BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 06: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) holds a banner as she takes part in a "Youth Strike 4 Climate" protest against global warming and climate change on March 6, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
At Rolling Stone, Stephen Rodrick profiles teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. Thunberg won’t fly, for climate reasons, and her willingness to make personal sacrifices for the Earth gets Rodrick thinking about his own influence on the planet’s future. The teen’s message is not all doom and gloom, it’s about taking action, now: she’s working tirelessly to influence politicians and decision makers because we still have eight years to reduce carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic damage to Earth.
My Greta travels featured a Vancouver-Zurich round trip and then an L.A.-Stockholm trip. In between, I fly from Vancouver to L.A. for another story. It’s the job, but I take stock in horror and calculate that my three flights burn more carbon than the yearly usage of the average citizen of more than 200 countries. I torch the atmosphere so I can hear others praise the girl who won’t fly.
“The phrase ‘A little child shall lead them’ has come to mind more than once,” Al Gore tells me in Davos, before sharing his favorite Greta moment. It was at the U.N. summit last fall. “She said to the assembled world leaders, ‘You say you understand the science, but I don’t believe you. Because if you did and then you continue to act as you do, that would mean you’re evil. And I don’t believe that.’” Gore shook his head in wonderment. “Wow.” He then gives a history lesson: “There have been other times in human history when the moment a morally-based social movement reached the tipping point was the moment when the younger generation made it their own. Here we are.”
Somehow, it was Greta turning her weakness into strength that made her a global icon. According to Malena, Greta fell silent after seeing a film in school depicting floating armies of plastic infesting our oceans. Other students were horrified, but quickly returned to their iPhones and talk of upcoming ski trips. Not Greta. She fell silent and obsessed over the climate’s demise.
“I felt very alone that I was the only one who seemed to be worried about this,” Greta tells me in Stockholm. “I was the only one left in this sort of bubble. Everyone else could just continue with their lives as usual, and I couldn’t do that.”
Greta read all she could and sometimes went online and battled with climate deniers, oft exclaiming triumphantly, “He blocked me,” to her parents. She eventually wrote an essay on the climate crisis for a Swedish newspaper. Eco-activists contacted her, and Greta mentioned the inspiration she took from the school strikes after the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, and suggested a climate version. The activists showed little interest. Greta didn’t care and slowly broke out of her cocoon.
This Ozark Life project is a lot of things for me: a way to get to know the people around us, a way to record this time and place from my perspective for the history books, and a way to pursue a personal challenge. But, perhaps the reason that motivates me the most is connecting the Ozark culture to the life I used to live in the Chicago suburbs. By seeing moments that are totally normal in the Ozarks, moments that make me smile, and realizing how quirky those would look to a person living outside this area, I can relate our mountain world to other people.
Often these are snippets in my own family’s everyday life, but lately I am spending time photographing others in my community. I am drawn to documenting people who work using their hands and ingenuity to make a living. Those who are following their passion and those who are making a living off of the land here. I love spending time with other families similar to my own, who are navigating life here, each with its own twist.
I am still the same introverted girl who grew up in the suburbs. Getting to know new people makes me more nervous photographing for this project. It’s a challenge that is daunting on most days, but the camaraderie built by pushing through that with my subjects yields the intimacy I strive for in my storytelling. Some of the folks I photograph are friends and neighbors, but others are people I meet through circumstance, whose everyday story I find interesting and a good piece for my Ozark Life story quilt. But I approach them. I might talk to them right away about my project, or I might let it simmer a bit and get to know them over days, months, even years before I bring up my project and my request to photograph them.
Time moves, everyone in their own rhythms and situations, yet it’s a cadence we all relate to. The difference between the Ozarks and the suburbs where I grew up are the ties people have to the land, which grow deeper with every generation. Will Norton can point to the soil under his feet and say his granddad’s dad farmed the same soil where he now raises both cattle and his family. There’s a respect and connection to these hills that’s hard to put into words; it’s almost like a heartbeat that the land infuses in you.
