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In early December, Spotify launched its annual personalized Wrapped playlist with its users’ most-streamed sounds of 2019. That has become a bit of a tradition and isn’t necessarily anything new, but for 2019, it also gave users a look back at how they used Spotify over the last decade. Because this was quite a large job, Spotify gave us a bit of a look under the covers of how it generated these lists for its ever-growing number of free and paid subscribers.

It’s no secret that Spotify is a big Google Cloud Platform user. Back in 2016, the music streaming service publicly said that it was going to move to Google Cloud, after all, and in 2018, it disclosed that it would spend at least $450 million on its Google Cloud infrastructure in the following three years.

It was also back in 2018, for that year’s Wrapped, that Spotify ran the largest Google Cloud Dataflow job ever run on the platform, a service the company started experimenting with a few years earlier. “Back in 2015, we built and open-sourced a big data processing Scala API for Apache Beam and Google Cloud Dataflow called Scio,” Spotify’s VP of Engineering Tyson Singer told me. “We chose Dataflow over Dataproc because it scales with less operational overhead and Dataflow fit with our expected needs for streaming processing. Now we have a great open-source toolset designed and optimized for Dataflow, which in addition to being used by most internal teams, is also used outside of Spotify.”

For Wrapped 2019, which includes the annual and decadal lists, Spotify ran a job that was five times larger than in 2018 — but it did so at three-quarters of the cost. Singer attributes this to his team’s familiarity with the platform. “With this type of global scale, complexity is a natural consequence. By working closely with Google Cloud’s engineering teams and specialists and drawing learnings from previous years, we were able to run one of the most sophisticated Dataflow jobs ever written.”

Still, even with this expertise, the team couldn’t just iterate on the full data set as it figured out how to best analyze the data and use it to tell the most interesting stories to its users. “Our jobs to process this would be large and complex; we needed to decouple the complexity and processing in order to not overwhelm Google Cloud Dataflow,” Singer said. “This meant that we had to get more creative when it came to going from idea, to data analysis, to producing unique stories per user, and we would have to scale this in time and at or below cost. If we weren’t careful, we risked being wasteful with resources and slowing down downstream teams.”

To handle this workload, Spotify not only split its internal teams into three groups (data processing, client-facing and design, and backend systems), but also split the data processing jobs into smaller pieces. That marked a very different approach for the team. “Last year Spotify had one huge job that used a specific feature within Dataflow called “Shuffle.” The idea here was that having a lot of data, we needed to sort through it, in order to understand who did what. While this is quite powerful, it can be costly if you have large amounts of data.”

This year, the company’s engineers minimized the use of Shuffle by using Google Cloud’s Bigtable as an intermediate storage layer. “Bigtable was used as a remediation tool between Dataflow jobs in order for them to process and store more data in a parallel way, rather than the need to always regroup the data,” said Singer. “By breaking down our Dataflow jobs into smaller components — and reusing core functionality — we were able to speed up our jobs and make them more resilient.”

Singer attributes at least a part of the cost savings to this technique of using Bigtable, but he also noted that the team decomposed the problem into data collection, aggregation and data transformation jobs, which it then split into multiple separate jobs. “This way, we were not only able to process more data in parallel, but be more selective about which jobs to rerun, keeping our costs down.”

Many of the techniques the engineers on Singer’s teams developed are currently in use across Spotify. “The great thing about how Wrapped works is that we are able to build out more tools to understand a user, while building a great product for them,” he said. “Our specialized techniques and expertise of Scio, Dataflow and big data processing, in general, is widely used to power Spotify’s portfolio of products.”

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Whether youre taking up the oboe or finessing your Finnish, scientific research offers tips to aid learning

If your aim for 2020 was to learn a new skill, you may be at the point of giving up. Whether you are mastering a new language or a musical instrument, or taking a career-changing course, initial enthusiasm can only take you so far, and any further progress can be disappointingly slow.

From these struggles, you might assume that you simply lack a natural gift compared to those lucky people who can learn any new skill with apparent ease.

However, it neednt be this way. Many polymaths including Charles Darwin and the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman claimed not to have exceptional natural intelligence. Most of us have more than enough brainpower to master a new discipline, if we apply it correctly and the latest neuroscience offers many strategies to do just that.

Much research in the field hinges on the idea of desirable difficulties, pioneered by Profs Robert and Elizabeth Bjork at the University of California, Los Angeles. The aim is to deliberately create a slight feeling of frustration as you learn, which leads the brain to process the material more deeply, creating longer-lasting memories. Its like physical exercise: you need to feel a bit of resistance to make significant long-term gains.

Unfortunately, many of our preferred learning techniques such as reading and highlighting textbooks, or the drawing of colourful mind maps to summarise material dont offer enough mental challenge to make the information stick, leading to disappointing results. Our judgment about our learning is often biased towards strategies that feel easy and effortless, says Dr Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow and member of the Learning Scientists website. But they dont translate into long-term retention of knowledge.

The following strategies will help you overcome these bad habits. Whatever you plan to learn, they will make your memory the envy of others.

Fail productively

Lets begin with the pre-test a strategy that is perhaps best explained with an example.

How do you say thank you in Finnish?

The answer is kiitos and Im guessing that most readers who arent Finnish wont have had any hope of answering this correctly. But thanks to that initial struggle, you will now be more likely to remember the answer in the future. Psychological studies show that a pre-test quiz taken before you have studied the material primes the brain to absorb the information afterwards, even if you failed to answer a single question correctly.

This is true for both the memorisation of simple trivia and the deeper understanding of more complicated material. In one study, participants were quizzed on the neuroscience of vision before reading an Oliver Sacks essay on the subject. They ended up learning 10 to 15% more than students who had instead been given extra time to read the text. Whatever you are learning, try to gauge your current understanding of the topic even if it is nonexistent.

Teach it to someone else

After taking the pre-test, you also want to continue quizzing yourself on what youve just learned. To psychologists, this is called retrieval practice and it is one of the most reliable ways of building stronger memory traces. In carefully controlled studies, retrieval practice vastly outperforms other strategies such as mind-mapping the material as you study.

As Dr Kuepper-Tetzel explains: Testing is usually seen as a way to assess knowledge. However, testing in itself is a potent learning strategy and has been shown to increase long-term retention of knowledge.

This may be one reason why flashcards a common form of self-testing dont work as well as they could. If you think self-testing is purely a means of assessing your recall, you may peek at the answer too soon whereas you need to truly rack your brain before giving in, if you want to form the stronger memory. The harder retrieval is, the more the memory for the information is enhanced, says Prof Mirjam Ebersbach at the University of Kassel in Germany.

Physical exercise is known to boost your memory, and it is best to mix both acute and endurance disciplines. Photograph: Martin Novak/Getty Images

If you are studying for exams, try to create your own questions rather than relying on past papers. Ebersbach has found that the process of question generation can itself reinforce learning, since it forces you to reformulate the material in a new way.

Perhaps the most potent technique is to teach the material to another person, since that forces you to demonstrate a deep conceptual understanding. If you dont have a willing partner, you could imagine describing it to someone, or draft an email setting out what youve learned in as much detail as possible.

