“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
This year, 21 photographers captured the ways we present ourselves to the world.
In a photograph by Sara Hylton, a confident woman stands in profile for a portrait. Wearing a patterned shirtdress and gleaming brass jewelry, she exudes style. What is not immediately apparent is that the picture was shot in South Sudan, a young, war-torn country where even carrying a camera in public is dangerous.
In this moment, though, the conflict is quiet; commanding the frame is Akuja de Garang’s self-possession, her unbroken spirit. What you see and what surrounds the subject are two seemingly contradictory stories, raising the question of how content and context inform each other.
Over the past year, for The Look, I have assigned 21 photographers around the globe, including Andre Wagner, who navigated the streets of New York, capturing moments that celebrate race and community; Rose Marie Cromwell, who documented Latino culture in Cuba, Colombia and Panama; and An Rong Xu, who explored the hip-hop style of B-boys in South Korea.
The column features a rich perspective that examines style, identity and culture.
In the photo essay by Ms. Hylton, style tells a larger story about pride in South Sudan. Self-expression acts as a way to maintain a sense of normalcy in a place where there is constant conflict. The column will continue to uncover a diverse range of stories that are amplified, or hidden, by the way people present themselves in the world. Here are highlights from The Look in 2017.
About 1 in 7 Americans lives in rural parts of the country—1,800 counties that sit outside any metropolitan area. A generation ago, most of these places had working economies, a strong social fabric and a way of life that drew a steady stream of urban migrants. Today, many are in crisis. Populations are aging, more working-age adults collect disability, and trends in teen pregnancy and divorce are diverging for the worse from metro areas. Deaths by suicide and in maternity are on the rise. Bank lending and business startups are falling behind. Here is the data that tells the story.
For decades, as migration to America’s small towns rose and fell, they barely managed to keep growing. Rural families formed and had just enough children to offset losses from those who left and those who died.
It is time for the U.S. government to admit that it has failed to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. North Korea no longer poses a nonproliferation problem; it poses a nuclear deterrence problem. The gravest danger now is that North Korea, South Korea, and the United States will stumble into a catastrophic war that none of them wants.
The world has traveled down this perilous path before. In 1950, the Truman administration contemplated a preventive strike to keep the Soviet Union from acquiring nuclear weapons but decided that the resulting conflict would resemble World War II in scope and that containment and deterrence were better options. In the 1960s, the Kennedy administration feared that Chinese leader Mao Zedong was mentally unstable and proposed a joint strike against the nascent Chinese nuclear program to the Soviets. (Moscow rejected the idea.) Ultimately, the United States learned to live with a nuclear Russia and a nuclear China. It can now learn to live with a nuclear North Korea.
Doing so will not be risk free, however. Accidents, misperceptions, and volatile leaders could all too easily cause disaster. The Cold War offers important lessons in how to reduce these risks by practicing containment and deterrence wisely. But officials in the Pentagon and the White House face a new and unprecedented challenge: they must deter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un while also preventing U.S. President Donald Trump from bumbling into war. U.S. military leaders should make plain to their political superiors and the American public that any U.S. first strike on North Korea would result in a devastating loss of American and South Korean lives. And civilian leaders must convince Kim that the United States will not attempt to overthrow his regime unless he begins a war. If the U.S. civilian and military leaderships perform these tasks well, the same approach that prevented nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War can deter Pyongyang until the day that communist North Korea, like the Soviet Union before it, collapses under its own weight.
This past year, 2017, was the seventh-worst Atlantic hurricane season on record and the worst since 2005. There were sixmajorstorms. Early estimates put the costs at more than $180 billion.
As the preventable disease hepatitis A spread through homeless populations in California cities in 2017, 1 million Yemenis contracted cholera amid a famine. Diphtheria killed 21 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, on the run from a genocide.
Disaster, Pestilence, War, and Famine are riding as horsemen of a particular apocalypse. In 2016, the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reached 403 parts per million, higher than it has been since at least the last ice age. By the end of 2017, the United States was on track to have the most billion-dollar weather- and climate-related disasters since the government started counting in 1980. We did that.
Transnational corporations and the most powerful militaries on Earth are already building to prepare for higher sea levels and more extreme weather. The FIRE complex—finance, insurance, and real estate—knows exactly what 2017 cost them (natural and human-made disasters: $306 billion and 11,000 lives), and can calculate more of the same in 2018. They know that the radical alteration of Earth’s climate isn’t just something that’s going to happen in 100 years if we’re not careful, or in 50 years if we don’t change our economy and moonshot the crap out of science and technology. It’s here. Now. It happened. Look behind you.
Protesters rally outside a restaurant in St. Louis on Feb. 13. The service industry employs the largest percentage of minimum wage workers.
Jeff Curry/Getty Images
As midnight strikes on New Year’s Eve, many minimum wage workers will have an extra reason to celebrate: They’ll be getting a raise.
In 18 states and 20 localities, lawmakers are forcing up the minimum wage on Jan. 1.
For years, a large number of state and local governments have been driving up wages in response to federal inaction. Congress has kept the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
If lawmakers in Washington had adjusted the minimum to match inflation as measured by the federal Consumer Price Index, it would be about $8.50 today.
As of New Year’s Day, workers in the following states can expect a round of raises: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. Those states already meet or exceed the federal minimum wage, so these new raises will push up the bottom even higher. For example, in Ohio, the state minimum wage is $8.15 an hour. After Jan. 1, it will be $8.30.
From Albuquerque, N.M., to Tacoma, Wash., many cities are taking wages to even higher levels than the state minimums. For example, in California, eleven local governments are sending the minimum wage to $13 an hour, or even more. In Mountain View and Sunnyvale, the wage floor will rise to $15.
LOS ANGELES – The four teams competing in the College Football Playoff combined to have 21 players selected in the 2016 NFL draft. (Alabama alone had 10 players and Georgia just one.) This year, it’s likely that total number will be even higher, as Georgia will have a large uptick in overall prospects. Who are the top players from the four playoff teams that you’ll be seeing on Sundays? Yahoo Sports polled a half-dozen NFL scouts and executives to compile a Top 10* list of the best prospects for this NFL draft that you’ll see in the CFP.
1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB Alabama – Scouts view Fitzpatrick as one of the safest picks in the draft, and it would be a surprise if he’s not among the top 10 players chosen. Can Fitzpatrick leap FSU safety Derwin James and be the first defensive back off the board? The guess here is yes. His value includes the versatility of playing corner, nickel and safety.
2. Roquan Smith, LB Georgia – There will be an interesting debate between Smith and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans as the top linebacker in this draft class. Smith is more dynamic than Evans, as he’s freakish sideline-to-sideline. Here’s the potential hiccup – his measurements will be important, as there’s questions about his true height. If he ends up being only 5-foot-11, he doesn’t fit in some NFL prototypes.
3. Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson – Announced himself as a prospect after winning the Defensive MVP of last season’s Fiesta Bowl in a College Football Playoff shutout of Ohio State (3 TFLs). Ferrell is twitchy, unusually fast for his size (6-foot-5, 260 pounds). A knock will be lack of experience, as he’s only a redshirt sophomore. Ferrell’s production this season has been spotty, as he had just two sacks over the first six games. (He finished with 8.5, buoyed by a 3.5-sack showing in Clemson’s loss to Syracuse.)
4. Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama – This is an anomalously poor year for wide receivers, and there’s little doubt Ridley will be the first one picked. While Ridley projects high in a lot of early mock drafts, his modest size – 6-foot-1, 190 pounds – may give some teams pause.
6. Rashaan Evans LB Alabama – At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, he appears to be the latest bruiser in a lineage of linebackers that includes Reuben Foster, Reggie Ragland and C.J. Mosley. His versatility will be a plus, as a scout notes: “Teams have seen him do a little bit of everything.”
It is time, finally, to tell the story of “The Bag of Shame.” This happened long ago, when I was very single, living alone, and dreading Christmas. Anxiety for me is a baseline state, but the prospect of Christmas used to induce a special panic — an apprehension of extreme loneliness — together with an impulse to alleviate it. That year, a man I had been dating — or, rather, sleeping with from time-to-time — invited me to accompany him on a ski vacation for the holiday week. It was a surprising invitation. We saw each other only occasionally, and strictly on a booty-call basis. He was amusing, but no one with what I would have called Long Term Potential. We were not close. I had not met his family, nor he mine. Nevertheless, as a single person, a Jewish person with zero Christmas heritage, and a person easily irritated by the suffocating requirements of seasonal cheer, it seemed like an okay alternative to what I had planned — which was nothing. I said yes. When I told my friend S, she — who knew Booty Call Man — asked me what I was thinking.
