A World Without Mad Magazine

The California painter and critic Manny Farber extolled “termite art” as occurring “where the spotlight of culture is nowhere in evidence, so that the craftsman can be ornery, wasteful, stubbornly self-involved, doing go-for-broke art and not caring what comes of it.” That need for art to be ugly, to go where it is not wanted, burrowing destructive channels into sacrosanct carpentry, was essential to the creation of Mad magazine, which announced this month that it is ceasing publication.

In 1952, William M. Gaines, the publisher of EC Comics, a New York imprint responsible for the bloody and garish “Tales From the Crypt” and other successful horror, war, and crime titles, invited the staff contributor Harvey Kurtzman to launch a humor title. Kurtzman’s “Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD” (subtitled “Humor in a Jugular Vein”) began as a parody of other EC titles, using the same artists—Jack Davis, Will Elder, Wally Wood, John Severin—to spoof their own over-the-top horror vignettes. The first Mad story was a frenzied, ridiculous haunted-house tale called “Hoohah!” Later issues branched into satire of television, movies, and literature, all done by Kurtzman in the same frantic, punning style (“Dragged Net!” “Flesh Garden!” “Shermlock Shomes!”). Readers loved Mad’s exuberantly lowbrow tone: an early, anonymous letter declared, “What you publish is cheap, miserable trash! Fortunately, I also am cheap miserable trash!” The June, 1954, cover was styled like a literary journal, so that readers “ashamed to read this comic-book in subways and like that” could make “people think you are reading high-class intellectual stuff instead of miserable junk.”

In the spring of 1954, the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held hearings in New York City on the menace of comics, largely prompted by the notoriety of the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham’s best-selling book “Seduction of the Innocent,” which contended that “chronic stimulation, temptation and seduction by comic books . . . are contributing factors to many children’s maladjustment.” Gaines was called to testify, and disputed the arguments in Wertham’s book, insisting that “delinquency is the product of the real environment in which the child lives and not of the fiction he reads. . . . The problems are economic and social, and they are complex.” His testimony was not persuasive, and the hearings resulted in EC and other comic publishers acquiescing to self-censorship, necessitating the creation of a Comics Code Authority, which would henceforth review every issue of every title before granting permission to display a “Seal of Approval,” without which the comics could not be sold.

No EC titles survived the purge except Mad, which escaped the Comics Code by expanding its trim size to become a “magazine”—and this new, adaptable hybrid format was the key to its longevity. The writer Maria Reidelbach, in her history “Completely Mad,” from 1991, explained how Kurtzman and Gaines “styled Mad as a parody of the slick photo magazines, a format that had the advantage of allowing for large illustrations . . . allowing filmlike sequences of drawings and articles with varying amounts of text.” Mad magazine carried no advertising, freeing its satire from any conflicts of interest, but “following magazine conventions, full-page advertising (parodies) appeared on the inside and back covers.” Tony Hendra, the English humorist, observed that the congressional investigation “unwittingly created a vacuum which Mad filled with a vengeance. . . . In the harsh climate of the fifties it is now possible to see there was perhaps room for only one magazine, one fountainhead of impudent print humor.” The placidity of the Cold War boom generated an urgent need for rudeness and disrespect, and Mad responded, broadening its critical gaze beyond comic-strip-art parody and into more generalized social and cultural commentary.

As Mad grew nationally, it received letters from readers who wanted to know what “furshlugginer” and “Potrzebie” and “Ganef” meant. Al Jaffee, now ninety-eight years old and the longest-serving of Mad’s “Usual Gang of Idiots” (as the magazine billed its contributing artists and writers), explained in an interview with Leah Garrett, in 2016, that “the average reader in the country” would not have “made a connection between these strange words and the fact that a lot of people working for Mad were Jewish.” The postwar influx of European-Jewish thinking into suburban American life was, by this time, well under way: the psychoanalytic movement was finding mainstream expression through Gentile icons like Marlon Brando (whose demonstration of Konstantin Stanislavski’s “method” revolutionized Hollywood acting), Hugh Hefner (whose magazine, Playboy, which launched in 1953, aggressively exposed the male id), and Charles Schulz (whose comic strips explored adult neuroses through the prism of a fancifully eloquent childhood).

Jews in the arts who could not freely ascend into high culture (as Leonard Bernstein or Saul Bellow did) brought the Jewish-American comedy tradition, pioneered by Groucho Marx and others, to television, which could deliver its message and tone beyond city limits. Sid Caesar, an early Mad contributor, who graduated from standup jobs in the Catskills—the “Jewish Alps”—created the popular variety show that gave a young Mel Brooks his first television-writing job. (“If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish,” the comedian Lenny Bruce said. “It doesn’t matter, even if you’re Catholic . . . [But] if you live in Butte, Montana, you’re going to be goyish, even if you’re Jewish.”) Jewish comic-book writers and artists performed a different sort of assimilation, cloaking their idiosyncrasies behind a Nordic veneer, and blending in like the superheroes they created. The comics wunderkind Frank Miller wrote that comics were where “a bunch of American Jews imitated a bunch of Greek heroes,” starting with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Depression-era Superman, which was later described as a symbol of mainstreamed, camouflaged Jewish power.

Like queer art or hip-hop, which invert prejudicial slurs into badges of empowerment, Mad’s defiantly labelled “trash” reclaimed the language of highbrow cultural disdain. The Mad “idiots” subverted the comic form into a mainstream ideological weapon, aimed at icons of the left and the right—attacking both McCarthyism and the Beat Generation, Nixon and Kennedy, Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Their urban sensibility was elevated into a national platform for contrarian and anti-authoritarian rebellion, led by a mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, whose misaligned facial features and insouciant grin graced nearly every Mad cover. Like Marcel Duchamp drawing a mustache on the “Mona Lisa,” Mad stamped Alfred E. Neuman onto an endless series of beloved public figures and fictional characters, with his home-plate-shaped head replacing or mocking everyone from Darth Vader and Ronald Reagan to E.T., Michael Jackson, Donald Trump, and Jared Kushner.

The sweep of history that Mad illuminated, from the early nuclear age to the present, provided the magazine with a rich and vital narrative of America and the world. The members of the staff, who posed for the photographs in the fake ads—since models could not be persuaded to mug so garishly—began as mid-century teddy boys, some with goatees or horn-rimmed glasses or berets, cigarette packs rolled into the sleeves of their T-shirts. They were replaced, as the decades passed, by long-haired men and women in floral shirts and bell-bottoms, and then by New Wave hipsters and skate punks. The early nineteen-seventies, probably the peak of it all, were when Mad was most overtly political, excoriating Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew and deriding the “pushers” and “pollution” that stained those years. The April, 1974, cover, arguably Mad’s purest, was a Norman Mingo painting of a fist with a raised middle finger.

The principal writers and artists stayed for decades, usually until they died, maintaining their evergreen features: the flawless caricatures with which Mort Drucker populated his movie parodies (George Lucas called Drucker and the writer Dick DeBartolo “the Leonardo da Vinci and George Bernard Shaw of satire”); the endless, wordless yin-yang battle of needle-nosed Cold War spies created by the Cuban refugee Antonio Prohías; Paul Coker, Jr.,’s sweet, baffled figures defeated by everyday happenstance; Sergio Aragonés’s microscopic, exquisitely tooled “marginal” sight gags; Don Martin’s crazy cityscapes, populated by grotesque clowns with hinged feet, their injuries punctuated with “KLOON” and “ZEEM” and “FLADAT”; the leaden gags of Dave Berg, Mad’s token square, conservative and religious, whose suburban foils in leisure suits and nitwit hippies in bell-bottoms delivered thudding punch lines; Jack Rickard’s charcoal-sculpted fake ads, the products’ slick spokesmen menacing behind gleaming grins.

Unlike science fiction or rock and roll or fantasy literature or superheroes, Mad could never escape its ghetto, by design. The slicker, more cultured progeny that superseded the magazine—among them Lorne Michaels, the Onion, and Stephen Colbert (who wrote the introduction to a collection of Al Jaffee’s “Tall Tales” comic strips)—arose to heights of acclaim and sophistication unthinkable decades ago. Gaines’s death, in 1992, altered his creation about the same way that Steve Jobs’s did his: the venture continued uninterrupted and essentially unchanged, but the essence was gone. When the magazine finally switched to glossy, full-color printing and digital typesetting, in 2001, and began to accept genuine ads (mostly for video-game cartridges and candy), the demographics of the current readership became abruptly visible: the campus radicals and stationed military men and college students who wrote the earliest, most fervently grateful “Letters to Mad” had been replaced by grade-school children.

Sixty-seven years is a good run for anything, but, when Mad confirmed that it was joining National Lampoon and Life and Spy in the magazine graveyard, and the Elysian Fields of online archives, the pang that many felt, as if leaving a childhood bedroom for the last time, was that its departure was nonetheless abrupt and premature. Wherever we are headed, we must now get there without “the Usual Gang of Idiots.” Yet the magazine’s final moment of thumb-in-the-eye relevance—this May, when Donald Trump compared Pete Buttigieg to Alfred E. Neuman—emphasized just how deeply Mad has tunnelled its way into the culture, waiting to inspire anew.

