The Wing Is a Womens Utopia. Unless You Work There. – The New York Times

Later that year, another employee who had attended the Ocasio-Cortez fund-raiser at Gelmans home tweeted a note of discomfort about the radical-chic gathering. When Gelman spied it late at night over a weekend, she summoned her to her office the next Monday morning. The employee deleted the tweet and apologized, and Gelman responded benevolently. Your intelligence and depth are beyond your years, Gelman wrote the employee in an email. Of the Wing, she said: I am honestly very down to hear your unvarnished opinions on it, and ideas you have to improve it and make it better. I really mean that. But a few months later, when the employee emailed Gelman to ask about raising wages, and then began to inquire among staff about their working conditions, a Wing disciplinary write-up signed by Kassan rebuked the employee for expressing negative views about an event at Audreys home, sending reactive emails directly to the C.E.O. and interrogating staff about their pay and benefits. The employee was warned that the company wanted to see a significant improvement in her impulsive and reactive behaviors or face corrective action up to and including termination.

Once, Gelman noticed a few dirty dishes in the beauty room of a club while Venus Williams was visiting the space, according to an employee who was working the event. She said Gelman shut the doors to the beauty room and raised her voice, saying a C.E.O. shouldnt have to clean. The employee left rattled and crying. Two employees who were present in the club that day confirmed that the employee tearfully described the incident to them shortly after it happened. (The Wing spokeswoman denied that it occurred.) Last year, Gelman told the website the Cut that the most fun Ive had in the last few months involved rolling up her sleeves and doing dishwashing shifts at the Wing. She washed three dishes and Instagrammed it, a former employee says.

On a recent Thursday morning, I followed a trail of curvy white Ws painted along a Williamsburg sidewalk up to the entrance of the Wings newest club. In the elevator, I witnessed a real-life Winglet meet-cute: One woman read auras for GOOP; the other made $45 soaps for GOOP; they bonded over a healer they both knew. An eager young Wing employee met me at the front desk, and then I headed into the pink belly of the club, where Audrey Gelman was waiting for me.

Gelman wore a golden Wing necklace and an inviting smile. Flanked by the Wings senior vice president for operations and an outside public-relations professional, she listened to the accounts of her employees and nodded thoughtfully. Despite their intention to build a womens utopia, she acknowledged, the ills of society at large had seeped in. Its hard to hear that people have had this experience, she said. These are familiar themes for us. Every employee concern, she assured me, had already been incorporated into a sweeping business recalibration. Even as it expanded, the Wing was overhauling its organizational structure, raising wages, extending benefits and instituting a code of conduct for members which, if violated, could result in the clipping of wings termination of membership.

Gelman reiterated an article published on Feb. 26 in Fast Company, in which she wrote that she had tried to play the role of the perfect girlboss, promoting the fantasy that a female founder could have it all. But behind the scenes, she wrote, her fear of failure had led her to obscure the real challenges unfolding at the Wing. Wing workers, who had for years raised those very issues internally, wondered why the Wing only seemed to acknowledge them as members spoke up and journalists circled. But when Gelman posted her mea culpa on Instagram, glowing reviews flooded into the comments: So important. I didnt know I could love and admire you even more. Bravo. Whatever improvements might be in store for its employees in the future, the Wing had already successfully fixed the flaw in its public reputation.

As the start-up world has reeled from the dizzying falls of toxic male founders like Ubers Travis Kalanick and WeWorks Adam Neumann, it has set its sights on a new kind of hero figure. Female entrepreneurs are paraded in the press as saviors of the market, even though they still receive relatively paltry sums from venture-capital firms. In their hands, the tensions of capitalism may be laundered through feminist messaging and come out looking bright and new. At the very least, corporate feminism can be defended as an incremental good. Yes, it may co-opt a political movement for profit, but it is moving the levers of capitalism for the benefit of women, tailoring products for female consumers and transferring cash into the coffers of women leaders.

When these women inevitably fail to secure female empowerment through retail offerings and exclusive hospitality experiences, it is suggested that it is perhaps sexist to criticize them. Men get away with so much. And yet this outpouring of sympathy rarely extends beyond the executive suite. When a feminist company falls short of its utopian vision, it is the workers who must toil to maintain the illusion. And they are women, too.

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The Wing Is a Womens Utopia. Unless You Work There. - The New York Times

This One Weird Trick Will Make You Thousands Of Bells In Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Tom Nook Hates It!) – Forbes

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

A note about the title here: sometimes it can be too much to resist classic clickbait formats, but to be honest I have no idea whether or not Tom Nook hates this or not: his relationship to our productive capacity is opaque, at best. Regardless, if youve just signed on here in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you may have noticed that this new utopia is relentlessly capitalistic: Tom Nook needs to be paid, and everything costs bells. Depending on what kind of player you are, you either run this game as a chill island sim or a relentless moneymaking scheme. Were here to talk about the latter.

There are a ton of ways to maximize your bell production, but true to the headline, Im going to focus on one weird trick here. Kudos for figuring it out, to IGN for figuring it out, because its a good one. Were gonna grow a money tree.

To start with, look for one of those glowing spots on the ground that you can find once per day. By now youve likely already figured out that those yield bells, but you may not have figured out just how many bells they can yield. Heres what you need to do: dig up the bell bag, as usual, but dont fill the hole in! Youre going to need this hole.

You can plant bells in this particular hole in much the same way you plant fruit in other holes. While smaller amounts will do, youll want to maximize the amount you get each time this tree yields dividends. So go into your inventory and go down to your bells: take a bag of 10,000 and turn into an item. Plant that item in the ground to grow your very own money tree.

A couple of these on the island and youll be rolling in bells, enough to pay your loan off and maybe build some bridges to spare. Or, you know, get you part of the way. Youre going to need a whole lot of bells to accomplish your goals, so we need everything we can get.

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This One Weird Trick Will Make You Thousands Of Bells In Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Tom Nook Hates It!) - Forbes

10 new spring 2020 books to help you pass the time as you shelter in place from the coronavirus – San Antonio Express-News

There has never been a better time to curl up at home with a good book. Its practically our duty.

With social distancing rules in effect to slow the spread of of the coronavirus, you cant go out anyway, except for some fresh air or a trip to the grocery store. But you can escape into books, especially if whats on TV reruns of old basketball games and NCIS marathons arent to your taste.

Unlike the movies, publishers will still release their expected blockbusters this spring.

The Mirror and the Light ($30, Henry Hold and Co., on sale now), the final book in Hilary Mantels trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, follows King Henry VIIIs chief minister from the height of his power to his downfall. John Grisham returns to Camino Island in late April for another breezy crime tale in Camino Winds (Random House, $28.95, April 29). It swirls around the suspicious death of an island resident during a hurricane.

And Stephen King scares up a new collection of stories in If It Bleeds (Scribner, $30, April 14). The title story features investigator Holly Gibney, whom King fans know from the Mr. Mercedes series and The Outsider.

On ExpressNews.com: San Antonios new poet laureate is on the job

A prominent Texas author also has a book due. In Simon the Fiddler (William Morrow, $27.99, April 14), Paulette Jiles focuses on a character who made a brief appearance in her best-seller News of the World.

Here, from places in between, are 10 more books five fiction and five nonfiction to help you get away without leaving home.

The Companions, Katie M. Flynn (Scout Press, $27, on sale now): Its our bad luck that Flynns debut novel feels so topical. The Companions is set two years into a quarantine following the outbreak of a deadly virus in California. Residents break their isolation with companions, machines some lifelike, others not containing the uploaded consciousness of the dead. One is Lilac, a teenage girl who goes rogue to solve the mystery of her untimely death.

Days of Distraction, Alexandra Chang (Ecco, $26.99, March 31): In her debut novel, Chang tells the story of a tech reporter I write about gadgets for people with money to spend who leaves San Francisco to follow her boyfriend to a small New York college town. The cross-country trip leads to questions about her relationship shes Chinese-American and he is white as well as her cultural history and career choice.

Afterlife Julia Alvarez (Algonquin Books, $25.95, April 7): The author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies returns with her first novel for adults in more than a decade. Its a slim book that begins in tragedy and searches for a way out. Its about a writer and teacher whose husband dies as she is about to retire, upending her life just as she thought it was coming to rest. The turmoil continues when a pregnant, undocumented teen shows up at her home.

On ExpressNews.com: Indie book shops keep in touch online

Broken, Don Winslow (William Morrow, $29.99, April 7): Top-notch crime writer Winslow published The Border, the final volume of his cartel trilogy about the cross-border drug trade, just last year. His new book goes the other way. Broken is a collection of six novellas that jump from New Orleans to San Diego to Hawaii for a reunion with characters from his best-seller Savages and finally back to the border. That story, The Last Ride, is a sort of western that begins with an image of a girl in a cage.

A Childrens Bible, Lydia Millet (W.W. Norton & Co., $25.95, May 12): Think about activist Greta Thunbergs fury at adults who are leaving their children and grandchildren a spoiled world. Thats the emotion the drives acclaimed novelist Millets latest, about a group of children who have to fend for themselves after they are separated from their heedless parents while on vacation.

The Hot Hand, Ben Cohen (Custom House, $32.50, on sale now): Cohen, who covers the NBA for the Wall Street Journal, begins thinking about streaks in terms of basketball, the player with the hot hand who just cant miss. Thats a myth, according to his research. But hes seen it happen, and wants to know more, so he follows the idea of unbeatable performance into investing, technology, music and literature including the stories weve all been hearing about Shakespeare and the plague.

El Jefe: The Stalking of Chapo Guzmn, Alan Feuer (Flatiron Books, $28.99, May 19): As co-leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, El Chapo Guzmn was both a criminal and a celebrity something like Depression Era-gangsters Al Capone and John Dillinger in the U.S. New York Times reporter Alan Feuer, who covered Guzmns 2019 drug trafficking trial, charts his rise from teenage smuggler to drug lord a mix of tall tales and brutal crimes.

Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, Bart D. Ehrman (Simon & Schuster, $28, March 31): Well more than half of all Americans believe a literal heaven or hell awaits them when they die. There was a time, says religion historian Bard D.Ehrman, when everyone believed that and, much earlier, a time when no one did. His new book traces beliefs in the afterlife from before the birth of Christ to the early centuries of Christianity when heaven and hell as we know them now came into being.

Remain in Love, Chris Frantz (St. Martins Press, $29.99, May 12): David Byrne, who had enjoyed a renaissance of late with his Broadway show American Utopia, was the face of Talking Heads. Husband and wife Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth were the backbone, the rhythm section that moved the band from skeletal punk to New Wave and funk. Frantz must have been taking notes, because he tells the story of the band and his marriage in amazing detail Lou Reed, for instance, once told Byrne to wear long sleeves onstage because his arms were so hairy.

Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, Olivia Laing (Norton, $26.95, May 12): British art critics collection, drawn from a monthly magazine column and other pieces published in the past five years, includes profiles of Georgia OKeeffe, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney and love letters to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. She writes that she looks to art for ideas to resist and repair in turbulent times. Art provides material with which to think, she writes. After that, friend, its up to you.

If youre unable to focus right now on a novel or work of nonfiction, here are three upcoming books you can dip into and out of.

Illustrator Lisa Brown sums up classic novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye and The Handmaids Tail funny-pages style in three-panel comics in Long Story Short (Algonquin Books, $14.95, April 7)

Ashley Molesso and Chess Needham, who run the stationery company Ash + Chess, apply their colorful, whimsical graphic style to landmarks and icons of LGBTQ history in The Gay Agenda (Morrow Gift, $19.99, April 28).

In short, short essays and quotes taken from her Twitter feed, poet Maggie Smith offers solace and encouragement in the face of loss in Keep Moving (One Signal, $24, May 5)

Jim Kiest is the arts and entertainment editor for the San Antonio Express-News. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | jkiest@express-news.net | Twitter: @jimik64

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10 new spring 2020 books to help you pass the time as you shelter in place from the coronavirus - San Antonio Express-News

Why Would Anyone Want to Visit Chernobyl? – The New York Times

We were around a hundred miles from the Zone, and already my thoughts had turned toward death. This had nothing to do with radiation and everything to do with road safety. I was in a minibus, on a highway between Kyiv and the 1,160-square-mile Exclusion Zone around the Chernobyl power plant. The minibus was being driven at an alarming speed and in such a way that caused me to question the safety standards of the tour company Id entrusted myself to for the next two days. It had become clear that our driver and tour guide, a man in his early 40s named Igor, was engaged in a suite of tasks that were not merely beyond the normal remit of minibus driving but in fact in direct conflict with it. He was holding a clipboard and spreadsheet on top of the steering wheel with his left hand (that he was also using to steer), while in his other hand he held a smartphone, into which he was diligently transferring data from the spreadsheet. The roughly two-hour journey from Kyiv to the Zone was, clearly, a period of downtime of which he intended to take advantage in order to get some work squared away before the proper commencement of the tour. As such, he appeared to be distributing his attention in a tripartite pattern clipboard, road, phone; clipboard, road, phone looking up from his work every few seconds in order to satisfy himself that things were basically in order on the road, before returning his attention to the clipboard.

I happened to be sitting up front with Igor and with his young colleague Vika, who was training to become a fully accredited guide. Vika appeared to be reading the Wikipedia article for nuclear reactor on her iPhone. I considered suggesting to Igor that Vika might be in a position to take on the spreadsheet work, which would allow him to commit himself in earnest to the task of driving, but I held my counsel for fear that such a suggestion might seem rude. I craned around in an effort to make subtly appalled eye contact with my friend Dylan, who was sitting a few rows back alongside a couple of guys in their 20s an Australian and a Canadian who, we later learned, were traveling around the continent together impelled by a desire to have sex with a woman from every European nation but he didnt look up, preoccupied as he was with a flurry of incoming emails. Some long-fugitive deal, I understood, was now on the verge of lucrative fruition.

Vika, left, a Chernobyl tour guide and Kim, a visitor from Finland. Mark Neville for The New York Times

Of all my friends, I knew that Dylan was most likely to accept at short notice my request for accompaniment on a trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. He was his own boss, for one thing, and he was not short of money (tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist). He was also in the midst of a divorce, amicable but nonetheless complex in its practicalities. It would, I said, be a kind of anti-stag party: His marriage was ending, and I was dragging him to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for two days. As soon as I made it, I felt some discomfort about this joke, with its laddish overtones, as though I were proposing the trip for the laughs or as an exploit in extreme tourism or, worse still, some kind of stunt journalism enterprise combining elements of both. I was keen to avoid seeing myself in this way.

Lunch, Igor said, pointing out the side window of the bus. I followed the upward angle of his index finger and saw a series of telephone poles, each of which had a stork nesting atop it. Lunch, he reiterated, this time to a vague ripple of courteous laughter.

About 40 minutes north of Kyiv, a screen flickered to life in front of us and began to play a documentary about the Chernobyl disaster. We watched in silence as our minibus progressed from the margins of the city to the countryside. The video was intended as a primer, so that by the time we got to the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, everyone would be up to speed on the basic facts: how in the early hours of April 26, 1986, a safety test simulating the effects of a power failure ended in an uncontrolled nuclear reaction; how this caused an inferno in the reactor core that burned for at least nine days; how in the aftermath the Soviet government created a 19-mile-radius exclusion zone around the power plant; how they evacuated about 130,000 people, more than 40,000 of them residents of Pripyat, a city of the future built for workers at the nearby plant; how the vast endeavor of decontamination necessitated the bulldozing of entire towns, the felling of entire forests, the burying of them deep in the poisoned earth.

As the documentary played on the screen, Igor demonstrated his familiarity with it by reciting lines along with the film. At one point, Mikhail Gorbachev materialized to deliver a monologue on the terrifying time scale of the accidents aftereffects. His data entry tasks now complete, Igor spoke along in unison with Gorbachev How many years is this going to go on? Eight hundred years? before himself proclaiming, Yes! Until the second Jesus is born!

I was unsure what to make of the tone of all this. Igor and Vikas inscrutable jocularity sat oddly with the task they were charged with: to guide us around the site of arguably the worst ecological catastrophe in history, a source of fathomless human suffering in our own lifetimes. And yet some measure of levity seemed to be required of us.

After the documentary, the minibuss onboard infotainment programming moved on to an episode of the BBC motoring show Top Gear, in which three chortling idiots drove around the Exclusion Zone in hatchbacks, gazing at clicking Geiger counters while ominous electronica played on the soundtrack. There were then some low-budget music videos, all of which featured more or less similar scenes of dour young men a touchingly earnest British rapper, some kind of American Christian metal outfit lip-syncing against the ruined spectacle of Pripyat.

I wondered what, if anything, the tour companys intention might have been in showing us all this content. Screening the documentary made sense, in that it was straightforwardly informative the circumstances of the accident, the staggering magnitude of the cleanup operation, the inconceivable time scale of the aftereffects and so on. But the Top Gear scenes and the music videos were much more unsettling to watch, because they laid bare the ease with which the Zone, and in particular the evacuated city of Pripyat, could be used, in fact exploited, as the setting for a kind of anti-tourism, as a deep source of dramatic, and at the same time entirely generic, apocalyptic imagery.

I was being confronted, I realized, with an exaggerated manifestation of my own disquiet about making this trip in the first place; these unseemly, even pornographic, depictions of the Zone were on a continuum with my own reasons for making this trip. My anxieties about the future the likely disastrous effects of climate change, our vulnerability to all manner of unthinkable catastrophes had for some time been channeled into an obsession with the idea of the apocalypse, with the various ways people envisioned, and prepared for, civilizational collapse.

I was on a kind of perverse pilgrimage: I wanted to see what the end of the world looked like. I wanted to haunt its ruins and be haunted by them. I wanted to see what could not otherwise be seen, to inspect the remains of the human era. The Zone presented this prospect in a manner more clear and stark than any other place I was aware of. It seemed to me that to travel there would be to look upon the end of the world from the vantage point of its aftermath. It was my understanding, my conceit, that I was catching a glimpse of the future. I did not then understand that this future, or something like it, was closer than it appeared at the time. I did not understand that before long the idea of the Zone would advance outward from the realm of abstraction to encompass my experience of everyday life, that cities across the developed world would be locked down in an effort to suppress the spread of a lethal new virus, an enemy as invisible and insidious in its way as radiation and as capable of hollowing out the substance of society overnight.

The minibus slowed as we approached the checkpoint marking the outer perimeter of the Zone. Two policemen emerged from a small building, languidly smoking, emanating the peculiar lassitude of armed border guards. Igor reached out and plucked the microphone from its nook in the dashboard.

Dear comrades, he said. We are now approaching the Zone. Please hand over passports for inspection.

Igor, a Chernobyl tour guide, measuring the ground for radiation. Mark Neville for The New York Times

You feel immediately the force of the contradiction. You feel, contradictorily, both drawn in and repelled by this force. Everything you have learned tells you that this is an afflicted place, a place that is hostile and dangerous to life. And yet the dosimeter, which Igor held up for inspection as we stood by the bus on the far side of the border, displayed a level of radiation lower than the one recorded outside the McDonalds in Kyiv where we had boarded the bus earlier that morning. Apart from some hot spots, much of the Zone has relatively low levels of contamination. The outer part of the 30 Kilometer Zone the radius of abandoned land around the reactor itself is hardly a barren hellscape.

Possible to use this part of Zone again, humans today, Igor said.

Someone asked why, in that case, it wasnt used.

Ukraine is very big country. Luckily we can spare this land to use as buffer between highly contaminated part of Zone and rest of Ukraine. Belarus not so lucky.

Immediately you are struck by the strange beauty of the place, the unchecked exuberance of nature finally set free of its crowning achievement, its problem child. And everywhere you look, you are reminded of how artificial the distinction is between the human and the natural world: that everything we do, even our destruction of nature, exists within the context of nature. The road you walk on is fissured with the purposeful pressure of plant stems from below, the heedless insistence of life breaking forth, continuing on. It is midsummer, and the day is hot but with the sibilant whisper of a cool breeze in the leaves and butterflies everywhere, superintending the ruins. It is all quite lovely, in its uncanny way: The world, everywhere, protesting its innocence.

All the fields are slowly turning into forest, Igor said. The condition of nature is returning to what it was before people. Mooses. Wild boar. Wolves. Rare kinds of horses.

This is the colossal irony of Chernobyl: Because it is the site of an enormous ecological catastrophe, this region has been for decades now basically void of human life; and because it is basically void of human life, it is effectively a vast nature preserve. To enter the Zone, in this sense, is to have one foot in a prelapsarian paradise and the other in a postapocalyptic wasteland.

Not far past the border, we stopped and walked a little way into a wooded area that had once been a village. We paused in a clearing to observe a large skull, a scattered miscellany of bones.

Moose, Igor said, prodding the skull gently with the toe of a sneaker. Skull of moose, he added, by way of elaboration.

Vika directed our attention toward a low building with a collapsed roof, a fallen tree partly obscuring its entrance. She swept a hand before her in a stagy flourish. It is a hot day today, she said. Who would like to buy an ice cream? She went on to clarify that this had once been a shop, in which it would have been possible to buy ice cream, among other items. Three decades is a long time, of course, but it was still impressive how comprehensively nature had seized control of the place in that time. In these ruins, it was no easier to imagine people standing around in jeans and sneakers eating ice cream than it would be in the blasted avenues of Pompeii to imagine people in togas eating olives. It was astonishing to behold how quickly we humans became irrelevant to the business of nature.

And this flourishing of the wilderness was at the expense of the decay of man-made things. Strictly speaking, visitors are forbidden to enter any of Pripyats buildings, many of which are in variously advanced states of decay and structural peril, some clearly ready to collapse at any moment. Igor and Vika could in theory lose their licenses to enter the Zone if they were caught taking tourists into buildings. It had been known to happen, Igor said, that guides had their permits revoked. This had put them in something of a double bind, he explained, on account of the proliferation in recent years of rival outfits offering trips to the Zone. If they didnt take customers into the buildings up the stairways to the rooftops, into the former homes and workplaces and schoolrooms of Pripyat some other guides would, and what people wanted more than anything in visiting the place was to enter the intimate spaces of an abandoned world.

One of the Swedish men who accounted for about a third of the groups number asked whether any visitors had been seriously injured or killed while exploring the abandoned buildings.

Not yet, Igor said, a reply more ominous than he may have intended.

He went on to clarify that the fate of the small but thriving tourism business hung in the balance and depended, by consensus, on the nationality of the first person to be injured or killed on a tour. If a Ukrainian died while exploring one of the buildings, he said, fine, no problem, business as usual. If a European, then the police would have to immediately clamp down on tour guides bringing people into buildings. But the worst-case scenario was, of course, an American getting killed or seriously injured. That, he quipped, would mean an immediate cessation of the whole enterprise.

American gets hurt, he said, no more tours in Zone. Finished.

Andrii and his son Yaroslav from Kyiv at the entrance to one of Chernobyls main attractions, a huge Soviet-era radar installation. Mark Neville for The New York Times

The tour made its way to the edge of the city and to the abandoned fairground wed seen on the minibus that morning on the Top Gear segment and the music videos. This was Pripyats most recognizable landmark, its most readily legible symbol of decayed utopia. Our little group wandered around the fairground, taking in the cinematic vista of catastrophe: the Ferris wheel, the unused bumper cars overgrown with moss, the swing boats half-decayed by rust.

The parks grand opening, Vika said, had been scheduled for the International Workers Day celebrations on May 1, 1986, the week following the disaster, and the park had therefore never actually been used. Beside her, Igor held aloft the dosimeter, explaining that the radiation levels were by and large quite safe, but that certain small areas within the fairground were high: the moss on the bumper cars, for example, contained a complex cocktail of toxic substances, having absorbed and retained more radiation than surrounding surfaces. Though I cant say I considered it, moss in general was not to be ingested; the same was true of all kinds of fungi, for their spongelike assimilation of radioactive material. Wild dogs and cats, too, can present a potential risk, because they roamed freely in parts of the Zone that had never been decontaminated effectively, and they carried radioactive particles in their fur.

I leaned against the railings of the bumper car enclosure and then, recalling having read a warning somewhere about the perils of sitting on and leaning against things in the Zone, quickly relocated myself away from the rusting metal. I looked at the others, almost all of whom were engaged in taking photographs of the fairground. The only exception was Dylan, who was on the phone again, apparently talking someone through the game plan for a new investment round. I was struck for the first time by the disproportionate maleness of the group: out of a dozen or so tourists, only one was female, a young German woman who was at present assisting her prodigiously pierced boyfriend in operating a drone for purposes of aerial cinematography.

There seemed to be a general implicit agreement that nobody would appear in anyone elses shots, because of a mutual interest in the photographic representation of Pripyat as a maximally desolate place, an impression that would inevitably be compromised by the presence of other tourists taking photos in the backgrounds of your own. On a whim, I opened up Instagram on my phone the 3G coverage in the Zone had, against all expectation, been so far uniformly excellent and entered Pripyat into the search box and then scrolled through a cascading plenitude of aesthetically uniform photos of the Ferris wheel, the bumper cars, the swing boats, along with a great many photos employing these as dramatic backgrounds for selfies. A few of these featured goofy expressions and sexy pouts and bad-ass sneers, but a majority were appropriately solemn or contemplative in attitude. The message, by and large, seemed to be this: I have been here, and I have felt the melancholy weight of this poisoned place.

Pripyat presents the adventurous tourist with a spectacle of abandonment more vivid than anywhere else on Earth, a fever dream of a world gone void. To walk the imposing squares of the planned city, its broad avenues cracked and overgrown with vegetation, is in one sense to wander the ruins of a collapsed utopian project, a vast crumbling monument to an abandoned past. And yet it is also to be thrust forward into an immersive simulation of the future, an image of what will come in our wake. What is most strange about wandering the streets and buildings of this discontinued city is the recognition of the place as an artifact of our own time: It is a vast complex of ruins, like Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, but the vision is one of modernity in wretched decay. In wandering the crumbling ruins of the present, you are encountering a world to come.

