Ellen DeGeneres is reportedly contemplating quitting her hit TV talk show after claims of a toxic working environment plunged it into crisis.The comedian and presenter, one of the most high-profile celebrities in the US, this week sent staff an emotional message pledging changes at the award-winning Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Mansoor Khan and his wife Latifa Bibi have been collecting scraps of plastic and other items at an enormous landfill site on the outskirts of New Delhi for nearly 20 years. The $5 daily earnings enable their three children to go to school, in search of a better future than their parents’ lives amid the stench of rotting garbage.But over the past few months, increasing amounts of biomedical waste have been arriving at the dump – a result, experts say, of the coronavirus pandemic and a huge risk for those who work there. Spread over 52 acres and rising more than 60 metres, the site is littered with used, plastic coronavirus test kits, protective gear and cotton stained with blood and pus – among hundreds of tonnes of waste coming daily from across the Indian capital, including small hospitals and nursing homes.
Nature books are growing in popularity and August is bursting with tales of the love affairs humans have with the environment and everything in it, from trees and magpies to sheep and wasps.The Oak Papers by James Canton (Canongate) is an enchanting piece of nature writing and a meditation on finding connection in a disconnected world. Birds feature prominently in Charlie Gilmour’s enjoyable memoir Featherwood (W&N;), while Antlers of Water (Canongate), a book edited by Kathleen Jamie, features some fine writing on Scotland’s environment. The contributors include folk singer Karine Polwart and former nurse Jacqueline Bain, who writes a witty account of her “kinship with wasps”. Two small nuggets: there are 9,000 species of wasps in the UK and only female wasps sting.
Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” asserts a character in the Samuel Beckett play Endgame. That may be true, but the behaviour of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, suggests that this idea needs modifying. Nothing is funnier – or more tragic – than having no sense of humour.Running through a mad repertoire of mixed theatrical genres in Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Polonius applauds a troupe of actors for their proficiency in performing “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable or poem unlimited”. To do full justice to the Trump administration, this range would have to stretch to another hothouse hybrid. We would have to designate this as “hilaro-tragedy”, because mere tragicomedy fails to capture the edge of hysteria of this form of governing, where denial of reality is the new normal. Brazen smearing of any inconvenient fact as a “hoax” is – as any functioning sense of humour would have to concede – the biggest hoax of all.
For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic has made the past few months some of the most difficult we have ever faced. But as we put on our masks and begin to tentatively trickle back to shops, pubs and restaurants, the deadly threat of Covid-19 is also beginning to take its toll on some of the world’s most fragile places.In Yemen, years of war have caused mass poverty, hunger and chronic illness and have destroyed healthcare facilities. Even before the pandemic, 80 per cent of Yemen’s population were in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. On Wednesday, the UN’s World Food Programme said that Covid-19 is contributing to a “perfect storm” of problems that could throw millions of Yemenis into a deeper food crisis.
In February 2018, a friend told photographer Matt Stuart about Slab City, a community of drifters living in the Californian desert, 50 miles north of the Mexican border. In a borrowed Volkswagen van, Stuart drove down to check it out. “I didn’t do any research, just turned up and was immediately befriended by most of the people I met,” he tells The Independent. He ended up staying in Slab City on and off for the next five months, photographing the transitory lifestyle of the residents in the ramshackle, unincorporated community.Once a Second World War military training base, the site was decommissioned and torn down in the 1950s, leaving only concrete ground slabs behind. The area soon began to attract outsiders and drifters, who built makeshift homes out of whatever material was available. The painstaking construction of Salvation Mountain, a 50ft-tall piece of religious folk art begun by Slab City settler Leonard Knight in the 1980s, provided an unofficial centrepiece for the community and cemented the area’s anarchic creative identity.
Over the past few weeks, there have been marches across the country for transgender rights. The protests follow government proposals to scrap changes that would improve the legal rights and recognition of trans people. Campaigners are concerned about rollback on changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004. The GRA is essentially the bit of legislation that allows trans people to legally change their gender. “The protest was created in order to make a strong, visible stand against the government's proposals that make it clear they pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of trans people,” says Thaniel Dorian, who started one of the London protests. “For a lot of people it was the first time that they had ever felt safe and proud to be transgender in the UK, and the government should feel obligated to ensure that people feel that way every day.”Despite 92 per cent of trans people being interested in a gender recognition certificate, currently only 12 per cent have one. Under the current act, it is a lengthy and difficult process for someone to change their legal gender. Trans people must have a medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”. The government website states that “this is also called gender identity disorder, gender incongruence or transsexualism”. The current legislation makes very explicit that being trans is considered a medical disorder. “This is the section 28 for our generation,” says one trans man, Charlie. “I’m scared for trans youth. A lot of us are old and used to this level of hatred, but there are young people who are desperate to be themselves and all they see is their government trying to remove their rights.”
Naya Rivera’s family has released a statement remembering the Glee star’s “magnetic spirit” after she was pronounced dead on Monday at the age of 33.Rivera first went missing five days earlier during a boating trip at California's Lake Piru with her four-year-old son Josey. Her official cause of death is accidental drowning.
