VICE feed for https://www.vice.comenMon, 10 Dec 2018 11:30:00 +0000<![CDATA[These Were the Most Talked About Things on Twitter In 2018 ]]>, 10 Dec 2018 11:30:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

In 2018, Twitter is a near constant roar of news, memes, commentary and celebrity feuding. Most of us won’t go a day without checking our feed, which has replaced traditional media, not just as a news source, but a space for us to digest the constant political and pop culture tumult that is our modern world. And this year, we ‘took to Twitter’ to discuss just about everything.

The platform’s recently published 2018 year in review shows that most of that ‘everything’ can be broken down as a passion for politics and social change, but also a fervent stanning of K-Pop. In fact Korean megagroup BTS were one of Twitter’s most discussed celebrities/musicians with “more mentions than we could count”, and they also snatched the crown for most liked tweet of the year when they participated in Drake’s In My Feelings challenge.

Other widely discussed celebrities included Kanye West (obviously) and Ariana Grande (even more obviously). The closing ceremony of this year’s Winter Olympics generated the most tweets in a day on 25 February, while Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians and Love, Simon topped the platform’s most discussed movies of 2018, with SNL the most tweeted about TV show.

But in a year of such incredibly political turmoil, both in the US with Trump’s presidency and increasing anti-immigration propaganda, and closer to home with Britain’s seemingly endless shambolic Brexit discussions, it’s understandable that a lot of us were tweeting about our political opinions. A lot. Since playing a pivotal role in the Arab Spring revolution Twitter has increasingly been the platform for social change and awareness, and 2018 was no exception, with the #MeToo movement, March For Our Lives, NFL player protests and Black Lives Matter continuing to be hotly tweeted and debated about subjects.

Elsewhere, Ariana Grande’s touching message to fans after the Manchester terror attack, Harry Maguire’s World Cup meme and David Schwimmer being forced to deny stealing from an off-license in Blackpool all made the UK’s fave Twitter moments of 2018.

What a bloody year, eh.

59vkbbRoisin LaniganFelix PettyNewsInstagramTwitterSNLAriana GrandeBTSBlack Pantherlove simon
<![CDATA[Why Am I Lying to My Child About Santa?]]>, 10 Dec 2018 10:30:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE US.

My four-year-old is big into the trappings of Christmas—the books and songs, decorations and obviously presents. But when my mother-in-law offered to take her to see Santa, Kai said nu-uh. The next night, as we were settling in to read bedtime stories, Kai related the incident. YiaYia had this idea, she told me, sticking out the very tip of her tongue at the thought of paying a visit to the right jolly old elf.

"You don't want to see Santa?" I asked, although it wasn't all that surprising. Kai is naturally standoffish, especially around men—big, bearish ones above all.

She shook her head slowly, still with the tongue just the tiniest bit out, the nose almost imperceptibly wrinkled. Santa's scary, she finally confided. She didn't want to see the guy. She just wanted him to come do his thing on Christmas Eve and get out quick.

But Santa's so jolly, I said, already a quarter asleep, just barely keeping the conversation alive.

More head shaking. Then, after a long silence: "He'll say I'm bad."

"Why would he say that?" I asked, surprised out of my doze.

"Because I'm bad," she said simply. No pout, no whine. This was not a bid for attention, but in Kai's mind, a straightforward fact.

All I could think was, oh man am I crappy parent. My child thinks she's bad, and why? Because I've been overly critical. Busy with work and babying the baby, I've been short with Kai; expecting too much, and letting her know when she's not living up to it. I wrapped her in a bear hug.

"You're not bad. You're wonderful," I said. "You're my love."

This Santa character was kind of…what? I'd always taken him for granted. But to what end? What's the price we—or rather, our children—pay for growing up with false beliefs perpetuated by their parents?

In a recent issue of Lancet Psychiatry, Christopher Boyle, a psychology professor at the University of Exeter, and Kathy McKay, of Australia's University of New England, argue that the Santa fib may erode the bond between children and their parents. They write: "But adults are not meant to lie! However, you are aware that they have, so as a child you also consider what else have they lied about...If they are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?"

In other words, will our children trust us about the important things after we've lied to them about the "jolly man who apparently bends time and space to deliver presents to every child in the world on Christmas"?

And what's more—is Santa just a form of parental laziness? "It is a method of discipline used by many adults that gains momentum closer to Christmas day," write Boyle and McCay. "It is made clear that no child can hide from the North Pole's National Security Agency-style vigilance—an altogether terrifying thing when considered as an adult."


This is Kai. She's not a bad kid, despite what she may tell you.

I admit, it was kind of a help to have a "bad cop" that wasn't either me or Papa—and I confess I did ask, once or twice, what Santa might think when he saw Kai grabbing a toy from the baby. But after her confession, I started to feel a twinge of guilt. Maybe Santa was excessively heavy-handed, a kind of police-state authority figure that was just too intense for more sensitive imaginations? Just Google "crying with Santa" to see the many adorable faces of abject fear. Those writhing, desperate would-be escapees are good for a chuckle, but they also beg the question: Why are we doing this again?

Why am I lying to my child, watching her eyes dart back and forth, the cogs in her intelligent little brain turning in an attempt to piece together these strange things I'm telling her?

Well, for starters, I don't feel like I have much of a choice. There do exist some earnest parents who find a way to opt out of the shenanigans, or so I hear. But in my world, it makes no difference that I happen to be Jewish—Santa is the kingpin, the top dog, the all-American icon, beloved in red households and blue, the wellspring of a veritable canon of songs and literature, the captor of my daughter's imagination, and he's coming to town.

Like it or not, "Santa Claus is in our culture," says Benjamin Siegel, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine. "Just like Finding Nemo is in our culture." Every culture has its mythical figures. The Greeks have Zeus. We've got an orange talking fish and an obese guy in red velour.

My husband Joe's one halfhearted attempt at resistance didn't go well. He tried to stem the tide of pre-holiday gifts coming into our house, objecting to a battery-powered book that sings Christmas carols—and his mom threatened to kill him. I believe her exact words were, "If you ruin Christmas for her, I'll kill you."

Of course, our concern is with our child. Joe can defend himself. To find out if we were doing irreparable harm to Kai, I called three professionals. And all of them agreed: The harm is in my head.

"That kind of fear is really rooted in an adult perspective," says Erika Christakis, a former preschool director and author of The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups. "Playing along with your kid about Santa is not the same as lying to your child about something really major—like, Oh no, you thought that was your father and it's really not! They're different things, and children are very capable of understanding that."

The good news is, you don't have to passively accept some industry stooge barging into your house with a pile of crap made in China. Sure, Santa's always going to be first and foremost the guy who brings the presents, but you can use the symbol of Santa to represent whatever you want him to, Siegel reassures. Rudolph, who's funny looking and gets teased, can be a special-needs reindeer who finds his place; Santa can be a model of generosity; gift-giving, perhaps to the needy, can foster empathy. Kids who hate writing might get excited about penning a letter to Santa. He's your prop—use him, lean on him, why not? He can help overworked, over-wired parents connect with their kids.

