Small islands have always been objects of desire for a certain kind of man ambitious to rule his own tiny nation. One Hebridean isle asserted its independence, but can its way of life survive?
“It’s the difference between black-and-white TV and colour,” said Brian Greene. “That’s what it was like after the revolution.” Greene was giving me a lift in his dilapidated Peugeot along Eigg’s only road, waving at every passerby. It was the kind of explosive Highland summer day when butterflies jinked out of the steaming greenery and every foxglove, fuchsia and yellow flag iris seemed to have simultaneously burst into flower.
Small islands are like celebrities: they loom far larger than their actual size, they are pored over by visitor-fans and they become public possessions, laden with reputations and attributes they may or may not embody. The Hebridean island of Eigg is second to St Kilda as the most famous of the smaller British isles. While St Kilda is renowned for its extinction as a place of human settlement, Eigg is celebrated for its rebirth. After overthrowing its eccentric, authoritarian owner two decades ago, this 31 sq km (12 sq mile) patch of moor and mountain was reborn as what is sometimes mockingly called the People’s Republic of Eigg. This triumph of David versus Goliath has forged an apparently inspirational, sustainable community of 100 people. On first glance, it appears at once industriously creative and attractively lackadaisical: colourful houses, gardens filled with strawberry patches, hammocks made from old fishing nets and swings from old pink buoys.
Eigg has suffered more than most over the perennial small-island question of ownership. Larger British isles, such as the islands of Shetland and Orkney, or the Isle of Man, have (at least in modern times) avoided the vexation of capricious landlords. Perhaps their remoteness, or the strength of their local culture, militate against individual possession, but it may simply be sheer size. In contrast, the Small Isles – Eigg, Muck, Rùm and Canna – are perfectly formed and of an ideal acreage to be possessed by one person. For the last two centuries, these beautiful, fecund Hebridean islands have been objects of desire for wealthy men – and it has always been men – who love islands, with disastrous consequences for both sides.
The islophile DH Lawrence wrote a satirical short story, The Man Who Loved Islands. It is a cautionary tale: a young idealist called Mr Cathcart buys a small island in order to create his own utopia, downsizes to a tiny one when he realises the native islanders are mocking him, and finally moves to an uninhabited rock. Fredrik Sjöberg, an author I visited on the tiny Swedish island of Runmarö, believes small islands possess “a peculiar attraction for men with a need for control and security” because “nothing is so enclosed and concrete as an island”. The literary academic Peter Conrad offers a more Freudian interpretation, suggesting that an island is a “uterine shelter” surrounded, like the foetus, by fluid, and attracting men in search of a mother or a primal source of safety. Novelists cocoon their creativity – and fragile egos – on islands, too. “I like islands,” wrote Will Self, “because they’re discrete and legible, just like stories.”
Read more at The Guardian.
Reach for that bucket list, because we’ve got a few things to add to it. From Antony Gormley to Claes Oldenburg, when it comes to public works of art, they’re responsible for the crème de la crème, and you can visit them! Read on for the 22 global art spots you just can’t miss . . .
Read more at PopSugar.
Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc spent nearly four years shooting portraits of — and collecting stories about — women from around the world. The product of her vision — and her travels to 50 countries — can be seen in her book The Atlas Of Beauty.
The project, she says, began as something “very genuine and sincere” that she financed, initially, with her own savings — and by being frugal in her backpacking adventure. She later crowd-funded, including a Facebook campaign in March.
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navaro spoke with the 31-year-old via phone from Berlin about her photography. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This book is called The Atlas Of Beauty. What is beautiful to you? What kind of beauty were you trying to evoke?
That’s a very long story, actually. I’m going to try to make it short. You know nowadays the word usually has a little bit of a bad meaning in the end. And everything that’s related to beauty is just related to marketing and sales. If you’re going to put into Google, for example, ‘beautiful woman,’ you’re just going to see women with parted lips and a little bit over-sexualized. And that’s not what beauty means. In the end, I think beauty just means just being yourself. I don’t think we have to change ourselves to be in a certain way; I think we just have to keep ourselves as we are and don’t necessarily [need] to change.
Were you trying to reclaim the word ‘beauty,’ perhaps, from the male gaze and make it more about the way women see other women?
Maybe people that are going to look at my work are going to draw their own conclusions. I think I started the project in a very sincere way and the way it developed made us see some lessons from it.
The book features all these portraits of different women in different situations, of different ages, of different colors, of different sizes all over the world, and little snippets of their stories. How did you choose your subjects?
That’s a very beautiful question because I think everything is very instinctual and, maybe, it’s something that attracts you more than the appearance. Like a chemistry that happens for a moment between you and the person that you photograph. And you’re just drawn to the people that you’re going to photograph. It’s something very natural, it’s nothing planned. That’s the beauty of it, and that’s why the book is more honest and more sincere. Because if I would have planned everything, probably it would be very different.
Read more or listen at NPR.
There were two events that were to change the life of 49-year-old French-Canadian film-maker Denis Villeneuve. The first was the arrival of three boxes, given to him before he reached his teens, by an aunt who strongly believed in extraterrestrials. The boxes – battered, overspilling – were full of sci-fi comic books by French artists from the 60s and 70s, the likes of Philippe Druillet and Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Enki Bilal and Raymond Poïvet. They were often baroque and bizarre, a little bit funny, a little bit nightmarish. Stories in Métal Hurlant depicted a sci-fi warrior who rose on a pterodactyl-like creature – and featured no words. In Pilote, a Victorian adventurer guarded his own pocket universe, situated on an asteroid, from invaders (think Doctor Who with a much bigger Tardis).
He didn’t know, he says now, what these artists were taking – but he wanted some. “It was just something I didn’t have any contact with. Still today, I think the best sci-fi has been designed by those guys.” It was, he says, a “storm of ideas” that hit him.
The second was a ticket he bought when he was 14, in a theatre near the small Canadian village where he grew up, for Blade Runner. At that point, pre-internet, his only link with the wider cultural world was magazines such as Starlog or Fantastic Films – “magazines made by maniacs”, which he means in the best possible way – and it was on the cover of one of these that he’d seen the first Blade Runner still.
“I remember the emotion,” he says, “of seeing my favourite actor at the time [Harrison Ford] doing a new character.” But, crucially, it was an adult character; a sci-fi film, like the comics he’d come to love, that wasn’t pitching down. “Yes! An adult world. A sci-fi film for adults. Which for me, when you’re a teenager, was a big thing. Like, it’s serious. It’s not a comedy. It felt like an existential sci-fi. It had a strong aesthetic. It felt new.”
Read more at Wired.
In technology, big breakthroughs always seem to take longer than we assume. There’s an amusing recursive “law” that describes this phenomenon, Hofstadter’s Law, which states: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
Hofstadter’s Law is a wry way of saying that the time it takes to solve super complex problems — even factoring in extra time because they’re super complex — is fiendishly difficult to calculate. Let’s take self-driving cars, for instance. That’s a technical problem of enormous magnitude which involves weaving together mechanical and digital systems of breathtaking sophistication. And then you’ve got to make the whole thing work — without harming anyone — within a crazy quilt framework of federal, state and laws.
A fully autonomous car sounds like something we’ll get in the latter half of the century. And yet, it’s increasingly likely that we’re only a few years away.
One of the more interesting stories of the past week was that the Ford Motor Company announced a partnership with Lyft to bring autonomous cars to consumers in 2021. Ford, the second-largest car manufacturer in the U.S., is the latest to join a growing list of auto makers and smart-car systems developers that have agreed to participate in Lyft’s Open Platform Initiative. That’s already a thing — Lyft provides APIs, dispatching, network connectivity, and all the trimmings the self-driving car industry needs to rapidly test and deploy its technology.
Of course, some pundits suspect the smart car is further out than it looks. McKinsey & Co., notably, offers a more skeptical, Hofstadter-like estimate, and says truly autonomous cars “could be more than a decade away.” Ethical issues need to be resolved — when a child chases a ball into the street and the driver must choose between running it over or swerving into an oncoming school bus, what’s the right call? Presumably, the car’s algorithms will need to make that choice. (Good expatiation in The Atlantic, here, and why this might be a straw-man argument, here.)
Self-driving cars are still being debugged (this Brookings Institution report on the April 2016 Tesla crash is worth a scan). Once they arrive in force they’ll displace professional drivers. And even if, within the next few years, suddenly a swarm of cheap, take-you-anywhere electric Lyfts and Ubers are at your command, The Verge asks a reasonable question: What do you do with that obsolete, costly, piece of gasoline-powered junk in your driveway?
Read more at Medium.
The Deuce, HBO’s slick new show about the legalization of the pornography industry in 1970s New York, has a lot of big-ticket items going for it: a cozy premium-cable home; the guidance of showrunner David Simon, who also created the acclaimed series The Wire; James Franco playing twin brothers in seedy pre-Giuliani Times Square. But all of that pales in comparison to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s star turn as Candy Merrell, a Times Square sex worker who gets drawn into the emergent porn industry—as a behind-the-scenes player. For our November issue, Gyllenhaal celebrated Candy’s entrepreneurial spirit by embodying a different sort of working woman in the season’s best suits. In between takes, we asked her some questions about her meaty new role.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: What drew you to the project, initially?
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL:I think it had something to do with Michelle MacLaren, who directed the pilot and also the last episode. It was she who kind of said to David and George, “You should meet Maggie.” So she made the introduction. Then we all had a great meeting in New York, where I had read the first three episodes, which were all that was written when we began shooting.
HB: What was it about those first three episodes and the character? There’s quite an arc to the first eight episodes, and after episode five, it really changes her identity.
MG: One thing I was really drawn to in the very first episode is—often, when you see a portrayal of a prostitute, you only get the element of her life at work. You don’t get to see the rest of her. Right away in the first episode, there’s a very explicit scene where I say to that kid, “This is my job.” I loved that idea. You do get to see her as a daughter, and a mother, and a businesswoman, I think, even in the beginning. And an artist. You see her in relation to all of those things. Prostitution is just one aspect of that. And a lover of someone who she’s actually chosen, and sex is not transactional. You see all of it.
I was compelled by that. I was compelled also just by the quality of the writing. I think it’s rare to find writing that good. That’s what we had to talk about when we met: What is the story you’re telling, and how can this be fit into it, and how does she shift and change? How is she empowered and disempowered? How do those affect each other? We talked about all of that. I think it was important to me—because it is such a delicate subject matter in 2017—to be a part of the storytelling, and to have a guarantee that I would be a part of the storytelling.
Read more (with great pictures) at Harper’s Bazaar.
OBERSTDORF, Germany — The next effort to defuse the nuclear brinksmanship over North Korea’s missile and bomb testing may come, not from diplomats, but from a pair of North Korean figure skaters who perform to music by the Beatles.
An obscure competition on Thursday and Friday here in Bavaria has gained geopolitical urgency as the pairs team of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik seek to become the first North Korean athletes to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“We’re aware there is a lot of interest,” Kim Hyon-son, who coaches the pair, said after a training session on Wednesday, speaking briefly through an interpreter.
Despite the nuclear tests, missile launches and other saber-rattling threats, North Korea has signaled recently that it would consider participating in the Games. Its four-person skating delegation here appears somewhat guarded but approachable and friendly.
And no one would be more relieved by a North Korean triumph of sequins and Salchows this week than the International Olympic Committee and South Korean officials. They have stated adamantly and repeatedly a desire to have North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated countries, compete in what is being promoted as the Games of Peace.
While the Olympics have been tainted by staggering costs and endemic corruption, they still strive for the ideal that sport can bring people together even as governments remain hostile and apart.
At the United Nations last week, Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, called North Korea’s aggressive behavior “extremely deplorable.” But he has promoted diplomacy with the North and opposes military action. Mr. Moon struck a cautiously hopeful tone at a ceremony to unveil the design of the 2018 Olympic medals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
South Korea would embark on a “difficult but meaningful challenge” in seeking to have a tranquil Games with North Korea participating, he said in a speech.
If North Korean athletes fail to qualify, Olympic officials have said they will consider wild-card entries for North Korean athletes to encourage the country to participate. A plan to have a delegation of North Korean athletes and officials march through the demilitarized zone to the Games as a peace gesture remains under consideration.
“Tensions are high now, but because of that, peace is all the more needed,” Mr. Moon said. “If the two Koreas come together at this point in time, it will become a great opportunity to send a message of reconciliation and peace to the world.”
He added, “I do not think it is impossible.”
Read more at The New York Times.
“You know what?” Nicki Minaj says, catching a laugh in the back of her throat. “This era will be a billion times more epic than anything ‘Anaconda’ could have delivered. I think this era will definitely be the most memorable and the most impactful of my career yet.”
Lately, the Trinidadian-born, Queens-raised, international hip hop superstar has been keeping vampirical hours. “I’ve been a little bit swamped,” she explains – a funny choice of words, considering her current residence in the sinking cosmopolis of Miami Beach. Minaj has been here for most of 2017 working on her new album – her first since 2014’s The Pinkprint. “This is my main stomping ground. Every day is different. Some days I’ll go into the studio at six in the morning, some days I won’t come out until six in the morning.”
When it comes to giving intel on any direction the new album might be taking, Minaj keeps all the juicy details firmly locked away, including when it may actually see the light of day. “I’ve made it my business with this album to not even put a date or a deadline on it,” she says. “I can’t say if I’m fifty-per-cent, eighty-per-cent or ten-per-cent done, because I don’t know. Tomorrow, I might walk into the studio and decide that I don’t like anything I’ve done in the last six months. Or, tomorrow I might walk in and feel like the whole album is done. There’s so much beauty in not knowing. I just want to go in the studio and create like I used to, before there were any expectations. You know? When I was just having fun, working on my mixtapes, going in and creating… writing my little life.”
Because of her recording schedule, Minaj often wakes up to sweeping night views of the Atlantic Ocean. She loves to gaze at it, she says. It makes her feel small. “I didn’t realise the water would have so much of an effect on me,” she reveals, “but it keeps me calm. It does something to me. Even when it’s raining I go out on my balcony and all I can see is water and the sky, and I feel so small in relation to the world that I have no choice but to feel super-grateful. It’s been making me centre into myself.”
One can imagine Minaj’s difficulty in escaping her own bigness. Since 2007, she has become not just globally famous, but one of music’s most iconic presences. She has, by any available metric, surpassed every other female hip hop artist to become the most successful in history. Minaj will be as important to this decade as The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac were to the 90s. It’s likely her career will span many decades, like Madonna’s or Cher’s. She is the embodiment of millennial pink. The New York Times called her the most influential female rapper of all time. And, at the time of our chat, Billboard reports that emerging star Cardi B has landed the first top-ten solo female rap song (“Bodak Yellow”) since Minaj, underscoring the Queens rapper’s stature as the standard-bearer for female emcees.
Read more at Dazed Digital.
There’s nothing better than a good Scandinavian crime novel. The genre’s grit, moody atmosphere, sharp social commentary, and complex characters never fail to deliver my favorite crime fiction reads—and this fall is going to be a huge one for new Scandinavian crime releases! From new series installments to compelling standalones to a major movie adaptation, there’s a little something for everyone releasing this fall.
This October, my all-time favorite book will be adapted into a feature film starring MIchael Fassbender! THE SNOWMAN is Book 7 in Nesbo’s internationally-bestselling Harry Hole series, and is my personal favorite. While of course it’s always preferable to read a book series in order for full character development, you can read THE SNOWMAN as a standalone—in fact, in just about a week, I’m going to be launching something very exciting for readers who want to check out the book in anticipation of the movie release! In the meantime, you can check out my Beginner’s Guide to Jo Nesbo here.
Read more at Crime by the Book
Less than 24 hours after setting up a Go Fund Me page, YouTube stars Casey Neistat and Jerome Jarre, with the help of Ben Stiller, have reached their ten-day target goal of $1 million for aid relief in Somalia.
It’s an incredibly inspiring moment, and one that proves the power of social media and how the stars of tomorrow are influencing today’s generation.
‘Using social to raise a million dollars for those in need in less than a day really illustrates the power of social,’ Casey told Metro.co.uk.
‘The world of media and communication is changing quickly.’
The drought in Somalia has caused an historic famine that is affecting at least 5 million people; in early March 110 people from the same region died within 48 hours according to the country’s prime minister.
After Jerome, a French Vine and Snapchat star, read about the famine he set up a movement called Love Army For Somalia with the hope that social media pressure may be able to convince Turkish Airlines, the only company to fly to the African country, to use one flight to send a shipment of aid and food.
Within days he had the support of A-list stars including Ben Stiller and Ed Norton, as well as NFL player Colin Kaepernick, and Turkish Airlines had agreed to make available one cargo flight which will take 60 tonnes of food to the region on March 27.
They will also allow Love Army For Somalia to ship food containers on commercial aircrafts to the country until the end of the famine.
Read More at METRO