Poetry Meets Politics in Photos of China

Liu Heung Shing looked outside the car window: an imposing portrait of Mao Zedong had disappeared from the east side of Tiananmen Square. It was 1981.

Mao loomed large that year as people gathered to watch the depositions of his political cronies, known as the Gang of Four, on state television. Earlier that autumn, before Mao’s portrait was removed from a history museum in Tiananmen Square, Mr. Liu photographed a skater gliding past a statue of Mao. The frozen faces of Communist leaders got a breath of fresh air in Mr. Liu’s photography: A Beijing resident in 2008 lined the facade of her house with the portraits of lionized figures, in plucky defiance of demolitions planned before the Summer Olympics.

“It’s very lucky that I could use the camera to do a kind of political reporting that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” Mr. Liu said. “That daily nitty-gritty about how Chinese live is primarily what interests me because I knew they would tell a bigger story.”

Mr. Liu’s new book of photographs, “A Life in a Sea of Red” (Steidl), starts after Mao’s death in 1976, spanning years of political upheaval in China and the Soviet Union. From the pro-democracy student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to Mikhail Gorbachev’s resignation in 1991, Mr. Liu captured turning points in history. But he was even more interested in the collision of politics and daily life.

At 24, his first assignment in China was to cover Mao’s funeral in 1976 — but visa restrictions thwarted his efforts to reach the capital in time. Stuck in Guangzhou, he photographed men wearing black mourning armbands practicing tai chi in the park. As he watched their arms and legs move languidly in the air, Mr. Liu predicted that the rest of the nation would soon ease up after the turbulence and tension of Mao’s rule.

The clash between the personal and the political was particularly stark in Mr. Liu’s most recognizable images from the military crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square. From a rooftop, he photographed a couple on a bicycle as they hid in a tunnel, tanks rumbling above. When injured students were rushed on rickshaws to a hospital, Mr. Liu cycled alongside, steering the handlebars with one hand and gripping his camera with the other.

“Of course we don’t forget the carnage of opening fire,” he said. “But never forget that people still live; daily life still goes on. It’s those details that tell you, under that period, this is what happened.”

Mr. Liu’s eye for the everyday was influenced by Magnum photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, but his earliest childhood memories in mainland China made him aware of the way politics could shape and disrupt the lives of ordinary people. Born in Hong Kong, he moved with his mother to join older siblings in Fuzhou, where the government had seized and subdivided his family’s courtyard home, redistributing sections of it to other residents. His family’s landowner status trailed him in the classroom, where he was singled out from children born to farmers and soldiers. His “political behavior” was never graded above C’s on report cards. When he returned to photograph mainland China after studying and apprenticing in New York, Mr. Liu was seen as an ethnically Chinese outsider and was even exhorted to recite Mao verses before receiving a haircut.

Mr. Liu said that his upbringing made him attuned to the expressions of dignity from people battered by political campaigns in China. In Russia, he covered protests, failed coups and the collapse of the Soviet Union, winning a Pulitzer Prize for spot photography in 1991 with his Associated Press colleagues. “Photographing China, and later Russia, was always about finding a means to convey the profound depths to which politics shaped ordinary lives, every life, no matter how much freedom was sought,” Mr. Liu wrote in an epilogue to his book.

Veering away from daily photojournalism in 1995, he began photographing the movie stars, musicians, modern artists and millionaires who made up China’s elite. Paying homage to Gjon Mili, known for dynamic portraits of Pablo Picasso painting with light, Mr. Liu photographed the artist Ai Weiwei tracing the characters for “freedom” with a flashlight after being released from police detention in 2012. In the final pages of the book, Mr. Liu placed portraits of the wealthy and the successful alongside those of the dispossessed.

Mr. Liu could also be subversively humorous in photographs that were less overtly political. Two coifed models in Beihai Park sauntered by a dowdily dressed woman bent forward reading on a lawn chair. Three young men in Yunnan Province gazed at the camera through reflective sunglasses and identical Mao caps. A bride rented a veil and a white wedding top in a seated portrait at a Beijing photo studio.

“When you live in a country, you have spring, autumn and winter,” Mr. Liu said. “You have that leisure to learn from all sorts of issues. These are the things that help you tell the story — so that China doesn’t come across as a very monolithic society.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/lens/liu-heung-shing-china-photos.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Rick Atkinson’s Savage American Revolution

THE BRITISH ARE COMING
The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777
By Rick Atkinson

My old mentor, Edmund Morgan, used to say that everything after 1800 is current events. According to Morgan’s Law, Rick Atkinson has been doing first-rate journalism, enjoying critical and commercial success for three masterly books on World War II, all thoroughly researched and splendidly written. To say that Atkinson can tell a story is like saying Sinatra can sing.

