January 13, 2018 in 5,233 words

Your smartphone📱is making you👈 stupid, antisocial 🙅 and unhealthy 😷. So why can’t you put it down❔⁉️

A decade ago, smart devices promised to change the way we think and interact, and they have – but not by making us smarter. Eric Andrew-Gee explores the growing body of scientific evidence that digital distraction is damaging our minds.

In the winter of 1906, the year San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake and SOS became the international distress signal, Britain’s Punch magazine published a dark joke about the future of technology.

Under the headline, “Forecasts for 1907,” a black and white cartoon showed a well-dressed Edwardian couple sitting in a London park. The man and woman are turned away from each other, antennae protruding from their hats. In their laps are little black boxes, spitting out ticker tape.

A caption reads: “These two figures are not communicating with one another. The lady is receiving an amatory message, and the gentleman some racing results.”

The cartoonist was going for broad humour, but today the image looks prophetic. A century after it was published, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. Today, thanks to him, we can sit in parks and not only receive amatory messages and racing results, but summon all the world’s knowledge with a few taps of our thumbs, listen to virtually every song ever recorded and communicate instantaneously with everyone we know.

More than two billion people around the world, including three-quarters of Canadians, now have this magic at their fingertips – and it’s changing the way we do countless things, from taking photos to summoning taxis. But smartphones have also changed us – changed our natures in elemental ways, reshaping the way we think and interact. For all their many conveniences, it is here, in the way they have changed not just industries or habits but people themselves, that the joke of the cartoon has started to show its dark side.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

We are now living in a post-shitole world.

Donald Trump’s now infamous remarks during a Thursday meeting on immigration have sent the news cycle (and possibly America’s diplomatic standing in the world) into a tailspin.

The silver lining to the fallout from Trump’s racially inflammatory comments is getting to watch the way different cable news personalities handle verbalizing the expletive. Some expressed outrage, while others seemed happy to take up the shithole mantle as a unifying badge of honor, much the same way that Trump supporters have co-opted “deplorables.”

Anyway, here’s a bunch of talking heads saying “shithole.”

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

Donald Trump and a Century-Old Argument About Who’s Allowed in America

U.S. presidents as far back as Harry Truman denounced entry policies based on nationality, calling them discriminatory and un-American.

President Trump’s reported suggestion that the United States needs fewer immigrants from “shithole countries” and more from those like Norway revives an argument made vigorously a century ago—though in less profane terms—only to be discredited in the decades that followed.

In 1907, alarmed by the arrival of more than a million immigrants per year, Congress established a commission to determine exactly where people were coming from and what their capacities were. Over the next four years, under the leadership of Republican Senator William Dillingham of Vermont, the commission prepared a 42-volume report purporting to distinguish the more and less desirable ethnicities.

The commission’s “Dictionary of Races or Peoples” laid out its key findings. Slavs demonstrated “fanaticism in religion, carelessness as to the business virtues of punctuality and often honesty.” Southern Italians were found to be “excitable, impulsive, highly imaginative, impracticable.” Scandinavians, the commission concluded, represented “the purest type”—the notion of favoring immigration from Norway did not originate with President Trump.

Largely in response to the report, Congress enacted a new immigration law in 1924 establishing country-by-country quotas. The main author was Representative Albert Johnson of Washington state, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Immigration. His key adviser on immigration policy was Madison Grant, an amateur eugenicist whose writings had given racism a veneer of intellectual legitimacy. In his 1916 book The Passing of the Great Race, Grant separated the human population into Caucasoids, Mongoloids, and Negroids. Not surprisingly, he ranked Caucasoids as the superior group, though he subdivided them into three more groups: Nordics, Alpines, and Mediterraneans, ranking Nordics as the most elite.

The national-origins quota system enacted in 1924 reflected the ethnic and racial prejudice of its designers.

‘There’s no other word but racist’: Trump’s global rebuke for ‘shithole’ remark

US diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock over Trump calling African nations, Haiti and El Salvador ‘shitholes.’

Trump suggested the US should bring more immigrants from Norway, not ‘shithole countries’. Exhibit A: Trump’s shithole

Donald Trump has been branded a shocking and shameful racist after it was credibly reported he had described African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” and questioned why so many of their citizens had ever been permitted to enter America.

US diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock that such crude remarks could ever be made in a semi-public meeting by the president of America.

In a strongly-worded statement, the UN said it was impossible to describe his remarks as anything other than racist, while the Vatican decried Trump’s words as “particularly harsh and offensive”.

The 55-nation African Union said the remarks were “clearly racist”.

Trump initially allowed reported accounts of his comments to go unchallenged, but went into damage limitation mode on Friday, insisting he had not used derogatory words – but admitting that the language he had used at a meeting with Senators on immigration was “tough”.

A top Democratic senator who attended a meeting in which President Trump is said to have called some countries whose citizens emigrate to the United States ‘shitholes’ says the comments were ‘hate-filled, vile and racist’. Dick Durbin has corroborated press reports of the meeting, telling reporters he has ‘not heard one [press report] that’s inaccurate.’

Donald Trump denies using the phrase ‘shithole countries’ in immigration talks.

Pushing Out Immigrants Isn’t About the Economy

Donald Trump’s widely reported ‘shithole’ remark dismantles the economic argument against foreigners.

Two Salvadoran immigrants wait for an elevator after a news conference following the Trump administration’s announcement that it will end Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans.

German Benitez has started two small businesses, both of them restaurants in the city of Gaithersburg, Maryland. His main restaurant, Jazmin Cuisine, employs nine people. He seems like one of the last people any politician interested in job creation would want to kick out of the country.

And yet, on Monday, he learned that the U.S. government is planning to do just that. Benitez, who is 54, is from El Salvador, and like nearly 200,000 other Salvadorans, he has received Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, which allows people from disaster-ravaged countries to live and work legally in the United States—even if they entered the country illegally. The Trump administration said on Monday that it was ending TPS for Salvadorans effective September 9, 2019, though it remains a possibility that the protections will be restored by Congress.

Salvadorans first received the status in 2001, after huge earthquakes in their home country; though El Salvador has since rebuilt, gang violence and poverty remain widespread. (The Trump administration in November announced it was ending TPS for 5,300 Nicaraguans and 59,000 Haitians, effective in January 2019 and July 2019, respectively. A decision on Hondurans will be announced in July of 2018.)

Though the administration didn’t offer an economic rationale for the decision, Trump has often argued that cracking down on immigration will help American workers. During his campaign, Trump pledged to cut down on immigration in order to “boost wages and ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.” Yet, just days after the decision, The Washington Post reported that the president disparaged immigrants from certain countries, calling them “shitholes.”

The latest developments beg this question: What is the reasoning for the decision to end Temporary Protected Status? Is it really the economy?

If authoritarianism is looming in the US, how come Donald Trump looks so weak?

There’s little doubt that Trump’s regime is a cause for concern. But fears about authoritarianism in the US ignore political realities.

‘One year into Hitler’s reign of terror, his opponents were either dead, in concentration camps or running for their lives.’

In the last several weeks, there’s been an uptick in the Trump authoritarianism talk. Matt Yglesias kicked it off the day after Christmas, claiming that Trump had “consolidated power over the institutional Republican party” and was now organizing “an authoritarian regime”.

The New Year brought an article (“2018 Will Be a Fight to Save Democracy”) and a tweet from Jonathan Chait: “I read ‘How Democracies Die.’ It convinced me our democracy is more precarious than it looks.”

A few days later, Yglesias went in for the kill:

So far, Trump has been extremely long on demagogic bluster but rather conventional – if extremely right-wing in some respects – on policy. But…this is entirely typical. Even Adolf Hitler was dismissed by many as a buffoon.”

Many of Hitler’s opponents did initially dismiss him as a buffoon. But one year into power? They either were dead, in concentration camps or running for their lives.

Ironically, in the same article, Yglesias offers an excellent if unintentional rebuttal to his own analogy:

Public opinion polling suggests that the merged Trump-establishment party is hideously unpopular and headed for electoral defeat. If that happens and Democrats gain control of at least one house of Congress, then the system of checks and balances will begin to operate as designed.”

Imagine a comparable passage in January 1934, one year into Hitler’s reign of terror. It only works as satire or science fiction.

