Posts tagged with "The Guardian"

‘Human Etch a Sketch’: GPS art and ‘burbing’

January 19, 2021

As Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Now, more than 150 years later, a new generation of artists is proving that Thoreau’s words were remarkably prescient. They are tracing their own movements via GPS over the ‘canvas’ of entire cities and regions in order to create sketches, The Guardian reports.

That’s what Strava art is at its core. Named after the fitness tracking app that has previously helped reveal secret US military bases—and also referred to as GPS art or GPXthis medium allows you to “use your movements as the paint” and “a city block as your brush stroke.” Think of them as 21st century digital geoglyphs.

 Michael Wallace, also known as WallyGPX, is one of the more prolific Strava artists online. The high school teacher from Baltimore, Maryland, has completed more than 700 pieces across his city—ranging from a map of the world, to a scene from the game Donkey Kong, to multiple tributes to the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia.

“I like to consider what I do is more like being a human etch-a-sketch,” he recently told The Guardian. “While I’m out there pedaling around the city, I’m sort of creating this imaginary digital spray paint behind me.”

Wallace’s artistic career began in 2009 after the proliferation of GPS technology in smartphones. His approach to planning is simple: Using a printed map and a pencil, he allows the streets and city parks to guide his lines and curves. He then jumps on a mountain bike and works his way around the path, likening it to tricking himself into exercising.

The artwork, itself, dictates the length of the ride. His largest piece required 44.7 miles (72km) of cycling as he took all day spinning a spider web across his city.

“I’ve never really cared about how fast I’m going,” Wallace says. “Like on Strava, everyone’s sort of obsessed with pace. For me it’s about where I am.”

An alternative approach to Strava art has also grown in popularity during the coronavirus outbreak. “Burbing” takes the same concept, but rather than sketching an image, you cover every street in a suburb.

It began as an alternative to Everesting —in which you ride the equivalent of the elevation of Mount Everest (for example, when two friends crisscrossed the roads of their respective Melbourne suburbs). It has since grown in popularity as the city went into strict COVID-19 lockdown with movements heavily restricted.

“Riding your suburb has a certain attraction,” Cameron James, one of Burbing’s founding fathers, told The Guardian. “You discover different places, different houses and areas you’d never have the occasion to go down.”

“There are some people who get a little bit anxious about missing a certain road or a couple of streets and feeling like they haven’t done the activity,” James says. “But at the end of the day, it’s about going out there, having fun and enjoying the experience.”

Research contact: @guardian

Why pink is the ‘statement-making’ hair color trend of the pandemic

January 13, 2021

In a time of pandemic, many celebrities are going out of their way to show that they are “in the pink.” Just last weekend, Chrissy Teigen unveiled a pink-purple do, while Jennifer Lopez’s stylist showed the actor and singer sporting a similar shade just before Christmas.

Variants of the color have dominated 2020’s biggest pop culture moments, and that looks set to carry on in 2021, reports The Guardian.

Justin Bieber went pink for his Yummy video in January, while Lady Gaga went pink in February for her Stupid Love video. And others such as Dua LipaMadonna and comedian Whitney Cummings dyed their hair rose, fuchsia, and bubblegum.

 “In the past year, we’ve sold one pink hair product every 30 seconds,” Alex Brownsell, co-founder and creative director of hair company Bleach, told The Guardian, adding, “which is a 50% increase from the previous year.”

There’s no doubt pink translates well on social. “As beauty influencers and consumers, we tend to lean towards things that are eye-catching and statement-making,” Los Angeles-based celebrity hair stylist DaRico Jackson told the news outlet. “Not only does pink pop on your page, but it matches up on all sides.”

Despite the apparent extremity of choosing the shade as a hair color, it is not an allegiance that needs to last forever. “It’s a low-commitment color that fades or washes out when you get bored of it,” commented Rachael Gibson, editor of the Hair Historian on Instagram.

She added the obvious:  “Pink is a very joyful, positive color, which is frankly what we all need.”.