And this is why the images from my time in Pripyat that cling most insistently to my mind are the fragmented shards of technology, the rotted remnants of our own machine age. In what had once been an electronics store, the soles of our sturdy shoes crunched on the shattered glass of screens, and with our smartphones we captured the disquieting sight of heaped and eviscerated old television sets, of tubes and wires extruded from their gutted shells, and of ancient circuit boards greened with algae. (And surely I cannot have been the only one among us to imagine the smartphone I was holding undergoing its own afterlife of decay and dissolution.) In what had once been a music store, we walked amid a chaos of decomposing pianos, variously wrecked and capsized, and here and there someone fingered the yellowed keys, and the notes sounded strange and damp and discordant. All of this was weighted with the sad intimation of the worlds inevitable decline, the inbuilt obsolescence of our objects, our culture: the realization that what will survive of us is garbage.

Vagn, a tourist from Denmark, on a tour of the Zone. Mark Neville for The New York Times

Later, outside the entrance to one of Pripyats many schools, a small wild dog approached us with disarming deference. Vika opened her handbag and removed a squat pinkish tube, a snack from the lower reaches of the pork-product market, and presented it to the dog, who received it with patience and good grace.

There was a dark flash of movement on the periphery of my field of vision, a rustle of dry leaves. I turned and saw the business end of a muscular black snake as it emerged from beneath a rusted slide and plunged headlong for the undergrowth.

Viper, Igor said, nodding in the direction of the fugitive snake. He pronounced it wiper.

The school was a large tile-fronted building, on one side of which was a beautiful mosaic of an anthropomorphic sun gazing down at a little girl. Dylan was rightly dubious as to the wisdom of entering a building in such an advanced state of dilapidation. Turning to Igor, he remarked that they must have been constructed hastily and poorly in the first place.

No, Igor replied, briskly brushing an insect off the shoulder of his camouflage jacket. This is future for all buildings.

The schools foyer was carpeted with thousands of textbooks and copybooks, a sprawling detritus of the written word. It felt somehow obscene to walk on these pages, but there was no way to avoid it if you wanted to move forward. Igor bent down to pick up a colorfully illustrated storybook from the ground and flipped through its desiccated pages.

Propaganda book, he said, with a moue of mild distaste, and dropped it gently again at his feet. In Soviet Union, everything was propaganda. All the time, propaganda.

I asked him what he himself remembered of the disaster, and he answered that there was basically nothing to remember. Though he was five years older than me, he said that I would most likely have a clearer memory of the accident and its aftermath, because in Soviet Ukraine little information was made public about the scale of the catastrophe. In Europe? Panic. Huge disaster. In Ukraine? No problem.

Climbing the staircase, whose railings had long since been removed, I trailed a hand against a wall to steady myself and felt the splintering paint work beneath my fingertips. I was 6 when the disaster happened, young enough, I suppose, to have been protected by my parents from the news and its implications. What did I recall of the time? Weird births, human bodies distorted beyond nature, ballooned skulls, clawed and misshapen limbs: images not of the disaster itself but of its long and desolate and uncanny aftermath. I remembered a feeling of fascinated horror, which was bound up in my mind with communism and democracy and the quarrel I only understood as the struggle between good and evil, and with the idea of nuclear war, and with other catastrophes of the time, too, the sense of a miscarried future.

As I continued up the stairs, a memory came to me of a country road late at night, of my mother helping me up onto the hood of our orange Ford Fiesta, directing my attention toward a point of light arcing swiftly across the clear night sky, and of her telling me that it was an American space shuttle called Challenger, orbiting the planet. That memory was linked in my mind with a later memory, of watching television news footage of that same shuttle exploding into pure white vapor over the ocean. The vision of the sudden Y-shaped divergence of the contrails, spiraling again toward each other as the exploded remains of the shuttle fell to the sea, a debris of technology and death, striking against the deep blue sky. That moment was for me what the moon landing was for my parents and their generation: an image in which the future itself was fixed.

We rounded the top of the stairs, and as I set off down a corridor after Igor, I realized that those images of technological disaster, of explosions, mutations, had haunted my childhood and that I had arrived at the source of a catastrophe much larger than Chernobyl itself or any of its vague immensity of effects. I remembered a line from the French philosopher Paul Virilio The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck that seemed to me to encapsulate perfectly the extent to which technological progress embedded within itself the prospect of catastrophe. And it occurred to me that Pripyat was a graveyard of progress, the final resting place of the future.

In a large upstairs classroom, a dozen or so toddler-size chairs were arranged in a circle, and on each was perched a rotting doll or threadbare teddy bear. The visual effect was eerie enough, but what was properly unsettling was the realization that this scene had been carefully arranged by a visitor, probably quite recently, precisely in order for it to be photographed. And this went to the heart of what I found so profoundly creepy about the whole enterprise of catastrophe tourism, an enterprise in which I myself was just as implicated as anyone else who was standing here in this former classroom, feeling the warm breeze stirring the air through the empty window frames.

I wondered whether Igor and Vika held us in contempt, us Western Europeans and Australians and North Americans who had forked over a fee not much lower than Ukraines average monthly wage for a two-day tour around this discontinued world, to feel the transgressive thrill of our own daring in coming here. If it were I in their position, I knew that contempt is exactly what I would have felt. The fact was that I didnt even need to leave my own position in order to hold myself in contempt, or anyone else.

How often do you come here? I asked Igor.

Seven days a week, usually, he said. He had a strange way of avoiding eye contact, of looking not directly at you but at a slight angle, as though you were in fact beside yourself. Seven days a week, eight years.

How has that affected you? I asked.

I have three children. No mutants.

I dont mean the radiation so much as just the place. I mean, all this must have an impact, I said, gesturing vaguely toward my own head, indicating matters broadly psychological.

I dont see my wife. My family. I get up at 6:30 a.m., they are asleep. I get home late night, already they are asleep again. I am a slave, just like in Soviet Union time. But now, he said, with an air of inscrutable sarcasm, I am a slave to money.

I followed Igor and Vika into another classroom, where we were joined by the wild dog Vika had fed earlier. The dog did a quick circuit of the room, sniffed perfunctorily at a papier-mch doll, an upturned chair, some torn copybook pages, then settled himself down beside Vika. Igor opened a cupboard and removed a stack of paintings, spread them out on a table flaked with aquamarine paint. The pictures were beautifully childish things, heartbreakingly vivid renderings of butterflies, grinning suns, fish, chickens, dinosaurs, a piglet in a little blue dress. They were expressions of love toward the world, toward nature, made with such obvious joy and care that I felt myself getting emotional looking at them. I could all of a sudden see the children at their desks, their tongues protruding in concentration, their teachers bending over to offer encouragement and praise, and I could smell the paper, the paint, the glue.

I picked up a painting of a dinosaur, and I was surprised by sadness not at the unthinkable dimensions of the catastrophe itself but at the thought that the child responsible for this picture was never able to take it home to show his parents; how instead, he had to leave it behind just as he had to leave behind his school, his home, his city, his poisoned world. And I became conscious then of the strangeness of my being here, the wrongness of myself as a figure in this scene: a man from outside, from the postapocalyptic future, holding this simple and beautiful picture in his hand and looking at it as an artifact of a collapsed civilization. This, I now understood, was the deeper contradiction of my presence in the Zone: My discomfort in being here had less to do with the risk of contamination than with the sense of myself as the contaminant.

Sofia, one of a handful of samosely, or self-settlers, people who have voluntarily returned to the Zone. Mark Neville for The New York Times

The tour company had put us up in the town of Chernobyl itself, in a place called Hotel 10 a name so blankly utilitarian that it sounded chic. Hotel 10 was in reality no more chic than you would expect a hotel in Chernobyl to be and arguably even less so. It looked like, and essentially was, a gigantic two-story shipping container. Its exterior walls and roof were corrugated iron. Internally it seemed to be constructed entirely from drywall, and it smelled faintly of creosote throughout, and the long corridor sloped at a nauseating angle on its final descent toward the room Dylan and I were sharing on the ground floor.

The Ukrainian government imposes a strict 8 p.m. curfew in the Zone, and so after a dinner of borscht, bread and unspecified meats, there was nothing to do but drink, and so we drank. We drank an absurdly overpriced local beer called Chernobyl the hotel had run out of everything else that the label assured us was brewed outside the Zone, using nonlocal wheat and water, specifically for consumption inside the Zone itself, a business model that Dylan rightly condemned as needlessly self-limiting.

We all turned in early that night. Even if wed wanted to walk the empty streets of the town after dark, we would have been breaking the law in doing so and possibly jeopardizing the tour companys license to bring tourists to the Zone. Unable to sleep, I took out the book I brought with me, an oral history of the disaster and its aftermath called Chernobyl Prayer, by the Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich. As I reached the closing pages, after dozens of monologues about the loss and displacement and terror endured by the people of Chernobyl, I was unsettled to encounter an image of myself. The books coda was a composite of 2005 newspaper clippings about the news that a Kyiv travel agency was beginning to offer people the chance to visit the Exclusion Zone.

You are certainly going to have something to tell your friends about when you get back home, I read. Atomic tourism is in great demand, especially among Westerners. People crave strong new sensations, and these are in short supply in a world so much explored and readily accessible. Life gets boring, and people want a frisson of something eternal.

I lay awake for some time, trying to attend to the silence, hearing now and then the faint howling of wolves in the lonely distance. Had I myself, I wondered, come here in search of strong new sensations? There was, I realized, a sense in which I was encountering the Zone less as the site of a real catastrophe, a barely conceivable tragedy of the very recent past, than as a vast diorama of an imagined future, a world in which humans had ceased entirely to exist.

Among ruins, Pripyat is a special case. Its Venice in reverse: a fully interactive virtual rendering of a world to come. The place is recognizably of our own time and yet entirely other. It was built as an exemplary creation of Soviet planning and ingenuity, an ideal place for a highly skilled work force. Broad avenues lined with evergreen trees, sprawling city squares, modernist high-rise apartment buildings, hotels, places for exercise and entertainment, cultural centers, playgrounds. And all of it was powered by the alchemy of nuclear energy. The people who designed and built Pripyat believed themselves to be designing and building the future. This was a historical paradox almost too painful to contemplate.

It wasnt until after I returned home from Ukraine that I began to imagine my own house a ruin, to picture as I walked through its rooms the effect 30 years of dereliction might wreak on my sons bedroom, imagining his soft toys matted and splayed to the elements, the bare frame of his bed collapsed in a moldering heap, the floorboards stripped and rotted. I would walk out our front door and imagine our street deserted, the empty window frames of the houses and shops, trees sprouting through the cracked sidewalks, the road itself overgrown with grass.

Now I find myself wanting not to think about abandoned streets and shuttered schools and empty playgrounds any more than I have to, which is all the time. One recent evening, a few days into pandemic-mandated social distancing, I went out for a walk around my neighborhood a densely populated community in Dublins inner city and it was sadder and more uncanny than I was prepared for. It was not the Zone, but neither was it the world I knew. I thought of a line from Chernobyl Prayer that haunted me for a time after I read it but had not occurred to me since: Something from the future is peeking out and its just too big for our minds. I walked for maybe 10 or 15 minutes and hardly encountered another soul.

A couple from the Netherlands, Alissa and Gerjan. Mark Neville for The New York Times

At the heart of the Zone is Reactor No. 4. You dont see it. Not now that it is enclosed in the immense dome known as the New Safe Confinement. This, they say, is the largest movable object on the planet: roughly 360 feet tall at its apex and 840 feet wide. The dome was the result of a vast engineering project involving 27 countries. The construction had been completed on-site, and in November 2016 the finished dome was slid into position on rails, over the original shelter, which it now entirely contained. That original shelter, known variously as the Sarcophagus and the Shelter Object, had been hastily constructed over the ruins of the reactor building in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

The group stood looking at the dome taking photos of the plant for later Instagram sharing, as Igor talked us dryly through the stats.

Sarcophagus is an interesting word to have gone with, Dylan said, trousering his phone.

It really is, I said. They have not shied away from the sinister.

Zone. Shelter Object. Sarcophagus. There was an archetypal charge to these terms, a resonance of the uncanny on the surfaces of the words themselves. Sarcophagus, from the Greek, sark meaning flesh; phagus meaning to eat.

A couple of hundred yards from us was an accretion of fissile material that had melted through the concrete floor of the reactor building to the basement beneath, cooled and hardened into a monstrous mass they called the Elephants Foot. This was the holy of holies, possibly the most toxic object on the planet. This was the center of the Zone. To be in its presence even briefly was extremely dangerous. An hour of close proximity would be lethal. Concealed though it was, its unseen presence emanated a shimmer of the numinous. It was the nightmare consequence of technology itself, the invention of the shipwreck.

In the closing stretch of the Bible, in Revelation, appear these lines: And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. Wormwood is a shrub that appears several times in the Bible, invoked in Revelation as a sort of curse, perhaps the wrath of a vengeful God. In fact, Chernobyl is named for the plant, which grows in lavish abundance in the region. This matter of linguistic curiosity is frequently raised in commentaries on the accident and its apocalyptic resonances.

