" /> Coruscation: January 2016 Archives

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January 29, 2016

She, etc

Misgendering "isn't just a style error," Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post wrote to describe a Twitter account she created following Ms. Jenner's coming out, to "politely" correct for pronoun misuse. "It's a stubborn, longtime hurdle to transgender acceptance and equality, a fundamental refusal to afford those people even basic grammatical dignity." (The Post, Ms. Dewey's employer, recently announced the term "they" would be included in its stylebook.)

And yet the learning curve remains.

I discovered recently that "trans*," with an asterisk, is now used as an umbrella term for non-cisgender identities -- simpler than listing them all (but still considered respectful). On a recent radio segment, I found out that a newer term for "cisgender" is "chromosomal," as in "chromosomal female," which denotes a person who identifies with the sex (female) she was assigned at birth. (Another way of saying that a person was "assigned female at birth" -- which does not necessarily make her a "chromosomal female" -- is A.F.A.B.).

As for the pronouns: "They" may or may not correspond with these identities -- which is why it's in anybody's best interest to simply ask. But when you do, don't make the common mistake of calling it a preferred pronoun -- as it is not considered to be "preferred."

"The language is evolving daily -- even gender reassignment, people are now calling it gender confirmation!" Jill Soloway, the creator of "Transparent," said in a recent profile in The New Yorker, making the case for "they."

"It's not intuitive at all," her girlfriend, the lesbian poet Eileen Myles, said in the article.

That doesn't even begin to delve into the debate about the evolving use of "woman" and "vagina" -- or, as some prefer to call it, "internal genitalia" -- which is perhaps a linguistic (and political) world unto its own. Mills College recently changed its school chant from "Strong women! Proud women! All women! Mills women!" to "Strong, proud, all, Mills!"

Meanwhile, Mount Holyoke prompted a response from the iconic feminist playwright Eve Ensler after canceling a performance of "The Vagina Monologues" last year (because of its narrow view of gender). (At Columbia, that play has been replaced by a production called "Beyond Cis-terhood.")

Even the venerable NPR host Terry Gross has struggled with the language, repeatedly using the incorrect pronoun when interviewing Ms. Soloway last season about her transgender father, upon whom the show is based.

"I think there are a lot of people who want to do the right thing but are struggling to play catch-up with this new gender revolution," said Ms. Mencher, a former transgender specialist at Smith College, which is one of a handful of historically women's colleges to begin accepting transgender students.

"I begin all my trainings with an invitation for participants to stumble over language, to risk being politically incorrect, to bungle their pronouns -- in the service of learning," Ms. Mencher said.

As for they: Lexicological change won't happen overnight. (Just look at the adoption of Ms.) But it does have a linguistic advantage, in that it's already part of the language.

January 21, 2016

FDIC's Signs of predatory lending

Signs of predatory lending include the lack of a fair exchange of value or loan pricing that reaches beyond the risk that a borrower represents or other customary standards.

  • Furthermore, as outlined in the interagency Expanded Examination Guidance for Subprime Lending Programs,1 "predatory lending involves at least one, and perhaps all three, of the following elements:

    Making unaffordable loans based on the assets of the borrower rather than on the borrower's ability to repay an obligation;

  • Inducing a borrower to refinance a loan repeatedly in order to charge high points and fees each time the loan is refinanced ("loan flipping"); or

  • Engaging in fraud or deception to conceal the true nature of the loan obligation, or ancillary products, from an unsuspecting or unsophisticated borrower."

January 18, 2016

Aging well and gracefully ?

Aging well and gracefully in retirement may be the goal, but getting there is often a challenge. After all, it can be traumatic to leave the working world -- particularly if your self-concept is wrapped up in your job. You might feel a loss of importance and a loss of vitality; you may grieve the loss of friendships. "A lot of people get their identity from work and they get their social interaction from work, so the idea of stopping means they're going to lose both," says Peter Cappelli, professor of management at Wharton and the director of the school's Center for Human Resources. "[You need to] respect that it's going to be a huge loss.

January 17, 2016

Lumosity lawyer needed ?

Cognitive tests used to assess participants' progress are often so similar to the training games that investigators may be "teaching to the test."

In one TV commercial, a man declared that with Lumosity "decisions come quicker. I'm more productive." The company website stated that brain training could help "patients with brain trauma, chemofog, mild cognitive impairment and more," adding that "healthy people have also used brain training to sharpen their daily lives and ward off cognitive decline."

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission said: No more.

Its complaint charged that the company could not substantiate such marketing claims. "The research it has done falls short because it doesn't show any real-world benefits," said Michelle Rusk, an F.T.C. staff lawyer.

