Lost Art of Design For Pleasure – The Work of Italian designer Alessandro Mendini – Requiescat in pace et in amore

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The Italian designer Alessandro Mendini died last week at the age of 87. His work reminds us that everyday objects can be a source of joy.

 

By Suzanne LaBarre

 

In 1994, the Italian housewares manufacturer Alessi released Anna, a corkscrew topped with a woman’s smiling face. It was created by Italian architect, artist, and designer Alessandro Mendini and inspired by Mendini’s friend, the designer Anna Gili. As you stab the screw into a cork and twist, Anna’s arms rise up over her head in a silent hallelujah to the wine-fueled revelry that awaits. Today you can buy all manner of wine openers: electric ones, air pressure pumps, one-handed varieties. But how many corkscrews can make you laugh out loud?

Exuberant design was Mendini’s specialty. Mendini died last week, age 87, and his death leaves a void in the school of thought that favored emotion and surprise over the cold efficiency that has come to dominate much of design, calibrated as it is to the precise and bottomless needs of the technology industry.

Mendini was trained as an architect, but he had deep roots in the art world. A postmodernist, he was a central figure in Italy’s Radical Design movement, which sought to imbue art in design, and which served as a precursor to the influential Memphis style that today’s young designers (and many a corporate copycat) have revived and remixed for mainstream consumers. Mendini’s Proust chair, designed in 1978, was a feverish bricolage: an upholstered Baroque armchair splattered in a pointillist painting by the neo-Impressionist Paul Signac, with a name lifted from French literature. An icon of postmodernism, it is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the V&A in London.

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Mendini also worked as a journalist and was editor of the prestigious Italian architecture magazine Domus from 1979 to 1985. But his popular legacy will be most pronounced in the dozens of kitchen products and home decor he developed for Alessi and others. Each is a testament to the idea that design is not merely a vehicle for solving problems; it can be a source of simple pleasure.

Anna, for instance, was so beloved, Mendini reprised her likeness in a champagne cap, a pepper mill, a tea set, a kitchen timer, and a bottle cap. You could give your kitchen’s entire top drawer over to Anna’s goofy grin if you were so inclined. Consider how unusual it was to portray a literal face in industrial design in the 20th century, at a time when Mies van der Rohe’s ubiquitous catchphrase “less is more” represented the peak of taste and sophistication. The tyranny of minimalism continues today. Take the many smartphones and smart speakers that are designed to be so invisible, they’re easy to forget altogether–to the detriment of consumers. Mendini’s work offers a refreshing antidote. His design was never quiet. He didn’t shy away from figurative representation. Another one of his kitchen designs is a parrot-shaped corkscrew, the feathers of which have the same frenzied print of the Proust chair. Open a bottle of wine, and watch the bird flap its dazzling wing.

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Even Mendini’s subtler designs felt revelatory. For Kartell, the Italian manufacturer of high-end plastic furniture, he created Roy, a series of side tables that resemble colorful stools from afar. Up close, the resonant patterns of Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Art appear on the surface. Another kitchen item for Alessi, the Tegamino pan, looks like any other pan. But it has undulating handles that conjure up the gooey textures of a scrambled egg and revel in the pot’s reason for being: to put warm food in your mouth.

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It seems like kismet that some of Mendini’s last Alessi designs were for children. The Alessini collection, a set of whimsical plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery, was designed to capture the imagination of the most naturally curious among us. There’s a radical dignity to them, and to all Mendini’s works. They suggest that consumers are worthy of joy and pleasure, that the mundane but crucial rituals in our lives–cooking, drinking, spending time with children–are not merely chores to slog through, but moments to celebrate. We are what we eat, and what we eat it in.

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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Inside the secretly effective–and underrated–way Netflix keeps its shows and movies at the forefront of pop culture – by Jeff Beer

How the streaming giant presents itself as a TV and movie super fan and uses meme-able, self-aware social media content to keep us watching more.

Inside the secretly effective–and underrated–way Netflix keeps its shows and movies at the forefront of pop culture

On New Year’s Day, Kim Kardashian West decided to watch a movie on Netflix. With that one click, one of the most popular people on the internet unwittingly joined an already crashing tidal wave of Bird Box meme-ification. Even with 59.6 million Twitter followers, West was late to a very, very big party–and fellow social star Chrissy Teigen let her know it.

Bird Box had only been on Netflix for about a week and a half at that point, so of course the entire world hadn’t seen it. It just felt that way. Especially on social media.

Netflix’s social and brand editorial team first started seeing the memes for the dystopian sci-fi film–starring Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, John Malkovich, and Trevante Rhodes–catching fire on Black Twitter within the first three days of the movie’s December 21 release and began retweeting and promoting their favorite reactions.

Thanks to the film’s sly combination of gimmick (blindfolds!), genre (horror!), cast (awesome!), and holiday release timing (maximum binge-to-get-away-from-family mode!), Bird Box attracted enough eyeballs that Netflix decided to crack open its black box of data for the briefest of moments, long enough to boast that more than 45 million accounts had watched the movie in its first week, which prompted another wave of viewership and conversation.

How Netflix promotes its original movies, series, and specials has long been a source of fascination and bewilderment for both viewers and creators. For a long time, the company maintained that it could do better promotion than traditional marketing via its menus, in-app notifications, and even old-fashioned email to alert people to programs when it thinks they’re most likely to watch. “We’ve found the most effective way to drive viewing is on the service,” Netflix VP of product innovation Chris Jaffe told journalists in December 2017.

But stars and producers would often complain it wasn’t enough, and subscribers did not always know what was worth watching. The company’s strategy started to change last summer when it purchased 32 billboards along Los Angeles’s famous Sunset Boulevard for $150 million, and it advised investors that it would likely spend $2 billion in 2018 on marketing. Up to 85% of that spending would go toward its “title brands,” meaning Netflix originals.

Amid all these changes, though, perhaps the effective way Netflix educates viewers about new programs and encourages them to watch is through its social media and brand content strategy. The company uses its social and brand editorial department as the engine that keeps Netflix shows and movies at the forefront of the pop-culture conversation. By imbuing its social platforms with the personality of a meme-happy fan who lives for TV and movies (rather than being stunt-driven, deadpan, or, worse, mocking the very audience it seeks), Netflix’s approach goes beyond mere promotion and jumps armpit-deep into participation and collaboration. They’re both marketing, but the Netflix strategy pushes over into something more surprising: an ongoing, creative dialogue with audience members who can sniff out forced enthusiasm in a nanosecond. When what Netflix delivers on social feels genuine, the difference in engagement is stark.

Sometimes the company’s efforts are as simple as amplifying someone else’s, such as when it shared director Guillermo del Toro’s 10 personal musings about Roma. Netflix’s heaviest lifting comes when it does such things as gift the world with a meme template highlighting the most exaggerated facial expressions of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in Velvet Buzzsaw.

Social media is also the rare venue where Netflix’s performance data is public. Everyone can see the engagement on every post, and, increasingly, Netflix executives themselves are touting such metrics as the rising follower counts of the talent who stars in its originals as evidence of the streaming service’s deep connection with its subscribers. With social media and Google Trends as the leading indicators of success for any given show or film, Netflix is able to dodge one of the biggest criticisms against it: lack of data transparency.

But as the Netflix social shtick becomes more expected than surprising, and the company deals with the same challenge it has elsewhere of showing appropriate love to its tsunami of new originals, how does the company’s social team plan to keep up with the speed of culture?

Finding its voice

Netflix’s specific social-media tone was born in the spring of 2017, when it had just launched a House of Cards Twitter feed in Brazil. An editorial manager in Brazil decided to communicate as if she were sharing with friends.

The tremendous response to the “It’s difficult to compete” tweet (a sly nod to real-life Brazilian politics) illustrated the power of speaking fan to fan. But as anyone who’s seen a brand pull a “How do you do, fellow kids” on social, Netflix had to figure out how to nail the difference between trying to talk like a fan and actually being one.

To build its U.S. social team of about 15 people, Netflix hired TV and movie buffs who were passionate about sci-fi or comedy, two key target areas for Netflix. They had backgrounds in marketing, journalism, PR, and entertainment, and varied in age. The team averages about three posts per day on Twitter and Instagram. Each platform has dedicated team members.

The company does not impose a strict approval process for social posts, choosing instead to establish broad guidelines rooted in the freedom and responsibility section of the Netflix company culture deck. Its directives include such prescriptions as “don’t promote, entertain,” “stand out by taking risks,” and “don’t just clip out the show, build out the world.”

In the U.S., individuals run specific social channels. The main Netflix account started way back in October 2008, but as its library of originals grew, the company added specific feeds to showcase comedy (Netflix Is A Joke, April 2017), family fare (Netflix Family, September 2017), African-American pop culture (Strong Black Lead, January 2018), new content (See What’s Next, March 2018), and sci-fi and fantasy (NX, May 2018). In other countries, some of the social teams are set up as writers’ rooms. All are meant to share a broad sensibility–positive, uplifting, fun–but with local, personal flavor.

For returning shows, social media plans take into consideration fan reactions to previous seasons. For new shows and movies, the team sketches out a strategy ahead of time, while also preparing to change course if need be. The #BirdBoxChallenge, for instance, was fan-driven, with people across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook sharing videos of themselves engaging in various activities while blindfolded (in homage to the film’s star, Sandra Bullock). Netflix shared 22 retweets of memes and funny and/or celebrity reactions.

The social department also works with show producers and creative agencies to produce content aimed at making being a fan more fun. One example of this was the cheeky educational series #cokenomics, created for the first season of Narcos with the agency The Many back in 2015. According to Netflix sources speaking on background, the guiding principles for these projects boil down to: How can we build out the experience beyond what’s on the show or movie itself?

