Snow & Zuck

There’s a WebCam
Hidden in the Toilet

Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg shared a week in the headlines. The whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s dirty secrets has a memoir out. And the Facebook’s inventor was caught on tape expressing fears of a future of greater scrutiny and accountability.
Apart from that, their notoriety, and the fact they were born within a year of each other, they’ve got little in common. One, whose daring act cost him his freedom, is an example of moral clarity, while the other embodies the very disregard for principles driving the ownership class.
The fate of their parallel lives, however, is an imperfect but still fitting metaphor for these times: follow your conscience and face exile and the hounds of the establishment. Use your privilege to generate wealth and soon you’ll get to rub elbows with the rich and the powerful.
Snowden‘s ‘Permanent Record,’ rather than boasting his ‘good guy’ image, as a slayer of sinister state-surveillance agencies, zeroes in on the fractured and the personal. It’s a humble account of surviving the pushback while still honoring ethical and private choices.
The leaked audio of Zuckerberg‘s raging about presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, throws a glare on his shrewd political calculations. As in the 2016 elections, he’s prepping his social media mammoth to play again the role of king’s maker.

Six years ago this November, they were the focus of a Colltales’ Curtain Raiser, an excerpt of which is adapted and reposted below. To many, Snowden’s woes have somehow anticipated our current reality, where a U.S. president uses the government to go after his political enemies.
Or that Facebook, which Zuck started in 2004 – a decade before the NSA scandal broke – would go on to become more powerful than many nations. After all, free, non-regulated access to private citizen’s data is now as common as using cellphones to track people down.
As in 2014, they’re still frozen together in amber: Snowden in the White House’s hit list, unlikely to receive a fair trial if he ever comes back from Russia to fight for his rights; and Zuckerberg, who along the top 0.01% of the population, controls 80% of all the planet’s resources.

‘The Big Brother age has produced its first titans whose duality mirrors the ambiguity and radical change of the way we live now. Born within a year of each other, Snow and Zuck have perhaps unwittingly, defined the times: a reboot of government accountability, or our downgrade to a totalitarian society.
They made their choices and so will we. Zuck’s created FB with one thought on his mind, besides getting dates: get rich. He achieved that by eliminating early collaborators and potential competitors, and swiftly establishing his wraparound, impenetrable hold of a niche market.
He succeeded beyond his most outlandish visions of power by conceiving and enforcing the tenet of his business model: the complete eradication of any notion of personal privacy, except his, and (more)
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Ah, Those Brazilians

Crab-Killer Waxing, Showers and the
Economy, & Fake Facebook Girlfriends

Blame it on Carnival. If you were in Brazil right now, you couldn’t possibly miss the countrywide preparations for the pagan celebration-turned-to-multi-billion dollar extravagance, which starts in a month. Since it impacts the whole country, why not its news cycle too?
It remains arguably the biggest Brazilian cultural export, and also the annual excuse for wackiness in the streets, and dreams of redemption and glory in people’s imagination. Either that or something else. Otherwise, how to explain the three themes of today’s post?
We exaggerate, of course. The expensive pre-fab debauchery now known as Carnival has little to do with what was once the cultural confluence of African slaves and their dizzying beat-driven music, and over-dressed Europeans, wishing to get lost (see: Veneza, Carnevale).
If it all sounds like a colonizer’s idealization of an ancient rite he could not understand, preserved by the official story as something the ‘natives’ used to amuse themselves, well, that’s because it sadly was. What’s left of it now is a sumptuous but ultimately kitchy visually massive parade of costumes, best experienced with an American Express expense account card.
So, what does Carnival have to do with the latest news sporting the word ‘Brazilian’ on their headlines? Not much, really, except for the general feeling that if you were in Rio at this time of the year, it’d all make sense. Since you’re apparently not, let’s hope these three stories set you up with the right mood, just in case.