She called the commission's yearlong investigation "part of an effort to crack down on cognitive products, especially when they're targeted to an aging population."

Lumosity agreed to give its one million current subscribers, who pay $14.95 a month or $79.95 annually, a quick way to opt out. It also accepted a $50 million judgment, all but $2 million suspended after the commission reviewed the company's financial records.

The company had already stopped making health and cognition claims, its new chief executive, Steve Berkowitz, said in an interview. But the firm settled because "we came to the realization that the most important thing we could do is focus on the future," Mr. Berkowitz said

January 16, 2016

Caliber mortgage loan modification

Lone Star and its Caliber unit have become a magnet of criticism from housing advocates and housing lawyers who complain that the companies are too quick to foreclose on delinquent borrowers or to refuse to negotiate with borrowers over terms of plans to make loans more affordable.

The private equity firm's practices in dealing with delinquent borrowers was the subject of a recent front-page article in The New York Times.

In particular, critics have taken issue with Caliber's standard loan modification that temporarily reduces a borrower's payments for five years but then reverts back to the original payment terms in the sixth year, often with all the deferred payments added to the back end of the loan. The critics contend the temporary modifications merely enable Caliber to begin collecting payments on a loan that has been delinquent for many months or years, but provide no permanent relief to a borrower whose income has declined because of a financial crisis.

Ellie Pepper, an employee of the Empire Justice Center and regional coordinator for the attorney general's homeownership protection program, said the center had worked with a number of borrowers who have been presented with a temporary five-year loan modification from Caliber.

January 15, 2016

Represent poverty through recognisably Dickensian tropes -- the too-big hand-me-down boots, the thick socks, the bad teeth ?

It's almost redundant to call the republication of In Flagrante, Chris Killip's classic work of the 1970s and 1980s, a timely one. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher punished the north for rejecting her party by refusing them any means of humane transition into a post-industrial world. Killip's depiction of the effects of this policy on the coastal towns of the north-east was a metonym for a more wholesale dismantling and dereliction. The book affords us a way we might think about how our own poverty currently looks.

The new edition is shorn of the original text by John Berger and Sylvia Grant; their collaborative essay has not aged well, and did Killip's images no favours. No scene was not apparently charged with some larger allegorical responsibility, no figure not contemplating the bleak future or the human condition -- or worse, salvaging some small redemption from the ashes; even a patch of Brussels sprouts was obliged to shoulder the burden of human hope. But there's little redemption in these photographs, and therein lies their power. (The new edition also loses Killip's own introduction, where he describes his work as "a fiction about metaphor" -- a scrupulously unhelpful remark, as much of its time as Berger's essay. I have still no idea what he means. The work is not a fiction, nor is it concerned with metaphor, if either of these words are to be conventionally defined.)

Helen and Hula Hoop, Seacoal Beach, Lynemouth, Northumberland

The 1980s were also possibly the last time we could represent poverty through recognisably Dickensian tropes -- the too-big hand-me-down boots, the thick socks, the bad teeth, the half-open flies. Killip's north looks exactly like our present idea of small-town Albania, and his subjects so deeply disenfranchised that "working class" seems an almost aspirational condition.

'In Flagrante Two' by Chris Killip is published by Steidl, £58, steidl.de. Don Paterson received the 2015 Costa Poetry Award for his most recent book, '40 Sonnets', published by Faber & Faber; faber.co.uk.

'In Flagrante Two', an exhibition of Chris Killip's photographs, is at the Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, from January 28 to February 27; yossimilo.com
Tenth Avenue between 24th and 25th Streets.

January 12, 2016

Sharp divergence between pay at the most successful companies and also-rans in the same field

Bloom believes inequality is being magnified by technological change and what's known as skills bias, where workers with a particular expertise reap the biggest reward. Neither is amenable to quick fixes.

In Professor Bloom's new paper, which he wrote with David J. Price, a Stanford graduate student, and three other economists -- Jae Song, Fatih Guvenen and Till von Wachter -- the top quarter of 1 percent of Americans appears to be pulling away from the rest.

For workers at this threshold, who earn at least $640,000 annually, their salaries rose 96 percent from 1981 to 2013, after taking account of inflation.

The trend was especially pronounced among the most successful enterprises in the American economy, creating a divergence between the highest-paid people at companies that employ more than 10,000 people and the rest of the work force. In this rarefied circle, overall pay jumped 140 percent versus a 5 percent drop for the typical employee at these corporate behemoths.

The split in compensation between executives and everyone else was much less pronounced at smaller companies, according to the research by Mr. Bloom and his colleagues. At these firms, between 1981 and 2013, top salaries rose 49 percent, while median pay rose 30 percent.