Now Atkinson has decided to move back in time past the Morgan Line, into that distant world where there are no witnesses to interview, no films of battles or photographs of the dead and dying. Visually, all we have are those paintings by John Trumbull, Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart, all of which are designed to memorialize iconic figures in patriotic scenes, where even dying men seem to be posing for posterity.

Undaunted, Atkinson makes his debut as a historian, determined to paint his own pictures with words. “The British Are Coming” is the first volume in a planned trilogy on the American Revolution that will match his Liberation Trilogy on World War II. It covers all the major battles and skirmishes from the spring of 1775 to the winter of 1776-77. There are 564 pages of text, 135 pages of endnotes, a 42-page bibliography and 24 full-page maps. Lurking behind all the assembled evidence, which Atkinson has somehow managed to read and digest in a remarkably short period of time, is a novelistic imagination that verges on the cinematic. Historians of the American Revolution take note. Atkinson is coming.

[ This book was one of our most anticipated titles of May. See the full list. ]

He brings with him a Tolstoyan view of war; that is, he presumes war can be understood only by recovering the experience of ordinary men and women caught in the crucible of orchestrated violence beyond their control or comprehension. Here, for example, is Atkinson on Benedict Arnold’s trek with his small army through the Maine wilderness during the ill-fated campaign to capture Quebec, which earned Arnold the title of “American Hannibal” for a feat likened to crossing the Alps with elephants:

“Hemlock and spruce crowded the riverbanks, and autumn colors smeared the hillsides. But soon the land grew poor, with little game to be seen. Ticonic Falls was the first of four cataracts on the Kennebec, and the first of many portages that required lugging bateaux, supplies and muskets for miles over terrain ever more vertical, from sea level they would climb 1,400 feet. ‘This place,’ one officer wrote as they rigged ropes and pulleys, ‘is almost perpendicular.’ Sickness set in — ‘a sad plight with the diarrhea,’ noted Dr. Isaac Senter, the expedition surgeon — followed by the first deaths, from pneumonia, a falling tree, an errant gunshot.”

It is as if Ken Burns somehow gained access to a time machine, traveled back to the Revolutionary era, then captured historical scenes on film as they were happening. At times, Atkinson’s you-are-there style is so visually compelling, so realistic, that skeptical souls in the historical profession might wonder if he has crossed the line that separates nonfiction from fiction. How can he possibly know how the sky looked at Concord Bridge? The sound that ice made as it scraped the boats as Washington crossed the Delaware? Whether Gen. William Howe’s boots were soaked with blood as he walked over the dead and wounded bodies on his way up Breed’s Hill?

The answer is in those almost endless endnotes. Based on my spot-checking of the sources, Atkinson has put his imagination on a very long leash, but it always remains tethered to the evidence. He is not a historical novelist, but rather a strikingly imaginative historian.

Although he is less interested in making an argument than telling a story, the story he tells is designed to rescue the American Revolution from the sentimental stereotypes and bring it to life as an ugly, savage, often barbaric war. Unlike in World War II, most of the killing occurred up close. Advancing troops could literally see the whites of the eyes on the other side, as well as hear horses and men dying in agony. “A man 5 feet, 8 inches tall,” Atkinson observes, “had an exterior surface of 2,550 square inches, of which a thousand were exposed to gunfire when he was facing an enemy frontally at close range.” If he was hit in the torso, his chances of dying were more than 50 percent.

As a result, a larger portion of the population died in the American Revolution than any conflict in American history save the Civil War. Part of the reason was disease; the war coincided with a raging smallpox epidemic. In addition, captured American prisoners had appoximately a 10 percent survival rate; the British were more barbaric in their treatment of prisoners of war than the Japanese in World War II. Instead of a Trumbull, the American Revolution needed a Goya.

Along the way Atkinson provides a steady flow of factual tidbits of the “did you know?” sort. For example, that the recipe for saltpeter, a prime ingredient for gunpowder, was bird dung mixed with urine; that the British Army at full strength required 37 tons of food a day; that one-quarter of the Hessian troops stationed in America decided to remain after the war; that the American obsession with Canada reflected the widespread assumption that it was destined to become the 14th state in the Union; that General Howe’s alleged American mistress, Betsy Loring, was a blond beauty British troops named “Sultana” for her nonchalant demeanor while drinking Howe under the table.

Notice that there is a 15-month gap between the start of the war in April of 1775 and the American declaration of independence in July of 1776. Bunker Hill, the bloodiest battle of the entire war, occurred over a year before a sufficient consensus emerged in the Continental Congress to leave the British Empire. Atkinson pays only passing attention to this political side of the Revolutionary story, devoting more space to the policymakers in London than their counterparts in Philadelphia. His title actually enjoys larger significance than Atkinson lets on, because the decisive factor in converting reluctant patriots to what was called “the Cause” was the looming British invasion in New York. By the summer of 1776 constitutional arguments had become irrelevant. The British Army and their Hessian mercenaries were coming to kill them, destroy their homes and rape their women.

