News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Over the course of his career, Ben Affleck has been a lot of different people. He’s been a dangerous man, a loyal man, a Batman. He’s coasted through movies on the power of his own screen presence, elevated others in unexpected ways, and perhaps more than any other actor in Hollywood, he’s often used his characters to work through his own personal life—as he’s doing in The Way Back, Gavin O’Connor’s soon-to-be-released film about a down-and-out high school basketball coach. There is a Ben Affleck for all seasons, for all people. Below, Ringer staffers select their favorites.

Chuckie, Good Will Hunting
Playing the tracksuited, square-shouldered Southie heavy-with-a-heart-of-gold Chuckie in 1997’s Good Will Hunting, Ben Affleck is at the center of both the movie’s funniest scene and its most emotional one. In the former, his suit is too small and his hair is real slicked and he’s wearing gym socks and boat shoes as he leans back all cocky-like in his chair, play-acting as his genius friend Will and shouting “RETAAAAINER!” at bewildered hotshot think tank recruiters. This was a version of Affleck that, at the time, I was familiar with; his performance felt related to his previous dickish, caddish turns as a paddle-wielding senior in Dazed and Confused and a skeezy VW Bug–haunting “Fashionable Male” in Mallrats.

But then there was the other side of Chuckie: the townie who will break your heart with his soul, the guy who can squint into the sun as he tells his brilliant best friend that he hopes to never see him again. “You don’t owe it to yourself,” Chuckie tells Will, imploring him to transcend the place where he’s from. “You owe it to me.” Affleck and Damon were in their early 20s when they wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Good Will Hunting, and were inspired to write this scene by having worked construction for a few summers. (Luckily, director Gus Van Sant’s idea to “crush Chuckie like a bug” in a construction accident did not gain traction.) Affleck had agonized over the “best part of my day” exchange for so long that he was shocked when he nailed the take right away.

“It was just kinda like, ‘Is it over?’” he told Boston Magazine. “It’s just hard to almost internalize the fact that, OK, we’re going to wait four years, and it’s gonna be over in five seconds. Kind of like losing my virginity.” Now that’s the Chuckie, and the Ben, that we know and love. —Katie Baker

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

You walk beneath a white molded archway. You’ve entered a white room.

A basketlike lamp hangs overhead; other lamps, globes of brass and glass, glow nearby. Before you is a couch, neatly tufted and boxy, padded with an assortment of pillows in muted geometric designs. Circles of faded terra-cotta and pale yellow; mint-green and mustard confetti; white, with black half-circles and two little dots — aha. Those are boobs. You look down. Upon the terrazzo nougat of the coffee table, a glass tray trimmed in brass. It holds a succulent in a lumpy ceramic pot, a scented candle with a matte-pink label. A fiddle-leaf fig somewhere looms. Above a bookshelf (spines organized by color), a poster advises you to WORK HARD & BE NICE TO PEOPLE. In the far corner, within the shrine of an arched alcove, atop a marble plinth: one lonely, giant cartoon jungle leaf, tilting from a pink ceramic tube. You sense — in a way you could neither articulate nor explain — the presence of a mail-order foam mattress somewhere close at hand.

All that pink. All those plants. All that white. It’s so clean! Everything’s fun, but not too much fun. And there, in the round mirror above the couch: It’s you. You know where you are. Or do you?

Search your brain. Swap out the monstera leaf for waxy red anthurium, WORK HARD & BE NICE TO PEOPLE for GOOD VIBES ONLY. Maybe the pillows were succulent-print; maybe the ceramics had boobs. IT WAS ALL A DREAM, says a neon sign in schoolgirl cursive. You hadn’t noticed that before.

Maybe it is a dream, this room you do and don’t know, assembled from cliché and half-recollected spare parts; a fever dream — or, no, that’s too much. This room functions more like a CBD seltzer, something you might buy in a salmon-pink can. There’s not a lot of distinctive taste, but still, it’s hard to resist when you’re on a permanent search for ways to feel better. The ambience is palliative — simple but not severe. Even the palette faintly suggests a medicine cabinet: powdery pharmaceutical pastels, orange pill bottles, Band-Aid pink.

