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Jane Fonda targets Trump over climate and inequality: ‘A boy in the bully pulpit’

Actor says her biggest fear about the incoming administration is Trumps pick to lead the EPA and she is ready to do whatever it takes to fight back

The screen legend and activist Jane Fonda said shes prepared to do whatever I need to do to counter a Donald Trump administration, and called the president-elect a sexist boy in a bully pulpit who is missing an opportunity to be an eco-hero.

The actor let loose on Trumps choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the global-warming skeptic Scott Pruitt, and called the pick her greatest fear about the incoming administration.

A self-confessed late bloomer as a feminist, Fonda also predicted that womens rights are going to come under incredible attack at the federal and state level in the aftermath of the Trump election victory.

But she chose the environment when asked to name her biggest worry about a Trump White House in an interview with the Guardian.

We are confronted by someone who is against the very existence of the agency hes being put in charge of. There are many dangers with Trump but the difference here is that we have no time. The tipping point for climate change is looming, Fonda said.

Experts are warning that Pruitt will be an unprecedented disaster for the environment, not just in the US but the world if he leads the charge to unwind Barack Obamas push against carbon emissions and pollution and his commitment to the global agreement signed in Paris to combat soaring atmospheric and ocean temperatures.

Thats what scares me the most. I will not be around to see the ultimate fallout from climate change, but its coming. I hoped the fact that he was meeting with Al Gore meant that he was open to seeing the light, but then he appointed Pruitt, she said.

Gore, a Nobel prize-winning environment campaigner and Bill Clintons vice-president, met with Donald Trump in New York last Monday and declared afterward that it was a productive session and they expected to talk further.

Three days later Trump announced his new head of the EPA would be Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma who has been one of the chief architects of state-led legal challenges to Obamas environmental agenda.

Unlike Gore and his fellow eco-campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio, who met Trump last Wednesday, Fonda has failed in apparent attempts to connect with the president-elect to argue the case for action on climate change.

Her voice heavy with sarcastic humor, Fonda described her unorthodox efforts to win an audience with Trump prior to his naming Pruitt.

I was hoping there was some way I could reach Trump. He knows my favorite ex-husband, Ted Turner, whos a staunch environmentalist; he knows me. I thought if I come with Ted and some gorgeous women and explain to him that he is in a position where he can save the world … but its too late now because of his appointment of Pruitt, she said.

Fonda said she had hoped to visit the president-elects Trump Tower residence and offices in New York with the actors Pamela Anderson and Rachel McAdams, who had agreed to lobby with her, she said.

I wanted to have beautiful celebrities who are very smart and passionate to get his attention – and I would have said: You can turn the rust belt into the green belt and save the environment and jobs, she said.

Fonda indicated that she wanted Trump to develop an economic strategy that would create jobs developing clean energy equipment in areas where traditional industry is in decline and frustrated voters had turned to the real estate magnate as a savior.

The people who voted him in in the rust belt, most are not gloating, they are not thrilled with him, and they are going to be hurt and disappointed under his administration, she said.

Fonda, 78, is currently starring in the TV series Grace and Frankie, with Lily Tomlin, and remains a vigorous political activist.

In 1972, the year she won her first best actress Oscar, she also became known worldwide for her activism when she traveled to Hanoi to protest US bombing damage during the Vietnam war.

She spoke to the Guardian last Thursday at an event for Donor Direct Action, a New York-based non-profit she is involved with that supports womens causes around the world and is campaigning with the Nigerian womens organization WRAPA to rescue almost 200 girls still being held by the extremist rebel group Boko Haram after a mass abduction in 2014.

Fonda called the women standing up for feminist rights in countries like Nigeria fierce and said that women and other activists in the US must be ready to counterattack expected threats to their freedom in a Trump administration.

In Trump we have a boy in the bully pulpit. He is sexist and his whole sense of self is based around dominating women, said Fonda.

He does not like a free press and wants to shrink government, and people are going to be really badly hurt by that, so they will start protesting and there will be a further militarization of the police in response.

She intends to continue with her activism and said she would do whatever it takes to make her voice heard in resistance to Trump.

She declined to be specific about what that could include but hinted at direct action.

Im old now what have I got to lose?

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Rachel Cookes best graphic books of 2016

From dazzling biographies to fantastic fantasy and wry observation, the years graphic books would make great Christmas presents

When I began writing about graphic novels a decade ago, I remember worrying slightly about the supply line: would I really be able to find a good one to review every month? And it was tricky, sometimes. But what a difference 10 years has made. Im now in the awful business of running a beauty pageant: I have too many darlings, not too few. This year, especially, has been a bumper one. Memoirs, novels, biographies, reissued classics: if there isnt something to suit everyone on the bulging list that follows, Ill eat my copy of Persepolis.

First, memoir. It seems sometimes to be taking over, and this is as true in the world of graphic books as elsewhere in literature. Regular readers will know that I was waiting anxiously for the second volume of The Arab of the Future (Two Roads 18.99), Riad Sattoufs series of comics about his childhood in France and the Middle East, and when it arrived, it did not disappoint. But aAnyway, a reminder: its truly great. Picking up the story in 1984, when Riad is six, the Sattoufs are now back in Ter Maaleh, Syria, a situation that seems not to be making any of them very happy. Funny, dark and occasionally revelatory, this and its predecessor are my graphic memoirs of the year.

Stan and Nan by Sarah Lippett: one for fans of Raymond Briggss Ethel & Ernest. Photograph: Sarah Lippett

In no particular order, I also loved Notes on a Thesis (Jonathan Cape 16.99) by Tiphaine Rivire, a hilarious, consistently clever account of the authors struggle to complete her PhD; Stan and Nan (Jonathan Cape 16.99), Sarah Lippetts lovely elegy for her beloved grandparents and the lost England they represent (one for fans of Raymond Briggss Ethel & Ernest); and Saving Grace (Jonathan Cape 17.99) by Grace Wilson, which relates with immense wit its young authors seemingly impossible quest to find a room she can afford to rent. While were on the subject of life writing, Munch by Steffen Kverneland (SelfMadeHero 15.99) is a satisfyingly fat and digressive biography of the badly behaved Norwegian artist.

What about fiction? The most sumptuous and captivating graphic novel of 2016 is surely The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg (Jonathan Cape 18.99), a feminist fairytale, which I recommend particularly (though not exclusively) if youre looking for a Christmas present for a teenage girl. Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, this book returns us to Early Earth, the magical land to which we were first introduced in Greenbergs bestselling debut. High-born Cherry and her maid, Hero, are secretly and happily in love. But their bliss is about to be interrupted. A friend of Cherrys husband, a boor and a bully, has bet him he can seduce her over the course of 100 nights (the complacent husband will be away). What will the women do? Hero, like her creator, puts her faith in storytelling, distracting him with fable after fable. A wondrously intricate book, and a witty attack on the patriarchy, this is an instant classic, to be loved and kept for all time.

Special mentions, too, for Patience (Jonathan Cape 16.99), Daniel Clowess first graphic novel for five years, a tale of (what else?) time travel, murder, wrongful conviction and obsessive love; Hubert by Ben Gijsemans (Jonathan Cape 16.99), a book about loneliness in the big city that comes with some of the most delicately gorgeous illustrations Ive seen in years; Irmina by Barbara Yelin (SelfMadeHero 16.99), a lovely, rather old-fashioned novel of imperilled ideals in 1930s Oxford and Nazi Germany; and The Return of the Honey Buzzard by the award-winning Dutch artist Aime de Jongh, which is about a failing bookshop and its troubled owner (SelfMadeHero 14.99). I also press on you In Search of Lost Time: Swanns Way, Stphane Heuets deft retelling of Marcel Proust, whether you have already read him or not (Gallic Books 19.99).