There was also a silent war of considerable significance going on during the interlude between the first shots fired at Lexington and the official commitment to American independence. Atkinson notices it in passing on several occasions, but I hope he will give it the attention it deserves in subsequent volumes. Up and down the Atlantic coast, in every colony, county, town and hamlet, the American resistance movement seized control of the local institutions of governance, requiring oaths of allegiance from all residents, forcing all reluctant revolutionaries to convert and all loyalists to leave. This was not war in the conventional sense of the term, but it was the ultimate reason the British Army was destined to discover that it was on a fool’s errand. As Thomas Paine put it to Adm. Richard Howe: “In all the wars which you have formerly been concerned in, you had only armies to contend with. In this case, you have both an army and a country to combat.”

These caveats are not intended to deter readers, but rather to welcome Atkinson into the fraternity of historians. We are a contentious club of men and women who love to argue with one another. “The British Are Coming” is a major addition to that ongoing argument. A powerful new voice has been added to the dialogue about our origins as a people and a nation. It is difficult to imagine any reader putting this beguiling book down without a smile and a tear.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/11/books/review/rick-atkinson-the-british-are-coming.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

5 Cheap(ish) Things to Make the Perfect Pie

About six weeks ago, a friend of mine convinced me to enter a local pie contest. I cannonballed into the challenge and discovered that my years acquiring better kitchen tools have really paid off. By the time the contest rolled round, I had made 12 of my salted cashew caramel apple pies, each time tweaking a few variables — ingredients, temperature, time — to perfect my recipe.

The one constant were the tools I used. Making a great pie doesn’t take a lot of fancy equipment, but it does take some practice. The more comfortable you can get with the tools you own, the more you can spend time perfecting flavor rather than worrying about technique.

If you’re a pie noob, Melissa Clark’s guide to making pie crust is a great place to start. She offers some genius tips, like her suggestion of using uncooked rice or dried beans (laid on a sheet of protective parchment paper or foil) as pie weights while blind-baking a bottom crust. I’ve added that to my piemaking tool kit alongside five other cheap (ish) things for upping my pie prowess. This collection was made in collaboration with Wirecutter, a New York Times Company that reviews and recommends products.

Pie pan

I own five pie pans for different kinds of pies. I use glass for shallow pies at low heat, and metal for blind-baked crusts that need to get extra brown. But my ceramic plate splits the difference: These tend to be deep dish and versatile enough for both high-heat fruit pies and slow-bake custard pies. Wirecutter recommends the Emile Henry 9-inch pie dish, which comes in classic oven-to-table colors, with a fluted lip for pretty edges.

Grater

If you don’t have a food processor, which I didn’t own for years, my favorite way to get butter into the right size chunks is by grating frozen sticks with a cheese grater, a method I first discovered through Cook’s Illustrated. This also works really well with vegan fats like Earth Balance and shortening, which can go soft faster than butter. Wirecutter recommends the Cuisipro Surface Glide, which has sharp, etched teeth for shredding rock solid butter well before it has a chance to melt.

Bench scraper

The trick to a flaky pie crust is to keep the flattened butter intact so you get layers instead of a crumbly crackerlike crust. This cheap tool is a kitchen workhorse that can help you lift a pie crust that’s sticking to your counter without warming it with your hands. Wirecutter recommends the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Multi-Purpose Scraper & Chopper, which is a generous six inches wide.

Rolling pin

Using a wide, heavy pin with a long, flat middle and no handles is a revelation, because crust rolls out more evenly and more quickly — crucial when you’re trying to work the dough as little as possible. Wirecutter recommends a Whetstone Woodenware pin handmade from hard maple in Indiana. It’s a little unwieldy and tricky to store because it’s so big, but once you get used to it, other pins feel like toys by comparison.

Scale

A digital scale will absolutely change how consistently good your pie is, not to mention your coffee, cakes or anything you put in the oven. With pies, whether a heavy-handed cup of flour or a too-fluffy cup of flour is used makes all the difference between a tough crust and a greasy dough. (Though you’ll still want to use a measuring spoon for the smaller amounts for ingredients like salt and spices.) Wirecutter recommends the incredibly affordable Escali Primo Digital Scale, which reads quickly in increments of one gram or 0.05 ounces.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/16/smarter-living/5-cheap-ish-things-to-make-the-perfect-pie.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

In Search of Ancient Morocco

THE THEME OF exile and absence followed us to Taroudant, which sat in the shadow of the Atlas, now just a violet outline, 140 miles southwest of Marrakesh. It had been a surreal journey, in which I had let people and experiences come to me, as they would, resisting nothing. And it was to take one last surreal turn. My Persian friend in New York, who had first told me of the Draa, was an intimate of the last empress of Iran, Farah Pahlavi. As I entered my fifth day of being filthy and unshaven, with scarcely a clean T-shirt let alone a jacket or formal shoes, I received a direct message from him: “I was just contacted by H.M. Queen Farah, and she asked you to come to dinner tomorrow.”

