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Posts Tagged ‘Wired Magazine’

This is a story about stories — and the way technology is changing the scope and structure of the stories we tell.  Right now, in untelevised reality, we are in the middle of an epic, multiseason struggle over the territory of the human imagination, over whose stories matter and why.  For me, it started with fandom.
While many millions of people out there felt that they had been written out of the future, not all of them agreed on who to blame.  Some of us blamed the banks, blamed structural inequality.  But some people don’t pay attention to the structure.  For some people, kicking up takes too much energy, and it’s easier to kick down — to blame women and people of color and queer people and immigrants for the fact that they aren’t leading the rich and meaningful lives they were promised.
But there are different kinds of love, aren’t there?  I used to believe that there was something universal about fandom, that our excitement and love for our most cherished myths could bring us all together.  This wasn’t the silliest thing I believed in my early twenties, but I had, at the time, swallowed a lot of saccharine nonsense about what love means and the work it involves.  I had not yet encountered in my adult life or in my fan life the sort of love which is always, and only, about ownership.
All nerds love their fandoms.  For some of us that means we want to share them and cheer them on as they grow and develop and change.  For others, loving their fandom means they want to own it, to shut down the borders and police their favorite stories for any sign of deviance.
Television and online streaming are driving the evolution of a new, powerful hybrid species of mass culture, one that can be collective without being homogeneous.  As arc-based television explodes, becomes more diverse and more daring, the film industry is lagging awkwardly behind.  Films are still hamstrung by their own format:  They have to tell stories of a certain length that will persuade enough people to leave their houses, find a place to park, and buy a ticket on opening weekend, or else be considered a flop.  This means mainstream cinema still needs to appeal to what the industry considers its broadest possible audience.  So it’s superhero blockbusters, endless remakes and reboots, and sequels to sequels that dominate the box office.  Safe bets.
Episodic narrative television, meanwhile, allows for many stories being possible at once.  Intimate and intricate, it may be the novel form of our age — but to reach its true potential, it took the advent of streaming platforms.  Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO.  Streaming technology changed one simple thing about the way we tell collective stories today:  It made any show theoretically accessible to anyone, at any time.  A TV writer is no longer obliged to appeal to a very large number of people at a specific time every week and hold their attention through ad breaks.  Suddenly, TV became a medium that could find its audience wherever they were in the world, so long as they had broadband and someone’s login details.  Nobody has to write “universal” stories anymore, because every show or series can find its audience — and its audience can engage on fan sites, forums, and various social media behemoths, in breathless real time.
  —  Laurie Penny
An excerpt from her article:  “We Can Be Heroes: How the Nerds Are Reinventing Pop Culture
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine
Issue:  September 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/culture-fan-tastic-planet-fanfic/
[The online version of the article may be behind a paywall.  In which case, you can probably find the hard copy at your local library.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 Sounds Like #LyingDonald
2018 Start Building
2017 Woof! Woof!
2016 Cast Out
2015 Small Pieces
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2014 Uncertain Work
2013 Unpatriotic And Servile
2012 What Price Freedom?
2011 Particular Importance
Three From Bette…

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“A story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul,” Lee wrote in a 1970 edition of “Stan’s Soapbox,” the column he awarded himself that ran in every Marvel book.
And in another, from two years prior: “Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.  But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun … it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion.”  Lee usually ended his column with the exhortation “Excelsior!”  (Ever upward!)  This one he signed off with “Pax et Justitia.”  Peace and justice.
  —  Adam Rogers
From his article: “Stan Lee Unleashed the Heroic Power of the Outcast
Appearing in Wired Magazine; dtd: Jan 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/marvel-comics-genius-stan-lee-outcasts-heroes/
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On This Day In:
2019 And Unlawful Orders From A President
2018 Instinct For Presence
2017 Hard Enough
2016 Jumps
2015 One View Of Failure
2014 We Speak For Earth
2013 Inward Urgency
2012 Delayed Reviews
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2011 Interference