If you like the idea of graphic short stories, you could do worse than invest in Spanish Fever, Fantagraphics new best-of anthology (ed Santiago Garca; trans Erica Mena) of work by contemporary Spanish cartoonists, while Last Look (Jonathan Cape 16.99) is just a reminder Charles Burnss magnificently creepy Xed Out trilogy (XEd Out, The Hive, Sugar Skull) in one volume for the first time. A great gift. Burns, of course, is strong meat, and genuinely mind-bending at his best. Much gentler, if were talking sci-fi, is Tom Gaulds lovely Mooncop (Drawn & Quarterly 12.99), the plangent story of a policeman who lives and works on the moon. The twist here is that, the moon having long been populated (there is even a coffee shop), people are now leaving it and returning to Earth, for which reason this slim book would make a neat companion, present-wise, for Hubert. The cook in your life, meanwhile, might enjoy Hot Dog Taste Test (Drawn & Quarterly 16.99), Lisa Hanawalts ribald graphic skewering of foodie culture, which is funny, weird and definitely not one for the clean-eating brigade. The day she spends shadowing Manhattans most famous molecular gastronomist, Wylie Dufresne, is priceless.

Ben Katchors Cheap Novelties: a world of lost diners, derelict canneries and cheap souvenirs. Photograph: Ben Katchor/Courtesy of the artist

Cheap Novelties: the Pleasures of Urban Decay by Ben Katchor, a recipient of Guggenheim and MacArthur grants and a cartoonist for the New Yorker, was first published in 1991 in an unassuming paperback. Twenty-five years on, and now widely considered a classic, Drawn & Quarterly has reissued it in a beautiful hardback edition (14.99). It chronicles, in black and white, the wanderings of Julius Knipl, a tramping old-school real estate photographer, through the merchandise district of New York a landscape since changed beyond all recognition by gentrification and the rise of the chain store. A world of lost diners, derelict canneries and cheap souvenirs, read this one only if you can bear the melancholy that will undoubtedly sweep over you.

New York Review Books recent move into comics is also yielding results, classics-wise. From its small but excellent list, I recommend the lost-for-decades Soft City (20), an epic vision of a single day in a dystopian world by the Norwegian pop artist Hariton Pushwagner, republished with an introduction by Chris Ware; and What Am I Doing Here? by Abner Dean (13.99), a forgotten innovator of American comics from the 40s. Dean draws single-frame gags with a difference: being so deeply odd and more or less unexplainable, theyre too disquieting to be funny. Certainly, you wouldnt say his work is exactly throbbing with Christmas cheer: Will the three wise men please step forward! shouts one of his solitary naked everyman figures through a loud-hailer into a black void. But in these uneasy, topsy-turvy times, paradoxically, this might just be the book that winds up consoling you more than any other.

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Trumpitecture: what we can expect from the billionaire cowboy builder

The tower with a combover, the 90-storey skyscraper with just 72 floors, the name in huge shiny letters Trump says his buildings are beautiful. But all they stand for is money, status and power

As the self-styled builder president, Donald Trump began his electoral campaign with a grand architectural promise. I will build a great wall, he said, standing in the lobby of his proudest creation, Trump Tower in New York, surrounded by 240 tonnes of pink Breccia Pernice marble. Nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. And Ill build them very inexpensively.

The billionaire real estate tycoon and president-elect has made a career out of building inexpensive walls and filling them with very expensive apartments. But this would be a wall of a different kind: an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall that would march along the Mexican border, to keep out the drugs, crime and rapists, punctuated with one big, beautiful door presumably so his Trump Tower taco bowls could still come in.

Like most of Trumps policies, the wall has always been big on bluster but light on detail. It mysteriously grew in height as his campaign snowballed, from 30 to 55ft, while budgets rose from $8bn to $12bn. Independent assessments suggest it would cost more like $25bn and require more than three times as much concrete as the Hoover Dam. Unperturbed, Trump insisted his wall would have beautiful everything and be just perfect. Maybe someday theyll call it the Trump Wall. So I have to make sure its beautiful, right? Since winning the election he has conceded that, in places, it might actually be a fence.

Tall storeys Trump Tower apartments start on floor 30 despite there being just 19 floors below them. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/ Getty

If its anything like the other edifices that bear his name, in 20ft high bronze letters, beauty might be stretching it. From the serrated flanks of his brooding Trump Tower to the gold lam attire of his Las Vegas hotel, his buildings glow with a surface sheen, like his own bronzed face, but it is a veneer of luxury that masks a prosaic product underneath.

As the former New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp put it, Trumps towers dont quite register as architecture but instead stand as signs of money, status, power like the diamonds, furs, yachts and other tokens of the deluxe life enjoyed in Marbella. What Muschamp found objectionable about Trumps taste was not the desire for attention, for the best, the most, the tallest, the most eye-catching but his failure to realise these desires creatively in the architectural medium. For the king of superlatives, nothing has ever turned out quite as tremendous as he promised.

His first Manhattan project, completed in 1980, set the tone, taking the ailing Commodore hotel, a handsome brick and limestone building from 1919, and entombing it inside a shell of mirrored glass. It spawned the Trump style of wrapping standard buildings in paper-thin party costumes of chrome, bronze or gold depending on the occasion, and adorning them with sparkly signifiers of glitz and glamour.

Just like his policies, Trumps real estate projects are often characterised by bold claims that dont quite stand up beginning with their height. He famously inflates the floor numbers of his buildings: the 90-storey Trump World has 72 floors, while apartments in Trump Tower begin at floor 30, despite there being just 19 commercial storeys below them. People are very happy, he has said, openly proud of his marketing ruse. They like to have apartments that have height, the psychology of it.

The Trump Tower in Chicago was planned to be the tallest building in the world when it was announced in 2001, but it was hurriedly scaled back following the 9/11 attacks despite Trumps rhetoric of not being cowed by terrorists. It now stands like a stunted Mini-Me version of Dubais Burj Khalifa (designed by the same architect), at less than half the height of its Arabian cousin.

Lacking the desired height, Trump tried to make up for it with the size of his sign, which spells out his name in back-lit stainless steel letters running the length of half an American football field across the 16th floor. Mayor Rahm Emanuel slammed the sign as tasteless and set about changing the citys regulations to prevent a repeat of such vulgarity. As ever, Trump hurried to Twitter to defend his creation: Before I bought the site, the Sun Times had the biggest, ugliest sign Chicago has ever seen, he thundered. Mine is magnificent and popular.

Taken down a billboard in Dubai, where Trump is building a golf course in the desert. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty

But the popularity of the Trump brand a byword for Superior Quality, Detail and Perfection according to his website has suffered hammer blows as a result of his vitriolic presidential campaign. In Dubai, where he is building a golf course in the desert, a large billboard featuring the man himself swinging a club was taken down following the announcement of his plan to ban Muslims from entering the US, while sales of his home decor range were also suspended.

In Istanbul, where the conjoined tilting shafts of the Trump Towers loom 150 metres above the city, President Erdoan has declared that the ones who put that brand on their building should immediately remove it. Even before his comments, the $300m scheme had not provided the premium that investors were promised.

Prices slashed the Trump Ocean Club, Panama City. Photograph: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images

Similar stories of inflated expectations, followed by legal wrangling, are repeated across the globe. The Trump Ocean Club in Panama was plagued by delays. By the time the yonic edifice was completed in 2011, there was a glut of high-end apartments, so prices were slashed and many buyers walked away. The condo owners association is trying to sack Trumps management company, claiming it exceeded budgets and used its fees to cover hotel costs. Trump, in turn, is now seeking $75m in damages.

The Trump Tower hotel in Toronto topped with a strange quiff like the man himself also opened late to find the market flooded with five-star hotels. It has been subject to a lawsuit by buyers who say they were misled by marketing materials, while the local developer is also trying to remove Trumps name from the project.