"It's hard for adults to always get on that level with kids," says Stephanie Wagner, licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone's Child Study Center. "What is it like to be four or five? How do you pretend, see the world through their eyes?"

Santa can be your ambassador to La La Land, that playful place where the boundary between fantasy and fiction is porous. You know it looks like more fun than where we hang out.

And the potential for harm—that damage that Boyle and McKay worry that children will incur when they learn their parents are liars—is easy to diffuse. Just don't drag out the fiction, says Christakis. When your kids show signs that they're ready to give it up—when they start getting into the fine details, asking lots of questions—avoid the temptation to get agitated or concoct ridiculous scenarios.

Just say, "What do you think?" advises Christakis. "Which is actually a good response to pretty much anything. Help them answer their own question."

4xwpwbBecca TuckerKate Lowensteinkidschristmasmental healthsantaliesParental Advisorymind
<![CDATA[Is There Such a Thing as Too Woke?]]>, 10 Dec 2018 10:00:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

You might think there’s nothing wrong with phrases like “kill two birds with one stone” and “bring home the bacon”, but according to PETA these are both examples of ‘anti-animal language’. Earlier this week the charity tweeted that many of us are guilty of ‘speciesism’, and then went on to make a dangerously misguided analogy: “Just as it became unacceptable to use racist, homophobic, or ableist language, phrases that trivialise cruelty to animals will vanish.” The social media backlash was unsurprisingly swift, ranging from GIFs of sizzling bacon to bemused posts from actual minorities, who rightly pointed out that there’s a huge difference between malicious slurs and words like ‘guinea pig’ (which we should replace it with ‘test tube’, apparently).

Depressingly, these tweets aren’t even the worst thing on the internet this week. It’s been a chaotic few days for very shit hot-takes: one publication accused Ariana Grande of blackface and transmisogyny in a damaging op-ed followed up by an editorial apology and a response piece; another (now-deleted) The Cut article argued (perhaps intending to be tongue in cheek?) that Priyanka Chopra –– award-winning actress and Bollywood royalty –– was a ‘social climber’ and a ‘scam artist’ for marrying Nick Jonas. These examples all push wokeness, a term lifted from AAVE and popularised by the Black Lives Matter movement, to its parodic extreme, repurposing social justice as a tool to generate clicks and online outrage.

But most importantly, they trivialise actual discrimination. The Guardian recently conducted research which confirmed what every person of colour already knows: racial bias is very much alive and well. Other statistics show that hate crime rates have spiked, that street harassment is a daily reality for minorities and that homophobia isn’t going anywhere. As several users wittily tweeted at PETA: there are bigger fish to fry.

“Racism has been an issue for generations, and homophobia too,” says Rico Johnson-Sinclair, a Birmingham-based programmer with years of social media experience. “We’ve only just got our basic human rights, and look how long we’ve been fighting for it! Yes we’re having conversations about trans rights and cultural appropriation, but that’s because social media has given minorities more visibility and a voice. Still, we live in an age where our rights are under threat. For PETA to trivialise these issues in the current political climate is abhorrent.”

The animal rights charity has come under fire in the past for using shock tactics and perpetuating the ‘militant vegan’ stereotype that has Piers Morgan foaming at the mouth, but the organisation is unapologetic about clickbait. “We try to make our actions colourful and controversial,” reads PETA’s official website, which outlines a desire to grab headlines and “spread the message of kindness to animals.” But there’s a way to do so without making clumsy comparisons that throw marginalised communities under the bus. “Attaching animal rights to human rights only further dehumanises minority groups,” summarises Rico.

Still, there’s obviously something to be gained from shock tactics — plenty of users saw the funny side and revelled in mocking the company. “I think it’s absolutely humorous,” says Yewi Omotayo, who works in marketing and partnerships. “I think PETA has an amazing marketing team, because we’re all talking about this!” She’s not wrong, and the company regularly engaged with some of the more sarcastic responses, indicating that its core aim was to provoke.

If that was the case, mission accomplished. Headlines have been generated and callout culture has flexed its muscles, but Jenny Bernarde, who works in social media for creative digital agency Bozboz, cautions against pissing people off just for clicks, as it can create an audience full of “people waiting for the next mistake,” she says.

But isn’t that the point of the internet now? More importantly, isn’t controversy highly profitable? Forbes recently released a list of this year’s most lucrative YouTubers, all of whom were white men and plenty of whom had been embroiled in scandal over the last few years. Logan Paul’s trivialisation of suicide saw him dropped by brands and lambasted online, but all it took was a rebrand and an apology video to keep fans tuning in; accusations of anti-Semitism similarly severed some of PewDiePie’s commercial partnerships, but the clicks kept rolling in. Sure these men were temporarily ‘cancelled’ online, but the hate comments still translated into dollars.

What’s frustrating is that this week’s shitshow of extreme wokeness only reinforces the social justice warrior stereotypes trolled by alt-right media and feared by baby boomers. Haphazardly accusing Ariana Grande of transmisogyny distracts from real anti-trans rhetoric around the world, and it implies that minorities have nothing better to do than scour through a music video looking to be offended. When PETA tweets inflammatory messages about ‘anti-animal language’ it similarly plays up to this stereotype, and for what? Is a clickbait chat show tagline and a few days of trending on Twitter really worth it?

It’s no secret that the media is driven by relentless content and controversial headlines, but companies need to think long and hard about who they might be alienating in the long run. Hannah Anderson, a social media expert at Media Chain underlines this point, reiterating that “the backlash from shock marketing can be catastrophic”. This ties into the way we all use social media to curate our own personal brands; we have a responsibility to not piss people off online and to be kinder, especially when cyber-bullying and the aforementioned prejudice is still so prevalent. In essence, if you’re a dickhead there’s also someone online to screenshot and call you out.

While tweets and articles can be picked apart and scrutinised, it’s important not to ignore that the media works to shape and uphold discrimination. Negative stereotypes don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re built and then exploited by corporations who understand that marketing relies on demographics and profiles to succeed. Social media teams are supposed to know not only how to engage these audiences, but also how to make them tick. By playing up to the ‘militant vegan’ stereotype PETA has raked in the clicks, but it’s worsened the damage of the aforementioned terrible articles, which prove one key point: there is such a thing as being ‘too woke’. Pushing social justice to its most ridiculous extreme might be good for engagement, but it’s a worrying trend which is undermining the centuries of progress that marginalised people have fought so hard to secure.

j5zb5xJake HallClementine de PressignyThink PiecesWokemarketingPETAOpinion
<![CDATA[After Years of Fighting for Trans Kids, Laywer Mia Yamamoto Came Out Herself]]>, 10 Dec 2018 09:30:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Mia Yamamoto, in her own words, was “born doing time.” She started her life in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona in 1946—a circumstance that eventually moved her to dedicate her life to social and economic justice as a poverty lawyer and criminal defender.

