Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Internet

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:30 pm

Sean Parker rethinks world he helped create
BY DAN MORAIN, SENIOR EDITOR - DMORAIN@SACBEE.COM
June 30, 2013

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In a week when love, marriage and legal proceedings were in the air, it seemed perfectly fitting that Sean Parker would be on the phone.

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The wedding of Sean Parker and Alexandra Lenas created a fantasy scene on land in the coastal zone, leading to California Coastal Commission sanctions. California Coastal Commission

In a week when love, marriage and legal proceedings were in the air, it seemed perfectly fitting that Sean Parker would be on the phone.

Parker told me he was delighted that the Supreme Court issued decisions striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opening the way for the legalization of same-sex marriage in California. But that wasn't why he was calling. His own wedding was on his mind.

"Weddings are sacred and inviolable, and it should have been treated with a greater level of respect," he said. "What this did to my wife was very painful to watch."

Parker is a hacker and Internet entrepreneur who became Facebook's first president before he was 30, and at age 19, created Napster, the music sharing – or stealing – platform. He became incredibly wealthy in the process.

In the days leading up to his June 1 wedding to singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas, Parker became a meme and an object of online derision, ironic given the part he has played in the evolution of the Internet. The episode is causing him to rethink what he and others like him have wrought. What he says is worth contemplating.

To be sure, the wedding story was tailor-made for gossip sites, snarky articles and even a Bee editorial: Silicon Valley billionaire and his lovely bride go over the top on a Tolkien-themed wedding, hiring a Hollywood costume designer to dress the 300-plus guests, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Parker acknowledges the $4.5 million affair was indulgent, but noted most people spend too much on weddings. It was his money, and this is California, a state where fortunes can get made in a flash, and where fantasies still get lived out.

The ceremony took place in Big Sur on the private grounds of Ventana Inn & Spa. In preparation for the nuptials, the couple's work crews brought in a bulldozer and built a gateway, artificial pond, stone bridge, elevated floors, rock walls, artificial ruins of castle walls, rock stairways and a dance floor, and brought in 125 potted trees, tents, generators and lighting.

The site was hardly pristine. Much of it was gravel. But because the property was within the coastal zone, someone – Parker or more likely Ventana – should have gotten a Coastal Commission permit. No one did.

After discovering the construction in May, Coastal Commission investigators contemplated calling the whole thing off. But they concluded that the damage wouldn't be worsened by the wedding. Besides, Parker was willing to use his wealth to make things right.

He paid $1 million to cover costs associated with violations of the Coastal Protection Act and to help reopen a campground on the site that had been closed since 2007. He also will pay no less than $1.5 million to increase access to Big Sur.

"If it ends up costing $3 million, it ends up being $3 million," he said.

The Coastal Commission approved the settlement earlier this month, and commissioners praised Parker's handling of it.

"I was personally Bridezilla at a couple points in my life, so I'm sure it was very stressful," said Coastal Commissioner Wendy Mitchell, a former Capitol staffer. "I just wanted to say it's nice when mistakes are made and then people step up and then go above and beyond what even staff requested."

With the commission issue resolved, Parker took to his own defense, publishing a 9,500-word essay on the TechCrunch website last week in which he laments the rise of gossip sites and the demise of old-fashioned reporting. As a 36-year member of the old school, I appreciated what he wrote, though he could have said it in fewer words.

"I have spent more than a decade," Parker wrote, "creating products built on the premise that the democratization of media was a good thing, that self-publishing, the free sharing of information and the removal of the media 'gatekeepers' would all lead to a freer, more open media – with the implied assumption that this was a 'better' media.

"I have watched as these new mediums helped foment revolutions, overturn governments and give otherwise invisible people a voice, and I have also watched them used to extend the impact of real-world bullying from physical interactions into the online world, so kids growing up today can now be tormented from anywhere.

"I have also witnessed these mediums used to form massive digital lynch mobs, which I have been at the mercy of more than once. I guess it's only fitting that I would be; the universe has a funny way of returning these things in kind."

Parker isn't seeking sympathy, which is good because he is a tough guy to feel sorry for. He is one of the great beneficiaries of the new world order, a billionaire, according to Forbes, thanks to those of us who have Facebook pages and have bought into any of the other tech innovations he helped create.

We share in the good and the bad that Parker and people like him helped build. The Internet has spread democracy and light, but its anonymity is corrosive to discourse.