Topped with a strange quiff like the man himself the Trump Tower hotel in Toronto. Photograph: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket/ Getty

The story is repeated in New York, where Trump unusually settled a lawsuit brought by buyers of his $450m Trump SoHo development. They asserted that they had been defrauded by exaggerated claims. He admitted no wrongdoing however. According to the New York Times earlier this year, a separate lawsuit stated that the project was developed with the undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Elsewhere, plans for further Trump towers, from Rio to Azerbaijan, have hit the buffers, while recent records show his controversial golf courses in Scotland have made losses of almost 26m. In sum, it all suggests that Trump might not be quite the star deal-maker he claims to be. So what is it like to be on the wrong side of his famous deals?

Architect Andrew Tesoro. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

Architect Andrew Tesoro had first-hand experience of being on the receiving end of the Trump Organisations deal-making machine when he was commissioned to design the Trump National golf club in New York state, a process that left him on the verge of bankruptcy. Driven by Trumps infectious enthusiasm, the project quickly tripled in size along with the associated workload but the additional fees were not forthcoming.

By the time the building was completed, Tesoro had amassed unpaid invoices to the tune of $140,000. After endless requests and meetings with his associates, he finally got a face-to-face meeting with Trump, which proved to be a textbook lesson in Trumps trademark cocktail of charm and ruthlessness.

He told me that we built the most spectacular clubhouse in the world, Tesoro recalls. I was the finest architect hed ever met, he was going to make this project the best-known building of its type in the world, the next project was going to give me the opportunity to recoup any money that Id lost and, just because Im such a nice guy, he was going to offer me $25,000 to go away.

The Trump National golf club in New York state. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

At first Tesoro declined, so he was handed over to Trumps attorney. The attorney told me quite directly that, if I sued, I would probably get all the money I was owed, but that it was his job to make it take so long, and cost me so much, that it wouldnt be worth it.

It raises questions over how Trump plans to administer his $500bn infrastructure plan, a scheme that has already got the construction industry salivating at the thought of the tax-credit-driven contracts. We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals, Trump declared in his victory speech. Were going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.

Tesoro featured in this Clinton campaign video

The American Institute of Architects was quick to pledge its unwavering support to the new administration, writing that its 89,000 members stand ready to work with Trump on his grand building plan. But it turns out that the AIA had neglected to consult its members, many of whom have pointed out that Trumps bigoted pronouncements dont quite chime with the institutes diversity and inclusion goals.

The Architects Newspaper, meanwhile, warned that architects who contributed to the proposed border wall or its attendant detention centres, federal and private prisons, and militarised infrastructure would be perpetuating inequality and the racist patriarchy of Trumps ideology.

As architect and critic Michael Sorkin writes in an open letter: Trumps well-documented history of racial discrimination, tenant harassment, stiffing creditors, evasive bankruptcies, predilection for projects of low social value such as casinos and his calculated evasion of the taxes that might support our common realm are of a piece with his larger nativist, sexist, and racist political project.

He concludes: We call upon the AIA to stand up for something beyond a place at the table where Trumps cannibal feast will be served. Let us not be complicit in building Trumps wall but band together to take it down!

The AIA has since issued a grovelling video apology, admitting their statement was tone deaf while no doubt rushing out to stock up on security fencing and gold glazing catalogues.

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The Art of the Deal by Donald J Trump with Tony Schwartz digested read

A timely reissue of the business tycoon/president-elects collected entrepreneurial advice from 1987 is redacted by John Crace

I dont do it for the money. Ive got more money than Ill ever need. Some of it yours. Lets face it, you dont file for bankruptcy six times if youre planning on paying your dues. The key to making the best deal is to let others take the hit. I do it because I can. If you can get away with losing over $1bn on a deal, youd have to be a schmuck not to. Theres no way that Donald J Trump is ever going to let himself be one of those deadbeat Americans with no hope and no prospects. No sir. And thats why were shamelessly republishing this load of tosh from 1987. Heres a diary of a typical Trump week.

Monday 9am. Call my broker, Alan Greenberg, to buy $25m worth of stock in Holiday Inns. I sense its undervalued. As we speak, its value increases to $30m. My cock goes hard and I decide to sell.

Tuesday 3pm. Try to evict Carly Simon and Mia Farrow from their rent-controlled apartments, but both want to play hardball. Their loss. When you do battle with the Trumpster, theres only one winner.

Wednesday 1pm. Lunch with Ivana. Try to grope her pussy. Probably not the best time to tell her about Melania.

Thursday 5pm. Some kid at the door says hes my son. Tell him to come back when hes made his first $10m.

Friday 10am. The banks foreclose on Trump Taj Mahal casino putting thousands of people out of work. But at least I come away with $50m. My cock goes hard again.

My style of dealing is quite straightforward: 1) Get as much as you can for yourself; 2) Theres always somebody stupider than you out there; 3) Any attention is better than none; 4) Promise people the Earth even if you know you can never deliver; 5) Get yourself a top haircut.

The most important influence on me when I was growing up was my father, Fred Trump. He taught me everything I needed to know about making money. If he had a fault, it was that he was not narcissistic enough. Fred never named a tower after himself. He also wasted too much time buying properties for deadbeats. If theres one thing Ive learned from real estate, its that poor people on zero-hours contracts just dont know how to look after themselves.

My first deal in Cincinnati taught me that lesson. Having persuaded the banks to lend me the money, I put the day-to-day management of the rebuild in charge of a man I knew to be a conman. I figured he would con the contractors far more than he would con me, so I would end up ahead on the deal. No flies on the Don! Though I was glad to sell the houses off for a $10m profit before the market crashed.

In 1974, I moved into the New York property market when I bought the Commodore Hotel near Grand Central Station. It was rundown and operating at a loss and everyone thought it was a turkey, but I could immediately see its potential. As usual, I was proved 100% right and made $280m in an afternoon after renaming the hotel Trump Plaza.

I then built Trump Tower after buying a department store whose owner didnt understand its true worth. That project taught me that most politicians are just in the game for themselves. Its a mentality I just cant understand. With Trump Tower, I was determined to build as big as possible and the results speak for themselves. I have my own apartment on the top three floors and employ some limey called Nigel Farage as my lift attendant. It could be worse. I could have had Piers Morgan working for me. Can you believe that man? I met him once for five minutes on a reality game show and he hasnt stopped going on about it ever since. The guy must have nearly as big a personality disorder as me.

After Trump Tower came Trump Castle, Trump Palace, Trump Island, Trump White House and Trump Great Wall of Trump. Basically, it was the same deal every time. I was fabulously brilliant and made a huge amount of money for myself while everybody else lost big time. I was living the American dream. Bankrupt one day, rich the next. But my biggest success is the 120-storey Trump Toilet that can flush every Muslim, Mexican and gay back into the sewers where they belong. It might even come in useful for this book.

Digested read, digested: The American nightmare.

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The golden age of New York clubbing: ‘We wanted to be part of something’

When nightlife expert Tim Lawrence came to the city to promote his book about the early 80s, the clubs he went to revealed how much has (and hasnt) changed

The timing and location of the nights entertainment Grandmaster Flash at House of Yes was entirely coincidental. On the eve of a week that would see New York City host a handful of events to celebrate and spotlight the release of Tim Lawrences new book, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983 a study of what the author convincingly identifies as the citys cultural renaissance, when hip-hop, new wave and dance music collided in clubs like Mudd and the Paradise Garage one of the books characters was making a rare Brooklyn appearance at a space in Bushwick.

Though theres rarely a lack of nighttime activity in the city that supposedly never sleeps, on paper it seemed like an especially great match. Unlike many New York clubs in the post-Rudy Giuliani era, House of Yes tries hard with its musical bookings, setting and entertainment acumen. Billing itself as part disco, part circus theatre, it features DIY dcor, psychedelic projections, dressed-for-cabaret employees and an audience always ready to let loose.

Flash, meanwhile, is riding his third wind. In the mid-1970s, he helped perfect record-scratching as one of the cornerstones of the Bronx culture that came to be known as hip-hop. Now he is one of the executive producers of The Get Down, Baz Luhrmanns colorful Netflix show that recasts the creation myth of rap and modern DJing as a fairytale musical. (And is a wonderful fact-meets-fiction preamble to Lawrences historical account.) So, while Flashs stock as a local legend never fell off, its been a minute since it paid such high market dividends.