The idea is to show producers and stars that this promotional work feeds into Netflix’s own media outlet, a modern version of the traditional wacky bits and lighthearted interviews of the talk-show circuit. For Bojack Horseman, for example, producers have created an Instagram feed from the main character’s perspective, made entirely of original illustrations.

To stay effective, the social teams need to be watching and listening in the right places, at the right times, so they can tap into real-time conversations that yield results, like a video of awkward silences for the show You, or responding to fans who think the Lost in Space robot is hot. The latter went viral last April, prompting James Corden to weigh in.

Netflix’s social voice rarely devolves into cringe-y, try-too-hard Brand Twitter territory, but that doesn’t mean it always hits the mark. For the high-school comedy Sex Education, the team tried a lot of different angles to create engaging video, with varying success. While videos of the British cast touring America hit more than 1.1 million YouTube views, and another on what it’s like to film a sex scene garnered more than 950,000, the one on sex terminology got just 9,337 views.

Amplifying fan voices is great–especially if that fan is director Guillermo del Toro–but it’s not perfect. Back during peak Bird Box mania, the audience-generated #BirdBoxChallenge did not go smoothly. At first, watching videos of people–including Jimmy Fallon–falling and bumping into stuff seemed like harmless fun, but it soon escalated to more dangerous levels. A teen in Utah crashed his car while driving blindfolded. A tattoo artist took the challenge to work, with predictably awful results.

Netflix’s warning then led to a conspiracy theory that the company was actually the one fueling it all. Sources within Netflix deny any broad orchestration, saying that when it comes to social media, it simply follows fans’ leads.

Network effects

Social media–and Twitter, in particular–has long been a place for TV networks to connect with audiences. In 2007, MTV enlisted the stars of its sketch comedy show Human Giant to live tweet the Movie Awards, and ratings went up 23% from the previous year. “Second-screen viewing” between TV and Twitter became more common, and series such as ABC’s Scandal became cultural phenomena when its stars live-tweeted while watching, even embracing fan-created hashtags. More recently, HBO enjoyed a viral hit last month with its Soprano Yourself tweetstorm to celebrate the series’ 20th anniversary.

Most network social posts tend to be in service of encouraging live viewing. ABC, for example, is usually reminding people it’s time to watch The Bachelor, rather than subtly mocking it, as its devoted fans are. Netflix’s style, meanwhile, is designed for its binge-mode model of releasing entire series at once. When it comes to social, full-season drops are simply more conducive to tapping into an obsessive audience. Who’s more likely to retweet or repurpose a meme? Someone four hours deep into a sparking joy session with Tidying Up, or a viewer three days removed from a new episode of a weekly series? Sure, the enthusiasm for new series or movies tends to settle down after a few weeks–last week it was Russian Doll, this week it’s Umbrella Academy–but the net effect of its hundreds of programs is that they have the potential to spark a never-ending pop cultural conversation.

“They come from the internet,” says BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield. “Their expertise in leveraging online marketing, and using TV more sparingly than their industry peers, has led to a far better ROI on their marketing spend than others. Netflix is able to put stuff out there, see what bubbles up, and then they can amplify it based on the response. It’s a very different approach.”

This is particularly evident with follower counts. In the U.S. alone, Netflix has 5.72 million Twitter followers and 13 million on Instagram. HBO, by contrast, has 2.13 million followers on Twitter and 2.1 million on Instagram. Hulu? 611,000 on Twitter, and 346,000 on Instagram. Over on broadcast television, CBS, ABC, and NBC each have less than 2 million Twitter followers, and barely 500,000 each on Instagram.

Then there’s the age gap. According to a 2018 study from Wall Street firm Cowen & Co., nearly 40% of Americans in the coveted 18-to-34 age bracket said Netflix is the platform they watch most often on TV, beating YouTube (17%), basic cable (12.6%), Hulu (7.6%), and broadcast TV (7.5%). Your great uncle isn’t talking about NCIS on Instagram.

The focus on keeping a younger audience’s attention was evident in the company’s Q4 2018 shareholder letter, which stated that Netflix holds about 10% of TV screen time and less than that of mobile screen time, and acknowledged its main competitors. “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” the letter stated.

In December, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told the UBS global media and communications conference that social media is, in effect, a more effective way to create a collective viewing experience than that endangered species: appointment television. In discussing the Netflix romantic comedy To All the Boys I Loved Before, Sarandos said, “It was an enormous hit for us this year. But you saw it in the social media presence of that movie that people not only love to watch it and love to watch it over and over again. They love to post on Instagram about it. They love to post on Facebook about it . . . and it was just a really incredible kind of global experience that happens all at once, with very little marketing spend, by the way.”