Research contact: @guardian

Tree of the week: ‘Like the haunted figure in Munch’s The Scream, he reflects our times’

December 15, 2020

Some people look at clouds—and see angels, hearts, dogs, and faces. Others recognize familiar faces and limbs in the tangle of branches and dark hollows of a nearby sapling.

 “Most days,” says Julie Reid, a contributor to The Guardian, “I walk or run through the National Trust’s Hughenden Estate, near High Wycombe [outside greater London]. This was the home of 19th-century Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who had a passion for trees and planted specimens from all over the world in these grounds.”

At the high point of a hill that leads to the manor house gates, alongside the mature horse chestnuts and newly planted oaks, Reid writes in The Guardian, she greets, “my stricken friend: the scream tree, who reminds me of the haunted figure in Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting The Scream. I am always pleased to see him but, at the same time, he gives me a jolt.”

Stark and naked in the cold of winter, stripped of his leaves, the tree reaches out with his fragile left-sided limbs,” Reid says. “He seems to reflect these terrifying times with his expression of anguish and astonishment that things could ever have come to this.

When he is dressed for summer, his leaves barely soften his apparent torment, but give him an eccentric twist, as if he has had a new jaunty hairstyle, and put on his finest clothes and his bravest face for the world.

“This is an old sycamore tree, planted around 1800 and left as a veteran stump on the edge of the old carriage drive,” the Hughenden estate’s countryside manager, Neil Harris, told the news outlet recently. “Queen Victoria would have looked at that tree as she trundled past when she visited Disraeli.”

The scream tree in his prime must have been a majestic sight, towering above the landscape, Reid thinks. Now, in his declining years, he is a character—a community elder, a fellow sufferer.

His appearance may change with the seasons, but his message doesn’t. “To me, he is a constant reminder of the internal, hidden pain of others, of the need to be kind and compassionate,” Reid says. “But there is something else. From his lofty vantage point, is he also looking down and outward, shocked at the state of the world? Pointing. Pleading with us to do something.”

Research contact: @guardian

Go with the Flowbee: George Clooney reveals how he cuts his hair

December 11, 2020

With salons largely closed, male grooming has been in freefall since the start of the spring lockdown—and DIY haircuts have proven less-than-successful for many who no longer cut a dashing profile.

However, one Hollywood star has shown that—even in a global pandemic and, in fact, even before that—bad hair is not the great equalizer we hoped it would be, The Guardian reports.

George Clooney, the 59-year-old actor and human rights activist, has admitted to successfully cutting his own hair at home using a device called a Flowbee—an electrically powered vacuum cleaner attachment for cutting hair that has been on the market since 1988,

“My hair’s really like straw, so it’s easy,” Clooney recently told CBS Sunday Morning.

According to Clooney—twice voted People magazine’s sexiest man alive—the $139.95 (£103) contraption is so reliable that he has been using it for more than 22 years—and not simply during 2020. “My haircuts take literally two minutes,” he said, adding that its speed and efficiency had afforded him time to stain the garage doors, mop the floors and do much of the family’s washing during lockdown in their Los Angeles home.

The Flowbee was a defining product of the 1980s infomercial boom in the US. It was designed in 1988 by Rick Hunts, a San Diego carpenter who was moved to invent the product after using his industrial vacuum cleaner to suck sawdust out of his hair. Hunts initially created and sold the gadget from his garage. But it was live demonstrations at a local county fair that edged him towards success, before global fame soon beckoned him, in the form of late-night TV demonstrations. By 2010, more than 2 million Americans had bought one.

But times have changed and, more recently, the product has needed a “spokesperson” like Clooney to remind Americans that it still exists: Google searches for Flowbee took off following Clooney’s weekend admission and the Flowbee website itself crashed, The Guardian reports.

But while his endorsement will no doubt lend invaluable celebrity cachet to the brand’s image, largely unchanged since the 1980s, the Clooney effect is not in fact wholly responsible for the product’s recent success: The lack of personal services during the pandemic and the sharp increase in bad hair days are two major factors.