 

Source: A World Without Mad Magazine

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Moves Democrats on Immigration, DHS

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived in El Paso, Texas in early July as part of a congressional delegation to visit two border facilities, her name was in the news for a different reason. That same day, ProPublica reported that a secret Facebook group for Border Patrol agents had shared sexually explicit, violent images targeting her. Ocasio-Cortez said she and her colleagues visiting the facilities saw agents laughing at one point, trying to take a photo of her. “Into that environment, we walked into this facility,” Ocasio-Cortez later told the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Undeterred by the harassment, Ocasio-Cortez used the weeks following her visit to repeatedly call out the injustices of family detention, organize know-your-rights canvasses for immigrants, and talk about dissolving the Department of Homeland Security. “It’s really not that radical,” she tweeted; DHS was only created 17 years ago.

The Trump administration responded with its own tone-deaf counter-programming, sending Vice President Mike Pence to the border to stare blankly at people in cages. Trump weighed in on the “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” who had been dominating the news, tweeting that they should “go back” to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.” To borrow from The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, the cruelty was the point—of Trump’s racist tirade, of shock-jock Facebook posts, of the entire project of family detention as it exists today. But Ocasio-Cortez still remained laser-focused on speaking directly to that cruelty. In her testimony before the House Oversight Committee, she outlined the problem in clear, plain language: “This is a manufactured crisis because there is no need for us to do this.”

Throwing away our current immigration enforcement system wholesale is not a new argument—not in activist circles or among immigrants whose lives are shaped by it every day. But Ocasio-Cortez has been steadily building the national profile of the argument since she took office, working alongside other progressive members of Congress to advance it as a mainstream political position in a way that’s unprecedented for the Democratic Party. In doing so, she’s helping to rewrite the playbook for what a Democratic lawmaker can do and say when it comes to border enforcement; making it possible not just to call out its oversteps, but question just how much of this is necessary to begin with.

Congressional Democrats did speak out the detention of migrant children and families under President Obama (who famously used family detention as a deterrent for so-called “surge” of Central American migrants in the summer of 2014), but their opposition was often much more muted, and much more concerned with decorum.

In May 2015, 136 House Democrats signed an open letter addressed to Jeh Johnson, then head of the DHS, calling for an end to family detention; another letter with 178 signatures followed two months later. Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem Jeffries, Beto O’Rourke, Joaquin Castro, and Tammy Duckworth were among the members of Congress who signed both. The exasperation bleeds into the writing, but on the whole, the first letter leaves plenty of room for the possibility that the DHS’s inaction on the issue of family detention was simply due to a miscommunication. Maybe the department just didn’t know that family detention was so profoundly harmful:

“For nearly one year we have been closely following the troublesome conditions of confinement […] Many of us have raised these matters in writing and continue to bring concerns to DHS through individual case examples and systemic complaints. We believe your Department has heard many of our concerns but has not fully grasped the serious harm being inflicted upon mothers and children in custody.”

During the Obama administration, it seemed like treating the crisis of detention as any sort of urgent moral problem was regarded by the mainstream press and Democratic leadership as completely inappropriate. When the trans Latina immigrants rights activist Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted Obama during a Pride month speech and asked that he release all transgender detainees, the media labeled her a “heckler.” Because Obama could ostensibly point to other liberal victories (which was the whole point of the speech Gutiérrez interrupted: to pat the administration on the back for its work on gay rights), more progressive criticisms of his immigration policy like Gutiérrez’s were seen as a step too far; both in bad taste and not based in fact. (This, despite the fact that Obama had at that time already deported more people than any president in U.S. history.) Gutiérrez’s message may have been in line with what some Democrats were asking for, but the tactic of disruptive protest—of meeting the crisis with the urgency it demanded—was not. (The day before Gutiérrez’s action, 35 House Democrats had sent another open letter to Jeh Johnson, asking him to “use existing discretion to release LGBT individuals” from detention.)

It’s clear that Ocasio-Cortez has a slightly easier time criticizing the commander-in-chief, given that he’s a Republican and a virulent racist, but she also speaks with the same sense of clarity that got Gutiérrez in trouble. When Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan testified before the House Oversight Committee after her border visit, Ocasio-Cortez asked McAleenan about the violent culture flourishing inside CBP, tracing it back to the violent marching orders it was given by the administration.

She asked, “Do you think that the policy of child separation could have contributed to a dehumanizing culture within CBP that contributes and kind of spills over into other areas of content?” She was connecting the dots between family detention, the lack of oversight into CBP, and the photoshopped images of her “violent rape” that had been shared on Facebook. McAleenan refused to see the relevance. “We do not have dehumanizing culture at CBP,” he said.

Listening to Ocasio-Cortez, it’s clear that she believes today’s Congress can chart the path to undoing the harm that the Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations have caused with their immigration policies, rather than wait for the next Democratic president to use executive action to simply “undo” whatever Trump did. She understands the real problem here, which is that CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have long been allowed to operate with impunity. Drawing clear connections between the treatment of migrants inside Border Patrol facilities and the Facebook posts about her, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “This isn’t about ‘a few bad eggs.’ This is a violent culture […] How on earth can CBP’s culture be trusted to care for refugees humanely?” Her message was clear: the ways in which border enforcement was born out of—and continuously fuels—violent xenophobia and racial panic will take years to untangle.

The Department of Homeland Security is a relatively new invention, and Ocasio-Cortez is right to use that as part of her critiques of ICE, CBP, and other agencies within its purview. As my colleague Katie McDonough explained in 2018, while U.S. immigration policy has always been fraught, the creation of DHS explicitly enshrined the myth of the violent, dangerous immigrant into law. Its name justified its existence. In foregrounding the idea of “national security,” the DHS “sends the message that immigration was a threat—that all immigration was a threat,” Erika Lee, a history professor at the University of Minnesota and director of the school’s Immigration History Research Centers, told McDonough.

None of this goes away without dedicated organizing, and a willingness to name hard truths. Dismantling these agencies and the lies about immigrants they’ve engendered will have to be a mainstream political project, or else it won’t work. When Ocasio-Cortez speaks, she’s deliberately building towards that, offering a space for her colleagues to join a morally focused, justice-minded fight for migrants’ rights.

Some Democrats—like Representative Joaquin Castro and Representative Judy Chu, who also visited family detention facilities under Obama—have been doing this work for years. Rather than taking the spotlight from them, Ocasio-Cortez is sharing her platform to elevate that work, and using her particular affinity for language and messaging to help develop strategies through which progressive Democrats can challenge Republicans on the border.

Like Ocasio-Cortez, Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib have also set their sights on the whole machinery of U.S. border enforcement—not just how it hurts asylum-seekers, but how it enlists other vulnerable people to do so. For “black and brown people, because you don’t even need a high school diploma to be a CBP officer, their only pathway to the middle class is to work for CBP,” Pressley recently said at Netroots Nations. “And they are now a part of this larger machine, a cog, in the oppression and incarceration of people who look just like them.” Tlaib similarly pushed back against the idea that simply passing a bill to provide more border funding is the answer to the problem. Tlaib said that during the El Paso trip, “Three agents took me aside, away from my colleagues, and said, ‘More money is not going to fix this.’ That they were not trained to separate children.”

It’s no coincidence that Trump’s “go back home” remark was aimed at four highly visibly, unapologetically progressive women of color. These women are a problem for the Trump administration in the same way that migrants have become a fictionalized matter of national security; in reality, both are a fundamental threat to America’s whiteness and its historic project of white supremacy; they are a threat to a vision of citizenship, belonging, and place that demands whiteness. That is something Trump cannot stand. What Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues are doing right now is being honest about the institutions that serve that vision—the institutions, like the Department of Homeland Security, that were built for expressly that purpose. They’re naming the problem without flinching, and calling out the lie of our immigration system and the devastation it has inflicted on millions of people. If Congress can’t do that, it’ll just happen again.

 

Source: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Moves Democrats on Immigration, DHS

Time to Panic

 

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CreditCreditJules Julien

Opinion

The planet is getting warmer in catastrophic ways. And fear may be the only thing that saves us.

Mr. Wallace-Wells is the author of the forthcoming “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.”

The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii’s East Island.

We are living today in a world that has warmed by just one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, when records began on a global scale. We are adding planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate faster than at any point in human history since the beginning of industrialization.

In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its “Doomsday” report — “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” as one United Nations official described it — detailing climate effects at 1.5 and two degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). At the opening of a major United Nations conference two months later, David Attenborough, the mellifluous voice of the BBC’s “Planet Earth” and now an environmental conscience for the English-speaking world, put it even more bleakly: “If we don’t take action,” he said, “the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Scientists have felt this way for a while. But they have not often talked like it. For decades, there were few things with a worse reputation than “alarmism” among those studying climate change.

