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More about how optimism depresses me: In Walker's "Consumed" column in last Sunday's NYT Magazine he profiled a young optimist who had eagerly begun "challenging consumerism by participating in it" and buying anti-branded products, as though anti-brands aren't also brands themselves. (Just as so many major-label "indie" bands in the 1990s had "no image".) According to Walker, such products as the anti-branded Blackspot shoe is meant to appeal to the "cynical" consumer -- cynicism being the slur used to discredit anyone skeptical of the status quo or the mainstream. The accusation of cynicism shifts the blame away from structural flaws in society to the individual cynic for his discontent -- he is discredited as a malcontent complainer and probably some sort of hypocrite. Walker is ultimately able to call his sample cynic consumer an optimist because he embraces consumerism largely in the individuated, atomizing form it currently takes (The practice often isolates us, alienates us from others seen as competitors, as we really on it to draw the outlines of our unique self, and it reinforces values of acquisitiveness and greed, etc, and suggests we can only buy our way into communities with the right goods.) The shoemakers say they hope "to establish a worldwide consumer cooperative and to reassert consumer sovereignty over capitalism," which sounds pretty good, though I'm not sure how shifting brand allegiances necessarily achieves this. Yes, it's better to consume products that have been made with less exploited labor and resource waste, but the underlying problem -- self-definition through consumption -- is merely strengthened. It may be that it can't be reversed.

In China such patterns have not yet been firmly established, and the mores of consumerism are still in flux, the sorts of lives it will foster still open to adjustment. This article details a Chinese phenomenon called tuangou, or team buying. Consumers organize to meet over the internet and descend upon a retailer en masse ad demand better deals via their strengthened bargaining power. Bargaining itself has already been eradicated from most Western economies, where the fixed price is seen as a comfort and convenience rather than an arbitrary mark set to see how much of a sucker you are. Personally I would hate to have to haggle upon every purchase, but I sure as hell would be a lot more conscious of every purchase I was making and might decide to invest my energies elsewhere. In China, bargaining is still apparently the norm, and a group brings much more leverage to bear on any negotiation. This seems a much more direct way of reasserting consumer sovereignty over capitalism to me, far better than buying special products to display how skeptical you are.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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