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Category Archives: Zeitgeist Movement
Posted: August 25, 2017 at 4:03 am
by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) In honor of diversity, expression and freedom, this weeks Cover Stories seeks to erode political tyranny, voracity and dictatorship, specifically the brand that was exhibited by North American president, Donald Trump, recently. Attempting to embrace those creative efforts that revolt against any form of ignorance, oppression and totalitarianism, we include two iconic publications which showcase design perspectives and approaches in protest against any embargo placed upon free thought and critical thinking.
Find a cover we should know about? Tweet us at @Marklives and @shanenilfunct. Want to view all the covers at a glance? See our Pinterest board!
As a high-end magazine catering to a predominantly female market, Destiny couldnt have chosen a better cover girl for its latest issue, setting a new standard for pluralism in the publishing industry. Deeply rooted within Ndebele culture, South African artist Esther Mahlangu is a picture of gracefulness. Sadly, not as well-known locally as she is abroad, Mahlangu is perhaps most-popular for her art car commissioned by BMW, which formed part of a limited series alongside other huge names such as Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Frank Stella. She wears her traditional attire with dignity, showing that this gogo lives and breathes her heritage. Highlighting this cultural icon on the cover is a radical way to celebrate the end of Womens Month in SA; themed the Heritage Issue, kudos must go out to the editorial team for having the vision to make this cover happen a respectful sentiment in support of cultural diversity, representation and identity.
Trump officially blows, after more than a week of public outcry related to his delay and inaction towards the Charlottesville attacks. After a lengthy bout of silence, his dismal pushback placed equal blame on counter-protestors for the concerning events that were clearly caused by a white supremacist rally, suggesting the presidents support for the far right in the US. In the wake of these events, further emphasising his perceived sympathy for the American far right, Trump tweeted the importance of the statues that honor Confederate leaders, which are the root cause of these attacks. This follows a previous week of warmongering against North Korea.
Trump has an uncanny inability to hold back, unscripted. His lackluster response towards the Charlottesville rally is succinctly portrayed in three covers that went viral over the past 10 days, each depicting the president in some way related to white supremacy, on the precipice of quasi-imperialism. The cover for the New Yorker, titled Blowhard, illustrated by David Plunkert, is particularly noteworthy in this regard. Representing Trump as an inept lone sailor blowing into the punctured and tattered white sails, resembling a Ku Klux Klan mask, of a flimsy black raft navigating his morally barren, ethically devoid social, political and economic seas.
With all the physical and psychological divisions in America now chillingly apparent, these covers capture a pivotal moment in history.
Speaking in terms of diversity and expression, variety being the proverbial spice of life, Eye is a graphic design journal tailored for critically informed visual culture junkies, taking the notion of multiplicity and pluralism to the next level in its 94th issue. Paul McNeil and Hamish Muir of MuirMcNeil studio were commissioned to create 8000 distinctive covers. To this end, the studio created 10 seed files, each containing iterations of letterforms drawn from the word eye, with fixed increments in three layers, each set in a variation of MuirMcNeils TwoPoint or TwoPlus typeface systems. Recalling Dietmar Winklers classic 1969 poster design for an MIT computer programming course, each layer is displaced laterally and spaced proportionately using letter spacing and typesetting traditions. Printed digitally on an Indigo 10000 press, these covers depend on HP Mosaic software, which allows for variable data printing that resizes, rotates and alters the colour of the artwork, based on the 10 seed files, and finally cropped it to make a diverse amount of final cover designs.
As a Futurist bi-monthly architecture magazine, Mark is noted for thwarting convention and eroding conservatism, specifically in the context of the built environment. The latest issue reminds one of Mess-Mend (1923), a classic cover design by Russian artist and designer, Alexandre Rodchenko, who was one of the original founders of the Russian Constructivist movement. True to the revolutionary nature of Constructivist design traditions, the use of layout, photography and typography supports a well-contextualised aesthetic and ethical template. The magazine is particularly successful at creating synergy between its print and online iterations with a masthead that speaks in an architectural tone of voice, beautifully designed, standing strong on both the top-third of the printed cover, and above the fold on the landing page of the website consistently implementing clear design and art direction across multiple platforms.
Taking its name from township slang describing the manner in which black youths travel on overcrowded trains, either situated on roofs or hanging from the sides of carriages, Staffrider is an iconic South African cultural magazine. With its daredevil approach, Staffrider focused predominantly on black writing and art in SA. From its base in Johannesburg, publishing between 1978 and 1993, the magazine took an anti-apartheid stance, expressing black culture and history through poetry, short stories, art, graphics and photography; all situated outside the institutionalised norms of the apartheid regime. Challenging establishment and censorship, Staffrider advocated non-racialism, written in English as opposed to Afrikaans; it was a soapbox for black creatives who could easily have been overlooked by racially biased publishers, constructing a relevant voice in protest against racial and cultural segregation and oppression.
Deriving its name from a song by the Ramones called Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, Sniffin Glue and Other Rock N Roll Habits was a subversive monthly punk zine first published in 1976. Commonly referred to as Sniffin Glue, this fanzine stands as an important historical reference for the original punk movement in the UK during the late 70s, canonised by the famous cover for the God Save the Queen 7 by the Sex Pistols. At the time, punk was too underground and anti-establishment to attract much attention from the mainstream press. Fanzines, following a resourceful DIY anti-aesthetic, were often the only sources of information about the movement, specifically, the bands that contributed to the movement who often burnt out as quickly as they started. Printed using the crude Xerox machines of the time and quickly staple bound, Sniffen Glue is often referred to as the Bible of British Punk. Short-lived, embodying the spirit of punk, this zine was only published for about a year but, nonetheless, became a pivotal record for one of the most-prolific anti-establishment movements in history.
With headlines written in thick felt-tip pen a quirk that was later appropriated by the contemporary Metal Band System of a Down on the cover to its 2002 album Steal This Album Sniffin Glue stayed true to its rebellious roots and anarchic personality. The publication barely had any semblance of writing skill or journalistic talent, with grammatical errors, poor spelling, random, almost non-existent layout, and littered with slang and swearwords on every spread. All this gave Sniffin Glue its immediacy and urgency, effectively displaying the zeitgeist of poor, low-income, blue-collar youths in Britain at the time. The original approach and language of this publication disproves the misconception that links punk to white supremacy. Doing so would be a shallow and superficial reading to say the least. If anything, extreme right-wing movements are far too conservative to digest the levels of critical thinking and free thought that Sniffin Glue advocated. Punk challenged social norms with efforts, once seen as taboo, which could rather be seen a possible remedy to the established, destructive and corrupt power structures that are dominant today.
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) is a designer, writer, and educator currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the fields of communication design and digital media. He works from Gilgamesh, a small design studio, and is a senior lecturer in graphic design at Vega School in Cape Town. Connect on Pinterest and Instagram.
Cover Stories, formerly MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.
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Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart says President Trump’s white nationalist tirade came from fertile ground expertly tilled by Steve Bannon. That won’t stop now that Bannon is out. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)
Stephen K. Bannon may be gone, but he wont soon be forgotten. Firing the chief strategist from the White House will bolster the frayed hopes of Chief of Staff John F. Kelly that he might somehow corral the raging bull in the Oval Office. Plenty of china has been smashed since January, but a few dishes maybe even the prized platter of tax reform could yet be rescued. Maybe.
But Bannon played a role for President Trump that no one else can fill, one that Trump will pine for like a junkie pines for smack. The impresario of apocalyptic politics gave Trump a grandiose image of himself at a time when the real estate mogul was building a movement but had no real ideas.
Until Bannon came along, Trump was a political smorgasbord. He had been a Democrat, an independent and a Republican. He had been pro-choice and anti-abortion. He did business in the Middle East and tweeted about a Muslim ban. As for deep policy debates, he really couldnt be bothered. He was a vibe, a zeitgeist not a platform.
