Five Things: October 26, 2023


Scholastic Apologizes, Will End Controversial Book Fair Offering | Nathalie op de Beeck

After a public outcry, Scholastic says it will discontinue its optional diverse stories collection and pledged to “redouble” its efforts to “combat the laws restricting children’s access to books.”

Oops, they did it again! Apologize for supporting racist, homophobic fascists once — shame on you. Apologize for supporting racist, homophobic fascists more than once in the same calendar year and maybe the killer is in the house?

This is why you don’t celebrate corporations for making “statements” in support of things like Black Lives Matter or the LGBTQIA+ community, because it’s just empty words if it’s not backed up by meaningful and consistent actions. Despite my own rose-colored memories from my childhood, Scholastic Book Fairs have always been problematic for non-white kids, never mind other marginalized groups beyond race. When I volunteered at my kids’ Elementary School a few times several years ago, I was surprised by how lazy the overall selection was, where the only stories featuring non-white people were usually athletes, and Pinkalicious was the most popular recommendation for EVERY girl.

Publishers have made some modest progress in diversifying their offerings for young readers since then, but major influencers like Scholastic Book Fairs (a separate but very related entity from the publisher, Scholastic) can squash those efforts by applying their own exclusionary filters, a form of soft censorship that’s becoming increasingly popular as books have become a critical front in the so-called “culture wars.”


Why can’t our tech billionaires learn anything new? | Dave Karpf

The most powerful people in the world (people like Andreessen!) are optimists. And therein lies the problem: Look around. Their optimism has not helped matters much. The sort of technological optimism that Andreessen is asking for is a shield. He is insisting that we judge the tech barons based on their lofty ambitions, instead of their track records.

Karpf continues to be one the smartest voices covering the tech industry, supporting his keen insights with solid research and receipts, and most importantly, he doesn’t write like an academic, so his posts are informative and frequently entertaining. (Did he get bonus points for a Leroy Jenkins reference? 100%.)

Be warned: It’s a pretty long read responding to an equally long read, but unless you still have time in your life for hate-reading, his well-earned credibility means you can just read his response and be prepared to comfortably demolish any incredulous techno-optimists in your life who reference Andreessen’s nonsense.


I Will Fucking Haymaker You If You Mention Agile Again | Ludicity

Those apologists who insist that Agile works very well for them – you can leave now with my blessing. Half of you have only worked at functional organizations, and you’re best off not knowing how most of the world lives. Your precious, pure minds are possibly the tech world’s rarest resource, and they must be protected at all costs. The other half of you are absolutely deluded. All of you, you stay. Greg, lock the doors.

Throughout my career, I’ve had two archenemies in almost every company I’ve ever worked in: Sales and IT.

Sales has always been the easiest to deal with because I have sales experience in a few different roles and markets — hated it every time but was decent enough at it to do a good job anyway — so I know the ins and outs of what makes a good and bad salesperson. I know when they’re bluffing or outright lying, and one of my favorite pastimes is dismantling a veteran sales rep’s “instinct” with hard data and clear analysis. Unfortunately, sales is often the path to more senior executive roles, so I’ve frequently run into former salespeople running things who are allergic to hard data and love to trust their own instincts.

Dealing with IT has always been tricker, though, because the tech industry has done an excellent job of turning everything they do into magical black boxes only they can decipher. While I can cobble together some raw HTML code and have found myself in de facto project manager roles many times, I don’t pretend to know anything about what it takes to write real code and build functional software. BUT, in a weird twist, I’ve been involved in enough poorly run development projects over the years that I can trust my instincts when something seems off. Developers can be a lot like salespeople in some ways; they will overpromise, under-deliver, obfuscate, and sometimes outright try to gaslight you to cover their tracks.

All that to say that I literally LAUGHED OUT LOUD several times while reading this diatribe, because I’ve heard “agile” referenced as a magic bullet by devs and non-devs so many times over the years — always in dysfunctional organizations, because that’s apparently my kink — that it’s an immediate red flag whenever I hear it.


Honda, GM nix plan to partner on affordable EVs | Grace Houghton

Instead of a Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model 3 competitor, Honda will serve up “a mid- to large-sized EV” on a new, “EV-specific” architecture. It is scheduled to launch here in 2025, most likely assembled in Ohio, at one of Honda’s existing plants, with a battery pack built in North America by LG, for those good ol’ federal tax credits.

It’s pretty clear now that any commitment to EVs is directly tied to maintaining car companies’ massive profits and stock buyback plans, rather than actually investing in a future that isn’t cut short by climate change. Of course, it will be blamed on consumer demand, because it’s never capitalism’s fault that we can’t have nice things.

Scooby Doo unmasking meme" It's consumer demand!" "Oh, shit. It's capitalism!"


The World’s Most Popular Painter Sent His Followers After Me Because He Didn’t Like a Review of His Work. Here’s What I Learned | Ben Davis

In fact, the only way I can understand Rodriguez’s incredibly thin-skinned reaction to my article is that he has managed to rise to this status of apex visibility without any kind of critical writing about him at all. It’s all just been feel-good profiles, so that the first critical word feels like a huge crisis. That’s a relatively new kind of situation for an artist to be in, and worth analyzing.

I’m definitely not an art guy; I know and appreciate what I like but wouldn’t ever attempt to analyze or critique anything beyond certain comics. I don’t know anything about Rodriguez beyond having seen a couple of his subway sketch videos and being pretty sure they were obviously staged. I also didn’t realize he’d turned social media fame into IRL gigs and gallery showings, and I hadn’t seen the review that led to Davis writing this post, but it’s a fascinating and surprisingly level-headed analysis from someone who could have easily just told Rodriguez and his followers to eat shit.

We now have a generation of young adults who’ve fully grown up in an era where attention is almost as valuable as real money but much easier for anyone to access, but the world beyond those flattering platforms doesn’t offer unfettered dopamine hits, mute filters, and a block button.

Now excuse me while I go yell at some kids to get off my damn lawn!

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