Great Moments in ‘Shithole’ Literature

A 1629 manuscript containing the first-known use of the term can be found at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Liber Lilliati contains bawdy verse written some time before 1629.

What more can be said about Donald Trump’s reported remark about “shithole countries”? Media outlets have by and large decided it was newsworthy enough to report without censoring, so we’ve been seeing and hearing the word shithole everywhere. More important than the word itself, of course, is the hateful sentiment behind it, as many commentators have pointed out.

Trump’s use of the word was in the service of a disparaging slur on countries, including Haiti and African nations, from which he thinks the U.S. should be limiting immigration. (Despite his vague protestations on Twitter, the White House pointedly did not deny that he dropped the S-bomb in front of a room full of lawmakers.) But shithole doesn’t have to be used in such a vile way. In fact, despite its scatological origins, the word has something of a literary pedigree, which is worth appreciating as an antidote to the enervating news cycle.

The very first known use of shithole in English print literature appears in a remarkable manuscript held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The manuscript, titled Liber Lilliati, contains bawdy verse written by the cathedral musician John Lilliat some time before his death in 1629. The verse is worth reading in full (which we can do thanks to an annotated edition of Liber Lilliati published by the University of Delaware Press in 1985):

Ten tuff Turds did I tosse in thi teeth that I troinst from my tuch hole,

Nine nickinge nockes did I nicke on thi nose that I neisde from my narshole:

Fiue flushing fartes did I flap in thi face that I flunge from my fisthole,

Six shitten shotes did I shoote in thy mowth that I shot from my shithole.


When the news of Trump’s “shithole” comment broke, some scholarly types consulted the Oxford English Dictionary to learn more about the word’s history and found Lilliat’s verse there as the first citation, in the earliest meaning of shithole defined as “the rectum or anus.”


Magic Kingdom

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom.

As hotbeds of political subversion go, Disneyland has never struck me as particularly high on the list. But a funny thing happened when I visited the amusement park in December.

My sister, her husband, and three children were visiting from their home in Australia. On the Saturday before Christmas, we were gathered in Disney California Adventure—a 2001-era addition to the original Disneyland theme park. It was nearing noon on an overcast morning, and we were waiting for the “Viva Navidad Party” parade to begin. My mom, bless her, had secured warm pretzels to pass around, plus two Micheladas—a Mexican shandy that combines Clamato, lime juice, beer, and a spicy salted rim—for the grown-ups.

At noon, right on schedule, men in giant sombreros and little bolero jackets emerged with women in giant red skirts, their black hair shellacked into tight braids.

🌴california christmas forever💃🏽

A post shared by Jenni Avins (@jenniavins) on

“Fies-taaaaa!” pealed the music, seemingly from the sky, as the dancers led a rolling stage atop which a sombrero-ed Donald Duck and Jose Carioca danced. The men tapped their caballero-heeled boots on the street as the women swirled their skirts around them. Mariachis strummed guitars and blasted their trumpets to a medley of “Feliz Navidad” and “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime.” As Minnie Mouse strode past, waving in a folksy magenta striped dress, my heart swelled a little. And an unexpected phrase popped into my mind:

“Fuck Trump,” I thought.

And then I couldn’t stop. “Fuck Trump,” I thought, as the Mexican dancers smiled broadly at the children who lined the spectacle. “Fuck Trump,” I thought, when my sister pointed out the elderly man in a wheelchair, wearing Mickey Mouse-ears and clapping along. “Fuck Trump,” I thought, when Afro-Brazilian drummers and dancers in Bahiana-style turbans joined the parade, and we all started to dance along. And when a grinning rickshaw driver in pedaled past with Minnie in the back while his compatriot waved a “Feliz Navidad” flag, all I could think was: “Fuck Trump.”

