MOONSTRUCK:

The Hotel Guest Who Wouldn’t Leave: Mickey Barreto’s five-year stay cost him only $200.57. Now it might cost him his freedom. (Matthew Haag, March 25, 2024, NY Times)

Much of Mr. Barreto’s story is corroborated by years of court records, but one crucial moment comes from only his account: On that first night, he settled into his room, high above Midtown, along with his partner, Matthew Hannan. Before that night, Mr. Barreto says, Mr. Hannan had mentioned, in passing, a peculiar fact about affordable housing rules that pertain to New York City hotels.

With their laptops open, he claimed, they explored whether the New Yorker Hotel was subject to the rule, a little-known section of a state housing law, the Rent Stabilization Act.

Passed in 1969, the law created a system of rent regulation across the city. But also subject to the law was a swath of hotel rooms, specifically those in large hotels built before 1969, whose rooms could be rented for less than $88 a week in May 1968.

According to the law, a hotel guest could become a permanent resident by requesting a lease at a discounted rate. And any guest-turned-resident also had to be allowed access to the same services as a nightly guest, including room service, housekeeping and the use of facilities, like the gym.

The room becomes, essentially, a rent-subsidized apartment inside a hotel.

Despite the reasonable assumption that what he was undertaking had been orchestrated from the start, Mr. Barreto claimed the idea only took shape when his and Mr. Hannan’s online search stumbled upon the 27th line of a 295-page spreadsheet titled “List of Manhattan Buildings Containing Stabilized Units.”

According to court documents, Mr. Barreto left his room the next morning, rode the elevator to the lobby and greeted a hotel employee at the front desk. He handed over a letter addressed to the manager: He wanted a six-month lease.

The employee dialed the manager, and after a brief exchange, Mr. Barreto was told there was no such thing as a lease at the hotel and that without booking another night, he would have to vacate the room by noon. The couple did not remove their belongings, so the bellhops did — and Mr. Barreto headed to New York City Housing Court in Lower Manhattan and sued the hotel.

In a three-page, handwritten affidavit dated June 22, 2018, Mr. Barreto cited state laws, local codes and a past court case in arguing that his request for a lease made him a “permanent resident of the hotel.” Removal of his items amounted to an illegal eviction, he said.

At a hearing on July 10, in the absence of any hotel representatives to oppose the lawsuit, the judge, Jack Stoller, ruled in Mr. Barreto’s favor. Judge Stoller not only agreed with his arguments; he even cited the same case law as Mr. Barreto and ordered the hotel “to restore petitioner to possession of the subject premises forthwith by providing him with a key.”

Mr. Barreto returned to Room 2565 within days, now as a resident of the hotel — and soon, as its new owner.

RENE GIRARD IS FULL OF IT TOO:

The “hero’s journey” isn’t as universal as you think: Joseph Campbell argued that nearly every myth can be boiled down to a hero’s journey. Was he right? (Tim Brinkhof, 3/25/24, Big Think)

Although the study of comparative mythology is certainly worthwhile — especially in terms of coming up with explanations for common themes like apocalyptic floods, fratricidal brothers, and virgin mothers, among others — scholars who engage in this field invariably run the risk of misinterpreting or misrepresenting the narrative traditions of cultures not their own. Bond and Christensen say this frequently happened to Campbell in his studies of Asian, African, and Native American folklore, which he either generalized until they fit into his philosophical framework or, in the case of his writing on the Sanskrit concept of ānanda, accidentally mistranslated.

As story consultant Steve Seager explains on his blog, the monomyth is only one type of ancient myth. While narratives like the story of Moses in the Book of Exodus and the battle between Marduk and Tiamat in Mesopotamian mythology can be summarized as hero’s journeys, many other tales of old — from tragedies like Oedipus Rex to folktales like Rumpelstiltskin, not to mention most creation myths — cannot.

Cultures from the ancient world not only had unique gods and monsters, but unique narrative traditions also. “Indian narrative forms are radically different from Western forms,” Seager writes. “Watch a Bollywood movie. One moment the film is a romance, then a thriller, then a musical, then a martial arts movie — confusing for a Western audience but totally natural for an Indian audience.” He defines these narrative forms as “eminently comfortable with complexity, non-linearity and the non-binary nature of being.” Where hero’s journeys deal in dualities, with the protagonist abandoning one worldview in favor of another, defeating the dragon or being defeated by it, Indian stories — shaped by Hinduism and Buddhism — do not typically present their conflicts in the framework of a choice.

FIRST, DO NO HARM:

Banning the Blockers (Bernard Lane, 25 Mar 2024, Quillette)


Gender clinics from Stockholm to San Francisco, from Florence to Melbourne, have been running an uncontrolled experiment on children, while cloaked in the mantle of human rights and denouncing any critics as hateful bigots. It will take time to understand the implications of this experiment. Even those gender clinicians who sold blockers as safe have generally acknowledged one dangerous side-effect: low bone density. Hormone-suppressed teenagers are unlikely to get full benefit of the surge in bone mass that comes with puberty; as a result, they may be prematurely exposed to the brittle bones and fractures normally seen in the elderly. And there is another lesser known but potentially more profound risk: the effects of blockers on the brain.

The NHS decision to ban blockers rested heavily on a 2022 interim report by paediatrician Hilary Cass, who has led an independent review of gender dysphoria care. In her report, she writes,

It is known that adolescence is a period of significant changes in brain structure, function and connectivity. Animal research suggests that this development is partially driven by the [natural] pubertal sex hormones, but it is unclear whether the same is true in humans. If pubertal sex hormones are essential to these brain maturation processes, this raises a secondary question of whether there is a critical time window for the processes to take place, or whether catch up is possible when [cross-sex] oestrogen or testosterone is introduced later.


This question is not new. In 2006, Dutch clinicians, who had pioneered the off-label use of puberty blockers for gender dysphoria—these drugs had previously been used for other, distinct conditions—stated that, “It is not clear yet how pubertal suppression will influence brain development.”

There was talk of a study to elucidate this, but it was never carried out. Despite this, by 2016, a key Dutch clinician was claiming that puberty blockers were “completely reversible.”

And this was the slogan picked up by gender clinics around the world as they adopted the puberty blocker-driven “Dutch protocol” for paediatric gender transition. A crucial unknown had been memory-holed.

Eugenics is science too.

EARTH FIRST:

Geothermal is the hottest thing in clean energy. Here’s why (Maria Gallucci, 25 March 2024, Canary Media)

Solar, wind power and battery-storage projects are already cleaning up the U.S. electrical grid. But energy analysts warn that these technologies might not be enough on their own to fully buck America’s reliance on fossil-fuel-burning power plants, which are the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions after transportation. The grid also needs carbon-free electricity available on demand to guarantee it can provide the sort of 24/7 power needed by cities, data centers and industrial facilities like aluminum smelters or steel mills.

At the moment, however, these so-called ​“clean, firm” sources remain elusive. Recent advances in geothermal technologies, demonstrated by a handful of real-world projects, suggest that harnessing the earth’s heat could be among the most promising ways to solve this clean-energy conundrum. But that can only happen if it can overcome the sizable challenges that stand in its way.

“If we can crack the nut on this new-generation geothermal, it means we can put geothermal just about anywhere,” Cindy Taff, CEO of the Houston-based startup Sage Geosystems, said during a March 9 panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas.