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News 07.13.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 07.13.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 07.13.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 07.13.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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In 1998 a provincial Japanese clothing company known for flogging imported brands like Nike and Adidas opened its first shop in an upmarket district of Tokyo. Surprisingly, it chose a zip-up fleece as its new signature line. Until that point, fleeces had been expensive items usually worn by climbers, hikers and other outdoorsy types who had little interest in fashion. But Uniqlo’s fleece, which by the following year came in 50 colours from lavender to burgundy, was an immediate hit. Launched in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, the top was noteworthy because it was so cheap – it sold for just ¥1,900 ($19), around half the price of those in other shops. Two million were sold within 12 months. Within two years, enough fleeces had been bought to clothe nearly a third of the population of Japan.

A couple of decades on and the fleece that changed everything hasn’t changed much. The piping now hugs the wrists for extra warmth and the side pockets are angled downwards, making it easier to defrost your hands. The price has increased by less than a dollar, even though the technology has been refined. Uniqlo was the first clothing company to use special C-shaped fibres that capture dead air, which the company claims makes the fleece 1.5°C toastier than others on the market. Minerals have been added to the material that supposedly transform the sun’s heat into infra-red emissions to make the item even warmer.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843

News 07.13.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s 2022, and the coronavirus has at long last been defeated. After a miserable year-and-a-half, alternating between lockdowns and new outbreaks, life can finally begin returning to normal.

But it will not be the old normal. It will be a new world, with a reshaped economy, much as war and depression reordered life for previous generations.

Thousands of stores and companies that were vulnerable before the virus arrived have disappeared. Dozens of colleges are shutting down, in the first wave of closures in the history of American higher education. People have also changed long-held patterns of behavior: Outdoor socializing is in, business trips are out.

And American politics — while still divided in many of the same ways it was before the virus — has entered a new era.

All of this, obviously, is conjecture. The future is unknowable. But the pandemic increasingly looks like one of the defining events of our time. The best-case scenarios are now out of reach, and the United States is suffering through a new virus surge that’s worse than in any other country.

With help from economists, politicians and business executives, I have tried to imagine what a post-Covid economy may look like. One message I heard is that the course of the virus itself will play the biggest role in the medium term. If scientific breakthroughs come quickly and the virus is largely defeated this year, there may not be many permanent changes to everyday life.

On the other hand, if a vaccine remains out of reach for years, the long-term changes could be truly profound. Any industry that depends on close human contact would be at risk.

Large swaths of the cruise-ship and theme-park industries might go away. So could many movie theaters and minor-league baseball teams. The long-predicted demise of the traditional department store would finally come to pass. Thousands of restaurants would be wiped out (even if they would eventually be replaced by different restaurants).

The changes that I’m imagining in this article are based on neither an unexpectedly fast or slow resolution, but instead on what many scientists consider the baseline. In this scenario, a vaccine will arrive sometime in 2021. Until then, the world will endure waves of sickness, death and uncertainty.

Before we get into the details, there is one more caveat worth mentioning: Many things will not change. That’s one of history’s lessons.

The financial crisis of 2007-9 didn’t cause Americans to sour on stocks, and it didn’t lead to an overhaul of Wall Street. The election of the first Black president didn’t usher in an era of racial conciliation. The 9/11 attacks didn’t make Americans unwilling to fly. The Vietnam War didn’t bring an end to extended foreign wars without a clear mission.

Yet if the pandemic really does shape life for the next year, it will probably be remembered as a more significant historical event than those precedents. It could easily be the most important global experience since World War II and the Great Depression. Events that hold the world’s attention for long stretches — and that alter the rhythms of everyday life — do tend to leave a legacy.

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

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It was just after 10 p.m. on an overcast September night in Los Angeles, and L. was tired from a long day of class prep, teaching, and grading papers. So the 57-year-old anthropology professor fed her Chihuahua-dachshund mix a freeze-dried chicken strip, swapped her cigarette trousers for stretchy black yoga pants, and began to unfold a set of white sheets and a beige cotton blanket to make up her bed.

But first she had to recline the passenger seat of her 2015 Nissan Leaf as far as it would go—that being her bed in the parking lot she’d called home for almost three months. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was playing on her iPad as she drifted off for another night. “Like sleeping on an airplane—but not in first class,” she said. That was in part by design. “I don’t want to get more comfortable. I want to get out of here.”