As early as mid-March, the Flowbee had sold out on Walmart’s website and on Amazon. It is not available in the UK, according to Fortune magazine; and  Amazon says it doesn’t know when the item will be back in stock.

Research contact: @guardian

Helicopter pilot finds mysterious monolith in remote part of Utah

November 25, 2020

He swears he wasn’t “woolgathering” when he first spotted it: A state employee assigned to count sheep from a helicopter has discovered a mysterious monolith in a remote part of Utah, The Guardian reports.

The structure, estimated at between 10 feet and 12 feet high, appeared to be planted in the ground. It was made from some sort of metal—its shine in sharp contrast to the enormous red rocks that surrounded it.

Utah’s highway patrol shared images of both the sheep and the monolith.

The helicopter pilot, Bret Hutchings, told local news channel KSLTV: “That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying.”

Hutchings was flying for the Utah Department of Public Safety, which was helping wildlife resource officers count bighorn sheep in the south of the state.

“One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” Hutchings said. “He was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around!’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And he’s like, ‘There’s this thing back there. We’ve got to go look at it!’”

Hutchings said the object looked manmade and appeared to have been firmly planted in the ground, not dropped from the sky.

“I’m assuming it’s some new wave artist or something or, you know, somebody that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan,” Hutchings said.

The monolith and its setting resembled a famous scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, in which a group of apes encounter a giant slab.

The somewhat monkey-like behavior of two crew members, dressed in sci-fi costume-like overalls, who found themselves compelled to climbed onto each other’s shoulders in an apparent effort to see over the top of the rectangular cuboid, only added to the impression, The Guardian notes.

“We were kind of joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, then the rest of us make a run for it,” Hutchings said.

Bighorn sheep live in some of Utah’s most rugged and remote areas and survive in hostile climate conditions. Fearing amateur explorers might get stuck in the wilderness while seeking out the monolith, the flight crew have not revealed its exact location.

Research contact: @guardian

Faint praise: How ‘flattering’ became fashion’s ultimate F-word

August 14, 2020

Faint praise: How ‘flattering’ became fashion’s ultimate F-word If you asked someone how your outfit looked, and they said, “Fine,” how would you feel? Not so great? But what if he or she looked you up and down and said, “Flattering”?

‘I’ve got loads of dresses that I bought because someone in the changing room told me they were flattering,” Billie Bhatia, the Fashion Features editor at Stylist magazine, recently told The Guardian in an interview. “In that moment, I feel lifted. My insecurities about my body are erased.”

But Bhatia, 30, has been having second thoughts about the word. “Occasionally, it means a great color that makes your skin glow, but most of the time ‘flattering’ is just a byword for ‘slimming’,” she said “If someone delivered the same compliment, but substituted the word ‘slimming’ for ‘flattering’, would you think that was an OK way to talk to a woman? No, right? Everyone likes to hear a compliment. But ‘flattering’ is a dangerous word.”

In 2017, the perfect pair of jeans was “on-trend”. In 2018, it was “fierce”; last year it was “extra”. Right now, it is “dripping”. In fashion, every season comes with a new form of shorthand. But one compliment—“flattering”—has outlived them all, selling more jeans, more party dresses, and more swimsuits than any other word.

“Flattering” is fashion clickbait, an add-to-basket dog whistle. Except when it’s not: For Generation Z—roughly speaking, those born between 1995 and 2010 –“flattering” is becoming a new F-word.

To compliment a woman on her “flattering” dress is passive-aggressive body-policing, sneaked into our consciousness in a Trojan horse of sisterly helpfulness, The Guardian notes.  It is a euphemism for fat-shaming, a sniper attack slyly targeting our hidden vulnerabilities. “Flattering”, in other words, is cancelled.