“It’s something to do,” I answered, trying to sound flippant, like an adventuress.
“You could go to the movies,” she said, a phrase that has resonated down the ages. Even now, whenever I am on the brink of a decision that may cost me, in time or money or self-respect, I pose the hypothetical to myself: Would it be better to go to the movies right now?
I tell the story of “The Bag of Shame” now as a gift to my younger, single friends who live alone. Nothing makes a single person feel more single, and more anxious, and more anxious about being single, than a holiday that perpetuates a whole lot of myths about family togetherness at a moment when togetherness is not an option. For more than a decade, starting in my later 20s, I lived alone, and during that time was more or less constantly worried that my single status would be never-ending, and worse: that it signaled some kind of factory defect in me. In my world at the time, the existential question of aloneness was a constant preoccupation — for me, for my friends, for my mother (especially) — its drumbeat accompanying all our activities and conversation, like the hum of an old refrigerator in a small apartment.
And that was then. According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, the number of people under 35 who are “un-partnered” has risen to 61 percent from 56 percent over the past decade. Aloneness and loneliness are not the same thing, but one begets the other: the former U.S. Surgeon General has called loneliness the public health crisis of our time. And the experience of loneliness today is qualitatively different from when I was young. Back then, the universe I inhabited was prosperous, stable: the corporation I worked for matched my 401K. Today, millennials’ solitude exists against a backdrop of massive political and environmental and financial disruptions that can be accessed through Twitter at any time of day. Their anxiety may be neurotic, in other words, but at the same time it’s understandable, even rational.
Booty Call Man and I had an awkward time out West. We had previously spent a fair amount of time in bars, but never face-to-face at a restaurant with cloth napkins in our laps and never, certainly, navigating the intrinsic awkwardness of a hotel room. Plus, I’m not much of a skier, and we had to negotiate that should-we-ski-together-or-separately dynamic, but without any of the goodwill or history that real couples have. Our sojourn was a performance of coupledom begotten by a mutual fear of seasonal loneliness, and so it was also sad. Still, compared to a long weekend inventing “projects” in my apartment, I might have preferred it, if it hadn’t ended how it did.
Hey, kittens, you did it: It’s almost 2018 and you have most of your hair left. 2017 made good on the promise of 2016 and has been an absolute nonstop barrage of mind-bending plot twists, lies, and mea culpas in politics, Hollywood, and the media. Late night has emerged as an ever-increasing functionary arm of the Fourth Estate, dedicated to parsing the daily news, while also standing in for a mood or an ideology. The year brought a new crop of hosts entering the political comedy ecosystem, including Robin Thede at The Rundown, Sarah Silverman with an optimistic I Love You, America, Anthony Atamanuik doing his Trump impersonation on The President Show, and Jordan Klepper with The Opposition.
Of the established network hosts, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers found comfortable grooves delivering nightly political news bulletins, while Jimmy Fallon and James Corden still had difficulty pivoting to politics. Then there’s Samantha Bee, born in the outrage cycle of 2016 and staying the course, and John Oliver sticking to his enlightening and witty deep dives. Still, it has become harder and harder for a late-night host to cut through the noise and find something original to say, and curiously, it was the former host of the The Man Show,Jimmy Kimmel, who emerged as the voice of sanity during insane times when he defended the Affordable Care Act from the GOP’s attempts to repeal it. Here’s our list of the best and brightest moments of late night, which, yes, happened this year.
Conan Creepily Drives Tom Cruise Around
So many comedians are driving celebrities around these days that Conan decided to get in on the action by driving Tom Cruise around London. But instead of doing carpool karaoke or talking about comedy with some coffee, Conan just decides to concentrate on making good lane changes and telling Tom Cruise to save his hilarious stories for another show. Yes, we’ve hit the moment when anti-comedy is the comedy.