Bannon convinced him that he was something more than a political neophyte with great instincts and perfect timing. Trump, Bannon purred in his ear, was the next wave of world history. He painted a picture of Trump as a world-historical force, the revolutionary leader of a new political order, as the strategist told Time magazine earlier this year.
Under the influence of a pair of generational theorists, William Strauss and Neil Howe, Bannon conceives of American history as a repeating cycle of four phases. A generation struggles with an existential crisis: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II. The next generation builds institutions to prevent a future crisis. The next generation rebels against the institutions, leading to a Fourth Turning, in which the next crisis comes. Believing that another crisis is upon us, Bannon framed a role in Trumps imagination for the former real estate mogul to remake the world. To the list of crisis presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt they would add the name of Trump.
With Bannon gone, the White House might become a place less in love with conflict and chaos. But it is hard to think that Trump will be happy without aides who can paint such a picture for him. He will be looking for ways to keep in touch with his Svengali, because once youve been a Man of Destiny, its hard to go back to being a guywho got lucky.
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Posted: at 4:03 am
See also: 10 Athens Punk Bands You Should Know
Ive lived in Athens for three years, and there are currently more active hardcore/punk acts right now than Ive seen the entire time Ive lived here, which is tight Athens doesnt have a single all-ages community space that hosts shows. Spaces like that are crucial to a growing, young punk scene. Its dangerous for a younger audience to be so intermingled with the bar culture that Athens is overridden with.
Oliver Vitale (Under a Sky So Blue)
As someone who doesn’t drink, I only frequent the bars downtown for local music. I often feel out of place in these spots, and the bars themselves seem detached from the music scene while also limiting its growth due to age restrictions and late starting times. It seems that there’s an unexplored need for a space specific to the punk scene that would remove these limitations and provide others with a safe space to explore music.
I started doing shows at my house because it was never even a question for me to support the punk scene. I always knew [that] when I bought a place, I’d put on shows for my friends’ bands. It comes from years of DIY touring and being treated like shit by clubs, then we’d play a punk house and be treated like royalty.
Christian DeRoeck (Deep State)
The current zeitgeist of Athens music overwhelmingly favors dance-friendly pop, indie rock and the immediacy of buying a beer over nurturing a countercultural movement. It’s also worth noting that the creative population of Athens is largely homogeneous, liberal and honestly just not that angry.
The scene itself, if you can call it that, is definitely tired and played out with imitations of bigger, better artists on full display and a serious lack of original, creative voices that may be present but are not shining through. This is musica reflection of culture and emotions. It is not a popularity contest. To the punk fans, stop supporting these tedious bands that are cool or safe to like. To the punk artists: Stop settling.
Athens can be a bit insular, which is a good and bad thing. People in the scene are super supportive (to us able-bodied, cisgendered, straight white males [from] upper-middle-class families, which doesn’t mean much, I guess), but after being around Athens for three years, some of the small-town aspects of the scene are a bit more obvious.
Tiger Li (Faith Healerz)
I think publications in Athens tend to be focused more on garage-rock, indie rock, indie-pop, etc. The only Athens publication that has mentioned us is The Red & Black, which is honestly hilarious. When I go to shows here, people show up to watch their friends bands and then leave There’s a lot of room for improvement, but considering the population of Athens, there are a lot of people doing really cool things here. We usually have better luck in Atlanta, so we’ve just been playing there more.
Brian Perez-Canto (Fishmonger)
Ive toured all over the U.S. and Europe, but I love to come back to Athens. For me, I feel like in a big town with a big scene, people and bands can be overlooked Athens may be mostly the land of R.E.M. and [the] B-52s, but there has been a thriving punk scene here for as long as Ive been here, and long before I got here. We’ve hosted bands from all over the world. People grow out of it, new people get into it, some people never get out of it, but for me, punk/hardcore has always been a part of my life.
Jason Griffin (Apparition)
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During the Fourth of July congressional recess, grassroots activists in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, flooded a town-hall meeting hosted by Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner. The crowd had come to hold their barrel-bellied congressman accountable for his vote in favor of the House Trumpcare bill, legislation that would have led to 23 million Americans losing their health insurance.
Trump’s victory exposed the party establishment as utterly broken now Dems hope to rebuild in time for a 2018 comeback
Ninety minutes later, as Sensenbrenner fled the public library parking lot in a black sedan under police escort, sirens bleating through chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” these protesters had demonstrated the power of a new wave of local activism in the age of Trump.
Nationwide, this tide of progressive resistance has sent GOP members of Congress into hiding from their own constituents, and steeled Senate Democrats into a unified opposition. “When you see Charles Schumer out there calling for ‘resistance,’ you realize something’s happening,” says Theda Skocpol, the famed Harvard political scientist who studies American civic engagement. “That’s not his natural state.”
This explosion of political action has the Democratic Party’s new leadership wagering that success in 2018 will hinge on its ability “to channel people’s energies not only into town-hall meetings,” says Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, “but also into the ballot box.” But this mission-critical job stands as an uneasy work in progress. Despite calls from national leaders to make common cause with resistance activists, state and local Democrats are often missing in action. Perhaps more troubling: The unifying purpose of opposing Trump has not papered over the party’s rawest policy divides.
Wauwatosa “Tosa” for short is a mixed bag, politically. The leafy Milwaukee suburb was the home of Scott Walker, and voters here backed the Republican governor in three elections. Yet Tosa gave Donald Trump just 35 percent support in 2016. And there’s the rub: Sensenbrenner touts a maverick streak, but he has voted with Trump 93 percent of the time.
The congressman gets credit for showing up. Nearly 150 Republican members of Congress have yet to hold a single town-hall meeting, but this is Sensenbrenner’s 83rd during the current congressional session. “You probably know some of these meetings have become very contentious,” he tells the standing-room-only crowd. His crotchety, Midwest-inflected voice is a dead ringer for the late 60 Minutes complainer Andy Rooney’s. “If, at any time, participants become rude or disruptive,” he says, brandishing a wooden gavel, “I will immediately adjourn the meeting!”
The exchange that follows is heated but civil. Sensenbrenner responds to a no-holds-barred question about his Trumpcare vote with a disgusted bark: “No, I do not have ‘blood on my hands!'” Resistance activists have distributed red disagree signs, and constituents flourish them with gusto. Outside the library’s wide glass windows, a spillover crowd of more than 100 is marching. Three “handmaids” dressed in white bonnets and crimson robes a visual nod to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about the collapse of democracy walk in eerie silence. Other protesters hold aloft paper tombstones with inscriptions like DEATH BY TAX BREAK SAD! and chant, “Sensenbrenner, Sensenbrenner, where’s your soul?!”
The Wauwatosa uprising wasn’t ginned up by the Democratic Party, which had zero presence at the rally. It was organized by friends and neighbors in a node of the Indivisible movement, calling itself Indivisible Tosa, which structures its activism according to the viral how-to civics manual “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.”
The Indivisible movement which now counts more than 6,000 chapters nationwide is the centerpiece of a robust new grassroots machinery that has arisen to confront the crisis of the Trump presidency. Rivaling anything accomplished by the Tea Party, the passionate activism of hundreds of thousands of progressives has already achieved the impossible in Washington, D.C. overwhelming Republican control of Congress and the presidency to stymie the repeal of Obamacare.