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I’ve made a mistake, a lifelong one, correlating advancements in technology with progress.  Progress is the opening of doors and the leveling of opportunity, the augmentation of the whole human species and the protection of other species besides.  Progress is cheerfully facing the truth, whether flooding coastlines or falling teen pregnancy rates, and thinking of ways to preserve the processes that work and mitigate the risks.  Progress is seeing calmly, accepting, and thinking of others.
  —  Paul Ford
From his article: “Why I (Still) Love Tech: In Defense of a Difficult Industry
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd May 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 How Much Is Your Education Worth?
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2018 Disruptive Definition
2017 A History Of Small Insights
2016 Be Uncommon
2015 Ooops!
2014 What Price Freedom?
2013 Remembering Val
2012 Good-bye, Val
Survival Value
2011 Traitors In Our Midst
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[Regarding volunteer crowd-sourcing transcriptions of hand-written (formerly) personal notes…]  I do it a lot myself.  Branch Rickey’s papers are just awesome.  He is most famous for bringing Jackie Robinson into Major League Baseball, and through crowdsourcing we were able to transcribe 1,926 pages of his scouting reports on prospective players.  I would never have guessed how fun baseball scouting reports could be!  One of my favorite lines is “I doubt if he has any adventure in his soul.”
  —  Kate Zwaard
From a column: “Concordia open source software
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine, May 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 Only One Direction
2018 Respect Is Long Gone
2017 Dream Of Dreamers
2016 Dear Automakers
2015 And Some Not So Brave Too
2014 In My Lifetime…
2013 Democracy
2012 Borrowed Expectations
2011 Not Necessarily True

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Perhaps the most telling email is a message from a then executive named Sam Lessin to Zuckerberg that epitomizes Facebook’s penchant for self-justification.  The company, Lessin wrote, could be ruthless and committed to social good at the same time, because they are essentially the same thing:  “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected and the only way we can do that is with the best people and the best infrastructure, which requires that we make a lot of money / be very profitable.”
The message also highlighted another of the company’s original sins: its assertion that if you just give people better tools for sharing, the world will be a better place.  That’s just false.  Sometimes Facebook makes the world more open and connected; sometimes it makes it more closed and disaffected.  Despots and demagogues have proven to be just as adept at using Facebook as democrats and dreamers.  Like the communications innovations before it — the printing press, the telephone, the internet itself — Facebook is a revolutionary tool.  But human nature has stayed the same.
  —  Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein
From their article: “15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: May 2019
Online at: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-15-months-of-fresh-hell/
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On This Day In:
2019 Sometimes Too Subtle
2018 A Lot Like Teaching
2017 Wake Up
2016 I Like Dreaming
2015 Importance
2014 Unearned Humility
2013 Science Is Trial And Error
2012 Franklin’s Creed
2011 First Steps
2010 Home Ill…

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Now that I’ve turned my mind to reveling in the glory of technology, I’ve been gazing  back at the olden, golden days.  And the other day I remembered that, once upon a time, humans had to remember things.
  —  Ripley D. Light
From his editorial titled:  “Totally Wired
Appearing in Wired Magazine, dtd:  May 2019
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On This Day In:
2019 Two Guides
2018 A Call For You
2017 Because I Read
2016 On What Matters…
2015 Social Security
2014 Bewitching
2013 Visiting Joy
2012 Dedication To Today
2011 Project Second Chance – Adult Literacy
Turning Coal Into Diamonds

