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Category Archives: Zeitgeist Movement
Posted: March 26, 2020 at 5:44 am
Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch launched last week and its been taking this weird quarantined world of ours by storm. Its the second biggest launch on the Switch ever in terms of physical sales in the UK (after Pokemon Sword & Shield), and every Switch owner I know wont shut up about it.
Im no better than them. I got the game last Friday and Ive barely stopped playing since just like I couldnt stop playing Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS back when I was 17.
So what is Animal Crossing, you ask? Well its incredibly complicated and simple at the same time. I dont have a good shorthand to describe it, and theres no other game like it. Wikipedia calls it a social simulation video game, but I dont think thats accurate.
I can tell you what you do in Animal Crossing: You do chores. To pay off a mortgage. Chores like chopping wood, catching fish, and plucking fruit. You pay off your mortgage so you can get a bigger house, with a bigger mortgage.
You fill your house with furniture, you collect fossils to donate to the museum, you decorate, you garden. Its all very mundane and chill. Theres no challenge, no game-over. Everything is cute, and nothing is stressful.
Its also the opposite of what I normally like about video games. I play frustrating games like Dark Souls and DOOM Eternal, because Im a sadomasochist and I want my games to punish me for playing them. Animal Crossing never punishes.
Long story short: I love Animal Crossing but I dont know why and thats a problem when youre tasked with reviewing it.
I had no choice but to get some people who are way smarter than me to do my job for me. I hopped on Twitter, and DMd some friends in the game industry to help me answer my two big questions: Why is Animal Crossing so addictive? And why dont more games like this get made?
Martijn van der Meulen, co-founder and development director at Snap Finger Click with nearly two decades of game industry experience, says Its the pressure of wanting to do the best you can for your village and your villagers. Collecting the fruits, catching the fish you want to get as much as you can every day. It feels like a waste if you dont shake one of the trees! Thats a few more bells you couldve given to [your loan shark landlord] Tom Nook.
Daily tasks and appointments are a big part of the loop in Animal Crossing. In order to get as much as you can out of the game, youll have to jump in every day to check on your villagers to make sure theyre happy.
Van der Meulen says, If you dont visit your neighbor, they might leave and thats personal. That would really hurt your feelings. Everything about the game makes you want to do your best which means spending as much time in it as possible. Animal Crossing has almost perfected the distribution of these tasks.
Sam Sharma, a veteran game producer whos currently working on a secret project at Electronic Arts, believes New Horizons couldnt have come out at a better time. He says theres definitely the comfort of doing daily tasks that weve been missing in self-isolation, that makes it a relaxing escape.
He continues, Even without that though, the game gives a lot of autonomy to the player, to discover and explore. [Animal Crossing] has completion levels and checklists for anything you can do.
He says this creates a virtuous cycle for both kinds of players. Those that like structured tasks have an unending list of things to accomplish all of which are rewarding, and those that like exploration and discovery are constantly rewarded for their curiosity.
Dennis van den Broek, senior designer at Guerrilla Games, expands; Looking at it from a game design perspective it has a level of psychology involved.
He draws a comparison with free-to-play mobile games: They often establish a hook which keeps you returning to it. The basic principle behind this is the player gets a feeling of accomplishment and euphoria when doing small tasks, constantly repeating this, and giving the player simple rewards (things like a different color wallpaper). He says this is exactly how mobile games get players addicted.
Van den Broek says that once this addiction has been established, these games ramp up the time it takes to get rewards, and push you towards paying to cut down the wait by spending real money. Animal Crossing doesnt let you use real money, but the cycle is similar otherwise.
Once the baseline is established, they scale it up. It takes longer to get a reward, but the reward itself is bigger. This means you arent hooked on paying your mortgage, but youre actually addicted to getting rewards.
Eline Muijres, whos currently a producer at Mipumi Games after a long stint as the communications manager at the Dutch Game Garden, says its the ultimate game for completionists like her. Collecting animals, decorating houses, fashion design, meeting neighbors, all at your own pace without time pressure. She adds that she loves the puns. I agree, the puns are so good that even a pun-skeptic like myself gets a chuckle out of them.
Rami Ismail, co-founder at Vlambeer and renowned industry spokesperson, says that Animal Crossing does three things very well:
First, its a game about you it gives you full ownership of your island, along with ways to make it feel yours very quickly, and finally, a loose structure to play. In Animal Crossing, you decide the goals, you set the pace, you decide the priorities and thats how its meant to be played.
His second point is the aforementioned daily tasks. He says Animal Crossing subtly uses a form of FOMO, the mechanic a lot of mobile free-to-play games use to bring you back each day. Animal Crossing expertly uses that by having you check back the next day for things, Rami says.
The final trick Animal Crossing uses is its social aspect. Players want their island to look nice and feel nice. The game allows you to customize your island to the minute details, which means that you can be judged by all [of those little details].
In addition, Ismail says theres actually a bunch of existential and social fear built into the core of the game design, but since it manifests in what is effectively a pleasant grind, I dont think anyone really minds.
Rami has a final word on what he believes makes Animal Crossing feel so good to play: Animal Crossing is also expertly tuned into what creates joy. Small animations, messages of thanks, little progressions, rare occurrences its all there to give a sense of joy and discovery. Nothing can actually harm you in the game and everything in the game builds towards something.
Together with a sense of progression whether its being able to drop off items faster, get more places to find cool stuff, or having a tent evolve into a building, it all combines into play sessions that are frequently almost entirely purely joyful even if you get stung by a bee.
The previous proper Animal Crossing came out eight years ago. In the meantime, weve had the phenomenal Stardew Valley and Dragon Quest Builders games, but beyond those, titles in this genre seem to be pretty rare, despite its popularity.
Martijn van der Meulen says its hard to make a seemingly simple game like Animal Crossing and have people genuinely care about it.
Animal Crossing has charming characters and a rich world with lots to do. Building a game that your players want to invest their time in takes some careful balancing. Its also a huge project. When you think about all the mechanics in Animal Crossing, theyre all minigames that have had tons of thought and effort to make them fun. Its a big risk to try and succeed in this genre.
Eline Muijres agrees that games like this are deceptively complicated. My guess is that because the replay value is so high, its hard to top existing games. These games have long development times and are complex to make; it might not be worth the risk for most developers. She says its especially risky for smaller indie developers who dont make free-to-play games.
Sam Sharma thinks there are two major reasons why these games are few and far between.
Its possible that the data on building and farming games suggest that the audience size for them is such that the peak of the market hits every three or four years or so. He adds that the low rate at which these games come out helps to ensure that the audience stays large enough and hungry enough for the next one to get popular.
His second reason is market dominance. Between Stardew, The Sims, Minecraft, and Farming Simulator there are games that cater to that audience in a big way and dominate the market for long periods. (The Sims 4 came out in 2014, Stardew Valley released in 2016, and Minecraft in 2009!)
Add to that the slow shift of many exploration/building/farming hybrid games to the mobile and free-to-play space, away from consoles; it could mean that its a fragmented and saturated market, that it takes a while for a franchise to find a renewed interest big enough for them to release a new iteration.
That being said, I see a shift towards more crafting- and exploration-based play in games coming soon, as the events we are going through shape our appetite and the tastes of our game developers. Itll start with film, as films have shorter development cycles, and then well see the cultural zeitgeist change in games as well.
Dennis van den Broek disagrees its a rare genre; he says theyre just on different platforms, with different revenue models.
The basis of these games can be found everywhere in mobile games, they just dont let you spend money up front to get it, and often end up hiding content behind a paywall.
But he agrees with the rest that these games are harder to produce then youd think. Making a game like this requires tremendous effort you need a LOT of items to fill your world (rewards), and the economy needs to be tested and tweaked to perfection.
In itself, that is a task that can take months to years; as a developer you then want a quick return on your investment. He concludes that this is why most of these games end up being mobile free-to-play titles.
Rami Ismail tells me developing games like this is like a little puzzle, where nothing really works until everything works. The economy, the activities, the storylines, the movement, the characters, the pacing, the world it all has to be tweaked well to even know whether it might work. The mechanics on their own are meaningless.
And like the rest, Rami emphasizes the perceived market saturation. Its one thing to develop in a difficult-to-develop genre that nobody has made a game in, its an entirely different thing to make a game in a difficult-to-develop genre in which the universally loved multi-million player game Stardew Valley exists, and where your upcoming competition might be a new [and almost certainly immediately popular] Animal Crossing game.
I havent been able to look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons the same way since these experts explained to me exactly how intricate and well-crafted this seemingly simple game is.
If you have a Switch, I cant recommendAnimal Crossing: New Horizons enough. When youre stressed out about this nasty virus, Animal Crossing is just the thing to take your mind off it and help you relax. I guarantee you wont be bored any time soon.
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Posted: at 5:44 am
Let us not become the evil we deplore.
Rep. Barbara Lee, September 14th, 2001
I couldnt take it any longer. I grabbed a microphone and said, Im no fly on the wall. I am the hornet that stings. There was an immediate uproar, so not having anything more to say, I shouted out, Happy New Year, losers. And that was that.
History is a slippery subject, especially in the arts. Where artistic movements begin and end are rarely, if ever, easily pinned down to fixed points in time. Their antecedents can be traced as far back as you want to expand the scope of inquiry and their vestigial legacy can be dilated just as far into the future. A principle that has special meaning for closing out the decade that the Disney fueled Marvel Cinematic Universe eclipsed the box office in.
The most expedient answer to what shines through the brightest in the comics scaffolding of said movie empire is Mark Millar and Bryan Hitchs The Ultimates. But then, The Ultimates were the direct consequence of a chain reaction that began in Hitch and Warren Ellis The Authority, which, of course, was an outgrowth of Jim Lees Wildstorm imprint of Image Comics. And then we plunge further down the rabbit hole until we eventually land on the sacred year of 1986. Which doesnt really lead us to any meaningful conclusion unless its your fervent belief that comics history begins and ends with Watchmen.
There is, on the other hand, a much more fun experiment to run. The Ultimates, as an aesthetic and thematic influence, didnt truly take hold until Avengers, and for that movie to even get made, Iron Man had to happen. The Iron Man trilogy had precious little to do with The Ultimates, though. It is, instead, almost entirely the product of Warren Ellis and Adi Granovs Iron Man: Extremis.
Does that make Extremis more important or influential than The Ultimates? By most metrics, probably not. Whats much easier to argue is that The Ultimates outsized reputation has left Extremis criminally under-examined given its pivotal role in both comics and film history.
Until the first teaser trailer for Iron Man dropped, Extremis appeared to be a curiosity, an exercise in pushing Tony Stark further down Marvels sliding scale view of internal history that incidentally allowed Warren Ellis to remake the hero in his own, deeply idiosyncratic image.
In hindsight, Extremis looks like it was purpose built for assembling a film franchise around, an angle that Marvel embraced and pushed hard when it issued a Directors Cut reprint of Extremis published as part of the publicity push for Iron Man 2, which Granov worked on directly. Whether or not Extremis was commissioned with the intent to immediately develop it for film, it was ruthlessly exploited as a symbol of authenticity to the spirit and letter of contemporary Marvel comics that the film marketing wanted to project.
Interior art by Adi Granov
Extremis was absolutely an ideal comic to use as the story bible for an entire trilogy of Hollywood blockbusters, updating Tony Starks origin from Vietnam to a vaguely alluded to Afghanistan as the backdrop for his struggle against an experimental biological weapon fallen into the hands of domestic terrorists. None of Marvels comic to film adaptations have benefited from and reflected back a single contemporary source the way that the Iron Man trilogy has, but the ways in which the films and Extremis diverge are just as fascinating as what was retained.
One of the key attributes of Warren Ellis success in comics is his Janus-like ability to peer backwards into the past and forwards into the future simultaneously. Its a particular viewpoint that he honed on titles like Planetary and Transmetropolitan that were chiefly concerned with utopian and dystopian visions of the future produced in the past. When placed beside those millennium straddling works, Extremis appears at first to be a lesser, simplistic example of that bifurcated perspective, but what elevates Extremis is the choice of what threads of history to tug on rather than the novelty of how that perspective was presented in Planetary and Transmetropolitan, or would later be disrupted by Supreme Blue Rose.
When Stan Lee came up with the idea of Iron Man, he claims to have set a challenge for himself to create a character who would be a despised figure difficult to get people to root for: an arms dealer. But when Tales of Suspense #39, scripted by Larry Lieber with a story credit to Lee, emerged, Stark wasnt a toothsome antihero. He was a brilliant, resourceful cold warrior of the kind that Jack Abramoff could only dream of making movies about. It remained a central part of Iron Man comics straight through the collapse of the USSR, pitting him against Soviet foils like the Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man.
Interior art by Steve Ditko
Updating Stark for a post-Cold War world was necessary to keep him believably younger than his seventies, but it also created a disturbing subtext for the character. Unlike, say Magneto, whose origins in the Holocaust tie him to a fixed point in time, Iron Mans origin story has almost unlimited portability due to the simple fact that since its founding in 1776, the United States has been at war with someone, somewhere for all but 17 years. There has always been a place to stage Iron Mans origin story because America has always been at war.
That notion lurks in the gutters of Extremis pages without being directly addressed, but it is a framework to view the character through that Ellis was actively nurturing in his work from Planetary through Supreme Blue Rose. Firstly by placing superheroes back in their original historical time and place in Planetary and secondly by conceptualizing the periodic reboots of major superheroes as an infinite playing field of versioning that yields fresh insights into those characters. The prismatic age normalized the idea of multiple simultaneous versions of the same superhero, but it took works like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis successive explorations of Supreme to create independent meaning out of it.
As such, Extremis gave Ellis the opportunity to make good on Lees initial personal challenge to bring to life a version of Tony Stark that emphasized what makes weapons manufacturers so objectionable to a large segment of the readership. Ellis and Granov accomplished the feat by giving readers a vision of Tony Stark who couldnt look at himself in the mirror from all of the compromises to his values that he made to achieve his status as both Stark Industries CEO and Iron Man.
Its a challenging take on the character nailed home by an adversarial interview with a documentary filmmaker likely based on Errol Morris, best known for Fog of War, his profile of Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Its a choice that foreshadows Starks transition to the same post in the run up to Civil War, but more importantly, the direct text of the exchange is a haunting and indelible examination of just what a real life Tony Stark would necessarily be implicated in. The interviewer refers to Stark as a ghost of the twentieth century owing to the unexploded micromunitions and landmines throughout the third world that maim and kill children.
Interior art by Adi Granov
The idea of Tony Stark being implicated in the manufacture of landmines is as particularly repugnant as it is plausible, given the United States status as a non-signatory nation in the Ottawa Treaty intended to ban their use. In Extremis, its an accident involving his supervised unloading of Stark landmines that creates the opportunity for his kidnap by the Taliban, rather than the conspicuously sanitized rocket attack that appears in the film. Its not hard to see why a Hollywood film would back away from Starks involvement with landmines, but the micromunitions discussed in Extremis are the killer app of the Stark Industries Jericho surface to surface missile that Stark demonstrates in the film, one of the many vestigial elements of the comic that lends a haunting subtext to the movies.
Even referring to Stark as a ghost of the twentieth century is loaded with particular meaning for Ellis in a key example of how, despite its streamlined presentation devoid of Ellis signature metatextual devices, Extremis is shot through with callbacks and references to the central themes and ideas of his work. The unexploded bombs of the twentieth century originated as a line of dialogue in Global Frequency that Ellis has since used as a shorthand for a major thread running through Planetary, Transmetropolitan, RED, and Desolation Jones in significant ways. While Extremis is fundamentally about streamlining and updating Stark, Ellis was loathe to allow him an easy escape from his 20th century roots.
The films treat the idea of Tony Stark as a bridge between the 20th and 21st centuries in a very different way, using the Manhattan Project -the development of the nuclear bomb- as the central axis of his family legacy up until Howard Stark could be written into Dr. Erskines work on the super soldier serum that produced Captain America. The allusions to the nuclear bomb begin almost immediately, with Tony declaring that he prefers the weapon that you only have to use once, to one that never has to be used in his ill fated Afghani demonstration and his fathers participation in the Manhattan Project is repeatedly invoked as a virtue and an achievement for Tony to live up to straight through Iron Man 2.
By contrast, Extremis frames Tonys involvement in weapons development as an embarrassment, a distraction, and ultimately a black hole that threatens to consume his real passion for discovering and shaping the future. In Extremis, weapons applications for scientific and technological breakthroughs are treated like an immutable truth of the field, but also as ultimately corrosive forces. Tony argues against his board that because hes just invented the worlds best smartphone, Stark Industries doesnt need military contracts anymore, but necessity is irrelevant to late stage capitalism. Passing up a revenue stream of any kind isnt just opportunity cost, its heresy to a market driven by quarterly stock returns. A point that Jim Cramer made in his Iron Man cameo by smashing a Stark Industries coffee cup with a baseball bat.
Interior art by Adi Granov
Tonys viewpoint on the issue is, in both film and comics, from the top, trying to steer the ship against the headwinds of the markets desires. Maya Hansen, the architect of the Extremis virus, experiences it from the relative bottom. In both Extremis and Iron Man 3, shes portrayed as a brilliant mind working in the field of botany forced to weaponize her research in order to gain access to the resources necessary to further her work.
Again, in both iterations, the nature of the system and its incentive structures corrode Hansens idealism to the point that she ruthlessly engages in a criminal conspiracy to see her work finished, functioning as both a foil for Tonys own crisis of faith and the tragic death of the spirit of innovation and optimism that initially drew the two together.
Maya Hansens arc in Extremis is a pessimistic tragedy about the ways in which the military industrial complex can crush idealism and warp it into inhuman pragmatism, but it also marked the germinating of a seed that would flower a decade later in his revision of The Authoritys Angela Spica for The Wild Storm. Like Hansen, Spica is introduced in The Wild Storm as an idealistic scientist interested in medical innovation sucked into a war machine in the form of International Operations, one half of the dueling organizations that rule the world from the shadows.