Looking ahead, Democratic Party leaders are determined to ride this political uprising to victory in the House in 2018. But neither the DNC nor the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have shown the technological savvy or comfort with grassroots engagement to create a platform for this activism within the party itself. Indeed, for many of the activists on the ground, the current Democratic Party appears less a vehicle for change than an obstacle to it. “The party is utterly irrelevant,” says Markos Moulitsas, the 45-year-old founder of Daily Kos, a pioneer of the “netroots” that has become a hub for digital resistance in the Trump age. Noting that there are thousands of registered Democrats in every congressional district, even the reddest ones, Moulitsas adds, “If we get 10,000 people volunteering and create a culture where being a liberal citizen in America is normal you will volunteer, you will be a part of that army every year that changes the equation and empowers the dominant liberal majority that actually exists in this country. But the party has nothing to do with it.”
What’s indisputable is that the election of Donald Trump awoke a sleeping giant of progressive activism. “We’re at a very rare political moment where there’s an abundance of volunteer time and energy, rather than a scarcity,” says Micah Sifry, executive director of Civic Hall, which fosters tech innovation in politics. And these new activist groups “make big asks of people’s time and of their idealism.”
The innovation and moxie of the new organizations have made an impression. “The energy is palpable,” says DNC Chair Perez. “They push us as they should!” he says, adding, with perhaps more hope than conviction, “They all want the Democratic Party to succeed.”
For some groups, like Swing Left, Perez’s assessment holds true. Dedicated to helping progressives flip their nearest contested House seat in 2018, Swing Left is in easy alliance: “We’re here to support the Democratic Party and be a new take on things,” says co-founder Ethan Todras-Whitehill. “We have the same goal of getting Democrats back into power.”
But for other groups, the fact that the new machinery is rising outside the party is a feature not a bug. “We don’t view ourselves as an arm of the Democratic Party,” says Ezra Levin, a founder of the Indivisible movement. “If we were, it would be difficult to apply pressure to make Democrats stand up for progressive values,” he says. “This is not a switch that gets flipped,” he insists. “This is pressure that ought to be applied regularly.”
Marshall Ganz is a storied organizer who was active in the civil-rights and farmworker-union movements of the Sixties and Seventies and more recently helped structure the 2008 movement that elected Barack Obama. “The fact that Indivisible is rooted outside of the Democratic Party is an enormous strength,” he says. “They can develop their own agenda. They can be the ones exercising influence over Congress, the Senate or the presidency which is something the Obama organization could not do because it was owned by Obama.” Once inside the White House, Obama muzzled his activists in favor of an establishment brand of governing. “The approach he took,” Ganz says, “there was no real role for people.”
Moulitsas points to lessons of the Obama presidency to argue that movement politics can’t thrive inside the Democratic Party. “What happened when Obama won? We all went home.” But he is confident that progressives will reform the party most quickly by breaking ahead and letting officials play catch up. “That’s actually ideal: Let the party piggyback off that popular wave rather than the other way around.”
With resistance groups taking ownership of high-tech organizing, data and fundraising tools that previously lived inside parties or campaigns, the power has shifted, Moulitsas says. “We finally have the opportunity to build the infrastructure that we should have built a long time ago.
The Indivisible movement has emerged as the liberal answer to the Tea Party. But its creation was a viral accident. In the aftermath of Trump’s election, husband and wife Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg earnest thirtysomethings with experience on Capitol Hill saw friends and family eager to resist the new administration but misfiring in their efforts to apply political pressure. They put too much faith in online petitions or one-off phone calls to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s national office. “They didn’t fully understand how Congress works or how you could have real impact,” Levin tells Rolling Stone.
Levin is a former staffer to Rep. Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat who was one of the first members of Congress to feel the Tea Party’s bite. Levin recalls watching how a “relatively small set of individuals spread throughout the country was able to stall and in some cases defeat a historically popular president’s agenda.” Tea Party tactics weren’t revolutionary; they were Civics 101. Energized constituents tirelessly bird-dogged their own members of Congress. “Separate out the Tea Party’s racism,” Levin says, “and they were smart on strategy and tactics.”
The couple began distilling do’s and don’ts of congressional activism into a manual for citizens seeking to resist Republican rule in Washington. Levin a freckled 32-year-old with close-cropped brown hair wanted to “demystify the political and the policy process” and answer “nuts-and-bolts organizing questions like: How do you run a meeting? How do you create leadership? How do you structure action?” The Indivisible guide’s ultimate purpose is to help constituents get inside the heads of their members of Congress, making them sweat at every vote: “How am I going to explain this to the angry constituents who keep showing up at my events and demanding answers?”
The Indivisible guide began, humbly, as a Google Doc, shared in mid-December via a tweetstorm from the couple’s row house in Washington, D.C. With just a few hundred Twitter followers, Levin had little expectation the guide would go viral. But then the Google Doc crashed. And groups across the country began announcing themselves. “People started telling us, ‘We got 20 people together, and we’re Indivisible Roanoke’ or ‘We’re Indivisible Auburn, Alabama,'” says Levin. Chapters proliferated in particular after the inauguration-weekend Women’s March. Levin recalls that he and Greenberg faced an “unexpected choice” at the end of January. “We could say, ‘Hey, we just put out a Google Doc good luck to ya.’ Or we could try to set up some kind of structure that supports that local leadership.”
They launched a national Indivisible organization, offering guidance without micro-management. “These groups are fundamentally self-led,” Levin insists. “We’re not franchising out Indivisibles. You don’t have to call yourself Subway and sell $5 foot-longs to be an Indivisible chain.” Ganz sees the national Indivisible group providing crucial direction for its far-flung chapters. “Leadership is different than control,” he says, adding that Indivisible is “equipping people with skills, and framing strategy at the local level, the state level and the national level.”
As a movement, Indivisible is every bit the Tea Party’s equal, says Skocpol, author of The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. Skocpol is now researching Indivisible groups as part of a study on eight counties won by Trump across swing states from North Carolina to Wisconsin. “The scale of the activity, the energy behind it is comparable to if not more than what was going on with the Tea Party back in 2009,” she says.
Yet Indivisible is not a mirror image of the right-wing uprising of the Obama age. “Unlike the Tea Party, Indivisible has figured out how to be independent of the Democratic Party without being the crazy wing of the Democratic Party,” says Sifry. Where the Tea Party represented a “resurgence of a white, nativist, rural wing of the Republican right,” he says, “Indivisible doesn’t map the same way. You can’t say this is just the hippies and those old New Lefties. The only thing that’s analogous is the strategy: You have elected representatives who are supposed to listen to you, so go make their life a living hell.”
Indivisible Tosa the group that turned up the heat on Sensenbrenner in July is a typical Indivisible success story. The group was launched over beers in the living room of Joseph Kraynick’s modest Wauwatosa bungalow. Kraynick is a 46-year-old special-education paraprofessional; he’s got a shaved head and a goofy, infectious smile. After Trump’s election, he says, he found himself despairing: “What the hell am I going to do? I don’t have any money. I don’t know anyone who has any access or contacts to a politician. How can I get them to pay attention to me?”
Then his wife returned from the Women’s March in D.C. on a bus full of activists buzzing about the Indivisible guide. “I read this thing, and a whole world of ideas opened up to me: ‘Oh, OK, I can do this!'” he says. “I can bring 20 people with me, and we can go to a local office and talk to the congressional staff. I can get 50 or 100 people to make phone calls and push for the same thing and they’re actually going to have to listen to that.
“I never considered myself an activist,” Kraynick says. “And no way in hell I’d have ever considered being an organizer. I’m not an organized person.” But Indivisible Tosa took off, and Kraynick soon found himself a co-leader of a thriving grassroots community that’s grown to more than 300. Members, Kraynick says, have transformed their diffuse outrage into coordinated political muscle. “It feels like we’re creating power for ourselves,” he says, “and trying to put things right.”
For the Indivisible movement, job one of “putting things right” was blocking the Republicans’ campaign to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and hobble Medicaid. “The proof is in the pudding,” says Levin, who underscores that Obamacare repeal was the chief legislative goal of a unified Republican Congress and the GOP’s central campaign promise for seven years. “Through months of relentless local pressure,” he says, “Indivisible groups and other volunteer advocates convinced Democrats to play political hardball and peeled off enough Republicans to sink the bill.”