L., who asked to go by her middle initial for fear of losing her job, couldn’t afford her apartment earlier this year after failing to cobble together enough teaching assignments at two community colleges. By July she’d exhausted her savings and turned to a local nonprofit called Safe Parking L.A., which outfits a handful of lots around the city with security guards, port-a-potties, Wi-Fi, and solar-powered electrical chargers. Sleeping in her car would allow her to save for a deposit on an apartment. On that night in late September, under basketball hoops owned by an Episcopal church in Koreatown, she was one of 16 people in 12 vehicles. Ten of them were female, two were children, and half were employed.

Read the rest of this article at: The Hustle

News 07.13.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2015, actor Jonathan Silverman sat for an interview with Larry King to promote his short-lived CW sitcom Significant Mother. Quickly, though, King asked Silverman about the movie he’s most known for. “Do people still approach you about Weekend at Bernie’s?”

“They do,” Silverman responded, with a grin. “I’m thrilled and shocked and confused that this little movie that we made 25 years ago has turned into a cult [hit]. When we made it, I was lucky just to have the job. I had no idea people would find it amusing. It’s about a guy who dies on page 20 and we drag him around the Hamptons for the rest of the weekend. But it made people laugh.”

The only thing more enduring about Weekend at Bernie’s than its appeal is the movie’s genuine strangeness. Written by Robert Klane and directed by Ted Kotcheff, a filmmaker who specialized in dramas (North Dallas Forty) and action movies (First Blood), the broad comedy is based on a premise that’s completely stupid. And that’s not me saying that: That’s Andrew McCarthy, who plays Larry, a smart-aleck employee at an insurance company who, alongside his best friend Richard (Silverman), ends up (through very convoluted circumstances) having to carry out a ruse that their boss Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) is alive, even though he’s recently died.

“I mean, that movie was completely stupid and fantastic,” McCarthy told The A.V. Club last year. “It’s the stupidest movie. I love it. I love Bernie’s. My son  —  he’s 15  —  he saw Weekend. He’s never seen anything I’ve been in, my kids, but he saw Weekend at Bernie’s, and he said, ‘Dad, that movie is really stupid.’ But I love Bernie. I think Bernie is great. I mean, it was ridiculous. We knew at the time it was ridiculous, and there was no top to go over. … That was a lot of fun to do, which is not always the case, because often when you’re doing a comedy, it becomes an inside joke where we think it’s really funny, but to other people it’s just not that funny. But that movie has its own logic.”

Critics didn’t think so. Siskel and Ebert famously savaged it: Siskel called Weekend at Bernie’s “a preposterous, unfunny comedy that comes across like a bad version of a slapstick Blake Edwards film … I couldn’t wait for this to end,” while Ebert said, “I didn’t find it funny, and I found it less and less funny as it went along.” Writing in The New York Times, Stephen Holden noted, “Although the setup for Weekend at Bernie’s has all the ingredients of a classic satirical farce, [the filmmakers] have made a movie that is about as sophisticated as a National Lampoon romp.”

Even those who worked on it weren’t entirely sure what they were getting themselves into. Catherine Mary Stewart, who plays Richard’s love interest Gwen, tells me, “I read the script thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so silly. How are they going to make this work? A dead guy? Come on!’ I thought it was a little barbaric having that scene where he falls off the back of the boat and he’s being dragged along through the water and banging into buoys and stuff like that. I thought, Yuck that’s not funny. That’s horrible.”

Read the rest of this article at: Mel

News 07.13.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. City dwellers reported hearing bird song, wind and the rustling of leaves. (Along with, in New York City, the intermittent screams of sirens.)

You could smell the absence of cars, too. From New York to Los Angeles to New Delhi, air pollution plummeted, and the soupy, exhaust-choked haze over the world’s dirtiest cities lifted to reveal brilliant blue skies.

As the roads became freer of cars, they grew full of possibility. Rollerblading and skateboarding have come back into fashion. Sales of bicycles and electric bikes have skyrocketed.

But there is a catch: Cities are beginning to cautiously open back up again, and people are wondering how they’re going to get in to work. Many are worried about the spread of the virus on public transit. Are cars our only option? How will we find space for all of them?

