What’s Literally Underfoot at the Oscars, or The Secrets of the Red Carpet, Revealed

At The Los Angeles Times, Daniel Miller goes behind the scenes to report on the famed red carpet that graces the entrance to the Oscars. What you learn about the care, installation, and true color of this 50,000 square foot rug may just surprise you.

A red carpet made its debut at the Oscars in 1961 and has since become an integral part of the spectacle, whose pre-show extravaganza is widely viewed by fans tuning in to check out stars’ fashion hits and misses.

The unique nature of the Academy Awards extends to its carpet: It isn’t even a traditional red.

Instead, the carpet is closer to burgundy and has been for the last 15 years. The exclusive shade — called Academy Red — is supposed to flatter the A-list actors who are photographed and filmed walking on it. It’s a secret color, one whose precise specifications the show’s organizers won’t reveal for fear of copycats.

“Listen, there is only one Academy Awards,” said Joe Lewis, an associate producer of the arrivals and pre-show portion of the Oscars. “Some things that make the Academy Awards the Academy Awards should be proprietary.”

The secrecy surrounding the carpet illustrates the exacting nature of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the annual awards show. And it’s just one quirk of the custom carpet.

A crew of about 18 workers began installing the red carpet along Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Dolby on Feb. 21. It will take them nearly 900 man-hours to install the carpet, and the work won’t be finished until just before the stars begin arriving Sunday afternoon — as throngs of foreign tourists, street performers in superhero costumes and edgy security guards look on.

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from Longreads https://longreads.com/2017/02/26/whats-literally-underfoot-at-the-oscars-or-the-secrets-of-the-red-carpet-revealed/

Themed for Success

The theme cafe is one of the more viral-friendly aspects of Wacky Random Japan, and there are three major subcategories within it. First, and perhaps the most popular theme cafe export, are the animal cafes, most of which are less cafes than indoor petting zoos. The beverages are an afterthought, and an awkward one at that — it’s actually pretty hard to sip your Hitachino Nest Ale, the owl logo pointed out toward the camera, when you have an actual owl on your shoulder, no matter how on-brand. Second are theme restaurants, which are full-service restaurants where the decor, the menu, and the servers’ outfits all revolve around a certain aesthetic, and usually a pretty mall-goth one at that: the Vampire Café, the Prison Restaurant, the (many) Alice in Wonderland cafes. Lastly, there are the maid cafes and their descendants, including the butler cafes and the Macho Café pop-up, where the servers — and their, uh, service — are the stars.

The frivolity and almost willful pointlessness might seem like a leftover from the ’80s bubble era, but the contemporary theme cafe continues the lineage of Western-style cafes that emerged in the 1920s. After “modern” hangouts with names like “Café Printemps” had established themselves in Tokyo among the intellectuals and artists, they began to diversify for a growing middle class; “Europe” was the original theme of Japanese cafes, but once Western-style eateries became more of a norm, new establishments had to step it up. “Rather than small eating and drinking places with tables set with white tablecloths and Parisian or provincial German decor,” writes Elise K. Tipton, a professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Sydney, “the leading cafés became huge multistoried buildings glittering with neon lights, colored glass windows, light-reflective metallic surfaces, and rich furnishings.”

At Eater, journalist Emily Yoshida hits some of Tokyo’s absurd, popular tourist attractions trying to understand specifically what themed destinations offer and why they’re so popular. Her answer? I don’t remember. I got stuck on the part about the owl selfie.

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from Longreads https://longreads.com/2017/02/26/themed-for-success/

The Wait: Is There Such a Thing as a Good Miscarriage?

The due date was July 5. I let this day pass like all the others, without even mentioning it to anyone. By this point, a couple of days will go by without my thinking about the baby I would have had, about what all our lives would have been like. It’s a Sunday, and I spend the day watching my daughter play in a tiny pool shaped like a giant turtle. She climbs in and out, in and out.

At Lenny, Jessica Grose recounts the agonizing waiting period after an inconclusive ultrasound and considers whether there is such a thing as a good miscarriage.

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from Longreads https://longreads.com/2017/02/25/the-wait-is-there-such-a-thing-as-a-good-miscarriage/

The Race to the Bottom of the Sugar Bowl

Beth Kowitt, in Fortune, explores food manufacturers’ race to find a sugar stand-in that ticks all the boxes: cheap, “natural” (i.e., plant-based), and actually tastes like sugar. Amid the science, stevia leaves, and sucralose, she takes a step back: if sugar is such a health hazard, why don’t we just… eat less sugar?

There seems to be an obvious solution to all of this that would be much easier for everyone: Why not just eat less sugar? “As we move away from sugar, we are facing this dilemma that nothing tastes like sugar,” says consultant Woo. We know, after all, that our expectations are not set by nature. In the U.S. products tend to be sweeter than in Europe. For example, a liter-size bottle of American Dr ­Pepper has 108 grams of sugar, vs. about 73 grams for the U.K. equivalent. Why not just drop the threshold in the U.S. market too?

Several of the big food and beverage manufacturers have pursued this path, vowing to cut sugar in their products. Coca-Cola says it has already reduced it in more than 200 of its sodas. For its part, PepsiCo has committed that by 2025, at least two-thirds of its volume will have 100 calories or fewer per 12 ounces. (A can of Pepsi has 150 calories, for example.) General Mills has begun slashing sugar in its cereals and yogurt. Nestlé and Dr Pepper Snapple have made pledges of their own.