Laborers in construction hats ambled in and out of the plant. It was lunchtime. The cleanup was ongoing. This was a place of work, an ordinary place. But it was a kind of holy place too, a place where all of time had collapsed into a single physical point. The Elephants Foot would be here always. It would remain here after the death of everything else, an eternal monument to our civilization. After the collapse of every other structure, after every good and beautiful thing had been lost and forgotten, its silent malice would still be throbbing in the ground like a cancer, spreading its bitterness through the risen waters.

Before returning to Kyiv, we made a final stop at the Reactor No. 5 cooling tower, a lofty abyss of concrete that was nearing completion at the time of the accident and had lain abandoned ever since, both construction site and ruin. We walked through tall grass and across a long footbridge whose wooden slats had rotted away so completely in places that we had to cling to railings and tiptoe along rusted metal sidings.

Once inside, we wandered the interior, mutely assimilating the immensity of the structure. The tower ascended some 500 feet into the air, to a vast opening that encircled the sky. Someone in the group selected a rock from the ground and pitched it with impressive accuracy and force at a large iron pipe that ran across the towers interior, and the clang reverberated in what seemed an endless self-perpetuating loop. Somewhere up in the lofty reaches a crow delivered itself of a cracked screech, and this sound echoed lengthily in its turn.

The more adventurous of us clambered up the iron beams of the scaffolding in search of more lofty positions from which to photograph the scene. I was not among them. I sought the lower ground, sitting cross-legged in the dirt, having forgotten for a moment the obvious danger of doing so. I looked up. Hundreds of feet overhead, two birds were gliding in opposing spirals around the inner circumference of the tower, kestrels I thought, drifting upward on unseen currents toward the vast disk of sky, impossibly deep and blue. I sat there watching them a long time, circling and circling inside the great cone of the tower. I laughed, thinking of the Yeatsian resonances of the scene, the millenarian mysticism: the tower, the falcons, the widening gyres. But there was in truth nothing apocalyptic about what I was seeing, no blood-dimmed tide. It was an aftermath, a calm restored.

These birds, I thought, could have known nothing about this place. The Zone did not exist for them. Or rather, they knew it intimately and absolutely, but their understanding had nothing in common with ours. This cooling tower, unthinkable monument that it was to the subjugation of nature, was not distinguished from the trees, the mountains, the other lonely structures on the land. There was no division between human and nonhuman for these spiraling ghosts of the sky. There was only nature. Only the world remained and the things that were in it.

This article is adapted from the book Notes From an Apocalypse, to be published by Doubleday in April.Mark OConnell is a writer based in Dublin. His first book, To Be a Machine, was awarded the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize and the 2019 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. He previously wrote a feature article about a presidential candidate running on a platform of eradicating death.

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Why Would Anyone Want to Visit Chernobyl? - The New York Times

A Timeline of the NRAs Scare Tactics During National Emergencies – The Trace

Over the weekend, the National Rifle Association released a new video using the coronavirus pandemic to argue that guns are essential to protecting Americans from the threat of public disorder.

In the four-minute-long clip, Carletta Whiting, a disabled woman of color, wields an assault-style weapon and tells viewers, You might be stockpiling up on food to get through this current crisis, but if you arent preparing to defend yourself when everything goes wrong, youre really just stockpiling for somebody else. The video is interspersed with old clips of looting and social unrest. It goes on to warn that localities are using emergency decrees as a cover to seize guns during the current pandemic, citing recent moves by government officials in Champaign, Illinois, and New Orleans. (Both cities say they have no plans to use emergency powers to curtail sales or collect weapons.)

While todays circumstances are unique, fear-driven messaging has been a central part of the NRAs strategy for a long time:

2001: The NRA says 9/11 means civilians should arm themselves against terrorists

The coordinated airplane attacks made Americans acutely anxious about domestic terrorism and in its aftermath, the NRA stoked fears of being vulnerable in the face of unseen danger. People are unsettled in this country, Wayne LaPierre, the groups CEO, said two months later. They hear warnings of other threats that could come at anytime from anywhere. And they dont know if they might be on their own for a while if there is another attack. NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam later told ABC News: Its a natural feeling that after 9/11, people want to be proactive and take necessary actions to protect themselves and their loved ones in these uncertain times.

2005: The NRA uses Hurricane Katrina to inflame fears of gun confiscation

During the days after the 2005 storm, New Orleanss police superintendent decreed that only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons on the citys ravaged, anarchic streets and officers were seen disarming some residents before they were evacuated. But a later review found that the New Orleans Police had taken only 552 guns into custody a number that contrasts with the widespread, door-to-door confiscation that the NRA has claimed.Speaking to NPR at the time, LaPierre said: I mean, the truth is never again can some politician look you in the eye and say with a straight face, You dont need a firearm because the government is going to be there to protect you. All you have to say is, Remember New Orleans.'

2012: The NRA seizes on another devastating storm to push guns to defend personal property

When Superstorm Sandy wreaked destruction on New York City, where gun laws are restrictive, LaPierre mischaracterized the aftermath in an op-ed by exaggerating incidents of theft. We saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia, he said. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn Its not paranoia to buy a gun. Its survival.

2017: The NRA turns political divisions into a call to arms

Following Trumps inauguration, the NRA used speeches and its now defunct streaming channel to disseminate chaotic video clips thatportrayed liberal activists as a violent force that posed a threat to gun-owning Americans. The NRAs campaign included then-spokeswoman Dana Loeschs infamous Clenched Fist of Truth ad, which demonized the Womens March, among other targets.

2017: Another hurricane, and more ominous warnings of social chaos from the NRA

After Hurricane Harvey hit the Texan Gulf Coast in 2017, NRATV host Grant Stinchfield conjured the nightmarish consequences that would result from the next disaster: When emergency personnel are pulled in every direction, do you have access to protection? The thugs and thieves know that your vulnerability can be exploited.

Later, the NRA backed a Texas law, enacted in 2019, that allows residents to carry handguns openly or concealed without a permit for a full week after a natural disaster is declared.

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A Timeline of the NRAs Scare Tactics During National Emergencies - The Trace

With humor, range and a colorful cast of characters, you wont be able to put down Deacon King Kong – Seattle Times

The first Saturday of every month, crates of cheese mysteriously appear in the boiler room of the Cause, a housing project in South Brooklyn that, by the end of the 1960s, had transitioned from being an Italian neighborhood to being predominantly Black and brown.

No one in James McBrides new novel, Deacon King Kong, knows where the cheese comes from not even Hot Sausage, whos entrusted with distributing the cheese among the residents. It could be the housing authority, the mob or a benevolent cheesemonger, but no one presses too hard because its good cheese. Im talking fresh, rich, heavenly, succulent, soft, creamy, kiss-my-ass, cows-gotta-die-for-this, delightfully salty, moo-ass, good old white folks cheese. At the front of the dairy-reception line are all the heavy hitters of news, views, and gossip, who, in light of a recent shooting, have plenty to talk about.

This snapshot captures several elements at play in McBrides novel: a mouthful of hot gossip, black-market dues, colorful nicknames and a changing New York City neighborhood that renews pressure on who can and cannot be trusted.

Set in 1969, this rollicking historical novel features a motley cast of characters plucked from the neighborhood, including hard-core souls of Five Ends Baptist, blissful drunks (Hot Sausage and Sportcoat), an enamored police officer (Potts), a gangster ready to retire (the Elephant) and new drug dealers with something to prove (Bunch and Deems).

Our protagonist, Sportcoat, is a walking genius, a human disaster, a sod, a medical miracle, and the greatest baseball umpire. The archetypal amiable, gin-soaked fool kicks off the opening chapter by shooting Deems, a talented baseball pitcher who left the diamond for the flagpole, where he slings drugs. What follows is a lackadaisical manhunt for Sportcoat, revenge gone wrong and a riddled treasure hunt for a soap-like artifact. This intricate, expansive, meandering plot reads like a detective thriller and ends with satisfying, borderline-corny resolutions in the form of restored love and a moonflower funeral, almost like a rom-com.

If Five Ends Baptist Church is the heart of the Cause Houses, then high grade gossip is its lifeblood. In the Cause, everybody knows everybody and everybody makes everybodys business their business. Public spats, the best kind, are frequent throughout the novel. Written with the dramatic flair and petty delight of a WWE commentator, these squabbles are usually limited to verbal insults lobbed back and forth (Youre so tight with money your ass squeaks when you walk) and occasionally devolve into physical skirmishes.

But even violence is rendered comedically as slapstick. Such is the case of an unlucky hitman sent to dispatch Sportcoat. In scenes reminiscent of Home Alone, the hitman is clocked out cold by a liquor bottle carelessly chucked over a shoulder and, shortly after, electrocuted unconscious by a malfunctioning generator.

This novel, like New York, is mouthy and abundant. The narrative perspective rotates through a select number of characters and, as it shifts, so too does the stylistic voice and register. In the strongest passages, McBride draws a gargantuan breath and goes off. Here, Sister Gee speaks of life in the projects:

You lived a life of disappointment and suffering, of too-hot summers and too-cold winters, surviving in apartments with crummy stoves that didnt work and windows that didnt open and toilets that didnt flush and lead paint that flecked off the walls and poisoned your children, living in awful, dreary apartments built to house Italians who came to America to work the docks, which had emptied of boats, ships, tankers, dreams, money, and opportunity the moment the colored and the Latinos arrived, she says. And still New York blamed you for all its problems.

While the novel leans toward comedy overall, it does not overlook the social and economic realities of race and poverty outlined above.

In a city where history is paved over and where the present landscape is defined by scaffolding bent toward an ever-developing future, this novel resists the usual nostalgia for a lost artists utopia. Instead, it animates a neighborhood scrimping by and revitalizes another nostalgic sore spot that of community.

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With humor, range and a colorful cast of characters, you wont be able to put down Deacon King Kong - Seattle Times

Everything you need to know about Animal Crossing: New Horizons – For The Win

If youve logged on to the internet in the last week or so, youve probably seen a lot of tweets about money hungry raccoons named Tom or animals crossing. or something.

Dont be alarmed. I assure you everything is OK. The social distancing hasnt gotten to peoples heads just yet. There are just a bunch of people on your Twitter timeline playing Nintendos Animal Crossing: New Horizons that released over the weekend for Switch.

Confused as to what that is? Dont worry, weve got you covered here. This is everything you need to know about Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing is Nintendos tentpole social simulator franchise that launched in 2001. Think about it like youd think about the Sims except its much more chill and you can plant trees, fish and perform other work-related tasks for bells (cash).

Its latest title, Animal Crossing: New Horizons,is a Nintendo Switch exclusive and the franchises first installment since 2012 whenAnimal Crossing: New Leafdropped for the Nintendo 3DS great game, btw.

So, in this game youre transported to a deserted island owned by Nook Incorporated (more on that later) and your overall goal, ultimately, is to turn it into a utopia.

On day one youre given a tent and sent on missions to set the other islanders up. Eventually, you start to fish, collect fossils, and perform other tasks to make the island a habitable space.

Youre not. At the jump you get to create your own human and then youre off on your deserted island experience with your new raccoon buddies, Timmy and Tommy. Wild, I know.

So you live on this island with a bunch of animals that have human-like traits. They walk, talk and interact with you as if they were people just with animal heads.

More and more animals visit the island as the game progresses and its your job to build it up and convince them that its a nice place to live.


Nook Inc. is a family-owned business run by Tom Nook (the dad raccoon) and his two kids Timmy and Tommy. Once you get to the island, Tom hooks you up with a tent that you eventually pay off.

After that they hook you up with a loan of a whopping 98,000 bells (the islands currency) to buy a house from Nook. You are eventually able to upgrade your house for another 198,000 bells from Nook. And thats kind of how the game goes.

Youre basically Nooks island servantbut you still have a ton of fun fishing and farming and junk so its all good!

Absolutely! Its exactly the kind of calming fun that youre looking for right now while youre social distancing. Theres online multiplayer, so if you can get it and convince your friends to get it youre all set.

If you have a Nintendo Switch, you can get it for $59.99 from the Nintendo store right now. If can swing it, its a good time.

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Everything you need to know about Animal Crossing: New Horizons - For The Win

The Blade Runner sounds and 3D animation of a Japanese utopia brought to life – Digital Arts Online

The story behind Toyota's Woven City simulation.

While this year'sTokyoOlympics may be in doubt due to recent events, another ambitious example of Japanese creativity looks set to break ground as planned towards the end of 2021.

Unveiled at CES earlier this year, Woven City is Toyota's 175-acre, hydrogen-powered metropolis due to be built at the base of the stunning Mt. Fuji.

The Smart city'sreveal came with a sumptuous 3D animation courtesy of creative studio Squint/Opera, as based on the designs of Dutch architecture firm BIG.

"Squint worked closely with both BIG and Toyota to help translate their vision for the city into a series of immersive films and content for its announcement at CES," says Ollie Alsop, co-founder and creative director at Squint/Opera.

"Bjarke Ingles of BIG wanted to be able to unveil the city in a way that hadnt been seen before - to walk the audience through his designs, and so this is where Squint started. We blended digital animation with traditional presentation techniques to create a more immersive way for viewers to experience an architectural vision.

"The result was a choreographed presentation that unfolded and moved in front of the audience as if they were being shown through the city with Bjarke as the tour guide.