In much of Manhattan, the average speed of traffic before the pandemic had fallen to 7 miles per hour. In Midtown, it was less than 5 m.p.h. That’s only slightly faster than walking and slower than riding a bike. Will traffic soon be worse than ever?

Not if we choose another path.

Rather than stumble back into car dependency, cities can begin to undo their worst mistake: giving up so much of their land to the automobile.

The pandemic should not stop us. There is little evidence that public transit is responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in New York or elsewhere; some cities with heavily used transit systems, including Hong Kong, have been able to avoid terrible tolls from the virus.

If riders wear face masks — and if there are enough subway cars, buses, bike lanes and pedestrian paths for people to avoid intense overcrowding — transit might be no less safe than cars, in terms of the risk of the spread of disease. In all other measures of safety, transit is far safer than cars.

What’s that you say? There aren’t enough buses in your city to avoid overcrowding, and they’re too slow, anyway? Pedestrian space is already hard to find? Well, right. That’s car dependency. And it’s exactly why cities need to plan for a future of fewer cars, a future in which owning an automobile, even an electric one, is neither the only way nor the best way to get around town.

A few weeks ago, I began talking to Vishaan Chakrabarti, a former New York City urban-planning official and the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, a Manhattan-based architecture firm. Like other urbanists, Chakrabarti believes that the pandemic has created an opportunity for New York and other cities to reduce their reliance on cars.

Manhattan, already one of the most car-free places in the country, is the best place to start. Chakrabarti’s firm, known as PAU, had been working on an intricate proposal to show what it might look and feel like to live in a city liberated from cars, to show how much better life in New York might be with one simple change: Most cars would be banished from Manhattan.

PAU’s proposal would not ban all motor vehicles, just privately owned cars. There would still be delivery trucks, paratransit, emergency vehicles, and taxicabs and rideshare cars, if you needed them.

But private cars account for so many of Manhattan’s vehicles that banning them would instantly improve life for just about everyone who lives and works in New York.

You already know what’s terrible about cars: They’re dirty. They’re dangerous. They’re expensive to buy and maintain, and environmentally hazardous to produce and operate. Automobiles kill around 90,000 Americans every year — about 40,000 in car accidents, and an estimated 50,000 more from long-term exposure to air pollution emitted by cars.

But Chakrabarti is among a group of urbanists who’ve been calling attention to a less-discussed problem with cars. Automobiles are not just dangerous and bad for the environment; they are also profoundly wasteful of the land around us, taking up way too much physical space to transport too few people. It’s geometry.

In most American cities, wherever you look, you will see a landscape constructed primarily for the movement and storage of automobiles, not for the enjoyment of people: endless wide boulevards and freeways for cars to move swiftly; each road lined with parking spaces for cars at rest; retail establishments ringed with spots for cars; houses built around garages for cars; and a gas station, for cars to feed, on every other corner.

In the most car-dependent cities, the amount of space devoted to automobiles reaches truly ridiculous levels. In Los Angeles, for instance, land for parking exceeds the entire land area of Manhattan, enough space to house almost a million more people at Los Angeles’s prevailing density.

This isn’t a big deal in the parts of America where space is seemingly endless. But in the most populated cities, physical space is just about the most precious resource there is. The land value of Manhattan alone is estimated to top $1.7 trillion. Why are we giving so much of it to cars?

Without cars, Manhattan’s streets could give priority to more equitable and accessible ways of getting around, including an extensive system of bike “superhighways” and bus rapid transit — a bus system with dedicated lanes in the roadway, creating a service that approaches the capacity, speed and efficiency of the subway, at a fraction of the cost.

Eliminating most cars in Manhattan would also significantly clean up the air for the entire region. It would free up space for new housing and create hundreds of acres of new parks and pedestrian promenades, improving the fundamental health, beauty and livability of America’s largest metropolis.

There have been several proposals to ban cars in Manhattan, and the city has been working on a system to impose a toll on cars south of 60th Street. (This congestion-pricing project was scheduled to start early next year, but it has been delayed by the pandemic.)

What distinguishes PAU’s proposal is its visual appeal. Chakrabarti says his firm aimed to show, at a street level, how much better life without cars might be for most New Yorkers. “This is an amazing way to live,” he said.

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

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

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