Eric and Pam Bealer were the epitome of resourcefulness. Both artists lived in a remote area of Alaska. They raised animals and vegetables on a wild landscape that was often the inspiration for the art they created. After Pam was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the aughts, the couple enacted a plan to end their own lives at a time they chose.
Solovyov later told me that, when he saw the little boat crammed with art that March day, he should have known. For years, the couple had talked with close friends about their intention to die together when Pam’s time came. She did not wish to see her disease through; Eric did not plan to live without his wife. But it was one thing to talk about this in the abstract. It was another for Solovyov to stand in the harbor and realize that his friend had prepared his last exhibition. “He brought everything with him,” he said.
Isolated as the cabin was, they had a neighbor there, and his place had Wi-Fi, which they were able to use even when he was away. So they were generally in touch with people by e-mail. When that communication stopped, in mid-September, their friends took notice. They put the word out to folks in Pelican: If anyone was heading for Yakobi Island, could they look in on the Bealers?
On October 5, a pair of Pelican-area residents, a married couple, made the trip to the island. Leaving his wife in their boat, the husband hiked up a trail to the Bealers’ cabin. The screen door to the covered porch was open. He went in and found a plastic bin filled with packages and letters, and a note taped to the glass window of the main door, which was locked. On one side the note read: “Hello, if you are looking for the Bealers… Please read this. If you found this, please mail the attached packages. It will go to the people who will know what to do next and take care of things. Please accept the cash as a gift to pay you for your trouble, and postage for these packages and envelopes.”
Sinéad O’Connor maintains her proudest day is the one in 1992 when she tore up the pope’s photo on Saturday Night Live. Some suggest she’s been struggling ever since, but it seems the problems started much earlier, with an abusive childhood at the hands of a deeply religious mother. Nearly 30 years later, at age 53, after four marriages, four children, and a series of physical and mental health issues, she’s transposed her anger and anguish into music — headlining a series of sold-out shows on the east coast of the US (now postponed due to Coronavirus). Read Geoff Edgers‘ excellent profile at The Washington Post.
There are still moments when O’Connor will break down, either in fury, tears or a kind of self-loathing. But during her most recent hospital stay, which ended last May, she learned an important concept, which has become her mantra: radical acceptance. As a girl, she suffered abuse from her deeply religious mother that remains with her decades after her mother’s death. In the past, she’s tried to fight and deflect it, sometimes by lashing out at others. She’s learned that this doesn’t help.
“Because that kind of pain doesn’t go away,” O’Connor says. “You only learn to live with it. Music is where I can manage it.”
She sat there quietly. Even as O’Connor finishes a memoir aimed for the spring of 2021, starts work on her first album in years and awaits the second leg of a tour — a string of sold-out East Coast shows, including at the Birchmere, which have been postponed due to coronavirus concerns — there is a bigger project underway. How to live.
O’Connor doesn’t have a home studio or notebooks lying around filled with song drafts. She writes, she says, largely in her head. A melody will strike, the words will come and she’ll repeat the whole thing until it’s ready to be laid down as a demo.
Reynolds, her longtime producer, remembers O’Connor composing virtually all of 1994’s “Universal Mother” in a single night, simply singing into a tape recorder. She isn’t afraid to share her inspirations, whether the therapy time in “Milestones” or “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance,” about her relationship with former manager and onetime partner Fachtna O’Ceallaigh.
In this intimate and moving piece for The New York Times Magazine, Jessica Lustig writes about the dystopian horror story she’s living as she cares for her husband, who has been battling Coronavirus for the past two weeks.
CK and I had settled in to watch “Chernobyl,” the HBO series about the 1986 nuclear accident and its aftermath, when T first felt sick and went to lie down in the bedroom. We stopped after three episodes. That time, when we would sit on the couch watching something together, is behind us. Now there is too much rushing back and forth, making sure T has a little dinner — just a tiny bowl of soup, just an appetizer, really, that he is unable to smell, that he fights nausea to choke down — taking his temperature, monitoring his oxygen-saturation levels with the fingertip pulse oximeter brought by a friend from the drugstore on the doctor’s advice, taking him tea, dispensing his meds, washing my hands over and over, texting the doctor to say T is worse again, standing next to him while he coughs into the covers, rubbing his knees through the blankets.