Mix it up

Try not to spend too long on any one topic rather, switch between them regularly. If you are learning a new language, for example, you might rotate between two or three vocabulary topics, or switch between the different verb tenses you are practising, rather than studying them in turn in blocks. This strategy is called interleaving and like the pre-test, it can feel frustrating since you cant really get into the swing of things before moving on. But according to the theory of desirable difficulties, that is why it works. Numerous studies have shown that this momentary confusion hugely increases your long-term recall.

Besides boosting factual learning, interleaving can also accelerate your acquisition of motor skills. If you are learning a musical instrument, for instance, you might alternate between scales and the pieces of music that you are practising.

Get moving

Contrary to the stereotype of the sedentary geek, the best learners are also the most physically active, since cardiovascular exercise triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine that are essential for memory formation. This means that your mind will be most fertile after a morning jog or a trip to the gym. So try to schedule your learning around your existing fitness plan and you may experience a natural memory boost.

Change your environment

Have you ever noticed that when you return to your home town, recollections of distant events suddenly come flooding back? Thats because our memory is context-dependent meaning that its heavily influenced by environmental cues.

While context-dependent memory can trigger waves of pleasant nostalgia, it can also lead to a mental block in our factual learning. If we only study or practice a skill in one place, our memories become tied to the sights, sounds and smells of that location. This makes it harder for us to recall the same material in a new environment the exam hall, the quizshow studio, a Parisian restaurant without those cues.

To avoid becoming dependent on those cues, you should therefore try learning in different places. One experiment by Prof Robert Bjork and colleagues found that just switching rooms between study sessions increased learning by 21%.

And relax: wakeful rest helps the memory consolidate what it has learned. Photograph: ALEAIMAGE/Getty Images

Do nothing

After pitting your brain against all those desirable difficulties, give it time to recover. I dont mean regular time out like watching TV, but literally doing nothing. Prof Michaela Dewar at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has found that wakeful rest without any external stimulation allows the brain to consolidate the memories of what it has learned.

So kick back, close your eyes and let your thoughts go wherever they want in the knowledge that your mind is busy cementing your learning for the long term.

David Robson is the author of The Intelligence Trap: Revolutionise Your Thinking and Make Wiser Decisions (Hodder & Stoughton, 9.99). To order a copy go to Free UK p&p on all online orders over 15

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Well, well, well, so we meet again Bachelor fam. Somehow we’ve made it to week four of this hostage situation otherwise known as The Bachelor, and the only person I’m actively rooting for at this point is Kelsey’s champagne bottle. Last week’s episode was a little dullsville for me. It felt like I was watching a two-hour fight I had with my sister in middle school last week over her stealing my shirt. You know, if that shirt were a commercial air pilot whose claim to fame involved desecrating windmills. Here’s hoping this week ABC actually steps it up in the drama department. And on that note, let’s dive right into this recap.

We start things off this week with Chris Harrison announcing that Peter and his copilots are headed to the exotic land of Cleveland! Tbh the only thing I know about Cleveland is that Tristan Thompson motorboated some random hoes at a nightclub there whilst he had a 9-months-pregnant Kardashian sitting at home alone. Yeah, that feels like a place that has the right energy to meet your future wife. Carry on. 

The women are also confused by the choice of Cleveland. At this point in Colton’s season they were all headed to Singapore, but instead these ladies are being treated to a wild few days away in middle America. Somehow it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I can’t wait to find out which of them had their passport suspended after an incident that involved too much Pinot Grigio and is responsible for this purgatory. 

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Okay, this is a VERY nice travel montage ABC has whipped together here. Can you FaceTune a city? Because Cleveland is starting to look like a mecca of art and culture over here. I love that the women are equally shocked by how nice Cleveland is. One girl is like “This is… Ohio, you say??” and says it with all of the confidence of a person who has never been further than an hour away from some sort of coast. 

Victoria F’s One-On-One Date

Victoria gets the first date card of the Cleveland trip, and I’ve been waiting for this date all season long. There’s been a rumor going around that Victoria F actually used to date one of the musicians ABC brings out for the one-on-one dates, and this is the kind of content I live for. 

Meanwhile, Victoria just KNOWS that the producers are going to push her off a cliff or something, because she strategically said in her pre-production interviews that she’s “so scared of heights.” Oh, sweetie. That’s cute that you think the producers are going to go for the low-hanging fruit like acrophobia when they can just take a grenade to your personal life instead.

VICTORIA: Oooh, why are we at an airport??

Because that’s where Peter takes literally all his dates, you idiot! He’s a pilot, haven’t you heard? You should only be surprised if you’re NOT at an airport.

Peter parks his plane at Cedar Point, which I’m told is a very popular amusement park, but it’s no Busch Gardens, so we’ll see about that. Victoria continues to play up the whole “I’m scared of heights” thing and it’s not like I don’t believe her or anything, but she also said she was scared to model during the group date last week and then closed the show in lingerie and a trench coat. 

Not only did Peter close down this amusement park for Victoria, but he also set up a private concert for the two of them and OH MY GOD SHE REALLY DOES NOT KNOW WHAT’S COMING LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. The look on her face when she realizes her ex, Chase Rice, will be the one to serenade her and her new boyfriend that she shares with 17 other women is f*cking priceless. 

CHASE RICE: Are you two having a good time?!

Guys, this show kills me. It’s actually a farce at this point. Peter is looking at Victoria like he’s so in love with her and Victoria is looking like she would rather eat glass than have to pretend to be into Peter and his salsa hips in front of her much-more-famous ex. 

I love that Peter is talking with Chase Rice and Chase Rice tells him he’s from Virginia just like Victoria, and he STILL doesn’t put two and two together as Victoria cowers and cries in the corner. Peter, come on! The clues are all there!

OH MY GOD IS SHE TALKING TO HER EX CHASE RICE WHILE ON A DATE WITH PETER?! Is she?! Look, that’s only okay when Peter does it with Hannah Brown. Don’t get it twisted, Victoria!! 

Wow, Chase Rice does not seem into her at all. This is making me think that maybe they just hooked up a few times when he was in town and now she’s mistaken that for an actual relationship. This point is further driven home for me when she asks Chase Rice what should she tell Peter about the two of them and he can’t even seem to place how he knows her.

Victoria decides that she needs to tell Peter about her thing with Chase Rice—it’s the honest thing to do. I just hope she’s able to hide the humble brag in her tone, lest she take a skewer to whatever scraps of self-esteem Peter has left from this franchise. 

VICTORIA: I don’t want Peter to be sad that I’ve banged someone much hotter and much more famous than him, you know?
CHASE RICE WATCHING THIS AT HOME RN: I would like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of since 2019.

Cut to the cocktail portion of the evening, and Peter makes a comment about how they could have Chase Rice sing at their wedding. I want to disintegrate into my couch. The producer who told him to say that has the blackest heart, I swear to god.

Victoria tells Peter that Chase Rice is her ex-boyfriend, but it’s over between the two of them and, just to be clear, she ended things with him because his lifestyle didn’t fit in with hers. And it’s like, wow, what a narrative you have there, Victoria. Kris Jenner would be proud of that pivot. 