Too often users delude themselves into thinking that art and journalism should be free, and steal it. Parker has come to the conclusion that privacy and copyright laws should be tightened, anathema to many people in his world. Welcome.

The silliness surrounding his wedding could turn out to be one of the better things to have happened to the coast since voters approved the 1972 initiative that led to the California Coastal Act, depending on how he spends his money.

Parker, not the caricature he was made out to be, is bothered that California's remaining timber companies log redwoods. He lives in New York but is contemplating returning to California and getting more involved in initiative politics. He helped fund a site called Votizen, to increase citizen participation, and merged it with Causes.com, another site that seeks to foster involvement. There are worse ways to spend a fortune than on democracy.

If he follows through, he will find that coverage of people engaged in politics can be biting, though probably not as personal as what he endured leading up to his wedding.

Follow Dan Morain on Twitter @danielmorain. Back columns, http://www.sacbee.com/morain.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/opn-colum ... %20Opinion#storylink=cpy
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:38 pm

The Silicon Valley Whipping Boy
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When I first read Alexis Madrigal’s ball-busting assault on the environmental ill-effects of Sean Parker’s forest wedding, I was appalled. I wanted to tweet the link to the Atlantic story with the comment “disgusting” or “Fuck you, Sean Parker,” just like some of my friends did. I like forests! People who hurt them are really shitty. So Madrigal’s descriptions, based on a report by the California Coastal Commission, were enough to rankle.

Parker, Madrigal charged, had cut a deal with a hotel to transform an ecologically sensitive area that used to be a campground into the backdrop for his gaudy wedding, replete with walls, water effects, and fake ruins – and all without a permit!

“Nothing says, ‘I love the Earth!’ quite like bringing bulldozers into an old-growth forest to create a fake ruined castle,” Madrigal wrote.

But then I thought, “I wonder how Sean Parker would have defended himself if he were given the opportunity.” Often, it turns out that stories such as these are more complicated than they first appear.

Of course, Parker wasn’t allowed a say. Instead, Madrigal, a reporter whose work I usually admire – the author of this wonderful history of a brick and this excellent elucidation of an under-acknowledged channel of information sharing – used his allegations against the Napster-founder-turned-early-Facebooker to support an argument that drew broader conclusions about the behavior of spoiled Silicon Valley frat-brats.

Calling Parker's wedding “grandstanding” that Valley pioneers Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Bill Davidow would be ashamed of, Madrigal said:

But, of course, that's also part of the new Silicon Valley parable: dream big, privatize the previously public, pay no attention to the rules, build recklessly, enjoy shamelessly, invoke magic, and then pay everybody off.

So the problem went from being Sean Parker and his ostentatious ways to everything that was wrong with Silicon Valley. Parker’s apparent disregard for anything outside his selfish needs was, Madrigal suggested, consistent with a wider pattern of self-interested, spoiled brat behavior endemic to Valley culture.

The examples Madrigal cited are convincing enough. He pointed to the famous New Yorker profile on singularity-obsessed Peter Thiel; a Washington Post story about Uber’s disregard for legal considerations; a Fast Company story about Bill Nguyen’s reckless company-building; and a Nick Bilton column about over-the-top Silicon Valley parties. It's true that Thiel is a big dreamer. [Disclosure: Thiel is an investor in PandoDaily via the Founders Fund.] And yep, Uber is a shady player. PandoDaily contributor Paul Carr methodically disemboweled Uber founder Travis Kalanick on those grounds. And yeah, it’s right to call out Bill Nguyen for “failing up.” I wrote about a guy like that just the other day. Stupid Valley parties are also fair game – and I would like to add serving sushi on iPads to the list of deplorable party antics.

But for the rather more provocative “privatize the previously public” charge? Well, a link to an article that’s critical about the buses that Google uses to shuttle its employees to work is hardly evidence of sweeping privatization. The buses, actually, are stuffed with people who are pretty solidly middle class, and one of the reasons they exist is so they can support the “always on” work culture that these companies encourage. If you’re going to criticize anything about the buses, the mania for constant work should be it. It’s also notable that Google doesn’t have such buses in New York City, which has infinitely better transportation infrastructure than does spread-out Silicon Valley.

