From busy rooflines to plastic shutters, mismatched windows to four-car garages, the McMansion has dominated the American suburban residential landscape for almost 40 years without a notable change in aesthetics. Many people know a McMansion when they see one. The typical McMansion follows a formula: It’s large, cheaply constructed, and architecturally sloppy.
Until around 2007, McMansions mostly borrowed the forms of traditional architecture, producing vinyl Georgian estates and foam Mediterranean villas.
But in the last 10 years, this has begun to change: McMansions are now being constructed in architectural styles from the 20th century, specifically modernism. We are witnessing the birth and the proliferation of modernist McMansions: McModerns.
Though McModerns are commonly found in the places where modernism itself thrives—indoor-outdoor climates like the West Coast and the Southwest, and near liberal cities on the East Coast—they are also beginning to pop up in burgeoning tech hotbeds south of the Mason-Dixon, such as central North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. McModern houses are following the trail left behind by NPR, Chipotle, and MacBook Pros: They’ve become popular with younger, tech-savvier, and more highly educated individuals.
What makes the McModern a fascinating case study in residential architectural history is its two separate lineages: its foundation as a McMansion, and its origins within the greater historical context of popular modernism—that is, modernism for everyday families.
McMansions have always taken a formal layout and dressed it up in a series of architectural costumes: Mediterranean, Shingle, colonial, Tudor, chateauesque, and now “modern.” All McMansions follow roughly the same structural form.
The McMansion has three contrasting—and disproportionate—parts: a central core with multi-story entryway, a side wing, and a garage wing. There are many variations to this: Sometimes the central wing has its own mass, other times it’s embedded with other masses. The side wing can be distinguished by different cladding or shape, or a focal point, such as a picture, corner, or bay window. Sometimes the side wing is omitted. The garage wing can be perpendicular to the main house as in the example above, or adjacent, with the doors being side-facing or front-facing. None of these forms are proportioned to one another, or scaled to the human form.
In the grand taxonomy of residential architecture, the McModern is a genus within the McMansion family. This is not to say that the “modern” part isn’t as important as the “Mc,” because the McModern as we know it derives from a source not often touched upon: the everyday modern houses not designed by famous architects, but by builders, or from pattern books.
The earliest examples of non-canonical, lowercase-m modern architecture were perhaps the Prairie Style kit houses inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and designed and built by Sears Roebuck & Co., briefly popular between 1915 and 1920. From 1920 through the 1950s, instances of non-architect-designed modernist houses were few and far between. While a few pattern books offered Art Deco or Streamline Moderne-style house plans in the 1930s and 1940s, these were not as popular as the concurrent minimal traditional style, favored by many for its small size during difficult economic times.
Read more at Curbed.
A massive heat wave has hit California, but instead of taking to the beach, a hundred teenage girls stand in a line that wraps around a block in downtown Los Angeles. They’re accompanied by moms, grandparents, and little sisters on this sweltering June afternoon for the Quinceañera.com Los Angeles Expo. For the 3,000 attendees, it’s a chance to see what’s new and cool for the celebration widely observed throughout the Latino community to mark a girl’s 15th birthday.
Inside, the lights are low and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s Spanglish hit “Despacito”blares on repeat over the loudspeaker. This is how we do it down in Puerto Rico, I just wanna hear you screaming “¡Ay, Bendito!,” I can move forever cuando esté contigo. Everyone bops along as they go from booth to booth; there are more than 100 vendors to meet. The quinceañera traditionally involves both a Catholic mass and a party, and the expo exists to help make your wildest quince dreams come true.
Down one aisle, a quinceañera planner shows off a multitiered centerpiece made of roses, hydrangeas, and crystals. Across the way, an entertainment company has installed a DJ behind a turntable; he plays his set while a brand rep demonstrates how squares on the dance floor light up when stepped on. Around the corner, a bakery displays novelty cakes shaped like the Eiffel Tower and a bottle of Chanel No. 5. A mariachi band plays live music, entertaining those waiting in line at a taco truck handing out free samples.