Mia identified as trans long before she began presenting as feminine in her 50s. She recalls finding herself while reading about transgender pioneer Christine Jorgensen in the newspaper as a child, but keeping her identity a secret while later serving in the Vietnam war, and eventually, when she began working with homeless trans youth as a lawyer, covertly going out at night to discover bars catering to trans women on Hollywood Boulevard.

Being exposed to the dangers of trans life in the 20th century and enduring the toxic masculinity of the military may have slowed Mia’s personal coming out, but it did not prevent her from supporting trans people in her capacity as a leading criminal defence attorney. For years, holding her transness deep within, she selflessly sacrificed her own authenticity to better serve marginalised individuals navigating the legal system and the prison industrial complex. Her fierce fighting words for the President (“You’re just a punk politician, I’m not afraid of you”), and her deep commitment to dismantling structures of oppression, are a rallying cry—encouraging us to push through fear to discover our courage and potential for resilience.

Photo by Bethany Mollenkof.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

VICE: Tell me about your personal journey around transness.
MIA YAMAMOTO: I was in the closet in terms of being trans until my actual coming out transition, when I I had already been a lawyer for a while. It’s different for me. I came up, though, around trans people who were kicked out of their homes as teenagers. It’s common, at 12 or 13; the family is outraged at your gender expression, they throw you out of your house, and you have to fend for yourself out there. I was always around folks like that; those were the only people that I could possibly identify with—especially coming up as a poverty lawyer working with oppressed and marginalized communities in many colors and different origins. The trans folks were excluded from almost every minority group. I remember my therapist saying that he had various queer clients, but that trans people were the queerest of the queer.

Tell me about what kind of law you practice.
I’m a criminal lawyer now, I started off in legal aid. I always wanted to be a lawyer for poor people; they got an unfair shake from society. I started off at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles working in impoverished communities. I had an initial resistance to practicing criminal law. I think there's a certain level of elitism when you're a law student thinking, Oh, you’re this smart person. You know, why would you give your best to the worst people? But when I went to go work at the public defender’s office, I realized it’s just poor people. It was the same clients I represented at legal aid that were there in the tank that had a different set of legal problems, but it was the same people. [It was] good people making reckless, stupid decisions about their lives—with consequences. Helping them still seems, to me, like a great way for me to spend my life.

[During this time] I saw a lot of the exclusion aspect of being trans. When you're deeply closeted, it’s hard for people to see that, I think. You actually get very good at male impersonation. It’s the only way to survive in the locker room and in the army. It’s a form of toxic masculinity, but you buy into it wholesale when you have extreme questions about your own gender identity and you feel a need to express [masculinity], at least for the people around you and their comfort.

Coming up in the 60s and 70s, the amount of oppression that was directed at gay and trans people… maybe even most directly at trans people. It was illegal back in those days to wear clothing of the opposite sex. The police would raid gay bars and the gay guys would grab a lesbian, trying to look straight. They would actually do things like, if you had your zipper on the side or in the back, you go to jail because you're crossdressing; and that [also] means a woman with the fly in the front. Imagine that is their criteria for taking you to go to jail!

When I was a lawyer, the treatment of trans people in jail was particularly bad because they were seen as likely victims. The cops the way they are, they’re laissez-faire about the prison population; people are going to do what they’re going to do, and they’re going to pretend not to notice. The thing that always struck me was [the] trans people who were brave enough and honest enough and came to court dressed, and having the judge use all of these male pronouns used on the queens, that was particularly infuriating. “Do you accept that disposition Mr. so-and-so,” with that kind of contempt. The ones that had enough guts to do that were defiant in return, “That’s not my name, sir.” They would stand right up to these guys. At some point, I think I sort of admired the idea that you got nothing left to lose. You know, I'm gonna stand up for myself.

Were there any particular people that really touched you?
Trans people generally would avoid me like poison because I [was] trying to learn something about myself by talking to them. I got a lot of hostility. I guess because they’re so used to people asking questions, it must be irritating. These were street queens, usually young teenagers struggling to stay alive. In the tanks—in the jails and the courts—there's a lot of disrespect out there; ridicule and rejection. And people are openly contemptuous. It takes you a while before you are able to shed that mantle of toxic masculinity which is imposed upon you by peers, media, other people around you.

Today is Veteran’s Day, and I am a Vietnam veteran, and those of us who have seen war have seen the absolute most extreme of male toxicity. There’s a glorification of the violence of war and a glamorization of the military, and that, to me, contributes to violent solutions, to conflicts. The embrace of the trans community that I would see within certain enlightened enclaves of our society is a welcome relief from the almost total universal exclusion of my community. Especially from my point of view, the idea that they're trying to exclude trans people from service in the military shows that our contributions to the military and to the advancement of our military interests in history have been erased. It's always been illegal to either be trans or gay in the military, and they would throw your butt out for admitting that you are. They were trying to exclude and deny the existence of the contributions, the sacrifices, and the courage of LGBT people in the military to try to erase them any place where they demonstrated their contributions to society and their community. They would like to pretend that we don’t exist.

It sounds like you've stood in multiple positions. You inhabited this extreme space of toxic masculinity, being in the military, being an ally working towards racial and economic justice...
I've always been somebody who believes in human rights and believes that it was my obligation, my privilege, to fight for human rights not just for for my clients, but for the world—for everybody. One of the organizations that I work with, International Bridges to Justice, we defend prisoners, basically. I’m not talking about political prisoners, just people that are locked up. We do defender training and put together little agencies in each of the places where we work. We do legal aid to the people in jail.

We realized over the last 20 years that what we’d really like to focus on is investigative torture. When they first get ahold of somebody, in order to get confessions out of them, to get evidence out of them, governments resort to torture. Most governments, the vast majority of them have rules against torture. They find them to be the cheapest and most available means of resolving criminal accusations — they can beat something out of somebody. In any event, the human rights element of everything that I’ve worked on has been the most important component of the work. [If] you donate your time and work towards something, then international human rights seems to be a pretty valid goal or ideal.

It’s a noble choice. You’re living an ethical life.
We’re given the choice of living that way. So I’ve taken it, and I feel lucky to do so.

Would you tell me, Mia, about your origin story and how that has influenced and impacted your trajectory as an adult?
The fact that I was born in (an internment) camp, right? I was born doing time. I always talk to my clients about, you know, I understand people are thrown in jail because of their race. I was born doing time because I was Japanese.

I was born in Arizona in September 1943 after my family had already been imprisoned and… my dad was a lawyer actually, class of 1929 Loyola Law School here in LA. And he's going around the camp saying, “tThey can’t do this to us, they can’t put people in jail because of their race!” My first lesson about race. I don’t remember camp, but I do remember growing up in post-war America—California. The level of hatred that people still had towards the Japanese was palpable. I was pretty careful about not speaking Japanese. I didn’t want to advertise that. It was just not cool. And, of course, this is something at that age you’re definitely striving for.

You always think about resiliency and the things that you experience that allow you some resilience. It seems to me, starting off with racial prejudice, that's always pretty interesting. And I think it is life-altering in a sense: your experience is basically altered, and thereby your perspective—looking at things from the point of view of the underdog, of an oppressed class.