This is a bit strange. You don’t typically hear from public health experts about the need for circumspection in describing the risks of carcinogens, for instance. The climatologist James Hansen, who testified before Congress about global warming in 1988, has called the phenomenon “scientific reticence” and chastised his colleagues for it — for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat actually was.

That tendency metastasized even as the news from the research grew bleaker. So for years the publication of every major paper, essay or book would be attended by a cloud of commentary debating its precise calibration of perspective and tone, with many of those articles seen by scientists as lacking an appropriate balance between bad news and optimism, and labeled “fatalistic” as a result.

In 2018, their circumspection began to change, perhaps because all that extreme weather wouldn’t permit it not to. Some scientists even began embracing alarmism — particularly with that United Nations report. The research it summarized was not new, and temperatures beyond two degrees Celsius were not even discussed, though warming on that scale is where we are headed. Though the report — the product of nearly 100 scientists from around the world — did not address any of the scarier possibilities for warming, it did offer a new form of permission to the world’s scientists. The thing that was new was the message: It is O.K., finally, to freak out. Even reasonable.

This, to me, is progress. Panic might seem counterproductive, but we’re at a point where alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable, for several reasons.




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The first is that climate change is a crisis precisely because it is a looming catastrophe that demands an aggressive global response, now. In other words, it is right to be alarmed. The emissions path we are on today is likely to take us to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040, two degrees Celsius within decades after that and perhaps four degrees Celsius by 2100.

As temperatures rise, this could mean many of the biggest cities in the Middle East and South Asia would become lethally hot in summer, perhaps as soon as 2050. There would be ice-free summers in the Arctic and the unstoppable disintegration of the West Antarctic’s ice sheet, which some scientists believe has already begun, threatening the world’s coastal cities with inundation. Coral reefs would mostly disappear. And there would be tens of millions of climate refugees, perhaps many more, fleeing droughts, flooding and extreme heat, and the possibility of multiple climate-driven natural disasters striking simultaneously.

There are many reasons to think we may not get to four degrees Celsius, but globally, emissions are still growing, and the time we have to avert what is now thought to be catastrophic warming — two degrees Celsius — is shrinking by the day. To stay safely below that threshold, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, according to the United Nations report. Instead, they are still rising. So being alarmed is not a sign of being hysterical; when it comes to climate change, being alarmed is what the facts demand. Perhaps the only logical response.

This helps explain the second reason alarmism is useful: By defining the boundaries of conceivability more accurately, catastrophic thinking makes it easier to see the threat of climate change clearly. For years, we have read in newspapers as two degrees of warming was invoked as the highest tolerable level, beyond which disaster would ensue. Warming greater than that was rarely discussed outside scientific circles. And so it was easy to develop an intuitive portrait of the landscape of possibilities that began with the climate as it exists today and ended with the pain of two degrees, the ceiling of suffering.

In fact, it is almost certainly a floor. By far the likeliest outcomes for the end of this century fall between two and four degrees of warming. And so looking squarely at what the world might look like in that range — two degrees, three, four — is much better preparation for the challenges we will face than retreating into the comforting relative normalcy of the present.

ImageFire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California last summer, when more than a million acres burned in the state. Scientists cite climate change as a factor in California's increasingly destructive wildfire seasons.
CreditNoah Berger/Associated Press

The third reason is while concern about climate change is growing — fortunately — complacency remains a much bigger political problem than fatalism. In December, a national survey tracking Americans’ attitudes toward clim ate change found that 73 percent said global warming was happening, the highest percentage since the question began being asked in 2008. But a majority of Americans were unwilling to spend even $10 a month to address global warming; most drew the line at $1 a month, according to a poll conducted the previous month .

Last fall, voters in Washington, a green state in a blue-wave election, rejected even a modest carbon-tax plan. Are those people unwilling to pay that money because they think the game is over or because they don’t think it’s necessary yet?

This is a rhetorical question. If we had started global decarbonization in 2000, according to the Global Carbon Project, we would have had to cut emissions by only about 2 percent per year to stay safely under two degrees of warming. Did we fail to act then because we thought it was all over already or because we didn’t yet consider warming an urgent enough problem to take action against? Only 44 percent of those surveyed in a survey last month cited climate change as a top political priority.

But it should be. The fact is, further delay will only make the problem worse. If we started a broad decarbonization effort today — a gargantuan undertaking to overhaul our energy systems, building and transportation infrastructure and how we produce our food — the necessary rate of emissions reduction would be about 5 percent per year. If we delay another decade, it will require us to cut emissions by some 9 percent each year. This is why the United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, believes we have only until 2020 to change course and get started.

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A fourth argument for embracing catastrophic thinking comes from history. Fear can mobilize, even change the world. When Rachel Carson published her landmark anti-pesticide polemic “Silent Spring,” Life magazine said she had “overstated her case,” and The Saturday Evening Post dismissed the book as “alarmist.” But it almost single-handedly led to a nationwide ban on DDT.

Throughout the Cold War, foes of nuclear weapons did not shy away from warning of the horrors of mutually assured destruction, and in the 1980s and 1990s, campaigners against drunken driving did not feel obligated to make their case simply by celebrating sobriety. In its “Doomsday” report, the United Nations climate-change panel offered a very clear analogy for the mobilization required to avert catastrophic warming: World War II, which President Franklin Roosevelt called a “challenge to life, liberty and civilization.” That war was not waged on hope alone.

But perhaps the strongest argument for the wisdom of catastrophic thinking is that all of our mental reflexes run in the opposite direction, toward disbelief about the possibility of very bad outcomes. I know this from personal experience. I have spent the past three years buried in climate science and following the research as it expanded into ever darker territory.

The number of “good news” scientific papers that I’ve encountered in that time I could probably count on my two hands. The “bad news” papers number probably in the thousands — each day seeming to bring a new, distressing revision to our understanding of the environmental trauma already unfolding.

I know the science is true, I know the threat is all-encompassing, and I know its effects, should emissions continue unabated, will be terrifying. And yet, when I imagine my life three decades from now, or the life of my daughter five decades from now, I have to admit that I am not imagining a world on fire but one similar to the one we have now. That is how hard it is to shake complacency. We are all living in delusion, unable to really process the news from science that climate change amounts to an all-encompassing threat. Indeed, a threat the size of life itself.

How can we be this deluded? One answer comes from behavioral economics. The scroll of cognitive biases identified by psychologists and fellow travelers over the past half-century can seem, like a social media feed, bottomless, and they distort and distend our perception of a changing climate. These optimistic prejudices, prophylactic biases and emotional reflexes form an entire library of climate delusion.

We build our view of the universe outward from our own experience, a reflexive tendency that surely shapes our ability to comprehend genuinely existential threats to the species. We have a tendency to wait for others to act, rather than acting ourselves; a preference for the present situation; a disinclination to change things; and an excess of confidence that we can change things easily, should we need to, no matter the scale. We can’t see anything but through cataracts of self-deception.

CreditBarbara Davidson for The New York Times

The sum total of these biases is what makes climate change something the ecological theorist Timothy Morton calls a “hyperobject” — a conceptual fact so large and complex that it can never be properly comprehended. In his book “Worst-Case Scenarios,” the legal scholar Cass Sunstein wrote that in general, we have a problem considering unlikely but potential risks, which we run from either into complacency or paranoia. His solution is a wonky one: We should all be more rigorous in our cost-benefit analysis.

That climate change demands expertise, and faith in it, at precisely the moment when public confidence in expertise is collapsing is one of its many paradoxes. That climate change touches so many of our cognitive biases is a mark of just how big it is and how much about human life it touches, which is to say, nearly everything.

And unfortunately, as climate change has been dawning more fully into view over the past several decades, all the cognitive biases that push us toward complacency have been abetted by our storytelling about warming — by journalism defined by caution in describing the scale and speed of the threat.

So what can we do? And by the way, who’s “we”? The size of the threat from climate change means that organization is necessary at every level — communities, states, nations and international agreements that coordinate action among them. But most of us don’t live in the halls of the United Nations or the boardrooms in which the Paris climate agreement was negotiated.

Instead we live in a consumer culture that tells us we can make our political mark on the world through where we shop, what we wear, how we eat. This is how we get things like The Lancet’s recent dietary recommendations for those who want to eat to mitigate climate change — less meat for some , more vegetables — or suggestions like those published in The Washington Post , around the time of New Year’s resolutions. For instance: “Be smart about your air-conditioner.”

But conscious consumption is a cop-out, a neoliberal diversion from collective action, which is what is necessary. People should try to live by their own values, about climate as with everything else, but the effects of individual lifestyle choices are ultimately trivial compared with what politics can achieve.