Now imagine that the white room isn’t a dream; it’s behind a velvet rope in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Perhaps it’s a home, or a store, or maybe the two cases blur — a store designed to look like a home, a home in which one might shop. An interior filled with recognizable products.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

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In the fall of 2005, at the shuttle terminal of New York’s LaGuardia airport, I entered the security line and noticed, in front of me, a slight and slightly stooped older woman. After a couple of blinks, I recognized Joan Didion.

I was going to Boston, en route to Harvard Square, for the first stop of a small book tour. Didion had just published The Year of Magical Thinking. I introduced myself and, with some diffidence, told her how much she had influenced me, and could I give her a copy of the book I had just published, my first?

Didion held a single, small leather bag in her left hand. She looked at me with what seemed like a mild panic. “Can you mail it to me?” she asked, with some diffidence of her own, as if the additional weight in her bag would be more than she could bear. (She really did seem that frail.)

That afternoon, I gave my reading at the bookshop. When I finished, the clerk who had tended to me said she was off to set up for Didion herself, at a Unitarian church down Massachusetts Avenue. She saved seats for me in a front pew and, after the reading, seeing the fantastic queue that had formed, offered to take my copy of Magical Thinking and get it signed for me after the rush.

Several days later, the book arrived in the mail to my apartment in Brooklyn. Of course, I recognized the signature. But no matter how long I stared at it I couldn’t make out what Didion had inscribed. It was a thin scrawl, delicate and inscrutable. I tried to resign myself to not understanding it. I put the book on my shelf, but now and then couldn’t help but pick it up and try again.

I find myself thinking of this encounter when I take stock of my relationship to the city that Didion is so identified with—Los Angeles—and I’ve come to realize that Didion and L.A. disconcert me in much the same way; each has articulated in my life—one in urban arrangements and architecture, the other in prose and ideas—the eros of estrangement, the allure of alienation.

Read the rest of this article at: VQR

News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Two beach chairs sit side by side in front of the glittering blue ocean. The sun is shining. And in between those chairs, nestled in the warm sand, is a perky yellow bag of Funyuns. That’s a mural I saw in the Frito-Lay headquarters in Plano, Texas. I was there! My pilgrimage to the pinnacle of potato chips! Each step I took down those carpeted corporate hallways was a bounce. I love potato chips. I love snack foods as a whole category, but chips are my number one. I have a stash under my desk that I share on our office snack table when the mood calls for it. I have a designated “chip plate” my coworkers know by name. At my last job I became known for shrieking “They put chips on your sandwich!” every time we ate at a local lunch spot (that had no other redeeming qualities).

I’m trying to set myself up here to explain how I ended up at Frito-Lay headquarters, standing in a stainless-steel-outfitted Culinary Innovation Center in front of a spread of chips, accepting a strawberry Bubly water from a guy called Chef Jody.

Because the thing about chips is, they’re perfect. The reason chips are perfect is their texture. They’re crispy. And crispy foods are the best foods.

Okay, fine! I also like jiggly. A colleague of mine wrote a piece about the beauty of chewy. Another is enamored with “crispy gone soggy.” There are other fantastic food textures out there. But why is crispy so alluring, so valuable, so desirable? Bon Appétit used it around 500 times (I’m rounding up) last year to describe everything from salmon skin to the top of baked French toast. Frito-Lay yearns to achieve hyperbolic levels of crisp. Popeyes has us lined up for crispy chicken sandwiches. The opulence-forward restaurant Benu in San Francisco has served “pork with inverted crispy skin” on its $325 per person tasting menu.

