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News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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May 14 was supposed to mark Rachel Hollis’s return to her happy place: a stage in front of an adoring audience.

That was the day that Rise, her self-improvement company’s conference for women, was scheduled to begin in Austin, Texas. At least 100 people would attend in person, and more than 2,000 had registered by mid-April to join online. It would be a fraction of her usual crowd — nearly 50,000 people logged on for a virtual event in May 2020 — but would put her on track to business as usual.

But in early April, Ms. Hollis, the 38-year-old author of the New York Times best-selling books “Girl, Wash Your Face” and “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” posted a video to TikTok that jarred many of her devoted fans.

She recounted that while speaking extemporaneously during a livestream, she mentioned her twice-weekly housekeeper who “cleans the toilets.” One commenter had told Ms. Hollis she was “privileged” and “unrelatable.”

“No, sis, literally everything I do in my life is to live a life that most people can’t relate to,” Ms. Hollis said, relaying her reaction to the commenter. “Literally every woman I admire in history was unrelatable.” She added a caption offering examples: Harriet Tubman, Oprah Winfrey and others.

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

News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

TikTok and the Vibes Revival

News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Deep into the thoughtless hypnotism of TikTok one afternoon, I came upon an anonymous urban scene from inside a residential tower in Manchester, England. On an upper floor, beside huge windows shrouded in fog, a man was floating on his back in a gleaming pool, to the soundtrack of the plaintive Frank Ocean song “White Ferrari.” The ten-second video was hashtagged #vibin. In another clip, a woman demonstrated her morning routine, with shots of rumpled linen bedsheets, navy-blue satin pajamas, and a steaming mug of matcha, along with brief glimpses of other objects: a monstera plant, a burning chunk of palo santo, a busy street outside. Altogether, they evoked a mood of calm, enlightened, prettified productivity. The video was hashtagged #vibes. “I love the vibes at night here,” the caption of yet another TikTok montage read: a dim apartment lit by a pink neon sign that says “Where Love Lives,” a wandering Shiba Inu, an orb lamp on top of a Picasso art book, a wall-mounted flat-screen playing the popular ambient-music YouTube channel “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to.” If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say that the video’s vibe was chill Gen-Z good taste, the world of a teen-ager whose parents have given up on curfews and screen-time restrictions: midnight-basement-desktop-computer vibes.

These brief flashes of seemingly normal life, compressed into short videos, are among TikTok’s bread-and-butter genres, and they have taken over my algorithmically curated feed on the app. Where others might get meme dances or practical jokes, I only see chill vibes. Casually cooking a meal in a swaying sailboat on the open Atlantic Ocean is a vibe. So is slaloming down the road on a skateboard to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” while swigging cranberry juice, as Nathan Apodaca did in a now famous TikTok. We know the meaning of the word “vibe,” of course. It’s a placeholder for an abstract quality that you can’t pin down—an ambience (“a laid-back vibe”). It’s the reason that you like or dislike something or someone (good vibes vs. bad). It’s an intuition with no obvious explanation (“just a vibe I get”). Many vibes don’t have specific names, but some do. Saudade, the Portuguese word for a bittersweet longing, could count as a vibe. So, too, could the Japanese iki, an attitude of casually disinterested elegance, or the German fernweh, the longing to be somewhere far away, evoked by distant vistas or unknown forests. (Hygge, the Danish quality of contented coziness, is a vibe that has been wholly commercialized in the United States.)

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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AND GOD SAID, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.”

Hans Joosten doesn’t know Genesis by heart, so he is paraphrasing: “And one of the first things that God does, is separating land from water.” But then, he says, one must ask what was the nature of this water in the first place, before it was spliced in two. The answer? A mixture of both elements. In the beginning, in other words, there were swamps.

Joosten grew up in the Netherlands, surrounded by bogs. Now a professor of peatland studies and a founding member of the Greifswald Mire Center, Joosten has spent the past several decades dedicating his life and work to habitats supported by a partially decayed plant matter called peat and which, depending on the context and their characteristics, are known as bogs, mires, fens, and swamps, and more broadly referred to as peatlands.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler

News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 03.05.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On May 9, 2001, Steven M. Greer took the lectern at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C., in pursuit of the truth about unidentified flying objects. Greer, an emergency-room physician in Virginia and an outspoken ufologist, believed that the government had long withheld from the American people its familiarity with alien visitations. He had founded the Disclosure Project in 1993 in an attempt to penetrate the sanctums of conspiracy. Greer’s reckoning that day featured some twenty speakers. He provided, in support of his claims, a four-hundred-and-ninety-two-page dossier called the “Disclosure Project Briefing Document.” For public officials too busy to absorb such a vast tract of suppressed knowledge, Greer had prepared a ninety-five-page “Executive Summary of the Disclosure Project Briefing Document.” After some throat-clearing, the “Executive Summary” began with “A Brief Summary,” which included a series of bullet points outlining what amounted to the greatest secret in human history.