Understandably, the packed House of Yes crowd an impressive congregation of young and old, black and white, straight and gay went wild. Flashs skills at cutting up records, and his interpretation of the cross-genre flow at the heart of the citys original sound (disco, rap, funk, dance-punk, Latin, mutant electronic, all in the mix) were rapturous and timeless.

The scene played out like a simulacrum of the very bygone moment that Lawrences book documents. Reading Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor as a clubber in the city is to reflect not only on whats been lost over the past three decades, but on how the sounds, events and characters at the center of Lawrences story still influence NYCs nightlife. At House of Yes, one of this tales endless postscripts played out as real-time legend. In fact, through sheer circumstance, over the course of a single week in October 2016 you could watch and listen to urban folklore cement as history. Better yet, you could dance to that transformation.

There was always a sense of New York in my imagination, said Lawrence in one of our numerous conversations during his visit. The wiry 49-year-old may have grown up in the London exurb of Winnersh and teaches cultural studies at the University of East London, but theres little question that New Yorks late 20th-century nightlife has served as his muse. Life and Death is the third of Lawrences books about the citys rhythms, joining the disco scene-redefining Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music, 1970-79, and the quasi-biography, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92. He also credits the citys house music scene for his initial focus on the meaning of the dancefloor.

Lawrence first escaped to New York in the early 90s at a sensitive time in his life, following the sudden death of both parents and an early crisis of professional faith at BBC Newsnight. He studied a doctorate in English literature at Columbia University by day, and clubs by night. Love Saves the Day began as a dissertation on house music and postmodernity, mutated into a quickie book about dance music culture, before his research brought him face to face with the then little-known story of a musical host named David Mancuso, his private weekly gatherings at a Soho loft, and all the DJs deeply influenced by it (including the legendary Larry Levan, and father of house music, Frankie Knuckles). That party, nicknamed the Loft, basically launched global DJ and club culture; and in presenting its details, Lawrence suddenly had a career documenting the founding corner of contemporary dance music.

Life and Death on the New York Dance Floorbegan as another attempt to write that history of house, but ended up as a 500-page dive into a three-year period that exemplified the melting pot idea that had been synonymous with New York, yet hadnt been written about. Popular history claimed the citys dance scene died under the strain of the forces that killed the disco craze. Yet as Lawrence writes, the influence of Levan and his club, the Paradise Garage, was already being felt at art-punk discotheques like the Mudd Club and Danceteria, where DJs such as Johnny Dynell and Mark Kamins were creating a new mix for a new, mixed audience.

Larry Levan photographed in the DJ booth at Paradise Garage in 1978. Photograph: Bill Bernstein/

The Garage, meanwhile, was home to not just the gay, black dancers historically placed there, but also young art-punks and nascent hip-hop kids, whose music found life on Levans turntables. The records that came out of these borderless scenes soon became the soundtrack of the entire city and beyond, with Blondies Rapture, Afrika Bambaataas Planet Rock, the Peech Boys Dont Make Me Wait and Madonnas Holiday effortlessly crossing genres, cliques and, soon, oceans. New York club music had gravitas, with everyone from Bowie and the Clash to New Order and Herbie Hancock pulled into its orbit.

As Lawrence writes, the Downtown communitys cross-cultural collaborative spirit was not limited to clubs. The East Villages Fun Gallery, co-founded by arts doyenne Patti Astor (one of the stars of the first hip-hop film, 1982s Wild Style), presented the Bronxs finest graffiti writers next to future fine-art legends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Around the corner, the budding British impresario Reza Blue and Michael Holman, Basquiats bandmate in the no-wave group Gray, began throwing a weekly party at the Second Avenue club Negril that brought together the DJing Bambaataa, his Zulu Nation MCs, breakdancers and the Fun Gallerys graffiti writers. Haring, meanwhile, was also painting murals on the walls of Danceteria and the Garage, when not helping the actor and performance artist Ann Magnusson program multi-sensorial happenings at Club 57. According to Lawrence, such creative intermingling had few precedents.

The research suggested that there were a lot more connections between these scenes than was supposed historically, he said. I started to get a sense of the Downtown scene, of different art coming into this moment, of an interesting coalition of artists, musicians, choreographers and DJs. The whole artistic world seemed to be descending upon downtown New York.

Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards at the Danceteria in 1980. Photograph: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

It didnt last long. Lawrence dug into the three years between the decades dawn and the oncoming midnight of the crack and Aids epidemics, before Ronald Reagans neoliberal policies and Manhattans first real-estate boom took hold of New Yorks cultural life. Like The Get Down, Life and Death unearths a golden moment when living was cheap, the crowds diverse, the community strengthened, creativity mutating and freedoms flourishing.

The mythology was that New York was this hellhole of dysfunctionality, crime, murder, and garbage piled on the streets, says Lawrence. Yet to a person every one Id speak to would say that far from uninhabitable, theyd never want to leave it. Every single night something was going on that seemed essential.

We did not want to go out to see something we wanted to be a part of something, said Johnny Dynell. He was seated in a seminar room at New York Universityon a drizzly Saturday afternoon, decked out in a leopard-print suit and lightly tinted shades, imparting wisdom to a gathering of grad students, zine writers and ageing bohemians treading memory lane.

A lesser-known character in Lawrences book, Dynell has been one of the Downtowns connectors for nearly 40 years DJing at the Mudd Club, Danceteria and Area; recording the 1983 electro-rap cult single Jam Hot (still sampled regularly); and, in the 1990s, with his wife Chi Chi Valenti, creating the weekly party Jackie 60, one of the citys last 20th-century hurrahs in Manhattans Meatpacking District, not yet gentrified. Dynell still plays around town, but on this weekend, he and a coterie of other artists and gallery owners, DJs and musicians, writers and editors, club owners and scenesters, were detailing the circumstances of Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor to a rapt audience. They were also reaffirming a set of values by which the city of their era lived and, at times, still tries to.

Dynells panel, entitled Lifecycle of the NYC/Downtown Party Scene, was part of an all-day symposium at NYU that placed Lawrences book in broader historical contexts, one of 12 events on the authors one-city book tour. Those included panels at three institutions of higher learning (NYU, CUNY and Columbia), book-signings at three club nights (the Loft, 718 Sessions and Better Days), talks at two galleries (Howl and Steve Harvey) and two record stores (Rough Trade and Superior Elevation), as well as one museum presentation (at MoMA, which hosted a panel after a screening of writer Glenn OBriens majestic lo-fi film, Downtown 81, starring Basquiat). Simply following the authors itinerary was like getting a masters primer of the citys recent cultural accomplishments.

As the discussions of long-gone clubs gave way to movement on living, breathing dancefloors, the weight and spotlight of the citys history could be felt everywhere, in the crowd and in the DJ booth. At times, it seemed a continuation of the classic New York story one that was interrupted by Mayor Giulianis zero tolerance policies of the 90s, which included a moral crusade on nightlife by excavating and enforcing a race-dividing civic ordinance from the 1920s called a cabaret license at others it was a brand-new one with familiar roots. The last 30 years have seen the citys meaningful party scene on the brink of extinction during one of the panels, Krivit put the number of cabaret licenses issued during the early 80s at 4,000; in 2016 it is around 120. The insights of Lawrences book provided a reflection on the state of the party and the purpose it serves.

Many participants of the Life and Death tour came to that weeks installment of the Loft, at 46, the planets longest-running classic club night. Though no longer a weekly or commandeered by Mancuso (that nights DJ duties were split by Douglas Sherman and Colleen Cosmo Murphy), the Loft has retained a utopian, communal private-party vibe unlike any other, an older, mixed-race clientele, and an aspirational old-school positivity in its music and atmosphere that in America 2016 comes in extremely handy. (The party took place the night of the second presidential debate, which made Shermans selection of Sympathy For the Devil beyond pointed.)