Venues like the South Coast Botanic Gardens, which can accommodate up to 1,000 guests, have tables set up, as do hotel chains like Sheraton and Marriott. Representatives from Men’s Wearhouse walk around, flagging down the few dads in the crowd to gift them with goodie bags and flyers. Photographers entice families with images from quinceañera photo shoots in churches, at the beach, at Disneyland. NYX and Mary Kay offer makeup tutorials. Little girls ask to have their photos taken with models in dresses with pink tulle skirts and cascades of champagne-colored ruffles from quince fashion company Moda 2000. An all-day runway show with looks from Moda and several other dress companies is held at the back of the room.
The lavishness of the expo is shocking to Dolores Garcia, a mom from the nearby city of Carson. She is planning two quinceañeras over the next year and a half, for her 13- and 14-year-old daughters. Garcia looks around and shakes her head.
“It feels so commercial,” she says. “We came here to see dresses and get ideas for decorations, but I didn’t envision anything being this over the top. My daughter has already told me that she wants an elegant party though, nothing crazy.”
Read more at Racked.
It might be the best story ever told on a talk show.
Tiffany Haddish, while promoting her breakout role in the hit film Girls Trip, was telling Jimmy Kimmel about the time she took Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith on a Groupon swamp tour in New Orleans, something the couple only agreed to because they, Hollywood royalty that they are, had no idea what Groupon was.
Kimmel underscores the entire thing with uncontrollable giggles, as Haddish essentially monologues for seven full minutes—basically unheard of in the heavily edited and orchestrated world of talk shows. The story, specifically Haddish’s telling of it, is that good. They should create a new category at the Emmy Awards just to honor it.
Pinkett-Smith told her version of the same story on Jimmy Fallon’s show, but it made only a fraction of the splash Haddish’s telling did, with nearly a million views already on Kimmel’s YouTube page. She’s not pleased.
“Jada texted me the other day, saying, ‘Oh my god, Tiffany! All those views. I’m gonna need some money, bitch. You’re gonna need to run me some money,’” Haddish tells The Daily Beast, cracking herself up. “I said, ‘I wish I could get some of that money! We need to talk to Disney or something, because who owns this? We need to find out who’s getting the money from our conversation.’ She’s like, ‘I’m gonna get my people on it.’”
Even now, Pinkett-Smith still marvels in disbelief that Haddish convinced her to go on that tour—two of the most famous people in the world on a boat with dozens of people who purchased their tickets with an online coupon. Now, however, she’s a convert.
“She uses Groupon to buy makeup and stuff for her nieces and everything. Toys and little knick-knacks like that,” Haddish says. “She taught me how to dress expensively and invest in beautiful garments, and I taught her how to have a good time on a budget.”
Sitting with Haddish in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, it’s even easier to understand why the talk show anecdote went viral so quickly. She’s magnetic. Explosive. A solar flare of energy. She’s every superlative in real life she’s earned in headlines breathlessly praising her performance as brash, brazen life of the party Dina in Girls Trip.
As has quickly become legend during Haddish’s exhausting—and relentlessly entertaining—press push for Girls Trip, the 37-year-old actress was recommended to co-star with Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and Pinkett-Smith as the fourth member of a group of college friends reuniting for a wild weekend in New Orleans by crew members who had worked with her on the comedy Keanu, but producers weren’t interested because they were looking for a “name” to round out the cast.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
One of the greatest fears of Chinese parents is coming true: China’s young people are turning away from marriage. The trend is also worrying the government.
After a whole decade of increases in the national marriage rate, China witnessed its second year of decline in the number of newly registered unions in 2015, with a 6.3% drop from 2014 and 9.1% from 2013. This was accompanied by a rise in the age of marriage, which has increased by about a year and a half in the first ten years of this century.
The decline and delay of marriage in China is part of a global trend. The United States, most OECD nations, and Japan, have all undergone a similar process in recent years, as have other major Chinese societies. Hong Kong and Taiwan, for instance, both have much higher ages of first marriage than mainland China.