I would love to hear more about your experience of transness through all those filters. How do you survive so many years not being able to express yourself authentically?
You resort to all kinds of expressions, both artistically and athletically. There's all kinds of things you can do to be an extreme outlet for what feels like an extreme constriction. Trans people are so underground, or certainly they were. I remember being in the military and seeing a piece of trans literature about that and I was stunned. I had never seen anything like that before in my life.

What exactly did you find?
Advertisements for a magazine. They were trans-related and drag, female impersonator magazines.

Like TV / TS Tapestry , Les Girls , Female Mimics ?
One of them. I remember being enthralled by this amazing cut of this culture that’s so elusive for me to find.

Did you know trans folks existed before that?
I was growing up when Christine Jorgensen hit the front pages of the newspapers. I read that as a kid. It was the most amazing relief to me that there was someone else like me in the world.

What did you think when you saw her?
Well, I thought, That’s amazing that something like that is even possible! Knowing that someone felt the same way as I did felt exhilarating. It gave me a sense of euphoria knowing there was somebody else out there.

When did you discover that there were more people like Christine Jorgensen out there?
I was in college when I first came across trans sex workers. On Hollywood Boulevard, there was a smattering of trans bars right there by Hollywood and Vine. In the 60s, that’s when I started seeing them.

What were they like?
Most of them had female impersonator shows. There was usually a smattering of trans people in the audience. Some of the performers had friends who hung out at the clubs. There was a place I remember that had a show in the front room and a bar in the backroom, which is where the trans clientele were—pretty much straight clientele in the front room. It was very interesting. Trans folks were not just a subculture, but a sub-sub culture. Because it was a part of gay society, but it was the abandoned stepchild. Gay men didn’t like drag queens. They had their own prejudices towards them. [When] you find your way to enlightened people, both trans and not trans, it gives you hope because there are people that empathize, sympathize, and are willing to fight for your cause. Something I learned was an important component about the entire struggle is that we need to convince others that there’s justice in your cause and it is a righteous thing to stand with us.

What did you think when you were in that room? Did you feel like you were disappearing into the wall, or what was the feeling in your body?
You’re afraid you’ll spend your whole evening looking out for yourself. And then after a while, you meet people, you have friends, and they show you how to enjoy the life and how to live it. It’s kind of like, it’s a dangerous life, and you need support and people who can actually give you the warnings about certain people in certain situations.

Did you tell people you were trans back then, when you were coming into it as a total loner and you had nothing to lose?
There were people that I came out to as trans. But they never had to see the evidence of it because I never transitioned around them. Yeah, but the people in my band knew. I was with that band for 25 years. I would speak to my most close friends. I would reveal to them this curse that I felt I had.

That's so interesting because we hear these stories all the time, but it's pretty rare, I think, that folks in your position are honest with the people around them.
But that's the way it was for most of my life. It was a secret life. I started dressing and was going out myself. I’ve been doing that pretty much my whole life. When I was a very small child, after the Christine Jorgenson revelation in the 1950s. I was just dressing up in my sister’s dress and going out at night, like at 2:00 in the morning.

Were you in Arizona still?
We were living in East LA. We left there in '54 or '55. We lived in the Pico Union area around Olympic and Union [during] my teen years. I dressed a lot in those days. I went into the army and then went to law school, and that’s when I saw the full-blown community on Hollywood Boulevard—drag clubs and that type of thing. It was a revelation.

What what do you think prevented you from transitioning back then?
A lot of us get killed out there. It’s common danger, you know, for people on the streets to get killed. The police, too, would not hesitate—because of their contempt for us—to engage in police brutality. They’d hit us.

Also, it’s a sense of duty. I’ve been driven by that. A sense of obligation. Especially when I started practicing law and I had clients and they were counting on me. Their lives, their futures, were on my shoulders. If I transitioned, it would just pull the rug out from all of them. Especially when I started doing death penalty cases. I started doing them in the 80s. My transition was probably imminent back then, but I couldn’t do it. I felt like I had taken on the greatest challenge of my life. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility and felt I couldn’t do it. And then, at some point, I felt like, I refuse to die like this. I would tell people: “I’m coming out to you as trans, I’m going to be going through a sex change, I understand that you hired a dude. You didn’t get one.”

I’d say, “If you don’t want to stick with me, I know some of the best lawyers in LA, I guarantee that you’ll be well represented.” They all said, “No, I’ll stick with you.” It kind of blew me away, actually. I thought somebody someplace would not because I was trans. It was amazing how they stuck with me, matter of fact; amazing how the entire legal and professional community stuck with me. Didn’t expect that either! Think about it for a second, no lawyer had ever been trans in the criminal courts of California.

What year was it when you came out?
2003. 15 years ago.

So you were meeting these trans youth primarily as a public defender, and did you ever disclose to them that you were also trans?
Yeah, but to them, I was a coward for not coming out right then and there. I told them, “I have the same feelings about myself that you do.” They were like, “Then why don't you do something about it?” And the answer was, “Because I'm fearful. You are not, but I am.” I was a coward, I respect that. But I can help you more as Michael than I can as Mia.

So what was life like when you came in to the community as Mia?

It was interesting, I came out and then I came out in court. I came to court dressed and, you can imagine, eyes popping and jaws dropping. I did it anyway, the first district attorney ’s question was, “So what do we call you now?” I said, “That’s a perfect question, I call myself Mia now. Thank you for asking.” When I started this, I got some interesting responses from people. I expected a certain level of ridicule and rejection, but it wasn’t as bad as you might think.

There’s a legal paper in the community called the Daily Journalist—it’s a daily legal paper here. They wanted to do a profile on me as a lawyer. I said, “Listen, I got this one issue that’s going to overwhelm your profile.” They said, “That’s even better, we’ll make that a feature article.” So they put it on the front page of the daily legal paper.

That was the best thing that could happen, because I didn’t have to come out to 10,000 people. It all came out at once. From my point of view, it was amazing because I'd go to court after that article is published and people then expected me to come to court dressed, which was perfect. But when the article came out, people literally would be lined up at the bar in the courtroom that that delineates the bench from the audience to give me a hug and a kiss and congratulate me. I never expected that, it was amazing! The guys were like, “We got your back homie,” and the girls were saying, “Welcome to the club.”

What are your feelings now, in the Trump era? I mean, you've been living your life as Mia for 15 years and witnessed immense changes within your time as an out trans person.
I feel like what I have to do is be as visible as possible, because I represent a community that’s being targeted not just by bigots but by the president of the United States. I’ve been in solidarity with all the people he’s been targeting, since he’s been targeting them. I always say, I am Muslim, I am a Jew, I’m Black, I’m a woman—I am all the people that he wants to come down on. It’s not like I’m late to this party. He’s been coming after trans people lately, but he’s been going after other people I identify with a lot longer. I’ve been in opposition to him and in solidarity with people who are oppressed. Those are the people I have to care about, because they don’t get cared about enough by people who are privileged, who, you know, are able to make a living. They are struggling and they are reliant on people like me to care about them and have the ability to advocate for them. Even this article is a place where I can say, “they need us, they’re our brothers and sisters in need.” Like even any refugee that ends up at our border, they are our brothers and sisters in need. They are our responsibility and our obligation. Everyone of us who enjoys the benefits of citizenship should be paying heed to the moral aspect of what it means to be American. We have to reach out to migrants, immigrants, all kinds. We’ve got to treat each other better, care more about each other.

