News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Scurvy, the great scourge of maritime exploration, the killer of some two million people between the late 1400s and 1800, was once understood as a disease of longing. With their brains parched for vitamin C, sailors would find their perceptions muddled and emotions heightened. They would dream of food and weep upon waking. Their senses became so scrambled, their yearning so pitched, that when they disembarked, flowers smelled almost oppressive. “They felt like they would die from the bite of a piece of fruit,” the novelist Jenny Offill told me, “the voluptuous luxury of it was so overwhelming.”

Offill is a rangy, obsessional reader, a rover of archives and libraries. When she became interested in historical accounts of scurvy, she felt a flash of strange recognition. “This is that uncanniness that’s starting to happen now, with the seasons changing,” she told me — our longing for a world we once knew. It reminded her of a word coined by the environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht, solastalgia, which combines solace, desolation and nostalgia to convey the distress of seeing a familiar environment bitterly transformed by drought, fire and flood. It is the disorienting homesickness we experience without leaving home, when home has altered beyond recognition.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

THE COACHELLA MUSIC FESTIVAL, not necessarily known for its adorable moments, offered up the pop equivalent of two baby pandas playing when, under the pink arena lights and to the accompaniment of the cheering and frantic uploading of a thousand teenage witnesses, Billie Eilish met her idol, Justin Bieber, for the first time last April.

The scene, touching as it was, begged consideration of its broader culture significance. Here were two pop prodigies, ages 17 and 25, at rather different points in their career arcs. The walls of Eilish’s childhood bedroom were once papered with images of Bieber, and when he enfolded her oversize denim bootleg Louis Vuitton–logoed self in a long embrace, a chasm seemed to yawn underneath their adjacent but distinct generations. Eilish, whose full-length album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, debuted at number one a week before the festival began, is not the first young singer to make hit records out of dark sonic tableaux. But the totality of her effect on the pop landscape—from her whispered anti-anthems to her bloblike anti-fashion to the sense of it’s-really-me relatability she provides to her fans—has made her immediate predecessors seem almost passé.

“This whole time I’ve been getting this one sentence,” Eilish says, “like, I’m a rule-breaker. Or I’m anti-pop, or whatever. I’m flattered that people think that, but it’s like, where, though? What rule did I break? The rule about making classic pop music and dressing like a girly girl? I never said I’m not going to do that. I just didn’t do it.”

ON A COLD DECEMBER MORNING, Eilish is at home in the two-bedroom house she grew up in and still shares with her parents in Highland Park, an East Los Angeles neighborhood where gentrification seems to have stopped short of this particular block. If you have been following her ascent, then you probably already know that this is where Eilish prefers to do her interviews. You may even be aware that she does much of her self-disclosure from a perch on the window bench in the kitchen, in earshot of her mother, Maggie Baird, who pops in every so often to slice a banana or, more likely, to assure herself that things are under control. Her daughter responds to her presence with the occasional, peevish “Okay, Mom!” that seems not to ruffle Maggie in the least.

Eilish, whose full name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell (Billie for her maternal grandfather, William, who died a few months before she was born; Eilish, the name of an Irish conjoined twin whom her parents discovered in a television documentary; Pirate, which her older brother, Finneas O’Connell, began calling her before she was born; followed by her parents’ surnames), tugs at her white gym socks. She wears white basketball shorts and a white hoodie, and the roots of her hair are her favored hue of slime green. Though her clothing’s proportions accentuate the smallness of her stature, Eilish’s presence feels outsize, even in the corner of the kitchen, where she has claimed a slant of sunlight, catlike. Her speaking voice is loud and assured and laced with profanity, and she never appears to be holding back, unless she tells you that she is holding back, which she understands is her prerogative.

Read the rest of this article at: Vogue

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I’ve always been a bargain shopper. When I moved to New York in 2000 I discovered H&M. At the time, fast fashion didn’t mean sweatshop labor and climate damage — it meant that I could find a brand-new sensible office dress for $14.99 and still have enough money to pay for groceries. I thought my penchant for cheap clothing was temporary, that sometime in my 30s, after a decade of working in the corporate world, a switch would flip and suddenly the clothing I saw in fashion magazines would become available to me like a birthright. It hasn’t happened yet.