But in a culture that puts great value on family, parents are alarmed by even the tiniest likelihood that their offspring will remain unmarried and childless. They fear the breaking of family lineage, or that there will be no one to look after their unmarried children when they’re gone.
While the traditional practice of arranged marriage has been illegal in China since the 1950s, parents remain heavily involved in their children’s marital decisions. Many Chinese parents relentlessly try to persuade their children to enter wedlock through much-dreaded interrogations during festive family gatherings.
Some go to “matchmaking corners” where parents gather to exchange information about their single children and arrange blind dates – often without the knowledge of or against the will of children themselves.
The Chinese government hasn’t sat idly by either. In 2007, the Ministry of Education publicly shamed women who were 27 years or older as “leftover women”, urging them to lower “unrealistic” standards during their search for a partner. While still alive and well in the public discourse to refer to both genders, the term “leftover” has been criticised by scholars and resisted by young women.
Read more at BBC.
FREEDOM, Me. — Right in the middle of dinner service at her restaurant, the Lost Kitchen, the chef Erin French likes to step out and talk to the crowd, as if she’s giving a toast at a party.
“It’s July in Maine,” she said on a recent night, raising a sweaty glass of rosé. “How lucky are we?”
Locals in the dining room cheered; July meant long sunlit days with cherries and elderflowers, sweet snap peas and creamy new potatoes, small and misshapen as freshwater pearls.
Ms. French talked through her menu, annotating it like a memoirist. The main course today was lamb, not because it was part of her plan, she explained cheerfully, but because the swordfish she had ordered never arrived, and the angry phone calls she made got her nowhere. So Ms. French did what she always did: She vaulted off the disaster toward something else, something she hadn’t planned for.
Dinner at the Lost Kitchen is an occasion, and most restaurants of its caliber work to maintain an illusion of effortless perfection. Ms. French, who is 36, has built a cult following with her own approach — open, intimate and personal.
Inside a hydropowered grist mill in Freedom, a town about halfway between Augusta and Bangor, she cooks a set dinner for 40 people, four nights a week, editing the menu each day to keep up with subtle changes in season and supply.
When reservations opened in April, Ms. French received thousands of phone calls requesting tables, clogging up the phone line and answering machine. The restaurant is open eight months of the year, and she filled the books from May right through to New Year’s Eve in just one day.
Read more at The New York Times.
“Before you start to think about Mondrian’s paintings,” says the Dutch artist’s biographer Hans Janssen, of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, “you have to realise that he was born, in 1872, by candlelight in Amersfoort, a backward, economically undeveloped town in Utrecht. And he died, aged 71, beneath fluorescent lights, on the 3th6 floor of a skyscraper in New York. That’s an enormous leap, from the 19th into the 20th Century – and I think it’s very telling for the artist.”
We are standing in The Discovery of Mondrian, the Gemeentemuseum’s major new survey of the work of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), which consists of around 300 paintings and drawings. It is the first time that every work by the artist in the museum’s collection has been shown simultaneously.
And, most likely, it will force anyone who thinks they know Mondrian, as a rational, rigorous painter of crisscrossing black grids embellished with blocks of primary colours, to think again.
For here, it is apparent, is an artist who went through many stylistic phases, as his paintings evolved from landscapes and still lifes that looked backwards, at time-honoured Dutch traditions, to the scintillating geometric canvases for which he remains best known today.
And Janssen’s point is that, while Mondrian’s well-known grids may seem simple and straightforward, it took him many years of experimentation and hard work before he was ready to produce them. Moreover, he did so, in part, in response to the great cities where he lived – Amsterdam, Paris, London, New York – and the dramatic forces that he sensed convulsing Western society within them.
Read more at the BBC.
In the morning, when we arrive on foot from Dumont d’Urville, the French scientific base on the Adélie Coast of East Antarctica, we have to break up a thin layer of ice that has formed over the hole we drilled the day before. The hole goes right through the 10-foot-thick ice floe. It’s just wide enough for a man, and below it lies the sea. We’ve never tried to dive through such a small opening. I go first.
Pushing and pulling with hands, knees, heels, and the tips of my swim fins, I shimmy through the hole. As I plunge at last into the icy water, I look back—to a sickening sight. The hole has already begun to close behind me.
The bottom surface of the sea ice is a thick slurry of floating ice crystals, and my descent has set them in motion. They’re converging on the hole as if it were an upside-down drain. By the time I thrust one arm into the icy mush, it’s three feet thick. Grabbing the safety rope, I pull myself up inch by inch, but my shoulders get stuck. Suddenly I’m stunned by a sharp blow to the head: Cédric Gentil, one of my dive buddies, is trying to dig me out, and his shovel has struck my skull. Finally a hand grabs mine and hauls me into the air. Today’s dive is over—but it’s only one of 32.
I’ve come here with another photographer, Vincent Munier, at the invitation of filmmaker Luc Jacquet, who’s working on a sequel to his 2005 triumph, March of the Penguins. While Jacquet films emperor penguins and Munier photographs them, my team will document life under the sea ice. In the winter the ice reaches 60 miles out to sea here, but we’ve come in October 2015, at the beginning of spring. For 36 days, as the ice breaks up and retreats to within a few miles of the coast, we’ll dive through it, down as deep as 230 feet.
I’ve worked for decades as a deep-diving photographer, at first in the Mediterranean Sea, where I learned to dive 30 years ago. Later, a craving for new mysteries took me elsewhere. I’ve dived to 400 feet off South Africa to photograph rare coelacanths, and for 24 straight hours off Fakarava, in French Polynesia, to witness the mating of 17,000 groupers. But this expedition to Antarctica is unlike any other. Here we’ll be diving deeper than anyone has dived before under Antarctic ice—and the conditions will be beyond harsh.
Read more at National Geographic.
It is the golden hour in the Promised Land, and we are walking down Hallelujah Lane, going to see the Apostles. Only at Oprah’s house can one come up with a sentence like that as a literal description. Translation: It is a beautiful early evening in May, and Oprah and I are walking along one of the cobblestone lanes she has built on her 65-acre California estate, a startlingly beautiful landscape she calls the Promised Land. We are heading toward her favorite spot, where, under the shade of a spectacular live oak, she often lies on a chaise and reads. The tree is just one in a grove of twelve (the Apostles), and it is hard to tell where one tree ends and the next begins, their endless branches twisting and curling in a gorgeous, spooky tangle.
It’s no accident that this place is reminiscent of a Southern plantation. Right around the time her movie Beloved, the film adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, tanked at the box office in the fall of 1998—and after “Deliverance moved in next door” to her farm in Indiana—Oprah decided she needed to make some big changes, and so she began looking to buy an actual Southern plantation. Her fitness guru Bob Greene was scouring for such a place when he stumbled on this property: 42 acres of paradise perfectly situated between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. (Last year, when her neighbor died, Oprah outbid a developer for another 23 acres.) Oprah bought it in 2001 and began a five-year construction and landscaping project—managed by Greene—that included planting a forest of mature oaks and building a fountain the size of a lake that shoots water to the heavens.
“I was calling it Tara II,” says Oprah, “and one day Bob and I were walking around the property and he said, ‘Scarlett O’Hara wishes she had this. Scarlett was not living like this.’ So he goes, ‘You need a better name. The fact that you are an African-American woman from Mississippi and you get to have this . . . it’s deep.’ So I go, ‘Yeah! It’s like a dream.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah! It’s a promise! It’s the Promised Land!’ So I feel that every day. I don’t know of a person who can honestly, deeply, profoundly speak to the word contentment. I’ve tried to talk to other people about this thing: I have no angst. No . . . nothing. No regret, no fear. I mean . . . just absolute joyful contentment.”
