BANKING | HOUSING
WHILE WRONGED HOMEOWNERS GOT $300 A PIECE IN FORECLOSURE SETTLEMENT, CONSULTANTS WHO HELPED PROTECT THE BANKS GOT $2 BILLION
Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
. . . the government ordered banks to hire “independent” consultants to examine their loan files to see just exactly how corrupt they were.
Now it comes out that not only were these consultants not so independent, not only did they very likely skew the numbers seriously in favor of the banks, and not only were these few consultants paid over $2 billion (over 20 percent of the entire settlement amount) while the average homeowner only received $300 in the deal – in addition to all of that, it appears that federal regulators will not turn over the evidence of impropriety they discovered during these reviews to homeowners who may want to sue the banks.
In other words, the government not only ordered the banks to hire consultants who may have gamed the foreclosure settlement in favor of the banks, but the regulators themselves are hiding the information from the public in order to shield the banks from further lawsuits.
Joseph Wallace | Vimeo
“Ivor’s life is turned upside down after a falling plant pot sparks a series of paranoid reactions.”
Graduation film from Newport Film School. Created in eight months. Shot with a Canon 5D and DragonFrame. Almost everything made from cardboard.
Phil Plait | Bad Astronomy | Slate
According to the Guardian, a 25-year-old man was found dead in his apartment in Swansea Thursday. Gareth Colfer-Williams was known to have measles at the time of his death. . . Either way, this tragic death has focused attention again on what’s happening in Wales. More than 800 people have been diagnosed with measles in Swansea in this recent outbreak. People are lining up to get their vaccinations, and a campaign has been started to get more people vaccinated, which is a good thing; I just hope it’s in time. But with so many people contracting the illness, serious repercussions are almost inevitable.
. . . Wales has had low Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates for some time … since about 1998, in fact, when Andrew Wakefield published his bogus study in the Lancet falsely linking the MMR vaccine to autism.
It’s easy to lay all this misery at Wakefield’s feet, but there’s plenty to go around. The Lancet should never have published it (many of the co-authors later withdrew their names from the paper). Tony Blair, then prime minister of Britain, declined to reveal whether his own son had gotten the MMR vaccine, prompting rumors it wasn’t safe. (Bizarrely, years later, Cherie Blair, Tony’s wife, said they had given their son the vaccine; how many people would’ve been spared misery had they simply stated the truth?) Newspapers printed ghastly articles linking vaccines and autism. And groups like the Australian Vaccination Network spread—and continue to spread—outright falsehoods about vaccines. Many of these groups actively support Wakefield.
Ayun Halliday | Open Culture
The relationship of movie star to critic isn’t always as parasitic and fraught as you might imagine. Witness Tilda Swinton bouncing around the Virginia Theater in Champaign Illinois, urging audience members to get up and dance in honor of the late Roger Ebert. (He gave high praise to Swinton’s 2009 film Julia, one of the offerings in this year’s Ebertfest.)
Prior to leaping into the audience to the strains of Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything”, the actress decreed participation was mandatory, no voyeurism allowed. With Ebert’s widow, Chaz, busting some serious moves in support
Gary Gutting |The Stone| The New York Times
Media tend to present almost any scientific result they report as valuable for guiding our lives, with the entire series of reports accumulating a vast body of practical knowledge. In fact, most scientific results are of no immediate practical value; they merely move us one small step closer to a final result that may be truly useful. Too many news reports present experimental results as providing good advice on which we can reliably act. In most cases those results would be better viewed as mistakes pointing to a next step that will be a bit less mistaken.
Science reporting would be much improved if we had a labeling system that made clear a given study’s place in the scientific process. Is it merely a preliminary result (a small-scale heuristic study meant to suggest a hypothesis that will itself require many stages of further testing before we have a reliable conclusion)? Is it a larger-scale observational study (showing a correlation but by no means establishing a causal connection)? Is it a large-sample randomized controlled test (establishing a causal connection, given specific conditions)? Or, finally, is it a well-established scientific law that we know how to apply in a wide range of conditions?