In addition, Mr. Bloom and his team also found a sharp divergence between pay at the most successful companies and also-rans in the same field -- think Apple versus BlackBerry. The highest-paid workers cluster at the winners, heightening income disparities in the overall work force.

Mr. Bloom traces the outsize gains to large grants of stock and options to top workers at big companies, with their fortunes rising in line with the performance of the stock market.

"There used to be a premium for working at a big company, even in a lower-level job," he said. "That's not true anymore. The people who have really suffered are lower-level employees at big companies."

January 11, 2016

When two people agree

Campuses like Trinity's have thick handbooks full of sexual assault resources, filled with pages upon pages of legal definitions and situational scenarios. But that doesn't mean that students necessarily understand the new policies. Yes, "consent" is now emblazoned on T-shirts and posters -- it was the subject of a recent public service initiative at Columbia, "Consent is BAE," that was criticized by students -- but even that does not ensure that students can define it.

"I think it's when two people agree to have sex, yeah?" a young woman, a junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said when approached on a recent day in Manhattan and asked if she could define "affirmative consent."

"Isn't that when only yes means yes? But not really?" said another woman, a dance and fashion major at N.Y.U.

"I know what consent is; is this different?" said a young man, a sports management major, also at N.Y.U.

Observer's Columbia's new consent is bae campaign seeing backlash-for trivializing consent.

January 9, 2016

KonMari: Philosophy of household goods at rest or in service

Discard everything that does not "spark joy," after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment -- your home already has all the storage you need.

She proposes a similarly agreeable technique for hanging clothing. Hang up anything that looks happier hung up, and arrange like with like, working from left to right, with dark, heavy clothing on the left: "Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure."

Smaller, English-only under-titles:

Such anthropomorphism and nondualism, so familiar in Japanese culture, as Leonard Koren, a design theorist who has written extensively on Japanese aesthetics, told me recently, was an epiphany to this Westerner. In Japan, a hyper-awareness, even reverence, for objects is a rational response to geography, said Mr. Koren, who spent 10 years there and is the author of "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers."

More spiritually, the idea of non-dualism is a relationship to reality that proposes that everything is inextricably connected and alive, even inanimate objects. If we are compassionate and respectful to everything that exists, then we would have to be compassionate about the socks in the drawer that aren't folded properly."


Indeed, Ms. Kondo's instructions regarding socks are eye-opening. Socks bust their chops for you, and if you ball them up, they don't get a chance to rest. As she puts it, "The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday. [NYT]"

"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," a mystical manifesto [WSJ] on letting go of the stuff we don't need, has become a global publishing phenomenon. It's the kind of book that publishers dream of, one that arrives perfectly timed to both lead and reflect a shift in the zeitgeist.

Ms. Kondo's book has captured the imaginations of readers around the world at a moment when many people seem to have reached a tipping point of clutter in their lives. It coincides with the recovering economy, an increase in donations of clothing and household goods to charity and a trend toward downsizing as U.S. population growth shifts from the suburbs to city centers in many areas.

In Japan more than anywhere else, tidiness is less a virtue than a philosophy of living. The reason is simple: Japanese apartments are tiny, while the range of stuff a person can buy is huge. Disorder results [NY Mag].


Kondo favors a radical approach to decluttering that advocates downsizing your stuff in one fell swoop; insists that storage containers promote hoarding [Slate], not organization.

January 8, 2016

Blood sugar, insulin, weight: linked !

It's the low fat, very high carbohydrate diet that we've been eating for the last 40 years, which raises levels of the hormone insulin and programs fat cells to go into calorie storage overdrive. I like to think of insulin as the ultimate fat cell fertilizer.

When someone with Type 1 diabetes first comes to attention, their blood sugar is high because they can't make enough insulin. They invariably have lost weight. They may be eating 5,000 calories a day, and they're still losing weight. You can't gain weight without insulin. The opposite is also true. If you give someone with diabetes too much insulin, they will inevitably gain weight. Insulin programs the body to store calories, and most of those calories get stored in the fat cells. If you've got too much insulin, you're going to store too many calories. This has been very well established scientifically.

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity expert and professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

January 7, 2016

Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3

Seattle Times' business' real estate's minorities exploited by Warren Buffett's mobile home empire -- Clayton Homes.

Mike Baker and Daniel Wagner write in The Seattle Times / BuzzFeed News.

Compared to peers, Vanderbilt charges minorities the most

Clayton Mortgage Pricing Comparison.png

Under federal rules, a lender making a "higher-priced" loan must disclose data about its interest rate. Among the 25 companies that originated at least 500 such mobile-home loans over the past five years, Clayton Homes' Vanderbilt Mortgage gave the highest rates to minority borrowers as compared to whites.