I am texting the doctor. I am texting T’s five siblings on a group chat, texting my parents and my brother, texting T’s business partner and employees and his dearest friends and mine, in loops and loops, with hearts and thankful prayer-hands emoji. He is too exhausted, too weak, to answer all the missives winging to him at all hours. “Don’t sugarcoat it for my family,” he tells me. He has asked for the gray sweater that was his father’s, that his father wore when he was alive. He will not take it off.
I run through possibilities. I’m not so worried about CK getting sick. I can nurse her too. It’s if I get sick. I show her how to do more things, where things go, what to remember, what to do if — What if T is hospitalized? What if I am? Could a 16-year-old be left to fend for herself at home, alone? How would she get what she needed? Could she do it? For how long?
The one thing I know is that I could not send her to my parents, 78 years old and nearby on Long Island. They would want her to come, but she could kill them, their dear grandchild coming forward to their embrace, radioactive, glowing with invisible incubating virus cells. No. Not them. Someone else would have to take her, someone who has a bedroom and a bathroom where she could isolate and be cared for. Someone would. I lie awake at 4 a.m., on the floor, listening, thinking, wide awake with adrenaline.
You ask a question, then he’s off, parkouring from subject to subject, and before you know it Dwight Yoakam is saying things like “I would even point to the Spanish-American War” or “And that begins, to my way of thinking, with Northern and Western Europe throwing off the yoke of theocracy, and the writings of John Calvin, and Martin Luther, going back centuries earlier, and that’s what leads us…” in response to a question along the lines of “So how long have you had this office space?”
At one point our conversation spirals from Merle Haggard to the Maddox Brothers and Rose to a particular shot from the Amazon Prime series Patriot to the underdiscussed formal impact of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio on the modern novel to David Bowie. Dwight met Bowie in the ’90s and asked him about Elvis Presley, because Bowie and Elvis share a birthday—which is the kind of thing Dwight knows—and Bowie told him that six months before Elvis’s death, the King had called Bowie and asked him to produce his next record, because apparently Elvis loved “Golden Years.” Bowie said he’d do it; then every time he tried to call Elvis after that, some Memphis Mafia guy would pick up and say, “He can’t come to the phone right now, man.” Dwight’s never forgotten anything and everything reminds him of something, is the point. Sometimes it’s like talking to Doctor Manhattan.
Whether this is intentional or not, it’s a good way of avoiding giving too much away.
Sing Sing is on the east bank of the Hudson River, in Westchester County. Behind a thirty-foot wall, 1600 of us live in close quarters on open-tier cellblocks stacked four or five floors high. In here, there is no such thing as “social distancing.”
Look down the phone line at any prison in America, and you’ll see prisoners holding socks. When it’s you’re your turn, you pull the sock over the handset. Lately, some guys have brought nasal-spray bottles filled with bleach and water, which they use to wipe everything down. A primitive form of preventative health.
In this beautiful essay exploring gender identity and grief through the fantastical lens of professional wrestling, Gabrielle Bellot remembers a special childhood friend who died young. She mourns “all the relationships I never got to have with the people who never knew me as a woman.” Read the piece atCatapult.
When you feel small, it’s easy to dream big, big, big, and so that was what we did. We dreamed in the way that people in a small place dream, dreams in which you walk onto the glittering stage of the world and see a cheering crowd and get to smile and wave and say, Yes, you know my name now, blissfully stunned by the fact that foreigners actually know the name of our country. We dreamed of validation rather than the value we already had, because we were still convinced that we could only be successful if white people in America and Europe said we were, because the maelstrom logic of colonialism is that it leaves us despising our colonizing countries and seeking their approval all the same. We dreamed as Coleridge did of Xanadu, grand visions that slipped away at the last moment.