William Egginton | The Stone | The New York Times
In 1927 a young German physicist published a paper that would turn the scientific world on its head. Until that time, classical physics had assumed that when a particle’s position and velocity were known, its future trajectory could be calculated. Werner Heisenberg demonstrated that this condition was actually impossible: we cannot know with precision both a particle’s location and its velocity, and the more precisely we know the one, the less we can know the other. Five years later he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for having laid the foundations of quantum physics.
This discovery has all the hallmarks of a modern scientific breakthrough; so it may be surprising to learn that the uncertainty principle was intuited by Heisenberg’s contemporary, the Argentine poet and fiction writer Jorge Luis Borges, and predicted by philosophers centuries and even millenniums before him.
While Borges did not comment on the revolution in physics that was occurring during his lifetime, he was obsessively concerned with paradoxes, and in particular those of the Greek philosopher Zeno. As he wrote in one of his essays: “Let us admit what all the idealists admit: the hallucinatory character of the world. Let us do what no idealist has done: let us look for unrealities that confirm that character. We will find them, I believe, in the antinomies of Kant and in the dialectic of Zeno.”
In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of “time crystals” — physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. Unlike clocks or any other known objects, time crystals derive their movement not from stored energy but from a break in the symmetry of time, enabling a special form of perpetual motion.
“Most research in physics is continuations of things that have gone before,” said Wilczek, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This, he said, was “kind of outside the box.”
Wilczek’s idea met with a muted response from physicists. Here was a brilliant professor known for developing exotic theories that later entered the mainstream, including the existence of particles called axions and anyons, and discovering a property of nuclear forces known as asymptotic freedom (for which he shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 2004). But perpetual motion, deemed impossible by the fundamental laws of physics, was hard to swallow. Did the work constitute a major breakthrough or faulty logic? Jakub Zakrzewski, a professor of physics and head of atomic optics at Jagiellonian University in Poland who wrote a perspective on the research that accompanied Wilczek’s publication, says: “I simply don’t know.”
Now, a technological advance has made it possible for physicists to test the idea. They plan to build a time crystal, not in the hope that this perpetuum mobile will generate an endless supply of energy (as inventors have striven in vain to do for more than a thousand years) but that it will yield a better theory of time itself.
Bronto House | Vimeo
A pilot, marooned on a strange planet, is on a journey to find his crashed space ship. On his way, his physical and mental capabilities are put to the test within this alien environment.
Bronto House Animation is a group of 6 students from San Jose State University’s Animation Illustration Program. We love film.
More info available at brontohouse.com
Richard Brody | The Front Row | The New Yorker
With “Spring Breakers” and “Pain & Gain” (which opens today), it’s the year of amateur-criminals-in-Florida movies, and a third film in the batch, also opening today (at the Cinema Village and on national video-on-demand), is the best of them: Amy Seimetz’s “Sun Don’t Shine.” I saw it nearly a year ago, at the Maryland Film Festival and again, last fall, at the La Di Da Festival at 92Y Tribeca. (My capsule review is in the magazine this week.) It’s an instant classic of lovers on the run; though made for a low budget, it’s got performances and ideas to rival those in movies at any scale. Seimetz starts the movie at a furious pitch and in medias res, with its two young protagonists, Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) in the midst of a knock-down muddy brawl that for all of its brutality exudes a wayward and desperate tenderness that is the movie’s emotional core.
Terence Nance’s wondrously inventive first feature, “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” also opens today (at Cinema Village and Film Society of Lincoln Center). It, too, is a story of romantic frenzy, but of an entirely different sort. (My capsule review is in this week’s issue, too.) Its director is also its protagonist, a young man who worries that he is oversimplifying the beauty of the woman he loves—and who makes an amazingly and delightfully complex film to say so. It’s an intricate collection of frames within frames, a takeoff from Nance’s 2006 short film, “How Would You Feel?,” in which he poses his romantic frustrations in his pursuit of the woman as a problem to which he has no answer other than to pose the very question in a kaleidoscopic range of registers—confessional history, animation, archival footage, interviews, self-documentation on the film festival circuit, and even fragments of a film by his beloved, Namik Minter, as she attempts to respond to his depiction of her. As Nance poses his questions in an ever more sincerely self-questioning, self-revealing, self-doubting mode, he gains in inner and outer experience. His frenetic performance in the name of love, a feature-length troubadour poem meant to win a woman’s heart, becomes the very sediment of wisdom.