Buying an electric car is a drop in the bucket compared with raising fuel-efficiency standards sharply. Conscientiously flying less is a lot easier if there’s more high-speed rail around. And if I eat fewer hamburgers a year, so what? But if cattle farmers were required to feed their cattle seaweed, which might reduce methane emissions by nearly 60 percent according to one study, that would make an enormous difference.

That is what is meant when politics is called a “moral multiplier.” It is also an exit from the personal, emotional burden of climate change and from what can feel like hypocrisy about living in the world as it is and simultaneously worrying about its future. We don’t ask people who pay taxes to support a social safety net to also demonstrate that commitment through philanthropic action, and similarly we shouldn’t ask anyone — and certainly not everyone — to manage his or her own carbon footprint before we even really try to enact laws and policies that would reduce all of our emissions.

That is the purpose of politics: that we can be and do better together than we might manage as individuals.

And politics, suddenly, is on fire with climate change. Last fall, in Britain, an activist group with the alarmist name Extinction Rebellion was formed and immediately grew so large it was able to paralyze parts of London in its first major protest. Its leading demand: “Tell the truth.” That imperative is echoed, stateside, by Genevieve Guenther’s organization End Climate Silence, and the climate-change panel’s calls to direct the planet’s resources toward action against warming has been taken up at the grass roots, inspiringly, by Margaret Klein Salamon’s Climate Mobilization project.

Of course, environmental activism isn’t new, and these are just the groups that have arisen over the past few years, pushed into action by climate panic. But that alarm is cascading upward, too. In Congress, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has rallied liberal Democrats around a Green New Deal — a call to reorganize the American economy around clean energy and renewable prosperity. Washington State’s governor, Jay Inslee, has more or less declared himself a single-issue presidential candidate.

And while not a single direct question about climate change was asked of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential debates, the issue is sure to dominate the Democratic primary in 2020, alongside “Medicare for all” and free college. Michael Bloomberg, poised to spend at least $500 million on the campaign, has said he’ll insist that any candidate the party puts forward has a concrete plan for the climate.

This is what the beginning of a solution looks like — though only a very beginning, and only a partial solution. We have probably squandered the opportunity to avert two degrees of warming, but we can avert three degrees and certainly all the terrifying suffering that lies beyond that threshold.

But the longer we wait, the worse it will get. Which is one last argument for catastrophic thinking: What creates more sense of urgency than fear?

CreditJosh Edelson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

Source: Time to Panic

Advice for the End of the World

For former Jezebel staffer Ellie Shechet, it is nearly always time to freak out. Doom—personal, professional, planetary—awaits, beckoning at the wings. No one has exactly asked for her advice, but we gave her a column anyway. Advice for the End of the World is a limited edition advice column for catastrophic thinkers, by a catastrophic thinker, in a time of looming catastrophe. Here are her thoughts.

Ellie! Help!

I’m so convinced that the end of the world is imminent that I keep looking at my boyfriend and thinking, “I wonder what it will be like to watch you die of thirst… if I don’t go first.” Am I worrying too much, or just being real with myself?

“Am I worrying too much or just being real with myself?” is really the defining question of these darkening times, isn’t it? It’s also a question that most experienced neurotics have eventually backed into and then continued to back into, over and over again, like a dying Roomba.

First, I’d like to say: it’s sweet, honestly, that you are worried about watching your boyfriend die. If I were your boyfriend, I’d be flattered. If you are going to be consumed by the idea that those of us who don’t get immediately trampled (i.e. me) in the Absolute Worst War of 2035 will probably die in some slow horrible way, it’s nice that you are thinking of your boyfriend before yourself. However, do you really want to spend your time focusing on this, rather than reveling in the fact that your boyfriend is so, so hot and very alive and probably not thirsty at all right at this moment?

The interesting thing about thoughts is that they are both optional and completely dedicated to tricking you into believing they are not optional. In my vast experience, worries can be particularly sticky and bulky, like a 7-year-old bully covered in dried juice with his face shoved so close to yours that he appears, in that moment, to be the entire universe.

Worries are almost always both reasonable and stupid; they are magical in that way, a kind of “freeze!” spell we cast on ourselves. One can have a somewhat realistic worry—what if my child gets Lyme disease whilst rolling in a leaf pile in Maine, what if I get laid off, what if that shitty thing I did has caused so-and-so to think I’m shitty—but by spending too much time with it, or allowing it to rest too heavily upon our turgid gut, it becomes stifling; less of a thought than a thick wool blanket on a 100-degree night.

I’m not sure, honestly, if it’s worth your time to be overwhelmingly frightened about the end of the world, unless this concern spurs you into some kind of positive community or nature-oriented action. If the latter is likely, then please, by all means, freak out; it would be cool if more people were losing their minds in a useful way, rather than just gazing forlornly into the sunken eye holes of our triple-aged FaceApp portraits.

But this trickling, helpless, primarily interpersonal sense of impending doom, of which I believe you are speaking, is very familiar to me, and I’m not convinced that it’s entirely useful to anyone. When the world “ends”—in the event of some immediate all-at-once conflagration—in addition to wishing we’d, um, done something about it, we’ll probably wish we’d spent more time doing nice things for people, or appreciating how weird turtles are (they live in BOXES), or enjoying a taco with our boyfriends without worrying about what they’ll look like as a dehydrated husk of a man.


Ellie! Help!

What if I choose to have a baby and I do it too early and I never get those unencumbered years of my life back? What if I choose to have a baby and do it too late and I miscarry or my baby has some sort of genetic issue and I feel like it’s my fault for waiting? What if I choose not to have a baby and regret it?

I completely relate to this spin-out you’re having here, and have asked these questions many times myself, which is why I feel I can bluntly say: please put down that copy of Motherhood by Sheila Heti (never personally read it, heard great things, would love to read it, as I am in the appropriate age range, thank you so much). As a wise woman named Madeleine Davies once told me, if you believe in the existence of consequence-free decisions, you’re going to feel bad about every choice. That’s probably all you need to know, at the moment.

Anyway, by the time you’re ready to have kids, if you decide that’s something you’d like to do, we might all be dead, or floating through space in tiny ships being gently nudged towards nirvana by a flock of spiritually advanced aliens, or entirely infertile as a species.


Ellie! Help!

If I haven’t had a long-term relationship worth adapting into a screenplay by 30, am I destined to be a solo artist forever?

God, I hope not. I know you probably don’t mean for this question to be taken earnestly, but the root of what you’re asking, which you do mean and are wondering, isn’t so wild. It’s shockingly easy to be single, and “forever,” as anyone over 25 can attest, moves quickly. One could very swiftly conclude that an entire life spent alone is in the cards. Like, may we please be dramatic for one moment? May we please panic? This is scary! The world doesn’t owe us anything! We could just choke on a turmeric capsule and die and that’s it!

As a person approaching 30 myself, my own dating history can feel clownish, filled with flings and false starts and casual whatevers and piles of men that I have deemed unworthy for probably bad reasons and around zero long-term partnerships. I can’t offer wisdom from The Other Side; I’m still figuring this out. This column, in general, is for commiserating (and hopefully, coping).

So, yes, it can be anxiety-inducing to feel like you’re failing at something intuitive. Are we cyborgs? Are we just awful? And yet, awful people fall in love every day. Does that mean we are especially awful? It’s easy to feel like a victim of yourself—to believe that there is some terrible honking demon inside of you preventing you from becoming that glowing bitch at the barbecue, set suddenly at ease by the stabilizing love of another. “Wow!” everyone would say, if not for, sadly, this dark passenger hiding out in your esophagus. “They are really coming into their own, thanks to their amazing relationship!”

For me (and I think possibly for you, judging by the framing of your question), all of this can quickly take on the air of a high-stakes performance. We start to worry about how it looks that we’re still single, what it means about us; we begin to see coupledom as a crown, or a glowing box that reads “CHECK ME ASAP OR ELSE I GUESS YOU’RE A NIGHTMARE.” It’s hard to shake this worldview when our culture remains determined to celebrate relationships as a marker of normalcy, and when we watch as, one by one, our peers scoot on down the shiny road of healthy adulthood—renting affordable one-bedrooms, planting gardens, adopting dogs and relaxed expressions, getting married, getting toasted, getting shiny tangerine Le Creuset dutch ovens that you would frankly also like to own.

You can know, on an intellectual level, that a lot of these people are no happier than you are, that some of them are putting on a show of their own, and that some of their relationships are weird and depressing; it doesn’t matter. You want it. It’s an understandable impulse, but it can also get kind of intense and grabby and solipsistic, and it’s possible that whoever you’re dating at the moment will not feel particularly seen. Which is all anyone really wants.

I don’t know why you’re single; maybe it’s mostly circumstantial, maybe you’ve dated some real turds, maybe it’s a blend of a million reasons. I am no oracle, and I cannot say if a lifetime of solo artistry is in your future. But if you’re asking for my advice (and I’m not sure if you are but I’d like to continue), the best approach probably has something do with becoming—or, in the face of repeated disappointment, remaining—open, which is not so much an action as a herculean shift in perspective.