Every year in Provence, the start of summer is marked by the flowering of lavender fields, much to the delight of tourists but especially for bees coming from far and wide to forage this sacred flower.Beekeeper Jerome Payen, based in the Alpes-Maritimes for 19 years, practices the transhumance of bees, which consists of transporting beehives to the Valensole plateau, renowned for its lavender fields stretching as far as the eye can see.
A girl sits at the edge of her dorm room, staring at the construction site outside her window. A boy plays the violin, for an audience of the few people still around him. Elsewhere, a set of hands carefully writes in a notebook.These are some of the moments captured by Vamika Sinha, a final-year student at New York University of Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), where she and her peers decided to remain, as life went into lockdown. With the pandemic spreading across the globe, universities worldwide were confronted with a dilemma: should students remain on campus or should they leave, immediately, for home? No institution was saved from having to make this decision. Classes began to move online, students booked flights back to their home countries, and many campuses closed their doors indefinitely.
In May 2018, with a slight grin on his face, an American news reporter asked three black members of the West End cast of Hamilton what it was like being in a musical about the winners “in the home of the losers”. They stared back, confused at the question and how it related to them. It clearly wasn’t the gotcha moment the reporter was hoping for. Many black people in the UK – myself included – who are first, second or third-generation immigrants don’t lose sleep over Britain not winning the American War of Independence, the story around which the 11 Tony Award-winning musical revolves. In fact, many of our families hail from countries colonised and torn apart by British rule and aren’t exactly filled with unbridled patriotism when it comes to Britain’s colonial legacy. Context is everything.When Hamilton arrived on the new streaming service Disney+ on 4 July (to coincide with Independence Day in the US), it gave fans the opportunity to watch the hit musical at a fraction of the cost. But its small-screen debut also reignited a conversation on whether art has a responsibility to be historically accurate. Alexander Hamilton campaigned for manumission – slave-owners voluntarily freeing their slaves – but he was not an abolitionist. What’s more, his wife’s family – and that of Washington, another hero in Miranda’s tale – owned enslaved people. Hamilton even helped his sister-in-law Angelica with the “purchase” of an enslaved mother and child. As CancelHamilton began trending on Twitter, a question arose: is it downright dangerous to oversimplify the history of the 10-dollar Founding Father, or just a flexing of creative licence – a song and dance not to be taken that seriously?
The government’s announcement of a £1.57bn bailout for the culture sector is an acknowledgement – if somewhat belated – of the vital importance of the arts in our national life. “The beating heart of the nation,” boomed the prime minister. And if that’s hardly the subtlest of metaphors, for once Johnson got it essentially right.There’s a tendency to think of theatres, art galleries and concert halls as optional luxuries in the wider struggle of life: frivolous add-ons that societies can afford to enjoy once they’ve paid for the really important things: health, education, infrastructure, defence. In fact, the arts, culture – whatever you want to call it – performs a vital function in our society, just as essential, in my opinion, as any of the so-called essential services we’ve been hearing so much about.
Pioneering film star Earl Cameron, one of the first black actors to break through in British cinema, has died at the age of 102.The man “with the voice of God and the heart of a kindly prince” passed away at his home in Warwickshire on Thursday.
Three powerful memoirs out in July are part of what is more like the usual monthly publishing avalanche. Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray writes about her own battle with obesity in Fat Cow, Fat Chance (Doubleday). Murray admits to the pain she’s suffered after getting vile abuse about her size. Her candid book is an eloquent reminder that “fat-shaming is hate speech”.Fragments of My Father (4th Estate) by Sam Mills is a poignant memoir about being a carer for a father who suffered from mental illness. Mills melds her own touching story with reflections on the literary figures – including Zelda Fitzgerald – who have been through similar struggles. The third bitingly honest autobiographical tale is Terri White’s Coming Undone (Canongate), in which the Derbyshire-born editor-in-chief of Empire movingly documents how she rebuilt her life after incidents of physical and sexual abuse.
Peter Beard’s illustrated diaries, which he kept from a young age, evolved into a serious career as an artist and earned him a central position in the international art world.He collaborated with Francis Bacon and Salvador Dali, made diaries with Andy Warhol, worked on books with scientists such as Dr Norman Borlaug and Alistair Graham, and toured with Truman Capote, Terry Southern, and the Rolling Stones – all of whom are brought to life in his work.
At the height of the Covid-19 crisis 1.6 billion children from around the world were sent home and the school gates were closed. But this figure excludes the 258 million children who were already out of school with no access to education – 59 million at primary level, according to Unesco’s Institute for Statistics.The effects of school closure on child safety, wellbeing and learning are well documented. This also has long-term consequences for economies and societies resulting in a perpetual cycle of multi-dimensional poverty. A survey conducted by Unesco in 2017 discovered that 56 per cent (617 million) of children in classrooms around the world are not achieving minimum proficiency levels.