Peter is very confused by Victoria’s announcement. He’s looking at Victoria right in front of him and thinking about Chase Rice from hours before and it’s not computing for him. He’s like “Chase Rice the musician? The guy that was just on stage?”

Victoria leaves the room overcome with emotion that I’m sure has everything to do with Peter and nothing at all to do with the brush-off Chase Rice gave her earlier in the day. Honestly, I don’t know why she’s crying. I feel like we aren’t getting the whole story here. If she truly dumped Chase Rice and she’s truly over him then what is she so upset for? Peter’s not going to dump her. If anything, he’s going to want to sleep with her even more. He’s got to figure out what sort of golden vagina she has that she was able to ensnare the headliner for Stagecoach 2020. 

And what do you know! Peter gives Victoria the rose. Take that, Chase Rice! I’m sure this will not keep you up at night at all.

The Group Date

For the group date, Peter takes the girls to the Browns stadium and he says it as if any of these girls will give a sh*t. I’m sure there will be at least one girl to feign interest because she’s “not like the other girls” and that’s the one you need to look out for, Peter. If she can fake being overly hype about this date, then she can certainly fake other things with you in that windmill. Oh, and look! That girl is Tammy!

We learn that the women will be split into two teams to compete in a football scrimmage, and the winning team gets to go to the cocktail party. Peter seems to think that pitting the women against each other will make for some good wholesome fun, but a very different picture is being painted on my television screen rn. 

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It’s less like a pickup game of football and more like the millennial hunger games. These girls are out for blood. You’ve got Deandra full-on body slamming bitches into the ground. At one point I half expect her to scream out a “welcome to the OC, bitch” as she rubs MyKenna’s face into the grass. Then there’s Shiann, who is acting like the outcome of this game will save all of China from the Huns. I’m horrified. Honestly, I’m watching these girls rip out each other’s hair extensions on the field right now, and I can’t even imagine where I would be if I were on this date. Probably faking a back injury on the sidelines like Hot Victoria. 

Holy sh*t. These girls are taking this game VERY seriously. I haven’t seen this much aggression and outright rough housing since my neighbor forced me to join her rec league kickball team and they stuck me on third base in the playoffs. I’m still talking to my therapist about those games.

In a shocking twist of events, the yellow team manages to tie up the game at the last minute, which means BOTH teams will be going on the group date tonight. The pink team is pissed about this outcome, but tbh there was no way in hell production was going to let a pot stirrer like MyKenna sit at home during the rest of this group date. Please.

As we enter into the cocktail portion of the evening, all the women are on edge. Nothing is fair in love and war, and it’s certainly not fair on a 13-person group date. Tensions are high when Hot Victoria, who didn’t even actually compete in the scrimmage because if the weather forecast says there’s a 3% chance of rain in the next 10 days then her right elbow starts to hurt and she didn’t want to chance it, swoops in and steals Peter first. 

Okay, WHAT. ALAYAH IS BACK?! Can you just show up on this show whenever you feel like it? It’s not even like they’re still back at the Bachelor mansion, they’re in Cleveland for god’s sake! How did she even find them? Did she track them down through Twitter threads of fan sightings or something? Because I’m impressed. 

ALAYAH: Can I steal him for a sec?
We learn that Alayah is back on the show to clear her good name. Even though just last week we saw her get wine drunk, put on a captain’s hat, and declare she’d like Peter to take her to the mile high club, she doesn’t want America to get the wrong idea about her. She tells Peter that Hot Victoria is a liar and that they’ve known each other for way longer than the three hours Hot Victoria claimed they had. She even knows what the P in Victoria P’s last name stands for! 

I love watching Hot Victoria dig her own grave. She’s like “well we did only know each other for three hours but, like, three hours of each day of the seven-day pageant competition and then we might have exchanged numbers and gone on a girls’ trip to Cabo after but I just don’t know, Peter. I DON’T KNOW!”

“My truth is the truth,” Hot Victoria says as she lies through her teeth.

Look, I’m not saying I don’t believe Hot Victoria, but that was a VERY cozy hug she just gave Alayah. Certainly not a hug you give a person you’ve only known for three hours, unless those three hours were spent waiting in line for a bathroom after 1am. 

You can tell Peter’s not buying Victoria’s story because he actually asks Alayah to come back to the house, even if it means that the women will form an angry mob and burn him at the stake for it. But, you know, follow your heart and everything, Peter. 

OMG HE GIVES ALAYAH THE ROSE WHEN SHE WASN’T EVEN ON THE DATE. Wooooowwww. No wonder Reality Steve hasn’t been able to spoil the season yet. Peter can’t end up with anyone if the women all murder him and hide his body in Ohio.

High off her group date rose, Alayah attempts to reform old alliances in the house by updating the girls on what they’ve missed on Instagram. God, she knows how to read a room. She’s like “guys, I got to Google!!! Go grab some wine and meet in my room for the dirt!”

She tells the women all about Victoria’s past with Chase Rice, and the women look just as confused as Peter was when he heard the news. You can tell they’re all questioning the validity of said relationship, because why tf would Victoria be on this show if she’s been getting hot and heavy with country music stars?

Kelsey’s One-On-One Date

Kelsey gets the second one-on-one date of the week and I’m truly so proud of her. This is a girl who, just two weeks ago, spewed champagne all over her face on national television and locked herself in a closet to wail about it. And now she’s on a one-on-one date! This is the comeback story we need in 2020!! If she can recover from something like that, it gives me hopes that I can recover from that one time I got drunk at brunch and slid into Joey from The Circle’s DMs. Not all heroes wear capes!

Peter updates her about the Alayah situation and Kelsey gives a GREAT answer. She says that she doesn’t blame him for bringing her back and that he should figure out this relationship for himself and THAT, ladies, is how you secure your spot for the next 2-3 weeks. She’s not trying to start drama or talk sh*t or blame Peter. Outwardly she’s showing support, but inwardly she’s plotting Alayah’s demise. This is called maturity, ladies, take note!

Honestly, I’m really surprised at how into her Peter is. I feel like we haven’t really seen much of Kelsey for him to be this invested. Kelsey is also surprised by the attention and makes a plan to hold it by bringing up her sordid past: her family’s divorce. I can’t wait to hear what other trauma she reveals. Did she fall off her bike once too?

Peter tells her that he can relate to the trauma of growing up as a child of divorce because once upon a time his grandparents came to America from Cuba. Really grasping at straws for a connection here, aren’t we, Peter?

Kelsey gets the date rose, and she really deserves it for sitting through that entire dinner and not mocking Peter once for his turtleneck. If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Victoria finds out that Alayah revealed to the rest of the girls all about that one time she blew Chase Rice in Charlotte her past relationships. She’s upset that Alayah would dare reveal that story when she only just told Peter yesterday. It’s her truth to tell, Alayah!! 

The Rose Ceremony

At long last we reach the rose ceremony. The women are moments away from a public hanging, but it’s too soon to tell whether it’s Peter’s or Alayah’s. Okay, Peter is far too confident making this toast rn. It’s like watching a baby gazelle take a cool drink of water right before a group of lions rips his throat out. Poor Peter.