"We also created a version of the film for Toyotas CES booth. This was played on a 360 screen and allowed people to experience the city all around them - it was a fully immersive experience complete with soundscapes and 9000px wide screens."

The unique curves of Woven City's grid all come from BIG's vision for the project once completed, a 'bendiness' based on efficient turning radius for automated vehicles. Cyclists will also be catered with dedicatedbike lanes curving through the grass and trees of Mount Fuji. Drones meanwhile fly above homes with roofs as slanted as the side of Fuji, each abode alive in the animation withsmart bots and stunning views of the mountain.

A techy, bucolic utopia, then, but one soundtracked by halcyon music reminscent of the dystopic masterpieces Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.

"Coda to Codacreated a sound world for both the film and the accompanying 360 cinema-graphs," explains Ollie. "Their focus was to use both music and sound design to describe the sense of possibility the Woven Citys technologies might engender by exploring the synergy between recognisably synthesised sounds and human gestures or instrumental inflections, blurring one with the other to create an evocative hybrid.

"When looking at dystopian imagery of high-tech futures its often sleek, cold and has an absence of nature," points out Jan Bunge, partner at Squint/Opera. "But, this isnt the vision for the Woven City, so we made an effort to communicate that.

"Itll be high tech, of course, but also comfortable, liveable and sustainable - Fuji and the surrounding nature will all play a part.The whole concept of the Woven City is based on sustainability and moving towards a hydrogen-power society that can be self-sufficient with our systems.

"The natural elements we visualised will have many functions within this city, including biodiversity and productive functions, like the ability to produce food and power. But they also show that its not either-or, its not about technology versus nature, its about both working well together."

"While this kind of future-gazing is fun, it doesnt really communicate what new tech or innovation will actually be like," Ollie agrees. "Those kinds of depictions make the future feel removed and far away from our own reality - and often what were communicating will happen in the not-too-distant future.

"So we choose to blend the technology into a world that feels current and plausible for the viewer."

Related: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Art Posters from20th Century Boys andJoJo's Bizarre Adventure creatorsunveiled

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The Blade Runner sounds and 3D animation of a Japanese utopia brought to life - Digital Arts Online

Books in Which No Bad Things Happen – tor.com

A friend was asking the other day for books in which no bad things happen, because with politics, pandemics, and polar vortices, sometimes you want your reading to be all upbeat. But yet, there arent many books where nothingbad happens. Myself, when I want comfort reading, Ill settle for everything all right at the end which leaves me a much wider field. Nothing bad at all is really hard. I mean, you have to have plot, which means conflict, or at least things happening, and once you have obstacles to defeat theres almost certain to be something bad.

Keep reading, because I do actually think of some.

Childrens books, suggests one friend.

Ha ha, no. Apart from the fact that some of the scariest things Ive ever read have been childrens booksCatherine StorrsMarianne Dreams and William SleatorsInterstellar Pig for exampleI realised some time ago that I am never going to be able to read Louise Fitzhughs Harriet the Spy without crying. I mean I am never going to be grown up enough to get over it, there is no mature state in which I am still me where I will be able to read Ole Gollys letter without bawling. Gary Schmidt, a childrens writer I discovered recently, is absolutely wonderful, but terrible, terrible things happen in his books, and its not even reliably all right at the end. Hes the person who made me think you have to earn your unhappy endings just as much as your happy ones. And William Alexanderagain, terrific writer, terrible things happen.

There are some childrens books that almost qualify. One of my comfort reads is Arthur Ransome. He wrote a long series of books about kids messing about in sailboats on lakes in England in the 1930s, and nothing actually bad happensexcept theres a fog on the hills once, and theres the time when the boat sinks in Swallowdale and John is so humiliated, and there is the scary bit where they get swept out to sea in We Didnt Mean To Go To Sea. (And its the 1930s, so their father in the Navy is going to be in WWII, and every adult in the books is complicit in appeasement and there are terrible things happening in Germany already) But just on the surface, thinking about that little sailboat sinking, it makesme think you have to have bad things to overcome or you have no story.

So how about picture books for tiny kids?

Nope. In Martin Waddell and Barbara Firths Cant You Sleep, Little Bear?the Little Bear cant go to sleep and the Big Bear consequently cant settle down and read his book, and all this is because Little Bear is afraid of the dark. Being scared of the dark is a bad thing, even if it gets happily fixed by the end of the story. In Penny DalesThe Elephant Tree the elephant gets sadder and sadder on his quest to find his tree, until the children make a tree for him and make him happy. Dont even think about Dr. Seuss and the terrible anxiety of having your house turned upside down by the Cat in the Hat or being forced to eat icky things by Sam-I-Am. (I dont believe he actually liked them. I used to lie like that all the time when forced to eat things as a kid.) Then theres Raymond Briggs The Snowman, which confronts you with mortality and the death of friends, thank you very much no. When I think of the picture books that are actually fun to read, they all have conflict and bad things. They certainly come into my category of all OK in the end, but they definitely have bad things.

Incidentally, apart from the fact theyd be very boring stories, I think kids need those bad things to learn from, and sometimes those awful moments are the most vivid and memorabletheres a moment in Susan CoopersThe Grey King which will be with me always, and its a bad moment.

But there are some stories that qualify, I think.

Romance. Pretty much all genre romance is everything is OK at the end but bad things happen in the meantime. But some Georgette Heyer has plots that work because bad things seem about to happen and are avertedthis is different from everything being all right in the end, the bad things never occur, they are no more than threats that pass over safely. Cotillion does this. Two people are separately rescued by the heroine from iffy situations that could potentially become terrible, but they dont. I think this counts. (Its funny too.) That makes me think of Jane AustensNorthanger Abbey in which the worst thing that happens is somebody exaggerates and somebody else has to go home alone on a stagecoachthats really notvery bad. Right up there with the bear who cant go to sleep.

Then theres Good King Wenceslas. Somebody notices an injustice and sets out to redress it and succeeds. (OK, the page gets cold, but that also gets instantly fixed.) Zenna Hendersons Love Every Third Stir is a version of this, though what the story is about is discovering the magic. Im sure there are also old clunky SF versions of this. I want to say ClarkesFountains of Paradise. But I think there are others: person invents thing, everything is solved. Mostly more sophisticated versions of this are it creates new problems.

Utopiasomebody visits utopia and it really is. So Mores Utopia and Bacon, and CallenbachsEcotopia and other early naive utopias of this nature. Which makes me think about Kim Stanley Robinsons Pacific Edgebut the way that book works without being naive is to have the actual story be sadthe softball team loses, the boy doesnt get the girl, the old man dies in a storm. The worst thing that happens is gentle regret, but thats bad too. But check out older utopias.

And now, my one actual real solid in-genre example of a book where nothing bad happens!

Phyllis Ann KarrsAt Amberleaf Fair is about a far future where people have evolved to be nicer, and theres a fair, and a woodcarver who can make toys come to life, and there is sex and love and nothing bad happens and everything is all right. Its gentle and delightful and I genuinely really like this odd sweet little book, and unless Im forgetting something I dont think anything bad happens at all.

If you have any suggestions please add them in commentstheres at least one person actively looking for them.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. Shes published two collections of Tor.com pieces, three poetry collections, a short story collection and thirteen novels, including the Hugo- and Nebula-winningAmong Others.Her fourteenth novel, Lent, was published by Tor in May 2019. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here irregularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal. She plans to live to be 99 and write a book every year.

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Books in Which No Bad Things Happen - tor.com

Bickley: Finding the silver linings in a sports world without sports – Arizona Sports

Photos: Associated Press

Welcome to the Silver Linings Playbook, where even a pandemic has its bright spots:

1. The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed, which means Ricky Rubio wont be adding unnecessary mileage this summer in pursuit of Spanish glory. This will certainly benefit the Suns in the short term, whenever next season begins.

2. An extended season in Major League Baseball would necessitate postseason games played at neutral sites in warm-weather cities. Arizona has a domed stadium with massive seating capacity. We have a long resume of successfully hosting huge sporting events. In this scenario, we are odds-on favorites to stage our first World Series since the Diamondbacks ascended from the rubble of 9-11.

3. We have a handful of beautiful, intimate, boutique Cactus League venues that would be great options for other neutral site playoff games.

4. Steve Keim will be remembered as the general manager who pulled off one of the most lopsided trades in history during a global crisis. He provided content for the nation and much-needed bliss in Arizona, where we emerged as the happiest sports town on Earth for a few days.

5. Innovation and progressivism fuels the NBA, where a disrupted season could mean a permanent change on the calendar. The NBA could launch future seasons on Black Friday, right after Thanksgiving. They could raise the curtain on Christmas Day. Future champions could be crowned in the heat of summer, where the market is wide open for riveting sports content.

6. The NBA is thinking outside the box, and thats always good for the sport. They might play a percentage of games without fans in the stands. Imagine what that would sound like. They could even stage a 1-on-1 tournament with individual stars posting victories for their respective teams. Devin Booker vs. Damian Lillard? LeBron vs. Giannis? Sign me up.

7. If the current NBA season is cancelled, the Suns will not be forfeiting their first playoff berth in 10 years.

8. The Coyotes will have a convenient excuse for missing the playoffs, overshadowing their late-season collapse. And with all these financial losses, maybe NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declines to fine the Coyotes for recruiting violations, which prompts the new owner to retain Taylor Hall.

9. The Houston Astros mightve received the greatest sporting reprieve in history.

10. The signing of Tom Brady has made Bruce Arians relevant once again, which is great news for the NFL.

11. The world of sports needs less information. NFL executives need to break the chains of routine and habit. If the 2020 NFL draft proceeds as planned, 32 general managers will have less data and less comfort zone than ever before. And that might be the best thing that ever happened to their collective batting average.

12. Billionaire owners wont swoon over their favorite draft candidates during in-person interviews that normally precede the NFL drafty. They meddle less, not looking to sway opinion of their GMs.

13. The NFL excels at creating great television. Its what they do. They will find a way to make the 2020 NFL draft the best in history, given the circumstances.

14. When their doors are unlocked, we will truly appreciate lifting weights, the sight of open treadmills and the unexpected entertainment that comes with going to the gym.

15. Judging by the weekend crowds in Arizona, thousands are discovering a new love for hiking and the great outdoors.

16. NASCAR attempted to fill the void with a virtual race featuring real drivers at the helm of a video game. Maybe next time theyll allow their stars to race for real, while practicing social distancing, without any other personnel on the track. Where they have to change their own tires and pump their own gas.

17. After all the missed opportunities, aging athletes will make one last push for championship rings and trophies. There will be a heightened sense of urgency, from Tom Brady to LeBron James to Roger Federer. Their energy will be palpable.

18. The rising vitriol between fans and athletes will get a much-needed infusion of perspective. Grateful fans will troll less and admire more often. Athletes will look forward to signing autographs, aware that we really are in this together.

19. Cancelling the NCAA Tournament closed the book on the worst college basketball season in my lifetime. The sport has never seemed so puny or pointless. Lets hope this setback produces real change and a real leader who can resuscitate the entire industry.

20. We will cross the bridge from dystopia to utopia as soon as this pandemic relents. The Masters could be scheduled with fall colors at Augusta National. We could have weeknights full of baseball, playoff basketball and NHL playoffs. We could have weekends full of professional and college football, along with major tournaments in niche sports, from Paris to Kentucky.

It could be the greatest time of our lives. We will be happier than weve been in over a decade, since we crawled out of the Great Recession. We will appreciate sports, athletes, sold-out crowds and normalcy than ever before. Even the $12 beers.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. 2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizonas Sports Station.

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Bickley: Finding the silver linings in a sports world without sports - Arizona Sports

Country music is coming to life in Chippenham – The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald

CHIPPENHAM is often seen as being more famous for its Folk Festival and its thriving live music scene of rock and pop, says musician Reuben Reynolds.

But things are changing with the growing popularity of American New Country, and Americana music.

There are new UK-based country music radio stations, and music festivals and there is currently a boom in homegrown country talent in the UK as well.

March sees two country music releases from artists based in the Chippenham area. Firstly Stuart Rolfe, who has been making a living in the music industry, as a session and touring musician, with the likes of Tim McGraw and Mark Knopfler.

Stuart has just released his debut single, a cover of the Tim McGraw song Real Good Man, with his band Stuart Rolfe and Daylight Stealers. I got my break two years ago working with Tim McGraw and we had a discussion about this song and he let me record it my way for release, Said Stuart.

Ive let go of the life of a session musician in favour of the freedom that working for myself gives me. Im hopeful to be releasing my new EP later in the year, with an album to follow next year.

The second release is from The Atlantic Project, which was primarily recorded at Utopia Studios in Chippenham.

Reuben said: The composition Living a Lie is written by myself and Richard Benham and features Richard on guitars, with the added Nashville sparkle of Seth Morgan on vocals, from the USA.

Both are out now and can be found on Spotify, ITunes Amazon and YouTube. With the emergence of digital downloads and multiple streaming platforms, it is now easier for independent recording artists, to release music to the world, and to their potential fan base.

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Country music is coming to life in Chippenham - The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald

Unchecked Smart Cities are Surveillance Cities. What We Need are Smart Enough Cities. – EFF

We can have beautiful cities without turning our cities into surveillance cities.

