Wandering Eye: Michael Phelps returns, the monkey selfie lawsuit, and more

Soul City was the semi-racial-separatist dream of Floyd McKissick, a civil rights guy (president of the Congress Of Racial Equality) who threw his support to Richard Nixon in 1968 and, shortly thereafter, got $14 million in federal funds to build the planned city in North Carolina. City Labs tells the story from there. Soul City was modeled in part on Maryland's Columbia, but would be "a place where African Americans would not be regularly subjected to racial discrimination, and where they could determine their own political and economic destinies," City Labs reports. On about 1,100 acres of farmland, McKissick broke ground for a water treatment plant, an electric utility, and "an 'industrial incubator facility' called 'Soul Tech I,' which was designed to train the laborers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs that McKissick envisioned as the leaders of Soul City." He planned for 2,000 people by the end of the '70s. He got about 150. The corporations that had considered moving factories there "began pulling out." Reagan and his people came next, and without government support, the experiment imploded. You can probably guess what happened after that, but if you're curious, read the whole piece. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


One of the interesting ways people use Twitter is to create automated accounts that are scripted to tweet out things that fit a very particular niche. One such account is @pacerrssscraper, which automatically tweets out links to "new filings in selected federal court cases (mostly copyright)," as its bio says. The account recently sent out a screenshot of a particularly hilarious motion to dismiss—yeah, yeah, I know that sounds boring as hell, but read this introduction to the motion: "A monkey, an animal-rights organization and a primatologist walk into federal court to sue for infringement of the monkey's claimed copyright. What seems like the setup for a punchline is really happening. It should not be happening. . . . Monkey see, monkey sue is not good law — at least not in the Ninth Circuit." Intrigued? CNN explains the case here. Basically, PETA is suing a wildlife photographer on behalf of a monkey "to win the copyright of a selfie [the monkey] snapped with the photographer's unattended camera." Yeah, it's ridiculous. To delve deeper into the absurdity of this case, read Sarah Jeong's piece at Vice, where she wonders whether PETA even named the right monkey in the lawsuit. She then has a Q&A with PETA's general counsel about the case, including this hilarious segment (for context, the monkey on whose behalf PETA is filing is named Naruto):
"Does Naruto know about this lawsuit?
Um, the . . . fact here is that Naruto is unable to come into court himself and so we are standing as Next Friend. Your question is silly, frankly. The issue is as I've stated it.
Does Naruto know about his selfies?
I have the same response.
Naruto certainly knew at the time that he was engaged in intentional conduct that is obvious from Mr. Slater’s own description of the situation. And Naruto clearly engaged in the purposeful intentional conduct that resulted in the creation of the selfies." You can't make this shit up. (Anna Walsh)


Sports Illustrated released a long excerpt of its cover story on the reinvention of Michael Phelps, the local Olympic hero who has had more than his fair share of run-ins with the law. There's a lot in there about the swimmer's 2014 DUI after leaving the Horseshoe Casino, but it's much more than that. It's the story of the traps of celebrity and about a young man spiraling out of control. Phelps talks about not wanting "to be alive anymore" following the incident, going to a rehab facility, and coming to grips with the absence of his father. There's a redemption angle too: Phelps is training for the Olympics next summer, and the report says he's as fit and focused as ever. (Brandon Weigel)

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