I do have one great piece of personal trivia that has allowed me to dream big retail dreams, one that I pull out at parties to impress a certain kind of New Yorker. My great-great-uncle — my grandmother’s uncle — was Barney Pressman, the Lower East Side haberdasher who founded the legendary New York department store, Barneys. My great-great-uncle opened his eponymous men’s clothing store in 1923 at 7th Avenue and 17th Street in Chelsea, and over the next decades of the 20th century it would evolve into a worldwide fashion destination.

Barneys was a particular kind of rags-to-riches success story, one that I’ll call the Jewish American Dream. You start out selling schmattas (Yiddish for rags) and end up the scion of an elite family business that over three generations becomes a cultural institution that even WASPs admire enviously. That the company is now bankrupt and being liquidated by a blur of corporations and hedge funds and financial firms only makes the rise before Barneys’ downfall all the more remarkable.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

If one is to judge fashion by glossy magazines, there are really only three major questions of importance: (1) leopard print or not, (2) sexy being “back” or not, and (3) what to wear if you aren’t wearing all black.

High fashion, for most people, is a passing blur of bewildering, ever-shifting, sometimes ridiculous seasonal image statements. Whether you are an avid follower of trends or believe yourself to be unconscious of style, or even fashion-contrary, unless you are a militant nudist, you are clothed every time you leave the house and are subject to snap judgments about your overall person by anyone who sees you. The items you have selected to cover your naked form communicate more about you than you may realize.

High fashion is a manifestation of the immediate zeitgeist: call it a mood ring, or a way to read the tea leaves of larger culture. What came to be the most interesting discovery of my tenure as a fashion critic at The New York Times was how much subliminal voodoo is crammed into the semiotics of advertisements for major luxury brands. In this age of total information manipulation, ads from the big luxury fashion companies contain what may be the most diabolical use of advanced social psychology, murky motivational levers, and Madison Avenue dirty tricks. The images are often entirely surreal and frequently incomprehensible. They are a drill moving directly toward your consumer libido, urging the lizard part of your brain to need that handbag.

In 2007 the national mood was one of ecstatic bloodlust, war drums, and camo-prints, and Dolce & Gabbana ads featured nearly naked models in apocalyptic deserts being pawed into orgasmic submission by cheetahs. The subliminal code being promoted: we are at war, war is like sex but bloodier and bigger, we’ll have our dirty way with the world, the world will love it and we don’t care who watches.

Fashion has ostensibly changed very little in the last few decades; once “everything goes,” as fashion editors announced in the 2000s, there are few drastic shifts in silhouette, either season to season or decade to decade. Changes are mainly visible through sexual temperature, e.g., after a rash of Sexy Back, there is often a whipsaw volte-face back to haute prude, as if all the models suddenly sobered up after a summer of rampant polyamory. The October 2019 cover of Harper’s Bazaar featured Demi Moore dressed in Victorian schoolmarm wear, replete with knotted collar and wire-rimmed glasses. (The subscriber cover, at least. The nonsubscriber edition featured cover girl Demi once again in the nude—showing what still sells on newsstands, no matter the day’s fashion.) A return to uptight values for women is apparently in order. This is also evident in the recrudescence of the Little House on the Prairie look for younger women, a style that has historically been a favorite among the chronically abstinent.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Review of Books

One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers.

The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings. Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside.

The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?

As I swiped at my phone, a stream of pro-Trump propaganda filled the screen: “That’s right, the whistleblower’s own lawyer said, ‘The coup has started …’ ” Swipe. “Democrats are doing Putin’s bidding …” Swipe. “The only message these radical socialists and extremists will understand is a crushing …” Swipe. “Only one man can stop this chaos …” Swipe, swipe, swipe.

I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I’d assumed that my skepticism and media literacy would inoculate me against such distortions. But I soon found myself reflexively questioning every headline. It wasn’t that I believed Trump and his boosters were telling the truth. It was that, in this state of heightened suspicion, truth itself—about Ukraine, impeachment, or anything else—felt more and more difficult to locate. With each swipe, the notion of observable reality drifted further out of reach.

What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.

After the 2016 election, much was made of the threats posed to American democracy by foreign disinformation. Stories of Russian troll farms and Macedonian fake-news mills loomed in the national imagination. But while these shadowy outside forces preoccupied politicians and journalists, Trump and his domestic allies were beginning to adopt the same tactics of information warfare that have kept the world’s demagogues and strongmen in power.

Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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