Indivisible has focused on defense grinding the Trump train to a halt. Other progressive groups are looking to play offense, tackling critical political work in advance of the 2018 midterms. If the Democratic Party were more technologically adept, one could imagine this being done under the auspices of a Democratic committee. But with the DNC and DCCC still rebuilding following the 2016 wipeout, it’s being driven from outside the party.
Ethan Todras-Whitehill, a lanky 36-year-old travel writer, GMAT tutor and aspiring novelist with a mop of curly hair, awoke from the despondency of election night ready for battle. “I go through stages of grief fairly quickly,” he says, laughing. “10 a.m., day after the election, I was like, ‘OK, the House. 2018. What can we do?'”
A resident of the safe blue congressional district of Amherst, Massachusetts, where his wife is a university professor, Todras-Whitehill realized he would need to project his activism elsewhere. But after spending 20 minutes locating his nearest swing district, inspiration struck: “Why isn’t there a tool to do this?” he asked. “That was the genesis of Swing Left.”
With help from friends, he launched a website the day before inauguration with a tool that matched liberals to their closest 2018 swing district seeking their commitment to volunteer and donate to help Democrats win the seat. “We thought we’d get to 20,000 sign-ups by March,” Todras-Whitehill says. “Instead, we had 200,000 by the first weekend.”
Swing Left’s rookie activists quickly found themselves out over the tips of their skis. “We didn’t have any political organizing experience,” he admits. But Swing Left has benefited from seasoned political operatives who emerged from the woodwork to professionalize the experiment. That includes Matt Ewing, a former national field director for MoveOn, who became Swing Left’s head of organizing and helped it make the leap from ragtag volunteer collective to flourishing nonprofit.
Swing Left is targeting 64 House seats and has activated local, self-organized teams across the country to begin canvassing their respective swing districts including knocking on doors to survey constituents’ concerns, registering new voters at farmers markets and recruiting locals to build up volunteer capacity inside the targeted districts.
“We’re not trying to control what people do,” Todras-Whitehill says, describing Swing Left as “an organization trying to keep up with our members.” His priority is to create tools and platforms that structure the “organic momentum” of Swing Left volunteers. “We give them our best theory of what will make the biggest difference but what’s most important is that they are out there doing the hard work of voter contact 18 months before the election.”
Swing Left is laying the groundwork for Democratic campaigns whose candidates haven’t even been chosen yet. “Our goal is that, the day after the primary, we can hand each campaign an army of grassroots volunteers that have trained and organized and already been talking to voters in that district for over a year.” Swing Left is also building campaign war chests for each of its swing districts. “We have about $260,000 waiting for Darrell Issa’s opponent,” Todras-Whitehill says, referring to the California congressman who is one of the most endangered GOP incumbents. On the night of the House Trumpcare vote, Swing Left also launched a fund to be split equally among the opponents of swing-district Republicans who voted for the bill. “We sent this thing out the door a half-hour after the votes,” he says. “It did $1 million in 24 hours.”
In the face of upcoming Democratic primaries, Swing Left is devoutly hands-off letting voters decide. “We don’t want to be relitigating the Bernie vs. Hillary thing,” Todras-Whitehill says. “We need to get behind whoever emerges as nominees in swing districts. They are part of our best chance to put a check on Donald Trump by taking back a branch of Congress.”
Not every organization in the new constellation of resistance groups is ready to pledge allegiance to any candidate who puts a (D) after his or her name.
Our Revolution is waging a fight for the heart of the Democratic Party’s platform. “Resistance is good,” says Nina Turner, the group’s new president. “But we have to go further than that. We have to plan for when power is back in the hands of progressives.” This means backing politicians “who will push progressive issues once they get the people’s power,” she says. “Otherwise, what difference does it make?”
Our Revolution was founded to continue the movement politics of the Bernie Sanders campaign, inheriting the grassroots infrastructure that raised more than $200 million to propel the democratic socialist senator in his unlikely contest with Hillary Clinton. Our Revolution is poised to be a power broker in 2018’s contested Democratic primaries as progressive politicians seek the support of its activists and the power of its fundraising network.
Turner is a charismatic 49-year-old -African-American who served as minority whip in the Ohio State Senate. She took the reins of Our Revolution in June, replacing Sanders’ former campaign manager. The Sanders movement has been criticized as a bastion of “Bernie bros” younger white men with an alarming tendency toward misogyny. But with Turner at the helm, Our Revolution stands as a rare grassroots powerhouse led by a black woman.
Our Revolution distributes its decision-making among its local chapters now numbering around 400 in 49 states. The idea is to empower the grassroots, Turner says, “instead of us running it from on high in D.C.” Candidates seeking an endorsement must first convince their local Our Revolution affiliate. “They have to go talk to the citizens in their community the very people they want to represent.”
Turner says the guide star of the Democratic Party has to be brighter than putting “a check on Trump” and calls the fight for Medicare for all “a foundational issue.” She points bitterly to California, where Democratic leadership spiked single-payer legislation that could have passed without GOP support. “It wasn’t the Russians. It wasn’t the Republicans,” Turner says. “The Democratic Assembly leader killed Medicare for all in California. How are we showing people that we’re any different? That we’re not controlled by the pharmaceutical and medical industry? That one example in California hasn’t showed them that.”
Our Revolution makes no apologies about taking its fight to the national party. Progressives cannot settle for “half measures,” Turner says, and need to insist on “Democrats who really stand up for what it means to be a Democrat.”
For Turner, the Democrats’ new “Better Deal” platform is deficient. Unveiled in July, the Better Deal pledges a $15 minimum wage, a $1 trillion infrastructure plan (not unlike President Trump’s), corporate tax credits for job training, and a wonky proposal to crack down on business monopolies. It offers no solutions on expanding health coverage, combating climate change or fostering racial justice.
In late July, Turner and Our Revolution activists marched on the DNC building south of the Capitol to present a 115,000-signature petition demanding a “people’s platform” that includes universal healthcare, an end to private prisons, free public college and a tax on Wall Street. Far from rolling out the welcome mat for these reformers, the national Democrats’ security team barricaded the building’s front steps. The DNC insists this is standard security protocol. But Turner seized on the symbolism, calling the barrier “indicative of what is wrong with the Democratic Party.” Through a megaphone that could surely be heard from Tom Perez’s corner office, Turner shouted, “This ain’t about fancy slogans on the way to 2018. We need a new New Deal!”
The Democratic Party is at its weakest in the state legislatures, where it lost hundreds of seats during Obama’s two terms at a stark human cost. Unified GOP state governments cut social services, rammed through tax cuts for the wealthy, defunded Planned Parenthood clinics, adopted restrictive voter-ID measures and passed discriminatory bathroom bills.
Rather than trust the party to right itself, a pair of grassroots groups are working to rebuild state power in advance of the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional boundaries known as redistricting, which will follow the 2020 census. At the leading edge of this effort is Sister District, founded by Rita Bosworth, a 38-year-old former federal public defender from San Jose, California, who is adamant that progressives need to focus on “races that are competitive, winnable and strategic.”
Sister District’s mission is similar to Swing Left’s but applied to legislative districts. Bosworth was drawn to these races because they’re cheap to win and can unlock a broader Democratic revival. “When you win back state legislatures,” she says, “then redistricting happens and you get a more representative Congress at the national level.”