Equally ground down by the experience of being drafted into the polar opposite of the kind of work she dreamed of doing, instead of succumbing to the cynicism of her field like Hansen, Spica begins experimenting on herself with stolen alien technology as an act of desperate rebellion. That act of rebellion coalesces into the inciting incident that drives the rest of the series: Spica deploying the technology to become The Engineer and very publicly intervene in an attempted assassination orchestrated by her bosses. Spicas intervention is presented as an inversion of The Comedians murder at the hands of Adrian Veidt in Watchmen, setting up the radical resistance to a global conspiracy, a stark contrast to the gothic inevitability of the completion of Watchmens central conspiracy.
While Extremis is much darker in tone than The Wild Storm would later prove to be and charts Maya Hansen succumbing to the moral entropy of late stage capitalism, Extremis is hardly cynical or pessimistic in the final analysis. Where The Wild Storm is about vindicating an optimistic view of human nature as a radical project under totalitarian control, Extremis is about trying to recuperate purpose and idealism from the brink of the void, of reaffirming its heros animating principles and being clear eyed about the gargantuan task of preserving those values in the face of systems designed to dismantle them.
Any sense of moral and ethical clarity in Extremis doesnt come directly from either Stark or Hansen, but in an impromptu visit to their mutual mentor, an eccentric recluse named Sal Kennedy. Kennedy is a composite of the many rogue intellectuals who have inspired Ellis thinking over the years, but on the page hes a dead ringer for science fiction author and design enthusiast Bruce Sterling, a key influence on Extremis era Ellis.
The description of Kennedy given in the script pages accompanying the directors cut of Extremis second issue paints a completely opposite picture of how he appears on the page: a beard gone iron grey, a frizzy halo of black and white hair barely under control. Instead, Kennedy has well groomed chin length grey hair and a neatly trimmed goatee, the facial hair being the only discrepancy between Sterling and Kennedy.
Whether Granov acted on his own or Ellis amended his instructions elsewhere, Sterling shines through Kennedy both in appearance and his signature deadpan humor, accusing Stark of being the Dean Kamen of technology and lecturing the pair on the inescapable nature of the government and militarys hand in scientific advancement.
Interior art by Adi Granov
Kennedy also takes the opportunity to lecture Stark on his apparent indolence, asking him what hes done with the freedom and privilege that he has as both a man and Howard Starks son relative to Maya toiling on the Extremis virus in obscurity. Hansen, when prompted by Kennedy, asserts that within four years of achieving status and resources comparable to Stark, she could cure cancer. Stark later affirms this view, on the brink of death and about to inject himself with the virus, saying he always knew that she would surpass him.
But these recognitions of Starks privilege, Hansens talents, and the structural barriers in her way arent in service to a superficial white feminist narrative asserting that simply empowering women into the same roles and power structures that men already dominate will necessarily yield more ethically and morally sound outcomes. Instead, Hansen struggling to compensate for the sexist barriers to her success while seeking recognition within the same structures as Stark pushed her into the cynical state of despair that made the decision to put the Extremis virus in the hands of white supremacist terrorists seem justified. A prescient critique of the outcomes of billionaire Facebook executive Sheryl Sandbergs Lean In brand of pseudo-feminist self empowerment if there ever was one.
Its another aspect of Hansens characterization in Extremis that comes full circle in The Wild Storm through Angela Spica, who ultimately refuses the WildCATs overtures to join their ostensibly better paramilitary force and eventually defects to convene a new iteration of The Authority founded on an ideology that leads with healing and compassion over brute force. By contrast, Hansens arc in Iron Man 3 is infamously anemic thanks in part to the revelations that concerns over toy sales minimized her screen time.
The basic dynamic of a weapons developer using terrorists as a Scooby Doo like catspaw, however, was not only retained but became the central idea of the entire Iron Man trilogy. As with the other major features of Extremis that survived the journey into Hollywood, the nature of the terrorist threat differs significantly between page and screen. Its a series of decisions that are particularly disappointing given that the nature of the terrorist threat in Extremis is the most enduring lesson it has to offer, one that is coming back into sharper focus than anyone could have anticipated, let alone wanted.
In Iron Man 3, the Extremis test subjects are wounded veterans exploited by AIMs promise of having their disabilities reversed, but in Extremis, the virus was handed over to a right wing, white supremacist militia conducting indiscriminate terrorist attacks against the federal government. While the pendulum of politicized violence has seemingly swung back to a position where that feels like a timely choice in 2020, it was radical, almost anachronistic compared to what Ellis and Granovs peers were doing in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq.
The post impeachment twilight of the Clinton administration through to George W. Bushs invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were reflected in superhero comics as being almost uniformly supportive of interventionism as the primary exercise of American power abroad. Skeptical portrayals of superheroes as state actors in overseas conflicts typified by Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns gave way to Suicide Squads skirmishes with Iran/Iraq stand-in Quraq until Chuck Dixons real politik obssessed Birds of Prey was the accepted norm. Such were the prevailing attitudes about foreign policy and use of force abroad at the time that Dixons Birds of Prey, hinging on a falling out between Power Girl and Oracle over whether to save innocent civilians or complete a mission, and Greg Ruckas hyperrealist spy comic Queen and Country could be easily seen as complementary.
Ellis and Hitch flipped that dynamic on its head in 1999 by hollowing out Wildstorms paramilitary superhero outfit Stormwatch and spinning out The Authority, a cynical Justice League analogue bent on delivering humanity out of the jaws of the suffocating neoliberal order into an egalitarian utopia through overwhelming force. The Authority is arguably Ellis purest superhero creation, in that he and Hitch took the sense of alienation and disempowerment underwriting classic Marvel heroes like Spider-Man and the X-Men and exploded it into a power fantasy channeling leftist disaffection with electoral politics.
The Authority were, in simple terms, a populist superhero team with the power to bypass global elites and reshape the world in their image, up to and including destroying the entire country of Italy. Or killing an entity assumed to be God in Ellis and Hitchs final issue on the series. The Authority prompted a near immediate rebuttal in the form of Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnkes seminal Whats So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way, but, for good or ill, the die was cast. In retrospect, Whats So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way stands as the superhero equivalent of Eisenhowers farewell address warning of the rise of the military industrial complex: an alarm that went unheeded, an epitaph to the path not taken.
In January 2001, Superman stood firm against The Elite, Kelly and Mahnkes Authority stand-in. He reaffirmed his commitment against their spectacular violence and authoritarian ideology but by 2004 Superman in the hands of Jim Lee and Brian Azzarello was chasing after the dictators of imaginary third world countries and tearing guns out of the hands of nameless fighters for nameless causes out of frustration at the disappearance of his wife.
There was none of the domestically focused Siegel and Shuster vision left in Azzarello and Lees Superman. This was a kinder, gentler, fully clothed version of Doctor Manhattan in Vietnam. The embodiment of American arrogance by telling the rest of the world how to live without addressing the crises at home. Its a formula applied just as easily to Ruckas Wonder Woman debut and countless others of the period.
The proliferation of superhero comics enamored with interventionism as a doctrine of first response isnt entirely, or even necessarily primarily due to the influence of The Authority. The idea was alive and well in Birds of Prey and Suicide Squad beforehand, but The Authority offered up an iteration of it that was so baroque (and specific) in execution that it invited an equally emphatic response in the form of Whats So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way, which in turn pushed that discourse to the forefront of the medium.
That writers as politically opposite as Dixon and Rucka were leaning into interventionist fantasies abroad over examinations of domestic terror speaks to the quintessentially American, bipartisan embrace of the doctrine. Interventionism versus isolationism are not policy positions with clear partisan dividing lines, and are instead mostly predicated on the specifics of a given conflict and how they play into individual ideologies.
Hence the ability of the foreign policy establishment that Obama-era deputy national-security advisor Ben Rhodes refers to as the blob to monopolize the imaginations of both Democrats and Republicans in how they interact with the world beyond US borders. Or the success of neoconservative thinktank Project For a New American Century, who swayed Bill Clinton into signing The Iraq Liberation Act into law through an open letter in the New York Times, then staffed the George W. Bush administration with signatories to the letter including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Bolton. They represent the same constellation of forces that Sal Kennedy invoked in his advice for Stark and Hansen, warning them that the government, military, and military industrial complex are all the same organism.
Superhero comics are just as permeated by the politics and ideas of the day as any other mass media organ, but its worth remembering that American military interventionism plays a central role in the mythology of the medium and its rise to prominence in American life. Captain America #1 was a bold cry for the United States to enter the Second World War on behalf of the victims of the Nazi regime at a time when isolationism was a popular right wing sentiment and Nazi fifth columnists could fill Madison Square Garden. However righteous the cause was at the time, instead of being remembered as a very specific state of exception, it created a powerful mythology around interventionism in superhero comics that rarely receives the scrutiny that it deserves.
It would be less than accurate to approach Extremis as a symbol of contrition for the match that Ellis lit with The Authority, but it does create a stark contrast with both its contemporaries and the films it begat. In Extremis, Starks kidnap at the hands of Al Qaeda is a distant, suppressed memory that bubbles up when he finds himself facing a similar crucible in the present. Extremis has no interest whatsoever in the spectre of Arab terrorism or Islamic extremism. Its only interest in foreign conflicts is their use of American made weapons. While the Iron Man films are keen to utilize a formula cribbed from Scooby Do to emphasize that the realest, most subversive threat comes from the military industrial complex, they remain equally fixated on preserving the idea of an Islamic extremism monomaniacally focused on the destruction of America.
In the first Iron Man movie, Starks kidnapping is given both immediacy and urgency as an act that requires violent revenge. The reasoning provided for Starks actions in the film are the evidence presented to him that the same group who kidnapped him were continuing to use Stark Industries weapons on civilians, implying that it was driven by a need to make amends or at least take responsibility for the consequences of his business. That said, the pattern of perceived injury and immediate reprisal characterized by overwhelming force is a direct parallel to contemporary American military strategy. Or, as Josh Brolins shadowy CIA operative put it in Sicario, Our job is to dramatically overreact.
Its a pattern that carries on through Iron Man 3 with the appearance of The Mandarin. Playing on the same network of orientalist imagery that Ellis and Hitch accessed in the debut issue of The Authority, The Mandarin plays the precise role that villains of this archetype always have: elicit a display of hypermasculine bravado out of the hero. Although The Mandarin is later revealed to be fugazi, his provocation gets the same rise out of Stark that the people who Jack Bauer ultimately tortures and kills get out of him. Stark declaring The Mandarin to be a dead man walking is the same red meat that David Frums infamous axis of evil line scripted for George W. Bush or President Trumps hair raising fire and fury invective towards North Korea excites the Republican base to this day.
That The Mandarin is later revealed to be a work of fiction, personified by an out of work actor named Trevor Slattery in turn hired by Aldrige Killian as part of a scheme to drum up business does little to ameliorate the overall dynamics in play. Iron Man 3 is not Pax Americana, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitelys blistering Watchmen postscript. It doesnt declare the bugbear of an Islamic Extremism that hates our freedoms to be obsolete to its face, then move to spitting on superheroes as another tool that has outlived its utility to power. Instead, a later short, Hail to the King, depicting Slattery in jail following the events of Iron Man 3, was produced in order to assure audiences that there is in fact a real Mandarin out there in the shadows looking to make good on the threats that Slattery delivered via teleprompter.
Instead of engaging with any of this, Ellis and Granov moved backwards in time and closer to home in search of a threat for Hansen to fuel with the Extremis virus. Mallen, the militia member who injects himself with the virus, is implied to be one of the children who survived the infamous 1992 Ruby Ridge siege that resulted in three deaths, and along with the disastrous siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas the following year, precipitated a catastrophic loss of faith in federal law enforcement that didnt recover until the FBI took to surveilling mosques in the wake of 9/11.
Interior art by Adi Granov
The surreality of processing an oblique reference to Ruby Ridge in a comic from 2005 is a testament to the American news media and pop cultures lack of object permanence. A childhood survivor of the siege would have been in their early twenties when Extremis was published, a continuity breached by the cultural amnesia symptomatic of that lack of object permanence. The wave of right wing resentment and antipathy towards the federal government that crested in the 1990s with the Oklahoma City Bombing didnt dissipate when Timothy McVeigh was executed three months before 9/11. It elected the current president.
In that sense, Mallen, who Stark describes as a version of himself who couldnt see the future, is just as much a ghost of the twentieth century as Stark is, or, put more bluntly, one of its unexploded bombs. Every bit as deadly as the Stark micromunitions that litter the earth. Mallen is also easily understood as a stand-in for McVeigh himself, given that he was reportedly radicalized into violent action by watching the Waco stand-off on television.
Ellis and Granovs choice to revisit that era of American terror is, among other things, a stinging indictment of the hyperfocus on narratives of muslim radicalization after 9/11 that completely ignored the ways in which movement conservatism was radicalizing its base against its own country. Especially given how quickly and easily its been forgotten that Pat Robertson said If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think thats the answer, on live television in 2003.
Ellis wasnt shy about tying Mallens views to white supremacy either, giving him a line characterizing the Klan as defenders of Christian law that feels alarmingly current following the infamous Unite the Right march in Charlottesville. Mallen is a particularly haunting and effective example of Ellis long history of attempts at showing America a monster with its eyes not only due to the specificity of his origins, but how Mallen refracts the Elliss earlier attempts. Transmetropolitans Disneyland From Hell theme park rendition of America is too cartoonish to sting and the horror of the Nazi regime is too vast for Planetarys evocation of Operation Paperclip to be fully metabolized, but Mallen is too direct and accurate to see any other way.
That said, Mallen is one of the strongest examples of Warren Ellis as a restless oil painter, constantly refining a set of themes and ideas until he can find the sharpest, most penetrating iteration of it. When Mallen runs into a teenage outcast in rural Texas, it could easily be misinterpreted as the kind of culture clash that is all too expected in 2020, a confrontation between the far right and the far left with very fine people on both sides, but in its original context, the exchange is Ellis revisiting the most controversial comic of his career.
Hellblazer #141 was originally planned to be a story called Shoot by Ellis and Phil Jimenez and would have been the September, 1999 issue. Instead, a dispute between Ellis and then DC Publisher Paul Levitz provoked by the Columbine massacre that April lead to the issue being withdrawn and Ellis Hellblazer run cut short. After a decade of being disseminated as illicit scans, Shoot was published in Vertigo Resurrected #1 alongside other withdrawn and suppressed stories from the venerable imprint.
Interior art by Phil Jimenez
With or without the Columbine massacre, Shoot -which opens with a playground murder-suicide- would have been a difficult comic, but the concurrence with the most devastating shooting of its kind and its massive cultural and political fallout lent a particularly gothic element to Ellis reputation as a prognosticator.
Just like the exchange in Extremis, Shoot feels somewhat obvious in retrospect: a wave of school shootings happen and theres banter about Marilyn Manson, video games and the NRA. Topics that were in the air before April 20th, 1999 but carried none of the devastating weight that they did afterwards. But what has always made Shoot difficult and likely what sent Levitz into a rage is that the title of the story comes from a high schoolers last words to his killer. Constantine, an outsider in every sense of the word, rages at a Senate staffer that these children are born without a future, waiting to die. That their prospects were so dire that they welcomed the bullets.
When Shoot was officially published in 2010, it received a near universal praise that perhaps came too easily and with too little scrutiny attached. Late 1990s Ellis had a particular talent for cathartic rage, the emotion that powered Transmetropolitan through to its conclusion, but even Ellis seductive and persuasive rage could, and did fall prey to the fact that anger easily clouds analysis.
Shoot operates in a very particular tradition of Hellblazer comics that feature Constantines ability to provide incisive social critique of the United States going back to Hellblazer #5, Jamie Delano and John Ridgeways When Johnny Comes Marching Home. In that particular issue, a town that lost all but one of its residents who went to Vietnam gets them back as spectral killers who can only see them as enemy soldiers and civilians, allegorically bringing the war home in a way that brutally critiques the glorification of it in film.
Interior art by John Ridgeway
Delano and Ridgeways uncompromising vision invites a re-examination of the trauma that America professes to have from the war that emphasizes the narcissistic, narrow band through which American culture is willing to view it. Shoot, by contrast, loses a lot in how it targets and expresses Constantines rage.
His fury at Penny Carnes inability to see the causality right in front of her is well placed, but the broader context of an argument between an Englishman and a Senate staffer in Washington, DC about the prospects for life in the midwest and rural south misses the mark by a wide margin. For all of Constantines bluster, Carnes was on the cusp of the epiphany that he forcefully offered right before he appeared. Stuck playing Jim Jones final speech to his followers on a loop, Carnes was close to grasping the connection between Jones nihilistic outlook on the future, if you knew what was ahead, youd be glad to be stepping over tonight, and the context of the childrens lives.
But the fundamental issue with the story is that theres no voice, no humanity granted to the communities abstracted into the crime scenes. Its too simple, too easy, and too politically ruinous to write off segments of the country as unvariegated pits of despair. The coastal liberal propensity for disassociating itself from the south and rural midwest does real harm to the insurgent movements of the left and organizing by marginalized groups whose political speech and enfranchisement are stymied and denied by systems of oppression as old as the Electoral College.
Paul Levitz notwithstanding, Shoot could have been published and critically acclaimed in the wake of the Columbine shooting, because it occured before social media, at a time when the national media could maintain a stranglehold on the narrative emerging from shootings like Columbine.
Shoot could not have been published in the wake of either the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, or the Pulse shooting in 2016 for the simple fact that the survivors were able to speak for themselves and those killed could find voices through social media and other platforms that were inaccessible in 1999. No one could suggest that anyone had uttered shoot at either Nikolas Cruz or Omar Mateen, not after hearing Emma Gonzalezs galvanizing anger at the politicians who enabled her schools shooter to carry an AR-15 or witnessing the pain that shook the entire nations LBGTQIA community.
Ellis conception of the communities depicted in Shoot wasnt without considerable merit. What he was describing through Constantine was the de-industrialization and subsequent disinvestment in large swathes of the country since Republican operatives began stretching the Laffer Curve into a permission slip to redirect government spending into lavish tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-rich, sowing the seeds of the material conditions that Constantine throws into Carnes face.
The ultimate error of Shoot, especially in the context of Hellblazers long history of razor sharp political satire, is that it didnt connect any of the problems it was diagnosing back to the systems that create and perpetuate them, leaving it open to the interpretation that the people from those communities had somehow brought their current situation down on themselves directly.