The British model Charli Howard, 29, has been a force for change in the fashion industry since 2015, when an angry Facebook post she wrote about her then-agency saying she was too big – she was a UK size 10/12 – went viral. “The issue with the word ‘flattering’,” says Howard, now an activist for model diversity and healthy body-image, “is that we instantly associate it with looking thin and therefore looking ‘better’. It suggests your tummy looks flatter or that your waist looks smaller. I find it’s a phrase older generations use. Girls I speak to from generation Z tend not to use it. Those girls see a diversity on social media that older generations didn’t. Celebrating your flaws is considered cool these days.”

“Magazines that I grew up with never went an issue without a ‘how to fix your body issues’ article,” Emma Davidson, 33, the Fashion Features editor at Dazed Digital, told The Guardian. “It was either about how to look slimmer or about ‘adding curves to a boyish body’. The message was that whatever you looked like, it wasn’t good enough.”

Until recently, Davidson said, “there were lots of things I didn’t wear because I thought I was ‘too big’. In the last few years, I’ve begun to accept and celebrate myself. The word ‘flattering’ is part of how fashion tells women that they are taking up too much space in the world. That’s just wrong on so many levels.”

It would be cheering to report that the word “flattering” is, therefore, being retired from active duty; phased out as society casts aside the cult of skinniness and learns to celebrate beauty in diverse shapes and sizes. The truth, sadly, is rather more complicated. With a few laudable exceptions – Eckhaus Latta’s all-sizes casting at New York Fashion Week, Vogue covers for plus-size models Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser—fashion’s bodily ideal remains stubbornly narrow. The pantheon of supermodels has yet to admit any woman over a size 8.

Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber and Bella Hadid—the most high-profile models of the moment—are as thin as or thinner than any era of cover girls before them. Every designer, every fashion retailer and every changing-room assistant will tell you that women always start with shape when shopping for clothes. “Flattering” is very much alive, and selling clothes.

What’s more, some women are protective of “flattering” as a practical shopping aid, a friendly word rather than a toxic one. “Flattering” can describe clothes that feel like they have been made with the real female body in mind, rather than clothes that have been conceived to promote an abstract concept of design, or a trend.

At the British label Me+Em, Clare Hornby, 51, and her female-led design team are proud to give their customers flattering clothes, The Guardian notes. “We listen to our customers first and then create a functional yet chic offering that speaks to their needs, rather than us telling them what they should be wearing simply because it’s ‘on-trend’,” says Hornby.

“A perfect example is our zip-front necklines: a lot of customers with larger bust sizes commented that they avoided button-up designs, so we came up with an alternative that means you can choose your own neckline – catering to lots of different shapes – but that also adds a contemporary, sports-luxe feel that speaks to our aesthetic. Turn-up cuffs on trousers and jackets, adjustable draw-cord waists, removable belts – all these intelligent design details are important, because there is no one cookie-cutter body shape.”

So, it seems that the disquiet around the word, “flattering,” isn’t about pretending that our body hang-ups have gone away, but about a rising consciousness of where those hang-ups come from. “Insecurities don’t just go away overnight,” says Davidson. “I have had a lot of unlearning to do.”

Research contact: @GuardianUS

Everything old is new again: Why young men are dressing old school

June 25, 2020

First it was Peaky Blinders; then, Harry Styles. Now ,flat caps, tailoring, and tank tops are back in fashion for a new generation, The Guardian reports. In fact, in the world of fashion, it is grandfathers who are having their day.

The grandpa look extends to all the usual items you might associate with the older man: jeans, collar shirts and cardigans, tank tops, and loafers. But this time they have been styled for a new generation.

Leaning heavily on the flat capped-influence of the TV show, Peaky Blinders, the look is something that’s been taken up by the spawn of celebrities (Brooklyn Beckham and Rocco Ritchie); as well as actors like Chris Evans (he made a cable knit sweater go viral in the filmKnives Out) and Armie Hammer.

Singer Harry Styles has carved out a niche in bespoke Gucci outfits. Indeed, as Esquire puts it: “Harry Styles is dressed like the man your grandma secretly obsessed over.”

During the menswear shows early in the year, the streets resembled a ballroom dance class for the over 65s: They were full of chic male fashionistas wearing more mules than trainers; more houndstooth coats than Puffas; and double breasted blazers instead of parkas, the Guardian notes.

