Weekend Reads: Online Privacy, Simone Biles, Paris Hilton, the Tulsa race massacre

Recommended weekend reading material for June 5, 2021.

Every week, I compile a list of interesting and thought-provoking articles to offer you some enjoyable weekend reading material.

If you’ve ever wondered why you see the ads that you do on social media, then this Twitter thread is for you.

I’m back from a week at my mom’s house and now I’m getting ads for her toothpaste brand, the brand I’ve been putting in my mouth for a week. We never talked about this brand or googled it or anything like that.

As a privacy tech worker, let me explain why this is happening.

Via Daring Fireball.

Related: If you’re tired of seeing these ads and you’re on an iPhone or iPad, then be sure to disable app tracking.


The Polygon staff has compiled a list of the 50 best original movies of the streaming era.

These picks don’t just enumerate the best that your Wi-Fi connection has to offer, they also double as a history of a new form of at-home status quo. From the Oscar contenders to the little-seen foreign imports, from the hysterical horror shows to the resurgent romcoms, these are the films dispelling the myth that Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and their cohorts are intrinsically lesser than their theatrical competitors.

Not surprisingly, Netflix dominates the list, but Amazon and Hulu make a strong showing, too.


The history of role-playing games doesn’t begin with Dungeons & Dragons. It stretches back for centuries, even to knightly tournaments.

As time went on, tournaments started to become less about the fighting and more about storytelling as myths and legends were created around the knights present. A tournament held in 1468 by the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, was one of the most extreme examples of this. Many of the attendants dressed up as famous figures from legend and history, as well as forcing their squires to dress for the occasion. Elaborate displays were erected, such as golden trees that were hung with the attending knights’ coats of arms. Anthony of Luxembourg, an attending noble, was locked into a tower that could only be opened by a golden key. This type of large-scale event brings up images of modern-day cosplay and group games, such as escape rooms.


Why is Simone Biles — who is undoubtedly the world’s greatest gymnast — being penalized for being so good?

Gymnastics routines are judged and scored based on their execution and difficulty. But rather than recognize or reward Biles’ exceedingly difficult routines and moves with the added points they deserve for their difficulty, judges have often undervalued her performances that include historic completion of new moves. The rationale for this scoring has often been that there are safety risks for other gymnasts who aren't able to complete the moves that Biles is, if her moves are rewarded with high scores and other gymnasts are then motivated to try them.


Vox’s Constance Grady has announced a new series titled The Purity Chronicles.

We’ll take a look back at the sexual and gendered mores and values of the late ’90s and 2000s, one pop culture phenomenon at a time: what happened to Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera; what we learned from the WB and what we learned from the Disney Channel and what we learned from MTV.

Grady’s first article is about the Paris Hilton sex tape and what it taught our culture.

You don’t have to think that Paris Hilton is a good or admirable or even an okay person to find the circumstances of her sex tape troublesome. You don’t even need to think about how its release affected Paris Hilton to find them troublesome. You only need to think about how it affected an era of American pop culture and all of us who consumed it.


This past Memorial Day weekend, David French reflected on the Tulsa race massacre and confronting our nation’s past sins.

Indeed, one of the best things our nation does is remember and honor the men who fought, bled, and died to preserve American liberty. That’s the purpose of this very weekend. The memorials to their sacrifice deservedly and rightfully cover this country. When we look at their courage and valor — and repeat those stories to our children and grandchildren — we aren’t just remembering the past, we’re defining the present. We’re saying this is who we are.

[…]

It’s that deep emotional tie to the present that renders battles over our past so bitter and brutal. We’re more than willing to feel pride over the virtues of our ancestors. But when the past is grim, we separate ourselves. We forget. We grow defiant. “How dare you,” we say, “impose any responsibility or accountability on me for something I did not do.”

I must confess, I knew nothing of the Tulsa race massacre until I watched HBO’s Watchmen last year. This Twitter thread provides some helpful historical context for that tragic event.


We all like to believe that our status and success are directly related to our skill and abilities, but what are the downsides to meritocracy?

Meritocracy is the most self-congratulatory of distribution principles. Its ideological alchemy transmutes property into praise, material inequality into personal superiority. It licenses the rich and powerful to view themselves as productive geniuses. While this effect is most spectacular among the elite, nearly any accomplishment can be viewed through meritocratic eyes. Graduating from high school, artistic success or simply having money can all be seen as evidence of talent and effort. By the same token, worldly failures becomes signs of personal defects, providing a reason why those at the bottom of the social hierarchy deserve to remain there.


The recent shut down of Donald Trump’s blog, writes Casey Newton, tells us a whole lot about Twitter’s power.

Tweets are simply more powerful than posts on a website. They can be re-shared to a global audience with a single click; they can attract new followers by the millions; and they can set the agenda for many of the world’s most prominent journalists. Trump’s rapid retreat from blogging highlights the degree to which he depended on free reach — not free speech — to advance his malign agenda.

Related: Donald Trump’s Facebook ban has been extended for another two years, and will be re-evaluated after that time period. Via Daring Fireball.


From the Blog

Our family recently enjoyed Netflix’s High on the Hog, an excellent food documentary series that looks at the various ways that African American culture and cuisine have shaped American culture. From my review:

[W]hat struck me during the series’ four episodes — which you can easily knock out in a weekend — is the sense of pride that both Satterfield and his various interviewees exude. It’s a pride that comes from knowing that their enslaved ancestors didn’t just survive horrific abuse but actually found the will and means to thrive and build a culture in spite of it, and pride in their own efforts to celebrate and pay respect to their ancestors by bringing that culture to modern audiences.

In some cases, this means opening high-end restaurants and hosting celebrated events where dishes that have been passed down, from generation to generation, are given a modern spin that still captures their original essence. In other cases, it means hosting a large community barbecue where every part of the hog is used and transformed into a hearty meal, or traveling to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for a dish of macaroni and cheese just like his enslaved chef James Hemings would’ve prepared back in the 18th century.


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