So it could be that ten years in the cellar did the story a certain amount of good, letting it be seen as an artifact of its time rather than proliferate its flaws and oversights into the discourse at a particularly sensitive moment in time. That said, the specificities of Mallens characterization in Extremis speak to the restless oil painter in Ellis because they evoke a sharpened perspective that prizes precision and nuance in delicate issues over the dopamine hit of a broad, energetic brushstroke.
When Mallen encounters an outcast teen girl on the outskirts of a Texas town, Ellis and Granov begin drawing careful distinctions about the nature of youthful alienation in America that the national media were loathe to attempt in 1999, and do so under duress in the present moment. Mallen initially thinks hes speaking to a kindred spirit when he hears that shes having trouble in her town, but the conversation takes a turn when she displays her t-shirt, an American flag with the stars replaced by Nazi swastikas.
Interior art by Adi Granov
Mallen is taken aback, insulted that she views the United States that way, even as he himself is on a murderous spree against its government. In 1999, alienation in and of itself was considered suspect. No considerations were made about ideology or political beliefs, anyone who was read as disaffected or alienated was pathologized as a potential threat. If you played the wrong video games, listened to the wrong music, or read the wrong books, you were considered to be dangerous. Its the particular climate of fear that Ellis alludes to in Extremis with the girl telling Mallen she was suspended from school for writing a story about the town being attacked by zombies.
In crafting the girl who rebuts Mallens defence of the Klan and asserts the real history of white supremacy behind his platitudes about regular white folks, Ellis understood all too well that he was depicting his own readership and drawing the distinctions between them and the bad actors who constituted a real threat that they were unable to assert for themselves in the wake of Columbine. That shes ultimately killed by Mallen is a poignant recognition of their genuine vulnerability behind the lies that constituted them as dangerous.
Its in the sharpening of Ellis analysis in scenes like this that the truth behind the bombast in stories like Shoot come into focus. Ellis viewpoint on America brought to bear on Shoot was definitely informed by his keen outsiders view of the country, but it must also have come from a recognition of the patterns emerging in the de-industrialized north of England. Being well aware of the domestic history of the 1984 miners strike and the ensuing poverty left behind by Margaret Thatchers policies, Ellis understood the trans-atlantic parallels all too well whether he articulated them or not.
As much as the gulf between the broad cynicism and cathartic anger of Shoot and Extremis sly allusions point towards the evolution of Ellis as a writer and a palpable change in his authorial voice, the countercultural zeitgeist of 1999 did not include earnesty and nuanced analysis. It was a time when disaffection and alienation were expressed loudly and angrily. It made sense that Ellis authorial voice on Transmetropolitan frequently blurred into being synonymous with Jhonen Vasquezs Johnny The Homicidal Maniac. Especially at the time of the Battle of Seattle, when Rage Against The Machine functioned as the id of the political left, and Marilyn Manson emerged as the voice of reason in Bowling for Columbine.
The late 1990s were a time when anger clouded analysis and fear invited repression of a kind whose effects absolutely lingered in 2005, whether it was acknowledged or not. In the wake of the culture shock of the Columbine shooting, various media and political actors were keen to ascribe a brand new taxonomy of violence to school shootings out of the clear blue sky, in direct and intentional ignorance of their immediate context. The school shooter was a type, a profile promulgated by mass media and educators: someone who likes black clothes and a certain type of music, as the girl in Extremis put it.
In reality, that profile was always an intentionally vague smokescreen used to distract from difficult questions about gun control and the nature of terrorist violence in the United States. It took a decade, well beyond Extremis publication to peel back the lies, propaganda, and received wisdom that hardened into the accepted truth of the Columbine shooting and its wider implications. By 2002, the Secret Service and Department of Education had presented findings that school shooters followed no set profile, but most were depressed and felt persecuted. Precisely where John Constantine found Penny Carnes in Shoot.
That search for a profile, for a neat box that school shooters could be placed in, obscured connections to the broader narrative of right wing terror in the Columbine attack. Particularly, the fact that Eric Harris, the leader of the pair of shooters, was both in the habit of doodling swastikas in his journal and originally intended the attack to be on the scale of McVeighs Oklahoma City Bombing. The FBI special agent in charge of the investigation into Columbine mused to USA Today in 2009 that had Harris delayed the attack in order to gain the expertise and resources to make the bombs to match his intent, he could be a lot more like Tim McVeigh.
That speculation proved to be prophetic in 2011, when Anders Behring Breivik carried out the single most devastating lone wolf terrorist attack in Norway, killing a combined total of 77 people between a car bombing in Oslo and a mass shooting at a summer camp run by Norways Labor party. Breivik, as the FBI special agent speculated about Eric Harris, spent years planning and attempting to fund his attack. Like McVeigh, he detonated a fertilizer bomb. Also like McVeigh, he was motivated by far-right, extremist political views.
Since 2011, Breivik has gone on to become the model for lone wolf white supremacist shooters, providing the template and broad ideological vision that has been referenced by similar killers from convicted Charleston shooter Dylan Roof to alleged Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant. While the place of Columbine in the geneaology of white supremacist terrorism will forever remain hazy and incomplete, theres no arguing against Timothy McVeighs place in the evolution of the contemporary mass shooter. Which is ultimately Mallens purpose in Extremis, to remind us that his brand of terror wasnt going to disappear just because there werent any TV cameras pointed directly at it.
Mallens own terror attack, which deliberately mirrors the Oklahoma City Bombing, also offers a disturbing critique of how the media spectacle of terrorism is fed back into the culture as entertainment. In some ways the Iron Man trilogy itself is a manifestation of this phenomenon, mining the aesthetics, language, and settings of the war on terror to create spectacle. In Extremis, Mallen uses the fire-breathing capabilities of the virus to kill everyone in the lobby of a government building, then shoot fire up an elevator shaft in an attempt to burn the whole building down. It certainly evokes the Oklahoma City Bombing, merging the attacker with his bomb, but Granovs staging of it also uncannily mirrors the progression of The Matrixs climactic gunfight.
Interior art by Adi Granov
The connection is tenuous, but Mallens progress from passing through the metal detector to the elevator shaft is depicted in angles and composition with clear counterparts in The Matrix. Its a jarring reminder that fantasies of violence against the government werent the sole province of far right agitprop. The Matrix didnt represent a specific political affiliation, but what it did do was present terrorist violence against the state as a purely aesthetic, pleasing spectacle. It was becoming a shorter and shorter hop between cable news creating a spectacle out of real events, and the transformation of those events and their aesthetics into Hollywood spectacle.
The Matrix was hardly alone in this, either. A year earlier X-Files: Fight the Future shot their own version of the Oklahoma City Bombing as a false flag terrorist attack used to provide cover for a vast government conspiracy. The phenomenon took on a grimly recursive element after 9/11 when the images of the planes hitting the towers recalled all the recent Hollywood films that created spectacle out of the destruction of the New York City skyline, most notably Armageddon and Independence Day.
Or even simultaneously, in the case of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitelys New X-Men #115 concluding with the destruction of Genosha, released August 1st, 2001. The phenomenon became the impetus for Jean Baudrillards infamous questioning of the 9/11 terror attack as a real event, asserting that it was instantly reduced into an exchange of politicized symbols between western state power and the terrorists who committed the act. Baudrillard, whose Simulacra and Simulation Neo used to hide contraband in The Matrix.
Interior art by Adi Granov
Extremis operates in the inverse to Fight The Future and The Matrix, using loose allegory to access the history of violence behind Ruby Ridge and the Oklahoma City Bombing rather than co-opt the aesthetics and media imagery that saturated the culture in their aftermath. The fact that Extremis has absolutely nothing to say about either the 9/11 terror attack or the subsequent US-lead invasion of Iraq makes it seem almost belligerent anachronistic given the hyperfocus on those events practically everywhere else in superhero comics at the time.
Extremis captured Ellis at a time in his career where he could leverage his physical and emotional distance from the United States to the kind of devastating effect that eluded him on Shoot and perhaps even Transmetropolitan. The fundamental difference between Shoot and Extremis is that Ellis remained laser focused on the broader institutional and political factors that created the environment for the events to occur in; the sexism and warped incentives that drove Maya Hansen to compromise herself, the pressures on Tony Stark to militarize Iron Man, the brutal realities of the industry that Stark dedicated himself to prior to becoming Iron Man, and the events that radicalized Mallen.
In that sense, Extremis isnt a throwback or a prognostication of the future (the way that Transmetropolitan is frequently cited as a political tarot deck), its the record of a history of American terror at home and abroad that was being erased at the precise moment that Ellis and Granov were bringing it to life. Picking up Extremis in the present, post Charlottesville moment where violent white backlash politics have returned to the public sphere in a way that hasnt been seen since the time of Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Barry Goldwater is a jarring experience, but it isnt because Ellis and Granov had excellent powers of foresight. Its because they kept their eyes on what almost everyone else was working to forget.
Extremis is first among equals of Ellis comics that live under long shadows: its disturbing, subtly insistent politics were eclipsed by both the emerging Mark Millar juggernaut and the film mega franchise that Extremis provided the scaffolding for, but accusing Warren Ellis of being a victim of his own success is a losing bet. When, as is always the case, those in power tell us that the crimes of the past are mistakes born of naivety or inexperience that cannot be criticized with the benefit of hindsight, there will also always be voices like Ellis and Granov to remind us that they were very intentional and many of us knew better at the time.
Or Barbara Lee, the only elected representative of either the House or Senate to vote against the AUMF that granted the George W. Bush administration a blank cheque to wage the so-called War on Terror that enabled the invasion of Afghanistan and is exploited to this day as the justification for the assassination of Qasem Soleimani.
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Posted: March 24, 2020 at 5:29 am
What are some of the central characteristics of the solution proposed?
Automation of Labor
As the trend of what appears to be an exponential increase in the evolution of information technology, robotics, and computerization continues, it is apparent that human labor is becoming more and more inefficient in regard to meeting the demands necessary for supporting the global population. From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have seen an increasing trend toward technological unemployment, which is the phenomenon where humans are replaced by machines in the work force. This trend, while debatable in regard to its ultimate long term effect on employment, creates a propensity to displace the worker and hence the consumer, slowing consumption.
That stated, this issue is actually overshadowed by a larger social imperative: That the use of machine labor (mechanization) is provably more efficient than human performance in virtually all sectors. For example, if one was to track the performance output of factory production within the US steel industry for the past 200 years, we find that not only do less than 5% of the workforce now work in such factories, the efficiency and output capacities have increased substantially. The trend, in fact, now shows that Employment is Inverse to Productivity. The more mechanization occurs, the more productive an industry becomes.
Today, there are repetitive occupations which simply do not need to exist given the state of automation and computerization (cybernation). Not only would mechanization in these areas reduce the mundane burden and allow more free time for people, it also would, more importantly, increase productivity. Machines do not need breaks, vacations, sleep, etc.. The use of mechanization on its own means to create many forms of abundance on this planet, from food to physical goods.
However, to do this, the traditional labor system we have simply cannot exist. The reality is that our labor for income system is stifling progress in its requirement to keep people working for the sake of economic stability. We are reaching a stage where the efficiency of automation is overriding and making obsolete the system of labor for income. This trend shows no sign of slowing, especially in regard to the now dominant Service Industry, which is increasingly being automated in the form of kiosks, robotics, and other forms. Likewise, due to phenomena related to Moores law and the growing in-expense of computers and machines, it is likely that it is simply a matter of time before corporations simply can no longer rationalize keeping human labor anymore, as the automation systems will become too cheap. Of course, this is a paradoxical market phenomenon, called by some theorists as the contradiction of capitalism, for it is, in effect, removing the consumer (laborer) itself and hence reducing consumption.
Apart from those issues, it is important to also consider human labor contributions based on social relevance, not monetary gain. In a RBE, there would be no reason to have occupations such as Banking, Trading, Insurance, Cashiers, Brokers, Advertising or anything related to the governance of money.
All human actions in the form of institutionalized labor should also have the highest social return. There is no logic in wasting resources, time, and energy on operations that do not have a direct and tangible function. This adjustment alone would remove millions of jobs, for the idea of working for money as a purpose would no longer exist.
In turn, all the poor demographic, shoddy goods, vanity items, and culturally contrived creations designed to influence people for reasons of status (for the sole sake of profit) would also no longer exist, saving countless amounts of time and resources.
One final note on this issue: Some hear this and they assume that this voids the Communicative Arts, and personal and social expression as far as painting, sculpture, music, and the like. No. These mediums of expression will likely thrive like never before, for the amount of free time made available to people will permit a renaissance of creativity and invention, along with community and social capital. The elimination of the burden of labor obligation will also reduce stress and create a more amiable culture.
There is a difference between creating for the sake of keeping society sustainable and efficient, focusing on resource preservation, product efficiency, and strategic allocation of labor for those things which generate a tangible social return versus creating for personal expression, exploration, experimentation, and hence art, which has been a staple of human evolution since the dawn of time.
Access over Property
The concept of property, unannounced to most people today, is a fairly new social concept. Before the neolithic revolution, as extrapolated from current hunter and gatherer societies existing today, property relationships did not exist as we know them. Neither did money, or even trade, in many cases. Communities existed in an egalitarian fashion, living within the carrying capacity of their regions and the natural production built in. It was only after direct agricultural development was discovered, eventually proceeding with resource acquisition by ship traders and the like up to modern day power establishments and corporations that property became a highly defined staple of society as we know it today.
With that understood, which dismisses the common notion that property is a result of some kind of empirical human nature, the notion of no property is also today often blindly associated with Communism and the works of Karl Marx. It is important to point out TZMs advocation of no property is derived from logical inference, based almost explicitly upon strategic resource management and efficiency, rather than any surface influence by these supposed Communist ideals. There is no relation between the two, for communism was not derived from the needs to preserve and manage resources efficiently. Communism, in theory and practice, was based on a social/moral relativism which was culturally specific not environmentally specific which is the case with a RBE.
The real issue relevant to meeting human needs is not ownership it is access. People use things; they do not own them. Ownership is a non-operational, protectionist advent, derived from generations of scarcity over resources, currently compounded by market-based advertising which supports status/class division for the sake of monetary gain . To put it another way, ownership is a form of controlled restriction, both physically and ideologically. Property as a system of controlled restriction, coupled with the monetary value inherent, and hence the market consequences, is unsustainable, limiting, and impractical.
In a NL/RBE model, the focus moves from static ownership to strategic access, with a system designed for society to obtain access as needed. For example, rather than owning various forms of recreational sporting equipment, Access Centers are set up, typically in regions where such actions occur, where a person simply checks out the equipment, uses it for as long as they want, and then returns it. This library type arrangement can be applied to virtually any type of human need. Of course, those reading this who have been conditioned into a more individualistic, materialistic mindset often objects with claims such as What if I want green, custom golf clubs, but only white are available?. This is a culturally contrived, biased reservation. The issue in question is utility, not vanity. Human expression has been molded by the needs of the current market based system (consumption) into values which are simply nonfunctional and irrelevant. Yes, this would require a value adjustment to quality rather than identity. The fact is, even for those who object from the standpoint of their interest in personal identity, the overarching social ramifications of such an social approach will create benefits that will greatly overshadow any such arbitrary personal preference, creating new values to replace the outdated ones.
These include : (a) No Property Crime: In a world of access rather than ownership, and without money, there is no incentive to steal, for there is no resale value. You can not steal something that no one owns and you certainly couldnt sell it. (b) Access Abundance: It has been denoted that the average automobile sits in parking spaces for the majority of its life span, wasting space and time. Rather than having this wasteful consequence of the ownership system, one car could facilitate a large number of users in a given region, with only a fraction of the production/resources needed. [c) Peak Efficiency of Production: Unlike today, where the market system must perpetuate inherently inferior products for the sake of economic turnover, we could actually design goods to last, using the best materials and processes strategically available. We no longer make cheap products to serve a poor demographic (which is the majority). This attribute alone will save cataclysmic amounts of resources, while also enabling a society to have access to goods and services that they would never have had in a world based on money, inherent obsolescence, and property.
Self-Contained/Localized City and Production Systems
There are many brilliant engineers who have worked to tackle the issue of industrial design; from Jacque Fresco, to R. Buckminster Fuller, to Nicola Tesla. Behind such designs, such as Jacque Frescos famed Circular Cities or Fullers Geodesic Domes, rests a basic train of thought: Strategic Efficiency and Maximization of Productivity.
For example, Frescos circular city is constructed of a series of belts, each serving a social function such a energy production, research, recreation, living, etc.. Each city is a hence a system, where all needs are produced within the city complex, in a localized fashion, whenever possible. For example, renewable energy generation occurs near the outer perimeter. Food production is produced closer to the middle within industrial-sized greenhouses.
This is very different in its logic from the globalization-based economy we live in today, which wastes outrageous amounts of energy and resources due to unneeded transport and labor processing. Likewise, transportation within the circular cities is strategically created to eliminate the use of detached automobiles, except for rare cases such as emergency vehicles. Homes are created to be micro-systems as well, with much power generation occurring internally, such as from sunlight absorbed by the building structure using photovoltaic technology. More information on these city system can be found at https://www.thevenusproject.com.
The Geodesic Dome, perfected by Buckminster Fuller, offers another efficiency oriented medium within a similar train of thought. Fullers goal was to build designs to do more with fewer resources. He noticed problems inherent in conventional construction techniques, and recognized the indigenous strength of naturally occurring structures. The advantages include: a much stronger structure than a conventional building while using less material to construct; domes can be built very quickly because they are of a modular prefab construction and suit being mass produced; They also use less energy to keep warm/cool than a conventional box structure. More information can be found at http://www.bfi.org/
In the end, the fundamental interest is, again, sustainability and efficiency on all levels, from the housing design to the earth design. The market system actually fights this efficiency due to the broken, competitive nature inherent.