We’re all flawed, but for most people, openness requires a certain acceptance of the fact that there’s nothing massively bad or wrong inside of you that you must keep tabs on at all times. That belief—particularly hard to avoid for those who have danced with rejection and/or solitude—tends to turn our relationships with ourselves into a corrosive exercise in stage management, and it trains us to feel suspicious of anyone who might want to get involved in such a cursed production. It keeps us locked out of the world, lost in a murky narrative. Having spent some time in there myself, I can say: you’re probably not going to make any interesting discoveries.

I realize that I am basically suggesting you try “living in the moment.” But there are only a few true things, and most of them are saccharine and cliché, and everybody needs to get over it. Anyway, this is actually an easy skill to practice, particularly outside of a dating context. Personally, being a millennial, I’ve been spending a lot of time staring at plants. Jenny Odell recommends birds. Ultimately, our individual lives are small and not so serious, and the more we can stay in touch with that sense of levity, and keep our attention trained on whatever or whoever is sitting right in front of us, the more three-dimensional our experiences—and relationships—will become.

(In the meantime, I feel like I should remind you: singlehood, and also angst, are essentially fountains of creativity. Relationships can be boring, I hear. If nothing else, going on dates is a nice way to learn about the behaviors and idiosyncrasies of other people—especially if you are, say, interested in writing a novel, or a screenplay. Just a thought.)

Feeling melodramatic? Frantic, even? Email Ellie at [email protected] with “Ellie! Help!” in the subject line. If you need actual help, please reach out to a therapist or medical professional.

About the author

Ellie Shechet

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master’s degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.

 

Source: Advice for the End of the World

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Is Not for Women: Review

At a Cannes Film Festival press conference in May, the New York Times culture writer Farah Nayeri observed that Quentin Tarantino hadn’t given many lines to Margot Robbie, one of the stars of the movie he was promoting, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “I guess that was a deliberate choice on your part, and I just wanted to know why that was that we don’t hear her actually speaking very much,” said Nayeri, who’d noted Robbie’s considerable talent in the preamble to her question. “Well, I just reject your hypotheses,” was Tarantino’s answer.

What an odd, petulant response. Unless Tarantino was referring to subjective things in Nayeri’s question (Robbie’s chops and/or the perceived choice he made to underuse them), which seems unlikely, there was no hypothesis in Nayeri’s quantitative and correct observation that Robbie (as Sharon Tate) doesn’t say very much in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Mild spoilers ahead

I didn’t take a tally of her lines when I screened the film earlier this week, but I would be surprised if they comprised more than 10 percent of the script. There are long stretches of time where she appears silently on screen, this glowing creature who the film seems to suggest is better seen than heard. On two occasions, she is seen from afar while men explain her life to us: Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) describes Tate’s close, complicated dynamic with her ex-boyfriend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch) and husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), while toward the end of the film a voice over from Kurt Russell mentions the “touch of pregnancy-induced melancholy” Tate was experiencing the night of August 8, 1969, the last full day of her life, which was “later reported that it was the hottest night of the year and made her feel especially pregnant in all the worst ways,” whatever that means.

The audience learns about as much about Tate from these male characters as we do from Tate herself. The deepest probing of her interior life occurs when she watches The Wrecking Crew amongst civilians at a Los Angeles movie theater. After not being recognized by the box-office attendant, Tate eventually convinces the manager that she appeared in the mega-hit Valley of the Dolls and poses for a picture next to the Wrecking Crew poster. Inside the theater, she watches herself eagerly, and then more eagerly as she experiences the audience’s warm reception of her somewhat slapstick performance. Sharon Tate lived for the applause, is about all Tarantino’s flat-as-a-studio-backdrop script can muster. During this scene, Robbie appears with her bare feet up on the back of the seat in front of her, an explicit reference to Tarantino’s foot fetish, lest you confuse his leer for mere gaze.

The Tate that Robbie’s Tate watches on screen is the actual Tate in the actual 1968 film, which I suppose should be moving or meta or movingly meta but it mostly just reminds you of the great contrast at hand. Neither Robbie nor Tarantino have come close to nailing Tate—Robbie opts not for Tate’s affected serenity nor idiosyncratic speech pattern with notes of aristocracy. When she peeks out from behind the blankness at all, it’s via mild ’80s-sitcom-grade blonde ditziness. Robbie has as much in common with Tate as the mechanical shark in Jaws does with an actual great white. It’s just a rough outline. She’s given not much to work with and somehow does less with it.

“He likes movies more than he likes people,” my colleague Chris Person said of Tarantino, when I summed up my negative feelings about this movie. I think this is correct. That predilection is less of a problem when his characters are composites or vessels for his own philosophies. He previously killed Hitler, a former actual person, on screen in Inglourious Basterds, which was fine because anyone worth listening to isn’t going to be mad about watching a caricature of Hitler die. Taking Tate’s story, telling a sliver of it, and bringing nothing fresh to the rendering of her, though, is such a bizarre choice, given how much cultural real estate Charles Manson, his followers, and their atrocities have been given over the past 50 years. It’s not enough to just give us a microwaved idea of Tate, and we should expect more from a filmmaker as bold and wild as Tarantino. In this, he has failed Tate, himself, and us.

Referencing her co-star Brad Pitt’s description of the movie as not depicting rage toward specific people but “against a loss of innocence,” Robbie answered Nayeri’s question at Cannes by saying in part that she didn’t think her role was intended to “delve deeper” and that, “I think the tragedy ultimately was the loss of innocence and to really show those wonderful sides of her I think could be adequately done without speaking. I did feel like I got a lot of time to explore the character even without dialogue specifically.”

So that’s what the movie is about? The “loss of innocence” at the end of the ’60s? A two-hour-and-forty-five minute rendering of what Joan Didion summed up in a few frequently quoted sentences in The White Album? (“Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled.”) Really?

Earlier in the press conference, Robbie said that Tarantino told her that Tate was the “heartbeat” of Once Upon a Time. It’s telling that she’s so mechanical, so lifeless. The movie is D.O.A. Besides, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s focus is not on Tate but on the fictional characters Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The former is a washed-up star of TV Westerns who is stumbling through his transition to movies; the latter is his stunt double. Popularity made Rick happy, the absence of it makes him sad, and without very much insight beyond the propelling properties of mass adoration, ruminating on their existence preoccupies much of the film’s runtime. There’s some self-consciously filmmakery flare (jump cuts, Dutch angles), some artful lopsidedness (the aforementioned narration by Kurt Russell occurs sporadically, once toward the movie’s beginning and then during its final reel), a lot of film-nerd wankery that suggests you can take the man out of the video store but never the video store out of the man (yes, Tarantino, we know you know that sound was done in post for old Italian movies and that all actors spoke their respective languages creating a sort of mini “Tower of Babel” on each set).

And yet, it’s an oddly inert product. There isn’t much of the idiosyncratic philosophizing and observing of his earlier work—no examination of the intimacy of foot massages, no theories on how coughing while smoking weed gets you higher, no pulling back the curtain of how girls named Shana feel about girls named Shauna. With his supposedly penultimate film, Tarantino, however inadvertently, is telegraphing his fatigue via that of his has-been character. He is all but explicitly announcing that his best creative days are behind him.

Tarantino’s handling of Tate would be enough suggest that the writer-director has not atoned very much despite a spate of recent controversies regarding his treatment of women and their abusers. In 2017, he admitted that he was aware of longtime collaborator Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexually predatory behavior but wrote it off. He was accused by collaborator Uma Thurman of creating an unsafe work environment on the set of Kill Bill, facilitating a car crash that resulted in several injuries, including a concussion. He defended Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old girl in a 2003 Howard Stern interview that was unearthed by Jezebel in 2018.

But there’s so much more shittiness toward woman in Once Upon a Time that is delivered without much of a moral judgement. Pitt’s character Cliff, it turns out, killed his wife and got away with it, which bothers stunt coordinator Randy (Kurt Russell), but it bothers his stunt coordinator wife (Zoe Bell) far more. As this is discussed, we see a flashback to Cliff on a boat, pointing a speargun at a ranting woman. He killed her, yes… but she was really fucking annoying! A brief confrontation between Bell’s character and Pitt’s yields more womanly nagging. (Nag nag nag.) Despite this (slash because of it?), Pitt is the film’s de facto hero. Margaret Qualley plays Pussycat, a Manson family member who seduces Cliff, despite being underage. She wants it! is the movie tells us. She hitches a ride and offers to suck his dick. He asks how old she is, and in one of the film’s rare examples of Tarantinoistic wisdom, she says that she’s old enough to fuck him, but he’s too old to fuck her. Watch out for those old-timey catch-22s! She’s the only woman in the Family to evince any charm.