5 ‘Eco-Friendly’ Products That Failed In Hilarious Ways

roducts fail for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the market doesn’t understand it, sometimes the world isn’t ready for that kind of innovation, and sometimes it’s just a Steven Seagal rap album, and therefore deserves to burn. But other times, a product fails not because it was bad, but because everybody in charge of the launch was criminally inept, fist-eatingly crazy, chemically stupid, or all of the above. Remember how …

#5. Sun Chips’ New Bags Were Loud Enough To Cause Hearing Loss

In 2009, Sun Chips — the official snack of the abstract concept of disappointment — made an environmentally friendly change to their packaging, going from the old plastic bags to new, more biodegradable ones. But there was a catch: The new bags crinkled loud enough to cause hearing loss. That’s not comic hyperbole. Rustling the bags clocked in at over 100 decibels. That’s louder than a motorcycle, and only slightly quieter than an average dad sneezing.

Not everyone was willing to risk their hearing for bits of cardboard with a light coating of flavor dust, so customers wrote the company and asked for quieter packaging. At one point, there was a Facebook group with 44,000 followers, which was simply and beautifully named “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG.”

Sun Chips eventually caved and sent their loud-ass bags to the compost pile, pulling them from all but one of their flavors while they came up with a new eco-friendly replacement. They did nothing to change the actual chips, though, which is the real tragedy here.

Making China Great Again

As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces.

When the Chinese action movie “Wolf Warrior II” arrived in theatres, in July, it looked like a standard shoot-’em-up, with a lonesome hero and frequent explosions. Within two weeks, however, “Wolf Warrior II” had become the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time. Some crowds gave it standing ovations; others sang the national anthem. In October, China selected it as its official entry in the foreign-language category of the Academy Awards.
The hero, Leng Feng, played by the action star Wu Jing (who also directed the film), is a veteran of the “wolf warriors,” special forces of the People’s Liberation Army. In retirement, he works as a guard in a fictional African country, on the frontier of China’s ventures abroad. A rebel army, backed by Western mercenaries, attempts to seize power, and the country is engulfed in civil war. Leng shepherds civilians to the gates of the Chinese Embassy, where the Ambassador wades into the battle and declares, “Stand down! We are Chinese! China and Africa are friends.” The rebels hold their fire, and survivors are spirited to safety aboard a Chinese battleship.
Leng rescues an American doctor, who tells him that the Marines will come to their aid. “But where are they now?” he asks her. She calls the American consulate and gets a recorded message: “Unfortunately, we are closed.” In the final battle, a villain, played by the American actor Frank Grillo, tells Leng, “People like you will always be inferior to people like me. Get used to it.” Leng beats the villain to death and replies, “That was fucking history.” The film closes with the image of a Chinese passport and the words “Don’t give up if you run into danger abroad. Please remember, a strong motherland will always have your back!”
When I moved to Beijing, in 2005, little of that story would have made sense to a Chinese audience. With doses of invention and schmalz, the movie draws on recent events. In 2015, China’s Navy conducted its first international evacuation, rescuing civilians from fighting in Yemen; last year, China opened its first overseas military base, in Djibouti. There has been a deeper development as well. For decades, Chinese nationalism revolved around victimhood: the bitter legacy of invasion and imperialism, and the memory of a China so weak that, at the end of the nineteenth century, the philosopher Liang Qichao called his country “the sick man of Asia.” “Wolf Warrior II” captures a new, muscular iteration of China’s self-narrative, much as Rambo’s heroics expressed the swagger of the Reagan era.

Facebook will now show you more posts from friends and family than news

Meaningful Interactions

Time to rethink things.

Facebook said it plans to alter its algorithm to favor content from friends and families over publishers and brands. In a post published yesterday (Jan. 11), CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote the company’s objective was no longer primarily to surface “relevant content” for Facebook’s 2 billion users, but to prioritize meaningful social interactions that benefit them.

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content—posts from businesses, brands and media —is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

That marks a tectonic shift for Facebook’s algorithm which has been built to prioritize engagement (and monopolizing users’ attention) above almost all other considerations. That has helped propel the company’s revenue to record highs, hitting about $34 billion last year, but the strategy has drawn fierce criticism for favoring inflammatory and misleading content. That criticism grew even fiercer after a 2016 election in which Facebook proved crucial for Donald Trump’s successful campaign to win the White House. Russian-backed actors during the election cycle produced content reaching more than 126 million users, much of it promoting Trump.