A buttoned up, grandad-style of tailoring continued at the shows of Prada, Dior Men’s and Louis Vuitton, while the show from Bode  had a definite vaudeville septuagenarian air about it.

Indeed, according to The Guardian, the “set” was a community garden project (read: “cool allotment”), the collection featured a suit which looked like a pair of pyjamas, there were neckerchiefs, crocheted jackets, scarves with marbles attached, gardening gloves, and lots of animal-associated items (a bag shaped like a fish, sheep patterns, cow print). The brand promote an idea of nostalgia, repurposing quilts from the Victorian era.

Lovers Rock, a collection from Grace Wales Bonner, featured flat caps, roll necks and fleece jackets that were influenced by the older generation. “It’s a reflection of my family on my father’s side,” she said. “My grandad came from Jamaica in the 1950s.”

“It’s about retreating into a wardrobe that won’t be recognizable to anyone under 25,” says Esquire’s Digital Style Editor Murray Clark. “Wide pleated trousers of the thirties, … sweater vests, and so on. It’s not new per se, but to Gen Z, this is new, and a stitch beyond their cultural reference points.”

Research contact: @guardian

 

The moral high ground: Japanese woman leads worldwide campaign to wear flats at work

June 13, 2019

It’s high noon in the workplace: Women are gunning for a change in office dress codes that would enable them to work—and walk—in comfort.

Indeed, according to a report by The Guardian,  millions of women worldwide, at all levels of the workplace hierarchy, continue to endure their working hours tortured by blisters, bloodied flesh, foot pain, knee pain, back pain and worse, as a result of the pressure to conform to an aesthetic code—sometimes explicitly written into contracts or policy, more often subliminally expected as a societal and cultural standard—that deems it appropriate to wear high heels.

Now they are pushing back, in a campaign called #KuToo—a a play on the words kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain, in Japanese and inspired by the #MeToo movement.

In early June, Japanese actress and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa told reporters that she and her supporters had met with the Labor Ministry, “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.”

Ishikawa had the idea for the campaign after she was forced to wear high heels during a stint at a funeral parlor.  Now, she has everyone debating the politics of footwear—and has received a groundswell of online support.

But not everyone is a fan: Takumi Nemoto, Japan’s health and labor minister, defended the dress codes, telling a legislative committee that he believed it “is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate”.

The Guardian notes that a similar petition against high heels at work was signed by more than 150,000 people in the UK in support of the receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work on her first day of work at a PwC in 2016 for wearing flat shoes. The case prompted an inquiry on workplace dress codes by a committee of MPs, which highlighted other cases in the UK where women were required to wear heels—even for jobs that included climbing ladders, carrying heavy luggage, carrying food and drink up and down stairs and walking long distances.

However, Britain never changed the law, claiming scope for redress already existed under the Equality Act 2010.

In 2015 the director of the Cannes film festival apologized for the fact that women were being denied access to the red carpet for not wearing high heels. Cannes kept the dress code, despite a protest by the actor Julia Roberts, who went barefoot the next year.

However, in 2017, Canada’s British Columbia province banned companies from forcing female employees to wear high heels, saying the practice was dangerous and discriminatory. That means things might be looking up—err … down.

Research contact: @guardian

As McDonald’s loses EU trademark, Burger King slyly advertises, ‘Like a Big Mac, but actually big.’

February 13, 2019

After McDonald’s lost its trademark for the Big Mac in the European Union on January 15, Burger King in Sweden revamped its menu in a snarky hat tip to the rival fast-food chain. Imitation, it turns out, is also the sincerest form of trolling, The Washington Post reported on February 11.

The trademark was ceded to Irish entrepreneur Pat McDonagh, whose fast-food chain, Supermac’s, won the landmark legal battle against McDonald’s. The Galway-based firm persuaded the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to cancel McDonald’s’ use of the “Big Mac” trademark, opening the way for Supermac to expand across Britain and continental Europe.