Nor is Madrigal’s claim that the Valley “invokes magic” well backed-up. The link he provides to support that claim leads to a Google search for the phrase “Silicon Valley magic” that throws up a few results with headlines written by people who are distinctly not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

I was left with the sense that Madrigal’s list of charges against Silicon Valley was included for reasons of poetry more than proof. It sounded good and on the surface seemed true. Indeed, commenters jumped in to cheer him on. “What did you expect from one of the people that foisted facebook on the world?” said one of the most upvoted comments. “Ayn Rand would applaud,” said another. For believers of the “Silicon Valley is a hive of festering narcissism and destruction” meme, the illusion of depth in Madrigal’s argument was more than enough to confirm their prejudices.

I don’t mean to pick on Madrigal’s piece. It simply stood out not only because of the emotive topic and controversial antagonist but also because of the timing. It comes on the heels of a spate of recent articles that have been highly critical of Silicon Valley culture. Joel Kotkin, writing for the Daily Beast, dedicated nearly 3,000 words to “Silicon Valley’s Shady 1 Percenters.” George Packer, in a New Yorker piece I have already argued was a bit skewed, described Valleyites as intellectually undeveloped and focused mainly on solving the problems of rich 20-year-olds. In February, Rebecca Solnit took aim at the Google bus, saying it sometimes seems like a face of “Janus-headed capitalism.” The bus, she said, contains “the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves.”

There are entire blogs – ones that apparently make money – dedicated to chiding Silicon Valley. And of course, there’s “The Social Network,” Aaron Sorkin’s pièce de résistance about Valley excess and hubris. While the film is three years old now, and a work of fiction, it still seems to be the main source on which the general public base their opinions of Sean Parker.

I can sympathize with the Silicon Valley bashing. I’ve made fun of its douchey insider speak, mocked its hero culture, and bemoaned its “thought leader” bloviating. And trust me, I have no particular reason to defend the “new oligarchs” of the Valley. I am a New Zealander who lives in Baltimore. I have no aspirations to be part of the Silicon Valley world; I'm happy as an outsider.

But picking on the Valley is fun because it’s so easy, and because there’s ample material to draw on. Yammer CEO David Sacks threw a ridiculously lavish birthday party for himself with Snoop Lion as a guest performer. David Morin has daytime and nighttime iPhones. Tumblr CEO David Karp ended his announcement of the company’s $1.1 billion acquisition at the hands of Yahoo with a juvenile “Fuck yeah.” (He’s a New Yorker, but what the hell.) These are easy targets in the snark-infested waters of Internet commentary. And it’s hard to feel sorry for people who can afford three holiday homes before they turn 24, especially when they are overwhelmingly privileged white males.

While it’s easy to mock the Valley, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the culture is intellectually shallow, that it has a tendency to privatize the previously public, or that it is basically just an extension of Sean Parker’s garish wedding in the Redwoods.

In his headline on the takedown piece, Madrigal says the wedding is “the Perfect Parable for Silicon Valley Excess.” That may sound good, but what if it’s not the perfect parable at all? What if Parker’s possibly destructive and totally excessive wedding was actually an exception? What if it just happened to be one of a small handful of examples that supported a pre-existing assumption that Silicon Valley is rotten with rich assholes who think only of themselves?

And what if turned out that the wedding wasn’t really that destructive? Wouldn’t that compromise the entire “parable of excess” thesis?

Parker is the perfect target. He’s a mega-rich bad boy, known for his benders and possible involvement in a drug scandal. He’s the guy who said the unutterably dorky line: “You know what’s cooler than a million dollars? One billion dollars.” Or at least, Justin Timberlake said that while playing Parker in “The Social Network,” but, you know, that’s him, right?

So I can understand why people would stand so ready to accuse Parker of ruining a Redwood forest just so he can have a pretty wedding. It’s fine to criticize him for how much money he spent on the wedding – reportedly the equivalent of a small company’s market cap – and for forming an LLC just for the event. But the man still deserves a fair defense. We would be doing ourselves an injustice if we let our half-informed views on Parker justify getting only one side of the story.

Well, on Thursday Parker was allowed to stage his defense. In a long letter that Madrigal published on The Atlantic’s website, Parker argued, convincingly, that his people left the site in better condition than what they found it in. Rather than being undisturbed forest, the site was covered in black asphalt, he claimed. He had also enlisted the help of the Save the Redwoods League, an organization to which he had previously contributed, to identify the site, which the adjacent hotel was contractually obliged to keep open on a for-profit basis. There was no “ruined castle.” The only stonework was hollow, filled with bird wire, and used for walkways and low walls.