Peter can’t even get two words out before Deandra jumps down his throat about being disappointed in his choices. Then Natasha backs her up with Shiann vigorously nodding her head in approval. I really feel like this isn’t the smartest move for them. They’re treating him less like a romantic suitor and more like a mom who just wants her kid to put away his laundry away. I will say I’m LOVING how the women have hijacked this rose ceremony, though. 

PETER: So, I’d like to make a toast—

Peter tries to pull Hot Victoria aside first so he can explain himself, and she loses her ever-loving sh*t on him. Wow. The BALLS it takes to lie to someone and then yell at them for being mad that you lied. Bravo, Hot Victoria. I never knew you had this much manipulation in you. 

The women continue to rage against Alayah and, you guys, I really don’t understand why everyone hates her so much. She wasn’t trying to be malicious by saying that thing about Chase Rice, she was just trying to make friends. And also, it’s true!! It’s not even like she’s spreading lies. It’s just the truth. I’m not Team Alayah or anything, but they’re acting like she’s the antichrist and not a girl who just wanted to share some hot goss. 

I also love that the women, even with all the might and wrath of their coven channeled directly at Peter, honestly think he would send Alayah home when she’s wearing that black dress of sin. She has a slit down to her pubic bone and is showing enough cleavage that she could shoplift a Thanksgiving turkey and hide it in there! I’m sorry, but he’s never going to send her home dressed like that.

And that’s right where the episode ends. We’ll have to wait until next week to see if Peter makes it out of Ohio alive. Honestly, it’s too soon to tell. Until then!

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Amid the American Dirt controversy, we asked authors of our favorite books about migration for their recommendations

Not all writers think of migrants as a faceless brown mass. Indeed, if there is one thing that readers should take away from the ill-fated release of the over-hyped American Dirt, it is that the stories of migrants and refugees have been and are continuing to be told by writers around the world, richly, with nuance, and without relying on trite stereotypes.

We asked the authors of some of our favorite novels about immigrants and migration to recommend an alternative reading list to American Dirt. Here are their selections.

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees. Photograph: AP

Luis Alberto Urreas The House of Broken Angels is the Latinx novel that Oprah should have picked for her book club. The novel has it all humor, history, politics, emotions, all packaged into a highly readable account of a Mexican American family that straddles the border of the United States and Mexico. This is the Great American Novel, if by American we mean the greater America that is both north and south of the border. Urrea is an expert on the border and migration, having spent years and many books exploring these topics. He combines that intimate knowledge with a master novelists flair to pull us into a family whose struggles have historical roots but whose feelings are ones that we all know love, loss and longing.

Elaine Castillos America is Not the Heart has a special place in my heart because its set in the 408 the area code for the south bay of the Bay Area. The Bay is dominated by San Francisco, but the 408 is the less than glamorous land of bedroom communities including Castillos Milpitas and my San Jose. Castillo, of Filipina descent herself, focuses on the lives of documented and undocumented Filipina/os and traces their origins to the impact of American colonization in the Philippines and the US support for the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. While politics and revolution form the background of the novel, the foreground is all about the power, pleasure and peril of kinship and romance, set in a beautifully, intimately drawn portrait of the Filipino American community. Plus lots of hot queer sex.

Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea. Photograph: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

The crisis of representation and appropriation ignited by American Dirt has made my mind turn to scores of worthy books in every genre about this issue. It would be nearly impossible for me to suggest *the book* on this subject. But one of the books that weighs on my mind is this moving work of witness by Tim Hernandez, All They Will Call You. He tells a forgotten story about the fate of a group of migrants, deported by the US government in 1948, who died in the worst airplane disaster in California history. The thing that haunts me is his care for the stories of the dead, his refusal to allow those human beings to be forgotten. It is a quintessential migrant story, which makes it a truly American story.

  • Urrea is the author of 17 books, including Nguyens top pick above, the short story collection The Water Museum, The Devils Highway, a Pulitzer finalist in non-fiction, and several volumes of poetry.

Angie Cruz

Author Angie Cruz. Photograph: Erika Morillo / The Shipman Agency

I highly recommend Bang by Daniel Pea, Butterfly Boy by Rigoberto Gonzlez, Mean by Myriam Gurba and The Moths and Other Stories by Helena Mara Viramontes, all of which are by Chicano writers who have dedicated themselves to researching, exploring and writing about and around the border and immigration. I read Viramontes as an undergrad. Her work was being taught in a sociology class. In my creative writing and lit classes I was taught writers like Simpson, Gaitskill and Atwood. All of whom were writers in the same generation as Viramontes but stocked on different shelves in the bookstores. And this is obviously a problem because Viramontes stories are innovative, acute and beautifully written and if published today, one hopes her collection wouldnt have had to include a long academic introduction to create context and validity for her work and instead would have been reviewed and celebrated in mainstream literary spaces for the explosive content, the nuanced characters and her singular literary style.

Another work Im excited about by a storyteller who works for the stage is Andrea Thomes Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes). If you are in NYC you dont want to miss the show that tells the story of undocumented immigrants coming together for a fandango on the evening of an Ice raid in New York City, as they wait for a loved one to arrive from Honduras. Inspired by interviews with undocumented immigrants from Latin America living in New York, the piece will be a community celebration where stories are brought to life through live performance, music and dance.

  • Cruz is the author of three novels, including Dominicana, about a child forced to marry in order to secure her familys future in America.

Mohsin Hamid

Author Mohsin Hamid on Anarkali Street in Lahore, Pakistan. Photograph: Ed Kashi/VII/Corbis

I would like to suggest two very different books.

Tayeb Salihs Season of Migration to the North is a novel about a young man going from Sudan to Europe. He studies, immerses himself in a different culture, and comes back changed, both angry and anger-inducing, but also perplexed and deeply unsettled. Its a seminal text, not of the migrant who assimilates and achieves the so-called dream, but of the migrant who goes and comes back. Theres a very strong awareness in this book about the sexualisation of the migrant and the self-exoticisation that occurs, but also about the impossibility of return. You can go back to where you come from but the person who goes back is no longer the person who left. That is a theme we see echoing again and again across migrant fiction. Its important to remember that we need antidotes to the idea that migrant fiction is simply people going north or going west. Very often, its people who willingly or unwillingly have to return, altered, to where they began.

Julie Otsukas The Buddha in the Attic is an incredible work on multiple levels. It tells the story of a generation of women, a shipload of Japanese wives who head to California, employing a first person plural, which is very unusual. We sometimes hear about the danger in fiction of a writer depicting a group as a faceless mass, or of presuming to speak for an entire group through underhanded means. Otsukas book is remarkable: it does speak for a group but uses form to subvert and interrogate that critique. The narrative voice that emerges is of a group of people with constantly individualized particulars. Thats a very difficult task to pull off but I think Otsuka succeeds magnificently. I would suggest this book as an antidote to the limited imaginings of what we think a narrative can be and as a reminder of the power of literary fiction to unlock some of those puzzles. Its truly a unique and awe-inspiring book.

  • Hamid is the author of four novels, including The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West.

