War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Trump Won in a Landslide.

Nate Silver, writing for FiveThirtyEight:

Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway — perhaps seeking to push back on the increasing attention to Hillary Clinton’s widening lead in the national popular vote — has been touting her boss’s margin of victory in the Electoral College. With Trump officially declared the winner in Michigan on Monday, he’s got 306 electoral votes — 56.9 percent of the available total of 538 and nothing to sneeze at. That’s more than George W. Bush got in either of his Electoral College victories, making it the highest total for a Republican since 1988.

Swastiskas on synagogues don’t scare me nearly as much as propaganda like this that Conway is seeking to spread. In the Age of Trump, little lies like these are what we need to be vigilant about dispelling.


How New York Harbor Pilots Master These Treacherous Waters

Shayla Love, writing for Gothamist:

He was tall for 13, but lanky. The burly crewmen dwarfed him. The captain offered the pair black coffee and Blake accepted, to feel like one of the grown-ups. The ship was transporting molasses and the air had a thick sweet smell, overpowering enough that when Blake steps on a molasses ship today, he is immediately taken back to that moment: the bitter black coffee, and the warm, sickly smell of sugar.

“That was not a good night,” Blake said. “But when my father walked up on the bridge of the ship, it was like he was king. He’s in charge. Ever since then, this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a pilot.”

I happen to be very good friends with a Sandy Hook harbor pilot and I can vouch for the article; everything he has explained to me about the job over the years really is that fucking crazy.


The Doomsday Invention

Raffi Khatchadourian, writing for The New Yorker:

He believes that the future can be studied with the same meticulousness as the past, even if the conclusions are far less firm. “It may be highly unpredictable where a traveller will be one hour after the start of her journey, yet predictable that after five hours she will be at her destination,” he once argued. “The very long-term future of humanity may be relatively easy to predict.” He offers an example: if history were reset, the industrial revolution might occur at a different time, or in a different place, or perhaps not at all, with innovation instead occurring in increments over hundreds of years. In the short term, predicting technological achievements in the counter-history might not be possible; but after, say, a hundred thousand years it is easier to imagine that all the same inventions would have emerged.

Bistro calls this the Technological Completion Conjecture: “If scientific- and technological-development efforts do not effectively cease, then all important basic capabilities that could be obtained through some possible technology will be obtained.” In light of this, he suspects that the farther into the future one looks the less likely it seems that life will continue as it is. He favors the far ends of possibility: humanity becomes transcendent or it perishes.

In the nineteen-nineties, as these ideas crystallized in his thinking, Bostrom began to give more attention to the question of extinction. He did not believe that doomsday was imminent. His interest was in risk, like an insurance agent’s. No matter how improbable extinction may be, Bostrom argues, its consequences are near-infinitely bad; thus, even the tiniest step toward reducing the chance that it will happen is near-­infinitely valuable. At times, he uses arithmetical sketches to illustrate this point. Imagining one of his utopian scenarios—trillions of digital minds thriving across the cosmos—he reasons that, if there is even a one-per-cent chance of this happening, the expected value of reducing an existential threat by a billionth of a billionth of one per cent would be worth a hundred billion times the value of a billion present-day lives. Put more simply: he believes that his work could dwarf the moral importance of anything else.

I don’t remember the last time that I read something that effected me on an emotional level so much. I’ve been having dreams about this article. I can’t stop thinking about it.


How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained

Dan Nosowitz, writing for Atlas Obscura:

“Don’t eat gabagool, Grandma,” says Meadow Soprano on an early episode of The Sopranos, perhaps the most famous depiction of Jersey Italian culture in the past few decades. “It’s nothing but fat and nitrates.” The pronunciation of “gabagool,” a mutation of the word "capicola," might surprise a casual viewer, although it and words like it should be familiar to viewers of other New Jersey-based shows like the now-defunct Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, where food often drives conversation. The casts are heavily Italian-American, but few of them can actually speak, in any real way, the Italian language. Regardless, when they talk about food, even food that’s widely known by the non-Italian population, they often use a specific accent.

And it’s a weird one.

A pesky kid, I learned the answer to where all the end vowel-dropping came from a long time ago, but I’m glad the rest of the Atlas Obscura-reading world gets to know now too.


Why Do We Admire Mobsters?