Cities across the U.S. are forcing operators of shared bikes and scooters to use dangerous and privacy invasive APIs developed by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. These APIscollectively called the mobility data specification, or MDSrequire that operators share granular location data on every trip taken. The location data that cities are demanding is incredibly sensitive and relates to the movements of real people. And some cities, like Los Angeles and soon Santa Monica and Washington, D.C., even require that the data be shared with a five-second delayessentially in real-time.

The local authorities demanding access to individual trip data are failing to comply with existing privacy protections in the law. Meanwhile, cities cannot point to even a single use case to show why they need access to the individual level trip data. That means cities are recklessly and illegally stockpiling sensitive location data that they do not need.

As City Labs recent investigative deep-dive into MDS reports, LADOTs APIs were designed to enable cities to operate as the air traffic controllers of our streetsto send out real-time route instructions and control the path of individual vehicles. That vision is not only unrealistic, but it would necessitate real-time surveillance of all of our movements on city streets, no matter our mode of transportation. What some cities are trying to paint as a vision of a future utopia is actually just a scene straight out of Minority Report.

Think this wont impact you if you dont use shared bikes or scooters? Think again. Cities hope to use MDS as a model for regulating all forms of connected vehiclesincluding carsin the future.

In California, EFF is asking the legislature to step in and protect Californians from LADOTs invasive APIsby placing sensitive individual trip data off-limits for planning purposes, and by limiting local authorities to aggregate and deidentified trip data. Such guardrails are necessary to protect the privacy interests of people who rely on shared mobility devices, and to clearly tell local authorities that they do not have a free pass to operate outside of the law.

As we told the legislature last month during a hearing of the Senate Transportation and Judiciary Committees, when cities start demanding individual level trip data, they are no longer just smart citiesthey are surveillance cities. Turning our cities into surveillance cities is not necessary to achieve the laudable planning goals of city and regional transportation agencies. What we need are smart enough citiescities that harness the power of data and technology in a way that respects everyones privacy interests.

Local transportation planning agencies across the country are currently demanding that operators of shared mobility devices turn over individual trip data as a condition of getting a permit to operate within their jurisdictions. They hope to someday obtain the same data for other forms of transportation.

The local authorities making these demands are not balancing their planning goals with the privacy interests of residents who rely on these new modes of transportation. And they do not even seem to believe that individual level trip data is personal information.In a letter opposing a location privacy bill sent last June, five California cities argued that removing customer identifiers like names should be enough to protect rider privacy.That is simply not the case. Human mobility patterns are highly unique, and that makes anonymizing location data a notoriously difficult technical challenge. Studies have shown that when it comes to location data, removing names is not enough to protect privacy.

The local authorities demanding individual trip data are violating multiple privacy protections in existing law. In California, for example, they are failing to comply with the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which provides that a government entity shall not compel the production of electronic device information from any person or entity other than the authorized possessor of the device, except in specific circumstances not present here (such as when they have a warrant). They are also failing to comply with the California constitutional right to privacy, which prevents governments from collecting and stockpiling unnecessary information about Californians, and from misusing information gathered for one purpose in order to serve other purposes[.]

Local authorities demanding individual trip data are also failing to comply with the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court was clear in Carpenter v. United States that location data is incredibly sensitive personal information, and that it is protected by the Fourth Amendments reasonable expectation of privacy.And in the administrative search context, the Court requires that subjects of searches have an opportunity for a neutral decision maker to weigh in on the legality of the search before complying. The MDSs ongoing searches of operators trip data provide no such opportunity for review.

Courts have already been clear that similar searches violate the Fourth Amendment. The Southern District of New York held in 2019, for example, in a case involving New York Citys demand for Airbnb user data, that [existing] Fourth Amendment law does not afford a charter for such a wholesale regulatory appropriation of a companys user database. Cities are ignoring Fourth Amendment precedent with their invasive and unreasonable demands for individual trip data.

Whats more, the cities demanding access to this sensitive location data have not shown that they actually need this data. At EFF, we have yet to hear a single use case that would necessitate it.

The key for transportation research and city planning is patterns of movement. Cities dont need time-stamped route information for a specific individual; they need to know where most people go, and when most people go there. Thats why there are so many data aggregators out there helping cities make sense of all the data they are getting. Data on individual level trips is not necessary or even useful to cities for city planning purposes. The idea that you will never know what you might find until you have the data is not compelling when you are talking about incredibly sensitive personal information, like granular location data. It might be interesting for cities to force their residents to all wear GPS ankle monitors so they could better understand residents mobilities, but that doesnt mean they should be allowed to do so. There have to be limits on cities ability to collect sensitive location data.

For enforcing scooter caps and equitable distribution of scooters, cities dont actually need trip data at all; all cities need is data regarding where scooter are parked. Data about specific scooter locations when they are not tied to individual trips does not raise the same privacy concerns as when they are tied to the movements of particular individuals.

To ensure the veracity of data, there are technical auditing solutions that can be implemented on the operator side to avoid the need for sensitive data to change hands. Cities can also pass rules that impose liability for providing inaccurate or false data, and then enforce those rules with auditing and monetary penaltiesall without any harm to privacy.

We want to be clear: we do not think that cities should be blocked from accessing all data whatsoever. At EFF, we agree that local public agencies should be able to collect some data in order to ensure that new transportation devices are deployed safely, efficiently, equitably, and sustainably. But local agencies do not need to collect sensitive, personally identifiable information about riders in order to achieve their goals. Civic planning authorities can and should be using sufficiently aggregated and deidentified datadata that is incapable of being tied back to an individual rider, even in combination with other data. This is the solution for ensuring that privacy is not sacrificed in the name of transportation planning.

We can have beautiful cities without turning our cities into surveillance cities. And what we need to get there are clear limits from the Legislature that rein in efforts by local authorities to obtain access to sensitive individual trip data.

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Unchecked Smart Cities are Surveillance Cities. What We Need are Smart Enough Cities. - EFF

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review: The Game We All Need, Right Now – Forbes

Animal Crossing

It looks, at least at first, like a vacation. You book your ticket through Nook Inc., by all appearances a cheerful travel agent, coordinating with Dodo Airlines for a trip to a deserted island somewhere in the hemisphere of your choice. But its different. For whatever reasonpersonal, political, biological or otherwise, it will never be clearyour cheerful little character has decided to book a one way ticket. I wear a sailor shirt and jeans, and I am never going back.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest entry in Nintendos pleasant little life simulator series, but the setting marks an interesting break. In the past I was just moving to a town, a normal thing that one might do, even if the town is inhabited by strange and friendly anthropomorphic animals. Now, I am striking out into the wilderness to build a utopia on a deserted island. My guide is Tom Nook, a scheming raccoon whose calm, half-lidded eyes belie the essential fervor with which he will pursue his latest venture, a grand social experiment far beyond the construction business he ran on the mainland. My companions on this first day are a disaffected pink rhino and a fitness-obsessed elephant, their motivations for abandoning society as unclear as my own. Joining us are Tom Nooks two sons, Timmy and Tommy, the mother nowhere to be seen and never mentioned. We pitch our tents on the first day, and I go out to shake cherries out of a tree at Nooks request. We gather around a bonfire and drink cherry juice as the sun goes down, toasting the start of our new life without a thought to what we left behind. This is life now, here on the island. And we will make it a good one.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Its impossible to review Animal Crossing: New Horizons here on March 16, 2020, without writing in the shadow of the coronavirus. That might not be true of all gamesDOOM Eternal will still be DOOM Eternal, even if it is perhaps more needed now than it would have been last year. But there is something about the particular escapism of Animal Crossings simple life that feels particularly vital at a time when death tolls and infection rates are rising, whole cities are shutting down, the global economy is fumbling to a halt and millions of people are choosing to spend their days indoors, alone. In the past few weeks, a collective howl to just release the game earlyhas come up on social media in a way that it cant quite for any other game. We need a new life right now because this one is looking tenuous.

The game is simple: you live on the island and you make it better. You start in a tent, you upgrade to a house, and then you improve the house. You catch butterflies and fish. You collect fruit, and you sell them to Tom Nooks sons as Nook Sr. talks constantly about the island way. You give gifts to your friends and they reward you with clothing and housewares. If you support Tom Nooks amorphous goals, he will give you Nook Miles, which you can use to fly to even more isolated islands to find lost souls camping out alone in the wilderness who can be persuaded to join your growing community. There is a museum where you can bring all the bugs, fish and fossils you can find to create a slowly expanding record of your own achievement: for the most part you are alone in its silent, impressive beauty, but sometimes you will see another island inhabitant peering into the fish tank that you stocked. You can build a wardrobe at your little workbench, choose a custom color and place it in your house to put on a hat when it rains.

Its a game of rhythms. There are always bugs and fish, you can spend your spare time catching those when theres nothing else to do. Every so often you can go to the beach to check for seashells. You can hit a rock for minerals once a day. If you find a rare fruit not available on your island you can plant a tree, but it will take a few days to grow. If you request construction, it will be available in the morning. Larger buildings might take a full day to complete. I havent seen it in the review period, but as the seasons passes we will see different fish and bugs, different environments and different clothes on your friends. You could put on warmer clothes in cold seasons, but you dont have to. It is after all, utopia.

Two weeks into my play and my island is unrecognizable from when I first moved in. My and my friends tents have been replaced by permanent houses, my own with three rooms stocked with haphazard furniture, an espresso grinder on the floor next to my record player. My two original companions are joined by a friendly green eagle, a squirrel with a flight helmet, and a small, nervous, bearded creature of indeterminate species. I found a drunk seagull on the beach one day that I havent seen since. Theyre joined by the owl that runs the museum, a hedgehog that sells clothes on the weekends, a travelling carpet-selling camel, and a weird little rodent thing that sells turnips on Sundays. The turnips fluctuate wildly in price, and you can make a lot of money selling them at the right time throughout the week because this utopia veers wildly between aggressive capitalism and essential collectivism. Ive got a sleeping bag that I put on the beach next to a little camping lantern and a palm tree that will be full grown at the time of publication. I lie on it sometimes.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

There are games that you play in quick sessions, and there are games that stretch into weeks, months, and years. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the latter. These games are never about what they are about, whether youre shooting aliens to earn powerful guns, slashing demons with axes to collect ever grander armor, or planting orange trees so that you can see them blossom. Thats just window dressing. They are about the feeling that you get when you log into the game every day and make progress: that you can earn your bells and build your island, and that nothing can really take it away from you. Not a stock market crash or a malicious strand of RNA worming its way through cells and society. Furniture and clothing are made available randomly through rotating stocks at stores and the whims of your gift-giving friends. But even if you throw something out, its added to a list where you can buy it again as long as you want. Nothing is lost, ever.

Much has been made of Nintendos decision to limit Animal Crossing: New Horizons to one island per Switch, with limited cloud saves and a procedure for recovering data that would have felt dated a decade ago. I can understand, in a practical way, why these are insane, anti-consumer decisions that are bound to cause unnecessary heartbreak. But I also understand them. The utility of Animal Crossing relies on a sense of being real. Theres only one island on on Switch because that island is real, and it lives on that Switch. Youre not meant to change date to switch the season because its just not that season yet. It seeks peace in surrender, core to the Animal Crossing experience.

I havent talked a lot about the game itself, really. Theres a bunch of stuff old and new here, like the ability to choose where people live, the way the island evolves, the DIY system that lets you make your own stuff, streamlined inventory management, the multiplayer system, the way you can now create and destroy land at a whim, etc. If you want to know more about that stuff, Im sure there will be lots of other reviews that will go into them. But know that if youre overwhelmed with the world, stuck inside, or adrift in a life that you know will look totally different next week get Animal Crossing.

For a score, Im going with 10. It is by no means perfect, but, we would never want it to be.

A review code was provided for the purposes of this review.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review: The Game We All Need, Right Now - Forbes

What does the new Finnish government say about the country’s commitment to equality? – Equal Times

In December 2019, 34-year-old Sanna Marin from Finlands Social Democratic Party became the worlds youngest head of state. Her centre-left government consists of five parties, all led by women, four of them 35 or under. The cabinet has a female majority, and even the parliament has near gender parity with 93 women MPs out of a total of 200.

Marins government has made Finland a poster child for gender equality worldwide, although it has long been considered one of the most gender equal countries in the world, with women acquiring the right to both vote and stand in elections as early as 1906.

Women comprise half of all university graduates in Finland and the female-to-male labour participation rate is 88.5 per cent, compared with a world average of 65.8 per cent and an EU average of 81 per cent. Anu-Tuija Lehto, a legal adviser at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) says that a key contributor to gender equality in Finland is that fact that the state has enabled women to fully participate in the workforce. For example, parents are offered affordable public childcare in addition to generous parental leave. Also, we have free school meals, says Lehto, while southern and central European countries still do not have that. This means that someone has to be at home, cooking for the children.

However, Finland is not a utopia for equality. On average women are paid 83 cents on every euro that a man earns. There is a high level of gender segregation in the Finnish labour market, with women comprising 90 per cent of workers in fields such as childcare, healthcare and cleaning, while men dominate fields such as construction and road haulage by a similar percentage.