Technological Unification of Earth via Systems Approach
We live in a symbiotic/synergistic planetary ecosystem, with a cause-effect balance reflecting a single system of earthy operation. Buckminster Fuller defined this well when he referred to the planet as Spaceship Earth. It is time we reflect this natural state of affairs in our societal affairs on this planet. The fact of the matter is that human societies, which are dispersed across the globe, require resources which are also un-uniformly dispersed across the globe. Our current procedure for enabling resource distribution comes in the form of corporations which seek and claim ownership of our earthly resources, which they in turn sell to others in the name of profit. The problems inherent in this practice are numerous, again due to the self-interest based disposition inherent in selling anything for personal gain, as denoted above. But in the larger scheme of things, this is only partially the issue when it come to the reality that we live on a finite planet, and where resource management and preservation should be the number one concern in regard to human survival, especially with the population explosion of the last 200 years.
Two people are born every second on this planet, and each one of those humans needs a lifetime of food, energy, water and the like. Given this fundamental need to understand what we have, the rates of depletion and, invariably, the need to streamline industry in the most efficient, productive way, a Global System of Resource Management must be put in place. It is just common sense. This is an extensive subject when one considers the technical, quantitative variables needed for implementation. However, for the sake of overview, it can be stated that the first step is a Full Global Survey of all earthly resources. Then, based on a quantitative analysis of the properties of each material, a strategically defined process of production is constructed from the bottom up, using such variables as negative retroactions, renewability, etc. (More on this can be found in the section called Project Earth in the ZM lecture called Where Are We Going?). Then consumption statistics are accessed, rates of depletion become monitored, distribution is logically formulated, etc.. In other words, it is a full Systems Approach to earthly resource management, production, and distribution, with the goal of absolute efficiency, conservation, and sustainability. Given the mathematically defined attributes, as based on all available information at the time, along with the state of technology at the time, the parameters for social operation within the industrial complex become self-evident, with decisions arrived at by way of computation, not human opinion. This is where computer intelligence becomes an important tool for social governance, for only the computation ability/programming of computers can access and strategically regulate such processes efficiently, and in real time. This technological application is not novel. It is simply scaled out from current methods already known.
The Scientific Method as the Methodology for Governance
The application of the scientific method for social concern is an oft-repeated mantra for the basis of social operation in a RBE model. While the obviousness of this in regard to industry is simple enough to understand, it is important to also realize its value in regard to human behavior. Science, historically speaking, has often been derailed as a cold, restrictive discipline, reserved for the sake of mere technology and invention. Little regard seems to be currently given to its use in the understanding of human behavior.
Superstitious thought, which has been powerfully dominant in human evolution, has worked on the basis that the human being was somehow detached from the physical world. We have souls; spirits; we are divine; we are related/guided by an all seeing, all knowing, controlling god, etc..
Conversely, yet oddly similar, there is an argument that humans have free will in their decisions and that we have the open ability to choose our actions, absent of the influence of our environment or even education. Now, while the vastness of the prior two statements and many reading those could find numerous cultural arguments to claim the contrary, this doesnt change the basic reality that we humans have historically liked to think that we are special and unique from the rest of the organisms and natural phenomena around us.
However, as time has gone on, it has become increasingly obvious that we are not special and that there is no such thing as special in the natural worldfor everything is special based on the uniqueness of all organisms. There is no reason to assume the human being is any more important or intrinsically different or special than a mole, a tree, an ant, a leaf or a cancer cell. This isnt New Age rhetoric it is fundamental logic. We are physical phenomena nothing more or less.
We are greatly influenced by our culture and our values and behaviors can only mostly be a result of our conditioning, as external phenomena interacts with our genetic predispositions. For example, we have a notion called talent, which is another word for a genetic predisposition to a given behavior, or set of behaviors. A piano prodigy might have an inherent ability that enables them to learn more quickly and perform in a more acute way than another, who has spent the same time in practice, but doesnt have the genetic predisposition. Be that as it may, that talented person still had to learn what a piano was and how to play it. In other words, genes are not autonomous initiators of commands. It takes an environmental trigger to allow for the propensity to materialize.
At any rate, it is not the point of this article to expand on the argument of nature and nurture. The point is that we have proven to be scientifically defined and a product of a traceable causality and it is this understanding that can allow us to slow and even stop the aberrant, or criminal behavior we see in society today such a abuse, murder, theft and the like. The logic, once the effects of human conditioning are understood, is to remove the environmental attributes which are enabling the reactions.
Just as an abused dog who has been starved for a week might have a knee jerk reaction to react very violently to an otherwise innocuous passerby, we humans have the same behavior dynamic. If you dont want people to steal food, do not deprive them of it. It has been found that prisons are now generating more violence than they are curbing. If you teach a child to be a hateful racist, then he will carry those values into the rest his life, very often. Human values and hence human behavior are shaped by the environment in a cause and effect based way, no different than a leaf being blown by the wind.
In a RBEM, the central focus in regard to removing aberrant human actions is not to punish them, but to find the reasons for their offensive actions and work to eliminate them. Humans are products of their environment and personal/social reform is a scientific process.
Moving away from money and markets
Market theory assumes a number of things which have proven to either be false, marginally beneficial, or outright socially detrimental.
The core problems to consider are the following:
A) The need for Infinite Growth, which is mathematically unsustainable and ecologically detrimental. The entire basis of the Market System is not the intelligent management of our mostly finite resources on this planet, but rather the perpetual extraction and consumption of them for the sake of profit and economic growth. In order to keep people employed, people must constantly consume, regardless of the state of affairs within the environment, and often regardless of product utility. This is the absolute reverse of what a sustainable practice would require, which is the strategic preservation and efficient use of resources.
B) A Corruption Generating Incentive System. It is often said that the competitive marketplace creates the incentive to act for the sake of social progress. While this is partially true, it also generates an equal if not more pronounced amount of corruption in the form of planned obsolescence, common crime, wars, large scale financial fraud, labor exploitation, and many other issues. The vast majority of people in prison today are there because of monetary-related crime or non-violent drug offenses. The majority of legislation exists in the context of monetary-based crimes.
Also, if one was to critically examine history and peer into the documented biographies/mentalities of the greatest scientists and inventors of our time, such a N. Tesla, A. Einstein, A. Bell, the Wright Brothers, and many others it is found that they did not find their motivation in the prospect of monetary gain. The interest to make money must not be confused with the interest to create socially beneficial products and very often they are even at odds.
C) A disjunct, inefficient industrial complex which wastes tremendous amount of resources and energy. In the world today, with the advent of Globalization, it has become more profitable to import and export both labor and goods across the globe rather than to produce locally. We import bananas from Ecuador to the US and bottled water from Fuji Japan, while western companies will go to the deprived 3rd world to exploit cheap labor, etc.. Likewise, the process of extraction, to component generation, to assembly, to distribution of a given good might cross through multiple countries for a single final product, simply due to labor and production costs / property costs. This cost efficiency generates extreme technical inefficiency and is only justifiable within the market system for the sake of saving money.
In a RBE model, the focus is maximum technical efficiency. The production process is not dispersed, but made as centralized and fluid as possible, with elements moving the very least amount, saving what would be tremendous amounts of energy and labor as compared to methods today. Food is grown locally whenever possible (which is most of the time given the flexibility of indoor agriculture technology today), while all extraction, production and distribution is logically organized to use as little labor/transport/space as possible while producing the strategically best possible goods (see more below). In other words, the system is planned to maximize efficiently and minimize waste.
D) A propensity for Establishments. Very simply, established corporate/financial orders have a built-in tendency to stop new, socially positive advents from coming to fruition if there is a foreshadowed loss of market share, profit, and hence power. It is important to consider the basic nature of a corporation and its inherent need for self-perpetuation.
If a person starts a company, hires employees, creates a market and becomes profitable, what has thus been created, in part, is the means for survival for a group of people. Since each person in that group typically becomes dependent on that organization for income, a natural, protectionist propensity is created whereas anything that threatens the institution thus threatens the well-being of the group/individual. This is the fabric of a competition mindset. While people think of free market competition as a battle between two or more companies in a given industry, they often miss the other level the competition against new advents which would make them obsolete, outright.
The best way to expand on this point is to simply give an example, such as the US Government and Big Oil collusion to limit the expansion of the fully Electric Car (EV) in the US. This issue was well-presented and sourced in the documentary called Who Killed the Electric Car?. The bottom line here is that the need to preserve an established order for the sake of the well-being of those on the payroll, leads to an inherent tendency to stifle progress. A new technology which can make a prior technology obsolete will be met with resistance unless there is a way for the market system to absorb it in a slow fashion, allowing for a transition for the corporations (i.e. the perpetuation of Hybrid cars in the US, as opposed to the fully electric ones which could exist now, in abundance). There is also a large amount of evidence that the FDA has engaged in favoritism/collusion with pharmaceutical companies to limit/stop the availability of advanced progressive drugs which would void existing/profitable ones.
In a RBE, there is nothing to hold back developmental/implementation of anything. If safe and useful, it would immediately be implemented into society, with no monetary institution to thwart the change due to their self-preserving, monetary nature.
E) An inherent obsolescence which creates inferior products immediately due to the need to stay competitive This little recognized attribute of production is another example of the waste which is created in the market system. It is bad enough that multiple companies constantly duplicate each others items in an attempt to make their variations more interesting for the sake of public consumption, but a more wasteful reality is that, due to the competitive basis of the system, it is a mathematical certainty that every good produced is immediately inferior the moment it is created, due the need to cut the initial cost basis of production and hence stay competitive against another company which is doing the same thing for the same reason. The old free market adage where producers create the best possible goods at the lowest possible prices is a needlessly wasteful fantasy and detrimentally misleading, for it is impossible for a company to use the most efficient material or processes in the production of anything, as it would be too expensive to maintain a competitive cost basis.
They very simply cannot make the strategically best physically it is mathematically impossible. If they did, no one would buy it, for it would be unaffordable due the values inherent in the higher quality materials and methods. Remember people buy what they can afford to. Every person on this planet has a built in limit of affordability in the monetary system, so it generates a feedback loop of constant waste via inferior production, to meet inferior demand. In a RBEM, goods are created to last, with the expansion and updating of certain goods built directly into the design, and with recycling strategically accessed as well, limiting waste.
You will notice the term strategically best was used in a statement above. This qualification means that goods are created with respect to the state of affairs of planetary resources, with the quality of materials used based on an equation taking into account all relevant attributes, rates of depletion, negative retroactions, and the like. In other words, we would not blindly use titanium for, say, every single computer enclosure made, just because it might be the strongest materials for the job. That narrow practice could lead to depletion. Rather, there would be a gradient of material quality which would be accessed through analysis of relevant attributes such as comparable resources, rates of natural obsolescence for a given item, statistical usage in the community, etc. These properties and relationships could be assessed through programming, with the most strategically viable solution computed and output in real-time. It is mere issue of calculation.
F) A propensity for monopoly and cartel due to the basic motivation of growth and increased market share. This is a point that economic theorists will often deny under the assumption that open competition is self-regulating and that monopolies and cartels are extremely rare anomalies in a free-market system. This invisible hand assumption holds little validity, historically, not to mention the outstanding legislation around the issue which proves its infeasibility. In America, there have been numerous monopolies, such as Standard Oil and Microsoft. Cartels, which are essentially Monopolies by way of collusion between the largest competitors in an industry, are also persistent to this day, although perhaps less obvious to the casual observer. In any case, the free market itself does not resolve these issues it always takes the government to step in and break up the monopolies.
This aside, the more important point is that in an economy based on growth, it is only natural for a corporation to want to expand and hence dominate. After all, that is the basis of economic stability in the modern world expansion. Expansion of any corporation always gravitates toward monopoly or cartel, for, again, the basic drive of competition is to out-do your competitor. In other words, monopoly and cartel are absolutely natural in the competitive system. In fact, it is inevitable, for again, the very basis is to seek dominance over market share. The true detriment of this reality goes back to the point above the inherent propensity of an Establishment to preserve its institution. If a medical cartel is influencing the FDA, then new ideas which void that cartels income sources will often be fought, regardless of the social benefits being thwarted.
G) The market system is driven, in part, by Scarcity. The less there is of something, the more money that can be generated in the short term. This sets up a propensity for corporations to limit availability, and hence deny production abundance. It is simply against the very nature of what drives demand to create abundance. The Kimberly Diamond Mines in Africa have been documented in the past to burn diamonds in order to keep prices high. Diamonds are rare resources which take billions of years to be created. This is nothing but problematic. The world we live in should be based on the interest to generate an abundance for the worlds people, along with strategic preservation and streamlined methods to enable that abundance. This is a central reason why, as of 2010, there are over a billion people starving on the planet. It has nothing to do with an inability to produce food, and everything having to do with an inherent need to create/preserve scarcity for the sake of short term profits.
Abundance, Efficiency and Sustainability are, very simply, the enemies of profit. This scarcity logic also applies to the quality of goods. The idea of creating something that could last, say, a lifetime with little repair, is anathema to the market system, for it reduces consumption rates, which slows growth and creates systemic repercussions (loss of jobs, etc.). The scarcity attribute of the market system is nothing but detrimental for these reasons, not to mention that it doesnt even serve the role of efficient resource preservation, which is often claimed.
While supply and demand dictates that the less there is of something, the more it will be valued and hence the increased value will limit consumption, reducing the possibility of running out, the incentive to create scarcity, coupled with the inherent short term reward which results from scarcity driven based prices, nullifies the idea that this enables strategic preservation. We will likely never run out of oil in the current market system. Rather, the prices will become so high that no one can afford it, while those corporations who own the remaining oil will make a great deal of money off of the scarcity, regardless of the long term social ramifications. In other words, remaining scarce resources, existing in such high economic value that it limits their consumption, is not to be confused with preservation that is functional and strategic. True strategic preservation can only come from the direct management of the resource in question in regard to the most efficient technical applications of the resource in industry itself, not arbitrary, surface price relationships, absent of rational allocation.
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With upcoming films including a Chinese mob thriller set in Wuhan, an ominous Western set in Brazil's equivalent of the Outback and an Oscar-nominated Polish drama about a lay preacher with a dark secret, Zeitgeist Theatre & Lounge had a diverse array of movies lined up for coming weeks not unlike any month in its 33 years of presenting independent, arthouse, foreign and all sorts of other films.
Local movie lovers can't go to theaters, which were among the first venues ordered closed last week by state decree. And while there's a never-ending stream of content available online, fans of arthouse cinema now can watch independent and foreign films and support a local theater at the same time.
Kino Lorber and Film Movement are among the film distributors and viewing platforms that are partnering with independent theaters across the country.
Zeitgeist Theater & Lounge had to close its doors last week, but it iis proceeding with scheduled releases in partnership with the two distributors. The film platforms are splitting with Zeitgeist online viewing fees from viewers using a special link. To support the theater, viewers should click the links available on the Zeitgeist website, or use the links below (trailer available on the linked page).
"Wild Goose Lake" The noirish Chinese crime thriller wastes no time with its gritty start. Liu Aiai, a woman who works as a prostitute in a seedy resort area on the movie's namesake lake, meets with Zhou Zenong, a small time mobster who runs a motorcycle theft ring. A brawl between his gang and another spun out of control, and someone outside the two gangs was shot during the melee. She has come to share who has been killed.
The intrigue escalates and the action whisks through the seedy underbelly of a city beset with gangs and corrupt cops and government officials. That city is Wuhan, China epicenter of the coronavirus also where the film was shot. Director Diao Yinan also made the award-winning "Black Coal, Thin Ice." Zeitgeist link here.
"Corpus Christi" Director Jan Komasa's film was nominated for Best International Feature Film at the recent Academy Awards, but the Oscar went to "Parasite," which also won Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director. In "Corpus Christi," a young man has a spiritual awakening while in a juvenile prison serving a sentence for second degree murder. He escapes the prison, and impersonates a priest, eventually finding a flock in a small parish. They embrace him, though he prefers his own vision to church orthodoxy. Link here.
"L'Innocent" Director Luchino Visconti's 1976 tale of lust and jealousy among 19th-century aristocrats was restored in 2019 and re-released. The wealthy Tullio neglects his wife Giuliana in favor of his mistress, the domineering Countess Raffo. But when Giuliana finds her own new lover, Tullio is torn with jealousy. Link here.
"Bacurau" Sort of a Western set in a barren rural area of Brazil, "Bacurau" follows the residents of a small town after their longtime matriarchal leader dies. It's set in the near future, and residents realize that their town has disappeared from the internet it's not on Google maps or indicated by GPS. They don't know if they've been forgotten and left to fend for themselves. Link.
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Authenticity, performance; brand, product; myth, reality: When it comes to the 33-year-old Williams, its unusually difficult to separate the strands. He is unfailingly polite and considerate, possessed of a humility and a lack of guile that seem almost shocking in this age of branding and fake news. And yet he himself is so intensely curatedfrom his passions to his precisely tailored clothingthat it can be hard to see him as entirely real.
We are the same height and have the same posture, says his friend Frederik Lentz Andersen, fashion director for the Danish magazine Euroman. Were both super slim. But every time I see him, I think, How can that suit fit you so perfectly? Theres never a flaw to anything he does. Its like he never slips.
Kinfolks origin story seems just as perfect, a charming myth crafted along the lines of one of those old Rooney-Garland, Hey gang, lets put on a show musicals. At the turn of the last decade, while still in college, two young married couples have the kooky idea of creating a magazine. A few wholesomethey are Mormonhigh jinks and one social media revolution later, they find themselves at the helm not just of a successful publication, but at the vanguard of a veritable movement, a zeitgeist-defining, social media-friendly tidal wave that swathes an entire generation in muted linen, pour-over coffee, and gratitude. #Kinfolklife #Flatlay #Blessed
What if your life turned out to be what an ENTIRE GENERATION was dreaming of?
There was a lot that appeared in those early pages that was an accurate expression of the lives of its young founders. Nathan Williams and Katie Searle met in 2008 while both were students at Brigham Young Universitys Hawaii campushe developed a crush on the quiet, luminous girl after passing the desk where she worked every day. It would take him some time to get up the nerve, as he recalls, to ask her to leave her boyfriend and date him instead. Searle insists she already had broken things off with his predecessor. But both agree that she said yes, and then yes again, a few months later, when he led her into the forest and, beneath a bower of carefully strung fairy lights, asked her to marry him.
