News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Of all the pop-culture phenomena that I have managed to miss out on in my life—and there have been many—no lapse might be greater than having never watched a single episode of “Seinfeld.” In the final decade of the twentieth century, this was no small feat, and it was accomplished, in part, because I didn’t own a television set—only high art for me—but mostly because I harbored a long-simmering antagonism toward mainstream America, with the notable exception of professional sports. It would have been impossible, of course, for me to ever fully outrun the wide reach of the show, as it was being referred to by everyone everywhere, with catchphrases quoted, yada yada, etc., and scenes described, and jokes retold. Often, I would find myself on the periphery of a group of friends or co-workers, perennial outsider that I was, waiting for the laughter to subside, as they discussed what had been said or done the night before by Jerry or whomever; if I had been a bit more liberated, I perhaps could have admitted that the scenarios did seem somewhat funny in the recounting.

But, even when the show finally ended, there was no discernible abating of its cultural impact in syndication, and the years continued to pass with catchphrases still quoted, scenes still described, and me still standing on the sideline completely clueless. Until one day, two decades later, I decided that I would take matters into my own hands: I would watch the show once and for all, every episode of the show, from start to finish, one episode a day, and that meant, for the record, a hundred and eighty days of “Seinfeld.” This was pre-pandemic, when such an undertaking would have been seen, at least by me, as an indulgent waste of time, but I justified it as a form of self-improvement. It also conveniently gave me something to occupy myself with during my lunch break in the basement of the N.Y.U. library where I would go every day to write, sitting in a cubicle amid college students who had been born after “Seinfeld” but probably knew more about it than I did.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

After James Cameron’s Avatar came out in 2009 and made $2.7 billion, the director found the deepest point that exists in all of earth’s oceans and, in time, he dove to it. When Cameron reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, a couple of hundred miles off the southwest coast of Guam, in March 2012, he became the first person in history to descend the 6.8-mile distance solo, and one of only a few people to ever go that deep. Since then, others have followed—most prominently, a private-equity titan and former Naval Reserve intelligence officer turned explorer named Victor Vescovo—but Cameron is adamant that none have surpassed him. Vescovo, Cameron told me, “claimed he went deeper, but you can’t. So he’s basically just making shit up.”

As people sometimes do in response to Cameron’s stories, Vescovo disagrees—“I have a different scientific perspective,” he told me, diplomatically—but even he is a fan of Cameron’s films. Like Cameron, Vescovo has made multiple dives to the wreck of the Titanic, and while returning from one of them, he emailed Cameron. “I said, ‘I watched Titanic at the Titanic.’ And he actually replied: ‘Yeah, but I made Titanic at the Titanic.’ ”

It is perhaps illustrative of Cameron’s gifts as a filmmaker that even his most determined rivals will admit that Cameron has written and directed some of the most successful films of all time. It would be fair to call him the father of the modern action movie, which he helped invent with his debut, The Terminator, and then reinvent with his second, Aliens; it would be accurate to add that he has directed two of the three top-grossing films in history, in Avatar (number one) and Titanic (number three). But he is also a scientist—a camera he helped design served as the model for one that is currently on Mars, attached to the Mars rover—and an adventurer, and not in the dilettante billionaire sense; when Cameron sets out to do something, it gets done. “The man was born with an explorer’s instincts and capacity,” Daniel Goldin, the former head of NASA, told me. Sometimes, Cameron seems like a man in search of a problem to solve, or a deadly experience to survive, but he is emphatic that there is a purpose to the challenges he takes on. “There’s plenty of dangerous things that I won’t go near because they’re dangerous, but they have a randomness factor to them,” Cameron said. “Whitewater rafting? Fuck that.”

In December, Disney will release Avatar: The Way of Water. It’s the first feature Cameron has directed in 13 years, and the first of four planned Avatar sequels. The movie, Cameron says, is about family: Many of the main characters from the first film are back, but older and with kids to take care of. “What do two characters who are warriors, who take chances and have no fear, do when they have children and they still have the epic struggle?” Cameron, a father of five, posited. “Their instinct is to be fearless and do crazy things. Jump off cliffs, dive-bomb into the middle of an enemy armada, but you’ve got kids. What does that look like in a family setting?” Among other things, Cameron said, The Way of Water would be a friendly but pointed rebuke to the comic book blockbusters that now war with Cameron’s films at the top of the box office lists: “I was consciously thinking to myself, Okay, all these superheroes, they never have kids. They never really have to deal with the real things that hold you down and give you feet of clay in the real world.” Sigourney Weaver, who starred in the first Avatar as a human scientist and returns for The Way of Water as a Na’vi teenager, told me that the parallels between the life of the director and the life of his characters were far from accidental: “Jim loves his family so much, and I feel that love in our film. It’s as personal a film as he’s ever made.”

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

On a Tuesday morning this past July, journalist Kirsty Bosley popped into the tattoo and piercing shop Infinite Ink in Coventry, England, to get her 17th (or perhaps it was her 18th?) piece of body art—a treat to celebrate her recent 35th birthday. For years, Bosley had wanted a tattoo that nodded to her favorite childhood movie, but the design had never fully coalesced in her mind. But then she began brainstorming with tattooist Mike Williams. Together, they ran through a laundry list of references, winks, and in-jokes. At one point, someone even floated the idea of an overflowing sink. Then the perfect piece of ephemera popped for Bosley: a Deluxe Talkboy recording device.

Bosley was just five years old when director Chris Columbus’s 1992 sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York hit theaters, but she not only has vivid memories of the cinema date with her older sister, Kelli, to see the new release (“I got in trouble for drinking all of my Ribena before the movie started”), but she also recalls her elation at being gifted the recorder Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) uses to outsmart the adults.