Matt de la Pea

Author Matt de la Pea. Photograph: Heather Waraksa / Penguin

Ill never forget the visceral experience I had the first time I read Luis Alberto Urreas powerful The Devils Highway. I was living in Brooklyn, NY, and my wife and I were expecting our first child. Back then I was reading a lot of books set on the Mexican border. Having grown up in a border community myself, I think it was my way of staying connected to home. We used to make the short drive into Tijuana frequently when I was young, to visit family, and I remember staring outside the windows of our Volkswagen Vanagon, fascinated by how drastically everything changed the second we officially left San Diego and entered Mexico. But it was The Devils Highway that woke me up to the political travesties surrounding this barrier between the two countries. I was so shaken by Urreas brutal account of 26 men and their passage across the border, into the Arizona desert, that as soon as I finished, I started again. This time I listened to the audiobook, read by Urrea himself, as I pushed my sleeping newborn around Prospect Park in a stroller. It was on these walks, listening to The Devils Highway, staring at my baby girl, that I realized all writing is political writing. And my own work was forever changed.

  • De la Peas books for young adults include Mexican WhiteBoy and We Were Here. He has also written several books for younger readers, including the Newbery Medal-winning Last Stop on Market Street.

Dina Nayeri

Author Dina Nayeri. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in this world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expression of feelings. Hannah Arendt wrote these words in the 1943 essay We Refugees.

I think of these words when I read immigrant stories to remind myself of what an honest story owes to the reader. Has the author struggled over these private and subtle calculations? Does she understand these specific indignities? Or does she want to portray the drama for the entertainment of others? The books below impressed me because they understood deeper truths about displaced lives. They honored immigrants even in humiliating moments, instead of exploiting their stories.

Years ago, I read Dinaw Mengestus novels The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, and All Our Namesin quick succession. Both are stories of Ethiopian men struggling to make a new life in DC and Chicago, to find companionship and love, despite poverty, the heartbreak of a ravaged home, and so much American hostility. Both novels show well-meaning American women who, as they try to help, trample on the mens dignity, safety and much else.

99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai is so well rooted in the Afghan narrators voice and experience, it goes beyond empathy, transporting the reader. It ignores the western gaze and tells the story the way its subjects need it to be told. The result is funny and sharp and devastating. One chapter, a private family story, is written in Pashto because it isnt meant for everyone.

Catherine Chungs Forgotten Country is gorgeously written and full of heart. And thats another way to honor the subject matter: write it well. Bother to learn the craft (as many have failed to do). Chungs book is about sisters, family loyalty and war. It is illuminating and sensory and the characters come alive in the care of a precise and compassionate author who has made a lifelong study of her craft.

  • Nayeri is the author of two novels, Refuge and A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, as well as the memoir The Ungrateful Refugee.

Aida Salazar

Aida Salazar, the author of The Moon Within. Photograph: Photo by Lluvia Higuera

These recently published or upcoming books for children and young adults are part of a larger dialogue about immigrant realities and migrant justice that was taking place before the American Dirt fiasco. It must be acknowledged that there is no one definitive migrant story but many and must include not only Mexican voices but the many voices of migrants to the United States.

Picture books: My Shoes and I by Ren Colato Lanez; Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mndez; Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

Middle grade: Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes; Front Desk by Kelly Yang; Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga; Efrn Divided by Ernesto Cisneros and my book, Land of the Cranes.

Young adult: All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall; Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer by Alberto Ledesma; The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande; American Street by Ibi Zoboi; Illegal by Francisco X Stork; The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante; We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez; Lobizona by Romina Russell; Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland; Indivisible by Daniel Aleman.

  • Salazar is the author of The Moon Within.

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We know that not every hero wears a cape. But what if a hero doesn’t know he is one? Stay with me⁠—the story sounds like the script from a Tarantino movie. The guy is in the navy. Out of the blue, he finds out that he transformed the life of his former student.

“My initial reaction was stunned. I know that most people that have read it in the past have said the story is fake and that it is too circumstantial to have ever happened,” says the man in an interview with Bored Panda. Tune in for the whole interview about this inspirational story below.

Image credits: m00by (not the actual photo)

The former teacher shared this inspirational story

Image credits: CactusFantastic0

Bored Panda contacted the man for an exclusive interview. “Teaching was a ton of fun and a ton of work. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent teaching. Interacting with students on a personal level was one of the great joys of the work. I always strived to be real with my students and be someone they felt they could trust to tell them the truth. I frequently spoke with my students about real-world issues with real viewpoints on college, drug/alcohol/smoking, future careers, and all the potential challenges that lay ahead of them.”

“What ultimately got me out of teaching was all of the things outside of the classroom. There’s a hefty amount of politics and kowtowing to maintain a position and the runaround can be exhausting. Ultimately, I decided to choose a career that was more stable in the long run. I still look back at teaching with fondness, especially in light of this story, and am glad to have had positive impacts with my students. I definitely miss it sometimes, but I’m excited to see where a career in the Navy takes me.”

“My initial reaction was stunned. I know that most people that have read it in the past have said the story is fake and that it is too circumstantial to have ever happened. Why would I tell that story about the one girl? I honestly don’t know. I retell that story often because honestly, it had a big impact on me. It showed me the value of positive self-talk and how small acts of kindness can yield extraordinary results. It reaffirms my belief that there’s never a reason to be mean to each other. There’s more than enough hate in the world; why would I ever want to add to it?”

What would you say to all the struggling students out there? “You cannot turn on yourselves. Learning to love yourself is hard, but everyone at your age is going through the same thing. Middle/High school are supremely crappy times in the majority of the population’s life. Everyone is struggling to discover who they are and what kind of human they want to be when they grow up. Then they decided to shove 30+ of ‘em in a room for hours at a time and just let them hash it out. It makes for a grand struggle as students yearn to be heard and acknowledged. Just know that it gets sooo much better.”

It’s all about being nice to one another. “The adult world doesn’t care what you do in your free time or what kind of music you listen to. It doesn’t care that your hobbies are considered strange, especially since there are plenty of people who probably love to do what you do. The world cares about kindness. Be warm to those around you and it will always be paid back in the long run. My end of the year speech was always about legacy. How will you be remembered when you are gone? What will they say about you when you’re not around? How will you choose to impact the world every day? Be excellent to one another! (Although I think that reference was lost on most of my students…)”

This is what people had to say about it

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This weekend was one of the biggest events of the year, and no, I’m not talking about the Super Bowl. Saturday marked Stormi Webster’s 2nd birthday, and in true Kardashian-Jenner fashion, Kylie Jenner threw her what is possibly the most over-the-top party in history. Last year, Kylie and Travis Scott set a pretty high bar for ridiculous birthdays with the original Stormi World, but they managed to completely outdo themselves this year. Basically, Stormi World 2 makes all of Gatsby’s parties look like lame backyard barbecues.

This year, instead of just one lavish themed area, we got three. Of course, there was the terrifying Stormi World, but party guests also got to explore Trolls World and Frozen World, which were all 10 times fancier than any party I’ve ever been to. Obviously, most Kardashian-Jenner parties aren’t exactly normal, but this one feels especially ridiculous. I’m positive they spent more than my annual salary on this party, and Stormi probably still won’t remember anything. But anything for Instagram! Let’s go through some of the more absurd parts of Stormi World 2.