An assignment for an entrepreneurship class had the two of them dreaming up an e-commerce platform, which they called Kinsfolk & Company, for selling plates and glasses and other things you might need for a sweet little dinner party, and that, combined with contributors Williams had gathered through a blog he kept, and help from their close friends, Doug and Paige Bischoff, gradually morphed, in 2011, into a tiny, very DIY magazine, focused on food and the small gatherings they all loved. They had no publishing experience and no defined roles at the time; everyone just did everything. We all lived in married student housing, so when we werent in class, we spent a lot of time together, says Doug Bischoff. Wed go to Nate and Katies apartment, and theyd be at ours regularly. We were always getting together to cook, and hang out, and just enjoy each others company. We had a really, really good friendship. Williams and Doug Bischoff even looked somewhat alike; both of them tall and lean, with short blond hair worn in a neat side part, and a predilection, even then, for sharper clothes than might be entirely normal for your average college student.
The theme for the first issue was inspired by a line from Thoreaus Walden: I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. Williams so identified with the book that he handed out copies to friends at his birthday party. Kinfolk volume 1 included an article on fika, the Swedish coffee break so in vogue now, and on teatimerituals that would be incorporated into Kinfolks office life. It was really simple, really basic, but what I thought was sweet at the time, Williams says. And yeah, it was far too kitsch and cutesy. But there was this correlation there.
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If you entered 2000 thinking that the year would bring a totally different sound befitting the turn of a new millennium... well, you were mostly right.
Not that the artists that defined popular music at the end of the '90s were suddenly spirited away and replaced with an entirely new vanguard: Most of the biggest artists of 1999 -- the boy bands and girl groups, the breakout rappers and rock best-sellers -- were the biggest artists of 2000, too. But they seemed energized by the changeover of millennia, and motivated to push things appropriately forward.
Having some of the era's greatest super-producers on the front lines certainly helped. Timbaland and Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins amped up the dramatic tension of R&B until it sounded like something that would play at a futuristic opera. The Neptunes and Swizz Beatz brought the proverbial (and sometimes literal) bells and whistles to hip-hop, setting it on its path to top 40 domination and definition. And of course, Max Martin raised the stakes onTRL pop, maturing his sound and proving that the genre and its greatest practitioners would not be left in the '90s with Trapper Keepers and Tamagotchis.
But the year wasn't just about returning '90s stars getting 2.0 updates. Hip-hop's geographical axis was thrown off by a brand new rap icon emerging from the country's center. R&B was modernized not only at its poppiest but also at its rootsiest, as the growing neo-soul movement experienced its greatest year of commercial and critical success. And a couple '80s stars returned with dramatically overhauled sounds that demonstrated they would be staying relevant well into their third decades.
With *NSYNC'sNo Strings Attached, a standard-setting 2000 pop release both in its cutting-edge production and its record-breaking commercial performance, celebrating its 20th anniversary -- and most of us needing no excuse to take a vacation from the world in 2020 --Billboard decided the time was right for a week's celebration of the year 2000. We're starting today with a list of our 100 favorite songs from the historically rich year, and will continue all week with a series of essays, interviews, lists and other flashbacks to the beginning of the new millennium.
First, though, a note about eligibility:Songs were counted as eligible if they were released as singles in '00, if they debuted on the Billboard charts in '00, or if they hit No. 1 in '00. But if they didn't hit the Hot 100 until the next year,or if they debuted in '00 but didn't hit No. 1 until the year after,we're counting 'em for '01. So apologies to "Ms. Jackson," "It Wasn't Me," "Yellow," "One Step Closer" and "One More Time" -- we'll probably see them on this list next year.
Read our list below, find a Spotify playlist of all songs at the bottom, and check back to Billboard.com all week for more about the stories behind the most interesting songs and albums of 2000. It's been a long time since they left you -- so begin the journey back with us below, with 100 dope jams to step to.
100. Zombie Nation, "Kernkraft 400" (Sport Chant Stadium Remix) (No. 99, Hot 100)
By the end of the '90s, music for video games and music for sporting events had starting overlapping to the point of being interchangeable -- so it made sense that one of the ultimate mind-numbing dance anthems at the turn of the millennium should be a remix of a video game theme with a soccer chant stapled on top of it. Call it "Seven-Bit Nation Army," with fewer distracting verses. --ANDREW UNTERBERGER
99. P!nk, "There You Go" (No. 7, Hot 100)
Long before we knew her as the acrobatic performance-loving pop star, P!nk was introduced to the world as the next R&B artist to watch with breakout single There You Go. Due to its swagger-heavy production and soulful vocals, many thought the singer was actually a light-skinned black girl. That wasnt the case, of course, but P!nk made it clear that shed never fit into the bubblegum-pop mold of Y2K and beyond. --BIANCA GRACIE
98. O-Town, "Liquid Dreams" (No. 10, Hot 100)
If you need a reminder of who was hot in 2000, press play on O-Towns LiquidDreams. Destinys Child, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Angelina Jolie, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks and Salma Hayek all get shout-outs in the zeitgeist-y hit (as well as a mysterious reference to Jennifer in the chorus -- Lopez? Aniston? Love Hewitt?). Its snapping beat and rolling melody made for a dynamic debut from O-Town, the first product of Diddys artist-scouting seriesMaking the Band,reaching the Hot 100's top 10. Perhaps the most ingenious part of LiquidDreams, though? Its so catchy, you forget they're singing about a wet dream. --TAYLOR WEATHERBY
97. The White Stripes, "Hello Operator" (Did not chart)
In a year when rock leaned into "nu" strains by bands like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, The White Stripes sounded refreshingly, well, old. On their sophomore LPDe Stijl, the Detroit duo extended the garage rock blues of their eponymous 1999 debut, and whileDe Stijlwas stacked with eventual classics, none were as raucously, righteouslydirtyas "HelloOperator." Here Jack's guitar sounds hot to the touch, while Meg's drums deliver a skeletal interlude to the otherwise headbanging track -- which in just 2:36 demonstrated that 20th century-style rock was alive and thrashing in the numillennium. --KATIE BAIN
96. Toby Keith, "How Do You Like Me Now?!" (No. 31, Hot 100)
Seven years after "Should've Been a Cowboy,"TobyKeithrebounded from a stretch of stalled singles and reclaimed his mid '90s dominance with a honky tonk send-off to the it-girl valedictorian who never gave him the time of day. High schoolToby's tactics were sure questionable ("Broke into the stadium and I wrote your number on the 50-yard line") but his hooks are anything but; when the chorus hits, it sails through the goalposts. --CHRIS PAYNE
95. Mandy Moore, "I Wanna Be With You" (No. 24, Hot 100)
Mandy Moore was only 16 when she released the single that would become her biggest Hot 100 hit, and in many ways it sounds like it: a wispy ballad of teenage longing, not all that far removed from Jessica Simpson's contemporaneous "I Wanna Love You Forever." But there's both a tenderness and a yearning to "I Wanna Be With You" that hints at a maturity that would manifest in Moore's later singer-songwriter work; with its sighing and soft-hearted lustfulness, it's something like aTRL-era "Wouldn't It Be Nice." --A.U.
94. Black Rob, "Whoa!" (No. 43, Hot 100)
Though The Notorious B.I.G. and Ma$e were considered pillars for Diddy's Bad Boy conglomerate in the '90s, Puff bolstered his decorated lineup when he recruited Harlem lyricistBlackRobin 1997. In 2000,RobMarciano returned the favor and swung for the fences with his war-ready single "Whoa!" Teeming with grit and swagger, "Whoa!" was a pure New York banger, which spoke to the high degrees of flexing. --CARL LAMARRE
93. The Dandy Warhols, "Bohemian Like You" (No. 28, Alternative Songs)
Theres something deeply self-referential about an alternative band like The Dandy Warhols penning an unforgettable (and popular) track about the hypocrisy of hipster culture. Getting used in popular commercials of the day and becoming their biggest hit to date, Bohemian Like You paints a crystal-clear picture of the pseudo-counter-culturalism that came to define the later decade, and made minor stars out of the alt-rockers behind it. --STEPHEN DAW
92. Miss Kittin & The Hacker, "Frank Sinatra" (Did not chart)
With the blas ennui of Marlene Dietrich, French electroclash pioneer Miss Kittin recounts the salacious late-night deeds of the late Rat Packer over a frangible beat as icy cold as his remains. The blunt, brazen humor of "FrankSinatra" ensures its cult longevity; even if the genre in question would soon become a stranger in the nightlife scene, its fetishized repurposing of synth-pop and '90s house would continue as a trend in dance until, well, now. --JOE LYNCH
91. Hanson, "This Time Around" (No. 20, Hot 100)
Better known asHansons Were adults now! single, the title track to the brothers 2000 album had the unenviable task of following up their mega-selling 1997 LP Middle of Nowhere, as well as convincing pop listeners that the precocious voices behind MMMBop could credibly mature. This Time Around wasnt a huge hit, but endures as first-rate pop-rock, with a piano line and a sing-along chorus that previewedHansons fate as underrated adult songwriters, never to return to their early radio heights. --JASON LIPSHUTZ
90. PJ Harvey, "Good Fortune" (Did not chart)
GoodFortune marked a sea change for PJ Harvey. The lead single offStories from the City, Stories from the Searolls along with a quick tempo, lovelorn lyrics, and a sticky melody throughout, separating itself from the darkness ofIs This Desire?and the knotty arrangements ofTo Bring You My Love. "GoodFortune pre-dates fellow '90s alt sensation Liz Phairs brazen 2003 crossover hit Why Cant I? but Harveys unabashed daydream struck a balance that only she can, still unrecognizable to radio programmers and so individually PJ Harvey. --ERIC FRANKENBERG
89. 2Gether, "The Hardest Part About Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff)" (No. 87, Hot 100)
An impossibly on-point fauxTRL jam -- down to the fake fans raving about their favs in the video's corner -- "Hardest Part" so nailed the boy-band breakup banger that you'd expect Max Martin and Rami Yacoub's names to pop up in the CD single liner notes. (Co-writers Brian Kierulf and Joshua M. Schwartzdid end up on a number of songs on Britney Spears' 2001Britney album.) The lyrics are inspired, of course,but the real highlights are the ad libs -- like the strangled "meow!" that follows the chorus'"You got my sweaters, my hat/ I can't find my cat!"--A.U.
88. Deleriumfeat. Sarah McLachlan, "Silence" (No. 6, Dance Club Songs)
Before Sarah McLachlan made TV viewers scramble for the remote whenever the ASPCA's heart-wrenching ad with her "Angel" aired, she was tugging at heartstrings not only as a successful solo artist, but as a guest vocalist for new age/electronic outfit Delerium. The side project of Front Line Assemblys Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber reached new heights with McLachlans pipes on Silence, combining her dreamy vocals with Gregorian chants and a catchy beat. It's endured over the years with club-slaying remixes -- most notably Tiesto's epic In Search of Sunrise edit -- and today, echoes of the singles dark and ethereal influence can be heard on Grimes recent Miss Anthropocene LP. --ANNA CHAN
87. Hoku, "Another Dumb Blonde" (No. 27, Hot 100)
At a time when fresh-faced female pop stars were luring suitors with sexed-up schoolgirl outfits and genie metaphors, Hawaiian 18-year-old Hokushook things up with her debut single, serving a get lost declaration to the players of the world. Another DumbBlonde is feisty from start to finish, calling out a shallow jerk for being, well, just that (Lately Ive come to find/ That you're not really interested in my heart or mind, proclaims the first pre-chorus). The spirited tune turned theblondestereotype into an empowering anthem to brokenhearted tweens and teens everywhere -- no matter their hair color. --T.W.
86. Jagged Edge, "Let's Get Married" (No. 11, Hot 100)
Since its release in February 2000, Lets Get Married has been claimed by fans as a wedding anthem.JaggedEdges enduring ballad pushes all of R&Bs hot buttons: Silky harmonies. Smooth, body-rockin rhythms. Urgent heartfelt lyrics about true love. During its heyday, Married" reached No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 11 on the Hot 100 -- aided by a popular Run-D.M.C.-sampling remix that also featured the group's Reverend Run. At a time when romantic love has increasingly become supplanted by records focusing solely on sex, people still desire songs that go all the way -- to lifelong commitment. --GAIL MITCHELL
85. Ricky Martin, "She Bangs" (No. 12, Hot 100)
By the time "SheBangs" was released as the lead single to sophomore English-language LP Sound Loadedin October 2000, Ricky Martin was a bonafide hitmaker, with seven Hot 100 hits already to his credit. The danceable track meshed a salsa flare with heavy rock guitar and an irresistible pop beat for universal appeal, sending it to the top 20 on the Hot 100and the top five in eight countries outside of the U.S. -- though its most memorable impact, for better or worse, may have come via futureAmerican Idol contestant William Hung. --TAYLOR MIMS
84. Beenie Man feat. Mya, "Girls Dem Sugar" (No. 54, Hot 100)
Beenie Man already broke through the American market two years prior with the rugged dancehall crossover "Who Am I (Sim Simma). But as he got more comfortable stateside, he decided to expand his sonic boundaries. And who better to help execute than The Neptunes? Dissecting a portion of Who Am I, the experimental duo transformed the original into a glossy, scratch-heavy club anthem that was elevated by Mas dreamy "If I could be your girl...." coos. --B.G.
83. Carlos Vives, "Fruta Fresca" (No. 1, Latin Songs)
Vives' lead single offEl Amor de Mi Tierra (1999) shook traditionalists as it topped Latin Songs early in the new millennium. The Emilio Estefan- and Juan Vicente Zambrano-produced tune of swirling vallenato and pop pulsations revolutionized Latin music, without compromising Vives artistic integrity. Cannily structured, Fruta opens with enigmatic electro-acoustic guitar chords, followed by Vives' vigorous vocals and flanked by sturdy bass and percussion; reflecting the turn of a genre that slinked smoothly into its own space. Vives deftly weaved Colombias popular folk music with Latin pop -- belted by bouncy accordion, along withcajaandguacharaca -- and became a leading figure in the mainstream tropical sphere. --PAMELA BUSTIOS
82. Limp Bizkit, "Break Stuff" (No. 14, Alternative Songs)
For those of us who lived through the turn-of-the-century nu-metal heyday, all it takes is that chunky two-chord riff from Wes Borland that opens Limp Bizkits BreakStuff to get us nice and furious. The Significant Other single is designed for mosh pits -- after all, it climaxes with Fred Durst screaming Give me something tobreak! -- and captures a relic of the era at its biggest, dumbest and best. --J. Lipshutz
81. Carl Thomas, "I Wish" (No. 20, Hot 100)
Plenty of great R&B torch songs have dealt with unrequited love over the years, but few besides Bad Boy belter Carl Thomas' "I Wish" have so lamented a love thatwas requited: "I love her so, she's got love for me/ But she still belongs to someone else." The unusual heartbreak ballad was saved from maudlinism by a breezy, piano-led Mike City production and a crescendoing vocal performance from Thomas that was absolutely superlative -- though that didn't stop Jay-Z and the rest of us from our own off-key imitations: "And I wish... I neeever... met herrrr... at alll..." --A.U.
80. 3LW, "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" (No. 23, Hot 100)
These 3 Little Women had some big boy problems, given all those mysterious numbers lighting up their boo's pager. But the trio of ladies -- with the youngest member only 14 years old (hence the reference to "last year, boy, in the eighth grade") -- aren't putting up with any more, and they make it super clear with this exasperated-but-catchy musical kiss-off. --KATIE ATKINSON
79. Sting feat. Cheb Mami, "Desert Rose" (No. 17, Hot 100)
Fifteen years into his lucrative post-Police solo career, Sting had the freedom to do pretty much whatever he wanted. So when his globetrotting dreams had him pining for love's eternal salvation amongst "gardens in thedesertsand," well, that's exactly where he went. With the bombast of a Disney musical and allPure Moodseditions combined, "DesertRose" was a portal for every minivan in America to some enchanted sonic oasis. Or if you were Sting in the track's product-placement-addled video, a chauffeured journey in a 2001 Jaguar S-Type through the MojaveDesert, to meet Algerian wailer Cheb Mami at a top-secret disco rendezvous. --C.P.
78. Kylie Minogue, "Spinning Around" (Did not chart)
While some saw a new millennium as an opportunity to create music unlike anything anyone had ever heard before, Australian superstar Kylie Minogue took a different approach. With Spinning Around, the songstress nailed the classic, disco-inspired Europop sound that would carry her into the 21st century, and went on to see massive success just about everywhere (except America, which sadly would take a couple more years to catch on). The tracks danceable melodies and irresistible beat proved that all spinning aside, you dont have to reinvent the wheel to show people a good time. --S.D.
77. Samantha Mumba, "Gotta Tell You" (No. 4, Hot 100)
That Samantha Mumba has released, to date, one album remains one of pops biggest recent-ish tragedies. Thats becauseGottaTellYouis a debut LP armed to the teeth with bubblegum pop bangers -- and the title track in particular, her debut single, exudes a soulful confidence well beyond Mumbas then-17 years, and boasts a whopper of a minor-key chorus. Bonus points always and forever given to the front flip off a store awning into a choreographed dance Mumba pulls off (OK, OK, through the magic of editing) in the video. --KEVIN RUTHERFORD
76. The Baha Men, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (No. 40, Hot 100)
In life, there are a handful of questions that humanity has struggled to definitively answer: did the chicken or the egg come first? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? And who, indeed, let the dogs out? But some mysteries are better left unsolved, and though we still havent found the culprit two decades later, that shouldnt stop us from queueing back up the cant-miss, Grammy-winning (?) stadium anthem and letting out a yippie, yi, yo! or two. While remaining vigilant. --JOSH GLICKSMAN
75. Erykah Badu, "Bag Lady" (No. 6, Hot 100)
Badus soulful classic about letting go of emotional baggage is basically a mini-therapy session, thanks to its soothing, tonic-like beat and timeless wisdom (All you must hold onto is you, she advises in effortless croon). Meanwhile, a twangy sample from Dr. Dres Xxplosive adds a subtle flourish to the otherwise minimal sound. The song picked up two Grammy nominations and peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100, making it Badus highest-charting track to this day. --TATIANA CIRISANO
74. Air, "Playground Love" (No. 28, Dance Singles Sales)
With its dream-pop melodies and soothing vocals, Air's "PlaygroundLove" may have been released in 2000, but it can easily transport fans back to the '70s. "I'm a high school lover and you're my favorite flavor," the lyrics begin, a hopeless romantic penning their deepest feelings. As part of the Me Decade-set soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's lovelorn and ultimately tragicThe Virgin Suicides, there's no doubt that "PlaygroundLove" continued to mold a new generation of sentimental high school sweethearts -- as well as those to follow. --JESSICA ROIZ
73. Janet Jackson, "Doesn't Really Matter" (No. 1, Hot 100)
Theres something lovely about watching an outwardly beautiful Janet Jackson sing about inner beauty. While playing the romantic interest of a fat suit-wearing Eddie Murphy in the Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, the pop icon co-penned the breathy single for the rom-com's soundtrack (with longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) about a love that's blind and strong enough to withstand the haters. Set in futuristic Tokyo, the video for the sultry, sighing dance track is the songs final punctuation mark -- featuring sparkly gadgets, a robot dog and a dance break on a levitating platform -- helping the song become her first Hot 100-topper of the 2000s. Clearly, it Doesnt Really Matter the decade, Ms. Jackson is timeless. --DANICA DANIEL
72. Deftones, "Change (In the House of Flies)" (No. 3, Alternative Songs)
Taking place over various stages of a seedy Hollywood party that always seems on the precipice of something truly terrible happening, the video for the Deftones' biggest hit captures its feeling perfectly: mysterious, beautiful, seductive and imminently perilous. Croaked by frontman Chino Moreno as if from the bottom of the house's swimming pool, "Change" was a version of nu-metal horror that eschewed jump scares for unnerving suggestion; it had onlya fraction the pop impact of Limp Bizkit, but remains exponentially more unshakeable 20 years later. --A.U.