Star power

It helps that the stars of Netflix shows are active on social media–particularly young talent like Noah Centineo of To All the Boys I Loved BeforeStranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, and Cole Sprouse of Riverdale, all of whom have become social stars in their own right.

Netflix is “increasingly tapping into the halo effect of the shows and personalities affiliated with the streaming service, many of whom have big followings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat,” says eMarketer analyst Paul Verna. “That means, in addition to the paid media Netflix is taking out on those venues, it’s getting quite a bit of earned-media exposure as well.”

That halo effect includes the virtuous cycle of fans following these new stars, talking about them, and keeping their shows and movies on the public’s radar. The term “Netflix famous” has become a real thing. In its most recent letter to shareholders, the company shared a chart titled “A launching pad for a new generation of global stars,” showing how the eight cast members of its Spanish original Elite had grown their Instagram followers in the three-plus months since its launch. Seven of the eight actors and actresses had started with between 10,000 and 30,000 followers and all now top 1 million.

What’s next

According to sources within the Netflix social and editorial department, there are two significant goals for 2019. The first is to engage more on Reddit, where its presence is scarcest. The second is to bring more of its meme-happy approach into the real world, to merge the social energy with unique, in-the-flesh experiences that can then be turned into more social content. When Netflix helped a Santa Clarita Diet fan propose to his girlfriend (with an assist from series stars Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant), it was an idea that came out of one fan’s social post and turned into a cute promotional vehicle for the show.

Netflix is also working on linking fans more effectively. Last month, it introduced a new feature through its app that allows viewers to share customized title art for a film or TV show directly to their Instagram Stories, creating a more seamless way for fans to spread the word.

 

The company is also expanding into podcasts. Strong Black Lead is now also a podcast, You Can’t Make This Up bolsters documentary content, and there are two shows designed explicitly to recommend new shows on, you guessed it, Netflix. At the end of January, it launched a new podcast called The Human Algorithm (let that one soak in for a moment), where employees as well as stars from its most popular shows, like The Umbrella Academy, talk about and suggest things for fans to watch next. 

It not only bridges the voice, personality, and obsessive fandom fostered on social to another medium, but also uses its own stars–who all have their own personal followings–to create a platform-wide cycle that will encourage even more engagement.

Who knows? Maybe even Kim K. will eventually be listening.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

Why Food Can Be The Best Medicine of All – By Alice Park (Time) 23 Feb 2019

When Tom Shicowich’s toe started feeling numb in 2010, he brushed it off as a temporary ache. At the time, he didn’t have health insurance, so he put off going to the doctor. The toe became infected, and he got so sick that he stayed in bed for two days with what he assumed was the flu. When he finally saw a doctor, the physician immediately sent Shicowich to the emergency room. Several days later, surgeons amputated his toe, and he ended up spending a month in the hospital to recover.

Shicowich lost his toe because of complications of Type 2 diabetes as he struggled to keep his blood sugar under control. He was overweight and on diabetes medications, but his diet of fast food and convenient, frozen processed meals had pushed his disease to life-threatening levels.

After a few more years of trying unsuccessfully to treat Shicowich’s diabetes, his doctor recommended that he try a new program designed to help patients like him. Launched in 2017 by the Geisinger Health System at one of its community hospitals, the Fresh Food Farmacy provides healthy foods–heavy on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-sodium options–to patients in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and teaches them how to incorporate those foods into their daily diet. Each week, Shicowich, who lives below the federal poverty line and is food-insecure, picks up recipes and free groceries from the Farmacy’s food bank and has his nutrition questions answered and blood sugar monitored by the dietitians and health care managers assigned to the Farmacy. In the year and a half since he joined the program, Shicowich has lost 60 lb., and his A1C level, a measure of his blood sugar, has dropped from 10.9 to 6.9, which means he still has diabetes but it’s out of the dangerous range. “It’s a major, major difference from where I started from,” he says. “It’s been a life-changing, lifesaving program for me.”

Geisinger’s program is one of a number of groundbreaking efforts that finally consider food a critical part of a patient’s medical care–and treat food as medicine that can have as much power to heal as drugs. More studies are revealing that people’s health is the sum of much more than the medications they take and the tests they get–health is affected by how much people sleep and exercise, how much stress they’re shouldering and, yes, what they are eating at every meal. Food is becoming a particular focus of doctors, hospitals, insurers and even employers who are frustrated by the slow progress of drug treatments in reducing food-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and even cancer. They’re also encouraged by the growing body of research that supports the idea that when people eat well, they stay healthier and are more likely to control chronic diseases and perhaps even avoid them altogether. “When you prioritize food and teach people how to prepare healthy meals, lo and behold, it can end up being more impactful than medications themselves,” says Dr. Jaewon Ryu, interim president and CEO of Geisinger. “That’s a big win.”

