October 6, 2018 in 2,973 words

Daveed Diggs: ‘Days before I started on Hamilton, I got thrown against a fence by police’

He’s the star of TV and Broadway whose new film Blindspotting unveils the evils of gentrification. The actor discusses protest, prejudice and the ‘neo-Nazi president’


Daveed Diggs, born poor and “very happy” in Oakland, California, says his Jewish mother and African-American father informed him early on that he was going to be policed differently than many of his friends. Regardless of the success he has had of late – including his double-star turn as both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton’s original Broadway cast – the 36-year-old says that fear is still “always there”. Growing up, he was never as aware of the imbalance as when he was around some of his more reckless white friends, a burden he compares to “a weight on my shoulders, a kind of disability that wasn’t shared by them”.

“I got pulled over the first time, five days after I got my driver’s licence, I was 16,” says Diggs. “My car was surrounded by four police cars, one of them walking up to the door with his hand on his gun. Because I had forgotten to turn my lights on and I was driving at night.” Over three years in his 20s, he was pulled over 36 times. “Two days before I left LA to move to New York to work on Hamilton, I got pulled off of my bike and thrown up against a fence by police officers who thought I fitted a description. These events keep happening. It doesn’t change. And so you live with it.”

This ever-present feeling – a sort of PTSD, he says, an awareness that your life is worth less than others – informs his new film Blindspotting, co-written by and starring Diggs and Rafael Casal. Blurring all comedy/drama boundaries, the film’s nuanced exploration of racial and class divides is set in the increasingly gentrified Oakland. Collin (Diggs) spends his final days on probation desperately trying to avoid trouble, not helped at all by his white, grills-wearing best friend Miles (Casal), or by witnessing a black man killed by a white cop.

Diggs exudes urgency as a traumatised man scrabbling to hold it all together. There is a vitality about him, which can also be heard on record with his rap group Clipping; he’s the same when in interview mode: always alert, switched on. At points in Blindspotting, Collin and Miles express themselves via spoken verse. It is intrinsic to the film and to Diggs who – long before Hamilton brought hip-hop showtunes to Broadway – battled in his school’s slam poetry competitions.

“When I started, it was a way to present my ideas in a way that people would listen to,” he says. “I was a poor black kid from east Oakland; nobody had any reason to listen to me. Historically, no one listened to me. But all of a sudden with this trick of making it sound pretty, everybody was not only hearing you but excited to hear what you were going to say next. That’s a very powerful thing for a kid to learn.”


The cerebral mystique

Neuroscience gives us invaluable, wondrous knowledge about the brain – including an awareness of its limitations.

More than 2,000 years ago, the semi-mythical father of medicine, Hippocrates of Kos, challenged the spiritualists of his time with a bold claim about the nature of the human mind. In response to supernatural explanations of mental phenomena, Hippocrates insisted that ‘from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations’. In the modern age, Hippocrates’ words have been distilled into a Twitter-friendly pop-neuroscience slogan: ‘We are our brains.’ This message resonates with recent trends to blame criminality on the brain, to redefine mental illness as brain disease and, in futuristic-technological circles, to imagine enhancing or preserving our lives by enhancing or preserving our brains. From creativity to drug addiction, there is barely an aspect of human behaviour that has not been attributed to brain function. To many people today, the brain seems like a contemporary surrogate for the soul.

But lost in the public’s romance with the brain is the most fundamental lesson neuroscience has to teach us: that the organ of our minds is a purely physical entity, conceptually and causally embedded in the natural world. Although the brain is required for almost everything we do, it never works alone. Instead, its function is inextricably linked to the body and to the environment around it. The interdependence of these factors is masked however by a cultural phenomenon I call the ‘cerebral mystique’ – a pervasive idealisation of the brain and its singular importance, which protects traditional conceptions about differences between mind and body, the freedom of will and the nature of thought itself.

The mystique is expressed in multiple forms, ranging from ubiquitous depictions of supernatural, ultra-sophisticated brains in science fiction and the popular media to more sober, scientifically supported conceptions of cognitive function that emphasise inorganic qualities or confine mental processes to neural structures. This idealisation is almost reflexively adopted by laypeople and scientists alike (including me!) and it is compatible with both materialist and spiritual world views. The cerebral mystique might help to increase enthusiasm for neuroscience – a valued consequence – but it drastically limits our ability to analyse human behaviour and address important social problems.

The widespread analogy of the brain to a computer contributes powerfully to the cerebral mystique by distancing the brain from the rest of the biology. The contrast between a machine-like brain and the wet, chaotic mess we have throughout the rest of our bodies sets up a brain-body distinction that parallels the historical mind-body distinction drawn by early philosophers such as René Descartes. In keeping with Western religious notions of the soul, Descartes in the 17th century postulated that the mind is an ethereal entity that interacts with the body but does not join with it. With his timeless axiom ‘I think, therefore I am’ Descartes placed the mind in its own universe, autonomous of the material world.