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The emergence of the mirrorworld will affect us all at a deeply personal level.  We know there will be severe physiological and psychological effects of dwelling in dual worlds; we’ve already learned that from our experience living in cyberspace and virtual realities.  But we don’t know what these effects will be, much less how to prepare for them or avoid them.  We don’t even know the exact cognitive mechanism that makes the illusion of AR work in the first place.  [“AR” = Augmented Reality  —  KMAB]
The great paradox is that the only way to understand how AR works is to build AR and test ourselves in it.  It’s weirdly recursive: The technology itself is the microscope needed to inspect the effects of the technology.
Some people get very upset with the idea that new technologies will create new harms and that we willingly surrender ourselves to these risks when we could adopt the precautionary principle: Don’t permit the new unless it is proven safe.  But that principle is unworkable, because the old technologies we are in the process of replacing are even less safe.  More than 1 million humans die on the roads each year, but we clamp down on robot drivers when they kill one person.  We freak out over the unsavory influence of social media on our politics, while TV’s partisan influence on elections is far, far greater than Facebook’s.  The mirrorworld will certainly be subject to this double standard of stricter norms.
I imagine it will take at least a decade for the mirrorworld to develop enough to be used by millions, and several decades to mature.  But we are close enough now to the birth of this great work that we can predict its character in rough detail.
Eventually this melded world will be the size of our planet.  It will be humanity’s greatest achievement, creating new levels of wealth, new social problems, and uncountable opportunities for billions of people.  There are no experts yet to make this world; you are not late.
  —  Kevin Kelly
From his article:  “Welcome To Mirrorworld
Appearing in Wired Magazine; dtd:  March 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/mirrorworld-ar-next-big-tech-platform/
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On This Day In:
2019 Too Difficult To Try
2018 Hold Fast
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2014 PTI
2013 What Now, Then?
2012 Big C, Little B
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Why do techies insist that things should be sped up, torqued, optimized?
There’s one obvious reason, of course:  They do it because of the dictates of the market.  Capitalism handsomely rewards anyone who can improve a process and squeeze some margin out.  But with software, there’s something else going on too.  For coders, efficiency is more than just a tool for business.  It’s an existential state, an emotional driver.
Coders might have different backgrounds and political opinions, but nearly every one I’ve ever met found deep, almost soulful pleasure in taking something inefficient — even just a little bit slow — and tightening it up a notch.  Removing the friction from a system is an aesthetic joy; coders’ eyes blaze when they talk about making something run faster or how they eliminated some bothersome human effort from a process.
  —  Clive Thompson
From his article:  “Efficiency Is Beautiful
In Wired Magazine, dtd: April 2019
Also online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/coders-efficiency-is-beautiful/
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On This Day In:
2018 Cursive In The News
2017 Coffee Crunch
2016 Preparation
2015 Scarcely Asked
2014 They Resemble Us
2013 Both
2012 That’s Success!
2011 Losing At Dominos
2010 1,001

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The Enlightenment sought to establish reason as the foundational pillar of civilized discourse.  In this conception, logical argument matters, and the truth of a statement is tested by examination of values, assumptions, and facts, not by how many people believe it.  Cyber-enabled information warfare threatens to replace these pillars of logic and truth with fantasy and rage.
  —  Herbert Lin
As quoted by: Virginia Heffernan
In her article: “Clock Watchers: The Beautiful Benefits of Contemplating Doom
In Wired Magazine, dtd: Apr 2019
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On This Day In:
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2017 Falling Forward One Step At A Time
2016 And Without Expectation
2015 Just Do It
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2014 Some Things I Learned (Mostly) In The Army:
2013 Who You Are
2012 Mine Stands
2011 Aversions