I feel like [in] the transgender community, there's a lot of fear and there's a lot of disappointment and despair going on right now. But I've always been the type that says: “Okay, the challenge is great. We have to rise to it.” I always say this: There is no real great courage without great fear.

Okay, if you’re going after transgender people—bring it on, fuck you! I’ve been on the side of all the people you’ve been oppressing this whole time, so I’m glad you got around to me by now. You know, if I’m your enemy, you might as well know it. I’m not afraid of you. You’re just a punk politician. I’m not afraid of you.

Yeah, we are a bunch of tough cookies. I mean, we’re a group of people who have been bullied, humiliated, pushed to the edges of society, and who have lived our lives maneuvering around a status quo that has little conception of our existence and no care of it. We’re ready to fight. We’re tough by nature.
Yeah we’re pretty fierce by nature. We’ve had to survive and that’s an important priority. You grow up as a very feminine boy, believe me, you learn how to fight. I had to learn I couldn’t win all these fights but I could hurt ‘em. Then, they’d think twice about going after me again.

Mia, this has been such an incredible conversation. Your words are so galvanizing in a time when people feel very defeated.
We need each other, we need to love each other. Especially, when you speak about infighting — we need to be kind to each other, to the people within our group, our movement. I’m not advocating for trying to engage some of the Trump supporters, but we need to listen to each other and we need to listen to those people with whom we disagree. We have to put our differences aside for the sake of community. We can’t retake the positions that we’ve given up without it. We’ve seen what happens when we’re not united. It’s really important not to cede power to the fascists, because we know what they will do with it—they’ll misuse power. It’s important to understand: We can’t give it up to them. It’s so lazy for people to not vote, not be engaged, and to look out the window one day and say, “Oh, it’s a war outside. My god, I never saw this coming.”

Do you have any thoughts on disenfranchised people who don’t know where to put there energy, could be putting their energy?
Every trans person should aspire to everything. Be the greatest lead singer in a band, be the best politician, be the greatest lawyer you can be. All those things are going to be available because people fought for us, people advocated for us, people opened doors and made space for us. And you’re gonna have to return that favor and pay it forward for the next generation. Nothing good happens without all of us doing it together. This is one movement that you have to get active in, not just for yourself, but for the world; for us to experience a measure of justice, equality, inclusion.

59vka8Zackary DruckerSarah Burketransgendertransgender historyTrans LegendsMia Yamamoto
<![CDATA['Hitman 2' Makes You The Catastrophe Everyone Is Dreading]]>, 10 Dec 2018 09:00:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Spoilers ahead for Hitman 2's final level.

The final mission in Hitman 2 is about the end of the world. It isn’t pitched that way, of course. It’s given to us as an assassination mission with a little bit of complication: Agent 47 needs to kill two sisters during a gala event in which the projects of a shadowy organization are being pitched to the members of that organization. Think of it as a kind of Illuminati open house.

What they don’t tell you up front is that this Illuminati open house is all about the apocalypse. These people, the aristocracy and the oil magnates and the hidden movers and shakers behind the curtains of existence, are concerned about climate change. They’re looking at a way of surviving the absolute limit point to the planet. The characters who run the open house, the Washington sisters, are of this class of future-oriented power players. The sisters want this world of archvillains to modernize, to green their practices, and to help stave off the climate crisis. They are making a bid for making the world more stable, more predictable. But the majority of the people here don’t think that’s possible. They’re looking for an out. Antarctic bunkers. Brain archives. Spaceward escapes. Above all, they’re looking to dodge the coming catastrophe.

What they don’t know is that the catastrophe is walking among them. I don’t mean this ironically, and I’m not saying it with the sly smile of the marketing team member who has figured out the to sell Agent 47’s violence in just the right way. In fact, I mean “catastrophe” in a fairly limited sense: the way that singularity theory conceives of the moment in which a system that appears stable and predictable swings wildly into a new arrangement.


On the castle island, with its sales gala for apocalyptic technologies, there are two kinds of catastrophe. One is Agent 47 and the other is the oncoming climate disaster. Both erupt out of the placid conditions of things happening, unwelcome, uncalled for. When Agent 47 comes for these cartoon characters of real-world figures who might survive the real-world conditions that are going to put strains on global supply chains and the viability of our current system of human and resource organization, we can imagine a small moment of comeuppance.

With more than a little irony, Agent 47’s assassination of the Washington sisters prevents them from their project to abandon fossil fuels and to help save the world. Score one for the good guys who just want to live after the end of the world.

Yet the other catastrophe is still latent in the system. Temperatures rise, trade passages open, new oil wells are dug, vacation spots become viable, farmland appears in more northern climes, and we can see the great serpent of history stretching backward and forward as far as the eye can see. A system that craves stability, and yet contains the conditions of its own destruction. The catastrophe, prepared for, yet unseen until the last possible instance.

4397e3Cameron KunzelmanAustin WalkerGamingCAPITALISMGLOBAL WARMINGhitmancolumnHitman 2
<![CDATA[How to Talk About Sex with a New Partner, According to Porn Stars]]>, 10 Dec 2018 08:00:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE US.

If you want to have good sex with a new partner, then you have to talk about sex. That goes for both relationships and one-night stands. Sure, some of your former partners may say you’re a sex god. But what worked for them, may not work for everyone. And chances are neither you nor your partner is a mind reader; even if you’re good with non-verbal cues, you may be missing out on more of your partner's wants, needs, and willingness than you’d imagine. As such, while you may get lucky while getting lucky now and then, all too often a lack of communication about the deed beforehand can lead to ineffective fumbling or quiet frustrations. So ideally sexual partners of any sort ought to talk about their sexual desires, expectations, boundaries, not to mention their sexual health status and current contraceptive options early. And those in long-term relationships usually benefit from talking often about how much sex they want, issues they encounter, and changes in their desire.

Unfortunately, talking about sex can feel awkward or scary for all too many people, whether in a one-off encounter or a long-term relationship—it can be an act of vulnerability that opens us up to the risk of deep pain or shame. Even those willing to give it a shot might not know how to talk about sex without coming off as demanding, critical, or (they might fear) depraved. What should be talked about, exactly? How much communication is too much? What is the best way to broach all of this in the first place?

A number of sexual health resources and publications have developed guides on talking with a new, or established, partner about sex. Many of these tutorials contain solid advice for those in doubt, especially when it comes to how to set up the conversation: Don’t spring it on someone who is totally unsuspecting, and try to plan out what you want to talk about beforehand. Use “I statements” and express desires, or make requests, rather than criticizing or demanding. Treat sexual conversations as a skill; accept that you might start out a little awkward, but that you will get better at having them the more you practice candid communications in general.