71. Savage Garden, "I Knew I Loved You" (No. 1, Hot 100)
Savage Garden was one of those bands that seemed disproportionately popular in Southeast Asia (see also: Westlife). In the Philippines, people love ballads and karaoke, so the sentimental I Knew I Loved You was an irresistible choice for radio DJs, weddings, and any instance in which Filipinos can sing with feelings. "Loved" was also universal enough to become the duo's second No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 -- and the music video was just as good, featuring vocalist Darren Hayes reaching for Kirsten Dunst to hold hands on a subway. --MIA NAZARENO
70. Fuel, "Hemorrhage(In My Hands)" (No. 30, Hot 100)
Two decades years after its heyday, it's crazy to think that Fuel's "Hemorrhage" could have been a massive hit on pop radio (reaching No. 22) at any point this century, even making the top 40 of the Hot 100, as pop and hip-hop flood today's charts. But Fuel did just that with their crossover post-grunge ballad "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)," in which frontman Carl Bell sings about his grandmother's cancer diagnosis and eventual passing. Of course, the powerful singalong with a massive chorus -- whether you knew what it was about or not -- was also massive staple on rock radio, spending a staggering 12 weeks at No. 1 onBillboard'sAlternative Songs chart. --XANDER ZELLNER
69. Incubus, "Stellar" (No. 2, Alternative Songs)
The only way to understand Incubus within the nu-metal rock world of 2000 is to follow singer Brandon Boyds guidance at the opening of their celestial single Stellar: Meet me in outer space. The enigmatic five-piece presented a new, surrealist vision for the exploding genre, with the songs serpentine melody disguising math-rock as metal and its distortion-heavy chorus belying the cuddly love song at its core. Stellar proved to have a lasting impact as the mainstream rock renaissance began to wane, partially thanks to its embrace by the younger Guitar Hero generation. --BRYAN KRESS
68. Marc Anthony, "You Sang to Me" (No. 2, Hot 100)
Twenty years later, this song should still come with a warning about listening when you're feeling vulnerable. There's just no pretense with "You Sang to Me," a breathtaking vista of a ballad that sounds gorgeous and heartbreaking. The song was patently massive -- it peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart for seven weeks -- but its heart and soul lies in its subtle sentimental brushstrokes: the weeping acoustic guitars, the stately accordion solo, Anthony's stirring a cappella coda: "OHHHH BUT I FEEL IT." The feeling's mutual. --C.P.
67. Toni Braxton, "He Wasn't Man Enough" (No. 2, Hot 100)
After steamrolling through the 1990s with a barrage of top 40 and adult contemporary mainstays, Toni Braxton returned in March of 2000 with He Wasnt Man Enough. Its an upbeat Darkchild production that was right at home on pop and R&B radio in the aftermath of similar-themed hits by TLC (No Scrubs) and Destinys Child (pretty much everything theyd released to that point). And while the song begins with Braxton looking down on her exs new boo, her condescension turns to thoughtful protectiveness. This femme-forward approach is highlighted by the finale of the music video -- which, from the styling to the Y2K-futurist lighting and set design, could not be more 2000. --E.F.
66. David Gray, "Babylon" (No. 57, Hot 100)
Let go of your heart, let go of your head and feel it now commands the chorus of David Grays Babylon. The warm and melancholic folk song (andsecond single from Gray's breakout album White Ladder)became the singer-songwriter's signature track at the turn of the millennium. Laden with harmonious flurries, Grays vocals dance over the melody and hit your ears with force. There is a general feeling of surrender, of letting loose to pick up the mess of a relationship that is vanishing in Gray's native London-- considered a modern-dayBabylonin Victorian times -- that ricochet between the subtly tech-aided melody and the shrewd wit of his lyrics. --P.B.
65. BBMak, "Back Here" (No. 13, Hot 100)
British trioBBMakarrived at the height of the boy band bonanza as a slight bit of counter programming -- sure, they were pretty and harmonized, but they played instruments, too! Yet the perception of authenticity is irrelevant to the quality of Back Here, a soft, gorgeous pop track with one of the most delicate bridges of the teen-pop era; it peaked at No. 13 on the Hot 100 chart, but has remained a charming staple of adult contemporary radio for decades. --J. Lipshutz
64. Madonna, "Don't Tell Me" (No. 4, Hot 100)
Throughout her career, Madonna has often followed her flashy lead single from a new album with something more curious and subtle, yet no less rewarding as the follow-up. Such was the case for her Music era, in which the title track offered electro-pop euphoria, before second single Dont Tell Me served as an act of twangy defiance -- with clipped vocals, guitar loops, strings and a mainstream take on folktronica that still holds up today. --J. Lipshutz
63. Peaches, "F--k the Pain Away" (Did not chart)
Before Cupcakke, before My Neck, My Back, and before the advent of iTunes and streaming services made FCC radio standards more or less obsolete, there was F--k the Pain Away, a song so proudly explicit that it became something of a proto-meme. But its also just an excellent song, frank and minimalistic, anchored by buzzing bass and percussive claps. Its a testament to Peaches vision that, 20 years on, her breathless enjoinder feels so distinctly of the moment. --WILL GOTTSEGEN
62. SR-71, "Right Now" (No. 2, Alternative Songs)
The debut single from SR-71, Right Now embodies the classic pop-punk sound that exploded at the dawn of the 21st century. It quickly cemented itself in pop culture, being used in the trailer and soundtrack for Dude, Where's My Car?and goingon to become something of a stoner movie staple, later also being featured in the 2004 trailer for Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. From the unforgettable opening riff to the solid mid-song guitar solo to the Bohemian Rhapsody nod in the video, it's a song that will exude nostalgia forever. --BECKY KAMINSKY
61. Aaron Carter, "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" (No. 35, Hot 100)
Before life was unkind to Aaron Carter, we had his party, and it was glorious. Here's a little bit of old school for ya: Its the year 2000, and Nick Carters little bro is making a name for himself through funky, guitar-driven pop-rap. Its a simpler time, when the worst possible punishment a kid can get is to be grounded -- and thats just what Aaron's in for once his parents find out about the house party he threw when they were out. (Dont worry, attendees were only served juice.) As the title track of Carter's 3x platinum second studio album, Aaron's Party was released when he was just 12 years old, and its witty lyrics, charming video and equally adorable star ensure itll be a tale for the ages. --GAB GINSBERG
60. Enrique Iglesias, "Be With You" (No. 1, Hot 100)
Enrique Iglesias BeWithYou became his second No. 1 onBillboards Hot 100, after Bailamos, and ruled the chart for three weeks. This timeless song, which has a heartbroken Enrique yearning to get backwithhis girl, has become a classic because it was part of the Spanish singers eponymous 1999 bilingual album his formal introduction to mainstream America, withwhich he won over hearts singing in English and thanks to his soaring Now that you're gone/ I just wannabewithyou hook. --GRISELDA FLORES
59. At the Drive-In, "One Armed Scissor" (No. 26, Alternative Songs)
OneArmedScissor is full of dissonance -- whether its Cedric Bixler-Zavalas sometimes-barked vocals and its juxtaposition against Jim Wards Warped Tour-ready chorus howl, its jarring time signature changes, Ward and Omar Rodriguez-Lopezs snaking guitar riffs, or its hair-raising refrain of Get away! Get away! Perhaps the songs multiple moving parts, somehow joining together in a cohesive package amid its 4:20 run time, were a harbinger of At the Drive-Ins demise less than a year later, then at the height of its popularity. --K.R.
58. No Doubt, "Simple Kind of Life" (No. 38, Hot 100)
After the take-no-prisoners confidence ofTragic Kingdom's "Just a Girl" made Gwen Stefani a star, the exquisite second single from No Doubt's sophomore LPReturn of Saturn revealed the second-guessing she'd undergone in the years since -- wondering if despite the magazine covers and diamond-certified sales, she was more suited the titular existence. It's a heartbreak song where the she's the victim not of a bad boyfriend (she had recently started seeing Bush's Gavin Rossdale), but of a successful career, one that leaves her hoping for an accidental pregnancy to take the decision out of her hands. "You seem like you'd be a good dad" never sounded so devastating. --A.U.
57. Ja Rule feat. Lil Mo & Vita, "Put It on Me" (No. 8, Hot 100)
ThoughJaRule and Vita left their handprints on theRule 3:36album version for "PutIt on Me,"itwas Lil Mo's soaring ad-libs that drove the song's remix towards mainstream notoriety. A quintessential ride-or-die anthem, "PutIt on Me" (Remix) not only madeJaRule's howling croons a much-needed staple in hip-hop, but gave him credibility as a promising hitmaker in the 2000s. --C.L.
56. Mya, "Case of the Ex (Whatcha Gonna Do)" (No. 2, Hot 100)
Ma was always good for masking petty digs in sweet tunes (see 1998s Movin On), but she entered her final form with the sharp-tongued Case of the Ex. Our R&B darling was completely fed up with her man communicating with a past fling -- There's no need to reminisce 'bout the past/ Obviously, cause that s--t did not last -- and Tricky Stewarts spiny production drove her frustration over the edge. And the ladies related: by Y2Ks end, Case of the Ex leaped to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. --B.G.
55. Common, "The Light" (No. 44, Hot 100)
In the bleak, aggressively macho hip-hop landscape of the early '00s, Common followed his own luminescence. Taken from his breakthrough major label debut Like Water For Chocolate, The Light feels transported from the conscious rap heyday of the '90s with chivalrous rhymes that read like stanzas in a love poem -- appropriate for the song's written-letter framing. Inspired by then-flame Erykah Badu, produced by J Dilla (sampling Bobby Caldwell deep cuts), and influenced by the nascent neo-soul sound of the Soulquarians, The Light presents the brighter side to a rap scene in flux. --B. Kress
54. SoulDecision feat. Thrust, "Faded" (No. 22, Hot 100)
Posted: at 5:29 am
Nubras SamayeenMarch 23, 2020
"People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does."
Michel Foucault,Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason
Throughout human history, people have claimed and controlled nature and have built empires of civilisations. Today, however, Mother Nature is angry. In a momentary flicker, a new battle has been forced upon the human-race. A bio-device named COVID-19 has become a pandemic, killing and infecting thousands around the globe. It has left us in forced self-confinement. So far, the urban cores have been the viral epicenters from where the disease stretches to surrounding areas at an accelerating speed. Though the genesis of COVID-19 seemingly started from the wrong choice of food (or, to the orthodox, a repercussion of their unfaithfulness), this menace is no insular occurrence. Its global ubiquity is a result of a multitude of entwined practices that includes remote architecture, urban design and planning practices.
It is a boomerang effect. Nature has finally counteracted the long-practiced capitalist systems of spatial production vis-a-vis city formation that have been regarded as progress. Our indifference to natural conditions, ecosystems and sustainability took nature to an intolerable boiling point. So, the question is: are humans and nature friends, or foes? Are we a part of nature or a split?
Cities have been the emblem of human civilisation for thousands of years. Defying ecological growth and natural orders, and more importantly with a deviance from thousand-year-old indigenous building practices, with globalising forces the cities of today are synthetic and picture perfect. World cities such as New York, London, Dubai, Paris, Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai and many others are all in a race to showcase their architecture. Soaring high-rises have become the zeitgeist (spirit of the age) and pride of each metropolis. Consequently, the land endorsing these developments has turned into a commodity, an asset, a lure to humankind. Inherently a part of earth, it has become power and a controlling device.
But land-claims, land-fill and wet-land encroachment for development and urbanisation resist nature's plans. While most rural counterparts follow vernacular systems that are accommodating to natural ecosystems, the city is a product of the capitalist system. Its grids, plots and division help in ownership and urban infrastructure development. Consequently, they proliferate means of human influence.
Megacity Dhaka has become one of the most expensive stretches of real estate in Asia today. Yet with its unplanned development and unforeseen issues, the city faces a sort of schizophrenia and urban stagnancy. Dhakaites from all walks of life are grabbing landeven the wetlandswhich were once the habitat for countless species and wildlife. For instance, Banani, the affluent neighbourhood colloquially meaning "woods," used to have foxes and even cranes on its lake. Dhaka's water and wetland research (2005) reveals that other impressive neighbourhoods such as Ashulia, Bashundhara and others were also built on filled wetlands. Once popular Motijheel was established on a jheel, a quintessential element of Bengal's deltaic landscape which has disappeared. Recent records also show that Dhaka has lost more than 150 rivers in the last five decades and consequently, an even greater number of fish and water-based species. Such land-grabbing has created a deep rift between humankind and nature. Greed and appetite for land, along with a colonial mindset and blind imitation of capitalistic models left behind by the British, are forcing us into unanticipated environmental issues. Theorist Kathleen James-Chakraborty of Dublin University points out how Dhaka's and South Asia's architectural trends are more akin to Western architectural trends and their chronology than to our own heritage. Therefore, she sees a similarity in language yet a rupture in the progression of local building vocabulary that developed from the genius-loci or the spirit of the place.
The omnipresent phenomenon of katcha bazaars (marketplace) and bazaar-like informality is paradigmatic of any South Asian megacity. With huge economic contribution, these informal sectors have become the core of cities like Dhaka. These bostis house a huge workforce that is an absolute necessity for Dhaka. But due to municipal negligence, hyper-density, unrestrained growth and unhygienic sanitation systems and livelihoods, they have become a tumour amid Dhaka's urban landscape and hence are often deliberately ignored. Korail, the largest bosti in Dhaka that serves neighbouring affluent areas, is completely unaware of and unprepared to deal with the COVID crisis. Wuhan's wet-market where COVID-19 germinated is similar to this informal urbanity.
Killing 8,000, infecting 200,000 and affecting the lives of millions, in just a few weeks, the COVID-19 has become the deadliest of all its viral predecessors. Research shows that the COVID-19, the Bird Flu (Avian Flu 2013), the MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus), and the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2003) all came from animals. AIDS most likely came from chimpanzees, the deadly Ebola from bats. Bats and pangolins also possibly started the COVID-19 in Wuhanone of the largest and most glamorous megacities of central China, populated with beautiful edifices and 11 million people.
A veterinary doctor at the University of Illinois has explained that animals are meant for forestry; it is their habitat. Since we are forcefully taking their homes and turning them into our own, their habitats are destroyed. And so they are moving into human habitatsour cities and even homes, taking refuge in the crevices of urban buildings. The animal and human world are overlapping; food chains are intersecting. Even in Bangladesh, the Nipah-2019 virus was spread from date-juice that was infected by bats and was transmitted via interpersonal contact. Nipah's spread was more limited presumably because it originated in a relatively sparser area and was not as deadly as what we currently face.
Moreover, most buildings across Dhaka open up to next door walls or windows, diminishing the minimum level of privacy or buffer space that is required. Therefore, though most of these edifices successfully emulate Western models, they produce a concrete jungle. They fail to offer anything that complements our distinctively Bengali urban lifestyle. With complete reliance on active cooling systems and glazed facades, they rarely comply with sub-tropical weather conditions.
Meanwhile our bazaars, like Wuhan's fish markets, are an intermediary area where the animal and human world unite. They have become the production zone of recurring deadly diseases. Interestingly, the products of wild animalswhether sold as food or as consumer goodsare predominantly consumed only by the rich minority, yet they contribute largely to the national GDP. This inequality eventually makes policy making more complex and difficult. The recent killing of the rarest white giraffe and its calf in Kenya is an example of such convolution, all of which is bringing forth a reality that we thought existed only on the screen, in movies like Contagion (2011) or Pandemic (2016).
In her book LoTEK: Design by Radical Indigenism (2020), Julia Watson, a faculty member of Harvard and Columbia University, proposes to rethink technology and biodiversity in designing urban environments.She suggests alternative solutions that focus on indigenous building practices from antiquity, in which nature can offer her boons as urban infrastructure. She challenges the one-size-fits-all model of institutionalised, commercial measures of architecture and sustainable practices. One such inefficient model is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that is standardised by the US Global Building Commission. Like a few other green institutions, LEED, leading in the market, aims for sustainable building solutions which often end up in superficial plug-ins to make edifices that are just categorically "green" by definition. A number of the buildings in Dhaka, particularly in Gulshan and Banani, also follow LEED without considering sub-tropical needs and cultural influence. Watson says, "We can look to cultures that have been living with natural systems and understand how to develop civilisations with complex ecosystems as a grounding for moving forward as designers." Exemplifying tribal lifestyles of Khasi tribes and even fishermen villages of deltaic Bengal, she further explains, "It's a movement toward rethinking how urbanism interacts with nature."
