or continued genocides against people of color want us never to forget 9/11.
By Son of Baldwin

This opinion piece takes it as an article of faith that more police = better neighborhood. There is mounting evidence that mass incarceration has made neighborhoods LESS safe by destroying community bonds… Everyone agrees decent neighborhoods are a good thing. But there is ZERO evidence that more arrests helps.
By Alan Mills

If dirtbags were out here protesting every time a synagogue was built, the media wouldn't treat it as a 'controversy' with 'two sides.'
By Saladin Ahmed

How do other writers write anything during the day? It’s like trying to juggle while random passers-by pelt you with debris.
By David Roberts

Fourth Estate #Fail:

By CharliePatrick

The state, the street and the home form of a trifecta of misogyny that shares obsession of virginity and controlling women's sexuality.
By Mona Eltahawy

What's certain is that as long as there's a large industry that benefits from scandal, there will be scandal. And casual news consumers will never, in the end, know whether it was real or BS. It is the nature of the industry never to settle the question.
By David Roberts

“We fear kidnapping when childhood obesity is a far more pernicious and common danger...”
By jennifer keesmaat

Two sidewalk people I never stop for: Person with Clipboard & Person Who Asks Me If They Can Ask Me A Question.
By Robert O. Simonson

Oliver Sacks never used the internet. In case you wondered how he accomplished so much and led such an interesting life.
By Erika Hall

In the bitter, unappreciated irony of the plant world, plants are only green because that's the wavelength of visible light they -reject-.
By Jacquelyn Gill

Life hack: if someone makes a racist/sexist joke, say, with total seriousness, “I don’t get it, can you explain it.” Then watch them crash.
By flexan

“Between 2005-2013, about 16% of low-wage workers had some of their wages stolen each year.” [quoting the Washington Post]
By Stephen Pimpare

Just 4% of U.S. parents believe an understanding of other cultures will be critical to their children's success.
By Simon Kemp

So Walter Isaacson says we don't "think big" anymore. I wonder if 30 years of government-bashing has anything to do with it.
By George Colombo

So many U.S. political dramas result from our absurd, opaque, corrupt, veto-point-ridden system of government. Yet we almost never discuss it. As though if we just elect more courageous, "authentic" people, the structural barriers can be blown down through sheer force of will. In my experience, people really hate systemic explanations. They want to think all problems can be traced to the venality of individual politicians. It is a recipe for an endless cycle of raised hopes and crushing disappointment. Practically designed to make people cynical about government. And as we know, disgust and cynicism about government help one party a lot more than they help the other.
By David Roberts

Black herons use canopy feeding to catch fish that are lured into the shade they make with their wings:

By Strange Animals

Schrödinger’s immigrant “lazes around on benefits whilst simultaneously stealing your job.”
By Alex Tabarrok

I need to join Parentheticals Anonymous.
By David Roberts

While I'm on a rant: DON'T send me some outrageous racist/sexist shit and demand "Thoughts?”. I have a life beyond getting angry on demand.
By Mona Eltahawy

Donations are good but strong public policy is profoundly better. #Syria
By jennifer keesmaat

Since Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, criminalizing black insistence on human rights has basically been the standard response. I can't actually think of a black political protest where the response wasn't either "This leads to crime" or "This IS crime." "Negro goon squads have reportedly been organized to intimidate Negroes who ride Montgomery City Line buses." - Montgomery Advertiser, 1955. Motherfuckers called Rosa Parks and MLK a "Negro Goon Squad." This ain't new. There is no point in American History when the demand by black people for equality was not declared by powerful people to be criminal. None.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Whoever came up with "like taking candy from a baby" as a synonym for "easy and painless" has never met a baby.
By Tim Carvell

Private financing of elections works for billionaires & courtiers, but not for a democracy made up of free leaders from every walk of life.
By zephyrteachout

When all you have is a car, everything looks like a road.
By Bike Lobby

Childhood is now a curated experience for the rich, and a desperate challenge full of lotteries…for everyone else.

There needs to be a special word for NIMBY-induced rage.
By David Roberts

I like the word Egyptology cause it suggests that one day there will be Americology to try to find out what the fuck we were all doing.
By drewtoothpaste

Selling a cake is 'participating in same sex marriage.' Selling a gun isn’t 'participating in murder.' For some reason.
By Gareth Davies

Imagine thinking this is an indictment of welfare, not capitalism:

By Charles Davis

YOU DO NOT GET IT: DENALI is a threat to ALL the things named after white dudes who had nothing to do with them!
By hodgman

I hate the neologism "owned" for "scored a victory over." I have no intention of owning anyone, and nobody will ever own me.
By Richard Dawkins

I still don't think "cheating" [on your spouse] is an easy way to gauge someone's moral compass. The fact that it's so common just means divorce is hard.
By Molly Priesmeyer

66% of food service workers and 52% of retail workers have at most a week’s notice of their schedules.
By Fight For 15

IMO, the proper utility role is:
a) rationalizing/coordinating energy services markets,
b) consumer protection within those markets,
c) maintaining the grid.
Access to the grid, for purposes of buying/selling energy services, should be open to all, like access to internet.
By David Roberts

I wonder what people who type "ur" and "ppl" do with all the time they save.
By BangsRBetterThnBotox

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ellen Raskin: Freak Show

No, this isn't a post about a season of American Horror Story. In 1971, Ellen Raskin published a picture book called The World's Greatest Freak Show. (You can see lots of images of the book's pages in my earlier post about the Milwaukee Public Library's collection of Raskin books.)