“Having a part of that movie in my hand was just such a special, meaningful thing,” Bosley says of the Christmas present, adding that it may have even influenced her future career trajectory. “I often say to people, as a journalist, it was my very first ever Dictaphone. I used it to interview everyone about Christmas and what it meant to them. It’s one of my most vivid memories of childhood.”

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The week my eldest son finished nursery, I decided to clear out the playroom where he had spent much of his young life forming bonds with inanimate objects. Toys had kept him company whenever other duties or distractions had occupied his mother and me, and over the years we had amassed a truly crass number of them. As I sifted through pile after pile, I felt as though I was in the pit of an immense archaeological dig. I had not considered us to be particularly pushy or indulgent parents; mostly, I wanted my children to grow up to be financially independent and live lives of nothing worse than common unhappiness. But the artefacts in our playroom midden told another tale.

Here is a partial inventory of what I found: 13 floor puzzles, including several meant to teach the alphabet. Two sets of magnetic tiles, along with dozens of figurines and matchbox cars, for constructive and imaginary play. Xylophones and tambourines to foster musical ability, and a smattering of finger paints to inspire artistic creativity. Four logic games and a set of dice for practising maths. A speaker box that could play Mozart or children’s versions of the Iliad and Odyssey. Endless Duplo. And, to teach our kids how to unwind after the vigorously pedagogical afternoon those other things were meant to facilitate, the Fisher-Price Meditation Mouse™, an electronic plush toy offering guided stretching and relaxation exercises (advertising copy: “help your little one learn how to nama-stay relaxed”).

Our heap of playthings may have been extreme, but it was by no means atypical. American families spend, on average, around $600 per year on toys; a typical 10-year-old child in the UK may have possessed 238 toys in her short life, totalling about £6,500. That abundance bespeaks an entire world – of a postwar boom in plastics, babies and disposable income, of humans in Chinese factories and Madison Avenue marketing agencies, of the not always benign neglect of parents with relentless careers or hangovers or an aversion to spending time with other emotionally volatile beings. Above all, perhaps, the glut of toys reveals a particular vision of what play and childhood are for.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 28.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I heard a woman say, “She was hit by a car.” I thought: It sounds as if she’s talking about me, but that can’t be right. I couldn’t see. I didn’t know where I was. But I wasn’t worried. I sensed that I was surrounded by purposeful strangers and that my partner, David, was by my side. Abruptly, I grunted and twisted. A nurse who understood my signals thrust a bedpan toward me. I dismissed the bedpan, leaned right and vomited blood over the bedrail. Still, I wasn’t alarmed or in pain – yet. I was only perplexed.

The last thing I remembered was leaving a grocery store and thinking these bags are heavy. That had been three hours earlier. Given the police report, doctors’ notes, and conversations with eyewitnesses, I’ve gathered some details from the time I lost.

On a Thursday afternoon in May 2021, I was walking across University Avenue in Minneapolis, when a black SUV turned left from an intersecting street. “He was going fast,” an eyewitness told me. “He ran you right over.” I asked people, even in the hospital, when my mind was muddled: did I have right of way? Yes. Was I wearing headphones? No one knew. Why did the driver hit me? No one could say. And the driver couldn’t be questioned because after stopping briefly, he had fled.

My left eye was purple, swollen closed and bulging. My skull was fractured in three places. A long, ragged gash that started at my left temple was stapled closed. I was in a neck brace because of a cracked vertebra. My right foot was sprained and my left shoulder was broken and torn. Bruises covered my limbs and face. But most concerning were my traumatic brain injuries, which doctors initially called severe. On my first night in the ICU, my brain was still swelling.

Pedestrian fatalities on US streets have surged in the past decade. In 2021, 7,485 pedestrians were killed by vehicles. That’s an increase of more than 65% since 2011 and the highest annual total in 40 years. Even during Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, when fewer people were driving, more pedestrians were hit and more died as a result. Researchers speculate that drivers took advantage of empty streets and flouted traffic rules. Maybe they were preoccupied, under stress. Maybe they drank more. Alcohol and distractions contribute significantly to collisions and deaths.

Another factor is the increasing popularity of SUVs, pick-ups and vans, collectively known as light truck vehicles (LTVs). These kinds of vehicle are two to three times more dangerous than passenger cars in collisions with pedestrians. Part of the increased danger comes from their taller front ends, which strike above the body’s centre of gravity, increasing the odds of pitching pedestrians forward and driving over them. Another factor is the positioning and thickness of pillars that frame the windshield, which reduce visibility and impair drivers’ view of pedestrians, especially when turning. Finally, these vehicles are more lethal because of their overwhelming mass. As the sales and popularity of SUVs and other LTVs grow, so do the pedestrian fatalities they cause. But in any accident, however distracted or inexpert the driver, and whatever size their vehicle, speed is the critical factor. On average, just 10% of pedestrians hit by vehicles travelling 23mph will die, but 90% of those hit at 58mph will.

All but 13 states experienced increased pedestrian traffic deaths per capita in 2021. Minneapolis experienced its highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1998. A report published by the city attributed the dramatic increase to “very reckless driving”.

Coincidentally, in the spring when I was hit, researchers from the HumanFIRST Lab, a University of Minnesota facility that focuses on driver behaviour, initiated a pedestrian safety study. Twice a week, at 16 intersections in Minneapolis and 16 in its twin city, St Paul, subjects stepped on to pedestrian crossings while researchers standing nearby marked whether a car stopped for them. As the study progressed, the city posted signs on main thoroughfares that identified the percentage of drivers who had stopped for pedestrians that week.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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