With the first anniversary of Mike Brown’s death approaching on Aug. 9, here at aljazeeraamerica we wanted to know what lasting changes, if any, the months of protests and inches of column space brought about.

In collaboration with echosight we brought together Michael Thomas of Ferguson and Glenford Nunez of Baltimore to tell these parallel stories: http://alj.am/35es

Nobody was a more astute chronicler of the post-war crisis of the female mind in America than Shirley Jackson. In her novels The Bird’s Nest, Hangsaman and The Haunting of Hill House, the horrors that visit the female protagonists are psychological rather than supernatural. More opportunities were available to women after the war, but they were still shackled by domesticity and their lives continued to revolve around their husbands and children. Stanley Edgar Hyman’s career overshadowed that of Jackson in her lifetime, she was often dismissed as a mere faculty wife, and her neighbors suspected her of witchcraft (though it must be admitted that Jackson took an extraordinary interest in the paranormal).

Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us—a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain—it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say “going through the motions”—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind.

This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.

—  Leslie Jamison, “The Empathy Exams” (via The Believer)

A radical 1950s scientist suggested memories could survive outside the brain — and he may have been right.

Dr. James V. McConnell was the target of Theodore “the Unabomber” Kaczynski’s 10th bomb. Why would Kaczynski, a man obsessed by a quest to rid the world of threats from modern technology and science, go after a psychology professor at a Michigan university?
Some thought it had to do with a prediction McConnell had made in the ‘70s, when he suggested that prisoners would one day be conditioned out of anti-social behavior. But McConnell was also famous for something else: in the ‘50s and ‘60s, McConnell had performed a series of memory experiments at the University of Michigan while Kaczynski was a student there — experiments that earned him a reputation as a kooky, arrogant, and deeply misguided academic who challenged everything we think we know about memory. McConnell’s radical research suggested that memories could exist outside the brain — and even be transferred between organisms. The conclusions were so outlandish and dystopian that some speculated they attracted Kaczynski’s ire.
But James McConnell may have been right.

One of my first non-nannying jobs after college involved working for an agent. I inherited the job from a friend who couldn’t take it anymore because she was made to sit on the floor next to the dog bed. But I also noticed that whenever I met her for dinner she was wearing track pants. So I showed up on day one in a suit and they built me a desk by Friday.

Max Headroom: the definitive history of the 1980s digital icon.

On Thursday, April 4th, 1985, a blast of dystopian satire hit the UK airwaves. Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future was a snarky take on media and corporate greed, told through the eyes of investigative journalist Edison Carter (Matt Frewer) and his computer-generated alter-ego: an artificial intelligence named Max Headroom.
Max became a singular ‘80s pop culture phenomenon that represented everything wonderful and horrible about the decade. Max hosted music video shows; Max interviewed celebrities; Max hawked New Coke; Max Headroom became US network television’s very first cyberpunk series. Max was inescapable — and then almost just as quickly as he had appeared, he was gone.
Thirty years after the premiere, I spoke with the writers, directors, producers, actors, make-up artists, and network executives that helped bring Max Headroom to life. And it all began, like so many things in the ‘80s, with music videos.

Celebrating HuffPost’s First 10 Years by Looking to the Next 10

The Empire State Building was lit white and green last night to celebrate HuffPost’s 10th birthday. Now, we’re looking at the Next 10, highlighting the leaders and issues we think will define the next decade. 

Below, check out our deeply reported profiles on influential figures we think will shape the decade ahead:

How Becky Bond Is Using A Mobile Company To Empower Progressive Activists

Adam Schiff Believes Washington Is Finally Ready To Reform America’s Spy Programs

Vanita Gupta Is Setting The Tone For Obama’s Civil Rights Division

Meet The Woman Helping Native American Communities Get Ready For Climate Change

Rashad Robinson Is Leading The Social Justice Movement Into The 21st Century

How Jessica Rosenworcel Is Shaping Our Digital Future

Zephyr Teachout Puts America’s Corporate Elites On Notice

Meet The Fist-Shaking Socialist Behind America’s Highest Minimum Wage

And check out more of our 10th anniversary content here.

(photo by Paige Lavender)


Were you aware there’s a new BBC2 show about the lives of the Bloomsbury Group? There is, and it’s called Life in Squares, a reference to a quote that says the group “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.” In The New Statesman, Rachel Cooke sits down with the series. You could also read Alexis Coe on Virginia Woolf and Downton Abbey.


From our definitive history of Max Headroom: how make-up and visual effects brought the “digital” celebrity to life.

Max Headroom was ostensibly a computer-generated character, but Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel knew early on that the technology wasn’t there to make that happen. The solution was to place actor Matt Frewer in prosthetic make-up with special contact lenses and a fiberglass suit, light him with a single light source that mimicked the primitive computer graphics of the time, and then shoot him against a blue screen so backgrounds could be added later.

Being underestimated — by men, by women, by themselves — is something most women have in common. We have to work harder from the outset to resist being dismissed, to attain equal footing, and then to maintain it. It’s endless, repetitive work, cut across and intensified by yet other assumptions based on accent, skin color, class, education, dress. And it’s a powerful thing, the learnt reflex to look at a woman and see someone who is by definition unaccomplished, a novice; someone’s disciple, companion, muse; someone with no power or expertise of her own. I’m not immune to it — I’ve caught myself in the act of underestimating women, of having assumed that the woman in the room isn’t the expert in the room. It’s a reflex so disturbing to notice that it’s tempting to pass over it in silence. But it’s a reflex enabled by the shocking paucity of women of authority and expertise across all media — a paucity not easily registered, so used are we to it.