I wonder what Rezi would think if he saw the wrestler I had wanted to be, the woman I had wanted all the world to know. I wonder what he would think if he could see me now, not as some sparkling femme of the ring, but simply as the woman who walks to the subway in Queens to commute to work: curls long, lips fuschia or fiery or fairy-blue. I wonder if he would have jumped back, shocked, then muttered gruffly to keep my distance, what de hell wrong with you, saying he would hit me if I came closer—the defenses of anti-queerness he had worn for so long like everyone else I grew up with—or if, instead, he would have taken my hand, after a pause, and let me hug him, because secretly he knew she was in me all along.
PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 29: Notre Dame Cathedral is seen during restoration work more than nine months after the fire that ravaged the emblematic monument on January 29, 2020 in Paris, France. A fire broke out in Notre- Dame Cathedral in the evening of Monday April 15, 2019 and quickly spread to the building's wooden roof destroying the famous spire. The building cleaning and consolidation phase should continue for a few more months. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
On April 15th, 2019, a fire started in the attic of Notre Dame, an 850-year-old cathedral housing priceless art in the form of paintings, stained glass, and an organ boasting 8,000 pipes.
In this fascinating piece at Science Magazine, Christa Lesté-Lasserre describes the multi-disciplinary effort to decontaminate the structure and its artifacts from lead released during the fire and to evaluate every limestone block to determine whether, after the porous stone releases water absorbed during the blaze, it can be re-used to restore the structure.
The charred remnants of attic timbers have stories of their own to tell, says Alexa Dufraisse, a CNRS researcher heading the wood group. Variations in thickness, density, and chemical composition of growth rings reveal climatic conditions year by year. “Wood registers absolutely everything while it’s growing,” she says. Notre Dame’s oak beams grew in the 12th and 13th centuries, a warm period known as the Medieval Climate Optimum. By connecting the growth ring record with what’s known about economic conditions at the time, researchers hope to see how climate variations affected medieval society, she says.
The shape of the beams also intrigues the wood team. Long and narrow, they clearly grew in a dense, competitive environment, Dufraisse says. That supports the “silviculture” hypothesis, the idea that the trees were purposefully reserved or farmed for the cathedral. Their age at cutting—about 100 years old—would suggest people were planning Notre Dame several generations before construction began.
The location of that forest is another mystery Dufraisse’s team is tackling, using the beams’ chemical composition. The Paris area is likely, but boats might have shipped wood along the Seine from farther away. Soils contain levels of strontium and neodymium isotopes that vary from region to region, but stay constant over the centuries—especially at the depths tapped by the roots of oak trees. So her group is seeking to match the wood’s isotopic makeup to that of soil in likely locations. “These questions will also be pertinent if we’re looking at meeting the requirement of reconstruction that’s identical to the original,” she says.
As for Maurin, he’s investigating the builders’ marks on the roof support beams. Applied by men shaping the beams on the ground, they were meant as instructions for the assembly team working more than 30 meters above them. “It was kind of the IKEA of the Middle Ages,” he says.
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: Bowen Yang (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Viacom )
Bowen Yang joined Saturday Night Live in 2018 as a writer and quickly became a beloved part of the cast in the 2019-2020 season. (My personal favorite Bowen Yang character: “bitchy” Kim Jong-un.) In this all-too-brief profile at GQ, Bowen talks to Chris Gayomali about how the elder Yang’s insistence on conversion therapy ended up as bonding opportunities for father and son.
At one point during lunch, Bowen tells a story about how his parents found an “open chat window” on the family computer, which is how they learned that Bowen was gay. “I had never seen my dad cry before up until that point,” says Bowen. “And I was coming home from school every day to him sobbing.”
Soon, Dad pitches Bowen on the idea of conversion therapy to “fix” his queerness. It wasn’t that the family was religious or anything. It was more: “We solve problems in this house, and this feels like a solution,” explains Bowen. “We’re not really going to look into how it’s destructive or bad or terrible.” So a 17-year-old Bowen, perhaps implicitly understanding that his parents may be operating from a place of fear, opens up a little bit of space in his heart and goes, “Okay, if it means you’ll stop being this sad…then sure.”