The Stormi Slide

The giant inflatable Stormi entrance tunnel? So last year. This year, they added a giant inflatable slide, complete with a massive inflatable Stormi at the top. These slides are fun AF, but the Stormi head is really giving me horror movie vibes. Like, if this party was Us, this would definitely be the cursed area where your tether attacks you.

The Wearable Stormi Head

The nightmare continues with a smaller, yet even scarier Stormi head. This one is like a mascot/bobblehead that someone is wearing, and it’s honestly horrific. I practically need therapy from seeing this, so I shudder to think what all this is doing to Stormi. Also, I need to know who is under the giant Stormi head, and how much they’re being paid. I really hope all the people working this event made a lot of money for putting up with this rich BS.

The Music

In Kylie’s Instagram stories from the party, you could clearly hear that they were playing Travis Scott music in the Stormi World section. We heard bits of multiple songs, so it seems like that was pretty much the playlist. Now, I love me some Travis Scott (I have Astroworld saved on my phone), but I wouldn’t say that it’s the most appropriate music for a two-year-old’s birthday party. It’s like every actor has certain movies they’re not going to show their kids until they’re older—Stormi should probably steer clear of her dad’s music until she’s at least 15. My mom confiscated my Usher CD when I was 10, and I turned out okay.

The Stormi Claw Machine

Are those… whoopee cushions with Stormi’s face on them? I don’t think they actually are, but that’s kinda what it looks like. But really, what are they? Little pillows? Non-helium balloons? Regardless, it’s super f*cking weird to have people play an arcade game that involves snatching your daughter’s face with a metal claw. Just put some of the Toy Story aliens in there and call it a day, Kylie—not everything has to have Stormi’s face on it!

The Stormi Shop

Of course, any kid’s party worth attending has party favors, but usually they’re like… little bags of candy. Not at Stormi World!! This party had an entire merch tent called the ~Stormi Shop~, which had t-shirts, hoodies, slinkies, and more of those things that look like whoopee cushions (pretty sure they’re pillows??). Guests could tie-dye their own Stormi World merch, or they could probably have a servant do it for them if they didn’t want to get their hands dirty. This is extremely extra, but I’m not gonna lie and say I wouldn’t love one of those tie-dye sweatshirts. You can never have enough hoodies!

The Giant Trolls

This is not the first time Kylie has hired giant Trolls to come hang out with Stormi, as Poppy stopped by the house on Christmas Eve. I guess Stormi likes them, but at two years old, I would’ve been scared sh*tless of these big-ass Trolls. Let’s be real, they would make me uncomfortable even now. The Frozen area of the party also had character appearances from Olaf and Elsa, but somehow the Trolls feel so much weirder.

The Environmental Impact

Okay, so I don’t know exactly what went into putting on this event, and maybe (hopefully) some of this stuff was done using sustainable practices. But I’m not so confident about that. And no matter what, it can’t be that green to basically build Disneyland for one night and then tear it all down the next day. It’s pretty depressing to think about how much waste was probably created from this event, because I’m pretty sure the all the props in the Trolls World jungle aren’t recyclable. My childhood birthday parties at the bowling alley might not have been this cool, but at least those parties didn’t have the environmental footprint of a small country.

At the end of the day, Stormi World 2 was obviously ridiculous, and I kind of feel like that’s the whole point. The Kardashians have set a precedent for throwing these wild parties, and now it’s like they just do it because it’s their thing. If they’re going to keep doing this year after year, the least they could do is send an invite my way. I’m really good at tie-dye!

Images: kyliejenner / Instagram

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Image copyright John Lindsay
Image caption The Clash frontman Joe Strummer at Edinburgh’s Coasters, 1985

There’s a moment in the pseudo-documentary Rude Boy where leather-clad fans of The Clash are filmed queuing at the Glasgow Apollo – scruffy, grinning and making some questionable two-fingered gestures to the camera.

For Chris Brickley, this is the sort of material that transports him back to some of the most memorable gigs of his life in Scotland from the late 1970s and 80s.

Not professionally-shot images of artists enthralling fans on stage, but the messier snapshots of crowds, fashions and venues – many of which are no longer in operation.

It’s this side of Scottish music history the 52-year-old is attempting to preserve.

Image copyright John Higney
Image caption David Bowie at the Glasgow Apollo in 1978

He intends to self-publish a book of some 2,000 amateur shots of concerts across Scotland from 1974 to 1990, from high profile artists to memorabilia, ticket stubs and backroom gigs.

“I wanted to do something that’s a lot of work, but that people would like,” he said. “It’s not just an exercise in navel gazing, it’s important to our culture.

“Music used to be so democratic – people could just pitch up and go to gigs. Things cost so much more these days.

“The other angle is that I love street fashion, what people actually looked like.

“The ones I like the most are the crowd shots where you’re right in front – you not only see the band, you see the backdrop. People’s hair, split ends and leather jackets.”

Image copyright Calum Mackintosh
Image caption Pixies at Aberdeen’s The Venue in 1989
Image copyright Simon Clegg
Image caption Johnny Yen, Paisley’s Bungalow Bar in 1980

Over the past year Chris has painstakingly sourced images through social media, all from amateur photographers who posted their old shots for nostalgia’s sake.

The collection includes shots of some of the biggest names of the era – David Bowie at the legendary Glasgow Apollo in 1978, The Clash in 1985 at Edinburgh’s Coasters and the Pixies at The Venue in Aberdeen in 1989.

But Chris also went to great lengths to feature towns and villages which he says are “rarely mentioned in Scottish music history”.

Image copyright Jim Barr
Image caption Close Lobsters, Rooftops club in Glasgow, 1987
Image copyright Simon Clegg
Image caption Mo-dettes outside Valentino’s in Edinburgh, 1980

He said: “I am a huge fan of The Cramps and The Fall – there is an infamous tour they did co-headlining in 1980 and they played the Stagecoach Hotel in a wee village outside Dumfries on a Monday night.

“I looked into it as a venue – it was just off the M74 and it was a great stop-off point and a lot of great bands played there, like Simple Minds and The Pretenders.

“There’s a great story there. That’s what it’s all about. Everyone knows the Apollo (in Glasgow) but when you dig down, that’s the nature of gig-going.”

Image copyright Malcolm Anderson
Image caption Ramones at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, 1985

The 500-page photobook has secured £14,000 in sponsorship as well as £4,000 which was raised through crowdfunding.

Details of when it will be published have yet to be finalised, but Chris says he is working against the clock.

He added: “Some of the hardest pictures to source were places such as the Mars Bar and Zhivago’s – that’s where Simple Minds started playing their gigs. They achieved great success by playing every single toilet you’d go in.

“Most of these places are gone and we’re losing people as we go. That’s why this has to be done now.”

Image copyright Rob Christie

All images are copyrighted.

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Following TechCrunch’s coverage of 500 Startups’ 25th batch (and numbers 24, 23, 22, and 21, in case you wanted to go back in time), today we’re saying hello to the accelerator’s 26th cohort.

500 Startups, in case you weren’t aware, is a seed-stage accelerator and a collection of venture funds. The group, now with a few dozen accelerator batches under its belt, has several thousand companies in its universe. 500’s 26th cohort contains 29 companies, including a handful that we’d already heard of (, to pick one).