The opening scenes of the filmed version of the Broadway musical Hamilton, which starts streaming on Disney+ from today, pull you back in time to two distinct periods. The people on stage, in their breeches and brass-buttoned coats, belong to the New York of 1776. That is when a 19-year-old, freshly arrived from the Caribbean – the “bastard, immigrant, son of a whore” who shares his name with the show – makes his move and takes his shot, joining up with a squad of anti-British revolutionaries and eventually finding his way to George Washington’s right hand and the front of the $10 bill.But this Hamilton, played with relentless energy and sly charm by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music, book, and lyrics, also belongs to the New York of 2016. Filmed (by the show’s director, Thomas Kail, and cinematographer Declan Quinn) in front of a live audience at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in June of that year, the movie, while not strictly speaking a documentary, is nonetheless a document of its moment. It evokes a swirl of ideas, debates, dreams, and assumptions that can feel, in the present moment, as elusive as the intrigue and ideological sparring of the late 1700s.
Amazon has released a mysterious teaser for a TV adaptation of Fallout, the popular video game.The clip, unveiled on Thursday, lasts just 23 seconds and contains the mentions “Amazon Original” and “Please stand by”.
Brighton residents know the sound well – the stentorian rattle of engines, as a fleet of Vespas and Lambrettas zip down the promenade. It feels odd for a moment, as if there’s been a rip in the space-time continuum and a little of the Swinging Sixties has trickled out. But it’s tradition here. On sunny weekends, mod aficionados gather in the city to fraternise, evangelise, and compare the number of mirrors on their scooters. Brighton was a favoured hang-out spot for the original mods, who’d travel down from London to the south’s seaside resorts, eager to ruffle the feathers of middle-class daytrippers.Trouble came in the form of the rockers, their rivals. It was like the Capulets versus the Montagues – divided not by blood, but by the way someone might wear their hair. The mods (short for “modernist”) embraced continental style, with their crisply tailored suits and Italian scooters. To protect said suit while on said scooter, parkas became a staple. The girls wore miniskirts, as popularised by Mary Quant. The rockers, meanwhile, were bikers. Their “tough guy” attitude complemented their black leather jackets, Doc Marten boots, and Elvis pompadours.
In June 1986, a now-famous photograph was taken of a group of young people out on the town in New York. These were not your everyday revellers, but some of the greatest innovators and creative upstarts of the era, all miraculously caught in a single frame. Taken by Andy Warhol – because, who else? – the picture features the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, wearing a suit and staring impertinently into the lens, as if to say, “Why yes, I am beautiful. Drink me in.” To the left of him is the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, looking glamorous, if a little lubricated, in an embroidered shirt-and-trousers combo. Next to Kuti is model and singer Grace Jones, all cheekbones and hard stares. She is deep in conversation with a goofy white man with sticky-out ears and glasses, and whose eyebrows are comically raised.This man, who looks startlingly like the boy in the Where’s Wally? books, was the US artist Keith Haring. Many won’t recognise him now, but in the mid-Eighties he was every bit as famous as his new celebrity playmates. His joyful cartoon images of crawling babies, barking dogs and dancing men were on walls, billboards and in galleries everywhere – for a time, a Haring baby even lit up Times Square.
I was raised by an overprotective single mother. She did her best to prepare me for the realities of being a black man in America, but she also made sure to let me know that not everyone white was a racist. Still, she was terrified of one group of people: the police. And of her son encountering them.She warned me that the police would treat me differently because, as she put it affectionately, of the “beautiful ebony hue of my skin”. She implored me to never do anything that would raise their suspicions, and, above all, never to drive at night with a white woman in the car. I would nod my head. Yes, yes, yes. But I was a teenager and not given to listening. Her warnings went in one ear and exited the other. I just did not take her seriously. It was the Nineties in Oklahoma, and I was ignorant of the world around me; of what had happened in Los Angeles in 1992. To me, things had gotten better. Then I saw a Spike Lee movie. And I began to understand. It was the first of many lessons his films would teach me.
Finn Wolfhard came close to quitting acting shortly before his life-changing audition for Stranger Things.The actor, who has played Mike Wheeler for three seasons of the hit Netflix show, recounted in a new interview with The Guardian how he scored the role at a critical moment in his budding career.
Glastonbury photographer Emma Stoner has created a crowdsourced photo series in tribute to this year’s cancelled edition of Glastonbury Festival. The People’s History Project contains hundreds of submitted stories from past attendees throughout the festival’s 50-year history.The images tell a varied story of the Glastonbury experience: some are of families with children, others young people at their first festival – some of all-night partying at Block9 and others of peaceful recollection in the Green Fields.
The creator of Bojack Horseman has reflected on the show’s portrayal of a Vietnamese-American character, saying a “racist error” was made in her depiction.Raphael Bob-Waksberg addressed the topic on Twitter, after someone asked why Diane Nguyen, the character in question, was voiced by Alison Brie, a white actor, on the Netflix show.
Regina King has shared an update on whether she’d consider returning for season two of Watchmen, should the show get a second chapter.The actor spoke to Reese Witherspoon in a video chat for Variety.