The problem is that eating healthy isn’t as easy as popping a pill. For some, healthy foods simply aren’t available. And if they are, they aren’t affordable. So more hospitals and physicians are taking action to break down these barriers to improve their patients’ health. In cities where fresh produce is harder to access, hospitals have worked with local grocers to provide discounts on fruits and vegetables when patients provide a “prescription” written by their doctor; the Cleveland Clinic sponsors farmers’ markets where local growers accept food assistance vouchers from federal programs like WIC as well as state-led initiatives. And some doctors at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco hand out recipes instead of (or along with) prescriptions for their patients, pulled from the organization’s Thrive Kitchen, which also provides low-cost monthly cooking classes for members of its health plan. Hospitals and clinics across the country have also visited Geisinger’s program to learn from its success.

But doctors alone can’t accomplish this food transformation. Recognizing that healthier members not only live longer but also avoid expensive visits to the emergency room, insurers are starting to reward healthy eating by covering sessions with nutritionists and dietitians. In February, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts began covering tailored meals from the nonprofit food program Community Servings for its members with congestive heart failure who can’t afford the low-fat, low-sodium meals they need. Early last year, Congress assigned a first ever bipartisan Food Is Medicine working group to explore how government-sponsored food programs could address hunger and also lower burgeoning health care costs borne by Medicare when it comes to complications of chronic diseases. “The idea of food as medicine is not only an idea whose time has come,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “It’s an idea that’s absolutely essential to our health care system.”

Ask any doctor how to avoid or mitigate the effects of the leading killers of Americans and you’ll likely hear that eating healthier plays a big role. But knowing intuitively that food can influence health is one thing, and having the science and the confidence to back it up is another. And it’s only relatively recently that doctors have started to bridge this gap.

It’s hard to look at health outcomes like heart disease and cancer that develop over long periods of time and tie them to specific foods in the typical adult’s varied diet. Plus, foods are not like drugs that can be tested in rigorous studies that compare people who eat a cup of blueberries a day, for example, with those who don’t to determine if the fruit can prevent cancers. Foods aren’t as discrete as drugs when it comes to how they act on the body either–they can contain a number of beneficial, and possibly less beneficial, ingredients that work in divergent systems.

Doctors also know that we eat not only to feed our cells but also because of emotions, like feeling happy or sad. “It’s a lot cheaper to put someone on three months of statins [to lower their cholesterol] than to figure out how to get them to eat a healthy diet,” says Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But drugs are expensive–the average American spends $1,400 a year on medications–and if people can’t afford them, they go without, increasing the likelihood that they’ll develop complications as they progress to severe stages of their illness, which in turn forces them to require more–and costly–health care. What’s more, it’s not as if the medications are cure-alls; while deaths from heart disease are declining, for example, the most recent report from the American Heart Association showed that the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% in 1999–2000 to 37.7% in 2013–2014, and 40% of adults have high total cholesterol.

What people are eating contributes to those stubborn trends, and making nutrition a bigger priority in health care instead of an afterthought may finally start to reverse them. Although there aren’t the same types of rigorous trials proving food’s worth that there are for drugs, the data that do exist, from population-based studies of what people eat, as well as animal and lab studies of specific active ingredients in food, all point in the same direction.

The power of food as medicine gained scientific credibility in 2002, when the U.S. government released results of a study that pitted a diet and exercise program against a drug treatment for Type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program compared people assigned to a diet low in saturated fat, sugar and salt that included lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables with people assigned to take metformin to lower blood sugar. Among people at high risk of developing diabetes, those taking metformin lowered their risk of actually getting diabetes by 31% compared with those taking a placebo, while those who modified their diet and exercised regularly lowered their risk by 58% compared with those who didn’t change their behaviors, a near doubling in risk reduction.

Studies showing that food could treat disease as well soon followed. In 2010, Medicare reimbursed the first lifestyle-based program for treating heart disease, based on decades of work by University of California, San Francisco, heart expert Dr. Dean Ornish. Under his plan, people who had had heart attacks switched to a low-fat diet, exercised regularly, stopped smoking, lowered their stress levels with meditation and strengthened their social connections. In a series of studies, he found that most followers lowered their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also reversed some of the blockages in their heart arteries, reducing their episodes of angina.

In recent years, other studies have shown similar benefits for healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet–which is high in good fats like olive oil and omega-3s, nuts, fruits and vegetables–in preventing repeat events for people who have had a heart attack. “It’s clear that people who are coached on how to eat a Mediterranean diet high in nuts or olive oil get more benefit than we’ve found in similarly conducted trials of statins [to lower cholesterol],” says Rimm. Researchers found similar benefit for people who have not yet had a heart attack but were at higher risk of having one.

Animal studies and analyses of human cells in the lab are also starting to expose why certain foods are associated with lower rates of disease. Researchers are isolating compounds like omega-3s found in fish and polyphenols in apples, for example, that can inhibit cancer tumors’ ability to grow new blood vessels. Nuts and seeds can protect parts of our chromosomes so they can repair damage they encounter more efficiently and help cells stay healthy longer.