By contrast, the same evening marked the end of the 13-year weekly run of DJ Franois Ks Deep Space party at Cielo, in the Meatpacking District, which in 2017 is moving to Output, a Berlin-style club in Williamsburg. Franois Kevorkian is one of the New Yorks beloved dance music elders, bridging todays city to the one depicted in Life and Death (he rose to prominence as a DJ and remixer in the early 80s), continuing to champion musical multiplicity, balancing new and old (at his Cielo swan song he presented Scuba, a popular British DJ who plays minimal techno). Franoiss long-cultivated following pursues the DJs sonic whims wherever it takes them.

Deep Space is a party that, like the Loft, could be classified as much as a community social as a rave it took place on Mondays and had free entry before 11pm. Yet, what changes when you leave a longtime residence? Economics for one but also demographics. Whether its the clubs or the thriving warehouse scene, youth and internationalism rules Brooklyn nightlife, alongside layers of social privilege. And where Life and Death-era musical programming actively attempted to cut across genres and audiences, todays club nights are more tailored to individual sounds, textures and BPMs. Nowadays, the notion of a DJ running the gamut from dub to hip-hop to disco/house to techno to African sounds, playing to a large crowd that takes it all in, is less norm than its own peculiar lane. The origin of that lane is the New York described in the pages of Lawrences book.

Another pair of parties that took place during Lawrences week here directly reinforced this lineage. Both were DJ sets by older English men that lasted upwards of six hours. One featured DJ Harvey, who spent a few years in New York learning his craft at the feet of Levan. The other took place in a Bushwick warehouse, and marked the long-awaited return of Andrew Weatherall, who came of DJing age in acid-house London and Manchester (helping produce some of that eras greatest records) and continues to mix moods tinged with dub and psychedelia. Both sets were epic exercises of form, stamina and musical arc, featuring records beyond simple classification. And audiences that were hard to pinpoint too more Caucasian and younger than at Flash, but hardly monochromatic, ready for a long haul, and, to echo Dynells self-assessment, determined to be active participants rather than tourists. These were one version the best version of a new New York dancefloor.

Emotionally, critically, intellectually, its hard to say that New York is the kind of mecca for dance music that it was in the 70s and 80s. Then, people came here from all over the world on pilgrimages, said Lawrence. It feels like times have changed. But in a way that is because of New Yorks success; because its influence helped grow dance scenes all over the world. This is a good thing. But as word was spreading, New York had a difficult period.

To simultaneously participate, observe and process history through all of ones biases is a difficult task. To do so during late nights, in dark, sensorially overwhelming clubs, keeping all of ones faculties intact makes it more so. It may be why real-time critical context for club music has always been rare. Yet whatLife and Death on the New York Dance Floor makes acutely obvious, as both volume and prism, is not just the cultural value of the citys party scene, but how it also serves as a moral compass and how it still can.

My sense of it is that there is a will in New York to bounce back [from] the low point of the Giuliani period, Lawrence added. Were seeing that difficult period shifting into something more engaged and hospitable. Its clear that there are people who are invested [in the scene], and want this to become even more re-energized.

Time to (re)build.

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‘Anarchy on Sunset Strip’: 50 years on from the ‘hippie riots’

In November 1966, the birthplace of the hippie movement was shaken by a confrontation that was an early salvo in the culture wars to come

Fifty years ago this week, a riot took place on Los Angeless famous Sunset Boulevard. Bemused reports appeared in the days that followed with headlines like Long Hair Nightmare: Juvenile Violence on Sunset Strip, and Anarchy on Sunset Strip. All of them speculating on why middle-class, mainly white, youths should riot on a street better known for elegant Hollywood nightspots. Although the street cuts through Los Angeles, from Figueroa Street to the Pacific Coast highway, the riot, AKA the hippie riots and the Sunset Strip Curfew Riots, occurred right in its heartland, in and around 8118 Sunset Blvd, just off Crescent Heights. The focal point was Pandoras Box, originally a jazz club but since 1962 an independent music venue and gathering place for long-haired and mini-skirted youths in search of music, recreational drugs and casual sex.

From the perspective of local bankers, restaurateurs and real estate moguls, the alcohol-free, purple and gold Pandoras Box, located on a mid-boulevard traffic island, had become a magnet for an unseemly, ie cash-strapped, possibly subversive, crowd. Business leaders railed against the newcomers, claiming they were causing late-night traffic congestion. Their answer: remove the island, widen the road, put in a three-way traffic signal and turn the locale into a high-rise business area. To facilitate their plan, local businesses pressed the city council to pass ordinances that would ban loitering, establish a 10pm curfew, and demolish the building once and for all.

For those who congregated in the area, their soundtrack consisting of Dylan, the Byrds, Frank Zappa, Buffalo Springfield, Love and the Doors, the curfew was nothing less than an infringement of their civil liberties and right to gather in public. This exacerbated by the fact that over the previous months police had arrested thousands of young hippie-types, most of them guilty of nothing more than hanging out on particular streets. Which is why on 12 November, the Fifth Estate coffee house, located a block from Pandoras Box, printed and passed out flyers that read, Protest Police Mistreatment of Youth on Sunset Blvd. No More Shackling of 14 and 15 year olds. Written by two teenagers, the flyers called for a peaceful protest that night in front of Pandoras Box. Local radio disc jockeys announced the event as well. That night about 3,000 teenagers showed up carrying signs with slogans like Cops Uncouth to Youth and Give Back Our Streets. Also in attendance was a smattering of hip Hollywood, such as Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.

The Sunset Strip curfew riot AKA the hippie riots, outside Pandoras Box. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Faced with a multitude of protesters, the police realized enforcing the curfew might only make matters worse, and so tried to stay calm and out of the way. But when a scuffle broke out, the result of a minor road accident, 155 LAPD officers and 79 sheriffs deputies moved in with teargas and batons, turning what had been a relatively peaceful gathering into a something far uglier. Ordered to disperse, the crowd responded by hurling rocks and bottles at the police, smashing windows and overturning vehicles.

The areas pro-business county supervisor, Ernest Debs, called the youths misguided hoodlums. While Captain Charlie Crumly, commander of the LAPDs Hollywood division, insisted that leftwing groups and outside agitators had organized the protest, going on to say that there are over a thousand hoodlums living like bums in Hollywood, advocating such things as free love, legalized marijuana and abortion. No doubt such statements contributed to the sporadic disturbances that continued on the Strip over the next few months.

Dissatisfied with coverage in the local press and use of the term riot to describe events on the Strip, the Byrds manager and Elektra record producer, Jim Dickson, teamed up with the Beatles and Beach Boys press officer, Derek Taylor. With support from the Woolworth heir Lance Reventlow and Gilligans Island actor Jim Denver, they formed Community Action for Facts and Freedom (CAFF), which, among other things, organized a benefit concert to raise bail money for those arrested and help pay for damaged property. Although the Strip was somehow able to maintain its status as an unofficial counterculture zone, a number of licenses were withdrawn and clubs closed. Later in the month the city council acquired Pandoras Box. It was the same month in which Ronald Reagan was elected governor, an propitious start to his rise to power. The following year saw the demolition of Pandoras Box. These days what was Pandoras Box is nothing more than a triangular concrete slab, while the sleazy appeal of the Strip has been replaced by corporate logos and pay-to-play venues.