Zuckerberg said Facebook users should now expect to see less content from businesses, brands, and media and more from friends, family, and groups. Factors such as the number of people who react to, comment on, or share posts will be less important than the content’s success at sparking a conversation. The changes are part of Facebook’s redesign to increase “meaningful interactions” and reduce “passive consumption of low-quality content—even if it decreases some of our engagement metrics in the short term.” Facebook says it will actively demote popular clickbait headlines and false news, and give precedence to posts from close friends. The Wall Street Journal also reports (paywall) that news outlets’ status in public polling and readers’ willingness to pay for subscriptions may be considerations for favoring that content, although the company did not confirm this.

I was Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor. Today I would tell him: your users are in peril.

I’m a major investor in Facebook, and I fear the dangers of tech addiction. While investors’ recent open letter to Apple is significant, more need to speak up.

‘Government watchdogs barely regulate the technology sector, so investors like myself have a big role to play.’

I am a tech investor, and Facebook is by far my largest investment. Still, for the past 15 months I have been pushing Facebook to sacrifice near term profits. The reason? I want them to address the harm the platform has caused through addiction and exploitation by bad actors. Government watchdogs barely regulate the technology sector in the United States, so investors like myself have a big role to play.

I was once Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor, but I have not been able to speak to him about this. Unfortunately, all the internet platforms are deflecting criticism and leaving their users in peril. Zuckerberg’s announcement on Wednesday that he would be changing the Facebook News Feed to make it promote “meaningful interactions” does little to address the concerns I have with the platform.

Thankfully, I am not the only investor demanding Facebook keep users safe. On Monday, two major investors in Apple sent an open letter criticizing the company for not doing enough to protect children from the negative aspects of smartphones and social media. This is a potential game changer. The players are combining two corporate governance strategies in ways that may be harder to resist than traditional strategies.

Corporate governance is a murky area. Boards of directors are the first line of corporate governance. They are supposed to act as a check on management, and sometimes they do. More often, boards are handpicked by CEOs and frequently act as a rubber stamp. An example is the Weinstein Companies, where the board turned a blind eye to the alleged sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein.

Sean Parker says Facebook ‘exploits’ human psychology

The Napster cofounder wonders what social media is doing to children’s brains.

Napster cofounder Sean Parker appears to have some regrets about the role he played in bringing social media to the world. Before speaking at an Axios event yesterday, he told reporters that he was now “something of a conscientious objector” on social media, according to Axios, and he shared a few thoughts on how he and others designed sites like Facebook to suck people in.

“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’ And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say, … ‘We’ll get you eventually,” Parker said. And he added that the initial goals for companies like Facebook, which Parker served as the first president of, were to make sure users spent as much time on their sites as possible. Interactions such as likes and comments served to bring people deeper into the site, about which Parker said, “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

He said that he, Mark Zuckerberg and others understood this, “And we did it anyway.” Now he wonders if the widespread use of social network sites like Facebook has altered our productivity just as it has our social interactions. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said.


Woo Woo

I can’t remember, exactly, when or why I initially became obsessed with life coaches on Instagram. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because I wanted to hire one.

Over time, I came to know their lives, in that strange online way where you don’t know someone’s real name, but thanks to their Instagram Stories, you know their favorite ceramic mug, the layout of one corner of their apartment, and the kind of milk frother they use to make their almond matcha latte.

But it wasn’t just the pleasing aesthetics of their lives that lured me. It was the conviction and confidence with which they shared their inner worlds with their online one. During a period of my life in which I was spending a lot of time, energy, and money (if you count therapy) to sort out mine, I was drawn to these bold and risky displays of online vulnerability—even if I sometimes judged them.

There is no shortage of content from which to judge, too. In keeping with millennials who use social media to build a brand in the hopes of eschewing normal definitions of work and career, life coaches on Instagram are content creators as much as anything else. Some, like @JanneRobinson (74.8k followers) write poetry and sell feminist merchandise; others like @connie_chapman (13.9k followers) have podcasts and regularly share their morning beach workouts. They tend to work from a social media playbook that could just as easily be used to sell yoga mats or smoothies as self-help. And from what I can tell—it’s working.

The Strange Brands in Your Instagram Feed

A new breed of online retailer doesn’t make or even touch products, but they’ve got a few other tricks for turning nothing into money.