January 5, 2016

Jane Chu Illustrations

chuillustrations.tumblr; at Society6, with Korean-influenced design esthetic.


January 4, 2016

Clayton Homes 2

2. Single Parent Programs:



Previously: 1: Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed

January 3, 2016

Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed

Reporting Mischaracterizes Clayton Homes' Treatment of Customers and Employees
Company Serves Underserved Markets, Making Homeownership Affordable

We categorically and adamantly deny discriminating against customers or team members based on race or ethnicity as Dan Wagner and Mike Baker insinuate in an article published by The Seattle Times and BuzzFeed. In fact, our company is committed to building on our track record of helping individuals and families from all walks of life, including people in historically underserved markets, achieve the American dream of home ownership.

Gawker chimes in.


  1. Clayton homes 2

  2. FDIC's signs of predatory lending

  3. Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3

  4. d


Race and ethnicity are never considered in pricing or structuring our loans. Our policies, procedures, and training prohibit racial discrimination in our lending and servicing operations. A borrower's income is not a factor in determining the specific interest rate for which they qualify - whether they make $35,000 or $75,000. It is, however, a significant consideration in the company's analysis of the borrower's ability to repay the loan. The article further mischaracterizes our interest rates because of the reporters' reliance on raw data that ignores important factors that determine a borrower's rate, including credit score, down payment, loan size, collateral, and land type. When these factors are taken together, there is a more accurate picture of interest rates. For example, in 2015, for borrowers with credit scores less than 600, who chose to purchase a home-only placed on private land, and borrowed less than $50,000, the average note rate from Vanderbilt Mortgage was the same for white and non-white borrowers. For borrowers with credit scores greater than 720, the average note rate for non-white borrowers was 0.07% less than that for white borrowers. Additionally, none of our rates exceed state or federal high-cost mortgage loan caps, and these loans had fixed rate and fully amortizing loan terms - not the risky loan features that contributed to the housing crisis.


Regardless of income amount or credit characteristics, we perform a rigorous underwriting process to determine that every borrower has the reasonable ability to repay the loan - including analysis and third-party verification of income and debts. We analyze residual income after payment of debts and customary living expenses (e.g., food, clothing, gas, medical costs). We seek to make sure that every borrower - regardless of race or ethnicity - can repay the loan. We do not want anyone to buy a home they cannot afford. When a loan repossesses, everyone loses. Because we hold nearly all of the loans we originated on our books, we share in that loss with the customer. This is why our servicing practices are geared toward keeping customers in their homes, and it works. Over the past 12 months, over 97% of customers have made their payments and many pay their loans off in full early.

January 2, 2016

Kyung-Sook Shin in Seoul of 1980, 1990.

SINCE the Korean War, Western writing on Korea has focused mostly on the contrast between North and South. But the past sixty years include a number of heartbreaking and overlooked stories of the South, a poor agrarian state that quickly transformed into an industrial powerhouse, and a dictatorial "democracy" that evolved into a sound republic.

Kyung-Sook Shin.jpg

Kyung-Sook Shin, both the only Korean and the only woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize, is also the only author whose novels of those lost Korean decades have broken through as bestsellers to international audiences. In her three translated works--"Please Look After Mom", "I'll Be Right There" and her forthcoming novel, "The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness" (released by Pegasus Books on September 15)--Ms Shin opens her nation's transition and her people's struggle to the world that looked away for all those years.

"Please Look After Mom", Ms Shin's poignant examination of of how Korea's evolution has impacted the different generations, gave birth to these other translations. But her later works are still more profound. They describe South Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, when workers fought to unionise against intolerable factory conditions, and a youth movement faced a bloody government crackdown to fight for democracy. It was these turbulent times and dark places that birthed the writer in Ms Shin.

January 1, 2016

Tarantino's differences between TV and movies

Differences between TV and movies: TV relies on a kind of relentless storytelling whose main job is to constantly dispense information, while movies depend much more on mood and atmosphere -- TV is a writers' medium and movies are a directors' medium.

Even in the Golden Age of Television, the notion of TV as art is now considered something of a media-made joke that is finally being publicly deconstructed by critics, journalists and showrunners alike. The best TV shows still have sets that look a little ragged and threadbare because of the reality of TV economics -- and to Tarantino this matters.

The bigness of his recent movies -- ''Inglourious Basterds,'' ''Django Unchained'' and now ''The Hateful Eight'' -- feels like a rebuke to the smallness of TV and its increasing relevance to audiences, a fight against watching a series of medium shots and close-ups on your computer, your iPad and your iPhone. The belief in visual spectacle is part of Tarantino's message in the era of Amazon, Hulu and Netflix.