In the datasphere, the use of crispy/crispiness in U.S. reviews on Yelp has increased 20 percent in the past decade. In close to 7,000 menus analyzed by Stanford’s Dan Jurafsky, crispy is by far the most frequent adjective used to describe texture. The Cheesecake Factory uses the words crisp or crispy nearly 50 times on ONE menu. Researchers have revealed that people find crispy foods “appealing” and “enjoyable,” and that people associate crispy and crunchy food sounds with “FUN” and “pleasantness.” Get this, brainiacs: Neurons in our orbitofrontal cortex DING DING DING like game-show bells whenever we eat crispy foods. Crispy is everywhere. Crispy is beloved. Crispy is…

Totally calculated.

Our predictable, blatant obsession with crispy has sparked an entire food and marketing industry that caters to it. You can measure crispy, engineer it, and promote it. Scientists can make crispy crispier. But why do we love it? How do we see it, hear it, and taste it? What even is it? Who the heck is crunch? Let’s get to the bottom of this bag of potato chips.

Read the rest of this article at: Bon Appétit

Planet Plastic

News 03.04.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Every human on Earth is ingesting nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week. These tiny pieces enter our unwitting bodies from tap water, food, and even the air, according to an alarming academic study sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, dosing us with five grams of plastics, many cut with chemicals linked to cancers, hormone disruption, and developmental delays. Since the paper’s publication last year, Sen. Tom Udall, a plain-spoken New Mexico Democrat with a fondness for white cowboy hats and turquoise bolo ties, has been trumpeting the risk: “We are consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic each week,” Udall says. At events with constituents, he will brandish a Visa from his wallet and declare, “You’re eating this, folks!”

With new legislation, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, Udall is attempting to marshal Washington into a confrontation with the plastics industry, and to force companies that profit from plastics to take accountability for the waste they create. Unveiled in February, the bill would ban many single-use plastics and force corporations to finance “end of life” programs to keep plastic out of the environment. “We’re going back to that principle,” the senator tells Rolling Stone. “The polluter pays.”

The battle pits Udall and his allies in Congress against some of the most powerful corporate interests on the planet, including the oil majors and chemical giants that produce the building blocks for our modern plastic world — think Exxon, Dow, and Shell — and consumer giants like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Unilever that package their products in the stuff. Big Plastic isn’t a single entity. It’s more like a corporate supergroup: Big Oil meets Big Soda — with a puff of Big Tobacco, responsible for trillions of plastic cigarette butts in the environment every year. And it combines the lobbying and public-relations might of all three.

Americans have occasionally crusaded against “problem plastics” — scapegoating packing peanuts, grocery bags, or drinking straws for the sins of our unsustainable consumer economy. We’ve been slow to recognize that we’re actually in the midst of a plastic pandemic. Over the past 70 years, we’ve gotten hooked on disposable goods and packaging — as plastics became the lifeblood of an American culture of speed, convenience, and disposability that’s conquered the globe. Plastic contains our hot coffee and frozen dinners. It is the material of childhood, from Pampers to Playmobil to PlayStation 4. It cloaks our e-commerce purchases and is woven into our sneakers, fast fashion, and business fleece. Humans are now using a million plastic bottles a minute, and 500 billion plastic bags a year — including those we use to bag up our plastic-laden trash.

But the world’s plastic waste is not so easily contained. Massive quantities of this forever material are spilling into the oceans — the equivalent of a dump-truck load every minute. Plastic is also fouling our mountains, our farmland, and spiraling into an unmitigatable environmental disaster. John Hocevar is a marine biologist who leads the Oceans Campaign for Greenpeace, and spearheaded the group’s response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Increasingly, his work has centered on plastics. “This is a much bigger problem than ‘just’ an ocean issue, or even a pollution issue,” he says. “We’ve found plastic everywhere we’ve ever looked. It’s in the Arctic and the Antarctic and in the middle of the Pacific. It’s in the Pyrenees and in the Rockies. It’s settling out of the air. It’s raining down on us.”

More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.

“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”

Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste — and 91 percent has never been recycled even once, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. Unlike aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once. A plastic soda bottle, for example, might get downcycled into a carpet. Modern technology has hardly improved things: Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, only 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and just two percent were effectively recycled to compete with virgin plastic. “Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal,” the Science authors write. And most plastics persist for centuries.

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

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