When Cliff visits the Spahn Ranch, on which the Family lived, he’s met with dirty, snarling, feral hippieoids. (Tarantino seems to think that the most interesting thing about the Family is that they lived on a ranch that was used as the set of old Westerns, thus creating the perfect opportunity for a Western-style stand-off. Once Upon a Time is now Tarantino’s third straight movie heavily influenced by and rifling through tropes of Westerns, to which I say: enough.) During the climax of the film, in which Tarantino rewrites the Manson Family murders narrative by virtue of the fact that he can (and with little other compelling rationale that I could sniff out), the brutality exacted on the women is straight-up shocking, and I say this as someone with an iron stomach for cinematic carnage. I’m highly suspicious of Tarantino’s motivation here. Here is a director who has repeatedly referred to himself as God, and God doesn’t like being told what to do. For years, Spike Lee criticized his use of the n-word in his scripts, and what did Tarantino do in 2012? He released Django Unchained, a movie about slavery that provides the strongest narrative rationale to use that word. He sure showed us! Tarantino’s treatment of women was repeatedly criticized, and so here, he beats the life out of some Manson girls because, hey, they’re Manson girls so who cares? Another perfect excuse. The Tex Watson character suffers, but not nearly as viscerally.

That isn’t even all of it. DiCaprio’s Rick takes it upon himself to improvise while sharing a scene with a precocious 8-year-old girl by throwing her off his lap. She lands on the floor several feet in front of him, but after the director yells, “Cut!” she notes that she’s fine because she was wearing arm pads. Is that a crass reference to Thurman’s allegations? Should she have just worn arm pads? Is there any reason for Tarantino to have cast Emile Hirsch, who in 2015 plead guilty to assaulting Paramount executive Daniele Bernfeld, other than to say fuck you to anyone who might have a problem with Hollywood’s continued abetting of men who have not just hurt women, not just choked, dragged, and body-slammed them (per Bernfeld’s account to police), but admitted to doing so? Who the fuck is this movie for besides people who enter the theater enthralled (I cannot believe such a limp, plodding, and unfunny script has resulted in what’s currently an 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one long ramble about the good old days that reveals its pointlessness and malice the longer it goes on. Times are changing and Tarantino seems awfully cranky about that.


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hits theaters July 26.

 

Source: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Is Not for Women: Review

Life Fitness’s Advertising Platform Brings Programmatic Ads to the Gym – Adweek

Programmatic advertising isn’t just regulated to our computer screens anymore. Recent months have seen digital billboards in malls, airports and city streets go digital. Now, the trend is hitting the gym.

Today, Life Fitness—a fitness equipment company that produces everything from treadmills to elliptical bikes for gyms, college dorms and hotels across the country—officially kicked off its advertising platform set to work on the tablet screens hooked up to many pieces of its cardio equipment. Life Fitness has been piloting the program (aptly dubbed Life Fitness Media) since October of last year and will roll it out into “select” markets throughout the U.S. this year.

The new media company will sell its inventory not only directly, but also programmatically, thanks to a partnership with Vistar Media, an ad-tech firm that aggregates location and behavioral consumer data into its OOH-centric ad exchange.

Gym-goers may notice changes ranging from in-gym promos—like newly available personal trainers—to fitness-centric ads that appeal to the American fitness enthusiast, according to Melanie Wagner, who directs innovations and digital solutions for Life Fitness. “We looked at this as an opportunity to take advantage of our screen presence,” she explained. “You have this audience that’s captive, highly engaged and are frankly accustomed to seeing their favorite brands across different screens every day. It felt like a natural extension to bring those brands to our screens as well.”

As more and more digital screens fill consumer’s lives, advertisers are mulling over the best ways to monetize that space at scale, with the help of programmatic channels. Analysts at Magna estimated that the digital OOH market would reach roughly $31 billion globally by the end of 2018, and we’ve seen industry heavyweights like Verizon Media throw their hats into the ring by adding OOH inventory to their DSP offerings last month.

Magna evp Vincent Letang attributed OOH’s success to the inability to skip or block ads the way consumers tend to do when they’re using a mobile app or watching an online video. The only thing consumers can do to block out OOH ads is walk away—and that’s not really a possibility in the midst of a strenuous cardio routine.

Source: Life Fitness’s Advertising Platform Brings Programmatic Ads to the Gym – Adweek

Heat Wave in New York: More Than 27,000 Con Edison Customers Lose Power – The New York Times

 

The New York Fire Department also said it was investigating whether an air conditioner contributed to a Queens fire that killed a mother and her daughter.

ImageMilo Maimone, 8, and his dad, Tony, rest after working out at the McCarren Park track in Brooklyn on Sunday.
CreditCreditGabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times

[What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]

More than 27,000 customers were without power in New York City and Westchester as the third day of dangerously hot weather continued to grip the region, officials said. Fire officials said the soaring temperatures also may have contributed to a Queens fire that killed a mother and daughter.

With temperatures over 90 degrees by 8 a.m., about 100 firefighters fought the heat and the flames Sunday morning as a blaze tore through a house in Richmond Hill in Queens, killing a mother and her 7-year-old daughter, and critically injuring the woman’s two teenage sons. Fire Department officials said they were investigating whether the fire was linked to the family’s air conditioner, which neighbors said was located on the first floor.

The police said Silvia Umana, 51, lived in the home with her daughter, Lupe Perez, and two sons, whom neighbors identified as Gilbert, 19, and Gabriel, 15. The younger boy escaped out a second-story window and was rescued by firefighters.

“They always complained about how hot their house was,” said Tiffany Elahie, 14, a friend of the children who lived a few doors away.

ImageFire officials were investigating whether an air conditioner caused a fire that killed two people in Queens.
CreditGabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times

It was a tragic coda to a sweltering heat wave that began on Friday, with temperatures that hovered consistently in the mid-90s. In some neighborhoods, the heat index was more than a dozen degrees higher.

New York fire officials said they had expanded emergency service crews in anticipation of a surge in calls, and since Friday had responded to more than 230 heat-related incidents, the majority involving older patients.

Across the five boroughs, many New Yorkers stayed inside — and cranked air conditioning. But by Sunday night, Con Edison was reporting more than 27,000 customers were without electricity; most of the power failures were in Brooklyn.

“It is the third day of the heat wave, so the system is really baking at this point,” said Alfonso Quiroz, a spokesman for Con Edison.

According to its power failure map, Con Edison customers in Gravesend were expected to have power returned by 10 p.m. on Sunday. But in Park Slope and Queens, the company estimated residents could be without power until Monday afternoon.

P.S.E.G. Long Island had wrestled with its own power failure on Saturday night that left thousands without power in the Rockaways.

By Sunday night, both companies were asking customers across neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens to limit the use of electrical appliances. Con Edison s aid it had reduced voltage by 8 percent in affected areas to protect equipment and maintain service as repairs were made.

“Because the heat is still so heavy today, if customers could alleviate some of the stress to the system it would help overall,” said Elizabeth Flagler, a P.S.E.G. Long Island spokeswoman.

Mr. Quiroz said Con Edison had hit “record high-power demand” for a weekend.

CreditStephen Speranza for The New York Times

New York, like much of the country, has been struggling under intense heat, pushing officials in the city to declare a state of emergency. Meteorologists have issued extreme heat advisories stretching from the East Coast through the panhandle of Texas and the Midwest.

Halfway up that Northeast corridor, the heat delayed a Greyhound bus traveling on Sunday morning to New York from Boston. Matt Joyal, a passenger, said that customers were stuck waiting on the side of the highway for a replacement bus, which he said they were told would take two to three hours to arrive.

Showers and thunderstorms, and with them cooler temperatures, were expected toward the Midwest. In New York, rain — and relief from the heat — was expected on Monday.

A handful of New Yorkers did emerge on Sunday morning to take advantage of the relatively cooler morning temperatures, with handball and slow-pitch softball games carrying on in Brooklyn. Wilfredo Perez, 29, ran ice cubes across his hands in between games at handball courts in Coney Island. “The heat doesn’t bother me,” Mr. Perez said. “It actually makes the ball bounce better.”

As the heat wave stretched into a third day, even law enforcement agencies were losing patience. The New York City Police Department said on Twitter that “Sunday has been canceled,” and in Braintree, Mass., the police requested that anyone thinking of committing a crime wait until Monday, when it had cooled down.

“We are asking anyone thinking of doing criminal activity to hold off until Monday. It is straight up hot as soccer balls out there,” the Braintree Police Department said in a now-viral Facebook post.

The city’s Department of Correction said it had received at least 13 heat-related complaints over the weekend. Latima Johnson, a spokeswoman for the department, was unable to say how high temperatures had reached inside the city’s jail facilities.

The 311 system, however, had received 162 heat-related complaints about the city’s jails, including 94 on Saturday. William Reda, a 311 spokesman, said the system does not track whether calls come from an inmate or a relative.