A discreetly lit blue door led into a pleasure garden where night-blooming jasmine wafted through the night air. In a great room, decorated with candlesticks of dull brass and ostrich eggs in bowls, a fire burned on one end and a floodlit swimming pool was visible through glass doors. A phalanx of silver-framed photographs of the last Shah of Iran was arranged along a sideboard. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his wife Farah had left Iran in 1979 after the Islamic revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power forced them out. The shah died soon after of cancer, while Farah began a long exile in Egypt, the United States and Paris. She bought her mud-brick house in Taroudant, where she came several times a year, because it reminded her of the country to which she longed to return. Soon the shahbanu-in-exile (“shahbanu,” which means “empress” in Persian, was created expressly for Farah) would appear, still radiant at 80, with black ribbons in her gold hair and corals on her neck. Soon there would be a wonderful dinner, full of friends and family, where talk would turn inexorably to exile and revolution and elites pushed out of countries that were changing too fast. Soon, over a table laden with Persian rice, the last empress of Iran would turn to me and say, “In exile, food becomes important.” Soon Mowgli, Her Majesty’s King Charles spaniel, would shower me in kisses. Soon I would be left with an odd feeling of melancholy at having met one of the legendary figures of the 20th century, this lady who retained an almost girlish sense of innocence and humor, despite having lived through the loss of countries and children, and more experience than several lifetimes could encompass. Soon there would be all this, but before I walked through that door and civilization returned with all its force, I found it hard to let go of the image of that other door to the Sahara in Dar Paru.

My Persian friend in New York had spoken of the persistence of magic in Morocco, and of a sphere where the old gods were yet to be overthrown. In Taroudant, I knew I would be leaving this sphere behind me, climbing up into the mountains, back into the bled al-makhzen, the region of law. The world of Islam would return, grafted thinly upon a core of older belief — what Wharton calls the “old stone and animal worship, and all the gross fetichistic [sic] beliefs from which Mahomet dreamed of freeing Africa.” Even from the great mosque at Tinmel, once the Almohad capital, it would be impossible to re-enter the feeling I still had as I stood in that great house on the other side of the Atlas.

It was a feeling of vacancy, of being emptied out by the desert. The silence we had come out of — and which made Azzdine exclaim, “Le radio enfin,” as a remix of “Bella Ciao” blared, announcing our arrival in Taroudant — was fading. Variety had returned, erasing the shattering sameness of the plain against which every little tomb and tree was amplified into a focusing point for the eye and the spirit. For one brief moment, I stood in a liminal place. Ahead was a door to a brightly lit room full of laughter and cheer; behind me was Paru’s door to the Sahara; and all around me, in my bones, I knew, as perhaps I may never know again, the power of the desert as a spiritual resource. I am not a spiritual person; I am devoted to concrete reality. And it frightened me. I had an intimation of the fragility of the bled al-makhzen — the sphere men create to keep at a safe distance the perturbation beyond, should one step through the wrong open door.

Local Production by Fred Fantun.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/t-magazine/morocco-travel-draa-valley.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Stem Cell Treatments Flourish With Little Evidence That They Work

The company’s website, loaded with impressive videos and testimonials from patients, is a major draw for aging gym rats searching the internet for relief from sore knees, shoulders, hips and backs.

Through the website, Dr. Centeno regularly criticizes other stem cell businesses, and has acted as an expert witness for injured patients suing his competitors.

The company did run afoul of the F.D.A. in 2008 over its use of cells cultured and multiplied in a lab to increase the stem cell count. After a protracted legal battle, Regenexx quit using that technique in the United States, but began offering it at a clinic on Grand Cayman.

“This has always been about creating a less invasive orthopedic solution, what I call interventional orthopedics,” Dr. Centeno said. He predicts a sea change in orthopedics similar to the revolution in cardiology, where much open-heart surgery was replaced by less invasive procedures.

While regulators may not consider them high risk, stem cell treatments involving bone marrow are not trivial. Collecting bone marrow involves forcefully puncturing the back of the hip bones in several spots, a painful process that requires local anesthesia. Then, pressure is applied to prevent bleeding, and the sites are bandaged to prevent infection.

Injecting the bone marrow or platelet extracts into the knee takes skill, even with X-rays to guide the needle. The injections can cause pain and irritation, and patients are usually sent home with leg braces that they will wear for a few weeks.

Sterile techniques are essential.

