Friday links! Critical theory vs. everything edition

Jacques Derrida, who is always like, "Why aren't you reading a book?"

Jacques Derrida, who is always like, “Why aren’t you reading a book?”

Welcome to another privileged discourse from the “author” of Combat! blog, where I exploit my socioeconomic advantage as a website owner to perform the act of “free” speech. As a cis white male, I hope you’ll find my opinions reflective of larger power structures. Obviously, writing them down and publishing them on the internet is indefensible. Any Marxist, post-colonialist, or even close reading troubles the notion of auhtor(ial)ity, until the very act of producing a work for public consumption becomes an immoral expression of solipsism. Today is Friday, and critical theory condemns that. Won’t you seize the high ground with me?

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After beating Marbut by 30 points in 2012, Dudik barely wins new district

The 2003-2013 electoral map divided Missoula into nine convenient house districts.

The 2003-2013 electoral map divided Missoula into nine convenient House districts.

As my mother clearly remembers, two weeks ago I used my column in the Missoula Independent to make light of the electoral prospects of one Gary Marbut, Missoula gun activist and candidate to represent the newly-drawn Montana House District 94. Marbut could not possibly win, I reasoned, since his opponent Kimberley Dudik beat him 67% to 33% in 2012. That was in HD 99, though. When the Montana Districting and Apportionment Committee redrew the lines last year, Dudik’s district lost the westside and downtown Missoula and picked up half of Frenchtown. The consequences of that redistricting are clear: Dudik won her 2014 contest against Marbut by a mere 29 votes, 50.43% to 49.57%. How we draw the lines matters. It might matter more than how we vote. I wrote about it in this week’s column in the Independent, and you should probably read it. Gerrymandering is boring, but it’s also one of the most important issues facing contemporary American democracy. Don’t worry: we’ll be back tomorrow with links to videos of people falling off of things.



Mathematician explains “hipster effect” of synchronized rebellion

A hipster or possibly mathematician

A hipster or possibly mathematician

The Polish Hammer sent me this rad explanation of a recently published paper on the mathematical forces behind synchronized nonconformity. Contrary to Business Week, the paper does not prove that hipsters all look the same. The hipsters in mathematician Jonathan Touboul’s model look the same because he set it up as a binary: a field of othello tiles that can flip between two looks, punk and normcore. Some of the tiles are conformist—meaning they flip to adopt the same look as the majority of tiles around them—and others are hipster, meaning they flip to adopt the opposite look from the tiles around them. The Washington Post explains it better than I do, but the upshot is that when Touboul introduced a one-turn delay in information about surrounding tiles, the hipsters began to simultaneously adopt the same look in waves.

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Close Readings: An alarming message from

You know that scene in Scanners where the guy's head blows up?

You ever seen that scene in Scanners where the dude’s head blows up?

Caption readers are hereby issued an apology for the compound movie reference. Link clickers are issued an apology for the quality of that video. And health insurance exchange customers are issued their usual packet of vague information and warnings. We also got an email beginning with this sentence:

You’re unique, so why should your health plan be any different?

Uh…[explodes.] Close reading of why this sentence is a threat to skull integrity after the jump.

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Facebook News Feed shows you 29% of friends’ posts

Facebook's sorting algorithm

Facebook’s sorting algorithm

Before you freak out, that 29% figure is not scientific. It’s from research conducted by the Washington Post’s Tom Herrera, who last summer counted all the posts his Facebook friends produced in a 24-hour period and cross-referenced them with what appeared in his News Feed. No one outside Facebook knows how the News Feed algorithm actually works, since gaming it is a multimillion-dollar industry. But the old Facebook, where you friended people and then saw everything they shared on a homepage, has been defunct since 2008. The new Facebook tracks your behavior on the site and customizes your News Feed to show you only what you really care about—in my case, baby pictures and articles about catcalling.

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