Data, diversity

Before we get to the startups themselves, a few notes. To get a handle on the companies included in the batch, TechCrunch spoke with Aaron Blumenthal, a venture partner at the firm. After sharing a number of batch metrics with TechCrunch, we pressed for a bit more detail on the makeup of the startups in the group.

Here’s a hybrid of our notes, and his details (condensed and edited for clarity), on the batch that the venture partner called “another rung on the ladder of our diversity and inclusion state of mind”:

  • 37 percent of the startups are international. According to Blumenthal, “this particular batch from the ‘outside United States perspective’ is a little bit smaller — we usually see north of 50% outside the United States.”
  • 30 percent of the companies’ founding teams include a woman. TechCrunch asked Blumenthal if that number was up, flat or down, to which he responded that 500’s “average is usually in the mid 30s or so. Our last batch, for example, was 26% female. And this one is more [in] that direction which, of course, we are a fan of.”
  • 70 percent of the founding teams of the batch “have one or more founders who identify as a racial minority,” according to the firm.

It would be interesting to see a more granular breakdown for future cohorts, but the information provided was more than I expected and the numbers a bit better. And on the subject of numbers, Crunchbase has recorded 215 exits for 500 Startups. From its accelerator, 500 cites TalkDesk and Shippo as highlights.

Turning to mechanics, 500 Startups invests $150,000 apiece into its accelerator companies for 6% of their equity, and charges a $37,500 for the program itself. So, in effect, it’s a bit less capital for the same ownership percentage.

What else? Just that we’re walking into demo day season. 500 Startups will host the showcase for its 26th batch on March 19. Y Combinator will hold its own on March 23 and 24. The Techstars website defeated my hunt for its next demo day, but in the name of fairness, it’s probably hosting one around the same time somewhere in the world.

Here’s the list of companies in batch 26, with small notes from 500 on what they do:

  • Acadium: Connects business owners and marketing professionals with aspiring digital marketers.

  • Alloy Card: Offers a consumer credit card with automation that gives people more control over their finances while saving time.

  • Amixr: Incident management software that helps engineering teams around the world optimize their workflow while minimizing hassles.

  • AppBind: Lets partners buy and resell online software subscriptions as easily as licensed software, by bringing B2B SaaS into the global reseller market of implementation consultants, system integrators and distributors.

  • Bliinx: Offers an easy and fast way to find information on business relationships by aggregating all interactions with contacts into Office 365.

  • Briza: Provides an insurance-as-a-service API that enables instant quoting, binding and issuance of commercial insurance policies.

  • Butlr: Through sensor networks and AI, Butlr helps retail stores increase in-store sales by applying real-time customer behavior analytics.

  • CENOS: Easy-to-use simulation software that allows engineers to iterate designs faster than physical prototypes for induction heating and antenna design, among others.

  • Connected Analytics: Nigeria-based company helping businesses and banks integrate data analytics and rewards in order to retain customers and increase revenue.

  • Fakespot: Eliminates misinformation and deceptive content on e-commerce sites for consumers, brands and platforms.

  • GamerzClass: Offers exclusive esports masterclasses with professionals to shape the future of gaming.

  • Get on Board: Recruitment platform that connects global companies with the best Latin American tech talent.

  • Juked: Aggregates information on esports games, including live streams, player profiles, scores and calendars to make esports easier to watch and to promote engagement.

  • Kyndoo: Helps advertisers weed out fraudulent social media influencers, and provides data around their authenticity and performance.

  • Mero Technologies: Retrofits commercial buildings with sensors to analyze in real time traffic and consumables, such as toilet paper and soap, to inform cleaning routes.

  • Omnitron Sensors: Enables full autonomy of self-driving cars and drones with novel silicon photonics processes for sensors in safety-critical systems.

  • Pilota:  Applies machine learning to predict flight disruptions for passengers and automatically re-books a traveler’s flight for free.

  • Plant an App: Gives IT teams the speed of low-code development without compromising flexibility.

  • Pluto: Customizes sleep pillows at scale based on the user’s body stats, such as height, neck-to-shoulder ratio and sleep preferences in order to optimize sleep.

  • Predina: Applies AI to predict the risk of vehicle crashes for insurance and safety purposes, by analyzing more than 14 million historical crashes and other factors, such as street intersections, weather conditions and time.

  • Renetec: Enables the creation of GUIs for embedded systems with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, which reduces development time and costs.

  • ShardSecure: Enables enterprises to securely move and store sensitive information to the cloud.

  • Shiplyst: India-based ocean freight procurement marketplace that reduces costs for exporters and importers and gives them greater visibility into their shipments.

  • Silk + Sonder: Provides a women’s mental wellness subscription service that makes daily self-help more personalized through journaling and peer-to-peer support.

  • Sira Medical: Helps clinicians plan surgeries more efficiently through augmented reality, by providing them with high-fidelity 3D holograms of CT scans and MRIs.

  • The Atlas: An online community of city officials crowdsourcing ideas that is modernizing the $1.6 trillion local government market.

  • Thematic: Matches content creators who need great songs for their videos with music artists who need influencer marketing.

  • Trash Warrior: Offers on-demand junk removal services for businesses. Customers can book services online for affordable pricing and reliable quality.

  • Userpilot: Helps software product managers personalize the in-app experience across the user journey at scale.

Living in the unicorn era as we have now for some time, it’s easy to lose track of the earliest stages of startup investment. But accelerators do have a history of helping birth some impressive companies, so it’s worth paying attention. More when we get to the various demo days.

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Can the worlds biggest punk band capture the zeitgeist on their new album like American Idiot once did? They talk about staying positive in the age of Trump and how people have forgotten to love each other

Green Day are in their modest rehearsal space in their hometown of Oakland, California, a little haven in a country on the turn. The trio of 47-year-olds still the worlds biggest punk band are posing for photos with singer-guitarist-songwriter Billie Joe Armstrongs prized Triumph motorcycle. Then someone remembers that the bands forthcoming Hella Mega Tour, alongside fellow alt-rock survivors Fall Out Boy and Weezer, is sponsored by Harley-Davidson. The Triumph is put back under its protective sheet.

Welcome to Trumps America, sighs bassist Mike Dirnt when I tell him of my journey via San Francisco, where I was shocked to see so much desperate homelessness. A place where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Sadly, I dont think weve seen anything yet. The band own a number of Oakland businesses its important for us to do what we can to lift up our local area, Dirnt says while Armstrong still goes on protests and attends local punk shows.

Armstrong is a fan of new bands such as ShitKid, the Chats and White Reaper, though is often confused by what he sees. Ill see kids wearing leather jackets and a Grateful Dead T-shirt. How did that happen? Recently, he attended a show only to be confronted by a young punk with giant liberty-spiked hair, looking like hed just walked out of a squat, asking for a selfie on a brand-new iPhone. Its cool and its weird, he laughs. Im just excited people are still doing cool shit.

Green Days new album is titled Father of All Motherfuckers and yet, surprisingly for a band best known for delivering 2004s George Bush-baiting rock opera American Idiot, they say Donald Trump had little influence on the new record. At the same time, they insist it is political.