All through history, humans have lived with germs, recurrent plagues, dire diseases like chicken-pox and consequently, developed immunity. But there might still come a plague with which we cannot coexist. Uncontrolled urbanisation and the resultant climate change that seeps its way through the melting ice, polluting the soils, may release nature's genie from its dormancy. A2005 research reported by the BBC shows that NASA scientists successfully revived a bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years. The microbes, calledCarnobacterium pleistocenium, were frozen since the Pleistocene period. They began swimming once the snow covering them melted. Scientists also succeeded in revivingan eight-million-year-old bacteriumthat had been lying dormant in ice. These observations and discoveries must push us to think more about our built-environments and force us to ask: how do we build with nature?
What the current situation demands are strong regulatory bodies and laws. Otherwise, our physical and mental healthour liveswill become crippled. We, like a frog, are living in a pot that is being gradually heated. We will stay put and never jump out until we reach the boiling point. But if cautious now, we can perhaps reverse and stop the approaching urban demise and disprove Stephen Hawking, who once said "humankind is greedy, stupid" and that we are the greatest threat to Earth.
Nubras Samayeen is a doctoral scholar of architecture, landscape and heritage at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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Posted: at 5:29 am
The Criterion Channel announces one-year anniversary lineup
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of The Criterion Channel, the network has unveiled its lineup of programming set to debut in April, which will include the 1978 animated adaptation of the Richard Adams novelWatership Downand an expansion of the Columbia Noir collection from the channels original launch!
RELATED:Showtime Offering Free 30-Day Trial For New Users
Wednesday, April 1
Toshiro Mifune Turns 100
Featuring a new introduction by critic Imogen Sara Smith and the 2015 documentaryMifune: The Last Samurai.Akira Kurosawa once said, The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet of film to get across an impression. Toshiro Mifune needed only three feet. However, the filmmaker certainly gave Mifuneborn on April 1, 1920a lot of space: over the course of sixteen indelible collaborations, the actor and the director created some of the most dynamic characters ever put on-screen, all marked by an explosive physicality, live-wire intensity, and surprising tenderness. Discovered by Kurosawa during an open audition at Toho Studios,Mifune would go on to inhabit a wide variety of rolesfrom gangsters to samurai to salarymenin the directors greatest films, masterpieces likeStray Dog, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, The Bad Sleep Well,andHigh and Low.Further cementing his status as an icon of Japanese cinema with his commanding turns in classics by Kenji Mizoguchi, Keisuke Kinoshita, and Hiroshi Inagaki,Mifune left behind a formidable legacy as one of the most electrifying performers of the twentieth century.
The full list of titles from the collection includes:Snow Trail,Senkichi Taniguchi, 1947Drunken Angel,Akira Kurosawa, 1948Stray Dog,Akira Kurosawa, 1949Rashomon,Akira Kurosawa, 1950Wedding Ring,Keisuke Kinoshita, 1950Scandal,Akira Kurosawa, 1950The Idiot,Akira Kurosawa, 1951The Life of Oharu,Kenji Mizoguchi, 1952Seven Samurai,Akira Kurosawa, 1954Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto,Hiroshi Inagaki, 1954Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple,Hiroshi Inagaki, 1955I Live in Fear,Akira Kurosawa, 1955Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island,Hiroshi Inagaki, 1956The Lower Depths,Akira Kurosawa, 1957Throne of Blood,Akira Kurosawa, 1957The Hidden Fortress,Akira Kurosawa, 1958Muhomatsu, the Rickshaw Man,Hiroshi Inagaki, 1958The Bad Sleep Well,Akira Kurosawa, 1960Yojimbo,Akira Kurosawa, 1961Sanjuro,Akira Kurosawa, 1962High and Low,Akira Kurosawa, 1963Red Beard,Akira Kurosawa, 1965The Sword of Doom,Kihachi Okamoto, 1966Samurai Rebellion,Masaki Kobayashi, 1967Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo,Kihachi Okamoto, 1970Red Sun,Terence Young, 1971Mifune: The Last Samurai,Steven Okazaki, 2015
Wednesday, April 1
Europa Europa: Criterion Collection Edition #985
As World War II splits Europe, sixteen-year-old German Jew Salomon (Marco Hofschneider) is separated from his family after fleeing with them to Poland, and finds himself reluctantly assuming various ideological identities in order to hide the deadly secret of his Jewishness. He is bounced from a Soviet orphanage, where he plays a dutiful Stalinist, to the Russian front, where he hides in plain sight as an interpreter for the German army, and back to his home country, where he takes on his most dangerous role: a member of the Hitler Youth. Based on the real-life experiences of Salomon Perel, Agnieszka Hollands wartime tour de forceEuropa Europais a breathless survival story told with the verve of a comic adventure, an ironic refutation of the Nazi idea of racial purity, and a complex portrait of a young man caught up in shifting historical calamities and struggling to stay alive.SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES:Audio commentary by Agnieszka Holland; interviews with Holland, Marco Hofschneider, and Salomon Perel; and a video essay by film scholar Annette Insdorf.
Thursday April 2
The first feature for which celebrated international auteur Yorgos Lanthimos received solo directorial credit,Kinettatakes place in a desolate Greek resort town where three tenuously connected people are linked by mysterious, unsettling impulses. A plainclothes cop pursues triple passions for cars, tape recorders, and Russian women; a lonely, lovesick clerk works as a part-time photographer; and a hotel maid aspires to be an actor through unconventional methods. Darkly comic and insinuatingly hypnotic, this tantalizingly cryptic puzzle film finds Lanthimos first working through the themes of power and control that he would explore to increasing renown in art-house sensations likeDogtooth, The Lobster,andThe Favourite.
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Thursday April 2
Three by Yorgos LanthimosThe unofficial leader of the so-called Greek Weird Wave, Yorgos Lanthimos helped put the countrys cinema on the international map with these darkly funny, startlingly surreal explorations of human relationships at their most extreme and unsettling. Establishing his singular vision with the uncompromisingly enigmaticKinetta,Lanthimos gained international notoriety (and a surprising Academy Award nomination) for his disturbingly bizarro family portraitDogtooth,which he followed with the equally outrAlps.Deploying stylized absurdity to reveal cutting truths about the human condition, these singular provocations represent some of the most audacious and thrillingly original cinema of the twenty-first century.
Friday April 3
From the Archive: Raging Bull
With an archival laserdisc commentary featuring director Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Arguably the definitive boxing movie and one of the most stunningly visceral films ever made, Martin Scorseses lacerating vision of self-destructive machismo stars an Academy Awardwinning Robert De Niro in an intensely physical, career-best performance as Jake LaMotta, a fighter from the Bronx whose deep-seated anger and insecurities erupt in violence both in and out of the ring. The stunning monochrome cinematography, kinetic editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, and memorable supporting performances from Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty come together in an operatic tour de force of bruising beauty.
Friday April 3
Double Feature: Deep, Dark Welles
The StrangerandThe Lady from Shanghai
Once he had established a penchant for baroquely stylized compositions and striking chiaroscuro inCitizen KaneandThe Magnificent Ambersons,it was only natural that Orson Welles should prove a master of film noir.The Stranger,his first foray into the genre (and only box-office success), suggests hidden menaces lurking beneath the veneer of all-American normalcy via the story of an infamous Nazi hiding undercover in a sleepy Connecticut town. A year later, Welles stepped into the shadows once again withThe Lady from Shanghai,a fascinatingly fractured, visually dazzling puzzle box of a film that has been read as a deeply personal commentary on his own crumbling marriage to costar Rita Hayworth.
Saturday April 4
Saturday Matinee: Captains Courageous
Based on a novel by Rudyard Kipling, this beloved high-seas adventure stars Freddie Bartholomew as a young, spoiled-rotten brat who falls overboard an ocean liner and is rescued by passing fishermen Manuel (Spencer Tracy, in an Oscar-winning performance). Rather than return the boy home, Manuel and the crew whisk him along for an epic voyage full of excitement, danger, and hard-won life lessons. Directed by preeminent MGM craftsman Victor Fleming and featuring an all-star cast that includes Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Mickey Rooney, and John Carradine,Captains Courageousdelivers white-knuckle thrills alongside a heartfelt coming-of-age tale.
Sunday April 5
70s Style IconsWay more than just bell bottoms, peasant blouses, and platform shoes, 1970s fashion was as eclectic as it was adventurous, an explosion of me-generation individualism turned outward in a profusion of head-turning styles that ranged from timeless to funky to far out. This collection brings together some of the quintessential films of the era featuring the stars who defined its most iconic looks: Robert Redfords perfect Ivy League prep inThree Days of the Condor,Diane Keatons tweedy tailored androgyny inAnnie Hall,Donna Summers down-to-disco glam inThank God Its Friday,Jane Fondas boho-chic shag inKlute,Richard Roundtrees badass Black Power cool inShaft,and more.Whether your vibe is more quirky-cute Barbra Streisand inWhats Up, Doc?or rock-goddess Babs inA Star Is Born,the fashions in these films are proof that personal expression never goes out of style.
The full list of titles in the collection include:Performance,Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970Klute,Alan J. Pakula, 1971Shaft,Gordon Parks, 1971Whats Up, Doc?,Peter Bogdanovich, 1972Foxy Brown,Jack Hill, 1974Shampoo,Hal Ashby, 1975Three Days of the Condor,Sydney Pollack, 1975The Man Who Fell to Earth,Nicolas Roeg, 1976A Star Is Born,Frank Pierson, 1976Welcome to L.A.,Alan Rudolph, 1976Annie Hall,Woody Allen, 1977Eyes of Laura Mars,Irvin Kershner, 1978Thank God Its Friday,Robert Klane, 1978
Monday April 6
World Cinema Project: Pixote
Featuring a new introduction by filmmaker Mira Nair. With its bracing blend of unflinching realism and aching humanity, Hctor Babencos electrifying look at lost youth fighting to survive on the bottom rung of Brazilian society helped put the countrys cinema on the international map. Shot with documentary-like immediacy on the streets of So Paulo and Rio de Janeiro,Pixotefollows the eponymous preteen runaway (the heartbreaking Fernando Ramos da Silva, whose own too-short life tragically mirrored that of his character) as he escapes a nightmarish juvenile detention center only to descend into a life of increasingly violent crime alongside a makeshift family of fellow outcasts. Balancing its shocking brutality with moments of tenderness, this stunning journey through Brazils underworld is an unforgettable cry from the lower depths that has influenced multiple generations of filmmakers, including Spike Lee, Harmony Korine, and the Safdie brothers.
Tuesday April 7
Short + Feature: Human Tides
8th ContinentandFire at Sea
These haunting, poetic meditations on the European refugee crisis speak eloquently and urgently to the harrowing human cost of a global tragedy. In Yorgos Zoiss eerily evocative short8th Continent,the filmmakers camera silently surveys a desolate dump on the Greek island of Lesbos strewn with thousands of life jackets that have washed ashorean almost otherworldly landscape that conveys more than words ever could. Then, on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, director Gianfranco Rosi documents the quotidian rituals of life in a place where everyday reality unfolds against the backdrop of a mounting humanitarian disaster in his shattering documentaryFire at Sea.
Wednesday April 8
Featuring an introduction by film scholars Farran Smith Nehme and Imogen Sara Smith. One year ago, the Criterion Channel launched with a journey into the dark side of the Columbia Pictures catalog, and were pleased to bring it back with an expanded lineup of classic noir deep cuts. While rival studios like MGM and Paramount lavished money and top-tier production values on splashy musicals and prestige literary adaptations, the notoriously budget-conscious Columbia was right at home in the gritty, slightly disreputable world of film noir. The Columbia lot was where auteurs like Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, and Orson Welles realized pulp-poetry perfection in masterpieces likeThe Big Heat, In a Lonely Place,andThe Lady from Shanghai.It was also where resourceful genre specialists could overcome budgetary constraints through sinister, stylized atmosphere and directorial vision in killer Bs like the gothic mysteryMy Name Is Julia Ross,the minimalist-cool hitman thrillerMurder by Contract,and the lurid taboo-busterThe Crimson Kimono. Starring genre icons like Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Grahame, and Glenn Ford, these shadowy gems epitomize the hard-boiled essence of noir.
The full list of titles in the collection includes:Blind Alley,Charles Vidor, 1939My Name Is Julia Ross,Joseph H. Lewis, 1945Gilda,Charles Vidor, 1946So Dark the Night,Joseph H. Lewis, 1946Dead Reckoning,John Cromwell, 1947Johnny OClock,Robert Rossen, 1947The Lady from Shanghai,Orson Welles, 1947In a Lonely Place, Nicholas Ray,1950The Mob,Robert Parrish, 1951Affair in Trinidad,Vincent Sherman, 1952The Sniper,Edward Dmytryk, 1952The Big Heat,Fritz Lang, 1953Drive a Crooked Road,Richard Quine, 1954Human Desire,Fritz Lang, 1954Pushover,Richard Quine, 1954Tight Spot,Phil Karlson, 19555 Against the House,Phil Karlson, 1955Nightfall,Jacques Tourneur, 1956The Harder They Fall,Mark Robson, 1956The Brothers Rico,Phil Karlson, 1957The Burglar,Paul Wendkos, 1957The Lineup,Don Siegel, 1958Murder by Contract,Irving Lerner, 1958The Crimson Kimono,Samuel Fuller, 1959Experiment in Terror,Blake Edwards, 1962
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Wednesday April 8
I Am Not a Witch
FeaturingListen, a 2014 short film co-directed by Rungano Nyoni. The acclaimed debut feature from Rungano Nyoni is a daring, sharply satiric feminist fairy tale set in present-day Zambia. When nine-year-old orphan Shula (Margaret Mulubwa) is accused of witchcraft, she is exiled to a witch camp run by a corrupt and inept government official. Tied to the ground and told that she will turn into a goat if she tries to escape, Shula becomes a star tourist attraction exploited by those around her for financial gain. Soon she is forced to make a difficult decision: resign herself to life at the camp, or risk everything for freedom. Winner of a BAFTA award for outstanding debut,I Am Not a Witchis a visually imaginative, socially incisive commentary on the clash between tradition and modernity from one of contemporary cinemas most exciting new voices.
Thursday April 9
The Two of Us: Criterion Collection Edition #388
A young Jewish boy living in Nazi-occupied Paris is sent by his parents to the countryside to live with an elderly Catholic couple until Frances liberation. Forced to hide his identity, the eight-year-old, Claude (played delicately by first-time actor Alain Cohen), bonds with the irascible, staunchly anti-Semitic Grampa (Michel Simon), who improbably becomes his friend and confidant. Poignant and lighthearted,The Two of Uswas acclaimed director Claude Berris debut feature, based on own childhood experiences, and gave the legendary Simon one of his most memorable roles in the twilight of his career.SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES:Claude Berris Oscar-winning shortLe poulet;interviews with Berri and stars Michel Simon and Alain Cohen; a 1975 French talk show featuring Berri and the woman who helped secure his familys safety during World War II; and more.
Friday April 10
Double Feature: Dark Desires
Stranger by the LakeandStaying Vertical
One of contemporary French cinemas most fearless and endlessly fascinating provocateurs, Alain Guiraudie had been realizing his spellbinding, boldly transgressive, and unapologetically queer visions for more than two decades when he came to mainstream attention with his mesmerizing erotic thrillerStranger by the Lake.Making no concessions to commercial success, his brilliantly outr follow-up,Staying Vertical,is a surreal, continuously surprising sexual odyssey that, like its predecessor, probes the dark side of human desire.
Saturday April 11
Saturday Matinee: Watership Down
With this passion project, screenwriter-producer-director Martin Rosen brilliantly achieved what had been thought nearly impossible: a faithful big-screen adaptation of Richard Adamss classic British dystopian novel about a community of rabbits under terrible threat from modern forces. With its naturalistic hand-drawn animation, dreamily expressionistic touches, gorgeously bucolic background design, and elegant voice work from such superb English actors as John Hurt, Ralph Richardson, Richard Briers, and Denholm Elliott,Watership Downis an emotionally arresting, dark-toned allegory about freedom amid political turmoil.
Sunday April 12
Starring Gary CooperFor over three decades, Gary Cooper was Hollywoods consummate everyman, a refreshingly sincere, unaffected screen presence who imbued his common heroes with authenticity and simple dignity. Emerging as a star in the late silent era, the lanky, strikingly handsome Cooper established himself as a western hero in Henry Kings hugely popularThe Winning of Barbara Worthand a romantic leading man in the swooning World War I melodramaLilac Time.But it was with the coming of sound that Cooper truly came into his own, embodying all-American decency and courage in classics likeMr. Deeds Goes to Town, Sergeant York,andThe Pride of the Yankeesas well as the spirit of the frontier in definitive westerns likeThe WesternerandMan of the West.His relaxed charm also made him a perfect comic foil to Barbara Stanwyck in Howard Hawkss screwball riotBall of Fire, while his innate gravitas anchored prestige dramas likeThe Fountainhead.It was this ability to play across genres while remaining inimitably himself that made Cooper one of classic Hollywoods most enduring icons.
The full list of titles in the collection includes:The Winning of Barbara Worth,Henry King, 1926Lilac Time,George Fitzmaurice, 1928A Farewell to Arms,Frank Borzage, 1932The Wedding Night,King Vidor, 1935Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,Frank Capra, 1936The Adventures of Marco Polo,Archie Mayo, 1938The Cowboy and the Lady,H. C. Potter, 1938The Real Glory,Henry Hathaway, 1939The Westerner,William Wyler, 1940Ball of Fire,Howard Hawks, 1941Sergeant York,Howard Hawks, 1941* (Starts June 1)The Pride of the Yankees,Sam Wood, 1942The Fountainhead,King Vidor, 1949Task Force,Delmer Daves, 1949Vera Cruz,Robert Aldrich, 1954Friendly Persuasion,William Wyler, 1956Love in the Afternoon,Billy Wilder, 1957Man of the West,Anthony Mann, 1958The Hanging Tree,Delmer Daves, 1959
Monday April 13
Three by Otto Preminger
Renowned for his coolly objective style, daringly ambiguous moral complexity, and willingness to tackle taboo themes, classic Hollywood titan (or tyrant, to many of those who worked under him) Otto Preminger pushed the boundaries of the Production Code to create some of the most sophisticated and provocative films of the studio era. This selection of three of his finestthe luxuriantly bittersweet melodramaBonjour tristesse,the gripping James Stewart crime proceduralAnatomy of a Murder,and the menacing existential mysteryBunny Lake Is Missingshowcases both his range and the singular, relentlessly probing sensibility that unifies his work.