Jeff Hamadi | Booooooom! | Kuksi.com
Sandra Steingraber | Orion
As the nation’s largest energy storage and transportation company, Inergy provides the infrastructure for fracking—including within states like New York, where high-volume, horizontal fracking is not allowed. Missouri-based Inergy has purchased more than 500 acres of lakeshore property along the banks of our state’s largest and deepest lake. Seneca Lake is so large and deep that it creates its own temperature stabilizing microclimate, which provides the necessary ecological conditions for our state’s world-class Riesling grapes. Wineries flourish on the hillsides about both banks of the Finger Lake. Inergy is interested in neither the wine grapes nor our unique climate. It does not care about Seneca Lake’s designation as the Lake Trout Capital of the world, nor the tranquil views that draw tourists and fill summer cottages. Nor, more basically, with the fact that Seneca Lake is the drinking water source for 100,000 people.
Inergy’s interest is, instead, focused on the landscape below the surface—namely the abandoned caverns left over from a century of solution salt mining that lie 1,500 feet beneath and beside the lake shore. Inergy’s plan is to repurpose these salt caverns to serve as storage for billions of barrels of fracked gases, which will be brought to Seneca Lake by rail and by truck from other states. However, these fuels will not be stored in barrels. The caverns themselves will serve as the receptacle for the pressurized, liquefied, explosive gases.
The Seneca Lake 12—as we arrestees call ourselves—fear that Inergy’s planned storage facilities pose serious risks, including calamitous ones. As journalist Peter Mantius reports in DC Bureau, salt caverns represented only 7 percent of the nation’s 407 underground storage sites for gas in 2002, but, between 1972 and 2004, they were responsible for all ten catastrophic accidents involving gas storage. In Belle Rose, Louisiana, the fourteen-acre sinkhole that is now making headlines was caused by the collapse of a gas-filled salt cavern. As a result, surface and groundwater have been contaminated,and an entire community faces relocation.
Gyimya Gariba | Vimeo
A film inspired by Accra ,Ghana -where I was born and raised.
Made at Sheridan College 2013. There’s obviously so many things I would change/ do differently but I’m glad I was able to make it. Messed up a lot ,learned a lot but I had to keep reminding myself it was my first short film not my last. Hope you enjoy it :).
Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & His Creations // “Akoko Ba”
Jaroslava Klepikova | colormolor.com | via Booooooom!
Emag (acrylic on canvass 110×80)
Okinawa Girls (acrylic on canvass 75×105)
Soba Attack (acrylic on canvass 100×80)
Sunglasses (acrylic on canvass 80×110)
Akita (acrylic on canvass 110×80)
Michael Kimmelman | The New York Times
CAIRO — The telltale signs in post-revolutionary Egypt are not just the riots and rapes, the mega-traffic snarls and sectarian battles. There is also the highway ramp in Ard El Lewa.
After the revolution two years ago, working-class residents of that vast informal neighborhood, tired of having no direct access to the 45-mile-long Ring Road, took matters into their own hands. In the absence of functioning government, they built ramps from dirt, sand and trash. Then they invited the police to open a kiosk at the interchange.
. . . A struggle — and also a race — pits the forces of collapse against the halting emergence of a new urban class, born in the aftermath of the revolution. Egyptians have long been experts at fending for themselves in a top-down system where the president ruled by fiat and the government was unaccountable. But now they must improvise as never before.
This means that Egyptians are figuring out anew how they relate to one another and to the city they have always occupied without quite fully owning — figuring out how to create that city for themselves, politically and socially, as well as with bricks and mortar. Headlines have naturally focused on the macro-battles, but the bird’s-eye view does not always reveal what is happening at street level, on corners and in neighborhoods, where daily life today means navigating new relationships with fellow citizens and the spaces they share.