Counting 25,000 volunteers, Sister District has more than 100 locally led teams in all 50 states. Bosworth is intense and dispassionate a characteristic that puts her at odds with the grassroots zeitgeist. She was disheartened to watch Democrats pour a record $23 million into the Jon Ossoff special House election in Georgia, a “shiny object” of a race, she argues, with little lasting strategic value to the party. She points instead to state legislative contests coming up in Virginia this year. “If we put $23 million into Virginia, we would just win Virginia,” she says. “And then we could redistrict.” By undoing Republican gerrymandering, more Democrats would win as a matter of course. “We wouldn’t have to spend $23 million on them!” Bosworth has a stern message for fellow progressives: “We’re not thinking strategically, and we’re not thinking long-term. And we’re going to keep losing unless we start doing that.”
Improving Democratic chances of winning down-ballot races means bolstering the quality of progressive candidates running for office. That’s the mission of Run for Something, which has created a platform for younger Americans to jump into politics. Amanda Litman, the 27-year-old co-founder, ran Hillary Clinton’s e-mail fundraising program in the 2016 election, helping to bring in nearly $400 million. In the aftermath of the November election, she kept falling into conversations with friends and acquaintances who said, “I want to run for political office. What do I do?”
Litman didn’t have an easy answer. She knew underfunded state Democratic parties were poor incubators of political talent. So she launched Run for Something to connect novice politicians to resources and mentoring. Her ambition was modest: “In the first year, we figured we’d have to hustle to find 100 people to run, because this is hard.” But Run for Something has already been contacted by 10,000 aspiring progressive politicians. The group is now vetting prospective candidates; those who pass muster join the group’s Slack channel, where they can connect with fellow rookies and receive mentorship from more than 200 volunteer Democratic campaign veterans, including many top talents from the Obama and Clinton organizations, who work pro bono.
What excites Litman about the new recruits is that they “are real people and the people our party is supposed to be representing,” she says. “It’s teachers, students, nurses, single moms, veterans, immigrants. They’re not old, rich, white lawyers.”
Fresh off its victory blocking Trumpcare, the Indivisible movement is plotting a shift from defense to offense. It’s engaged in a listening tour of its chapters, seeking a common progressive political platform to fight for, even as it continues to fight against Trump. The group has hired a new political director Maria Urbina, formerly of Voto Latino who is clear that Indivisible will remain independent from the Democrats. “We don’t coordinate with the party,” she says. “The power lies with the people who have brought this movement to life.”
But Levin sees the Indivisible movement as paying long-term dividends for progressive politicians. “If you have a healthy movement of thriving local groups, you win elections,” he says.
Ganz, the veteran organizer who now lectures at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, hopes national Democrats embrace this opportunity for bottom-up renewal. “One can hope that they’ll get it and not try to fight groups like Indivisible. And realize how valuable they are.”
The early returns are mixed. The very existence of a group like Run for Something stands as an indictment of the party’s capacity to foster fresh talent. But Litman believes that this is a productive tension. “We’re frenemies,” she says.
In a recent interview in Washington, D.C., deputy DNC chair Keith Ellison told Rolling Stone that the Democratic Party needs to show solidarity with new resistance groups by showing up: “We can’t just let these heroic, brave organizations get out there with us not being there,” Ellison says. “We gotta be there, so we can offer ourselves as a party that’s going to fight for people, and that they have some confidence in.”
“The new national team at the DNC is trying to be responsive,” says Skocpol. But the Democratic Party is a decentralized beast, and not all state parties are following through on the rhetoric from Washington. In her research across four swing states, Skocpol says, the relationship between party leaders and Indivisible activists runs hot and cold: “I see a range from complete non-contact to close cooperation.”
The DNC has launched a Resistance Summer program, offering grants to state parties to engage with voters at protest events. But the lesson from Wisconsin is that the party still has a lot of work to do. The Sensenbrenner town hall was one of only a handful that GOP politicians dared to hold over the Fourth of July recess anywhere in the nation. The Tosa protest drew hundreds of local activists, but no one representing the state or local Democratic Party.
Protester Mike Cummens a 65-year- old family physician who looks a bit like Ed Begley Jr. is a member of an Indivisible chapter calling itself Stop Jim Sensenbrenner Indivisible. To Cummens, the Democratic Party is “kind of a dirty word.” When it comes to tapping into the energy of the resistance, he says, “There’s been no support, no outreach from them. Nothing.” The distrust runs both ways. “None of us really like them that much,” he says. “They’re not doing their job!”
With a grim smile, Cummens points to the Indivisible crowd that has packed the library to overflowing. “It’s a telling picture,” he says. “This is where the activism is. It’s not the Democratic Party.”
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Posted: at 4:03 am
Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:55 pm
Tuesday, August 22
A full decade after its release, Hot Fuzz remains just as kooky and cultish as ever; its 10th anniversary gives Alamo Drafthouse ample reason to screen the film once again. In it, top cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is so good he makes everyone else look bad. So, after a little shuffling of paperwork, hes off the London force and assigned to the sleepy British town of Sandford, where nothing ever happensuntil peoples heads start falling off. Its a group of cops who find out there is a dark conspiracy, and it becomes a parody of American action films, says the theaters programming director, Robert Saucedo. To add to the fun, a curated pre-show 30 minutes before the film will provide gags and props to use throughout the movie. 7:30 p.m. August 22. 531 South Mason. For information, call 281-492-6900 or visit drafthouse.com/houston. $12. Sam Byrd
Wednesday, August 23
Yoga, craft beer and the breweries that produce that craft beer are all a big part of the Houston social scene. Why not combine all three into one? Thats exactly what Yoga & Hops has done, bringing yoga and beer to a number of local breweries, including Karbach and 8th Wonder. Entry includes one hour of vinyasa-based yoga, which focuses on movement and breath, and a craft beer to help wind down afterward. Yoga & Hops is a chance to do something outside of the studio and maybe bring yoga to people who might not initially be drawn to that sort of environment, says Cindy Agnew, who co-founded Y&H with college friend Angie Currell in 2014. Its a really friendly community setting. 7 p.m. August 23. 8th Wonder Brewery, 2202 Dallas. For more information, call 832-930-0391 or visit yogaandhops.com. $20 to $25; bring your own mat or rent one for $3. Clint Hale
With President Trump making progress pulling out of the Paris climate accord and global warming deniers growing louder by the day, its good to know there are folks whove got our back. When not busy keeping track of the pollution released each year in the Bayou City (more than 68 million pounds in 2015), Air Alliance Houston also helps organize the Houston Green Film Series. Next up is Wild About Houston 2017: Short Films Screening, and its being held, fittingly enough, at the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at Hermann Park. Just based on whats going on politically, people have kind of opened their eyes a little bit to seeing whats going on around them. How their lives are being affected, says Ryan Small, communications director. Come immerse yourself in nature, breathe in the (hopefully) fresh air and catch half a dozen shorts about wildlife and ecosystems. Stay after for a panel convo about our regions conservation needs. Co-presenters include Katy Prairie Conservancy, Citizens Environmental Coalition, Coastal Prairie Partnership and Houston Native Prairies Association of Texas. 7 to 8:30 p.m. August 23. 1500 Hermann Drive. For information visit facebook.com/HoustonGreenFilmSeries. Free. Susie Tommaney
Thursday, August 24
Its hard to imagine a world without smiley faces, LOLs or other emoticons that describe our current state of mind. Newest kid on the Houston dance block Group Acorde is premiering a work that explores how technology has become so intertwined with our interactions. After developing a hashtag for a performance last year, Director Roberta Paixao Cortes said the troupe began talking about how we communicate with hashtags, emojis, emails and Facebook, which all fed into the title of this new work: Unemojional. Its a full collaboration. All of the music is original and performed live, says Cortes. She describes their dance as contemporary, though both Cortes and Associate Director Lindsey McGill are classically trained. They also seem to have tapped into the zeitgeist with the timely release of The Emoji Movie. 8 p.m. August 24-25. Rec Room, 100 Jackson. For information, call 713-344-1291 or visit groupacorde.org or recroomhtx.com. $15 to $20. Susie Tommaney