Maria Konnikova, writing for The New Yorker:

t’s no surprise that family members paint idyllic pictures of their mobster ancestors. Every mobster was also a father, brother, uncle, or grandfather, and—at least theoretically—his villainy didn’t spill over into those roles. The real question is why so many other people feel the same way. We don’t glamorize all violent crime; no one holds the Son of Sam or Charles Manson in high regard. (It’s hard to imagine their descendants gathering for a celebratory dinner at a steakhouse.) So why are Al Capone, Lansky, Arnold Rothstein, Luciano, and their ilk held up as mythic figures, even heroes of a sort, not just by their families but by the general public? Why are members of the Italian mafia treated more like celebrities than unsavory criminals?

Loaded article. This could easily be a book-length discussion.


Study of Holocaust Survivors Finds Trauma Passed on to Children's Genes

Helen Thomson, writing for The Guardian:

Her team’s work is the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance” - the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.

As per the norm, this potentially history-changing discovery is hardly news-worthy. But at least we’re all up-to-date on Donald Trump’s latest milk mustache.

/via John Roderick


John Hersey’s ‘Hiroshima’

Joshua Rothman, writing for The New Yorker:

Thursday is the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. To mark it, we’ve made all of “Hiroshima,” John Hersey’s landmark 1946 report on the bombing and its aftermath, available online.

Hersey began working on “Hiroshima” in 1945, when William Shawn, who was then the managing editor of The New Yorker, pointed out that, although the bombing had been widely written about, the victims’ stories still remained untold. After going to Japan and interviewing survivors, Hersey decided to show the bombing through six pairs of eyes. Originally, “Hiroshima” was planned as a four-part series. In the end, however, it was all published in a single issue, in August of 1946. There was nothing unusual about the cover, which showed ordinary people enjoying summertime. Inside, however, there was only “Hiroshima”—no Talk of the Town, no cartoons, no reviews. The piece’s impact was immediate. Parts of it were excerpted in newspapers around the world, and it was read, in its entirety, on the radio.

Today, “Hiroshima” is undiminished in its intensity. 

A novella-length article (I’ve seen people writing that it’s around 30K words) that reads much, much quicker, as all good journalism does. It’s an incredible document, obviously an astounding story, and, in my opinion, a must-read for any student of politics or history.

My tip—write down the six individuals' names and occupations (which Hersey explains in the first paragraph) so that you can go back and reference them the first couple of times he switches perspectives. And as is the norm with this piece, here’s the first paragraph:

At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order’s three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man’s house in Koi, the city’s western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.

American Jews Eat and Chinese Food on Christmas

Adam Chandler, The Atlantic:

The story begins during the halcyon days of the Lower East Side where, as Jennifer 8. Lee, the producer of ‘The Search for General Tso,’ said, “Jews and Chinese were the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups” at the turn of the century.

So while it’s true that Chinese restaurants were notably open on Sundays and during holidays when other restaurants would be closed, the two groups were linked not only by proximity, but by otherness. Jewish affinity for Chinese food “reveals a lot about immigration history and what it’s like to be outsiders,” she explained.

I like the idea that, through exclusion, some people still found a way to feel included.


Kim Jong-il’s Sushi Chef

Adam Johnson:

All the men wore military uniforms except for one imperious fellow in a casual sports tracksuit. This man was curious about the fish. He asked Fujimoto about the marbled, fleshy cuts he was preparing.

"That's toro," Fujimoto told him.

For the rest of the night, this man kept calling out, "Toro, one more!"

The next day, Fujimoto was talking to the mamasan of his hotel. She was holding a newspaper, the official Rodong Sinmun, and on the front page was a photo of the man in the tracksuit. Fujimoto told her this was the man he'd just served dinner.

"She started trembling," Fujimoto said of the moment he realized the man's true identity. "Then I started trembling."

The man in the tracksuit invited Fujimoto back to make more sushi. Fujimoto didn't speak Korean, so he had a government-appointed interpreter with him at all times. At the end of the evening, a valet handed the interpreter an envelope.

"From Jang-gun-nim," the valet said.

Perhaps the reason Fujimoto hadn't known he'd been serving Kim Jong-il was because "no one ever called him by his real name," Fujimoto said. "Never."

I’m an hour out from having a 19 month-old puke pomegranate arils and Tylenol and milk all over me, so I can’t really remember why or where I found this, but here it is. As I read, I had to stop and keep reminding myself that, according to the author, anyway, this was all true.