The Comforting Fictions of Dementia Care

Many facilities are using nostalgic environments as a means of soothing the misery, panic, and rage their residents experience.


The memory-care unit in Ohio’s Chagrin Valley is designed to look like an American town from its residents’ childhoods.

The large central room of the memory-care unit was designed to look like an old-fashioned American town square. There was a small fountain, surrounded by plants and a low stone wall; there were a couple of lampposts, and benches, tables, and chairs set about. The carpet was mottled with darker and lighter shades of green, to resemble grass growing and bending in different directions. Along the walls were the façades of what looked like clapboard houses, with wooden shutters and shingled pitched roofs and porches that extended into the room. Two long hallways, which led off from opposite sides of the central room, looked like streets in the same town, with more clapboard façades and porches on either side. These façades were not altogether fake: each front door opened onto a suite of small rooms—living room, bedroom, bathroom—that was a resident’s home.

Some of the porches had rocking chairs that you could sit in and watch people go by. Many of the residents were quite restless, and there was nowhere else to go, so people did walk by fairly often. Daylight came in through high windows just below the ceiling, and the ceiling itself consisted of bright light panels painted to look like a blue sky dotted with clouds. In the evening, as it began to grow dark outside, lights on the porches came on. Sometime later, the street lamps were lit; and finally, around eight o’clock, the ceiling sky was switched off, so that the unit came to look like a small-town street at night.

The illusion was surprisingly effective. While the central area didn’t feel like outdoors, exactly, it didn’t feel like a room, either—it was halfway between the two, at once enclosed and public. People who spent time there found themselves referring to the hallways as streets, and the suites as houses. And although the unit was conceived as a kind of nostalgic stage set, a harkening back to an America of eighty or ninety years ago, when many of its residents were children, in fact it looked much like the town outside: Chagrin Falls, Ohio, in the Chagrin Valley just east of Cleveland, a town of clapboard houses with wooden shutters and shingled pitched roofs and rocking chairs on the porches.

The impression that the unit was outdoors and public was all the stronger because the people who gathered each day in the central room had no common purpose or shared understanding of what they were doing there. Some knew that they had come to live in the memory-care unit because they could no longer manage living on their own: they could no longer drive, or they tended to forget their medication or leave the stove on, or if they went for a walk they might get lost. Some knew that they were in a memory-care unit but didn’t believe they needed to be there and tried to get out. Others did not know where they were, or knew sometimes but not at other times, or else seemed to have reached a point at which the question of where they were was no longer important.


5 Products That Got Popular For Unexpectedly Creepy Reasons

Most companies are willing to do just about anything short of committing federal crimes to make a profit. Hell, even the crime part is up for grabs if they think they’ll make more money than the fines cost. But there are a few lines that even massive corporations won’t cross, and they’re much weirder than you’d think …

5. Hello Kitty Accidentally Sold A Vibrator


Sanrio, the global conglomerate behind Hello Kitty, Aggretsuko, and other emoji sets, is even better than Disney at slapping their mascots onto every product imaginable. Maybe the only place you wouldn’t expect their iconic mouthless cat to turn up would be, ahem, mounted on a vibrator.

Hello kitty, indeed …

That’s supposed to be a back massager, and not the type with winking quotation marks around it. But as back pain sufferers don’t normally associate Japanese cartoons with healthcare efficacy, the device didn’t do much business on the strength of its intended purpose. However, once someone tested a secondary application of its stimulating ability, it started flying off the shelves and directly into the shameful crevice between the mattress and the box spring.


Kelly, the Sassy Dolphin

What can one brash dolphin teach us about personality?


Kelly—a dolphin with a big “personality”—has been in show business for about four decades, most recently at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.

The Atlantis resort in the Bahamas is an imposing place. It sits just north of downtown Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, on its own little stretch of sand dubbed Paradise Island. The main building has two high towers, over 20 stories each, connected at the top by a broad, arched walkway that’s dotted with giant statues of marlin and other sea creatures, both mythical and real. The main entrance is marked by a huge statue of golden Pegasi arranged to look like they are in mid-flight, suspended in the air above a series of fountains. To check into the hotel, guests walk past the gilded Pegasus launch pad and over a bridge that’s flanked by gigantic nautilus-shell-shaped fountains that pour into a marina full of private yachts. Ted Turner, the vice president of the resort’s Dolphin Cay, is giving me a tour, and he lists off the guests who have stayed recently: P. Diddy, the Chicago Blackhawks, Harvey Weinstein. “Many, many famous and rich people come through here,” Turner says. The entire hotel is coral pink.