As part of its response to extreme temperatures, the city opened hundreds of cooling centers this weekend, including one at the Jacob A. Riis Settlement House, a community center serving Queensbridge Houses residents in Long Island City. It did not draw a huge crowd, but the people who took advantage of it, like the group assembled for a tenants association meeting, were grateful.

CreditYana Paskova for The New York Times

One bodega owner lamented his struggle to keep ice in stock, and said he hadn’t figured out how to keep his water bottles cool.

“We stocked up on ice again last night, and after two hours today, we ran out,” said Kenny Cheng, 40, who runs a corner shop called James Market in Manhattan’s Chinatown. “People bought it all up.”

Glimpses of a more innocent New York surfaced as residents without air-conditioning poured into the streets. They queued up in long lines for community swimming pools, played in the water shooting from fire hydrants and sought shade wherever they could find it.

CreditByron Smith for The New York Times

Dream Harris was among the young opportunists.

“Ice-cold water! One dollar!” Dream, 7, shouted on Saturday afternoon from the corner of 152nd street and Morningside Avenue in Harlem. Supervised by her mother, she had made $30 in an hour.

She planned to keep working until she was out of water. At that point, the plan was to dash through the sprinklers in St. Nicholas Park, pick up some more bottles and get back to work.

Rebecca Liebson, Derek Norman, Ashley Southall, Jan Ransom, Rick Rojas, Sean Piccoli and John Surico contributed reporting.

Ali Watkins is a reporter on the Metro Desk, covering courts and social services. Previously, she covered national security in Washington for The Times, BuzzFeed and McClatchy Newspapers. @AliWatkins

 

Source: Heat Wave in New York: More Than 27,000 Con Edison Customers Lose Power – The New York Times

Satellite Images Show Vast Swaths of the Arctic On Fire

Vast stretches of Earth’s northern latitudes are on fire right now. Hot weather has engulfed a huge portion of the Arctic, from Alaska to Greenland to Siberia. That’s helped create conditions ripe for wildfires, including some truly massive ones burning in remote parts of the region that are being seen by satellites.

Pierre Markuse, a satellite imagery processing guru, has documented some of the blazes attacking the forests and peatlands of the Arctic. The imagery reveals the delicate landscapes with braided rivers, towering mountains, and vast swaths of forest, all under a thick blanket of smoke.

In Alaska, those images show some of the damage wrought by wildfires that have burned more than 1.6 million acres of land this year. Huge fires have sent smoke streaming cities earlier this month, riding on the back of Anchorage’s first 90 degree day ever recorded. The image below show some of the more remote fires in Alaska as well as the Swan Lake Fire, which was responsible for the smoke swallowing Anchorage in late June and earlier this month.

Image: Pierre Markuse
The Swan Lake Fire just south of Anchorage.
Image: Pierre Markuse

Intense hot conditions have also fanned flames in Siberia. The remote nature of many of the fires there means they’re burning out of control, often, through swaths of peatland that’s normally frozen or soggy. But as Thomas Smith, a fire expert at London School of Economics, noted on Twitter, there are ample signs the peat dried out due to the heat and is ablaze. That’s worrisome since peat is rich in carbon, and fires can release it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Peat fires can also burn underground into the winter and reignite in spring.

The images below show fires in Batagay in central Siberia and the region’s Lena River.

Image: Pierre Markuse

Then there’s the weird fire that sparked up in Greenland last week. A landscape known more for its ice, this is the second time in the past three years a wildfire has ignited in western Greenland. There are very few historical precedents for these types of blazes, and though they’re not on the scale of what’s happening in Siberia and Alaska, they’re yet another symptom of an Arctic transitioning into a more volatile state as the planet warms.

Greenland on fire.
Image: Pierre Markuse

All told, northern fires released as much carbon dioxide in June as the entire country of Sweden does in a year, according to data crunched by the European Union’s Copernicus program. The agency said the wildfire activity is “unprecedented” amidst what was, incidentally, the hottest June ever recorded for the planet with the Arctic particularly sweltering. All that carbon dioxide released by fires represents one of the scarier feedback loops of climate change as hot weather ensures more fires, which releases carbon dioxide and makes climate change worse. The boreal forest that rings the northern portion of the world is witnessing a period of wildfire activity unseen in at least 10,000 years, and this summer is another worrying datapoint.

 

Source: Satellite Images Show Vast Swaths of the Arctic On Fire

House Votes To Allow Internet Service Providers To Sell, Share Your Personal Information

The new Federal Communications Commission’s rules intended to limit how companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Charter can use internet customers’ sensitive personal information are effectively dead in the water, thanks to a House of Representatives vote today to kill the regulations, making sure internet service providers can use and sell user data.
The final vote was 215 to repeal the privacy rules with 205 votes to keep them in place. Voting was mostly along party lines, though 15 Republicans broke rank to vote against the resolution. No Democrats voted in its favor.
The GOP lawmakers that voted against the resolution were Justin Amash (MI), Mo Brooks (AL), Mike Coffman (CO), Warren Davidson (OH), John Duncan (TN), John Faso (NY), Garret Graves (LA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), Walter Jones (NC), Tom McClintock (CA), David Reichert (WA), Mark Sanford (SC), Elise Stefanik (NY), Kevin Yoder (KS), Lee Zeldin (NY).
The Senate has already approved this resolution, meaning it only awaits the signature of President Trump to undo the FCC regulations.
The rules, finalized in October by the FCC, effectively divide the data that your ISP has about you and your browsing habits into two categories.
The first category is sensitive data. ISPs would have been prevented from using the following information without your permission:
• Geographic location
• Children’s information
• Health information
• Financial information
• Social Security numbers
• Web browsing history
• App usage history
• The content of communications
The second category includes less-sensitive, but still personal data. ISPs would have been allowed to use this information, but would have been required to allow users the opportunity to opt out of having the following shared:
• Your name
• Your address
• Your IP address
• Your current subscription level
• Anything else not in the “opt in” bucket.
The rules were immediately opposed by ISPs and their lobbyists, who said the regulations were unfair because they did not place the same restriction on content companies Google and Netflix — while glossing over the fact that the FCC has no authority to regulate what Google and Netflix do with their user information.
Republican lawmakers are using the Congressional Review Act to roll back this regulation. The CRA allows lawmakers to issue resolutions of disapproval on new, major regulations. For a CRA resolution to be enacted, it must be passed by a majority in both the House and Senate, then signed by the President.
Until the Trump administration, this law had only been used successfully once in its 20-year history. Congress has already passed more than ten CRA resolutions on to the White House in just the last couple of months. President Trump is expected to sign the resolution killing the internet privacy rule.
Despite the overwhelming GOP vote in favor of this resolution, Rep. Michael Burgess (TX) was one of the few Republicans on hand during the early afternoon session to argue for rolling back the FCC privacy rules.
Burgess referred to these regulations as “duplicative” and twice read directly from the website of the Federal Trade Commission, noting that the FTC has long been the consumer privacy enforcer for the federal government — while failing to recognize that the recent reclassification of broadband as a “common carrier” piece of vital telecommunications puts it fully under the FCC’s regulatory umbrella, meaning the FTC can’t enforce privacy regulations on broadband providers.
In fact, the FTC Act has an explicit exception for common carriers, meaning it has no legal authority to regulate broadband providers. We know this because AT&T successfully used this exception to wriggle out of an FTC lawsuit in 2016.
On the Democratic side of the early afternoon’s debate, no one was more vehemently against the CRA resolution than Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts.
“What the heck are you thinking?” Capuano hollered to a mostly empty GOP side of the hall. “Give me one good reason why Comcast should know what my mother’s medical problems are?… Just last week I bought underwear on the internet. Why should you know what size I take? Or the color, Or any of that information?”
Capuano challenged Burgess to go out and find three people on the street who actually agreed with the assertion that Comcast, Verizon, et al, actually need this data.
He said that Rep. Burgess was right to be concerned about the un-level playing field between the ISP privacy rules and those governing Google and Netflix, but countered that “You don’t level the playing field by lowering it.”
Rep. Jared Polis (CO) pointed out that using the CRA to roll back the privacy rules was a nuclear option that could prevent the FCC from ever crafting meaningful privacy regulations. If the FTC decides to bolster consumer privacy protections for online content companies, the FCC might not be able to follow suit, as the CRA prevents regulatory agencies from drafting new rules that are overly similar to CRA-repealed regulations.
“I don’t anyone to take my information and make money off of it just because they can get their mitts on it,” added Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA). “Who do you go to complain to? No one, because there is nothing left to enforce.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN) — who has previously tried to kill the FCC’s net neutrality rules, and who just happened to have received nearly $80,000 from AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and telecom lobbyists — argued that the FCC can still handle privacy issues on a “case by case” basis, and that the free market will prevent ISPs from going too far in exploiting customer data.
Rep. Bob Latta (OH), a supporter of the repeal resolution (and a recipient of more than $60,000 in campaign contributions from companies affected by the rules), recommended legislation that would clarify that the FTC has authority to regulate ISPs’ privacy matters. In response, Rep. Mike Doyle (PA) suggested that maybe the GOP should have gone that route rather than using the CRA to prevent the FCC from ever issuing meaningful privacy guidelines.
Regarding the argument that the FTC is doing a good job of regulating consumer privacy issues, Capuano pointed to the CloudPets doll and other toys that allegedly collected user data, or Vizio TVs that watched viewers back. Why would consumers want to put ISPs under such lax privacy controls, asked the Congressman.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who vehemently opposed the privacy rules when they were approved, said today that the FCC will “work with the FTC to ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected though a consistent and comprehensive framework. In my view, the best way to achieve that result would be to return jurisdiction over broadband providers’ privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area.”
Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has a different take.
“Big Cable and Big Telecom have struck again,” said Copps, now an adviser to Common Cause. “By doing the industry’s bidding, the congressional majority is wiping away common sense protections for the privacy of internet users’ personal data and browsing history. If this bill is signed by the president, broadband providers will have free rein to sell user data to the highest bidder – without ever informing consumers.”
Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for our colleagues at Consumers Union, criticized lawmakers for rushing to roll back these regulations.
“In a matter of four legislative days, Congress has wiped out groundbreaking privacy rules, carefully designed over 200 days, intended to empower consumers and protect their privacy,” said Schwantes. “The only winners today are internet service providers, mega-corporations like AT&T and Comcast, who have been strong-arming Congress since the day these rules passed last October.”