It all started with an Instagram ad for a coat, the West Louis (TM) Business-Man Windproof Long Coat to be specific. It looked like a decent camel coat, not fancy but fine. And I’d been looking for one just that color, so when the ad touting the coat popped up and the price was in the double-digits, I figured: hey, a deal!

The brand, West Louis, seemed like another one of the small clothing companies that has me tagged in the vast Facebook-advertising ecosystem as someone who likes buying clothes: Faherty, Birdwell Beach Britches, Life After Denim, some wool underwear brand that claims I only need two pairs per week, sundry bootmakers.

Perhaps the copy on the West Louis site was a little much, claiming “West Louis is the perfection of modern gentlemen clothing,” but in a world where an oil company can claim to “fuel connections,” who was I to fault a small entrepreneur for some purple prose?

Several weeks later, the coat showed up in a black plastic bag emblazoned with the markings of China Post, that nation’s postal service. I tore it open and pulled out the coat. The material has the softness of a Las Vegas carpet and the rich sheen of a velour jumpsuit. The fabric is so synthetic, it could probably be refined into bunker fuel for a ship. It was, technically, the item I ordered, only shabbier than I expected in every aspect.

I went to the West Louis Instagram account and found 20 total posts, all made between June and October of 2017. Most are just pictures of clothes. Doing a reverse image search, it’s clear that the Business-Man Windproof Long Coat is sold throughout the world on a variety of retail websites.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Listen in on Trump’s live mic during the National Anthem…

Though opinions on the topic vary, the Trump presidency either marks the death of satire or a golden age for comedy. Some late night hosts have seen their ratings rise due to the “Trump Bump,” while other comedians have talked about their struggle in dealing with the absurdity of his administration in their act.

But is America getting tired of laughing at the antics of their president? And how are comedians coping with the phenomenon of “clapter”? Vice News sits down with a panel of comedians — Anthony Atamanuik, Dulcé Sloan, Judy Gold, Jordan Carlos, and Aparna Nancherla — to talk about their experience with comedy in the age of Trump.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

Trevor wonders how Norway is handling Trump’s “shithole countries” comment.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

Is the President workin’ hard or hardly workin’ a 40-hour workweek?

Stephen reads outraged book reviews from people who thought they were buying Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury,’ when they had actually purchased a Canadian historian’s ‘Fire and Fury.’

With Alex Jones over on InfoWars claiming that President Trump is slowly being poisoned by the Deep State, only Tuck Buckford is brave enough to actually do something about it.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with STephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me critical analysis of WTF Happened in December. Christmas, New Years Eve, Apple slowing down phones, Logan Paul in Japan, and the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi were some key moments.

Max is a dream weaver.


Acid Trip: Denver’s Secret LSD Labs Fueled the Psychedelic Revolution

Louis Chance was afraid there was a body inside his house. It sure smelled like it: A rank odor was wafting out of a vent toward the rear of the ranch-style home that he rented out in southeast Denver. Suspiciously, all of the curtains had been closed, to block any view inside.

Chance had discovered the smell after he’d driven by the house and noticed that the front lawn was dying. He was annoyed that his tenants weren’t taking care of the yard; since a leasing agent took care of renting the place, he’d never interacted with them. But now he parked, stepped onto the property and rapped on the front door. No one answered. He tried his key and was surprised to find that the lock had been changed. He found the same thing with the back door — only there, he was overwhelmed by the odor.

Assuming the worst, Chance called the police. At 8:40 p.m. on June 23, 1968, two Denver police officers arrived at 1050 South Elmira Street. They concurred with the landlord’s assessment: It smelled like there was a dead body inside the building. With Chance’s go-ahead, the officers broke one of the windowpanes in the back door and reached through the shattered glass to unlock it.

The upstairs of the house was clear.

But as the officers crept down a staircase into the basement, they encountered an unusual sight: dozens of cases stacked against a wall, empty trash-can-sized barrels, a sophisticated tool bench, plastic hoses that ran from a bathroom under two padlocked doors. That’s where the smell seemed to be coming from.

The cops called for backup, and Denver Police Department detectives Jim Laurita and John Gray showed up to investigate. With Chance’s permission, they busted through the padlocked doors, ready for anything.

They did not find a body.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?