Charlotte Allen (who graduated from Stanford) examines the massive income inequality and “new feudalism” in Silicon Valley—as a sign of what’s happening across the United States:
Google is visually impressive, but this frenzy of energy and hipness hasn’t generated large numbers of jobs, much less what we think of as middle-class jobs, the kinds of unglamorous but solid employment that generates annual household incomes between $44,000 and $155,000. The state of California (according to a 2011 study by the Public Policy Institute of California) could boast in 1980 that some 60 percent of its families were middle-income as measured in today’s dollars, but by 2010 only 48 percent of California families fell into that category, and the income gap between the state’s highest and lowest earners had doubled. In Silicon Valley there has actually been a net job loss in tech-related industries over the past decade. According to figures collected by Joel Kotkin, the dotcom crash wiped out 70,000 jobs in the valley in a little over a single year, and since then the tech industry has added only 30,000 new ones, leaving the bay region with a net 40,000fewer jobs than existed in 2001.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 27, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5470 words)
An investigation reveals that the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit at the end of movies has come to mean almost nothing, and the American Humane Association has faced complaints about its lack of oversight:
“Last week we almost f—king killed King in the water tank," American Humane Association monitor Gina Johnson confided in an email to a colleague on April 7, 2011, about the star tiger in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. While many scenes featuring “Richard Parker,” the Bengal tiger who shares a lifeboat with a boy lost at sea, were created using CGI technology, King, very much a real animal, was employed when the digital version wouldn’t suffice. “This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side,” Johnson wrote. “Damn near drowned.”
King’s trainer eventually snagged him with a catch rope and dragged him to one side of the tank, where he scrambled out to safety.
“I think this goes without saying but DON’T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE!” Johnson continued in the email, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “I have downplayed the f— out of it.”
PUBLISHED: Nov. 26, 2013
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7075 words)
A look inside the early notebooks of the Dodge brothers, who broke away from Henry Ford to build their own startup 100 years ago:
While they already made two fortunes from their relationship with Ford, by 1913 they were not thrilled about continuing to make parts for the Model T. If you think automotive technology changes rapidly today, imagine how quickly things advanced a century ago. In five years the Model T went from state of the art to technologically lagging its competitors but Henry thought it was the perfect car. Ironically, by the time the T started selling in really huge numbers in the nineteen teens it was obsolete and being technologically surpassed by by more modern cars. The Dodges were good engineers, probably the best machinists in Detroit next to Henry Leland. The term “mechanical genius” could have been coined for Horace Dodge and his brother John was almost as adept with his own management skills. By 1914 the Dodge brothers, who already owned and operated what was probably most advanced automotive plant in the world in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck, wanted to build modern machines.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1810 words)
A history of the Texas textbook wars, and questions of whether those seeking to influence changes to textbooks can hold onto their power:
But highly placed stakeholders — ranging from those in publishing to sitting board members — believe the culture warriors are losing the ability to run roughshod over state education. After years of alienating the Legislature, the state board has seen its influence weakened. A changing textbook marketplace has eroded Texas’ clout, and technology is sweeping into the classroom, bringing with it the next generation of learning materials. The statewide reach of the culture warriors is ending.
The biggest test will take place when the state board considers a new high-school biology text next week. Another will follow in the ensuing months, as it takes up a new social studies text. How the state board and publishers respond to Bohlin’s critiques, to his evolutionary “gaps,” will determine whether the innuendo of God lingers in classroom discussions about evolution. It will determine whether the political ideology of an elected board shapes, by omission and addition, the history of America Texas students will learn for years hence.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 14, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5072 words)
When the math and business model don’t quite work out for a tech startup, even if the product is beloved:
While its talented team obsessed over the look and features of its product, user growth failed to keep pace. Starting in June, Latour tried to raise $5 million to give Everpix more time to become profitable. When those efforts faltered, he began pursuing an acquisition. Everpix had tentatively agreed last month to be acquired by Path, according to a source close to the social network. But Path’s executive team killed the deal at the last minute, leaving Everpix adrift.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 5, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2861 words)
Shannon Mattern was obsessed with office supplies when she was young—here she explores the many ways we once used to file and store paperwork, which once “constituted approximately ninety percent of the activity” in an office:
Filing tools—the spindle file, the pigeonhole file, the bellows file, the flat file, the Shannon file, the vertical file—have been around for centuries. But the First World War gave rise to a new era of business that generated an explosion of paperwork, and that paperwork needed to be filed away. “With the growth of businesses, the departmentalizing of activities, and the necessity of depending upon the written word rather than upon memory,” Johnson and Kallaus write, “[t]he person who is responsible for the orderly arrangement of those papers has one of the most responsible positions in any business office.” Those individuals who held the new and noble position of “Records Manager” had to know “where each piece of paper originates and why, how many copies of it are necessary, how these flow through the different offices and departments, where they are stored temporarily and how, and what their end may be,” whether immediate destruction, destruction after being archived, or temporary or long-term retention.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 29, 2013
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2296 words)
The story of how Ireland became a global hub for tax avoidance, with companies including Google, Apple, Intel and others all taking advantage. Feargal O’Rourke is credited with helping create an environment where companies can come to Ireland to avoid taxes they’d face in their home countries:
“Under no circumstances is Ireland a tax haven,” O’Rourke said recently at his corner office on the River Liffey in Dublin, a ritual stop for many tech companies in their Irish quest. “I’m a player in this game and we play by the rules.”
PUBLISHED: Oct. 28, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3021 words)
Our story picks of the week, featuring The New Yorker, MIT Technology Review, BuzzFeed, Wired and Gawker, plus a guest pick by Andrew Pantazi.
“It is a 40-square-block island of poverty and squalor.” The Tenderloin remains one of the seediest neighborhoods in San Francisco, mostly unchanged despite gentrification and an influx of tech money into the city. Can the neighborhood change—and just as importantly, should it?
"If there is one ironclad rule that governs cities, it’s that money and poor people don’t mix. Once money appears, poor people disappear. Most American cities used to have Tenderloin-like neighborhoods downtown, but in almost all cases, those neighborhoods have been gentrified out of existence. Take New York’s Bowery, a name synonymous with flophouses and alcoholic despair as recently as the 1990s. Today it gleams with luxury hotels, shops, galleries, and museums. Or Los Angeles’ downtown, long a skid row Siberia, now a bustling yuppie dreamscape. Similar changes have occurred in cities as disparate in size and disposition as Vancouver, London, San Diego, and Dallas.
“By rights, the TL ought to be suffering the same fate.”
PUBLISHED: Oct. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6528 words)