“Whenever injections are administered to the joint, there is always a risk of introducing infection,” said Dr. Kiran M. Perkins, who has investigated such illnesses at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With stem cell treatments, she added, “there are a lot of steps along the way where something could go wrong and you could have the introduction of microorganisms.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/13/health/stem-cells-fda.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

These Days, It’s Not About the Polar Bears

Climate science has struggled mightily with a messaging problem.

The well-worn tactic of hitting people over the head with scary climate change facts has proved inadequate at changing behavior or policies in ways big enough to alter the course of global warming.

While Europe has made some headway, the largest obstacles to change remain in the United States, which has historically been responsible for more emissions than any other country. And perhaps most important, climate change denial has secured a perch in the Trump administration and across the Republican Party.

Enter the fast-growing academic field of climate change communication. Across a swath of mostly Western nations, social scientists in fields like psychology, political science, sociology and communications studies have produced an expansive volume of peer-reviewed papers — more than 1,000 annually since 2014 — in an effort to cultivate more effective methods for getting the global warming message across and inspiring action.

While recent polls have shown an increase in the percentage of people who describe themselves as worried about climate change, experts say not enough people have been motivated to act.

“The main reason people reject the science of climate change is because they reject what they perceive to be the solutions: total government control, loss of personal liberties, destruction of the economy,” said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.

“But ironically, what motivates people to care and to act is an awareness of the genuine solutions: a new clean-energy future, improving our standard of living, and building local jobs and the local economy.”

Social-science investigators have found that the most effective tools for engaging the public in the subject of climate change are those that appeal to core human tendencies. For example, people tend to focus on personal and local problems happening now, which means talk of the last remaining polar bears stranded on shrinking icebergs, far from most people, is out.

The best climate-related appeals are not a collection of statistics, but those that target people’s affinity for compelling stories. They also work best if they avoid fear-based messaging (which can cause a head-in-the-sand effect) and provide a sense that individuals can affect the environment in a personal and positive way — by updating to energy-efficient appliances, for example, or eating less meat, given meat production’s heavy carbon footprint.

But these efforts at persuasion are up against a well-financed opposition.

In the United States from 2000 to 2016, major carbon-emitting industries spent more than $1.35 billion lobbying members of Congress on climate change legislation. They outspent environmental groups and renewable energy companies by 10 to 1, according to a paper last year in the journal Climate Change by Robert J. Brulle, an environmental sociologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

A 2015 paper by Bruce Tranter, a sociologist at the University of Tasmania, analyzed 14 Western nations and identified an association between a country’s per capita carbon footprint and the prevalence of climate science skepticism among its citizens.

And in a recent study published in Nature Climate Change, Matthew J. Hornsey, a social psychologist at the University of Queensland, found that nations that had the strongest relationship between political conservatism and climate science skepticism tended to be those with economies more highly dependent on the fossil fuel industry, including the United States, Australia, Canada and Brazil.

At the vanguard of the social-science-based response to such doubt is a pair of centers for climate change communications research at George Mason University and Yale University.

These research hubs just released new polling data indicating that 96 percent of liberal Democrats and 32 percent of conservative Republicans support the Green New Deal — a public-opinion gap that widened by 28 percentage points between December and April as awareness about the proposed legislation grew.

In 2009, the two climate labs produced the highly regarded “Six Americas” report, which identified six different groups of Americans who represented the range of public opinion on climate change.

On one end of the spectrum are the “alarmed,” who are the most certain, and most concerned, about human-driven global warming. They’re also the most motivated to act to protect the climate. On the other end of the spectrum are the “dismissives,” who, as their name suggests, are least likely to accept or care about climate change. Between the two polarities are “concerned,” “cautious,” “disengaged” and “doubtful.”

The report has been updated repeatedly since its release and is often used by climate communication researchers to tailor their efforts to each demographic.

One such operation is the nonprofit Climate Outreach, based in Oxford, England. It recently issued a handbook that uses social science research to help climate scientists become better public champions of their own work.

Climate Outreach has also tapped into research that has identified especially effective visual techniques for communicating about climate change.

For example, authentic photos of people actively engaged in global-warming mitigation — such as community members installing solar panels on a roof — are far more resonant than, say, images of politicians at the lectern of a climate conference. So Climate Outreach started Climate Visuals, an open library of research-tested, impactful images.

Major environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are also looking to social science to inform how they communicate about climate change, including their choice of imagery, as are federal agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), according to the agencies’ representatives.

Edward W. Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, has recruited an ever-expanding army to speak about climate science to the masses. His research revealed that the public puts particularly high trust in local TV weathercasters and health care providers as sources about climate science. So over the past decade, Dr. Maibach’s team enlisted 625 on-air meteorologists to give newscasts that help viewers connect the dots between climate change and hometown weather.