Violence against women remains a major societal issue. In 2016, two-thirds of people living with disabilities reported experiencing discrimination. And a 2019 report from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance found that: Racist and intolerant hate speech in public discourse is escalating; the main targets are asylum-seekers and Muslims.

We need circumstances where women are not discriminated against in their careers or in redundancies or anything else. Changing attitudes means practical things in the workplace, says Lehto, suggesting that an informal chat between colleagues during coffee breaks is a good place to start dismantling sexist or racist attitudes. And even though Finlands law on gender equality is more than three decades old, other forms of equality have only been enshrined in law since the 2000s, when EU directives brought them in.

While the Finnish state guarantees every child the right to day care, the previous centre-right coalition government restricted the number of weekly hours the children of unemployed parents were entitled to. Although in practical terms this was a relatively small change it was a significant shift away from the principle of all children being treated equally, and the policy was quickly reversed last year.

Iiris Suomela, a Green League (also known as the Greens) MP tells Equal Times: The child homecare allowance, which is the smallest parental benefit, is mainly used by women and especially those who are less educated and on lower incomes. So, in intersectional terms, the situation is feeble.

Ninety-seven percent of those using the child homecare allowance are women. A fifth of fathers do not use any parental benefits, which puts Finland behind other Nordic countries. The government has promised to improve the quality of daycare by reducing group sizes and introducing quality standards, and to reform the parental leave system to incentivise more fathers to stay at home by giving both parents a quota of leave that cannot be used by the other parent.

How do Finlands attempts to achieve gender equality translate to the highest positions of power?

Theodora Jrvi, who is studying for a PhD in political, societal and regional change at Helsinki University, sees proportional representation as one of the key factors behind the rise of women in Finnish politics.

The Finnish electoral system enables the rise of individuals better than systems where votes just go to the party. In a closed list the party decides who gets to Parliament, whereas Finlands open list system makes it possible for voters to affect this, as long as the party gets enough support, she explains.

Suomela says parties benefit from setting a diverse list of candidates. The electoral system requires that we have different people as candidates. For example, in [my constituency] we had 19 people standing. There have to be people from different backgrounds, because you have to get votes from different kinds of people.

Jrvi points out that the leaders of the parties in government got most votes in their own parties or constituencies, with the exception of the Greens whose leader Maria Ohisalo came second in vote share after long-time minister and ex-party leader Pekka Haavisto. It is important to note that these positions of power reflect voters choices, not just the parties internal preferences for leadership, Jrvi explains.

At 25, first-term MP Suomela is the youngest in the current parliament. She says there are many challenges for women in politics.

Behavioural norms for young women are very strict. When a female minister swears on TV, there is a massive uproar, but when a middle-aged man from the other side of the political spectrum uses abusive language, or is even suspected to have committed a crime, it does not cause a similar reaction, she says, referring to a recent incident where the education minister and leader of the Left Alliance Li Andersson described an opposition politician as talking bullshit. On the other hand, several MPs with the far-right Finns Party (the largest opposition party) are under investigation or have been convicted for incitement against an ethnic group.

Suomela also points out that political crises often provide fertile ground for sexism. Finlands first female prime minister Anneli Jtteenmki only held the position for two months in 2003 before being forced to step down, and the 2000s have seen three other female ministers across parties resign due to public pressure in a country where political scandals are rare.

When women have encountered crises in ministerial positions, situations that men would have survived have often proved fateful for women, says the MP, adding that sexism makes it easier to scapegoat women.

But Suomela sees equal treatment as a question of democracy. If voters choose people for positions of power and then they get treated differently, thats disrespectful towards thousands of voters.

Prime Minister Marin grew up in a low-income family with her mother and her mothers female partner. She was also the first person in her family to attend university. Greens leader Maria Ohisalo has spoken out about her experience of childhood poverty and growing up in the shadow of her fathers alcoholism, in a contrast to the middle-class image usually associated with politicians in Finland and elsewhere.

After elections in April 2019, Finlands five coalition parties negotiated an ambitious programme that aims to make Finland carbon-neutral by 2035, amongst other measures to improve equality and boost investment in the welfare state. Lehto of SAK says the trade unions are content with the government programme and its many references to equality. It is clear that women have participated in writing it, she says.

Many Finns seem to agree: in February, a poll showed that 64 percent of the population are satisfied with Marins government. But that does not mean it is without its internal tensions. The coalition government had only been in power for six months when the prime minister who had formed it, Antti Rinne, had to step down when the Centre Party withdrew its confidence in him following a long and fraught postal workers strike. Marin who was the first deputy leader at the time received praise for her performance during the election campaign when she stood in during a period when Rinne was on sick leave, and was quickly lifted up to lead the government when he stepped down.

The wide coalition was pieced together from parties with differing priorities. They coalesced around social democratic and human rights values after the far-right Finns Party came a close second only 0.2 per cent away from the winning Social Democrats in the election.

The Centre Party in particular, which draws its support from the rural areas and is losing votes to the right-wing populists, is often seen at odds with the Greens who would like to see more ambitious climate targets.

Since the election, the Finns Party has continued its ascendancy in the polls. It leads in popularity with over 20 percent support and dominates media attention with a constant flow of racist and offensive remarks such as celebrating an arson attack on a house that was due to house asylum seekers and the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Suomela comments: Popularity matters when you can use it for making policies that you agree with. If that support gets too much emphasis, it can lead to other parties starting to follow the policies that increase inequality and fuel prejudice, which can further those aims even more than the party could do in power. We should have the courage to stick to what the majority of the people want, which is politics that furthers human rights, equality, and is climate friendly. We need to have the courage to show that politics works, and it can improve peoples lives. It is not a zero-sum game where we need to stamp on other peoples rights to get something better.

Excerpt from:

What does the new Finnish government say about the country's commitment to equality? - Equal Times

Germany has an unholy new alliance: climate denial and the far right – The Guardian

A dead bird of prey lying in the grass near a windfarm is the stark image on the home page of a new German website. Climate change we have got a couple of questions is the headline that greets visitors, but the questioners already seem to know the answers to their 16 questions. Due to an alleged climate emergency, new laws are to be passed prescribing a new way of life for us, one that will have adverse environmental effects and could lead to the deindustrialisation of Germany.

Klimafragen.org is the latest attempt to question the scientific and social consensus around the climate crisis in Germany. The authors, all from well-known climate-denier institutions and conservative political circles, list areas where they say Germanys climate policy still has blindspots, notably over climate models, sea levels, energy conversion and counter-opinions. Parliamentary groups in the Bundestag, they argue, should provide answers to their questions, although some are based on outdated findings. According to the organisers, about 33,500 people have signed up, seeking answers.

A similar petition fizzled out in September 2019: then, Fritz Vahrenholt, a former Social Democratic party (SPD) environment minister in Hamburg, ex-chief executive of a subsidiary of the energy giant RWE and well-known climate change denier, wrote to members of the Bundestag. His letter outlined his own model calculation, according to which plants can absorb very much more CO2 than science suggests. The author of a study he cited later contradicted this interpretation.

Deniers of manmade climate change dont have an easy time in Germany. For years, a stable 80% of the population has been convinced of climate change, supports a switch to greener energy and backs tougher climate goals. Environmental campaigners regularly receive increased donations and report growing membership. In contrast to the US, UK or Australia, there is barely a single major German company that openly opposes climate science. And the media rarely give a platform to anyone sceptical about the scale of the climate crisis.

But what the deniers now have instead is a platform in the German parliament. The far-right Alternative fr Deutschland (AfD) challenges the scientific consensus on climate, describes climate policy as hysteria and mocks Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future school strikes movement, and has seats in the Bundestag and in all the German regional parliaments. The AfD has abandoned the previous cross-party consensus on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Paris climate agreement. It sees itself as the defender of disputed diesel technology, rails against the supposed eco-madness and rewards climate change deniers even those who challenge all the serious scientific findings with invitations to address parliamentary committees. Strategically, the AfD is using climate politics as a key way to distinguish itself from the established parties. Its leader, Alexander Gauland, sees climate as the third big issue for the AfD after the euro and the refugee crisis.

The party receives public funding, yet is now the main destination for climate crisis denial. And increasingly the view that all this stuff about climate catastrophe cant possibly be true is openly heard in the mainstream. After the IPCCs special report on agriculture, for example, Gero Hocker, a Free Democratic party (FDP) MP, accused the experts of not looking hard enough at the details but without backing up his accusation. His party colleague Nicola Beer describes the supposed appearance of more extreme weather events as fake news. A magazine published by the German Rotary Club published a piece that described the climate crisis as an instrument in the struggle against capitalism. Climate change is a highly ideological, subversive concept that has made a utopia of climate salvation [and] a goal of political action and a moral commandment, it said.

The pushback on climate is partly down to the fact that the government has for so long shirked its responsibilities, according to Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace Germany. Rather than seeing the switch to a low-carbon economy as an opportunity and communicating accordingly, even members of Angela Merkels cabinet have talked about how expensive, difficult and disputed energy conversion is. If the government is always in the business of playing off the social cost against ecology, rather than bringing the two together, we shouldnt be surprised if populists take them at their word, Kaiser says.

Deniers remain on the defensive. The Fridays for Future protests have been defining the debate, and while Germanys coal phase-out isnt due until 2038, the switch is now inevitable and has about 40bn of finance behind it. A climate protection law will steer Germany to net-zero emissions by 2050. Business lobbies are pressing for greater clarity on climate goals and renewables. And the Greens, who have for decades led the demand for greater ambition in terms of climate protection, enjoy 20% support in the polls a new government in 2021 looks unlikely without them.

Carel Mohn, editor-in-chief of the factcheck website klimafakten.de, which is financed by the Mercator Foundation and the European Climate Foundation, doesnt foresee a huge challenge from denialists. More worrying in his view are the yes, but sceptics who supposedly advocate environmental protection but then get in the way of real progress. The debate is also concerning because it shows just how weak, badly organised and ill-prepared for their job those politicians meant to be well informed on climate really are. He can barely think of a single official authority that issues rebuttals when politicians come out with demonstrably false statements on meat consumption, forestry protection or air transport.

Sometimes, though, you can rely on the climate deniers to trip themselves up, as the AfD group in the Bundestag often does. In a recent parliamentary question it asked for verification that 97% of scientists agree on the causes of global warming. The environment minister returned to the house to confirm that the figures were inaccurate: its 99.94%.

Bernhard Ptter writes for the German newspaper Tageszeitung

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Germany has an unholy new alliance: climate denial and the far right - The Guardian

Cao Fei on the limits of truth and virtuality – Artforum

March 15, 2020 Cao Fei on the limits of truth and virtuality

For millions of lives, the novel coronavirus currently rocking the globe has induced a secession from real to virtual space, where ubiquitous social distancing mandates are simultaneously heeded and safely transgressed. Who better to speak to this momentgravid with apocalyptic and utopian frissonthan Cao Fei? The Beijing-based artist has devoted her practice to addressing social upheavals and breakneck urbanization through virtual, augmented, and mixed realities that chart new capacities for alienation and love. Here, she discusses Blueprints,a multimedia exhibition at Serpentine Galleries in London, on through May 17, 2020.

MY WORLD IS AUTONOMOUS. It functions as a counterpoint to reality, and can be entered and exited freely. Its a place for a walk, a trance, a look around or a weep. It is capricious, far away from our hardcore world, which is always about institutions, flaunting, declaration, confrontation, and resistance. Perhaps I am a pessimistic romanticist simply good at fantasizing. In ancient China, literati who were exiled turned to nature, meticulously representing the details of their landscape. Wasnt that also a counterpoint to reality, in a way?

For Blueprints, I revisited several major threads of my HX exhibition last year at the Centre Pompidou: Sino-Soviet relations, computation in modern China, urbanization in Beijing, as well as connected histories like Chinese sci-fi and the legacy of collective-owned workers cinemas. While departing from these earlier inquiries, my film Nova, 2019, and the related virtual reality piece The Eternal Wave, 2020, have more complex and open structures. I dont see my works as being about depersonalization. They tend to follow the same character arcs under different circumstances; I let these characters bonding take center stage. Think of the workers in Whose Utopia, 2006, the lovers in Asia One, 2018, the couple conversing fondly in La Town, 2014, the contemporary female architect and the formerly incarcerated person in Prison Architect, 2018, and China Tracys curious expedition of the virtual world in i.Mirror, 2007. Nova is about a father-son relationship that spans history and spacetime.

The immersiveness of virtual reality has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, the obstruction of immersion is VRs greatest drawback. Its cumbersome headset, dizzying eyepieces, the lag between intent and control, distractive scene transitions, and popup notifications are constant reminders of its distance from reality. It hardly reaches the empathy effect provided by cinema. Im interested in expanding VRs boundary, to look beyond beauty, shock, and interactivity. Im interested in virtual reality as agitprop, or whether or not it can disrupt experience as we know it. How will VR change our memories, our dreams?

