Kochs Buying ‘Time,’ Threatening Free Speech

It’s official: after months of speculation and two failed attempts, Meredith is buying Time Inc, with ample help from the reliably right-wing Koch brothers.

This is just the latest story about conservative figures snapping up or consolidating struggling media outlets: American Media bought Us Weekly earlier this year from Wenner Media, basically securing their hold on supermarket tabloids — they also publish the National Enquirer, the National Examiner and Star, reaching and shaping millions of voters in the process — and Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of 193 television stations in 100 markets that reach 40% of the market, is hoping to merge with Tribune Media, a deal that would extend their reach into New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

While FCC rules prohibit such massive, monopolistic media solidifications Donald Trump’s pick over there, Ajit Pai, is helping clear the opposition so that the pro-Trump company can have its way. Pai’s also helping the Trump administration eliminate Net Neutrality, effectively allowing telecommunications companies to restrict access and content they deem unacceptable. This is all extremely frightening — and not simply because the interests here are all conservative.

The consolidation of so much media by any political group or interest poses a grave threat to free speech, free speech that’s already being assaulted by none-other than the President of the United States. If we want our democracy to be the best it can be, we need opposing views to inform the public; control of the media by one political party or another just takes the nation one step closer to dictatorial territory. Sure, freedom of speech may exist in such a climate, but does it matter if its drowned out by bigger, more powerful and more omnipresent outlets?

14 Things You Don’t Know About Log Cabins

The log cabin is more complicated than you may think. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it, one beginning with the question, “Why is the log cabin a BFD in the USA?”

You can learn the fully labyrinthine and altogether fascinating answer in said book, The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History. But as you wait for your copy to arrive, here are 14 things you never knew about log cabins, plus two tangentially related factoids, too.

1. No Log Cabins in Plymouth:

We’ve all seen school books and Thanksgiving cards depicting cheery Pilgrims building log cabins, images that cast the structure as the invention of English settlers, as America’s first true home. But that’s all bunk.

The truth of the matter is that English colonists didn’t live in log cabins. They didn’t even know how to make  log cabins. Accustomed to fine brick and frame homes back home, that’s what they built when they got here. Well, not immediately.

First, they slummed it in subterranean dugouts, waiting in the mud until planks could be cut and bricks kiln-fired. It was not a good look… Luckily these ugly bits would be edited out in the centuries ahead.

2. The Swedes and Finns Did It:

So, if the English didn’t bring log cabins to American shores, then who? I guess the sub-header here sort of spoils the beans, but, yes, it was the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden who erected America’s first log cabins. They and their ancestors had been building them for generations, so whipping them together here was simple as pie. But they didn’t make a lasting impression.

New Sweden was so small in population and so short-lived — it fell to the Dutch in 1655 and the land was brought under British rule in 1664 — that it had very little pull in colonial culture at large. Their English and Dutch neighbors weren’t about to copy their homes; Swedish and Finnish log cabins were therefore anomalies in this era, and the structure probably would have faded into oblivion had it not been for the thousands of immigrants who started arriving in the 1700s.

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The Original Definition of “Harass” Is Most Apt

1. Harassment. We all know the word. Or, I hope we all know the word — just as I hope we all have a general sense of its meaning, something along the lines of Merriam-Webster’s definition of the verb “harass,” “to create an unpleasant or hostile situation…especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct.” But this common conception is in fact the second, newer interpretation of the word; it’s original definition is both more and less specific and altogether appropriate in today’s context.

Briefly used in the 1610s as “to lay waste,” mainstream usage of “harass” shifted in the 1620s, veering toward “to vex by repeated attacks,” a definition derived from the 16th century French verb harasser, or “to tire out.” Though the specific origin of the French harasser remains hazy, the Online Etymology Dictionary suggests it comes from a mélange of harer, an Old French term for “to provoke or set a dog on,” and the equally Old French harier, as in “to draw [out] or drag [on].” In this light, “harassment” is tenacious and corrosive, pernicious and erosive. Defined by MW as “exhaust or fatigue,” harassment in this light is by definition perpetual and ongoing, a fact to which many women can attest.

Though the term “sexual harassment” didn’t arise until the early 1970s, the pairing of those two words couldn’t be more fitting. Women since time immemorial have been cat called and harangued, pinched and poked, raped and molested, and generally treated like objects by predatory men.* They have been tormented by repeated, caustic incidents like those we’re reading about on the daily. Thankfully, we’re seeing a backlash against such virulent behavior. All the repetitive and successive intrusions meant to erode women’s wherewithal have prepared them for this watershed moment we’re experiencing today. Now it’s time for men like Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose et al. to be vexed themselves.

(*I know it’s not only women who face harassment — Terry Crews and Tony Goldwyn have come forward with their own stories of being manhandled and verbally harassed, and half-a-dozen men have already accused Kevin Spacey of harassing and/or assaulting them — but women are harassed more often and openly than men.)

(For more Fun with Words, click HERE.)

Gucci v. Gender Inequality: VIDEO

For those of you who think fashion is just vapidity and glitz, I urge you to check out Artsy’s new Gucci-backed video series about gender inequality in the world of art.

In this installment, “Past,” artists Barbara Zucker, Faith Ringgold, Lynn Hershman Leeson and Joan Semmel discusses the barriers they faced coming up in the art world, including Hershman Leeson’s admission that she invented male art critics to create the credentials to find representation. Today she’s one of the most lauded and sought after artists in the world. “Present” and “Future” will be the Artsy/Gucci series’ next installments.

And, PS: this isn’t the first-time Italian luxury brand Gucci has thrown its glamorous and influential weight behind combating gendered imbalance: last year they teamed up with Beyoncé for the “Stand In Formation” initiative against gender inequality, poverty and general injustice.

Found in the LOC: 34 Pics of Animals Acting Human

You never know what you’ll find in the Library of Congress’ digital archives. I searched “pin” and came up with that image above: a kitten adorned in a dress and bowling. Obviously I had to know more, so I clicked on the “animals in human situations” link and was delivered to a collection of images by Harry Whittier Frees.

Turns out Frees, 1879-1953, was a pioneer in pet photography who posed baby animals, mostly kittens, doing all sorts of whimsical things.  The New York Daily News called him “original LOLCat photographer,” and NPR recently ran a profile on the late artist. Spoiler: like so many creative minds, Frees wound up broke and broken.

But at least Frees’ campy art lives on — and it’s adorable. Except for the ones with the dolls. They’re creepy. So, without further ado, 33 other Frees images, all taken between 1914 and 1915, AFTER THE JUMP.

And for more Found in the LOC, that’s Library of Congress, click HERE.

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Save Elephants by Hunting Elephants, Says Trump (Update)

In what may be the most grotesque move in the grotesque Trump administration’s frenzied efforts to undo all things Obama, the White House is lifting the ban on importing African elephant heads, “trophies,” acquired while hunting in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Former President Obama prohibited the practice in 2014 because African elephants are endangered, thanks in part to hunting expeditions and the ivory trade. But now, under Trump’s tutelage, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims that elephants can only be saved by hunting them, because then locals conserve elephants for more hunting. Or something.

From FWS: “…Sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

How long before we have “Trump International Elephant Farms,” where the complex and intelligent creatures are bred simply for execution?

Update: Due to massive and justified anger over this decision, Trump has decided to hold off on reversing the ban for the moment.