Who better to review a new sci-fi book than Ursula Le Guin? The Guardian editors couldn’t think of a better candidate either. She reviewed the new story collection Three Moments of an Explosion by the English writer China Miéville. Sample quote: “Pastiche, when present, is so skilful that it can go unnoticed.” You could also read our own Bill Morris on discovering Miéville's work.


Heartache and suffering: Slavery in Brazil

Al Jazeera America follows one man as he retraces his road to exploitation in his own country

There is a journey across the north of Brazil that few who make it ever forget. It goes from the often-destitute farms and villages of the country’s northeast along disintegrating freeways and across the waters of the River Araguaia on rusting ferry boats. Down ragged red dirt tracks, it arrives at the frayed periphery of the Amazon rainforest, where the voyage ends.

This is the slavery road, along which thousands of poor workers are trafficked, threatened, beaten and made to work without pay on farms or down coalmines or deforesting the jungle. It has happened for decades and — despite efforts to combat it — is still commonplace in the world’s eighth-largest economy.

Since 2003, the government has rescued 44,483 workers from what it calls conditions analogous to slavery. But the numbers of slaves is unknown.

By  Matt Sandy in Monsenhor Gil, Brazil          

Photos by Mario Tama / Getty Images Assignment for Al Jazeera America          


Why Don’t You Act Your Age? 

Music, fashion, entertainment is cyclical. We’re forever borrowing pieces of the past and mashing them with what we’ve got in the present. And the themes of our generation that weave themselves into our lyrics aren’t radical, they’ve been sown before. But our timelines have been condensed by the influx of information on the Internet, patterns emerge sooner.

When I was 10 years old, Blink-182 was my favorite band and Enema Of The State was my soundtrack. In the 90s and early 2000s, Blink represented subversive fun and meta-commentary. Grunge of the early 90s had equated teen angst with a seriousness and misery, but Blink 182 was more accessible, more about pop-punk fun and making fun of themselves. They stood apart even from other bands in their genre, who preferred  the ultra bro-y, intense vibes. And to me now, Blink-182s harsh singing, loud guitar melodies and anthemic choruses are the epitome of pop-punk.

What’s My Age Again especially was a favorite for my tween self, every part from that instantly recognizable opening guitar riff to the absurdity of men running the streets naked.

The whole song is about the kind of bliss ignorance provides. Our man-child narrator doesn’t get Caller ID or why his girlfriend didn’t feel like making out to a soundtrack of live access television. He’s kind of a dick, but he makes a compelling point:

With many years ahead to fall in line
Why would you wish that on me?
I never wanna act my age

We attribute responsibility to age and each year seems to be hallmarked with new rules to dictate how you “should” be behaving (especially for a 10-year old girl). Blink-182 was telling me, for the first time, that none of that mattered. And for my young mind, it was nothing short of awesome. These grown adult men acting with no deference? Making no sense? In my life, adults didn’t make fools of themselves.

Last year, independent hip-hop artist Hoodie Allen released his second studio album, People Keep Talking. With it came the song Act My Age.  I loved it immediately and found it resonated with me as a 25 year-old the same way Blink 182’s What’s My Age Again resonated with me as a 10 year-old.

Sure, Blink’s lyrics are more self-deprecating, Hoodie’s got a little more confidence but nobody is being directed by the DMV orange cones of destiny.  They’re going their own way. Similarly to Blink-182’s emblematic role in a generation of pop-punk, Hoodie’s song represents this era’s music, the meld of genres: the rap-singing build up to a pop-leaning chorus. 

Before turning his attention to music full time, Hoodie Allen graduated from college and briefly worked at Google. He embodied the millennial definition of modern day, on-track success. But Hoodie left that world and this song is a celebration of that. He reminds me that of how I wish I had left that path too. I’m tired of the trite definitions of what I am meant to do and how I am meant to do them. I am tired of the path I belabored that has led me nowhere.

Gettin’ a job is like a pregnant woman givin’ birth/You’re tryna push me in the wrong direction and it fuckin’ hurts

Both songs are about almost arrogantly, purposefully going off book. Both songs are talking about shirking conformity, about seeing (and—especially for Hoodie—celebrating) your own differences.

People trying to make me change, you’d think there was a quota
Like there ain’t enough unemployed motherfuckers with diplomas

I know that in the last 15 years a lot about me has changed but apparently not my desire to do things differently. At 10, I needed to know that it was a possibility and at 25, I needed to see it be an actuality. You reach your mid-20s and suddenly, your friends are all in significant relationships, receiving promotions at their career-driven jobs—some are even having kids or starting retirement plans.

And you? You have a blog, a regularly updated Twitter feed and maybe a pet cat.

But Hoodie reminds us, like Blink did (and arguably, still does), to not give a fuck. To not feel stunted or “behind the curve” just because our lives are messy, disorganized or different. Besides, I don't think I'm ever gonna act my age.


Inside the whimsical but surprisingly dark world of Rube Goldberg machines.

The surrealism of Goldberg’s cartoon inventions — in one, someone has sent Professor Butts a mail bomb, which he uses to build a device that will blow up inflatable armbands to go swimming — is meant to entertain, but it also reveals a dark skepticism of the era in which they were made. The machines were symbols, Goldberg wrote, of “man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.” The early 20th century was a time of great technological upheaval — inventions of unprecedented complexity were introduced to the world as novelties and quickly became ubiquitous.