The Wayans are an entertainment dynasty, but how has Shawn Wayans kept his career satisfying? Diversity! Besides starring in and sometimes writing box-office hits like Little Man, White Chicks and the first two Scary Movie films, hes kept his stand-up comedy a priority by hitting the clubs for more than 20 years, a tradition that continues with a weekend headlining the Houston Improv. Stand-ups not easy! Wayans explains. Its never boring, theres always excitement with new people coming to see you. The high you get from making people you dont know laugh is impossible to explain, this jolt of energy. Youll get out of shape if you dont do it youll go from being Kobe when hes in shape to now Kobe with his shirt on. 8 p.m. August 24, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. August 25, 7 and 9:30 p.m. August 26, 7:30 p.m. August 27. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $25. Vic Shuttee
Friday, August 25
Imagine a door becoming a see-saw, a 12-foot-tall stone mill morphing into a Ferris wheel or a tunnel that narrows your point of view like a telescope. Now factor in a company of dancers, leaping and swinging, climbing and twisting against these transformable set pieces, and youve got NobleMotion Dances Catapult: Dance meets Design. Husband-and-wife artistic directors and choreographers Andy Noble and Dionne Sparkman Noble agree that it would have been easy to make the five dance works mechanical, and therefore less human, but, adds Dionne Noble, I think music and lighting and the dancers themselves soften the edges throughout, but it is true that these are real structures theres steel onstage, theres a largeness, a grandness to the structures. I think we can only be human against them. 7:30 p.m. August 25-26. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit noblemotiondance.com. $25 to $35. Natalie de la Garza
The premise is simple: A couple has invited another couple over for a dinner party, but the guests show up on the wrong night. What makes Yasmina Rezas Life X 3 ominous and/or funny, depending on which of the three outcomes the audience is watching, is how protagonists Henry and Sonia respond when theres no food and no way to calm their unhinged six-year-old child. Its not what happens to you, its how you respond, says Trevor Cone, executive director of Dirt Dogs Theatre Co., producing the French playwright known for Art and God of Carnage for the first time. Its a very philosophical yet scientific look at who we are in the universe, adds Cone, whos directing the play. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. August 25 through September 9. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-561-5113 or visit dirtdogstheatre.org. $22. Steve Jansen
Sure, card-carrying designers get first crack at The Houston Design Centers Designer Sample Sale during a day before preview but trust us there are still plenty of couture furnishings to be had for a song. Sheri Roane, marketing director for the center, tells us they keep raiding designer storage areas throughout the event, even Sunday. Its really good stuff; designer furnishings, things that go into beautiful homes and condominiums all over Houston. Look for rugs, case goods, accessories, lighting and one-of-a-kind pieces. Time it right (the early bird finds the bargains), refuel at the food trucks (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and attend one of the free lectures about mastering luxury (10:30 a.m. August 25), remodeling tips (10:30 a.m. August 26) and escaping the clutter (11:30 a.m. August 25-26). 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. August 25-27. 7026 Old Katy Road. For information, call 713-864-2660 or visit thehoustondesigncenter.com. Free. Susie Tommaney
The Waiting Room follows the spirit of a Bengali-British housewife who has just died but has three sunrises remaining to eavesdrop on her family and find closure before she moves on to await reincarnation. Her spirit guide? Bollywood heartthrob and legendary actor Dilip Kumar, who reached his peak with audiences in the 1950s and ’60s yet remains crush-worthy for Priya even in death.British dramatist Tanika Gupta garnered attention (and the John Whiting Award) in 2000 for this sentimental comedy that takes us through the stages of denial, outrage and acceptance as long-held secrets are revealed. Bree Bridger, who just finished a stint directing for Mildred’s Umbrella’s Museum of Dysfunction IX, directs this production for presenter Shunya Theatre, a Texas-based South Asian theater troupe. 8 p.m. Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. August 25 through September 3. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit shunyatheatre.org or matchouston.org. $20. Susie Tommaney
Anybody who has ever wondered about the glamour of the greasepaint and the prestige of hanging out backstage will think again after witnessing the door-slamming British farce, Noises Off, where everything that can go wrong, does. Playwright Michael Frayn got the idea for the play after realizing that behind-the-scenes hijinks are sometimes funnier than what the audience members are watching, and his play-within-a-play debuted in London in 1982. Stageworks Theatre is opening the season with this classic romp and updating the piece by setting it in 1971, the same year that No Sex, Please, We’re British debuted. Costumer Ellen Girdwood has her work cut out for her, outfitting the cast in the groovy bell-bottoms and bright, psychedelic colors of the early ’70s. Sean Thompson (As You Like It) directs. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. August 25 through September 17. 10760 Grand Road. For information, call 281-587-6100 or visit stageworkshouston.org. $19 to $28. Susie Tommaney
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Posted: at 11:55 pm
Kansas City Star (blog)
Steve Bannon is what made Donald Trump who he is
Kansas City Star (blog)
The impresario of apocalyptic politics gave Trump a grandiose image of himself at a time when the real estate mogul was building a movement but had no real ideas. Until Bannon came … He was a vibe, a zeitgeist not a platform. Bannon convinced him …
Bannon gave Trump exactly what he craved
Steve Bannon, destroyer of worlds: After electing a president, he's back to building a right-wing media empire
Steve Bannon, Unrepentant
Posted: at 11:55 pm
August 21, 2017 Seattle; and Los AngelesWhen Shawna Nelson leaves her office in Seattles suburbs, she does what 28-year-olds often do: dines with friends, goes out dancing, or sees a show. Sometimes she hits her swanky gym.
But at the end of the night Ms. Nelson always returns to Dora, the dusty Ford Explorer she calls home. In the back, where a row of seats should be, lies a foam mattress covered with fuzzy animal-print blankets. Nelson keeps a headlamp handy for when she wants to read before bed. Then, once shes sure she wont get ticketed or towed, she turns in for the night.
I still strive to have some sort of routine, says Nelson, who started living in her car about a year ago. Would I rather spend $1,200 on an apartment that Im probably not going to be at very much, or would I rather spend $1,200 a month on traveling?
For her, it was an easy choice.
Shes not alone. As housing costs soar, US communities have faced ballooning homelessness, declining homeownership, and tensions over gentrification. But the rising expense of homes, when combined with the demographic, cultural, and technological trends of the past decade, has also prompted a more positive phenomenon: smaller, leaner living. This conscious shift, mainly among portions of the middle and upper classes, springs from a desire to live more fully with less.
For some it means choosing tiny homes and micro-apartments typically less than 350 square feet for the chance to live affordably in vibrant neighborhoods. For others, like Nelson, it means hitting the road in a truck or van, communing with nature and like-minded people along the way. Proponents range in ages and backgrounds, but they all share a renewed thirst for alternatives to traditional lifestyles like single-family homes, long cherished as a symbol of the American dream.
I think fundamentally it comes down to a shift in perception about the pursuit of happiness how it doesnt require a consumerist lifestyle or collection of stuff, says Jay Janette, a Seattle architect whose firm has designed a number of micro-housing developments in the city. Theyre not really living in their spaces, theyre living in their city.
John Infranca, a law professor at Bostons Suffolk University who specializes in urban law and policy, says the phenomenon is driven largely by Millennials, who have been the faces of both the affordable housing crisis and the shift to minimalism.
Research shows that the 18-to-35 cohort continues to rent at higher rates than previous generations: 74 percent lived in a rental property in 2016, compared to 62 percent of Gen Xers in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center. And while the Millennial desire to not buy homes tends to be overstated studies suggest many want to own, but often cant afford to they do prioritize experiences over stuff.