The challenge stems in large part from what the rest of the market is doing. “They’re afraid that consumers will taste 20% lower sweetness and go to a competitor,” says DuBois. Paul Bakus, Nestlé’s president of corporate affairs, told me that the company has to walk a narrow line between being nutritionally superior to the rest of the market and not sacrificing taste. “We want to reduce sugar where possible as long as we don’t put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage,” he says. “How do you compete if your competitors aren’t following the process or rules or guidelines?”

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from Longreads https://longreads.com/2017/02/25/the-race-to-the-bottom-of-the-sugar-bowl/

Portrait of the Risk-Taker as a Young Man (or, There’s Something About Spencer)

In Victory Journal, Laura Yan profiles Spencer Seabrooke, who breaks world slacklining records walking across loosely tensioned, inch-wide pieces of polyester suspended hundreds of meters in the air. Early in the piece, she talks to his mother, who knew early on that there was something a little different about Spencer.

“He’s never experienced pain like other kids,” says Maureen Kimble, Seabrooke’s mom. She is a sprightly woman with bright eyes, a closely cropped pixie cut, and an enthusiasm she clearly passed on to her son. She tells me about an instance shortly after he started kindergarten when he was run over by a bus. He had multiple fractures in his arm and tire marks in his skin. Kimble met him in the emergency room. “He was so not worried about it,” she says. The tread marks were etched in his flesh for weeks.

While he was getting his cast changed, a stranger saw him in the elevator.

“What happened to you, little boy?”

“Oh I got ran over by a bus,” Spencer lisped. “But it was just a little bus.”

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from Longreads https://longreads.com/2017/02/25/portrait-of-the-risk-taker-as-a-young-man-or-theres-something-about-spencer/

‘Three Hours of the American Way of Life’: Football as Fantasy in Ukraine

Photojournalist Alexey Furman and writer Robert Langellier spent time with the Azov Dolphins, a football team in a town close the front lines of the violence in Ukraine. In a sad, intimate piece in Roads & Kingdoms, they explore the hope and hopelessness of young Ukrainians.

“I really like history,” he says. “I found a source that says the U.S. owes Russia $12 trillion. So Americans started this war in Ukraine against Russia, so that the documents proving this will be burned. It says the Americans want to start a third world war to find these documents and burn them.”

Being in the epicenter of a reality-bending information war between Ukraine and Russia, Dima, like most in Mariupol, has no idea what to believe. Half the time, people don’t even know who the combatants are. Some think the shelling from the rebels was actually the Russians, some the Americans. Some believe the Ukrainian army shelled itself in order to blame the rebels.

What is beginning in the U.S. has been ongoing for years in Ukraine. Disinformation has split a country into brutal civil strife.

American football, though, is an escape. Dima likes the Miami Dolphins, though he can’t name the players. “They create miracles on the field,” he says. The only place he knows he wants to go besides Kiev is Miami, Florida. He wonders if football can someday take him there.

“When I play American football, I feel like I’m in America,” he says. “When I’m in practice, I imagine playing in the NFL on one of the great teams in one of the great stadiums with lights shining on me and people applauding me. I’m jumping to catch the ball. It’s a great moment.”

Dima mentions that dolphins, by nature, aren’t supposed to be in the Sea of Azov. They aren’t well-suited to the pollution and the increasingly shallow depth, so when they slip through the Kerch Strait and find themselves in the Azov, they often get rescued and thrown back into the Black Sea.

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from Longreads https://longreads.com/2017/02/24/three-hours-of-the-american-way-of-life-football-as-fantasy-in-ukraine/

‘I Still Live in a Small Town That I Hate’: Roxane Gay’s Perspective on Her Success

This week, a number of people heard of Roxane Gay for the first time when Simon & Schuster canceled its plans to publish controversial alt-right author Milo Yiannopoulos’s book. (In the weeks prior, Gay had withdrawn her forthcoming book, How to be Heard, from the publisher because they were giving the former Breitbart editor a platform.) For most writers, there’s no such thing as a bad way to be discovered by new readers. But it can be annoying when those who’ve just become aware of your work perceive you as an overnight success, especially when your career has been building for years. In a profile for Brooklyn Magazine, Molly McArdle asks Gay for her perspective on her success.

“A lot of people think it’s been overnight,” Gay says of her success. “In many ways my life hasn’t changed. My friends are still my friends. I still live in a small town that I hate.” But some things have started to shift. “It’s easier to pay my bills, certainly,” she says. “There’s a lot more scrutiny and attention.” There’s also a new apartment in Los Angeles, where she lives when she’s not in Indiana teaching at Purdue. (“It’s a workable compromise.”) There’s new creative projects in new genres: comic books, screenplays, occasional radio. Gay is the first black woman to write for Marvel, and her series, World of Wakanda, spins off from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther, tackling romantic love between queer black women in a way that is both literally groundbreaking and utterly natural. Still, Gay sees herself first as a writer of short fiction. “I’m relatively new to nonfiction,” she says. (I have to respectfully disagree with the bestselling essayist, a phrase so rare it’s practically an oxymoron, on this point.) With only one novel, she adds, “I’m a beginning novelist.” But Gay also sees growth, accomplishment: “My writing is more confident,” she says. “I’ve always taken myself seriously as a writer. Now other people take me seriously.”

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from Longreads https://longreads.com/2017/02/24/i-still-live-in-a-small-town-that-i-hate-roxane-gays-perspective-on-her-success/