Some of these guides, though, can feel broad or clinical, and, by extension, vague. For those who want a more detailed (and explicit) primer on how to talk about sex, and how to have great sex, especially with a brand new partner, VICE recently reached out to some consummate pros for insights: adult performers.

Porn, to be clear, is a terrible guide to open, honest sexual communication, mainly because the characters within its fantasies almost never talk about their needs and idiosyncrasies. Instead, most porn reinforces the concept that we should all be able to instantly please a partner, reading their minds or exercising universally desired and effective sexual skills and tricks.

Those working in the adult industry, though, engage in candid sexual conversations all the time. Off screen, says trans performer Kimber Haven, porn stars acting with a new partner “discuss boundaries, likes, and dislikes, as well as stances on dirty talk and limits and so forth.” They also share, says male performer Lance Hart, “no lists.” “Everyone has something they prefer not to happen” in a scene, he says. “I don’t like deep throat blowjobs,” he adds as an example. Others no lists might include off-limits body parts, actions, or types of improvised dirty talk, he says.

Communication is especially important when setting up fetish scenes, filmed or live. “Whenever I’m about to have a scene with a new person,” says dominatrix Goddess Lilith, “I ask all of the basic safety questions: Are there any health issues, physical restrictions or mental health issues to be aware of? Then I get a little more in-depth and ask about things like pain tolerances, key phrases that could trigger them either positively or negatively. Things they really enjoy. Hard limits. And of course, a safe word or action they can use to communicate during the scene.”

This frequent practice often makes those in the adult industry, Goddess Lilith argues, uniquely aware of the importance of sexual communication, especially with new or short-term partners, and well versed in what needs to be covered. Their insights may not be relevant to everyone, given how diverse human sexual desires, and the contexts in which sex can occur, are. But a handful of performers recently shared a few thoughts on sexual communication with VICE that should act as a useful (and detailed) starting point or general guideline for many people.

What are the biggest barriers most people face in trying to talk to a partner about sex?

Goddess Lilith: Shyness and embarrassment. These are normal feelings everyone has.

Kimber Haven: The biggest barrier is society’s programming that makes people believe sex is nasty or something to be ashamed about… Most people [are] too worried about what their partner will think, so they suppress their [desires], and choose to be with a non-sexually compatible partner instead of sharing their [desires] with them.

How can people move past those barriers or inhibitions to talk about sex more openly?

Goddess Lilith: The only way to get through it is to just bite the bullet and be an adult. Just do it. Life is too short to not get what you really want, in bed or otherwise!

Lindsey Leigh : Change the preconceived notion that sex is dirty. Sex is a part of life.

Lance Hart: Accept that if you aren’t honest, you’re going to have trouble. The less desperate you are to have the sex, the more likely you are to be honest.

Kimber Haven: Talking about sex is like any other skill. It’s something you get better at and more comfortable with the more open about it you are. [Also] if you ever get a chance to attend a fetish party, I advise you to do so to observe all the people having fun in a judgment-free zone, able to be their sexual selves.

Goddess Lilith: Remember: If [honesty] doesn’t work out, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Better to be honest in the beginning and have someone accept you for who you are than have to reveal some big [sexual] secret later!

When should people start talking to a partner about sex? And how can they go about broaching the subject, especially if they feel nervous or embarrassed about doing so?

Kimber Haven: Sexuality needs to be discussed openly before it gets to the good part. Hell, I make it a discussion on the first date. Why bother talking over dinner and seeing if you have chemistry if you’re not sexually compatible? Discuss it up front and they will either be into it or not. But at least you won’t live a sexually unfulfilled life with someone. If you have a special someone already, open up. Let them see your freaky side…just go slow.

Goddess Lilith: Check in with your partner and their comfort levels from time to time. They’re going to tell you what they like, and that’s going to make your chemistry together even hotter!

Lance Hart: The trick is context. If you can frame a conversation with acceptance and open mindedness first, it’s way easier. Get your partner talking about ways they are proud of themselves for being open minded. You might find a window after that.

Goddess Lilith: If [talking about sex] in person is tough for you, another way to speak openly with less pressure is through text, or on the phone. When getting to know someone, a lot of it is done in these ways anyway. Just choose the method that is the most comfortable for you.

What are the first things partners absolutely need to bring up in a sexual discussion?

Goddess Lilith: First and foremost, any sexual health issues should be spoken about honestly. It’s not always a fun part of a new relationship, but it’s absolutely a necessity to play safe. If you have a communicable STD and don’t tell your partner, there’s a special place in hell for you. If there are any other odd quirks with your body—let’s say you’re that guy with two penises—you’re going to want to be up front about that before you get down, too.

Lance Hart: The first thing to talk about [in a relationship] is how much either person wants sex. There’s a lot more to relationships than sex. But if you need sex like five days a week, they need to know. If you only need it once or twice a week, or less, they also need to know, because they might want it more. If you don’t sync up there, someone is going to always be chasing and someone is going to always be having sex they don’t feel like having. It’s OK, but maybe look at other ways to scratch the itch. The person who doesn’t need sex as much better be OK with the other person getting off to porn or going to massage parlors. Otherwise, someone is going to start lying.

Do you have any other general advice when it comes to talking openly about sex, especially with a new partner or for those who are particularly nervous about it?

Kimber Haven: Working in the adult industry has made me see most [people] as horribly sexually repressed. It’s sad that so many could be enjoying sex more if they communicated their desires to their partner. Trust a porn star, guys and gals, your partner wants to rock your world. You just need to tell them how. Because we are all different and have different switches. If you don’t tell them how to turn on yours, not only are you denying yourself, it’s unfair to them, too.

Goddess Lilith: There are, indeed, very unusual fetishes out there. But radical acceptance of sexual perversions is at an all-time high. It really is one of the best times to be alive. I would recommend any anyone reading this just be straightforward.Usually, the truth eventually comes out anyway. Why not just skip all the unpleasantness [of hiding] and cut to the chase so you can start having more fun right away? A new relationship is like a brand new, clean slate. Take advantage of it! Otherwise, the quality of the relationship can, and will, suffer.

Follow Mark Hay on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[An Undocumented Immigrant Has Been Making Trump's Bed for Years]]>, 10 Dec 2018 07:30:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Donald Trump's candidacy and presidency has in large part been premised on his hostility to immigrants and refugees, whom he's tried to crack down on in more ways than you can count. He's slandered people who come to the US illegally as "rapists" and "animals," and fought to keep them out of the workforce—all while employing undocumented immigrants at his golf club in New Jersey for years, the New York Times reports.

On Thursday, two women hired by Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster revealed they're part of "a number of undocumented workers" there who help out with housekeeping, landscaping, and maintenance, the Times reports. The two women apparently spent years cleaning Trump's private villa on the property. Victorina Morales, who's worked at Trump National for five years, told the Times she's made Trump's bed and cleaned his toilet. Sandra Diaz, who worked there from 2010 to 2013, told the Times she's washed his boxers, ironed his golf shirts, and cleaned his sheets. Morales reportedly came home "jubilant" when Trump complimented her or gave her a $50 or $100 tip.