When I first arrived around lunchtime, a handsome fellow in a golf cart—Oprah’s head of security—appeared at the gate to take me to the house, and as we bumped along the cobblestones, her enormous neo-Georgian mansion came into view. We passed workers on other golf carts, men clipping hedges, an elaborate formal rose garden, a pond with ducks. He deposited me in the house in a room off the kitchen, where a small army of women in uniforms scurried in and out. Someone offered me a sandwich, which was served with a place setting of vintage silverware, a Venetian water glass, and a beautiful linen napkin with a hand-embroidered O.
I heard a rustling in the kitchen, and suddenly Oprah appeared from around a corner in a bathrobe and slippers. The photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz was running long, and she didn’t like that we had not yet said hello. “Annie was saying, ‘I hope I’m not keeping you from Jonathan,’ ” she says. “I go, ‘I’m not worried about Jonathan. Because I can only concentrate on being here with you right now. And then when I’m with Jonathan, I will be with Jonathan and I won’t be thinking about you!’ She let out a big laugh and, as she was walking away, said, “I have learned that being-fully-present thing. I am 1,000 percent fully present.”
When the shoot is finally over, I am taken to the teahouse, a romantic, open-air stone structure Oprah built for the sole purpose of reading The New York Times in the morning while drinking her tea. There are orchids everywhere, stacks of gardening books, and voluminous green wicker sofas and chairs. The first time I interviewed her for this magazine was in 1998, when I spent three summer days hiking in Telluride with Oprah, her best friend and colleague Gayle King, and Bob Greene as Oprah was getting ready for the press rollout for Beloved and her Vogue cover shoot, for which she was training and dieting to lose 20 pounds. The hikes were brutal; the meals afterward, cooked by her then-chef, Art Smith, spartan. I was not there to lose weight but came home several pounds lighter. During one of those hikes, I asked if she had ever imagined she’d be on the cover of Vogue. “Dreamed to be in Vogue? I’m a black woman from Mississippi . . . I would never have even thought of it as a possibility . . . I’ve been fighting weight all my life, definitely never even thought of myself as an attractive girl.” She laughed. “So why would I be dreaming about Vogue? Vogue is the big house! Didn’t think I’d be sittin’ at that table!”
Read more at Vogue.
It’s a bright summer day in central London and a swarm of tourists are snapping selfies overlooking the River Thames. Out of nowhere, hundreds of teenage boys on bikes flood onto London Bridge from the south.
Spreading out across all lanes, they block traffic and throw their front wheels defiantly up to the sky. A few riders break away from the group, jumping the barrier between lanes before wheelieing their way down the wrong side of the road, swerving at the last moment to avoid oncoming vehicles.
At the head of the cascade, it’s impossible to miss Kizzy, with his chestnut-tipped afro tied in knots that resemble giant bunny ears. He’s flanked by Jake and Kizzy’s cousin Mac, who co-founded Bikestormz in 2014.
“It’s an amazing feeling being surrounded by hundreds of people who share the same passion as you,” says Jake, reflecting on what they’ve pulled off. “I never thought something like this could happen here. All you can see is a storm of positivity.”
London projects itself as a prosperous, progressive city but beneath that facade it’s riven with inequality and violence. Nearly 40 per cent of young people grow up in poverty here – the highest level in the country, a figure that doubles if you’re not white. Knife crime has climbed to a four-year high and youth services have been slashed by local authority cuts, leaving few opportunities for kids without wealthy parents.
In a capital that offers less and less to its young people, riders have had to come up with an outlet of their own. #Bikelife, the wider movement that Bikestormz belongs to, emerged from the grittier neighbourhoods of Baltimore and Philadelphia. Motorbike riders would post videos of themselves either holding their machines completely vertical – ‘12 O’Clock’, as it’s known – or being chased by police.
Read more at Huck.