Another member of the George Mason team, John Cook, is one of various global academics working with a teaching method known as “inoculation,” which is a preventive strategy grounded in the finding that it can be very difficult to extract misinformation once it has lodged in the brain.

Dr. Cook has designed a high school curriculum as well as a popular online course that presents students first with facts and then a myth about climate change; the students are then asked to resolve the conflict.

In Europe, Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge, codesigned an inoculation-based online game with doctoral researcher Jon Roozenbeek.

The game was designed to help its hundreds of thousands of players become better consumers of climate-related information.

“We’re trying,” Dr. van der Linden said, “to help people help themselves and navigate this post-truth environment.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/climate/climate-solutions-polar-bears.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Elia Suleiman Makes His Way Back to Cannes

For over two decades, the Nazareth-born filmmaker Elia Suleiman has made movies that reflect his experience of history. For a Palestinian like Mr. Suleiman, that often means addressing the long-running Arab-Israeli conflicts. Yet as a longtime nomad, he never intends for his films to stay in one place or to be about one thing.

“I never put a border on where the cinema is going to travel. I never made anything that has to do with just addressing one people,” he said in a phone interview from Berlin, where he was polishing his new film, “It Must Be Heaven,” which will have its premiere at the equally globe-trotting Cannes Film Festival.

Mr. Suleiman’s work is distinguished by its comedic outlook on fraught events. His last feature, “The Time That Remains,” traces the travails of a Nazareth family (based on the director’s own) in the second half of the tragically eventful 20th century.

“Imagine a heroic poem boiled down to a flurry of witty epigrams,” the critic A.O. Scott wrote in his New York Times review. Mr. Suleiman’s deadpan vignettes and self-casting have also earned him comparisons with Buster Keaton.

In “It Must Be Heaven,” the filmmaker plays a man who leaves Palestine and journeys to Paris and New York. But no matter where he goes, the hapless traveler (identified as “E.S.”) can’t leave behind his old home or settle fully into a new one. The character’s story of displacement resonates beyond Palestine and captures a despair felt across the globe, with a healthy dose of humor.

“This is my funniest film so far. So that tells you the world is really in a terrible state,” Mr. Suleiman said, only half-joking.

“It Must Be Heaven” is one of the many intriguing films in the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival, which runs Tuesday through May 25. The official selection showcases 57 new feature films, as well as shorts and revived classics.

As Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s director, said of the Cannes slate at the opening news conference, the cast of thousands on screen includes singers, police, zombies, Americans, painters, parasites, judges, Mafiosi, the unemployed and migrants.

Those zombies stalk the festival’s opener, “The Dead Don’t Die,” directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny and Tilda Swinton. Mr. Jarmusch’s film is one of the titles with the highest international profile, but the festival received its biggest boost with the late addition of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie.

The two films, as well as Mr. Suleiman’s, testify to the continued pre-eminence of auteur-driven cinema at Cannes. Each edition tends to rise or fall with the works of directors known for uncompromising visions and stylistic verve.

In 2019, their ranks include “Pain and Glory,” Pedro Almodóvar’s personally resonant movie about a filmmaker; “Parasite,” from Bong Joon-ho, who appeared in competition just two years ago with “Okja,” a Netflix production; “Young Ahmed,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s look at a radicalized student; Ira Sachs’s “Frankie,” starring Isabelle Huppert in a family reunion story; “The Whistlers,” a curious crime tale from the Romanian trickster Corneliu Porumboiu; and Céline Sciamma’s period drama “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”

Like “It Must Be Heaven,” Mr. Bong’s “Parasite” speaks to the tensions of our times through the intertwined fates of two families, one rich and one poor. Income polarization percolates as a universal theme within the film, but the Korean director leaves his own stamp.

“The film more focuses on psychology and the subtle and delicate ways in which these characters work internally,” Mr. Bong said in a phone interview. He recalled visiting a “very rich family” 30 years ago when he worked as a tutor in college. “I felt this very eerie feeling from their house, this austere atmosphere that surrounded me, and that appears in the film as well.”

Three elder statesmen of cinema are also part of the new edition. Ken Loach, one of a few past Palme d’Or prizewinners in the lineup (for 2016’s “I, Daniel Blake”), returns with “Sorry We Missed You,” about a couple struggling with debt. Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor” (much anticipated by Mr. Bong) remembers Tommaso Buscetta, the Italian gangster who turned informant in the 1980s.

And Terrence Malick, who still exerts a near-mystical hold on many cinephiles, tells the story of an Austrian conscientious objector in World War II in “A Hidden Life.”

Among the festival’s younger entrants are Mati Diop with “Atlantics,” Ladj Ly with “Les Misérables” and Ms. Sciamma, whose “Girlhood” opened the Directors’ Fortnight in 2014. In Ms. Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” an artist in the 1770s is commissioned to paint the portrait of a bride-to-be, whom she must observe at length.