Atlantis sprawls over 692,000 square meters (slightly bigger than Washington, DC’s National Mall) and features, among other things, a 2,800-square-meter marina, a nightclub, thousands of rooms, a casino, a 75-million-liter water park, and 50,000 animals from over 250 marine species, including more than 100 sharks and 42 bottlenose dolphins.

I’m at Atlantis on a warm Monday in June to see one of those dolphins, a 44-year-old female named Kelly. When I arrive at Dolphin Cay, the sun is finally banishing the last of some storm clouds, and Kelly is across the far side of the pool, doing what’s called a “shallow water interaction” with guests. From ground level, Dolphin Cay looks like one big space. But beneath the water, there are gates and pens—keeping the dolphins separated from the guests and one another. When it’s their time to shine, a set of dolphins is released into the large area that leads up to the beach. The guests, all in matching Atlantis wetsuits provided for the occasion, stand in about a meter of water while Kelly and a handful of other dolphins, swimming out in deeper water past a drop-off, entertain them with tricks. As I walk to the edge of the pool, a crowd starts chanting “Kelly! Kelly! Kelly!” Linda Hammerton, the director of marine mammal operations at Dolphin Cay, laughs. “There goes Kelly, about to show off.” On cue, Kelly leaps out of the water in a graceful arc, and the crowd goes wild. She’s still an acrobat, despite her advanced age—bottlenose dolphins in the wild only live 15 to 20 years. “She’s my inspiration because everybody thinks at 44 you’re kinda over the hill—no you’re not! Kelly’s great,” Hammerton says.


Tiny Gecko Makes ‘a Bazillion’ Phone Calls From Inside Hawaiian Animal Hospital


A gold dust day gecko in Kihei, Hawaii.

Sometimes, technical problems are just a bug. Other times, it’s a lizard.

Earlier this week, the director of a seal hospital in Hawaii says she was deluged with a more than a dozen mysterious calls to her cell phone. When she picked up, however, the line was silent. To make the situation even stranger, the calls were apparently coming from inside the hospital.

“Did anyone call me? No one did,” wrote Dr. Claire Simeone, the hospital director of the Ke Kai Ola Marine Mammal Center, on Twitter. “Meanwhile, several other people call the hospital, asking WHY WE ARE CALLING THEM INCESSANTLY?”

Simeone says that Hawaiian Telecom, the center’s phone company, confirmed that “a bazillion calls” were indeed coming from a single line inside the hospital and asked her to look around to find the problem phone.

When she finally found it, however, the issue wasn’t hardware or software, but footwear—that is, the toe pads on a tiny gold dust day gecko.


In the end, Simeone says she sent a note to the center’s staff and volunteers about the flood of strange “telemarketing calls” made by one foot-dialing lizard.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

In his editorial New Rule, Bill calls on liberals to stop chasing conservatives out of restaurants and focus on chasing them out of office.

THANKS to HBO and Real Time with Bill Maher for making this program available on YouTube.


Desi Lydic highlights candidates in the 2018 congressional election who have either been indicted or are actually in jail, including Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins and Steven Foster.

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


The First Lady is taking her ‘Be Best’ campaign on the road. And then on a plane. And then to the opposite side of the world.


Donald Trump’s EPA is trying to put the ‘rad’ back in radiation.

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


Jordan Klepper heads to a MAGA rally in Southaven, Mississippi, to find out what Trump’s base thinks about the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

THANKS to Comedy Central for making this program available on YouTube.


それほど金魚には興味がないようですが、出かける時は戸を閉めて隔離します。Maru&Hana do not seem to be too interested in a swimming fish.But just in case, when I go out, I close the door and isolate goldfishes.


FINALLY . . .

Banksy auction prank leaves art world in shreds

Canvas of Girl With Balloon passes through shredder in frame shortly after £1m sale.

Banksy has played what could be one of the most audacious pranks in art history, arranging for one of his best-known works to self-destruct after being sold at auction for just over £1m.

Girl With Balloon was the final item in an auction at Sotheby’s in London on Friday night and its sale price equalled the artist’s previous auction record of £1.04m.

Shortly after the hammer came down on the item, however, the canvas began to pass through a shredder installed in the frame.

Banksy posted an image on Instagram of the shredded work dangling from the bottom of the frame with the title “Going, going, gone … ”

View this post on Instagram

Going, going, gone…

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

“It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art in Europe.

Sotheby’s said in a statement to the Financial Times: “We have talked with the successful purchaser who was surprised by the story. We are in discussion about next steps.”

The auction house declined to reveal the identity of the buyer.

On Saturday evening, Banksy posted a video on his Instagram page which showed a shredder being fitted to the frame of the painting.

It opened with the caption: “A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting.”


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