Wandering Eye: Defending vocal fry, the cost of a Big Mac if fast-food workers get a living wage, and more

Your port is part of a huge supply system driven by computers and algorithms, BBC notices. Comparing the global supply chain and its invisible electronics to a "moon shot" in terms of engineering, these reporters produce the ultimate "Gee Whiz" piece. "The aim of the trip was to follow the supply chain back to some of the remotest parts of China and the source of our consumer goods — and what we saw as we travelled through mega-ports and across oceans looked closer to science fiction than reality," they write. Maersk makes an early appearance as an exotic brand. The big cranes that load cargo are likened to "Saturn V rocket launchers." The trucks are amazing too, their drivers somehow arriving just in time at just the right place: "In a very real sense, the crane and truck drivers are little more than elements in a vast robotic system, receiving instructions in their cabs from their computerized managers, following orders on endless cycles until their shift ends." It is not clear from the story that the BBC's writers actually know what an algorithm is. Or a bill of lading—the ships' cargo list that has been used—for 3,000 years—to keep track of what cargo is aboard, where it goes and when. The piece is so breathless it verges on parody. It is taken for granted that all of this is so highly automated that actual human workers will soon be eliminated. Soon, too, no doubt, the reporters: replaced by the algorithms they could not fathom, cranking out purple prose according to Google analysis of what gets clicks. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Do you know what "vocal fry" is? Naomi Wolf, in her piece "Young women, give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice" for The Guardian, defines it as "that guttural growl at the back of the throat, as a Valley girl might sound." According to Wolf, it's but another way that "women's authority" is "undermine[d]." Then she goes on to wonder whether disliking this vocal tic makes one inherently "Anti-feminist." Her short answer is "no." Although it's a somewhat sympathetic article ("I do it because I am afraid of being interrupted," a 21 year-old intern explains; makes sense—dudes are always interrupting women), the fact that it considers how someone speaks as any kind of "issue" is ridiculous. It's pretty much a respectability politics-style argument. Enter Julianne Escobedo Shepherd of Jezebel who wrote "LOL Vocal Fry Rules U R All Dumb," which dismisses Wolf's piece right off the bat and then mounts a defense of "vocal fry" that also explains that it is essentially a rhetorical strategy used by women when they aren't in safe spaces. The whole thing's one big whirlwind of quotables, but we'll just leave you with this: "Vocal fry . . . is a weapon of the young, disaffected woman, not a way to connote that they don't care about anything, per se—just that specifically, they do not care about you. It is the speaking equivalent of 'you ain't shit,' an affectation of the perpetually unbothered. It's a protective force between the pejorative You—dads, Sales types, bosses, basically anyone who represents the establishment—and the collective Us, which is to say, a misunderstood generation that inherited a whole landscape of bullshit because y'all didn't fix it when you had the goddamn chance." (Brandon Soderberg)


New York fast-food workers recently won their fight for a $15-an-hour wage. What would happen to the cost of food in other states if they did the same? The Washington Post highlights a study that shows prices would typically go up by 4.3 percent in order for fast-food joints to maintain their current profit margin of 6.3 percent. A lot depends on where you live and what your state's minimum wage is, but researchers at Purdue University's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management project the cost of a fast-food meal would only go up by less than 50 cents. A $15-an-hour wage would help a lot of people. As the Post notes, "At the moment, more than 1.5 million Americans working in food preparation and other related service jobs subsist on wages that are at or below the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics." Here's one problem though: "branches could decide to downsize their staffs once labor is twice as expensive, especially if they prioritize keeping prices low." (Brandon Weigel)

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