Chuck Salter | Fast Company
Jerry Paffendorf’s Imagination Station was an art and performance space sitting near Detroit’s iconic eyesore: the windowless, 18-story Michigan Central Station. He and some neighbors had bought two houses and a field for $6,000 and renovated the property as a goodwill gesture and an expression of faith in his adopted home. Paffendorf, tall and iPad-trim with wire-rimmed glasses and the musing air of a professor, moved to Detroit four years ago from Silicon Valley. He’d grown sick of the Valley treadmill. The last straw: He was pushed out of a company he founded. Moving to Detroit wasn’t such a wild leap. It had been the Silicon Valley of its day–an innovation hub, the fount of a global industry, a kingdom. Now it is a refuge for techies looking to tackle real problems.
Paffendorf’s startup, Loveland Technologies, created a website called “Why Don’t We Own This?” It addresses one of Detroit’s biggest problems: abandoned property. Detroit is big, covering 139 square miles, enough to hold Boston, Manhattan, and San Francisco. Yet over the past 60 years, its population has shrunk from 1.8 million to just over 700,000. As a result, thousands of foreclosed, government-owned lots go up for auction for as little as a few hundred dollars. Identifying those properties is a labyrinth for anyone without a real estate license. Loveland’s website provides a simplified and information-rich online map of auction property for anyone looking to buy. Renters, too, can learn if a building is on the verge of foreclosure.
ANDY DIDOROSI:“But then one morning in January , I saw the headline in The Detroit News online: light rail is dead. And unlike the old days, when you’re mad and you throw your newspaper down, I couldn’t because in Detroit the paper only gets delivered three days a week; so I scrolled down real hard. I was furious. This train wasn’t going to fix everything, but it was going to be the symbol of a new era in Detroit. I thought, I need to do something myself. But what can I afford? I bought some old school buses.
“I approached the business the way a 6-year-old would. What would people like on the buses? Well, people would like music. So we put good sound systems in. And the buses couldn’t stay yellow, so I paid Detroit artists to paint them. And I thought people would like to know where the buses were at any moment, so we found some free apps that allow you to see where the bus is. And finally we asked where would people like buses, and we thought, Woodward Avenue–we’ll drive buses up and down Woodward.
“Then, I looked into it: What is it going to take for me to start a bus company? I called up the Michigan Department of Transportation, and they’re like, ‘What? You want to start a public bus company yourself?’ They didn’t even know that I was 25. ‘Well, you need insurance,’ they told me.
“So I called the insurance company, and they’re like, ‘You want to do what?’ They said, ‘Okay, insurance is going to be $90,000 a bus.’ I was defeated. My buses cost $2,000. Why is the insurance that much?
“So I called them back. This time I tell them, ‘I want to create a private bus system that just goes from one bar to another bar. And they’re like, ‘Oh, no problem, we do that all the time.’ So then I had a bus company.
Joseph | Vimeo
Music video for “Babe’s Lair” by Walt & Vervain. soundcloud.com/walt-vervain
For a man who’s wasting his time in the tired souls’ cave…
A tribute to the german expressionists, Lotte Reiniger, and Limbo.
Michael Gallucci | The AV Club | amazon
Afraid Of Heights sounds bigger and more ambitious than anything Nathan Williams’ former backyard solo project has ever recorded. The big-name producer and studio certainly help; so does the three-year break between Afraid Of Heights and 2010’s breakthrough King Of The Beach. But unlike Wavves’ previous records (including two simply titled Wavves), Afraid Of Heights doesn’t sound like it’s filled with first-take toss-offs. The lo-fi garage surf stomp feels worn in this time, like Williams and partner Stephen Pope actually stepped away from the bong long enough to give the mixes a second listen.
It starts with a killer one-two hit: “Sail To The Sun” and “Demon To Lean On” roll out crashing surf-punk and a guitar-powered midtempo love song, respectively, finding solid footing among the jagged edges that would have tripped Wavves in the past. There’s definitely more confidence in the songs, but there’s also a sense that Williams has grown up in the three years since King Of The Beach. Plus, “Demon To Lean On” would make a great Nirvana B-side if Williams were a more passionate singer.