The Trump Organization didn't comment on either woman specifically, but said it had "strict hiring practices" in place at properties like Trump National.

“If an employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately," Amanda Miller, the Trump Organization's senior VP for marketing and corporate communications, told the Times.

But according to Diaz and Morales, managers at Trump National helped them figure out a way to work there without legit documentation. In one instance, Morales said, a manager loaned her $165 so she could afford to pay for a falsified Social Security card and green card.

A document-checking system known as E-Verify would make it more difficult for employers to hire undocumented workers like Morales. But though some immigration restrictionists have pushed for it, Trump and some other GOP leaders haven't advocated especially strongly for it. The Times reported that the Bedminster club was not on a federal list of employers who use E-Verify.

Diaz, who's now a legal US resident, and Morales, who's still undocumented, said they came forward because they've grown increasingly angry about Trump's rhetoric around immigrants—even though, for Morales, speaking out will probably cost her a job, and could put her at risk of deportation.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” Morales told the Times. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation."

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

7xy7k9Drew SchwartzHarry Cheadlenew jerseyNewsimmigrationTrumpDonald Trumpundocumented immigrantsvgtrnThe VICE Guide to Right NowTrump National Golf Clubbedminstertrump national
<![CDATA[The Golden Globe Noms Are Incredibly White, Again]]>, 10 Dec 2018 07:00:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE US.

All of Hollywood and the media woke up at the crack of dawn on Thursday to watch the Golden Globe nominations roll out. As usual there were the snubs (WTF, no noms for Widows???), the shockers (Who let you in here, Bohemian Rhapsody?), and the eyebrow raises (That white savior mess Green Book did not need so many noms). But the list of nominees also included some very big moments of much-needed representation.

The Best Motion Picture - Drama category included three films—Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, and If Beale Street Could Talk—that boast a largely black cast, were helmed by black directors, and told stories pertinent to the black experience. The Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical category honored the breakout Asian-centered rom com Crazy Rich Asians, and the trans-centered drama Pose (truly one of the best shows of the year) made history with its nomination. Add in the acting nods for people of color, including Rami Malek, John David Washington, Constance Wu, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Regina King, Mahershala Ali, Sandra Oh, Billy Porter, Donald Glover, Penelope Cruz, Thandie Newton, and Edgar Ramirez, and it seems Hollywood is getting there. Slowly. Many of these are a long time coming, especially considering the number of firsts on that nominee list, like Wu as the first Asian actor nominated in the Best Actress category.

In 2015, April Reign created the #OscarsSoWhite campaign which challenged the level of diversity and representation in both award nominees and winners as well as Hollywood as a whole. VICE spoke to the activist over the phone to hear her thoughts on this year's Globe nominations and about the Golden Globes being #SoWhite.

VICE: First off, what are your thoughts on the nominations overall?
April Reign: The nominations for the Golden Globes 2019 are an indication of what can happen when people from marginalised communities have the opportunity to tell their own stories and be front and centre on screen. I think we see that with the nominations of Crazy Rich Asians, with Constance Wu, [and] with Black Panther, which is the first nomination for Marvel in this category, and the first superhero movie, period, that has been nominated in this category, and with the director nod for Spike Lee. At the same time there is still more work to be done. To be honest, I’m frustrated with listing firsts every year. In 2018, we should have conquered all of the firsts with respect to the entertainment industry. The fact that there were no female directors nominated this year is concerning, because there were some great work there. The issues with respect to equity and inclusion continue.

VICE: Those firsts keep happening and it’s one of those things where you have to ask, “who are still the decision makers?” How do you compare this year’s list to the last two years of nominations? Do you think Hollywood is getting the memo or just doing it at a surface level?
Reign: It’s hard to know. It’s hard to compare one year to the next because there are always surprises and there are always snubs. I would like to think, you know, #OscarsSoWhite, it began in January of 2015, so we’re about to complete the fourth year of talking nonstop about diversity and inclusion and representation in the entertainment industry. I would hope that people who are in positions of power are at least becoming more open-minded to broadening their horizons with respect to movies and TV shows that they watch. And looking for quality entertainment wherever they can find it, even if it’s not from a community with which they have a lot of interaction.

VICE: Absolutely. You mention snubs, Widows was a big one, particularly given Green Book getting a lot of nominations—especially because it has a bit of a troubling story there.
Reign: You’re being very politically correct there.

VICE: I’m trying to be nice but it’s problematic! What do you think about the fact that Widows, which broke some good ground, was snubbed compared to Green Book, which has been embroiled in some controversy?
Reign: Yeah, I think—and I don’t want to pit these two movies against each other—but I think what we still see is the comfort level, with respect to the people in power, only goes so far. There are movies that cannot be ignored, like Black Panther. The critical acclaim, the box office success, and it changed the culture. At the same time when you have a movie that’s female driven, that has a sexualized dark-skinned black woman with her natural hair, as this badass protagonist. And she doesn’t get the recognition, and the movie doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. And at the same time you have other movies in which there are issues of white savior complex, or issues in which the characters of color are playing subservient roles at best. And those are the ones that are still getting the nominations. [Editor's note: Green Book has received criticism for what many consider a white savior storyline between its two lead actors, Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen.]

And you truly have to question the makeup of the members of particular organizations. And with respect to the particulars, if you look at Brian Tyree Henry, he had one of the biggest years in Hollywood. If you look at the number of movies he put out this year, and he received no recognition at all. He was in Widows, he was in If Beale Street Could Talk, and in several others. In The Hate U Give, Russell Hornsby did one of the best performances that I’ve seen this year. Another that I think was missed was Daniel Kaluuya in Widows. You know, very nuanced complex performances that we haven’t seen played by people from marginalized communities that way, that still aren’t being recognized. Again, there’s more work to be done. And it’s imperative for us as moviegoers to continue to demand these types of films and to support them when quality work is released.

VICE: Going back to Black Panther, looking at its competition, it seems to have a really good shot. What do you think is its likelihood of winning? Especially compared to some of the others. The same goes for If Beale Street Could Talk. These both seem like prime examples of movies that tell stories that are important in terms of representation and in terms of sharing stories that are driven by people of color. And then you have A Star is Born that has gotten so much love this year. How do you think they fare?
Reign: I can’t do predictions. If I could, I’d be rich and living on an island somewhere. I'm buoyed by the fact that we have Black Panther, Blackkklansman, and If Beale Street Could Talk all nominated. It’s sort of a double edged sword. They’re all quality movies that deserve nominations, but they’re also all battling against each other. Each of them has a 20 percent chance of winning, I guess.