Its all there in the songs, Armstrong says. Im singing about looking out for the jingoes and heathens or another black kid shot in town. Theres a lyric about bulletproof backpacks designed as protection during school shootings, one of the most absurd ideas Ive ever heard. But Armstrong doesnt want to be on the nose. Everything that is happening in the world is right there on Twitter. Its so confusing and its so depressing. I really wanted to create some kind of escape for people; I didnt want to be so obvious. Satirical punk site The Hard Times wrote a story the day of Trumps inauguration titled Future Green Day Concept Album Sworn Into Office. It was funny, but I didnt want us to do that. It wasnt where our heads were at at all. Where were your heads at? I was listening to Little Richard.

He continues: Its not that Im ignoring it, its just that the current political climate is something I just cant draw any inspiration from. Ive got tons of feelings about it. I think Trump is a piece of shit. I think [Senate majority leader] Mitch McConnell is pure evil. All they care about is looking after the rich and they dont care about the common people. But I find no inspiration there. Its so depressing. Its hard to dance when you cant get out of bed.

And the world has become so divisive, says drummer and band goof Tr Cool. We wanted to try to bring people together. Its become something of a far-out concept to love each other!

Green Day on stage, 1997. Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

This year the band will turn 34. No punk band has made it this far. The Sex Pistols lasted three years, the Clash 10, the Ramones 22. Green Day are writing the blueprint while living it, so it is no surprise that they have sometimes made mistakes. Last year Armstrong duetted with Morrissey on his covers album California Son a terrible look in the wake of Morrisseys vocal support for far-right organisations and individuals.

I wasnt aware until the song came out, says Armstrong. We do the song, and he was very lovely, and then the song comes out and a lot of Brits were like: what the hell are you doing? I really did not have a clue Bewitched by the singers status as an 80s indie godhead, he simply failed in his due diligence. Cool pipes up, giggling: Hey, weve all got our Ted Nugents, right? a reference to the US rocker and gun enthusiast.

Green Day have endured major wobbles and are now in uncharted territory, as Armstrong puts it. People get over their high school bands. They dont go on to spend every day in their orbit for the next 20 years.

After two records on the late, great East Bay punk imprint Lookout!, in 1994 the young band signed with major label Reprise. The punk scene was aghast. 924 Gilman Street, the puritanical Berkeley-based all-ages headquarters of said scene banned the group from performing. Green Day released Dookie in February of that year and it sold 20m copies. They wouldnt return to play Gilman Street until 2015.

Old friends and fellow scenesters might not have wanted to talk to them any more, but everyone else did. Along with Smash, the third album by fellow Californians the Offspring (at 11m sales, the biggest-selling record on an independent label ever) and the rise to prominence of the Berkeley band Rancid, Dookie spearheaded an interest in American punk rock not seen since the birth of the New York CBGB scene 20 years earlier but with the sales to match the cultural impact.

We were always thinking about legacy, Cool says. We never wanted songs to sound like wed relied too much on whatever recording techniques were in vogue. We knew we were in this for the long haul.

Then came, if not decline, then some cooling off. The excellent Insomniac arrived in 1995 and struggled on account of not being Dookie. Nimrod followed in 1997; another strong collection of songs that became most notable for featuring a coda, the purely acoustic Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), that suggested there might be more to Armstrongs songwriting than three chords and fuzz. The song soundtracked the Seinfeld finale and became a hit at US high school proms, its melancholy dovetailing with events that marked a passing of time. And yet by 2000s Warning, the mall had been relinquished to the nu-metal kids. Warning became the first release of Green Days major-label career not to go multi-platinum. They wouldnt release an album for another four years.

I find it hard between records thinking what Im going to write about, Armstrong says. I get a lot of self-doubt. I dont think Ive ever realistically thought the band might be done, but I have questioned whether I could do it any more.

Green Day re-emerged amid war in the Middle East under Bush. Young people who might once have been fans were returning in body bags. Sieg heil to the President Gasman, Armstrong sang on Holiday from the album American Idiot, and if punks werent supposed to sign to major labels, they certainly werent supposed to release double albums that became Broadway musicals.

It sent them stratospheric and the weight of expectation since has never truly lifted: 2009s 21st Century Breakdown felt ordinary in the shadow of its predecessor; the release of three albums in a year 2012s Uno!, Dos! and Tr! favoured quantity over quality. An ill-fated festival appearance saw Armstrong, his set about to be cut short, destroy his guitar and rant: Im not Justin Bieber! He subsequently went into rehab for the abuse of alcohol and prescription pills.

Armstrong playing live, 2017. Photograph: Ferdy Damman/EPA

The band slunk into another period of near-irrelevance. They had emerged from the previous one with a genre-defying, generation-defining reboot this time all they had was a good record, 2016s Revolution Radio. Few bands harness the zeitgeist once, let alone twice. Is Father of All Motherfuckers that third moment? No, but it is the closest they have come since American Idiot. At 26min 16sec, it is their shortest album, featuring a collection of songs as fast and furious as any in their discography. It sounds as if they are having fun for the first time in years, without trying too hard.

Armstrong says it is an homage to the roots of rocknroll music, the music that inspired us to do this. That doesnt just mean punk rock. Its Martha and the Vandellas and Mott the Hoople. Old bubblegum music like the Archies. Powerpop. Garage music Playing Motown through Green Day, so to speak.

You might read the fizzing Father of All Motherfuckers as Green Day saying they are not done yet. Ask them if their forthcoming triple-header tour is an attempt to halt a downturn in the bands fortunes and Armstrong will laugh and say, in reference to 80s-themed package tours: There are many differences between Green Day and Kajagoogoo Were going to keep making records that matter. I always want whatever we do to feel like the first time we played at Gilman, or the first time we made a rock opera.

By embracing the bands love of rocknroll, Green Day are also trying to reclaim something at their nations core. Instead of an overt appearance from Trump in the lyrics, there is positivity and make-do spirit; it feels like a record about a beloved US, not the US that presently exists. I think good rocknroll has always had this ability to be transcendent, says Dirnt. A song might be about losing your gal or whatever other misfortune has come your way but the best stuff takes your hand and helps you dance through the apocalypse. Id like to think thats what were trying to do.

Rock as an act of resistance, I offer. Oh yeah, they all chime. I like that!

Father of All Motherfuckers is out on Reprise.

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(CNN)Harry Styles has added two Halloween-themed shows to his “Love On Tour” concert dates.

Canadian country star Orville Peck will open for Styles on the new shows.
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HARRYWEEN. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. GUEST – ORVILLE PECK. American Express and Verified Fan Presales begin Monday, March 2. Public onsales begin Friday, March 6.

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Harryween follows Styles’ three sold-out shows in July at MSG. Tickets for Harryween go on sale to the general public on March 6.
    Styles also is set to release the music video for his new single, “Falling,” on Friday. He performed the song last week at the 2020 BRIT Awards.
      His new album, “Fine Line,” is out now. In December, Billboard announced the debut “marks the biggest week for a pop album by a male artist in over four years.”
      Styles is set to kick off a world tour in April, starting in the United Kingdom. The singer will perform across Europe and North America and land in South America in October. He is expected to announce dates for Asia and Australia soon.

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