American Graffiti. Photograph: Everett/REX/Rex Features

Looking back, one might say that the November riot was influenced by the infinitely more important Watts insurrection of a year earlier. However, it was probably closer in spirit to the wave of generational and predominantly white challenges to authority which, during the 1950s and 1960s, centered on the right to inhabit the street at night. These came from various quarters, like the cruising subculture, which, in that era of cheap gas and wide roads, took the form of driving down main thoroughfares, as in American Graffiti, and drag racing, as in Rebel Without a Cause. Challenges also came from that eras surfing subculture, whose young legions were set on garnering what freedom they could within relatively restrictive boundaries. For either, occasional confrontation was inevitable. Though the riots on the Strip couldnt compare to the 11 riots that took place in a six-month period in 1961, disturbances that stretched from Zuma Beach, where 25,000 teenagers showed up to pelt the police with sand-filled beer cans, to faraway Alhambra, Rosemead and Bell, prompting articles in the press to the effect that such confrontations must surely have been communist-inspired.

With curfews commonplace in many towns and cities, these disturbances were, whatever the instigating complaint, about who controls public space and the right to congregate in those spaces. At the same time, such events did much to politicize many of their participants, graduating as some would from adolescent disrespect for arbitrary authority to larger issues, such as protesting against the war in Vietnam and supporting jailed Black Panthers.

How important was the Sunset Strip riot? With business interests on one side, and peace and love advocates on the other, it was, if nothing else, an early salvo in the culture wars, a battle which continues to this day, with conservatives continuing to blame societys ills on what they perceive as the permissiveness of that era.

Perhaps the riots most lasting effect had to do with the music that came out of that event. At least when it comes to Buffalo Springfields For What Its Worth, now heard ad nauseam in beer adverts, movies, TV shows, plays and just about any film footage depicting a confrontation between police and demonstrators. But there were other, lesser known, songs, like the Standells ridiculous Riot On Sunset Strip, the hilariously sincere S.O.S. by Terry Randall, the equally fervent Open Up the Box Pandora by the Jigsaw Seen, the plaintive Scene of the Crime by Sounds Unreal, the bathetic Safe In My Garden by the Mamas and the Papas, and, arguably the most interesting of the lot, Frank Zappas Plastic People. There was also the kitsch B-movie, Riot on Sunset Strip, directed by Arthur Dreifuss (whose career went from directing Brendan Behans The Quare Fellow to exploitation mishaps like The Love-In and The Young Runaways), which includes footage of the riot, and, incredibly enough, was released within four months of the original disturbance.

Eventually, business interests would find a way to profit from the peace and love market, exploiting its music and fashion, while co-opting its language for political gain. Within a couple of years a street that had been a fairly benign, even innocent, meeting place had mutated into a mecca for dropouts, acid casualties, bikers, consumers of bad speed, exploitative entrepreneurs and sexual predators. Be that as it may, the Sunset Strip riot is best thought of as a statement regarding the right to congregate, part of a protest movement that continues to this very dayand includes such diverse sites as Stonewall, Zuccotti Park, Tahrir Square and the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe what was happening on Sunset Boulevard, as the song says, wasnt exactly clear, but it was certainly part of a process to own the night, reclaim the streets and say no to arbitrary authority.

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Big Pink: Mexican architects imagine Trump’s wall as Luis Barragn homage

The Estudio 314 architectural practice has unveiled its pastel pink plans to realize the Republican candidates border proposal in all its gorgeous perversity

As an architectural brief it is pretty straightforward. The real estate developer turned Republican candidate Donald Trumps southern border wall will be, in the presidential hopefuls own words great, impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, and may perhaps also feature a big, beautiful door.

In the more measured terms of the Republican partys documents, the structure will cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Trump has also declared that construction will begin on day one of his term in office, and that Mexico will pay for the thing. So, surely, engaging an architectural practice south of the border to oversee the project would be politic?

Thats the thinking behind the Mexican architectural practice Estudio 314s proposal, which offers a distinctly Latin take on the Republican wall. A team of seven interns working under 314s creative director, Leonardo Daz Borioli, reimagined the border proposal in the spirit of the great 20th-century Mexican architect Luis Barragn.

Barragn, who won the Pritzker prize in 1980 and died in 1988 at the age of 86, was known for combining simple, modernist designs with lyrical, spiritual flourishes, employing bright pinks, as well as other startling pastel shades, in his otherwise restrained works.

Estudio 314s rendering adopts a Barragn colour scheme with an equally faithful lack of ornament, though the studio has a little fun with other features in this imaginative, uncommissioned proposal. This wall also encloses a prison where 11 million undocumented people will be processed, classified, indoctrinated, and/or deported, the studio explains, making reference to Trumps immigration plans.

Interior view of the house and studio of the Mexican architect Luis Barragn. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

At other points, the wall could also accommodate a shopping mall, or even an observation terrace, where would-be migrants might look upon, but not touch, the Land of the Free.

Of course the architectural practice, which is based in Barragns birthplace of Guadalajara, does not sincerely believe its pink wall will break ground anytime soon. Instead, 314, which is more used to working on hospitality and public-park commissions, hopes its proposal will allow the public to imagine the policy proposal in all of its gorgeous perversity.

Because the wall has to be beautiful, it has been inspired by Luis Barragns pink walls that are emblematic of Mexico, says 314, adding: It also takes advantage of the tradition in architecture of megalomaniac wall building.

Well, quite. And while Barragn may have approved of the pigmentation and the clean lines, theres very little else likely to endear the scheme to the late Pritzker laureate, including the flamboyantly haired client north of the border and his swingeing terms of payment.

As the architecture critic Jonathan Glancey put it in a 2001 article, Barragn was a generous man. When he was asked to rebuild and extend a convent in Tlalpan not far from his own home, he paid for the extra work needed to give the resident nuns a special design far and above what they had expected. The result was a sensual, spiritual place influenced by the Court of the Myrtles at the Alhambra.

It seems unlikely that, in years to come, anyone will be choosing similar words to describe this wall or its chief commissioner, no matter what the colour.

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Jay Z (and maybe Beyonc) spearhead final anti-Trump musical push

The rapper will host a Clinton benefit concert at the end of a campaign that has seen musicians from across the spectrum creating anti-Trump protest songs

With the candidates almost neck and neck in the most alarming presidential election in living memory, musicians are making a final push to get out the vote. On Friday night, Jay Z will join Hillary Clinton for a free concert at the Wolstein Center, in Cleveland, Ohio an event thats rumored to also include Beyonc, his wife. With Donald Trump leading polls in Ohio, the Clinton campaign aims to use this superstar power to get millennials to vote. As if in preparation, Jay Z tweeted a quote by Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel earlier this week about the necessity of speaking out at times of emergency, adding: Lets make history (again).

Mr. Carter (@S_C_)

11/4 Cleveland. Let’s make history (again) Thank you to the incredible artist dedicating their time this Friday!

November 2, 2016

Then theres the final stages of 30 Days, 30 Songs, an independent project in support of defeating Trump, which is on its final strait. Created by writer Dave Eggers, the daily, evolving playlist steadily releases new and previously unreleased music from independent musical voices all in favor of a Trump-free America, with proceeds going to the Center for Popular Democracy and its efforts to achieve universal voter registration.

The playlist launched with several big-name releases, including a never-before-released live version of World Leader Pretend by REM; a new Death Cab For Cutie effort called Million Dollar Loan; two Moby collaborations, one with the Homeland Choir (Trump Is on Your Side) and the other with the Void Pacific Choir (Little Failure); plus, most strikingly, a Franz Ferdinand number, Demagogue, that very bluntly takes jabs at Trumps narcissism, hollow promises and ego.

Recently theres been a Bob Mould jam, a live version of his old band Hsker Ds In Free Land. Released in 1982, its sardonic lyrics Why bother spending time/ Reading up on things/ Everybodys an authority/ In a free land resonate even more loudly in the current era of noisy, post-truth politics. Guster singer and guitarist Ryan Miller takes a different tack with a whimsical, circus-themed track titled The Clown. Its lyrics, by Eggers, take in Trumps orange face and cotton candy hair, concluding that the Republican nominee is a wounded little boy, a boy dressed as a man.

The playlist will also include a live rendition of Local Natives track Fountain of Youth, a youth empowerment song that according to the bands vocalist and guitarist Taylor Rice couldnt feel more apt for this moment. On one side of this debate, there is a deep distrust and cynicism, a disregard for the humanity of many. The younger generations know that this is not the world they see.