Parker did admit, however, that “we made some mistakes” – which is open to interpretation – and he came off as a bit of a dick at the end of the letter when he tried to argue that the wedding wasn’t really that extravagant because it cost only $4.5 million rather than the rumored $9 million.

It must be said, then, that while Parker seems like the sort of guy we might not like to be friends with, he also doesn’t quite seem to be a forest-destroying cretin. So maybe his wedding isn’t a parable for Valley excess after all.

I have gone on at such tiresome length about this particular case, because it strikes me that the “lesson” being drawn from this Parker episode is similar to the lessons we are supposed to draw from other exceptional examples of Silicon Valley excess: the Sacks party, the Uber hubris, the outlandish parties. Rather than being seen as relatively isolated incidents that embarrass the wider community, they’re seen as emblematic of what must be some out-of-control partyland populated with assholes.

Okay, to some extent that’s true. I mean, sushi off iPads? Come on. But it’s just as true that Silicon Valley is filled with socially awkward programmers who rarely see daylight. It’s just as true that a lot of Valley entrepreneurs quietly work their asses off trying to build businesses that might one day create a lot of new jobs. It’s just as true that many people who live in the Valley also look at Parker’s over-the-top wedding and cringe.

What this particular example exposes is that there exists a very strong impulse to jump to conclusions about Silicon Valley that are colored by pre-existing biases. I would be tempted to argue, in fact, that Madrigal's article is the perfect parable for a wider phenomenon of people using half-baked facts and speculation as the basis for drawing inferences that support ossified views about subjects that are probably a great deal more complicated than they otherwise would have us believe.

The shame is that such populist attacks undermine the very valid criticisms of Silicon Valley – that shameful gender mix, for example, or its political naivety – that ought to be addressed but are also vulnerable to being dismissed as “Silicon Valley haterism.” I’m not trying to say that excess doesn’t exist in the Valley, and I’m not arguing for the Valley elite. I’m merely arguing for nuance.

These debates deserve a higher standard of rigor. It’s too easy to let it all devolve into a simplistic “us against Sean Parker” argumentative framework. It’s too easy to point at Travis Kalanick and shout, “Shady 1 Percenter!” and apply that one man’s actions to the rest of an entire region. It’s too easy to listen to only one side of the story.

Sometimes, after all, what at first looks like a ruined castle is just an empty prop.
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:43 pm

The Lumberjacks Who Felled California’s Giant Redwoods
Kaushik
October 19, 2012

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This series of photos from the 1915-era capture lumberjacks working among the redwoods in Humboldt County, California, when tree logging was at its peak. The photos are part of the Humboldt State University Library Special Collections, a series of pictures from northwest California from the 1880s through the 1920s by Swedish photographer A.W. Ericson.

When Euro-Americans swept westward in the 1800s, they needed raw material for their homes and lives. Commercial logging followed the expansion of America as companies struggled to keep up with the furious pace of progress. Timber harvesting quickly became the top manufacturing industry in the west.

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When gold was discovered in north-western California in 1850, thousands crowded the remote redwood region in search of riches and new lives. Failing in efforts to strike it rich in gold, these men turned toward harvesting the giant trees for booming development in San Francisco and other places on the West Coast. These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. The size of the huge trees made them prized timber, as redwood became known for its durability and workability. By 1853, nine sawmills were at work in Eureka, a gold boom town established three years prior due to the gold boom. At that period of time, redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of the California coast.

The loggers used axes, saws, and other early methods of bringing the trees down. Rapidly improving technology in the 20th century allowed more trees to be harvested in less time. Transportation also caught up to the task of moving the massive logs. Railways started replacing horses and oxen. Land fraud was common, as acres of prime redwood forests were transferred from the public domain to private industry. Although some of the perpetrators were caught, many thousands of acres of land were lost in land swindles.

After many decades of unobstructed clear-cut logging, serious efforts toward conservation began. In 1918, the Save-the-Redwoods League was founded to preserve remaining old-growth redwoods, and their work resulted in the establishment of Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks among others. By the time Redwood National Park was created in 1968, nearly 90% of the original redwood trees had been logged.

Today, the Redwood National and State Parks combined contain only 133,000 acres (540 km2) of redwood forest. In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve other indigenous flora, fauna, grassland prairie, cultural resources, portions of rivers and other streams, and 37 miles (60 km) of pristine coastline.

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Sources: Wikipedia, NPS, DailyMail
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