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How does criticism affect popular culture?
Popularity is slippery, and shouldn't be confused with quality, says critic A.O. Scott.
A. O. Scott joined The New York Times as a film critic in January 2000, and was named a chief critic in 2004. Previously, Mr. Scott had been the lead Sunday book reviewer for Newsday and a frequent contributor to Slate, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications.
Mr. Scott was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism in 2010, the same year he served as co-host (with Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune) on the last season of "At the Movies," the syndicated film-reviewing program started by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.
A frequent presence on radio and television, Mr. Scott is Distinguished Professor of Film Criticism at Wesleyan University and the author of Better Living Through Criticism (2016, Penguin Press).
A. O. SCOTT: Popularity is a great question; it's just an intriguing question. I think especially now in the kind of consumer capitalist culture where taste and sometimes quality is being measured in dollars and in numbers and in ratings and box office and all of that. And sometimes popularity is just taken to be sufficient kind of judgment. It's like well everybody liked that and that movie made a ton of money. Everybody loved that movie. And sometimes those movies that everybody loved actually turn out to be really good or I think they're really good. Sometimes they're not. But the popularity has a funny way of correcting or reversing itself. It's always fascinating to me how when I was a kid every single person it seemed bought this album, "Frampton Comes Alive". And it was like the biggest selling album. I mean I'm dating myself. I'm a very old person, but it was on vinyl. And then like five years later you could not give a copy of that—like no used record store would take your copy of that in trade and just bins were full of it. Everyone was just like, "What? No." And you see that with popular music; you see that with movies.
I mean a few years ago, Avatar made a billion dollars and everyone was going to see it. It even showed up on the critic's top 10 lists. It was just this frenzy about Avatar and now nobody talks about it. It's not even that people hate it, people just don't care about it. So popularity is a weird and fickle kind of index of things. So it's never identical to quality, although sometimes it coincides with it. And I've been particularly fascinated with how judgments change over time and how things that were very popular fall by the wayside, but also how the opposite happens. How movies or books or paintings or music or whatever that was ignored or mocked or rejected at its own moment resurfaces and comes to seem so wonderful and to have such great value. I mean I write a little bit in the book about "Moby Dick", which is just one of my favorite examples of this. Herman Melville was a best-selling author of nautical adventures and he wrote this big philosophically ambitious novel about a whaling voyage and the critics at the time basically rejected it and it was forgotten. He was forgotten. It completely vanished. By the end of the 19th-century there was one copy of it in a library somewhere that was in like the fishing section of the library. And now everyone who studies American literature reads it and it's sort of, by consensus, one of the great masterpieces of the American literary imagination. How did that happen? What was the critical process?
And that is an example of what criticism is and how it works, both at its worst and its best that criticism it was critics who misjudged this book and cast it aside and said this is impossible; this is 800 pages of like philosophical gobbledygook and there's not really any great whale hunting in here until the very end and cast it aside. And then it was critics also who, so to speak, fished it up out of the deep, out of oblivion and put it back on everybody's shelf.
- Popularity has a funny way of correcting or reversing itself, says journalist and film critic A.O. Scott. It's a weird and fickle index—never identical to quality, though it can coincide with it.
- Movies like Avatar that are capitalist consumer hits can fade over time. Meanwhile works that were initially passed over can be dredged out of forgotten corners to glory many years later.
- Moby Dick is an example of how critics can turn the tide of popularity, for better and for worse. First, critics dismissed Moby Dick and it was forgotten until a resurgence of interest by critics many years later. It's now a staple of American literature.
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.