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The freedom of speech is an important democratic value, but it’s not the only one.  In the liberal tradition, free speech is usually understood as a vehicle — a necessary condition for achieving certain other societal ideals: for creating a knowledgeable public; for engendering healthy, rational, and informed debate; for holding powerful people and institutions accountable; for keeping communities lively and vibrant.  What we are seeing now is that when free speech is treated as an end and not a means, it is all too possible to thwart and distort everything it is supposed to deliver.
Creating a knowledgeable public requires at least some workable signals that distinguish truth from falsehood.  Fostering a healthy, rational, and informed debate in a mass society requires mechanisms that elevate opposing viewpoints, preferably their best versions.  To be clear, no public sphere has ever fully achieved these ideal conditions — but at least they were ideals to fail from.  Today’s engagement algorithms, by contrast, espouse no ideals about a healthy public sphere.
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The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech.
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Some scientists predict that within the next few years, the number of children struggling with obesity will surpass the number struggling with hunger.  Why?  When the human condition was marked by hunger and famine, it made perfect sense to crave condensed calories and salt.  Now we live in a food glut environment, and we have few genetic, cultural, or psychological defenses against this novel threat to our health.  Similarly, we have few defenses against these novel and potent threats to the ideals of democratic speech, even as we drown in more speech than ever.
The stakes here are not low.  In the past, it has taken generations for humans to develop political, cultural, and institutional antibodies to the novelty and upheaval of previous information revolutions.  If The Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will came out now, they’d flop; but both debuted when film was still in its infancy, and their innovative use of the medium helped fuel the mass revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the rise of Nazism.
By this point, we’ve already seen enough to recognize that the core business model underlying the Big Tech platforms — harvesting attention with a massive surveillance infrastructure to allow for targeted, mostly automated advertising at very large scale — is far too compatible with authoritarianism, propaganda, misinformation, and polarization.  The institutional antibodies that humanity has developed to protect against censorship and propaganda thus far — laws, journalistic codes of ethics, independent watchdogs, mass education — all evolved for a world in which choking a few gatekeepers and threatening a few individuals was an effective means to block speech.  They are no longer sufficient.
   —  Zeynep Tufekci
From his article: “It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: February 2018
On-line at: https://www.wired.com/story/free-speech-issue-tech-turmoil-new-censorship/
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On This Day In:
2018 The Births Of Spring
2017 Drug Epidemic In America
2016 Word Up, Chuck!
2015 Sometimes I Wonder About Things
2014 Still Racing
2013 Anew
2012 Make Both
2011 Are You Happy Yet?

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Humans are a social species, equipped with few defenses against the natural world beyond our ability to acquire knowledge and stay in groups that work together.  We are particularly susceptible to glimmers of novelty, messages of affirmation and belonging, and messages of outrage toward perceived enemies.  These kinds of messages are to human community what salt, sugar, and fat are to the human appetite.  And Facebook gorges us on them — in what the company’s first president, Sean Parker, recently called “a social-­validation feedback loop.”
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Sure, it is a golden age of free speech — if you can believe your lying eyes.
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There are, moreover, no nutritional labels in this cafeteria.  For Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, all speech — whether it’s a breaking news story, a saccharine animal video, an anti-Semitic meme, or a clever advertisement for razors — is but “content,” each post just another slice of pie on the carousel.  A personal post looks almost the same as an ad, which looks very similar to a New York Times article, which has much the same visual feel as a fake newspaper created in an afternoon.
What’s more, all this online speech is no longer public in any traditional sense.  Sure, Facebook and Twitter sometimes feel like places where masses of people experience things together simultaneously.  But in reality, posts are targeted and delivered privately, screen by screen by screen.  Today’s phantom public sphere has been fragmented and submerged into billions of individual capillaries.  Yes, mass discourse has become far easier for everyone to participate in — but it has simultaneously become a set of private conversations happening behind your back.  Behind everyone’s backs.
  —  Zeynep Tufekci
From his article: “It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: February 2018
On-line at: https://www.wired.com/story/free-speech-issue-tech-turmoil-new-censorship/
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On This Day In:
2018 Silence Presence
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2016 Show Willing
2015 If He Only Knew…
2014 Dared To Love
2013 Strong Kung-Fu
2012 Two Tribes
2011 Made Any Assumptions Lately?

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On the phone, I ask Li if she imagines there could have been a way to develop AI differently, without, perhaps, the problems we’ve seen so far.  “I think it’s hard to imagine,” she says.  “Scientific advances and innovation come really through generations of tedious work, trial and error.  It took a while for us to recognize such bias.  I only woke up six years ago and realized ‘Oh my God, we’re entering a crisis.’ ”
On Capitol Hill, Li said, “As a scientist, I’m humbled by how nascent the science of AI is.  It is the science of only 60 years.  Compared to classic sciences that are making human life better every day — physics, chemistry, biology — there’s a long, long way to go for AI to realize its potential to help people.”  She added, “With proper guidance AI will make life better.  But without it, the technology stands to widen the wealth divide even further, make tech even more exclusive, and reinforce biases we’ve spent generations trying to overcome.”  This is the time, Li would have us believe, between an invention and its impact.
  —  Fei-Fei Li  (being quoted)
Quoted by: Jessi Hempel
From her article:  “The Human In The Machine
Appearing in: Wired Magazine, December 2018
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On This Day In:
2018 MAGA?
2017 Neutral
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2016 Hard Learners
2015 Goals
2014 Switch To Dogs…
2013 Times Change
2012 Ashes Not Dust
2011 A Handful From Saudi
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Take Responsibility