They arent the only ones. Spending on experiences like food, travel, and recreation is up for all consumers, making up more than 20 percent of Americans consumption expenses in 2015. (In contrast, the share for spending on household goods and cars was in the single digits.) Baby-boomer parents, downsizing as they enter retirement, find that their grown children are uninterested in inheriting their hoards of Hummels and Thomas Kinkade paintings. The same live with less logic has begun to extend beyond stuff to the spaces these older adults occupy.
There is some cultural demand for simpler living, says Professor Infranca. And by virtue of technology, we are able to live with a lot less.
Its a distinct moment for a culture that has long placed a premium on individual ownership and a keeping up with the Joneses mentality, Mr. Janette and others say.
I think the recession changed the playing field for a lot of people, notes Sofia Borges, an architect, trend consultant, and lecturer at the University of Southern California. Job security, homeownership a lot of that went out the window and never really returned. When a change like that happens, you have to change your ideas a little bit too.
That was certainly the case for Kim Henderson, who was a marketing manager making more than $80,000 a year before the recession. I never again found a job like I had [before 2008], says Ms. Henderson, now in her 50s. When they were available, they went to younger people.
Kim Henderson plays with her dog, Olive, on Aug. 12 in her apartment in downtown Los Angeles. Ms. Henderson, who moved into the 175-square-foot unit about a year ago, says downsizing has been good for both her soul and her savings account. Theres an energy you get from purging, she says. I have more money in my pocket and less things.
Jessica Mendoza/The Christian Science Monitor
Today Henderson makes about $37,000 a year as an executive assistant to a bar owner and lives in the Bristol Hotel, a mixed-use apartment building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Her studio, which she shares with her small dog Olive, is 175 square feet the equivalent of about four king-size beds. The walls are covered in framed artwork that Henderson collected from thrift shops and friends. An apartment-sized fridge and a fold-out couch are her largest possessions.
Its the same exact lifestyle [I used to live], just with less things and more money in her pocket, she says.
Henderson pays $685 a month including electricity a bargain for Los Angeles, where studios average $1,500. She can save money and still have enough disposable income to eat out and travel, she says. But at least as important is the sense of liberation. Theres an energy you get from purging, Henderson says. You dont need six towels. You dont need a ton of dishes. You pick the things out that you really want to keep in the useful category.
The sentiment is in keeping with a growing culture of minimalism. Marie Kondos The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which urges people to keep only those things that spark joy, has sold 1.5 million copies in the US alone. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as The Minimalists, have also helped take the notion mainstream with a podcast, website, bestselling books, and documentaries.
There are other forces at play, too. Digital access to resources makes living lean more feasible, says Infranca at Suffolk. Henderson, for instance, doesnt own a car, relying instead on ride-sharing services or her own two feet to get around. And because she lives downtown shes closer to the amenities and establishments she loves.
Its a value proposition, says David Neiman, whose Seattle design firm focuses on small-efficiency dwelling units, which start at 150 square feet. I could live for the same price in a central location in housing thats clean, has internet, and I can walk to work and exciting things. Or I can live farther away, have more space, and its in a secondary neighborhood and I have to drive.
Instead of renting a micro-unit in an urban center, filmmakers Alexis Stephens and Christian Parsons decided two years ago to build their own 130-square foot house and load it onto the bed of a U-Haul. They then set off across the country in a bid to live more simply and sustainably, travel, and invest in their own place all while documenting the experience.
The Tiny House Expedition has since become a thriving enterprise. Ms. Stephens and Mr. Parsons have interviewed tiny house advocates and dwellers across 30,000 miles and 29 states. At a sustainability festival outside Seattle in July, they sold T-shirts and copies of the book Turning Tiny, a collection of essays they contributed to. They gave tours of their home. And they answered questions about building and living in a tiny house, touting its potential as an affordable, sustainable, and high-quality alternative lifestyle.
Christian Parsons stands inside the entryway of his tiny home on July 22 at a local sustainability festival at Shoreline Community College in Shoreline, Wash. Mr. Parsons built and shares the home with his partner, Alexis Stephens, and together they travel the country documenting tiny home communities.
Jessica Mendoza/The Christian Science Monitor
People are empowering themselves to build housing options that work for them that are not available in the market, Stephens says.
Tiny homes can range from about 100 to 300 square feet and cost between $25,000 to $100,000, give or take. Stephens and Parsons built theirs using reclaimed material for about $20,000, and it comes with a loft for a queen-sized bed, a compost toilet, walls that double as storage, and shelves that turn into tables. For those with more lavish tastes, vendors like Seattle Tiny Homes offer customizable houses complete with a shower and a washer and dryer for about $85,000.
You arent downgrading from a traditional home, says founder Sharon Read. It can have everything you want and nothing you dont want.
Those who would rather not lug around a whole house while they travel, however, have turned to another alternative: #vanlife. The term was coined in 2011 by Foster Huntington, a former Ralph Lauren designer who gave up his life in New York City to surf the California coast, living and traveling in a 1987 Volkswagen Syncro. His photos, which he posted on Instagram and later compiled in a $65 book titled, Home Is Where You Park It, launched what The New Yorker dubbed a Bohemian social-media movement.
The hashtag has since been used more than a million times on Instagram. Vanlifers drive everything from cargo vans to SUVs, though the Volkswagen Vanagon remains the classic choice.
Its definitely found a renewed zeitgeist, says Jad Josey, general manager at GoWesty, a Southern California-based vendor of Volkswagen van parts. The fact that you can be really compact and mobile and almost 100 percent self-sufficient in a Vanagon is really attractive to people.
People like freelance photographer Aidan Klimenko, who has been living off and on in vans and SUVs for three years, traversing the US and South America.
The idea of working so hard to pay rent which ultimately, thats just money down the drain is such a hard concept for me, says Mr. Klimenko. Vanlife, he adds, is access to the outdoors and its movement. Im addicted to traveling. Im addicted to being in new places and meeting new people and waking up outside.
Still, the movement to live smaller may not be as extensive as social media makes it seem, some housing analysts say. Zoning regulations especially in dense urban areas often restrict the number and size of buildable units, slowing growth among micro-apartments and tiny homes. Constructing or living in a tiny home or micro-unit can still pose a legal risk in some cities.
And by and large, Americans continue to value size. The average new home built in the US in 2015 wasa record 2,687 square feet 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973, according to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
Living mobile isnt all grand adventures and scenic views, either. Van dwellers say theyve had to contend with engine trouble, the cold and the heat, and unpleasant public restrooms. And Henderson in Los Angeles says she once lived in an affordable micro-housing development that had a pervasive drug-dealing problem.
Still, those who have embraced leaner living say what they might lose in creature comforts, they gain in perspective and experience. In crisscrossing the country, Stephens and Parsons opened themselves up to the kindness of strangers. Its a nice reminder that as Americans we have so much more in common than we realize, Stephens says. They also spend more time connecting with others, instead of closeting themselves at home.
Whether youre choosing a van, a school bus, a tiny house, or a micro-apartment, you get a lot of the same benefits, she says. We need more housing options, period, in America. Weve boxed ourselves in a very monolithic housing culture. Were showing its OK to venture outside of that.
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Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:13 pm
Stephen K. Bannon may be gone, but he wont soon be forgotten.
Firing the chief strategist from the White House will bolster the frayed hopes of Chief of Staff John F. Kelly that he might somehow corral the raging bull in the Oval Office. Plenty of china has been smashed since January, but a few dishes maybe even the prized platter of tax reform could yet be rescued. Maybe.
But Bannon played a role for President Donald Trump that no one else can fill, one that Trump will pine for like a junkie pines for smack. The impresario of apocalyptic politics gave Trump a grandiose image of himself at a time when the real estate mogul was building a movement but had no real ideas.