It also left the way clear for Burger King—maker of the grilled Whopper—to have some fun with its global competitor.

In early February, the Post reports, Swedish outposts of Burger King featured menus with names grounded in Big Mac comparisons, including: “The Kind of Like a Big Mac, but Juicier and Tastier” and “The Big Mac-ish but Flame-Grilled Of Course.

Other options were even more derogatory, the DC-based news outlet said—among them: “The Burger Big Mac Wished It Was” and “The Anything But a Big Mac.”

“It’s too much fun for us to stay away,” said Iwo Zakowski, CEO of Burger King’s Swedish operation, according to report by The Guardian.

Burger King’s marketing campaign was created by Stockholm-based ad agency INGO. The agency released a video of customers awkwardly navigating the newly renamed menu to announce the campaign.

And as for Supermac’s, “We’re delighted,” McDonagh told The Guardian, adding, “It’s a unique victory when you take on the Golden Arches and win.”

In a statement provided to The Washington Post, McDonald’s said it plans to appeal the EUIPO decision.

“We are disappointed in the EUIPO’s decision and believe this decision did not take into account the substantial evidence submitted by McDonald’s proving use of our BIG MAC mark throughout Europe. We intend to appeal the decision and are confident it will be overturned by the EUIPO Board of Appeals,” the statement said. “Notwithstanding today’s decision, McDonald’s owns full and enforceable trademark rights for the mark ‘BIG MAC’ throughout Europe.”

Research contact: taylor.telford@washpost.com

BBC cameraman assaulted by Trump zealot at El Paso rally

February 13, 2019

As President Donald Trump whipped his base into a lather on Monday night, February 11, at an El Paso, Texas, rally—demanding a wall at the southern border and demeaning the “Fake Media”— the violence that had been simmering for so long among his supporters ratcheted up.

Sporting a red Make America Great Again cap, a man leaped out of the audience, shoving and swearing at BBC cameraman Ron Skeans—whose camera feed splintered and revolved during the short altercation—and tried to strike at other news crews before being wrestled away by a blogger in the crowd.

Skeans told his BBC colleagues that he was blindsided by a “very hard shove” during the rally, adding that he “didn’t know what was going on.”

A spokesperson for BBC told The Guardian in a statement that the cameraman was “violently pushed and shoved by a member of the crowd” while covering the event.

Meanwhile, BBC News Editor Eleanor Montague tweeted, “Just attended my first @realDonaldTrump rally where my colleague BBC cameraman Rob Skeans was attacked by a Trump supporter. The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night #TrumpElPaso

By the next morning, BBC Americas Bureau Chief Paul Danahar tweeted: “I’ve written to @PressSec asking for a full review of security arrangements for the media after last night’s attack on our BBC cameraman at the President’s rally. Access into the media area was unsupervised. No one in law enforcement intervened before, during or after the attack.”

He was disappointed by the response from the White House, which read, “An individual involved in a physical altercation with a news cameraman was removed from last night’s rally. We appreciated the swift action from venue security and law enforcement officers.”—Michael Glassner, Chief Operating Officer, Trump for President Inc.”

I’m afraid this statement from the Trump campaign does nothing to address the security lapses at President Trump’s rally in El Paso last night when our BBC colleague was attacked,” Danahar commented on behalf of the news organization, adding, “There was not swift action to prevent or interrupt the attack by any security agency.

The BBC stated that the incident occurred after Trump “heavily criticized” the press.

At the event, President Trump checked that the media involved were well, responding with a thumbs up, and continuing his speech after the attacker was taken out of the stadium.

The White House had no further comment.

Other reporters had predicted that violence would erupt at a Trump rally, including CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, who tweeted in July, “I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.”

According to a report by The New York Times, In August, experts from the United Nations and a human rights body condemned the president’s attacks on the news media and warned that they could incite violence against journalists.

“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Edison Lanza, who holds the same position at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said in a statement.

“We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence,” they said.

Research contact: @pdanahar