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But what I miss more than sex is the feeling of closeness with another person, something I’ve never believed could be conjured up.  And though the sensory deprivation has become a little extreme, most of the time — can I put a percentage on it?  Is it as high as 80 percent? — I do not think about it.  I am semi-radically independent and some kind of artist and in many ways an unconventional liberal woman.  However alienating, for me this is a time of deep creativity.  It’s that additional 20 percent of the time — that’s when I feel dizzy.
This is where I’m at when I fly 17 hours to meet [Hiroshi] Ishi­guro.  And as a result, if I am honest with myself, my time abroad feels particularly fraught.  The very concept of “human connection” has never felt so enigmatic to me.  It makes sense that someone would be trying to measure it, to weigh it, to calculate its dimensions.  To be able to replicate the sensation of human intimacy would be to control the very thing that confuses us most and eludes so many.
  —  Alex Mar
From her article:  “Love In The Time Of Robots
Wired Magazine
November 2017
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2017 One Night In A Thousand Years
2016 A Considerable Amount Of Work
2015 Panzer Soldier
2014 Babies (I)
2013 Patriotic == Tell The Truth
2012 30 Days To Go
2011 Altering The Course

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When asked if he had any theories about why the error so enchanted people, Cailliau wrote “I don’t even have a hunch about the 404 fascination.  And frankly I don’t give a damn.  The sort of creativity that goes into 404 response pages is fairly useless.  The mythology is probably due to the irrationality, denial of evidence, and preference for the fairy tale over reality that is quite common in the human species …  These human traits were relatively innocent in the past, when individual influence was small and information spread slowly.  Today, and in no small way due to the existence of the net, these traits have gained a power that is dangerous.”  As examples, he cited the election of Donald Trump, the deterioration of the EU, meek political responses to gun violence, and the proliferation of euphemism (“climate change”).  Or the fascination could just be a dash of humanity, an appreciation that the internet is made by humans, and humans — especially on the internet — are often bored.
  —  Robert Cailliau
Quoted by:  Anna Wiener
In her article: “Page Not Found: A Brief History Of The 404 ERROR
Appearing in: Wired Magazine
Dated: December 2017
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2013 Fulfilled Acceptance
2012 Error Is Tolerated Here (So Far)
2011 In Defense Of Pain

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I was in business for 30 years, and my experience is that the best way to operate is to work fairly and closely with partners over a long period of time.  The most expensive way to do business is to do it deal by deal, each of which is highly contentious.  If deal by deal is the model, where instead of partners or allies we have counterparts and competitors, that is very expensive, difficult, and dangerous.  OK, so look at the Paris agreement: It’s going to force the developed world to change its energy sources.  That means the US could be the leader in developing renewable technology for more than a billion people — a huge incoming market — who don’t have electricity at all.
The Paris agreement was a great achievement of American leadership.  So the idea that we’re going to walk away and give up leadership of 194 countries, and walk away from our position as a leader in the world for the past 100 years, will be an incredibly expensive and dumb thing to do.
  —  Tom Steyer
From the article: “The Billionaire on a Mission to Save the Planet From Trump
Article written by: Nick Stockton
Article appearing in: Wired Magazine, dtd: April 2017
Link to article: http://www.wired.com/2017/03/tom-steyer-interview/
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On This Day In:
2017 The Morality Of Spying
2016 He Doesn’t Remind Me Of Me
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2015 Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow
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2014 I Blame Robocop
2013 Future Trustees
2012 Praise Not The Day…
2011 Educated Living

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