But I’m happy to see that notice was taken of movies that reflect the experiences of traditionally underrepresented communities on this stage. And hopefully it means that this opens the door for more movies like it to be made. Not just with respect to reflecting the black experience, but we need to see movies for the LGBTQ+ community in these categories. Movies about the disabled community. Movies about the Latinx community. When I created #OscarsSoWhite, it encompassed all marginalized communities—whether that be race, sexual orientation, Native American status, disability, gender. And so there’s still more work to be done. We can have this great year in 2018 with respect to this particular category. And next year there may be no movies in this category that reflect the experiences of marginalized communities. There’s never a point, unfortunately, where I could say the work is done, even with any specific category. So, the fight continues.

Follow Alex Zaragoza on Twitter .

qvqej5Alex ZaragozaAlex ZaragozaCulturegolden globesBlack PantherConstance Wu#OscarsSoWhiteif beale street could talkapril reignBlackkklansmanGolden Globe nominations
<![CDATA[Diary of a Fossil-Fuel Lobby-Watcher at the UN Climate Conference]]>, 10 Dec 2018 06:30:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Late-November early-December is when other people normally start getting christmassy. I, on the other hand, head to the UN climate talks to call out corporate lobbyists. The “conference of the parties”, or COP, is a yearly circus that sees people from governments, universities, environmental organisations and industry descend upon a city and spend the next two weeks stuck inside brightly-lit, hastily-constructed negotiating halls that could be anywhere in the world. This year is COP24.

The official goal is agreeing how to tackle climate change in a fair way: those that historically polluted the most pay and do the most. But in reality, those that got rich polluting are not so keen on stopping, let alone paying. Domestic dirty energy corporations – the Shells, BPs, Chevrons, Exxons of this world – are definitely not keen. For the past two decades, as emissions keep rising, their political interference has been the elephant in the room. The UN climate talks are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of corporate influence, but what a tip they are.

This year the conference takes place in Katowice, Poland. Coal country. Exactly where you’d want climate negotiations to be. It’s the second time the Poles are hosting it in five years. Last time at COP19, we saw coal companies sponsoring the talks themselves, backed by the Polish government. The hosts went as far as co-organising the parallel “International Coal and Climate Summit” with the coal lobby, hosting it at the Ministry of Economy at the same time as the real climate talks. This year we had to wait until two days before the negotiations begun before finding out the sponsors, but they didn’t disappoint: more coal, oil and gas companies, as well as the banks and insurance companies backing them. This was their chance to pretend to give a shit about climate change.

Day 1:

I arrive in Katowice the day before COP24 started, touching down into a world of grey bleakness. Walking down the metal steps, I look at the truck refuelling the plane, and the logo on its side. “Orlen” – one of the COP24 sponsors. Orlen is the largest petrol retailer in the country, supplying Katowice and ten other airports in Poland. But at least it planted 568 tress and 158 shrubs in 2017 (it counted them all!) among other Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. It puts the irony of flying to a climate conference into perspective – individual lifestyle choices are not going to sort this out.

Getting into Katowice, the air is grim. The greyness is not just winter. Southern Poland has the worst smog in the EU, and Katowice is surrounded by coal mines and power plants. It hurts to breath deeply, but according to a local resident, it’s much better than 25 years ago. God have mercy on the local residents of 25 years ago. I have a phone conversation with a Polish journalist who signs off with an unnerving, “good luck and take care of your lungs, it’s dangerous”.

Day 2:

After 20 years of COP being on a treadmill (lots of huffing and puffing, no moving forward), the organisers have identified what would break the deadlock: an extra day. And so, despite taking place in a Catholic country, the conference is starting on a Sunday rather than waiting until Monday. Is nothing holy anymore? As it happens, the official opening plenary is still delayed two-and-a-half hours.

I head to the country pavilions – the exhibition spaces put on by governments. Most are half-finished, but the UK’s is pretty much done, proudly plugging its “clean growth” credentials. The year before at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, the UK’s pavilion was sponsored by Barclays, a bank involved in funding the controversial practice of “fracking” for gas. This year they weren’t quite so stupid, even though the UK government has recently given the green light to fracking, despite widespread local and national opposition.

A further snoop through the labyrinthine COP24 reveals what appears to be a bit of a business zone. A massive billboard shows off the “United Nation Climate Change Partners of COP24”, with the logos of Facebook, Google, IKEA, Visa and some others. By merely “partnering”, these companies give themselves a bit of distance from the official sponsors.

Day 3:

With the pavilions fully operational, their true purpose becomes apparent: they’re there to promote domestic industries. It’s a trade fair in the middle of the climate talks. Poland excels – the Katowice pavilion is made of coal. Literally. Walls of it. And on the shelves, soap. Made of coal. For years industry has been claiming that coal can be clean. What’s cleaner than soap? Job done.

The coal and gas sponsors are all present in the Polish government’s pavilion, even hiring models with branded sashes to wander around promoting their corporate social responsibility schemes (remember the tree planting?). But then again, they give out free sausage. Swings and roundabouts. Burn down the planet, give free food. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Day 4:

The official COP24 bus to the venue is plastered in the logo of the Polish gas company PGNiG, which is also sponsoring the talks. They claim the bus is clean, being run on natural gas, but recent research by the group Transport & Environment shows gas-powered cars are just as bad for the climate and for air pollution as petrol and diesel cars.

Activist and civil society groups from around the world used the conference to launch their “People’s Demands” for COP24. The fossil fuel industry is still setting the terms of the debate, so as well as keeping fossil fuels in the ground, activists also call for the fossil fuel industry to be kicked out of the talks.

At a press conference later that day, the UN praised the "huge dynamism in the business community" which is "understanding the need of change", without acknowledging the businesses that are still a barrier to urgent action. After 20 years, we’re further than ever from reaching where we want to be.

xwj5kaPascoe SabidoSimon ChildsGLOBAL WARMINGclimate changeunited nationsPolandcimate changeCOP 24
<![CDATA[Breaking Down Every Goddamn Second of the 'Avengers: Endgame' Trailer]]>, 10 Dec 2018 05:49:39 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE US.

On Friday, Marvel dropped its highly anticipated trailer for Avengers: Endgame, which promises to be the climax of more than a decade of insanely profitable films. By noon Eastern, the YouTube video had gotten 10 million views, virality that's usually only achieved when a video game livestreamer says something racist. But what is really going on in the trailer? What hints can we glean from its 145 seconds? What secrets lie in the brief glimpses of minor characters and bits of Marvel universe ephemera? Let's investigate this together, as we wring another precious piece of content out of the drippings from a Disney media empire that is consuming us all like an invisible world-spanning squid. Enjoy!


And in an amusing post-title sequence, we get Lang again, this time knocking on the door of the Avengers complex. Could Ant-Man provide the Avengers with the key to defeating Thanos, maybe by using the subatomic realm to travel back in time (or inside the Soul Stone, where it's possible those killed by Thanos's snap are imprisoned)? Or is this just a bit of comic relief? I guess we'll find out! :)

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zmdw53Harry CheadleHarry CheadleCultureFilmentertainmentmoviestrailermarvelMarvel Cinematic UniverseMCUavengers 4Avengers: Endgame