The story shines a light on the neglected legacy of female painters but is especially invested in the intimate interaction between an artist and her subject.

“I really wanted to write a love story with equality. You’re watching characters thinking together, building up a language of their own,” Ms. Sciamma said in a phone interview.

Ms. Sciamma joins a hit parade of directors that other festivals would love to boast in their lineups: Arnaud Desplechin, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Patricio Guzmán, Jessica Hausner, Werner Herzog, Gaspar Noé, Albert Serra, Lav Diaz.

The voracious international scope strikes anyone who attends Cannes, whether audiences or filmmakers.

One relative newcomer, Annie Silverstein, returns to the festival with her feature “Bull” and recalls the reaction when she showed a short in the Cinéfondation section a few years ago.

“People were really interested in seeing part of an America that they hadn’t seen before in cinema. I felt like the specificity to a place and a people was very important to them,” Ms. Silverstein, who is based in Austin, Tex., said in a phone interview. “And I think that’s true for the films from all over the world that play there.”

In an era overshadowed by avenging blockbusters and fatigued by the steady drumbeat of political upheaval worldwide, the international appeal of Cannes and its artistic brio seem unlikely to fade soon.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/13/arts/elia-suleiman-cannes-film-festival.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Why Apollo 10 Stopped Just 47,000 Feet From the Moon

Soon we will recognize the 50th anniversary of the first humans to walk on the moon.

We remember and celebrate the heroism of the Apollo 11 crew: the humility of Neil Armstrong making those first bootprints; the cool bravado of Buzz Aldrin during the critical moments of the Eagle lander’s final descent; and, the lonely vigil of Michael Collins in orbit above his mates, waiting to bring them back home.

But we also need to celebrate the many pathfinders who made this historic mission possible. Among the most critical were the crew of Apollo 10, who were asked to perform a full dress-rehearsal of the Apollo 11 mission just two months beforehand. Commander Thomas P. Stafford; John W. Young, the command module pilot; and Eugene A. Cernan, lunar module pilot, did almost everything that Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins did, but they stopped just before landing on the moon.

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Imagine if Ferdinand and Isabella had sent a ship to the New World in 1491 and asked its captain and crew to find new lands to the west without getting out of the ship to set foot on them, because the next captain and crew were scheduled to do that in 1492.

Or picture President Thomas Jefferson sending a party to scout passage to the Pacific Ocean in 1803, then saying, don’t touch a thing, especially not the ocean — because Lewis and Clark are scheduled to do that the following year.

It seems unfathomable, to go all that way, to take all of those risks and then pull back, not grabbing the brass ring and reaping the rewards. In a sense, though, those were the instructions, and that was the burden, borne by the relatively unheralded crew of Apollo 10 fifty years ago this month.

Spurred by President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 speech challenging the nation to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” NASA went on an 8-year lunar sprint. This bold endeavor would employ close to a half million engineers, technicians, scientists and others both in government and industry. It also cost the lives of three heroic astronauts — Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee — who perished in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire.

Successive Apollo flights had to become both safer and more daring at the same time to meet Kennedy’s deadline. Delays in the completion of the lunar lander, also known as the Lunar Excursion Module, meant that Apollo 8 would be the first crewed lunar mission to fly the command module only, from which 1968’s famed “Earthrise” photo was taken. It fell to the crew of Apollo 9 in March 1969, to fly the first test mission of the lander into space, spending 10 days in Earth orbit.

The stage was set, then for a full dress rehearsal by the next crew to the launchpad. Apollo 10’s officers had all earned astronaut wings during Project Gemini, NASA’s precursor to Apollo. Their mission aboard was simple: Practice and work out the kinks and set the stage for a successful landing on the moon (and safe return to Earth).

But there was one critical order: don’t actually land on the moon.

It would be the first time the moon lander was flown in the environment for which it was built. All of the risks that they would take to prove out the equipment and procedures — launching; Earth-orbital docking; the three-day Earth to Moon cruise; lunar orbit undocking; descent of the lander nicknamed Snoopy almost to the surface; reascending and re-docking; three more days back to Earth; then a Pacific Ocean splashdown — were the same risks the Apollo 11 crew would have to take, with one distinction. A moon landing was not to be.

They executed the rehearsal flawlessly. While Young circled above them in the command and service module nicknamed Charlie Brown, Stafford and Cernan undocked for their descent toward the landing site in the smooth, dark volcanic plains of the Sea of Tranquillity.

“You’ll never know how big this thing is when there ain’t nobody in here but one guy,” Young told his departing friends from his lonely outpost. As they began to fall toward the surface, Cernan quipped back, “You’ll never know how small it looks when you’re as far away as we are.”