Until Bannon came along, Trump was a political smorgasbord. He had been a Democrat, an independent and a Republican. He had been pro-choice and anti-abortion. He did business in the Middle East and tweeted about a Muslim ban. As for deep policy debates, he really couldnt be bothered. He was a vibe, a zeitgeist not a platform.
Bannon convinced him that he was something more than a political neophyte with great instincts and perfect timing. Bannon painted a picture of Trump as a world-historical force, the revolutionary leader of a new political order, as the strategist told Time magazine earlier this year.
Under the influence of a pair of generational theorists, William Strauss and Neil Howe, Bannon conceives of American history as a repeating cycle of four phases. A generation struggles with an existential crisis: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II. The next generation builds institutions to prevent a future crisis. The next generation rebels against the institutions, leading to a Fourth Turning, in which the next crisis comes.
Believing that another crisis is upon us, Bannon framed a role in Trumps imagination for the former real estate mogul to remake the world. To the list of crisis presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt they would add the name of Trump.
With Bannon gone, the White House might become a place less in love with conflict and chaos. But it is hard to think that Trump will be happy without aides who can paint such a picture for him.
He will be looking for ways to keep in touch with his Svengali, because once youve been a Man of Destiny, its hard to go back to being a guy who got lucky.
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Posted: at 6:13 pm
CHARLOTTESVILLE After using his blog and Wes Bellamys Twitter history to make a name for himself last fall, those platforms are now being used against Jason Kessler, the pro-white activist who organized the Unite the Right rally that turned deadly on Saturday.
Articles and conspiracy theories about Kesslers past as a supporter of President Barack Obama and wannabe liberal activist who participated in the Occupy movement abound now as President Donald Trump continues facing backlash for his response to the rally that resulted in one woman, as well as two state police officers in a separate incident, dying.
On Monday, Kessler uploaded a video hoping to dispel rumors that he intentionally organized a violent rally that would reflect poorly on the so-called alt-right movement of white nationalists. He accused the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as less extreme nationalists, of spreading misinformation about him.
Earlier this summer, the SPLC labeled Kessler a white nationalist, and wrote a profile about him that included assertions that some people on white nationalist forums have been questioning his ideological pedigree.
I grew up in Charlottesville. Anybody whos seen the way Charlottesville was this weekend understands that its an incredibly left-wing, commie town, Kessler, 33, said in a video he posted online Monday.
Kessler said that he used to align himself with the citys politically left-leaning residents, but went on to say he was red-pilled about three years ago.
The term is a reference to the film The Matrix, and has been used by alt-right followers as a way to describe someone who has taken to white identitarian issues and now rejects ideas such as multiculturalism, feminism and political correctness. Critics argue that attachment to white identitarianism is nothing more than a veil for white supremacist beliefs.
But old tweets, a neighbor, a liberal activist and some of Kesslers old friends attest that he held strong liberal convictions just a few years ago.
In a series of tweets in November, Kessler said many alt-right followers are former liberals, and that he previously voted for Democrats. He said he voted for Trump in the primary and the general election.
I like Trump more than I did Obama, he wrote on Nov. 6. My Trump enthusiasm is through the roof. I like people who push the edge.
In an interview last month, one of Kesslers childhood friends, David Caron, said Kessler previously had identified as a Democrat, but became disillusioned when he started thinking that there was no place for him in a party that has focused its efforts on embracing diversity and minority issues. He said the two of them had started supporting Trump last summer and attended one of his rallies in Richmond.
He was a Democrat until last year. The main thing is, he said he felt like the party didnt want him, Caron said.
Laura Kleiner, a Democratic activist who lives in Staunton, said she dated Kessler for several months in 2013. She said Kessler was very dedicated to his liberal principles, and that he was a strict vegetarian, abstained from alcohol and drugs, embraced friends of different ethnicities and was an atheist.
He broke up with me, and a lot of it was because I was not liberal enough, she said. I am a very progressive Democrat but he didnt like that I ate fish and that Im a Christian.
Kleiner said Kessler was well aware that she was of Jewish heritage, and that he showed no signs of being anti-Semitic. She also said he had a roommate for several years who was an African immigrant.
In an interview earlier this week, one of Kesslers neighbors, Zoe Wheeler, said she knew of two different African roommates who lived with him, and never thought Kessler was a racist, even after he started to make waves in the local news late last year.
I met him 12 years ago, before he got really obsessed with white identity issues, Wheeler said. I think he went off the deep end There was no stopping it, and then he was fueled by being an enemy and having something to stand for.
If you spend too much time on the web and youre alone, youve got a lot of guys plying you with all kinds of ideas, she said. You want to grab hold of something. He wants to stand for something I get that. But I feel like hes all over the place.
I celebrate a diversity of cultures, and that was something that seemed to have been a part of his life, too, Kleiner said. I was really surprised to hear the stories that hes changed and is now far-right. Its really shocking and disappointing.
Hes an extremist in whatever he decides to do. Thats all I can really say.
Kesslers ties to Emancipation Park and the statue of Robert E. Lee go beyond the past year, when he decided to target Charlottesville City Councilor Bellamy for his effort to remove the statue of the Confederate general. The rally Saturday was ostensibly intended to be a protest of the councils decision to remove the statue.
According to a woman (who wished to remain anonymous) who was part of the Occupy movement camp in what was then called Lee Park, Kessler was present there for several weeks in late 2011. She said Kessler ultimately removed himself from the camp after activists there started to make it known that his presence was not welcomed.
He was just so disagreeable that hed start fights between other people. He was very manipulative and very aggressive, the woman said.
He wanted people to be more violent and aggressive. He wanted to be the leader of things. … Even if his politics had been good, I dont think people would have liked him, she said.
The former occupier said Kessler also tried to attach himself to other leftist groups around that time, such as Food Not Bombs and an atheist social club. She said Kessler had attempted to insert himself in those groups and radicalize them.
I dont think he knew what they really did. They just feed people thats it, she said. Its like he got the idea that he could make it into some more militant group.
I dont think he actually has any central beliefs at all not that that makes what hes doing any less dangerous.
Kessler did not reply to messages seeking comment for this story. But essays he published on his blog through late 2015 seemed to demonstrate a shift in thinking. (The blog, Jason Kessler, American Author, recently was taken down. It remains unclear why.)
Last fall, The Daily Progress reported that Kessler published a blog post in February 2016 in which he reflected on the potential of war between different racial groups in the future. He argued that white people would need to fight to avoid becoming a minority in America a phenomenon hes described in recent months as white genocide.
Cultures, tribes and civilizations are meant to clash just as we always have in the past, just like it is with nearly every other beast in the animal kingdom, Kessler wrote last year.
Kessler used his blog to excoriate Bellamy in November. After uncovering a trove of offensive and inappropriate tweets Bellamy had written between 2009 and 2014, before he was elected to office, Kessler used his blog to expose the city councilor and call for his removal.
In his other blog posts that have been archived and shared with The Daily Progress, Kessler seemed to foreshadow his future role in the community and the events that took place at the Unite the Right rally.
I cant think of any occupation that I admire more than the professional provocateur, who has the courage and self-determination to court controversy despite all slings and arrows of the world, he wrote in December 2015 as part of a blog post he updated a few times over a span of about two months his running thoughts.
Also that December, he published his historical perspective on mass violence.
We get so caught up in the emotion of the violence that we dont consider the long-term, historical consequences, he said.
Perhaps wed be happier if we made peace with the fact that rabid animals are going to dwindle the herd from time to time (as they have in much greater volume throughout history) and thats not really a bad thing in the long run.
Regarding large-scale attacks, he said, I dont think the zeitgeist should have an aneurysm every time one occurs either. I think wed be served to draw some historical perspective on how difficult the human condition has always been and how that is something of a blessing in disguise.
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