In public health arenas, the past couple of decades have seen a spate of stories about the supposed negative effects the cosmetic technique known as Brazilian Waxing may cause. Mainly risks of infection, since as it totally removes pubic hair, it can also leave the body open to all sorts of parasites and micro pests.
Allegedly. There’s also a certain resistance to the very concept of going through such an extreme procedure, just to be able to publicly flaunt Continue reading

Small Classes

When PhDs Engorge Welfare Lines
& Dropouts Dream of Hitting It Big

The confirmation, last week, of the number of jobless workers with some college now exceeding those with a high school diploma or less, has reignited the age-old debate about what’s more important in the marketplace, a degree or professional expertise. Both, one would say, but things are rarely that simple.
While there are many billionaires who never finished college or who quit school early on, lack of formal education is still an excuse, at least for job recruiters, to cut down the ever increasing stack of resumes they receive. Besides, billionaires are less than one percent of the population, as the Occupy Wall Street movement helps us remember.
Still, at a time when many consider playing Lotto part of their retirement plan, while others dream about fame and fortune despite staggering odds stacked against them, it’s no wonder that the super rich example finds its way to any debate about unemployment and education, even though it has little to do with either.
Educators, political scientists and even populist politicians all routinely puzzled over the undeniable benefits but less clear practical advantages of having a degree. Specially in the U.S.’s current toxic environment for independent thinking, scientific knowledge and high-end academic achievement, all commonly associated to the number of years one spends at school.
Also, putting aside the increasing cost, rampant student debt and declining funding for research factors, however relevant to any discussion about education they may be, it’s instructive to note that if geniuses can’t be artificially raised, they hardly ever sprout without nurturing conditions.

Thus, it’s an understatement to celebrate the outstanding personal Continue reading

Help Unwanted

But Enough of Your Qualifications;
What’d You Do If the Sky Were Red?

For millions of Americans, Friday is not so good anymore: what used to be a time for excitement, the beginning of the weekend, TGIF and all that, now has a dreadful feeling. Another week is over, and it’s almost sure no one will call you back with a job offer today.
In fact, one of the travesties of unemployment is that it inverts things: suddenly, Mondays actually don’t seem so bleak. Neither Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and even Thursdays, although that’s already pushing it. At this point, frankly, who needs any more time off?
You can’t afford even a lousy Latte, and the prospect of spending any extra time with the now unrestrained frustration of your mate can’t be good for your cholesterol. All you can think about weekends these days is that the better rest of the nation is out, deservedly enjoying the mild winter, while you’re inside, feeling miserable.
So in solidarity, we’ll tell everyone a little of what you and the millions of jobless in this country have been facing out there. It’s about a bizarre world ruled by sadistic interviewers who strive at tossing one outlandish question after another at you, just to throw you off and keep a pile of resumes they’ve received to a manageable size.
There are many categories in the guise of a method for this madness. There’s the hypothetical specialist: “Sell me an invisible pen.” (P&G) The sophisticated mathematician: “Twenty-five racehorses, no stopwatch, five tracks. Figure out the top three fastest horses in the fewest number of races.” (Facebook)
The deranged sport-buff: “What is your strategy at table tennis?” (Citigroup). The teasingly insane: “Would you be okay hearing “no” from seven out of 10 customers.” (Enterprise). And the certified psycho: “If I was a genie and could give you your dream job, what and where would it be?” (Pottery Barn)
These are actual questions, asked in job interviews and reported to, an online job community that encourages people to anonymously share an inside look at companies. Which, honestly, sounds like another exercise in pure mental abnormality, but anyway.
By now, at least 15.5 million of that desolate crowd have heard at least three times over that this kind of question is designed to gauge the candidate’s ability to “think on his feet.” Or to show his “thought process.” Or it may be just because the recruiter is, indeed, deranged.
In fact, another reason for anyone to wish they had already lost their minds is the amount of career advisers and job Continue reading

About Face

We Don’t Need Another Friend, but Don’t
Throw the Book at Social Networking Yet

Facebook’s discreet rollout of its Face-Recognition feature, which so incensed its users, shouldn’t have caught anyone without their shirts on, as it just reaffirms a pattern.
After all, this is the same company that just last fall was accused of sending users’ personal information to dozens of advertising and Internet monitoring companies. Then, as now, Facebook’s attitude was less than up-front about it.
The fact that overnight billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg has a complicate public image doesn’t endear him either. A Continue reading