Over several decades, according to Greer, untold numbers of alien craft had been observed in our planet’s airspace; they were able to reach extreme velocities with no visible means of lift or propulsion, and to perform stunning maneuvers at g-forces that would turn a human pilot to soup. Some of these extraterrestrial spaceships had been “downed, retrieved and studied since at least the 1940s and possibly as early as the 1930s.” Efforts to reverse engineer such extraordinary machines had led to “significant technological breakthroughs in energy generation.” These operations had mostly been classified as “cosmic top secret,” a tier of clearance “thirty-eight levels” above that typically granted to the Commander-in-Chief. Why, Greer asked, had such transformative technologies been hidden for so long? This was obvious. The “social, economic and geo-political order of the world” was at stake.

The idea that aliens had frequented our planet had been circulating among ufologists since the postwar years, when a Polish émigré, George Adamski, claimed to have rendezvoused with a race of kindly, Nordic-looking Venusians who were disturbed by the domestic and interplanetary effects of nuclear-bomb tests. In the summer of 1947, an alien spaceship was said to have crashed near Roswell, New Mexico. Conspiracy theorists believed that vaguely anthropomorphic bodies had been recovered there, and that the crash debris had been entrusted to private military contractors, who raced to unlock alien hardware before the Russians could. (Documents unearthed after the fall of the Soviet Union suggested that the anxiety about an arms race supercharged by alien technology was mutual.) All of this, ufologists claimed, had been covered up by Majestic 12, a clandestine, para-governmental organization convened under executive order by President Truman. President Kennedy was assassinated because he planned to level with Premier Khrushchev; Kennedy had confided in Marilyn Monroe, thereby sealing her fate. Representative Steven Schiff, of New Mexico, spent years trying to get to the bottom of the Roswell incident, only to die of “cancer.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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THE SCENE WASN’T working. It was a moment from the Pixar film Coco, still in production at the time—the part when the family of Miguel, the main character, finds out he’s been hiding a guitar. It takes place at twilight or just after, a pink-and-purple-tinged time of day everywhere, but even more so in fictional Pixarian Mexico. And Danielle Feinberg, the photography director in charge of lighting the movie, didn’t like it. She pressed Pause with a frown.

Lighting a computer-rendered Pixar movie isn’t like lighting a film with real actors and real sets. The software Pixar uses creates virtual sets and virtual illumination, just 1s and 0s, constrained only by the physics they’re programmed with. Lights, pixels, action. Real-world cameras and lenses have chromatic aberration, sensitivities or insensitivities to specific wavelengths of light, and ultimately limits to the colors they can sense and convey—their gamut. But at Pixar the virtual cameras can see an infinitude of light and color. The only real limit is the screen that will display the final product. And it probably won’t surprise you to hear that the Pixarians are pushing those limits too.

Of course the people at Pixar still have to make all the choices that’ll produce the final outcome. To prepare, Feinberg had gone on multiple trips with the team to Mexico, taking lots of pictures and notes on the lighting and colors she saw there. And even though this critical moment in Miguel’s house looked lovely, it didn’t look right. But it was awfully late to realize it. “We had finished lighting. We were at the point where we were going to show it to the director,” Feinberg says. “And I asked the lighter to put a green fluorescent light in the kitchen.”

It was an unusual request. In the conventional chromatic grammar of today’s motion pictures, greenish-tinged fluorescence usually means a movie is about to turn eerie, even ominous. But Feinberg wanted to see the kinds of lights she remembered from the warm, homey kitchens they’d seen in Mexico. “I wasn’t sure the director was going to be happy with me putting green fluorescent light in the background,” Feinberg says. “It was a little bit of a risk.”

But after seeing the light, the director, Lee Unkrich, agreed. It looked like Mexico, he said. He remembered those lights and the resulting mood from their travels too. The green glow, which usually had one narrative meaning, assumed another.

In a way, every filmmaker is really just playing with moving light and color on surfaces. That’s the whole ball game, a filmic given. But Pixar takes it further, or perhaps just does it more self-consciously and systematically. Its emotionally weighty, computer-generated animated films deploy precisely calibrated color and light to convey narrative and emotion—from the near-total absence of green in WALL-E (until postapocalyptic robots find the last plant on Earth) to the luminous orange marigolds that symbolize Miguel’s trip to the magical Land of the Dead in Coco through the contrast between the cool blue luminosity of the afterlife with the warm, snuggly sepia of New York City in last year’s Soul.

In fact, almost every Pixar movie works within a specific color palette, a story-specific gamut that filmmakers like Feinberg pull from and use to plan the look of each scene, a road map known as the color script. But Coco complicated that process. When its story moves to the Land of the Dead, it cranks up all the dials, colorwise. Those scenes look made out of neon, like a bio-organic version of Tokyo’s Shinjuku District at night. “When it came time to do the color script, it was like, ‘The Land of the Dead has every color. All of it takes place at night, so we can’t use time of day to elicit emotion. There is no weather in the Land of the Dead, so we can’t use weather to elicit emotion.’ Those are three pretty typical things we use to support the story,” Feinberg says.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

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