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.

 

Source: House Votes To Allow Internet Service Providers To Sell, Share Your Personal Information

Tensions Rise at First Look Media Over Company’s Direction

Laura Poitras, a co-founder of the Intercept, signed a letter protesting recent company decisions.
Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Fe

Employees are worried that one of the nation’s largest and most prominent left-of-center media companies, First Look Media, has lost its way. After the company shuttered two marquee outlets, dozens of employees signed a letter to the board of directors in protest. The letter also asks whether the company has acquired Passionflix, a romance-focused streaming video service started by Elon Musk’s sister.

Launched in 2013 with an investment from Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay, the publisher of the Intercept distinguishes itself with sharp visual journalism and incisive political reporting. But no media company can sail above the turbulence roiling journalism at large, as the industry struggles to adjust to an economic environment with fewer advertising dollars to go around. And there are limits to Omidyar’s charity: The company reduced its staff by 4 percent in March, and the Intercept, its website for investigative and political journalism, announced that it would no longer manage its archive of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. It didn’t take long for reports of internal divisions to surface in the wake of the decision. In notes obtained by the Daily Beast, Laura Poitras, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who co-founded First Look Media, fiercely criticized company leaders and was subsequently “barred” from a meeting about the company’s decision.

So there were already questions about First Look’s commitment to its early mission by the time it incited another round of public controversy. On June 28, the company announced that it would lay off most staff of Topic magazine, which publishes visual and long-form journalism, and cease to fund the Nib, a highly regarded political-cartoon site. Both sites were critical hits: Matt Bors, the Nib’s founding editor, had been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize by the time First Look acquired his site, and Topic magazine recently won two National Magazine Awards for video journalism. The loss of Topic magazine and the company’s separation from the Nib led to fears among staff that First Look might branch away from its ideologically driven commitment to journalism toward a more commercial direction — fears stoked by rumors that the company had acquired, or planned to acquire, a smutty Netflix clone.

On July 6, dozens of First Look Media employees sent a letter directly to the top, telling the company’s board members that they felt “deep concern” that the First Look mission “is in jeopardy.” Originally drafted on June 28, the day First Look announced the layoffs, the letter also highlighted the departure of Anna Holmes, the editorial director of topic.com. Holmes resigned in protest after First Look announced the layoffs; she is, the letter says, “the most senior woman of color at the company.”

The letter continues:

“Several of us have been told that the reason for these layoffs is to reallocate money towards acquiring video distribution rights to populate a forthcoming Topic subscription streaming service (SVOD). This decision to eliminate Topic.com and The Nib comes only months after an extensive three-year planning process, where both divisions, working with management, mapped out their future plans and had their budgets approved. We are also now learning that the company has recently acquired the romance SVOD Passionflix.com.”

Co-founded by Tosca Musk, the sister of Elon Musk, Passionflix produces and streams adaptations of romance novels. Users can search for content using the “barometer of naughtiness,” which ranks films and shows based on the steaminess of their story lines. It’s unclear why First Look would be interested in acquiring Passionflix. Omidyar presumably knows Tosca’s infamous sibling; Elon Musk was PayPal’s largest shareholder when eBay acquired it in 2002. Romance novels are also a billion-dollar business. But Passionflix’s offerings would indeed be a departure for First Look, whose forays into film typically have more to do with investigative journalism than with sexy hunks.

In an email sent last Thursday, Jeff Alvord, a vice-chair of the board of First Look Productions, told the letter’s signatories that “the specific issues” they raised should instead be directed to executives cc’d on the same email — a list that, according to one First Look staffer who saw the email and spoke to New York on background, included Omidyar himself, along with First Look Media’s CEO, Michael Bloom, its CFO, and various other members of management. (First Look Media’s structure is complicated, even by the standards of media companies. To help fund its journalism — a cash suck that a billionaire is unlikely to tolerate in perpetuity — the company has two divisions. First Look Productions is for profit, and includes topic.com, Topic Studios, and the Nib. It’s meant to generate money to subsidize First Look Media Works, which is nonprofit, and encompasses the Intercept, the Press Freedom Defense Fund, and Field of Vision. Each division is governed by its own board; the letter was addressed to both.)

Reached for comment on Monday, a spokesperson for First Look Media sent New York an internal communication sent by Bloom, the company’s CEO, to staff the same day. In it, Bloom wrote that he believed “it would be beneficial to share further context and perspective around some of the recent changes and activities at the company,” and said that there would be further discussion at an upcoming town-hall meeting. Bloom’s message did not mention Passionflix, but the spokesperson told New York only that “there is no deal to discuss at this point.”

The original protest letter had asked that “a small group” of staff be allowed to attend an upcoming meeting of the board of First Look Productions in order “to discuss our concerns.” But Alvord declined to allow staff to attend this month’s meeting of the FLP board, and shifted responsibility downstream. “We are indeed aware of the recent decisions made by the management team and fully believe that these are management’s decisions to make,” Alvord wrote.

Bloom, for his part, told staff on Monday that although First Look’s “generous funding has provided an incredible opportunity to get started, our resources are not infinite, and the long-term goal of the organization has always been to be financially independent.” He continued later, “Topic magazine and the Nib — while generating provocative and insightful work — did not end up finding a sufficiently sized audience or a path to profitability to justify the ongoing investment. But we’re incredibly proud of the work, we gained a lot from the years of experience with these efforts, and we will apply those lessons as we move forward.”

That explanation might not mollify the letter’s signatories, who span each of the company’s remaining media properties and include Poitras. In an emailed statement to New York on Wednesday, Poitras wrote, “The letter is addressed to the board of directors because these are not the first decisions by management that threaten to undermine the mission of the organization.”

“The resignation of Anna Holmes is devastating for First Look Media and Topic. Not only did we lose one of the most talented and visionary innovators in digital media, we also lost the only woman of color in a leadership role at the company,” she added. “I reject the arguments laid out in CEO Michael Bloom’s email and note that it conveniently elides the fact that this decision came weeks after budgets and three-year plans were approved for all First Look Media units, including Topic.com and The Nib. There is no contradiction between producing great, award-winning content and generating revenue, but you need vision and creativity to succeed, and the decision to shut down these units will profoundly hurt the company.

“When I co-founded First Look Media, I never imagined I would have to spend so much of my time advocating for the basic principles of diversity, pay equity, and accountability, and yet I, and many others, have been doing so for years at this point.”

Neither of her First Look co-founders — Glenn Greenwald, part of a team of journalists who shared the Pulitzer with Poitras for coverage of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, and Jeremy Scahill, the author of Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield — signed the letter, which was described by a staffer as being circulated “informally.” Signatures are still being added, as not all staff had an opportunity to view the letter before it was sent to the board. Greenwald told New York by email last Friday that he was not aware of the letter before staff submitted it and was not asked to sign it. Asked if he would have signed if he’d known about it, Greenwald responded, “I haven’t seen the letter so I couldn’t say if I’d sign it and, to be honest, I’d probably have to find out a bunch of facts — such as the rationale for why FLM executives made this decision — in order to know if I’d support it.”

“For the record: I think Topic was doing fantastic journalism and I’ve been a fan of Matt Bors’s cartoons in the past, but I just don’t know enough about any of this — including whether it was mandated by the Board or forced by budgetary cuts — to form a meaningful opinion about any of it,” he added. Scahill did not return emails sent to his work account by press time.

First Look Media Is Pivoting. But to What?

 

Source: Tensions Rise at First Look Media Over Company’s Direction