If music can play even a small role in reminding people to get out there and vote, then we have to do everything we can, says Superchunk singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan, who contributed to a cover of Woody Guthries Old Man Trump. The godfather of the American protest song wrote the number excoriating Trumps father Fred for his reluctance to rent houses to African Americans. Ryan Harvey, Ani DiFranco and Tom Morello also recently covered the song.

This election matters a great deal, says Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney, who contributed the song Despierta with Peter Buck of REM. Every single vote will matter to the future of this country. We cant let the presidency go to Donald Trump, someone so racist, sexist and incredibly unqualified to be commander-in-chief.

The 30 Days, 30 Songs project is only one outlet for todays politically driven music. Commons new album, Black America Again, released onFriday, is a powerful and furious look at racial tension and institutional racism. Institution aint just a building, Common spits in Letter to the Free. We staring in the face of hate again/ The same hate they say will make America great again.

The video for the albums title track opens with a clip from the shooting death of Alton Sterling, when Baton Rouge police shot the 37-year-old at close range while held down. (In Beyoncs visual album Lemonade, meanwhile, she takes a bat to a New Orleans police department camera. The state of Louisiana has long exhibited unjust police brutality towards civilians, including the beating of a shackled, bipolar 16-year-old girl caught on camera.)

Considering Trumps degrading and predatory mannerism towards females, and his recents comments that have surfaced, this election is a frightening one for many women. Pussy Riot, some of whose members spent two years in prison for speaking out against Russian president Vladimir Putin, have turned their attentions to the US election: Nadya Tolokonnikova has released a new song called Make America Great Again. The music video portrays a hypothetical take on what would happen to America if Trump were to win, with no Muslims, no Mexicans, no gays and all women forced to look a certain way plastic. The band also released a song Straight Outta Vagina, which was recorded in February but still considered to be an answer to Trump, and a celebration of female empowerment and sexuality.

Californian Rapper YG has also taken aim at Trump with two songs: FDT (Fuck Donald Trump) with Nipsey Hussle and FDT (Fuck Donald Trump) Part 2 with G-Eazy and Macklemore. He cant make decisions for his country, he gon crash us, YG raps. In part two meanwhile, G-Eazy raps: Howd he make it this far? How the fuck did it begin?/ A Trump rally sounds like Hitler in Berlin and goes on to take aim at Trumps response to the massacre in Orlando: The fuck is goin on? People just passed/ A mass murder happened, you said thanks for the congrats.

Even Eminem is anti-Trump: the seven-minute, near acapella Campaign Speech including the lyrics: Thats what you wanted, a fucking loose cannon whos blunt with his hand on the button who doesnt have to answer to no one? Great idea.

Meanwhile, jazz singer-songwriter Norah Jones has peppered her new album, Day Breaks, with political and social references. On the single Flipside, she sings: You saw your reflection all over the news/ Your temperatures well past 102/ Put the guns away, or were all gonna lose, asking the ever unanswerable question: If were all free, then why does it seem we cant just be?

Being aware of everything thats going on in the world and watching the news a lot it really keeps you up at night, Jones told the Guardian. Theres no shortage of issues: thats the problem.

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Fitbitters of the world, unite! How the Soviets invented fitness tracking

Health and fitness monitoring devices promise a future of good health and pre-emptive diagnosis. Not to mention reduced (for some) insurance premiums. So what connects our new obsession with personal productivity with the dogma of Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin?

At this years Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria, I happened upon a robot made of hacked and 3D-printed surgical components that can perform DIY keyhole surgery. Its builder, the Dutch artist Frank Kolman, was inspired by YouTube videos in which impoverished hackers and makers, largely without insurance, share medical tips and tricks. No money for bridgework? Try Sugru moldable glue.

A revolution is afoot in medicine. And like all revolutions, it is composed of equal parts inspirational advance and jaw-dropping social catastrophe. On the plus side, there are the health and fitness promises inherent in the artefacts of a personal health surveillance industry all those Jawbones and Fitbits and Scanadu Scouts, iPhones and Apple Watches that promises to top $50bn in annual sales by 2018. The devices arent particularly accurate (yet), and more than half of them end up at the bottom of a drawer after six months. Still, DIY devices are already spotting medical problems before their users do, raising the likelihood of a future in which illness and medical conditions are treated long before the patient gets sick.

On the minus side, there is Kolkmans terrifyingly practical robot, and its promise of a future in which DIY medicine is the only medicine the ordinary individual can afford. The sunny west coast self-reliant rhetoric of the making and hacking and quantified self movements disguise the disturbing assumption that they can be a substitute for civic life.

We have been here before. Not much more than a century ago the Russian empire was a ramshackle agglomeration of colonies, held together by military force and hooch. There were no institutions for reformers to reform: no councils, no unions, no guilds, no professional bodies, few schools, few hospitals worth the name; in many places, no roads.

The Fitbit. Photograph: Fitbit

The responsibility for improvement and reform inevitably fell on the individual. Utopia was a personal quest in Nikolay Chernyshevskys novel What Is to Be Done? according to Lenin, the greatest and most talented representation of socialism before Marx. Even more hysterical, Tolstoys The Kreutzer Sonata prefers the prospect of human annihilation to its current unreformed (read: lustful) condition. Outside the library and drawing room, pre-revolutionary Russia floundered in a sea of cults, from machinism and robotism to primitive reticence, antiverbalism, nudism, social militarism, revolutionary sublimation, suicidalism One outfit called itself the Nothing, its members neither writing, reading or speaking.

Into this stew came the railways and the clock and all of a sudden self-regulation became easy and practical. In Leningrad in 1923, a theatre critic, Platon Kerzhentsev, founded the League of Time, in order to promote time-efficiency. Eight hundred time cells were set up in the army, factories, government departments and schools. The Timists carried chronocards in order to monitor time-wasting, wasted motion and lengthy speeches. Without watches, they tried to guess the passage of minutes and hours, and were awarded medals for spontaneous time discipline. They kept meticulous diaries of their every daily action. Lenin had the leagues personal productivity posters pasted up on the wall behind his desk.

Man will finally begin to really harmonise himself, Leon Trotsky prophesied in 1922: He will put forward the task to introduce into the movement of his own organs during work, walk, play the highest precision, expediency, economy, and thus beauty.

The poet Alexei Gastev whose forbidding toothbrush-moustache and crew cut concealed a lot of mischief took Trotsky at his word. He built a social-engineering machine. This giant structure of pulleys, cogs and weights was a thing of no fathomable use whatsoever, yet Gastev insisted that a few hours workout would turn you into a new kind of human being. He rolled these machines out across the young Soviet Union, as a sort of mascot for his Central Insitute of Labour which, with Lenins personal backing, taught peasant workers how to behave in modern factories. A class at the Central Institute of Labour was a sort of drill practice: pupils stood before their benches in set positions, with places marked out for their feet. They rehearsed separate elements of each task, then combined them in a finished performance. (Judging by the sheer popularity of the classes, and the speed of the institutes expansion, the classes must have been quite enjoyable.)

Bernsteins kymocyclograph. Photograph: HANDOUT

Joining Gastev at the beginning of his career was the young Nikolai Bernstein, whose childhood spent assembling radios and building models of steam engines and bridges, set him in good stead when it came to mechanically registering the movements of the human body. He developed a high-speed camera called the kymocyclograph. The shutter, a round plate with holes in it, rotated before the camera lens, so that the photographic plate would record multiple images, each exposed a fraction of a second after its neighbour. (Motion-capture cinema, VR and all the other technologies that keep Gollum actor Andy Serkis on the talkshow circuit begin here.)

By the end of these studies, Bernstein had good evidence that motion could not be a simple matter of Pavlovian reflexes. His more nuanced model of motor responses amounted to a fully fledged theory of cybernetics, decades before Norbert Wiener coined the term in 1948.