Kevin James Is a Master Klutz
As my colleague Jesse Fox likes to say, Jimmy Fallon is not a wartime comedian. After the head-pat felt around the world, Fallon has steadily tried to include jabs against Donald Trump into the diet of The Tonight Show for his show’s survival. But really, The Tonight Show is at its best when it’s doing pure fun, like when Sarah Paulson unleashes a wheel of impressions or this face-off between Fallon and Kevin James where they try to out-klutz each other. Physical comedy is hard!
Robin Thede on the Russians
Robin Thede became the first black woman to host a late-night show with The Rundown on BET. With that historical milestone out of the way, Thede delivered this excellent piece looking at Russian attempts to manipulate black American sentiment while finding a distinct style that satirizes the self-seriousness of investigative journalism while actually doing some good investigative journalism.
Samantha Bee Takes on Weinstein’s Sad Penis
Samantha Bee held a marquee event this year hosting an alternative White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but lost a little steam when it became clear that the actual proceedings would turn into its own alt-version after the job fell to Hasan Minhaj, who acquitted himself admirably. (Immigrants get the job done.) Her most memorable moment would come a little later, during the spate of sexual-assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. She makes the point that this isn’t a partisan issue (Weinstein was a high-profile donor for the Democrats), but rather, a dicks-in-power issue.
More Best of 2017
John Oliver on Confederate Monuments
Last Week Tonight, which won its second consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series this year, keeps up the good work: John Oliver is thorough without being pedantic, principled without feeling moralistic, and always, always funny. This year he’s covered a wide range of issues from net neutrality to the corporate consolidation of local news to the belief that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are “moderating influences” on Trump. But this piece on Confederate monuments is an excellent dissection of both white southerners’ desire to erase slavery from history while weaponizing statues (Fun fact: the biggest spikes happened during Reconstruction and the civilrights era!).
Jennifer Lawrence Interviews Kim Kardashian West
Celebrities interviewing celebrities can turn into tedious circle jerks, but Jennifer Lawrence is the Kardashian superfan perfectly suited to talk to Kim. She has her Jennifer Lawrence-ness dialed up, and it works to show a thoughtful, mature side of Kim Kardashian you rarely see on late night.
Tina Fey Stress-Eats Sheet Cake
It was hard to keep up with all of the bad things that happened this year, let alone figure out how to fight them. Tina Fey appeared on Weekend Update to show the boys just how she was coping with the news that neo-Nazis held violent rallies at her alma mater, the University of Virginia … terribly! She pointed out the stark difference between government treatment of protesters at Standing Rock and the white militiamen at Charlottesville while consuming an entire sheet cake. Let us all eat cake, goddamnit.
Amber Ruffin Says What
Late Night writer Amber Ruffin has been popping up in segments alongside Seth Meyers for a while now, including the excellent “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” but this solo segment, “Amber Says What,” has become the best showcase for her comedy so far. Whether it was questioning Blake Shelton’s status as the sexiest man alive, making fun of Jared Kushner’s voice, or reclaiming her time, Amber Ruffin covers the parts of pop culture Twitter loves most while exploring the multitude of the ways you can say What.
Jimmy Kimmel on Health Care
It all started when Jimmy Kimmel told an emotional story of how his infant son Billy had to have the first of multiple heart surgeries to survive. Even then, Kimmel related it back to a simple and democratic idea that all Americans, regardless of income, should have access to good, affordable health care. So when the GOP pushed to repeal Obamacare, the former host of The Man Show became the startling and passionate voice of populism on late night. When Kimmel said “this is not my area of expertise,” it wasn’t Jon Stewart–like demurring. It felt like a genuine attempt to understand what was going on. Best of all, Kimmel wasn’t afraid to throw down and call people liars, including one Republican senator, Bill Cassidy, to whom he posed the question, “Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand and you got caught with your G-O-Penis out?”
Tiffany Haddish and Her Swamp Tour
Where would 2017 be without Tiffany Haddish? Somewhere deep in the bowels of a lonely Louisiana swamp, no doubt. She was everywhere right when we needed her, first in a standout, Oscar-worthy performance in Girls Trip, and then Def Comedy Jam 25, Jay-Z’s “Moonlight” music video, SNL, and Taylor Swift’s dinner table. Her best moment on the couch though was her first: this anecdote where she tells Jimmy Kimmel about the time she took Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour. Girls Trip had yet to open in theaters, but it was clear that a star had been born.