September 1, 2014

Chinese American

The point of American life is to take Eddie Huangs and let them fuse the styles of rappers and foodies and hipsters and more--and thereby redefine "American." This is the great U.S. advantage. But there is nothing automatically self-renewing about our inclusive civic ecosystem. It must be cultivated continuously.

People like me can offer what I call the Chinese American way--tempering raw individualism with a sense of community; adding a corrective dose of duty and propriety to a society rooted in rights and self-expression; paying heed to context and history, not just what's shiniest here and now.

This fusion is perhaps best embodied by the second generation, children of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants who grow up at the intersection of cultures. Consider Ai-jen Poo, the New York-based founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She advocates fearlessly for a workforce of poor women of color. How American. But she does so using the language of love, intergenerational care and family responsibility. How Chinese.

Or take Tony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of Zappos.com, who moved his company to dilapidated downtown Las Vegas and put $300 million of his own fortune into revitalizing it. His goal is to foster community in perhaps the country's most atomistic place--audaciously American, profoundly Chinese.

Let China make it hard for outsiders to become Chinese. The great competition today isn't really between China and the U.S. It's between the static illusion of purity and the propulsive reality of hybridity. If we choose well, my country will still prevail.

August 26, 2014

Banking, cool

The Renaissance Kids typically have their pick of investment banks, and what makes them so attractive to Wall Street -- aside from their credentials, which look good on a pitch book -- is that they're interesting. They're not carbon-copy Alex P. Keatons. They read books, can wax eloquent on nonfinancial matters, and are good at male small-talk (which female Renaissance Kids also excel at). Executives look them over and imagine them schmoozing clients, passing the airport test, and eventually taking over for them at the top of the firm.

Goldman Sachs is especially desirous of Renaissance Kids, because it's always fancied itself the thinking man's investment bank. ("I think you also have to be a complete person. You have to be interesting," Lloyd Blankfein told the bank's interns last year.) But because Goldman wants them, everyone else does, too.

The problem, for Goldman and the rest of Wall Street, is that banks aren't pulling nearly the number of Renaissance Kids they once did. These firms are having no problems drawing applicants out of college, but what I've heard from senior Wall Street hiring managers is that they're not the right kind of applicants. They're second-stringers, as far as the banks are concerned. The students these firms want to attract -- badly -- are increasingly going to Google or Facebook instead of Goldman and J.P. Morgan. (Or, almost worse, going to Goldman and J.P. Morgan, working for a year or two, and then quitting to go to Google or Facebook.)

August 20, 2014

Praise of disregard


Imagine, for example, that you receive an angry email from someone and there is nothing you can do about the person's grievances. You read it. You accept your inability to change the situation. Then you delete it. Instead of leaving it in your inbox to pull your thoughts toward an irrevocable past, the symbolic act of throwing it away frees your mental energies for more worthwhile pursuits. This is a metaphor, of course. It is probably quite easy for you to delete an email that bothers your brain. But thoughts, which are as virtual as email, can be gotten rid of as well. In all their immateriality, thoughts and emails still impose an extraordinary amount of authority and influence on our actions and frames of mind. Doing away with them has the same effect as removing a concrete obstacle from sidewalk ahead of you.

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August 19, 2014

Shaming hater trolls going to shaming hate troll

Criticism greater than pride ?

Nowadays one suspects that Joe McCarthy would have just accused his critics of "red-shaming."

Newer term, body-shaming, which Zimmer thinks was influenced by body-snarking as well as slut-shaming. The website Jezebel published one of the term's earliest uses in a 2008 headline: "No Celebrity Is Safe From Tabloid Body Shaming." Basically, body-shaming encompasses all words that people use and actions they carry out to make someone feel bad about their body. Since giving women a hard time about their bodies seems to be the American way, body-shaming is almost always directed at them.

And it has a number of more specific variations: weight-shaming, fat-shaming, skinny-shaming--basically no matter how a woman (or girl) looks, someone has a problem with it. As Stanford linguist Arnold Zwicky has pointed out, such usages of shaming have produced back formations, so you can also say someone has been fat-shamed or body-shamed.

Guys who are tired of being called creeps have absurdly claimed creep-shaming, for instance. Breast-feeding advocates are sometimes accused of formula-shaming moms. I've also seen social-media-shaming, tattoo-shaming, luxury-shaming, attendance-shaming, snack-shaming, bigot-shaming, privilege-shaming, salary-shaming, single-shaming (i.e., shaming the nonmarried or nonattached), fedora-shaming, Drake-shaming, and filter-shaming. This last word was used, with all apparent sincerity, in an article by an acne sufferer who felt "shamed" for her use of Instagram filters by "selfie queens" (a term someone else will have to unpack).

-- Mark Peters

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August 17, 2014

Flusty vs public space

Flusty believes the income inequality plaguing many American cities today is a direct result of decades of disciplinary architecture and interdictory space. By separating various economic classes in space, he says, cities and designers are both sustaining and enhancing a certain social order. A far better approach to designing public places would be creating the sort of open, democratic spaces envisioned by urbanist William Whyte in the 20th century. "Once you've got eyes on the plaza and eyes on the street and people interacting, these other sorts of threats are minimized by that," says Flusty. "That's a far more proactive and pleasant way to go about handling it."

"One thing that I think is universal about this design, no matter where you go in the world, is it has the effect of separating majorities of the population from relatively small affluent elite minorities of the population," Steven Flusty, who documented interdictory space in Los Angeles in the 1990s, tells Co.Design. "You can't have anything like a just or equitable society unless it includes spatiality."

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August 12, 2014

Automated charlatans

Now come socialbots. These automated charlatans are programmed to tweet and retweet. They have quirks, life histories and the gift of gab. Many of them have built-in databases of current events, so they can piece together phrases that seem relevant to their target audience. They have sleep-wake cycles so their fakery is more convincing, making them less prone to repetitive patterns that flag them as mere programs. Some have even been souped up by so-called persona management software, which makes them seem more real by adding matching Facebook, Reddit or Foursquare accounts, giving them an online footprint over time as they amass friends and like-minded followers.

Researchers say this new breed of bots is being designed not just with greater sophistication but also with grander goals: to sway elections, to influence the stock market, to attack governments, even to flirt with people and one another.

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