My entire girlhood I spent obsessed with magazines, a journey I can map exactly: It started with furtively reading 16 and Bop and Teen Beat at the grocery store, ogling pictures of JTT and Devon Sawa. I had a subscription to American Girl, a magazine for elementary schoolers with advice about dealing with friend drama and instructions for craft projects. I remember one about how to make a tiny model of a barbecue grill. When I was 10, I discovered Twist, a (now long-defunct) alterna-teen mag with cover stars like Fiona Apple. In it I learned about summer jobs, birth control, and how to dress for my body type (I WAS 10). I soon had subscriptions to YM, Teen People, Cosmogirl, and Elle Girl. (RIP one and all.) I remember the 2003 Young Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, where the cover story jokingly began, “Welcome to the launch party for Teen Vanity Fair.” I did not understand the irony and momentarily tried to find out where I could subscribe.
By my midteens I was on to Glamour, Jane, Vogue, and W, which I read cover to cover every month instead of doing my homework. Seeing an issue I had not yet gotten in the mail at the store would send me into such fits of covetousness that sometimes I would make my dad buy it for me, so I eventually had two copies. I reread my magazines and hoarded them, organizing them in a file cabinet that my parents supposedly still have in storage somewhere. I’m honestly afraid to ask about it.
In the hours I was reading my magazines I was fantasizing about making them, too. I have weird little pages in my childhood diaries where I invented fake teen pop stars and interviewed them. They were always dating hot celebrities like Paul Walker. The goal to work at a magazine seemed so natural — do what you love! — and I saw the dream of the magazine job modeled everywhere: in movies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and on TV, where The Hills’ Lauren Conrad got a job as an intern for Teen Vogue. I realize now that magazine jobs are also idealized by magazines themselves: Staffers were often the guinea pigs in their own stories, where they tried out fashion trends or weird beauty treatments or sex positions.
Vogue, especially, would feature pictures of their tan and classy editors who were learning to invest in art or work the season’s new skirt length into their wardrobes. The July 2017 issue of Vogue contains an article about a writer trying out pantsuits, wearing a pink Adam Lippes suit “to supper at Le Coucou” and a tartan suit by Racil “for a day at the races with friends.” It is common knowledge that the entire luxury industry is buoyed by the concept of aspiration, so selling a sophisticated lifestyle might mean promoting the idea of making a magazine as the chicest work imaginable.
Read more at Racked.
Walking into the new Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works facility in Coventry, England — basically a massive 150,000-square-foot repair and restoration shop — the contrast is startling. Ancient, beaten-down Defenders, with their doors barely hanging on and their engines hopeless, rusted hulks, sit on spotless floors under lighting fit for a surgical theater rather than in gritty, equally ancient garages as technicians in crisp uniforms pore over them. Newly glistening 60s E-Types — bonnets detached — meet period engines that look as though they just rolled off an assembly line themselves. Stately XJ sedans from the 1980s glide slowly into service bays worthy of any 2017 Ferrari or Lamborghini.
Read more at Gear Patrol.
I am going through a personal crisis. I used to love reading. I am writing this blog in my office, surrounded by 27 tall bookcases laden with 5,000 books. Over the years I have read them, marked them up, and recorded the annotations in a computer database for potential references in my writing. To a large degree, they have formed my professional and spiritual life.
Books help define who I am. They have ushered me on a journey of faith, have introduced me to the wonders of science and the natural world, have informed me about issues such as justice and race. More importantly, they have been a source of delight and adventure and beauty, opening windows to a reality I would not otherwise know.
My crisis consists in the fact that I am describing my past, not my present. I used to read three books a week. One year I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (Okay, due to interruptions it actually took me two years). Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But I am reading many fewer books these days, and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work.
The Internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around. When I read an online article from the Atlantic or the New Yorker, after a few paragraphs I glance over at the slide bar to judge the article’s length. My mind strays, and I find myself clicking on the sidebars and the underlined links. Soon I’m over at CNN.com reading Donald Trump’s latest tweets and details of the latest terrorist attack, or perhaps checking tomorrow’s weather.
Neuroscientists have an explanation for this phenomenon. When we learn something quick and new, we get a dopamine rush; functional-MRI brain scans show the brain’s pleasure centers lighting up. In a famous experiment, rats keep pressing a lever to get that dopamine rush, choosing it over food or sex. In humans, emails also satisfy that pleasure center, as do Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat.
Read more at The Washington Post.