Bonjour tristesse,1958Anatomy of a Murder,1959Bunny Lake Is Missing,1965
Tuesday April 14
Short + Feature: Blowups
Featuring an introduction by Criterion Channel programmer Penelope Bartlett. Norman McLaren and Stanley Kubrick take aim at the appalling carnage of the twentieth century in these visually inspired satires. McLarens riotously inventive, Oscar-winning shortNeighbourscombines live-action photography and stop-motion animation to illustrate the mindlessness of war through the story of two neighbors who come to blows over a flower growing between their houses. Pablo Picasso, no doubt smitten with McLarens ingenious technique as well as the urgency of his message, called it the greatest film ever made. Kubricks deadly black comedyDr. Strangelove,starring an iconic Peter Sellers in three roles, tracks a group of military goons, bureaucrats, and politicians hurtling headlong toward global annihilation, in a vision of nuclear politics as terrifying as it is hilarious.
Wednesday April 15
With an audio commentary featuring director Anna Rose Holmer, writer-producer Lisa Kierulff and writer-editor Saela Davis. Eleven-year-old tomboy Toni (a showstopping Royalty Hightower) is bewitched by the tight-knit dance team she sees practicing in the same Cincinnati gymnasium where she boxes. Enamored by the power and confidence of the strong community of girls, Toni spends less and less time boxing with her older brother, and instead eagerly absorbs the dance routines and masters drills from a distance, even piercing her own ears in an effort to fit in. But when a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells plagues the team, Tonis desire for acceptance becomes more complicated. A wash of stunningly visceral images set to a mesmerizing score, the tour-de-force feature debut from Anna Rose Holmer is a transfixing sensory experience and a potent portrait of adolescent turmoil.
Thursday April 16
45 Years: Criterion Collection Edition #861
In this exquisitely calibrated film, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay perform a subtly off-kilter pas de deux as Kate and Geoff, an English couple who, on the eve of an anniversary celebration, find their long marriage shaken by the arrival of a letter to Geoff that unceremoniously collapses his past into their shared present. Director Andrew Haigh carries the tradition of British realist cinema to artful new heights in45 Years,weaving the momentous into the mundane as the pair go about their daily lives, while the evocatively flat, wintry Norfolk landscape frames their struggle to maintain an increasingly untenable status quo. Loosely adapting a short story by David Constantine, Haigh shifts the focus from the slightly erratic Geoff to Kate, eliciting a remarkable, nuanced portrayal by Rampling of a womans gradual metamorphosis from unflappable wife to woman undone.SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES:An audio commentary featuring Haigh and producer Tristan Goligher; a making-of documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew; and more.
Friday April 17
Double Feature: Great Heavens!
Here Comes Mr. JordanandDown to Earth
One of the most marvelously inventive comedies of the 1940s, the irresistible romantic fantasyHere Comes Mr. Jordanstars Robert Montgomery as a boxer who, when he is mistakenly sent to heaven before his time, is given a second chance on Earthwith a catch. Its enduring popularity spawned multiple remakes (including the 1978 Warren Beatty vehicleHeaven Can Wait) as well as the delightfully escapist musical pseudosequelDown to Earth,starring Rita Hayworth at her most divine as a Greek muse who descends to Earth and charms her way onto the Broadway stage. It, in turn, inspired its own remake decades later: the infamous cult favoriteXanadu.
Saturday April 18
Saturday Matinee: Little Lord Fauntleroy
The definitive screen adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnetts classic, oft-filmed rags-to-riches tale follows the fortunes of the young Ceddie (the delightful Freddie Bartholomew), a precocious boy being raised by his single mother (Delores Costello) in late-nineteenth-century Brooklyn. When he discovers that he is the heir of a British earl and is sent to England to live with his aristocratic grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith)who despises the boys common motherCeddie must win over the old man in order to unite his family. Produced with characteristic meticulousness by the legendary David O. Selznick and costarring a young Mickey Rooney,Little Lord Fauntleroyis a heartwarming childhood fantasy.
Sunday April 19
Directed by Maurice Pialat
What I mean by realism goes beyond reality, declared French master Maurice Pialat, whose at once raw and rigorous films capture all the intensity, vivid humanity, brutality, and tenderness of life itself. Though he was a contemporary of the nouvelle vague, Pialat stood apart from the movement, pursuing an uncompromising personal vision that had more in common with his artistic forebear Jean Renoir. In masterpieces likeWe Wont Grow Old Together, The Mouth Agape, nos amours,andVan Gogh,Pialatrefined a hard-hitting, elliptical style in which searing emotional realism and cutting human truth are prized above all else. Though he may not be as well known internationally as many of his contemporaries, Pialats cinema has had an incalculable effect on a generation of post-New Wave directors like Catherine Breillat, Leos Carax, Philippe Garrel, and Arnaud Desplechin, who has said, The filmmaker whose influence has been the strongest and most constant on the young French cinema isnt Jean-Luc Godard but Maurice Pialat.
The full list of films in the collection includes:Lamour existe,1960Lenfance nue,1968We Wont Grow Old Together,1972The Mouth Agape,1974Graduate First,1979Loulou,1980 nos amours,1983Police,1985Under the Sun of Satan,1987Van Gogh,1991
Monday April 20
Salesman: Criterion Collection Edition #122
This radically influential portrait of American dreams and disillusionment from Direct Cinema pioneers David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin captures, with indelible humanity, the worlds of four dogged door-to-door Bible salesmen as they travel from Boston to Florida on a seemingly futile quest to sell luxury editions of the Good Book to working-class Catholics. A vivid evocation of midcentury malaise that unfolds against a backdrop of cheap motels, smoky diners, and suburban living rooms,Salesmanassumes poignant dimensions as it uncovers the way its subjects fast-talking bravado masks frustration, disappointment, and despair. Revolutionizing the art of nonfiction storytelling with its nonjudgmental, observational style, this landmark documentary is one of the most penetrating films ever made about how deeply embedded consumerism is in Americas sense of its own values.SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES:An audio commentary by the directors, a 1968 television interview with David and Albert Maysles, and more.
Tuesday April 21
Short + Feature: Hair Pieces
The Short and CurliesandShampoo
From blue-collar Britain to jet-set Beverly Hills, hair salons provide the colorful backdrops to these trenchantly funny social studies. Mike Leighs dryly hilarious early shortThe Short and Curliesfeaturing his regular collaborators Alison Steadman and David Thewlisoffers a window into everyday life in Thatcher-era England as it teases out the relationships between a garrulous hairdresser, her sullen teenage daughter, and a regular client with a new do for every day of the week. Then, Hal Ashby crafts a wickedly satirical take on late-sixties sexual politics in his zeitgeist-definingShampoo,starring Warren Beatty as a swinging Hollywood hair stylist who offers his clients more than just a trim.
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Wednesday April 22
Mikey and Nicky: Criterion Collection Edition #957
Elaine May crafted a gangster film like no other in the nocturnal odysseyMikey and Nicky,capitalizing on the chemistry between frequent collaborators John Cassavetes and Peter Falk by casting them together as small-time mobsters whose lifelong relationship has turned sour. Set over the course of one night, this restless drama finds Nicky (Cassavetes) holed up in a hotel after the boss he stole money from puts a hit out on him. Terrified, he calls on Mikey (Falk), the one person he thinks can save him. Scripted to match the live-wire energy of its starsalongside supporting players Ned Beatty, Joyce Van Patten, and Carol Graceand inspired by real-life characters from Mays own childhood, this unbridled portrait of male friendship turned tragic is an unsung masterpiece of American cinema.SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES:A program on the making oft he film, interviews with critics Richard Brody and Carrie Rickey, and more.
Thursday April 23
Early Douglas Sirk
Before he became known as the king of the subversive, lavishly overwrought 1950s melodrama, German migr director Douglas Sirk made his mark in Hollywood with a string of historical dramas, film noirs, comedies, and musicals. Displaying his sophistication, cutting intelligence, and visual flair, these unsung 1940s worksthe sparkling caperA Scandal in Paris,the offbeat show-business satireSlightly French,and the perversely fascinating noirsLuredandShockproofpaint a fuller picture of one of the studio eras most intriguing and endlessly analyzed auteurs.
A Scandal in Paris,1946Lured,1947Shockproof,1949Slightly French,1949
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Posted: at 5:29 am
The manner in which sneakers have come to rule the zeitgeist of Indian menis, simply put, uncanny.
In the last two decades, our affinity and love for the footwear have grown leaps and bounds. So much so, that pick any typical Indian millennial who has the spending, and you will see them in some basic pair of sneakers or the other.
Even our celebrities, actors and cricketers alike, are massive hypebeasts, and can often be seen wearing some zany pairor the other.
However, this was not always the case.
For a rather long time, we had no concept of sneakers or them actually being a fashionable piece of footwear. Long before our fascination with sneakers, we had the concept of sports shoes. They differed from the white canvas PT shoes in the sense that they had a chunkier silhouette and had more stylised, but ultimately functional design cues.
For a long time, sports shoes were considered to be the shoes of the lower-middle-class working man. Not to sound too reductive, but for a long time, sports shoes were not a part of the arsenal of a man in a respectable position.
You would never see a manager or a senior clerk in the '80s wear a pair of sports shoes to the office. Instead, sports shoes were always a part of a young clerical office worker or someone who has just started with his first job.
Or, as Bollywood would have it, sports shoes or sneakers at this juncture, would be the choice of footwear for the well to do, but ultimately unemployed youth. Take Anil Kapoors portrayal of Sunil Sharma from the 1985 film, Saaheb.
The transition between sneakers and sports shoes is murky at best. The same can be said for our fascination with sneakers, as in when exactly did we start thinking of sneakers, as not mere footwear, but a legitimate fashionable statement piece.
To answer that question, we turned to Rahul Anand, the founder of Sneaker Stars India, one of the most widely followed sneaker pages on Instagram.
Globally, sneaker culture started developing around the 80s with basketball and hip hop playing a major role. In India however, both those factors didn't make that big an impact for it to translate into developing a sneaker culture. However, over the past couple of years, the two big drivers for the movement have been the Indian film industry and to some extent cricketers and sporting personalities. That's what we have clearly seen through our page as well. Fans are very keen to know what sneakers their favourite stars and idols wear and then that becomes the seed to make a lasting interest in sneakers, he says.
So, where does Indias sneaker culture stand today? Well, although we have finally arrived onto the scene, we are still a long away from being labelled as thriving and kicking. Says Rahul, The sneakerhead community in India is a small one at the moment but steadily growing.
From the perspective of popular brands though, the sneaker culturehere is still at its nascent stages. That is the reason why, most notable athleisure brands, be it Adidas or Nike have very limited drops of collectable pairs.
This is where outlets like Anand Ahujas VegNonVeg come into play. For Indian sneakerheads, outlets like VegNonVeg are fulfilling a very important gap. Says Rachit Arora, a first-year Economics student from the University of Delhi, It is not always possible for me to get my cousins to send me a pair of sneakers. Unfortunately, for a long time, brands brought the really good stuff (collectable, special edition sneakers) to India very late, if ever. Although this is changing, we still don't get as many pieces as we would ideally like to have. Availability is also a major issue at times. Thanks to multi-brand outlets like VegNonVeg, we have easy access to these pairs.
Most celebrities can actually afford to buy these pieces, well before they show up in India. Sneaker makers too work closely with them, especially if they have been signed as their brand ambassadors. Celebrities would often be given special editions and one-off sneakers to build hype before a new drop is set to arrive.
Furthermore, most celebrities, even if they dont buy the sneakers that they are spotted wearing, have a very strong team of stylists and PR professionals who help their client to get their hands on some rare and zany pairs.
For the common sneakerhead, this rarity and issue with availability have led to two bizarre situations. First, there is the entire segment of counterfeit sneakers or first copy sneakers. We have come across knock offs quite often. Some are really good knock offs and you really need to look close to find the differences, says Rahul.
Interestingly, even celebrities have fallen for them. When we asked Rahul if he has ever seen celebrities wear knock offs, he said, Oh yes, we have seen quite a few, although, we wont be taking names.
The second situation that has come up, are sneaker trades, wherein people trade or sell off their sneakers at a markup. However, not all sneakers are tradeable. Sneaker trades work in case rare or "hyped" sneakers, the ones that are really difficult to get one's hands on. The other kind of sneakers that trade well are the ones that are not in production anymore, says Rahul.
Instagram/sneakertalkindia; Sneaker Talk India organise the DKX, Delhis largest sneakerhead meetup
Depending on the sneaker that is being dealt in, the markups can be exorbitant at times. as Rachit says, We as a community often have meetups, where we exchange sneakers or buy and sell them.
There have often been instances where a pair that would originally for about Rs 30,000-40,000 would resell for double or even triple the price. One guy who I often see in these meetups once bought a pair of Off White Vapormaxs for over Rs 1.25 lakhs, adds Rachit.
This begs the question when people dole out an amount as big as that for a pair of shoes, are they not afraid that they may end up taking a pair of counterfeits? Well, we have experts who inspect the pairs very closely to see if they are genuine or not before the transaction is made, says Rachit, who considers himself as well the guy who bought the Vapormaxs as quintessential Indian sneakerheads.
But how would one describe a sneakerhead today? We again turn to Rahul for answers. He says, It is hard to describe the average sneakerhead today because the segment is growing and evolving through various sections of society and people. For a while, Indian sneakerheads were looked at as people who would skateboard or dress a specific way or play ball etc. But now it has moved passed to encompass a larger audience. This could be attributed to the fashion trend that has evolved to be more functional and focuses on athleisure or street clothing which incorporate sneakers really well. But overall we are thrilled that it is reaching out to a wider audience!
Clearly, Indias sneaker revolution is just getting started. It will be rather interesting to see what is in store for us, and sneakers, and whether internationally-acclaimed brands will be able to capitalise on this rapidly expanding market. But one thing is certain - Indias fascination with sneakers is here to stay for long.
Photo: Instagram/sneakertalkindia (Main Image)
Posted: February 29, 2020 at 11:19 pm
The badge on the lapel of Lushs co-founder, Mark Constantine, does the talking for him today as his beauty retail empire is buffeted by one crisis after another.
A potential pandemic is closing half the bloody world, he explains, as his lapel badge reads: Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.
At the moment I have got no shops open in Hong Kong or Milan. Venice is shut, the 67-year-old adds. A couple of months ago half of bloody Spain was shut down [due to the Barcelona riots]. The fires in California and Australia provided another expletive, while the end of freedom of movement is the fuckity bit, he explains. I keep a neurosis top 10 but Ive got to the point where things that were number one or two a year ago are number nine.
This week Lush stepped up to the plate on the coronavirus, opening its doors for passersby to walk in and wash their hands for free with its soap as government advice flagged the role of basic hygiene in keeping viruses at bay. The simplest thing you can do to not get a virus is to regularly wash your hands, so were saying people can come in off the street and wash their hands for free.
The Poole-based retailer, best-known for its fragrant bars of soap and bath bombs, has run diverse campaigns with subjects ranging from the targeting of activists by undercover policemen to preventing the extinction of hen harriers (a subject close to the heart of bird fanatic Constantine).
But these days UK retailers are becoming an endangered species, with store closures rife and established chains struggling to absorb cost increases as sales move online. Rivals such as Boots, he suggests, are shortchanging customers with tired stores after owners banked profits and failed to invest in store refurbishments.
When I go into Boots Im pissed off, he says. I go to the new concept shop in Covent Garden and I think, well yes, that looks like you invested a bit of money into Boots. I want all my Boots shops to look like that.
Lush, which turns 25 this year, has 446 stores around the world and a turnover of 545m, although the business is twice that size once joint ventures and other overseas tie-ups are taken into account. In 2018 the company made an operating loss of 4m but remained in the black making a pre-tax profit of 23.4m thanks to its share of business partners profits. The company, which has more than 12,000 staff, will show a further decline in profits for the year to June 2019 when its accounts are published next month.
The sales disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak has added to costs stemming from Brexit. Defaulting to World Trade Organization tariffs would cost it 2.6m a year, and Lush has set up a new German plant which it hopes will alleviate some of the business upheaval. The economics of the business have also been affected by the decision to pay UK staff the independently verified living wage, which costs 10m a year more than the legal minimum wage, at a time when its annual business rates bill has also gone up by 1m.
Constantine appears perplexed that his ethical approach to capitalism is not bearing fruit. A perfect situation for me would be, make a profit, pay your tax, give plenty to charity, and make sure youre paying a proper living wage, he explains. So Im not really getting on very well with my perfect virtuous circle.
Lush is the biggest private-sector employer in the Dorset seaside town where it is based. It has 14 manufacturing sites as well as several offices including a trendy set-up reserved for digital-focused staff where hot-deskers can work in a leafy central atrium or overlooking yachts bobbing in the harbour.
Constantine has been an ethical retail crusader for decades and was part of the early success of The Body Shop. He met the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, when he was in his early 20s and became an important supplier to her business, concocting popular products such as peppermint foot cream and cocoa butter body lotion. A tenth of Lush is now owned by staff. The companys founders who include Constantines wife, Mo promise to sell shares to the trust with the ambition that employees will eventually own 35%.
He is confident profits will recover but downhearted that the retailers finances are strained at a time when Lushs business model is in tune with the zeitgeist. I feel very much like Ive been preparing for this moment all my life: where climate change becomes obvious, where excessive packaging is understood, where a sustainable supply is vital and regeneration is important, he explains. But my God, its chaos.
With department stores in the frontline of the retail downturn, Constantine sees scope to commandeer empty stores and turn them into giant soap emporia where shoppers can stock up on shower gel and moisturiser before getting their hair done or having a facial. All 23 Beales outlets including the prominent store in Poole are closing after the department store chain went bust, adding to the growing number of empty stores around the country.
Lush has invested in a 1,390 sq metre (15,000 sq ft) store in Liverpool that the businessman hopes will impress landlords. Perhaps they would like to pop round and have a look? he says. They would have to help me though because Ive spent all me bleedin money doing the big stuff.
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