At the end of the day, it doesnt matter that well never get to know the truth, including the historical truth. We can only look for its traces. My recent work considers Chinas first computers. Where are the workers today who built them alongside Russian industrial advisers? What technologies and ideologies did those Russian industrial advisers leave behind exactly? In the Serpentine Galleries, weve reconstructed the foyer and kitchen of Beijings Hongxia Cinema, built in the 1950s. Its name means red dawn. My studio is now housed in this old theater, whose audiences mostly consisted of computer workers from a nearby factory. The building will soon be bulldozed to make way for high-rises. We spent a lot of time retrieving the original film projector and old tickets, realia that became part of the reconstruction effort.

But my work is neither about ordering and archiving things nor about revealing forgotten histories. Those are jobs for museums. I just built a circus on top of the ruins, raised the curtain, and did some magic tricks. Blew sand from the ground, the sand turned into rain. We are sandwiched between the real world and cyberspace, and through acceleration and diffusion of attention, we accept such changes rapidly. Before doubts are even formed, our thoughts are interrupted by funny videos sent by friends, or by our ecstasy for the hundreds of likes that a selfie earns in ten minutes. More is less. Everything is a datum and everything performs for data. We critique and dance at the same time. By the time we are about to leave this world, we might feel like we have never lived.

As told to Zack Hatfield

Original post:

Cao Fei on the limits of truth and virtuality - Artforum

Lil Uzi Vert saves the world – Observer Online

The year is 2050, and after 30 years of trials and tribulations, intense social and political reform, scientific development and the abolition of country music, society has reached a state of perfection. Climate change has been reversed, diseases (and viruses) cured, poverty eliminated and war eradicated. Sweeping advancements and revolutionary ideas have propelled all of the arts to an elevated status in civilization. In music, three artists remain, each representing one of the three remaining genres. They are 100 gecs, Billie Eilish and Lil Uzi Vert.

What inspired humans everywhere to so drastically change their ways of life and work together to achieve utopia? And why is Lil Uzi Vert so popular?

The answer to both questions is simple the pair of albums, Eternal Atake and LUV vs. The World 2, released by the Philadelphia-born rapper only days apart in March of 2020. These two musical works contain such multitudes of joy and excitement, depth and emotion and long-awaited rap bangers that they changed the world.

Before the arrival of Eternal Atake, Uzi had already been propelled to stardom by 2016s Bad and Boujee, a trap rap hit and Twitter favorite created in collaboration with Migos, as well as 2017s XO Tour Llif3, the clearest indicator at the time that emo rap could crack into the mainstream. He was a celebrity: both goofy and shy, an incredibly well-dressed rap star. And, in a sign of the genres close relationship with internet culture, he also became a meme more than once.

In the years between 2017s Luv Is Rage 2 and Eternal Atake, Uzi was more celebrity than artist, making headlines for his lack of new music rather than any actual releases. There was a retirement from rap and a very public dispute with his label. Fans began to wonder if a new album would ever arrive. There were a couple of loose singles, New Patek the best among them, but the long-promised Eternal Atake seemed an eternity away.

And then it was delivered from on high, beamed down from another world by Uzi himself: Eternal Atake, a collection of 16 brand new tracks and two previously released singles perfectly calibrated to bring peace and happiness to our planet. There was praise. There was rejoicing. And only a week later, LUV vs. The World 2 arrived as well, a companion mixtape a second gift, really consisting of 14 more songs.

Eternal Atake is an hour of pure Uzi, potentially overwhelming for some, but the perfect amount for others. He raps at breakneck speed on nearly every track, spitting verse after verse about his favorite topics. Theres talk of cars Mercedes, Maybachs, G Wagons and Lambrogihinis and plenty of women, but, above all, Uzi raps about fashion. He loves statement pieces, designer jeans, stylish fits and big name brands. Versace, Balmain, Commes Des Garcons, Chanel, Raf Simmons, Louis Vuitton, Off White and more get shoutouts galore. But this love for all things designer hits its peak when Uzi turns the Spanish luxury fashion house Balenciaga into one of the albums undeniably catchy and simple choruses, shouting, Balenci, Balenci, Balenci, ad nauseam on standout track POP. If youre a fashion brand that wasnt mentioned on the album, the question bears asking: Are you really even a brand at all?

Of course, no one, not even Lil Uzi Vert, can always be happy. Im Sorry finds Uzi performing in the emo rap genre he helped popularize, reminiscing over a breakup and apologizing for everything he did wrong. Album closer P2, or Part 2, serves as a sequel to the hit XO Tour Llif3. P2 picks up where the original left off, using a similar beat, flow and dark subject matter to create an appropriate ending to the album.

All Uzis rapping is done over beats that feel incredibly current, representing the best of a new direction in rap music. The albums production brings together playful and melodic keys with booming bass and trippy, futuristic sound effects. Its definitely not trap music, but something a few links down the chain, so to speak. The beats match Uzis energy, moving from bouncy and fun to ethereal and light as the album progresses.

Just as the dust was starting to settle from the release of Eternal Atake, Uzi followed it up by releasing the mixtape LUV vs. The World 2. Unlike the album, which has only one feature from R&B singer Syd, LUV vs. The World 2 includes contributions from a smattering of current hip-hop players such as Future, 21 Savage, Gunna and Young Thug. The mixtape may be more scattered than Eternal Atake, but it still manages to pop off in every way possible. When theres more Uzi, theres more fun, and early tracks Myron, Bean (Kobe) and Yessirskiii stand out as the best of the bunch.

To snap back to reality which is, admittedly, much less fun than the hypothetical future in which Eternal Atake and LUV vs. The World 2 bring about universal peace Uzis music (probably) wont change the world. But even so, the projects are still two fun, popping rap albums to crank up to 11 and enjoy while dancing approximately 6 feet away from your friends.

Album: Eternal Atake and LUV vs. The World 2

Artist: Lil Uzi Vert

Label: Atlantic

Favorite tracks: Baby Pluto, POP, Myron, Yessirskiii

If you like: Kanye West, Playboi Carti, Grimes

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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Lil Uzi Vert saves the world - Observer Online

amBroadway: American Utopia to return to Broadway, new season at the Metropolitan Opera and more – amNY

American Utopia will return to Broadway

American Utopia, David Byrnes acclaimed mega-concert, will return to Broadway in September for an additional 17 weeks at the Hudson Theatre. The announcement was made following the shows final performance on Sunday. Its become obvious to us in the band, the crew and the producer team that audiences want, dare I say need? To see this show, Byrne said in a statement. A film version of American Utopia directed by Spike Lee will be released later this year.

The Metropolitan Opera will open its 2020-21 season with a new production of Verdis Aida directed by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) and starring Anna Netrebko. Ivo van Hove (West Side Story) will direct both Mozarts Don Giovanni and the contemporary opera Dead Man Walking. In a surprise move, the company will introduce a new staging of Die Zauberflte (i.e. The Magic Flute) directed by Simon McBurney, which leaves the future of Julie Taymors popular production in question. The new season will extend into June and include more Sunday matinees and a break in performances in February.

The title of David Mamets 1977 drama American Buffalo (which is being revived on Broadway with Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell and Darren Criss) refers to a potentially valuable American Buffalo Nickel coin that its characters plan to steal. Nevertheless, a 9 x 5, 90-pound replica of a full-size buffalo by the name of Nickel will be on hand to greet audience members in the lobby of the Circle in the Square Theatre. In other news, on Thurs. Feb 20, a limited number of discounted tickets will be made available that reflect the ticket prices of earlier productions of the play.

Nothing is ever Frozen on Broadway apparently. This week, changes were incorporated to the two-year-old Broadway production of Disneys Frozen that reflect the national touring production, as reported by Broadway News. The changes include adding a new song for Elsa and Anna (I Cant Lose You), eliminating one of Annas songs (True Love) and rehauling the opening sequence of the second act (Hygge). On Tuesday night, Ciara Rene and McKenzie Kurtz took over as Elsa and Anna respectively.

An Off-Broadway revival of Arthur Millers The Crucible by the experimental-meets-classical company Bedlam, which played the East Village earlier this season, will receive an encore four-week run at the Connelly Theater beginning March 27. Prior Bedlam productions include a scaled-down Saint Joan, a gliding Sense and Sensibility and the mashup Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet.

Paul McCartney at American UtopiaTom Selleck at Harry Townsends Last Stand.

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amBroadway: American Utopia to return to Broadway, new season at the Metropolitan Opera and more - amNY

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Utopia Falls’ On Hulu, Where Teens From A New Earth Colony Who Discover The Power Of Hip-Hop – Decider

Hulu is billing Utopia Falls as the first ever sci-fi hip-hop television series, and its easy to see why such a thing hasnt been created before. Sci-fi has been a generally white genre, and one thats more concerned with drama than dancing, singing and rapping. That may sound like were being wiseasses, but nothing could be further from the truth; the idea that a sci-fi show could be made from a younger, more diverse perspective is a welcome change. But is Utopia Falls that show?

Opening Shot: As we see an aerial shot of the clouds over Earth, then we start panning into Earths barren landscape, we hear a voice over go, They say, time is the greatest thief there is.

The Gist: As we pan over, we see that much of the land is uninhabitable. But then we see, under an environmental bubble, the colony known as New Babyl. Its the last operating colony on Earth, established hundreds of years after the ancestors of apocalyptic survivors went underground to live. Its the day when the 25 teens from the colonys various sectors are chosen to train for a musical-dance competition called The Exemplar.

Aliya (Robyn Alomar) is a guide in the Progress Sector and is the daughter of Gerald (Jeff Teravainen), a member of the Tribunal, who advise the Chancellor Diara (Alexandra Castillo), the leader of the colony. Her boyfriend Tempo (Robbie Graham-Kuntz) has also been selected. Over in Reform Sector, essentially a nicer version of a prison colony, best friends Mags (Robbie Graham-Kuntz) and Bohdi (Akiel Julien) are picked; the first time two from that sector are going. Sage (Devyn Nekoda), from the Nature sector, is so sure she wont go she doesnt even watch the announcement.

After the announcement, Diara and the Tribunal find out that there was a breach in the colonys protective bubble, meaning that either someone came in or someone left.

When they students get to the facility where they train for The Exemplar, theyre greeted by Mentor Watts (Huse Madhavji), who tells them that their first performance is in ten minutes. During that time, Bohdi and Aliya get in a tiff over what Bohdi thinks are her obvious advantages. After the performance, Watts takes down the mostly-confident students by saying the performances were average, and immediately kicks out the three worst performers to show the students how serious this is.

Most of the new students are invited to a mysterious party right outside the borders of the colony, which is considered to be off-limits; the invite says anyone who attends will get a leg up on the competition. When Bohdi and Aliya separate from the rest, they find a door in the woods. When they go in, they find something called The Archive (voice of Snoop Dogg) that introduces them to an ancient form of music: hip-hop.

Our Take: Theres a lot of good things about Utopia Falls, created by R.T. Thorne, known for directing series like Find Me In Paris and Blindspot. Both Alomar and Julien are appealing leads (its pretty apparent that theyre the leads of what will be an ensemble), and they both do good work in a first episode that more or less feels like Glee set hundreds of years in the future. The entire ensemble has to be multi-talented, either as dancers, singers, musicians, as well as actors, and it feels like Thorne has found actors that can create believable characters with some depth.

But the story, as with most Sci-fi that is trying to build a new world out of nothing, can get confusing. As much as Thorne tried to give some exposition in the beginning of the episode, it felt like we dont know nearly enough about New Babyls various sectors, what The Exemplar actually is, how some people are related to each other (Sage, for instance, has a Gran Chyra (Diane Johnstone) and Gran Reale, but were not sure if they raised her or are just two of her grandparents). Also, stilted language abounds, like when people are said to be in their 17th year instead of just saying theyre 16. The temptation to jargonize everyday speech to make it sound futuristic has always been a pitfall of sci-fi, but the best of the genre has its characters speaking in contemporary speaking patterns; when Thorne strays from that, it immediately loses us.

We get that this show is likely geared towards a younger audience, but we hope that the idea that the colony may seem like a collective but in reality comes off as a North Korea-esque totalitarian state will be addressed. Everyone vows loyalty to the leaders, and when those leaders call to their charges on massive screens, the show feels less like a teen dancing and singing show and more like 1984. Perhaps as the influence of hip-hop, and much of the genres message to challenge authority, permeates with the students, that topic will come to the foreground.

Sex and Skin: Nothing.

Sleeper Star: We might watch every episode solely to hear Snoop Dogg as the voice of The Archive. If we didnt see his name in the opening credits, hearing his voice would have been one of the most out-of-left field things weve encountered on TV so far in 2020.

Most Pilot-y Line: Moore Times (Dwain Murphy), an influential friend from the Reform Sector, tries to get Bodhi and Mags to give out black market shoes to the students. Bodhi refuses. Hes been like a father to us! Mags says to Bodhi. First of all, you can keep that father talk, Bodhi replies. Whoo boy, lots of history in that sentence.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Were not sure if Utopia Falls is going to get better than the first episode, which we found hokey at times. But well keep watching just to hear more Snoop Dogg, and if the show improves, all the better.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesnt kid himself: hes a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Company.com, RollingStone.com, Billboard and elsewhere.

StreamUtopia Falls On Hulu

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Stream It Or Skip It: 'Utopia Falls' On Hulu, Where Teens From A New Earth Colony Who Discover The Power Of Hip-Hop - Decider