If food is indeed medicine, then it’s time to treat it that way. In his upcoming book, Eat to Beat Disease, Dr. William Li, a blood vessel expert, pulled together years of accumulated data and proposes specific doses of foods that can treat diseases ranging from diabetes to breast cancer. Not all doctors agree that the science supports administering food like drugs, but he’s hoping the controversial idea will prompt more researchers to study food in ways as scientifically rigorous as possible and generate stronger data in coming years. “We are far away from prescribing diets categorically to fight disease,” he says. “And we may never get there. But we are looking to fill in the gaps that have long existed in this field with real science. This is the beginning of a better tomorrow.”

And talking about food in terms of doses might push more doctors to put down their prescription pads and start going over grocery lists with their patients instead. So far, the several hundred people like Shicowich who rely on the Fresh Food Farmacy have lowered their risk of serious diabetes complications by 40% and cut hospitalizations by 70% compared with other diabetic people in the area who don’t have access to the program. This year, on the basis of its success so far, the Fresh Food Farmacy is tripling the number of patients it supports.

Shicowich knows firsthand how important that will be for people like him. When he was first diagnosed, he lost weight and controlled his blood sugar, but he found those changes hard to maintain and soon saw his weight balloon and his blood-sugar levels skyrocket. He’s become one of the program’s better-known success stories and now works part time in the produce section of a supermarket and cooks nearly all his meals. He’s expanding his cooking skills to include fish, which he had never tried preparing before. “I know what healthy food looks like, and I know what to do with it now,” he says. “Without this program, and without the support system, I’d probably still be sitting on the couch with a box of Oreos.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the March 04, 2019 issue of TIME. 

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More Women Working in Construction Industry by Vanessa Murdock (CBS NY) 27 Feb 2019

“Times are changing. It’s not just a man’s world anymore,” Tanay Matthews, of Brooklyn, told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.  Matthews works construction with Local 361.

“I love it, honestly. It’s tough, it’s physically draining, but every day I wake up and I give it my all,” she said.

She said she’s typically the only woman on site.

“I work with about 30 men now. My last job might have been 200,” she said.

According to the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York City, women make up just four percent of the construction unions workforce. But as Matthews said, times are changing.

“Work needs to be done to continue to get the word out to women and young girls that yes, you can do this, this is a career for you,” said Kathleen Culhane, president of Non-Traditional Employment for Women, or NEW.

NEW offers a two-month pre-apprenticeship training program for women of New York City, many of them unemployed or underemployed women of color.

“It’s booming now. I’m so confident now that I’m going to be great, my family is going to be great,” said Shanique Latimer, who’s finishing up her training at NEW.

“My last job I worked at the World Trade Center and I’ve seen all these women – construction women – walking back and forth and they have like this pride on their face, and I wanted that for myself,” Tshura Williams added.

Now, she has the tools.

Landing a spot in a union apprenticeship just became more likely for these women. Since 2005, 10 percent of union apprenticeships were set aside for NEW graduates.

“We’ve just increased that, set aside by 50 percent,” said Culhane.

Now, 15 percent of apprenticeships will be set aside, increasing the total number from 150 to about 225.

“Really amazing for the women of New York City,” Culhane said.

With each new opportunity, the city is one step closer to making the non-traditional career of construction traditional for women. And why not.

“As a female, we can do it!” said Latimer.

Union construction jobs offer excellent benefits and a lot of room for career growth. While apprentice wages average about $18 an hour, in a few years, that could skyrocket to as much as $60 an hour.

Young, fun and alcohol-free – ‘Sober curious’ movement takes off in Chicago – Nara Schoenberg (Chicago Tribune) 24 Feb 2019

Chicago soberHailey Shannon, left, and Sammi Shay drink nonalcoholic “mocktails” at Cindy’s in downtown Chicago on Feb. 24, 2019.

When Sammi Shay stopped drinking at age 25, her friends were puzzled.

“You didn’t have a problem,” they would say.

Shay hadn’t been drinking more than her peers or doing anything unusual under the influence of alcohol. Maybe she’d send a text she wouldn’t otherwise have sent, she said, or tell the same story twice. But while her friends could laugh off such gaffes, Shay, who is prone to anxiety, would often end up feeling panicky and ashamed. Drinking wasn’t working for her, so two years ago, she simply stopped.

“It feels great,” said Shay, a graduate student who lives in Logan Square.

“I have so much clarity, and I feel like when I connect with people, it’s honest and it’s real. And I have the confidence in myself that I’m always going to remember what I said, and that what I’m feeling in the moment is true.”

Shay, now 27, is part of a growing group of “sober curious” Americans, many of them women influenced by health and wellness concerns, who are experimenting with alcohol-free living. The sober curious often cut out alcohol entirely or drastically reduce consumption, but in contrast to those who enroll in traditional 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, they don’t typically identify as addicts or insist on total, lifelong abstinence.