Freak Show is Raskin's weightiest picture book. As I wrote earlier,

The story tells of Alastair, a good-looking young man who recruits a group of "freaks" (two-headed man, etc.) to appear in a show in a nearby country. Little does Alastair suspect, but the country's entire population is made up of people who would usually be considered freaks, and he's the one who is considered to be a freak...

I have my theories about how Freak Show's story would have resonated for Raskin, as a Jew from German Milwaukee, an art geek, and a woman with a chronic, disabling illness.
A couple of the photos I took of items in this Kerlan Collection box make good contrasts with my photos from Milwaukee:

First, the cover dummy. Note that the title is typeset here, but because Raskin wanted her name to be yellow, she has painted over the type. Also notice that she used plastic rule tape around the art, instead of inking that line. (The tape is unraveling on the right side of the art.)

The inside pages of the dummy are also fun to see. This photo shows a printed page from the book (above right) contrasted with the dummy of the same spread. Raskin's production method for the dummy is to reproduce the artwork (using photocopies), and then represent the spot colors with self-adhesive color-overlay film. She would have cut out each of those areas of color with an X-Acto knife.

Next, the "blueline" of the whole book. This is a production piece, created as a final proof not long before printing. The film negatives (later used to create the expensive printing plates) are used to expose cheap, light-weight photo paper that turns blue once processed. The printer then turns those photo prints into a booklet in the same size as the finished book. In this era of printing methods, it was the last chance to catch an error before printing.

Other items in the box:

This is Raskin's neatly typed (and even designed) list of all the items in the box. She would have made this by typing the text and then rubbing down the numbers from a sheet of Letraset type. (What kind of perfectionist does that for a list of materials in a box?)

You can see in these sketches of the book's main characters how she worked on their expressions and overall appearances.

Finally, there is the original art for her beautiful pages. That theater marquee is a marvel.

I love the water that roils across the fold on this spread.

I don't own a copy of The World's Greatest Freak Show at this point (I've only seen it once, while visiting Milwaukee), but seeing the materials at the Kerlan Collection reminds me that I need to change that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ellen Raskin: Illustrator

Ellen Raskin is best known these days as the writer of the Newbery-Award-winning middle-grade book The Westing Game. Altogether, she published four novels over seven years, wrote and illustrated 12 picture books over 10 years, and illustrated a couple dozen picture books by other writers in about 15 years.

But before all of that, she was a graphic designer and illustrator in the New York market. I imagine most of her work has been lost in the sea of ephemera (though a couple of well-known pieces are the covers of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle and A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas). The Kerlan collection includes a few gems to represent this part of Raskin's career.

There's a whole box of illustrations she did for the New York Times in the early 1960s. The Times used to do a tourist calendar, it appears, and Raskin was hired several times to provide spot illustrations for hundreds of holidays and places. It's overwhelming to look at them all, but here are just a few. (As always, you can click to enlarge the images.)

The art often includes hand-written production notes. In this case, mortise means that the text would be placed to run around the tops of these illustrations.

I love this hooded guy... standing between a pair of ice skates and an ox cart. I'm not sure what culture he's supposed to be from. I assume it's not the Klan.

Likewise this woman -- I'm not sure what she represents, but she's a bit spooky.

Raskin's lettering is under-appreciated, in my opinion. She fits well within the era's Cartoon Modern vibe.

These trees are just wonderful.... are all of these different house styles. Imagine the work that went into finding visual reference to be able to draw these.

I especially love this mashup of European building styles.

This piece is also a good example one part of Raskin's technique. The art is generally inked on some lower-quality paper, and I think it has been waxed on the back as an adhesive, though it might be rubber cement. Whichever, it has browned the paper, except in the spots where Raskin touched up with white paint. There you can see how the art would have originally looked against the formerly white background.

How about those guys with the feathers on their heads? It looks like the one on the right is sneaking up on the one on the left, ready to stab him with the sword.

This piece includes a note, written in red China marker, to indicate the Times engraving department should make each piece into a separate block for printing. (Though they make a nice composition as is, in my opinion.)

The collection also holds a few covers Raskin did for others' books.

The 1968 illustrations for We Alcotts presage the look of the art in Raskin's 1971 novel The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon, I'd say.

This hand-painted mock-up of the cover for a book called People in Palestine... paired with a printed version, where the color has been shifted away from magenta to red in some of the figures.

An original black and white painting of people laboring in a field of crops... paired with the printed, tone-on-tone version, where the people pop out of the background because the teal ink overprints the plants, leaving the people in clear, single colors.

Finally, this proposed cover illustration for Elizabeth George Speare's 1962 Newbery-winner The Bronze Bow:

I'm not sure if this is an ink illustration or if Raskin did, perhaps, a linoleum cut. (This is a general question I have about many of her illustrations, given the textures in the solid black areas.)

She then took that illustration and mocked up this cover wrapper on brown craft paper, casting the people in shades of red and adding in inked lettering to represent the proposed typesetting. She also painted white spears into each soldier's hands.

I don't know why the publisher didn't use Raskin's cover (going with this work by Gilbert Riswold instead). But the collection does include a 1975 note from someone at Houghton Mifflin to Raskin:

Aside from some social pleasantries, it includes these words from editor Walter Lorraine:

As a coincidence we have been cleaning out our art file here and discovered an old, old drawing you did for another Newbery book called THE BRONZE BOW. What's that saying about dead horses rising to the surface. Oh well, it is a nice piece of art even though it wasn't used and I thought you would like to have it back.
That note is a glimpse of the life of an illustrator: you put in a bunch of work and then the piece doesn't get used. You (hopefully) get paid what's called a "kill fee," and you move on.