The early Soviet Union gathered unprecedented amounts of data on human motion, fitness, behaviour and genetics, making it a world leader in the field. A new kind of human being healthy, fit, psychologically integrated and free of heritable disease seemed, for a few heady days in the 1920s, an achievable aspiration.

Then, in 1927, a miner called Alexey Grigoryevich Stakhanov went to work in a mine. He was no superman, but he was energetic and intelligent, and he could see ways of organising his work crew to increase the amount of coal they were able to dig in a single shift. On 31 August 1935, it was reported that he had mined a record 102 tonnes of coal in four hours and 45 minutes 14 times his quota. Barely three weeks later, on 19 September, Stakhanov and his crew more than doubled this record.

Alexey Stakhanov explains his system to a fellow miner, 1936. Photograph: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Others rushed to follow Stakhanovs example, and newspapers and newsreels across the Soviet Union celebrated their efforts. In Gorky, a worker in a car factory forged nearly 1,000 crankshafts in a single shift. A shoemaker in Leningrad turned out 1,400 pairs of shoes in a day. On a collective farm, three female Stakhanovites proved they could cut sugar beet faster than was thought humanly possible. Such workers were awarded higher pay, better food, access to luxury goods and improved accommodation. Stakhanovism soon became a mass movement. In factories and even in scientific institutes, wrote the American psychologist Richard Schultz, the workers names may be posted on a bulletin board opposite a bird, deer, rabbit, tortoise or snail relative to the speed with which they turn out their work. A great deal of prestige is attached to the shock brigade worker.

For as long as human beings labour for others, their lot will improve only so far as their productivity rises. Investment beyond this point makes no sense. The Soviet Union of the 1920s was an impoverished state dotted with institutes of labour, health and maternity clinics, mental health services, housing offices and countless censuses. Coming to power at the end of the decade, Joseph Stalin replaced all this social engineering with, well, engineering. Magnitostroi, which is still the largest steelworks in the world, housed its workers in tents downwind of the chimneys. The construction of the White Sea Canal cost 12,000 lives around a 10th of the workforce.

Drunk as we are on the illusion of personal control, we should remember that data trickles uphill toward the powerful, because they are the ones who can afford to exploit it. Today, for every worried-yet-well twentysomething fiddling with his Fitbit, there is a worker being cajoled by their employer into taking a medical test. The tests are aggregated and anonymised, and besides, the company is giving the worker a cut of the insurance savings the test will make. So wheres the harm?

Joseph Stalin: imagine how he could have exploited your Fitbit data Photograph: Hulton Getty

Well, for a start, anonymising data is incredibly hard to do. The bigger the datapool, the easier it is to triangulate data sets and home in on an individual. And while people can get thrown in jail for this sort of thing, algorithms are a lot harder to police. Has the computer said no to your mortgage application? Well, sorry, but there may simply be no human to blame: the machine has figured things out on its own.

An even bigger worry is the way that, in our smartphone-enabled and meta-data-enriched world, complete knowledge of human affairs is becoming increasingly possible, making redundant the entire gamble of insurance. At that point the scope for individual self-determination shrinks to zero and we are living in the world of Andrew Niccols excellent 1997 film Gattaca.

Unregulated wellness programmes are begging to be used as tools of surveillance, and thats not because anybodys actually doing anything wrong. Its because we have taken control of our own data, while at the same time forgetting that data ultimtely belongs to whoever can make the most use of it.

And it need not even be a problem, unless the class in power decide to replace social engineering with, well, engineering, health services with making and hacking, and civic societies with a desert, littered with the grinning skulls of people who aspired to west-coast radical self-reliance and failed.

Stalin and the Scientists by Simon Ings, is published by Faber & Faber (20).

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How a writers first film script inspired Idris Elba to become its star

Leon Butler asked a friend for help and ended up meeting the Wire actor

Even in his wildest dreams, Leon Butler never imagined that he would make a film with Idris Elba one of Britains biggest stars of film and TV.

As a quantity surveyor and property developer, Butler had no connections with that world, let alone with an actor on the wishlist of most casting directors. Yet Butlers first screenplay inspired the star of crime series Luther and The Wire to waive his usual fee to both star in it and produce it.

The film, 100 Streets, is a drama about modern city life. It is set in London, on the streets around the Albert Bridge, Chelsea and Battersea.

Elba plays a former rugby superstar who has lost his way since his glory days and is on a downward spiral with a disintegrating marriage. Other characters include a small-time drug dealer who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an ageing actor, and a cab driver torn apart by an accident. Relationships and loyalties are pushed to the limit.

Butler, 42, told the Observer that watching Elba bring to life his character was just surreal. He recalled: There were many times on the set where I would pinch myself. He will be walking up the red carpet at the films charity premiere in London on 8 November, three days before its release in UK cinemas.

Leon Butler. Photograph: Getty

It was Elbas compelling portrayal of the complex but deadly lieutenant of a Baltimore drug empire in The Wire that propelled the actor to international fame. His depiction of the complex anti-hero Detective Chief Inspector John Luther in the crime series Luther earned him Golden Globe recognition, among other awards. His films include Mandela: the Long Walk to Freedom.

But he was drawn to the novice scriptwriters work, helping to shape it, advising on the musical score and producing videos expressing his enthusiasm for the project, to entice investors. His involvement immediately opened doors. He introduced Butler to sales agents, distributors and other key players.

Butler said: Its a very difficult world out there for independent drama. Without Idris, [the film] would be nowhere with Idris, of course thats how we got Sony to buy worldwide distribution. I owe him everything.

In the films production notes, Elba says: I respected Leons drive and wanted to try to help make the project happen. Its so important that smaller-scale British films still get made and I was keen to do my bit.

He also brought in other A-list actors, including Gemma Arterton, who starred alongside Daniel Craigs 007 in Quantum of Solace and was Elbas co-star in Guy Ritchies gangster film RocknRolla. In 100 Streets, she plays Elbas estranged wife. Butler said: She worked with us for a couple of weeks. You couldnt have found a more professional young woman.

The son of a builder and architect, Butler grew up in Bedfordshire before studying quantity surveying and commercial management at Manchester University. He then moved to London, working on high-end refurbishments.

A sports injury led indirectly to his change of career. While he was convalescing, and unable to do anything else, he was urged by a friend to occupy himself with a screenwriting course. He had always loved watching films, but he never had a burning desire to write one until then.

When he later started to raise money for his film, he approached friends from school and the City. Their initial reaction was one of disbelief. But he inspired them with his enthusiasm.

One friend, a financial adviser, introduced him to a leading casting director, Ros Hubbard, after he happened to organise her mortgage. She has cast about 140 films and TV productions, including The Da Vinci Code.

She read the script, and loved it so much that she became one of its producers and showed it to Elba. Butler recalled: She said that Idris would love to meet you. That was a real buzz.

He added: Its difficult to walk into an industry armed with a first draft of a script. Idris does these huge movies in Hollywood now, but hes very keen to show real stories about real people.

100 Streets conveys the loneliness of life in a big city. Even when living cheek by jowl with other people, we can all be lost, Butler said.

Elba believes that the film will appeal to a worldwide audience as the characters are familiar to all city life. If theres a message, its mainly that, although city life can be lonely, we can all be part of something. People are always willing to help you in your hour of need. Its a complex, but ultimately a positive film.


Citizen Kane (1941)

Orson Welles produced, co-authored, directed and performed the lead role. It won an Academy Award for best writing.

Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallones first screenplay became the highest-grossing film of 1976 and won three Oscars.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed the cult classic, his first feature-length film, later named the greatest independent film of all time by Empire.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

First-time writer Michael Arndt won the Academy Award for best original screenplay. It was also the joint feature film debut of husband-and-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Juno (2007)

Diablo Codys debut script won an Academy Award and a Bafta for best original screenplay.

Rebecca Ratcliffe

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