The movement, marked by buzzwords such as “mindful drinking,” is difficult to track, but social events have begun popping up in New York and Chicago, where a year-old Sober Curious Meetup group for women in their 20s and early 30s has more than 200 members.

“I’ve seen the trend really blossom over the past three years or so,” said journalist Ruby Warrington, author of the new book “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.”

“It just feels like there’s been a really profound shift in the way people are thinking about drinking.”

Chicagoan Hailey Shannon quit drinking almost three years ago during a period of self-improvement when she was taking classes in mindfulness and personal growth: “I was really just challenged to look at my drinking and my beliefs about drinking.” She began to suspect that she was using alcohol to numb her to emotions, and she didn’t like the way she sometimes blacked out, or lost periods of memory, during a night of social drinking.

“I kind of woke up (one) Sunday morning, and I was like, ‘I can’t be a woman that I respect, has a career I respect, potentially a family, marriage, children, and keep drinking. It just isn’t going to work anymore,’” said Shannon, 26, who works in sales and business development at a technology consulting firm.

When she took up yoga eight months after she stopped drinking, she teared up at every class. Without alcohol, she was finally able to slow down and be fully present, she said, and it felt great.

What didn’t feel good was being alcohol-free in a culture that embraces alcohol as essential to bonding, celebrating and socializing, Shannon said. Friday nights were lonely because many of her friends were out drinking. But then, inspired by the sober community on Instagram, she decided to start the Meetup she was looking for: one for sober curious women in their 20s and early 30s. About eight people came to the first meeting, and a core group of eight to 10 people emerged over time.

No alcohol is allowed at the Chicago Meetups, but in the spirit of sober curiosity, the group welcomes drinkers who are seriously considering getting sober.

The meetings are held once a month over dinner at Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. Members talk about sobriety, as well as general topics such as dating, jobs, books and restaurants. New members keep finding the group, Shannon said, and close friendships have formed.

Addiction researcher Katie Witkiewitz said the sober curious movement is a great alternative to more traditional approaches to sobriety.

“I think it’s really good for kind of stripping away some of these societal and AA-based perceptions that abstinence is the only way to go, versus just seeing how alcohol is fitting into your life,” said Witkiewitz, a professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico.

“If we think of any other health behavior — exercise or eating fried food — we wouldn’t take such a righteous tact. We would look at the behavior: Is it something that I want? Is it making me feel good, or is it making me feel bad?”

Witkiewitz said asking such questions is part of a mindfulness-based treatment she helped develop at the University of Washington. In a 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, she and her co-authors found that the University of Washington’s mindfulness-based treatment was more effective in preventing relapse in drug and alcohol abusers than a traditional AA-style approach.

Among those who joined Shannon’s Meetup is Shay, who said she had tried joining AA, just to make sober friends, but didn’t feel comfortable there because she doesn’t consider herself an alcoholic.

The sober curious Meetup helped her gain confidence in her decision to forgo alcohol, she said. Today she can turn down drinks with ease and dance sober at weddings. She has nondrinking friends she can text if she wants to go see a movie or hang out and watch TV. Her anxiety has improved tremendously.

“It’s been like night and day,” she said. When alcohol was removed from the equation, she had the space and the vulnerability to start getting to know herself again: What did she really like to do? What qualities did she value in others? What qualities did she value in herself? Addressing those questions helped her work through a lot of her anxiety, she said.

“My sleep cycle is so consistent and so good now, and the way I feel,” she said of life without alcohol. “My skin’s better. There’s just been this long-term positive response.”

nschoenberg@chicagotribune.com

https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-life-sober-curious-movement-02202019-story.html

 

Sanders The Magic Socialist – by C.J. Hopkins • 25 Feb 2019

Bernie Bros in California

So here it is, the announcement we’ve been waiting for … all aboard for another cruise on the new and improved U.S.S. Magic Socialist with your captain Bernie Sanders at the helm! If you’re not familiar with this extraordinary vessel, it’s like the luxury liner in The Magic Christian, except catering to credulous American socialists instead of the British filthy rich. Tickets start at just $27 dollars … so hurry, because they’re going fast!

That’s right, folks, Bernie is back, and this time it’s not just a sadistic prank where he gets you all fired up about his fake “revolution” for fifteen months, gets cheated out of the nomination, then backs whichever corporate-bought candidate the Democratic Party orders you to vote for.

No, this time the Bernster really means it! This time, when the DNC rigs the primaries to hand the nomination to Harris, or Biden, or some billionaire android like Michael Bloomberg, Bernie is not going to break your heart by refusing to run as an independent candidate, unbeholden to the corporations and oligarchs that own both political parties, or otherwise make you feel like a sucker for buying his “revolution” schtick. He’s not going to fold like a fifty dollar suit and start parroting whatever propaganda the corporate media will be prodigiously spewing to convince you the Russians and Nazis are coming unless you vote for the empire’s pre-anointed puppet!

Bernie would never dream of doing that … or at least he’d never dream of doing that twice.

There are limits, after all, to people’s gullibility. It’s not like you can just run the same con, with the same fake message and the same fake messiah, over and over, and expect folks to fall for it. If you could, well, that would be extremely depressing. That would mean you could get folks to believe almost anything, or that we were stuck in some eternally recurring multi-dimensional reality loop. The next year and a half in American politics would play out like one of those Groundhog Day knock offs meets The Magic Christian meets The Usual Suspects, directed by David Lynch, on acid. We’d be barraged by recycled Feel-the-Bern memes. Hacky sack shares would go through the roof. That creepy little bird would come fluttering back, land on Bernie’s podium again, and chirp out “L’Internationale.” People would start booking Tim Robbins for interviews. Ben & Jerry’s would roll out another revolutionary flavor of Bernie ice cream … and in the end it would all amount to nothing.

But that’s not going to happen this time. No, this time, the U.S.S. Magic Socialist is setting sail straight for Socialismland! This time, it’s really the Revolution! The end of global capitalism! And the best part of the whole deal is, you don’t even have to take up arms, stage a series of wildcat strikes, blockade major highways, occupy airports, or otherwise cripple the U.S. economy … all you have to do is vote for Bernie!

See, that’s the magic of electoral politics! The global capitalist ruling establishment, despite the fact that they own the banks and the corporations that own the government that owns the military and intelligence services, and despite the fact that they own the media, and all essential industries, and channels of trade, and are relentlessly restructuring the entire planet (which they rule with almost total impunity) to conform to their soulless neoliberal ideology, and are more than happy to unleash their militarized goons on anyone who gets in their way … despite all that, if we elect Bernie president, they will have no choice but to peacefully surrender, and transform America into a socialist wonderland!

Sure, they won’t be happy about it, but they will have no choice but to go along with whatever Bernie and his followers want, because that’s how American democracy works! We’ve seen it in action these last two years, since Donald Trump got elected president. The establishment wasn’t too thrilled about that, but they had to put aside their own selfish interests and respect the will of the American people … because imagine what might have happened if they hadn’t!

For example, they might have concocted a story about Trump being a Russian intelligence asset who was personally conspiring with Vladimir Putin to destroy the fabric of Western democracy so that Russia could take over the entire planet. They could have had respected newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post and television networks like CNN and MSNBC disseminate this story, and subtly reinforce it in endless variations, on a daily basis for over two years. They could have appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the facts of their made-up story, and indict a bunch of unextraditable Russians and a handful of inveterate D.C. slimebags to make the whole thing look legitimate. At the same time, they could have had the media warn everybody, over and over, that Trump, in addition to being a traitor, was also the second coming of Hitler, and was on the verge of torching the Capitol, declaring himself Führer, and rounding up the Jews. They could have generated so much mass hysteria and Putin-Nazi paranoia that liberals would literally be seeing Russians and Nazis coming out of the woodwork!

Fortunately, the global capitalist establishment, out of respect for democracy and the American people, decided not to go that route. If Americans chose to elect a jabbering imbecile president, that was their right, and far be it from the empire to interfere. Tempting as it must have been to use all their power to demonize Trump in order to teach the world what happens when you get elected president without their

permission, they restrained themselves … and thank God for that! I don’t even want to contemplate the extent of the rage and cynicism they would have fomented among the public by doing those things I just outlined above. That might have left people with the false impression that their votes mean absolutely nothing, and that the entire American electoral system is just a simulation of democracy, and in reality they are living in a neo-feudalist, de facto global capitalist empire administrated by omnicidal money-worshipping human parasites that won’t be satisfied until they’ve remade the whole of creation in their nihilistic image.

Thankfully, the ruling classes spared us all that, so now we can hop aboard the Magic Socialist and take another cruise with Cap’n Bernie! Considering how magnanimous they’ve been with Trump, once Bernie wins the election fair and square, the empire clearly won’t have any problems with him nationalizing the American healthcare system, tripling taxes on the super-rich, subsidizing university education, and all that other cool socialism stuff (i.e., the stuff we mostly still have here in Europe, along with some semblance of cultural solidarity, although the global capitalists are working to fix that).

Oh, yeah, and in case you’re worried about Bernie backing the empire’s ongoing regime change op in Venezuela, don’t be. He’s just playing 4D chess, like Obama did throughout his presidency, by pretending to do the empire’s bidding while he actually went about the business of resurrecting hope and eradicating racism. Bernie’s just being sly like that! It might seem like he’s aligning himself with mass murdering thugs like Elliot Abrams and sadistic ass freaks like Marco Rubio, but he isn’t. Not really. It’s just an act. I mean, he has to get elected, doesn’t he?

How else are we going to get to Socialismland?

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and political satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant Paperbacks. He can be reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.

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