They would eventually guide the lander to within only about 47,000 feet above the surface — close enough to test the landing radar and around the same maximum altitude of commercial aircraft above Earth’s surface. While relaying their reactions and perspective back to Young aboard Charlie Brown, Cernan called out, “Oh Charlie! We just saw Earthrise and it’s got to be magnificent!”

The view of the stark lunar landscape below them from that altitude, scarred by billions of years of impact cratering, was just as stunning to the crew. Transcripts of their conversations reveal that they didn’t have much free time to admire it though, given the intense concentration (and occasional computer glitch repair) needed to fly Snoopy.

Still, at one point Stafford remarked, “It looks like we’re getting so close all you have to do is put your tail hook down and we’re there.” Cernan was just as excited, exclaiming, “We are close, babe! This is, like, it!”

Snapping photos out the window and noting the many boulders that they could clearly see, Stafford proclaimed, “Tell Jack Schmitt,” referring to their geologist-astronaut colleague and future Apollo 17 moon walker, “that there’s enough boulders down here to fill up Galveston Bay too!”

What ran through their minds when the command finally came from Houston to fire the ascent engine and head back up? It must have been so tempting to go for a landing. Cernan was wistful: “The spacecraft is looking good and there are no problems, Charlie, except it would be nice to be around here more often …”

But Snoopy didn’t have enough fuel to land on the moon and then blast off again. According to Craig Nelson, author of the book “Rocket Men,” Cernan speculated that the lander’s ascent module had been short-fueled on purpose: “A lot of people thought about the kind of people we were: ‘Don’t give those guys an opportunity to land, ‘cause they might!’”

Two months later as the entire world looked on, human footsteps were at last emblazoned on the dusty surface of the moon by Neil and Buzz.

The willingness of the Apollo 10 crew to serve as something like stand-ins instead of the stars of the show would in time be generously rewarded by NASA.

Young descended those final few miles to the moon’s surface as commander of Apollo 16, and later commanded the first flight of the space shuttle. Cernan, too, made it to the surface as the commander of Apollo 17 in 1972, and is still the last person to have walked on the moon.

Although Stafford never again returned to the moon, he was the American commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, docking with Soviet counterparts in Earth orbit in a joint effort to redirect the space race toward an emerging détente between the world’s superpowers.

In the annals of history, the mission of Apollo 10 has been overshadowed by later journeys to the lunar surface. But the astronauts of Apollo 10 were trailblazers, and their story adds richness and humanity to the history of the race to the moon. Their achievements, and the risks that they took to help America to win that sprint, deserve to be remembered and celebrated.

___________

Jim Bell is a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and president of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest public space advocacy organization. His most recent book is “The Earth Book” (Sterling, 2019), a photo-rich history of Earth Science.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/13/science/apollo-10-moon-nasa.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

As Far Right Rises, a Battle Over Security Agencies Grows

VIENNA — As well as anyone, Sybille Geissler knows the threats from Austria’s far-right extremists, who in recent weeks have likened migrants to rats and blithely defended campaign material that evokes Nazi propaganda.

For over 12 years, she has led the anti-extremism unit of the domestic intelligence service, and recently testified in a parliamentary inquiry into whether the far right was trying to undermine her agency.

Her biggest challenge these days, her testimony suggests, is that the far right is part of her own government.

Shortly after the far-right Freedom Party joined the government 17 months ago, taking over the powerful Interior Ministry, the ministry’s top official asked Ms. Geissler and her boss to turn over the names of informants who had infiltrated the far-right scene.

They refused. Just weeks later, armed police burst into her office and carted away years’ worth of domestic files as well as intelligence from allied nations.

The consequences continue to reverberate through the country’s politics and beyond, and have made Austria an important test of what happens when the far right moves from the political fringe to the halls of power.

Across Europe, nationalist and hard-right parties are ascendant. They dominate the governments of Hungary and Poland, while in Austria, Italy and most recently Estonia, they are junior partners in governing coalitions.

In Denmark, the far right exerts influence over the conservative minority government and even in Germany, where the far right remains locked out of power for now, it has risen to become the main opposition party in Parliament and is represented in every state legislature.

Where nationalists are in government, they have gravitated toward key portfolios, like the interior ministry, that offer influence over law-and-order issues and immigration.

In the case of Austria, that has meant outsize power over the state security apparatus, much of whose mission has long been to monitor threats from neo-Nazis to the country’s Constitution.

Hints of the same struggle have been evident even in Germany, where the domestic intelligence chief was removed last year over questions of whether he was too sympathetic to the far right to effectively monitor its links to neo-Nazi groups.

“What you’re seeing in Austria is what we’ve seen in different corners of Europe — an assault on independent institutions, the separation of powers and the rule of law,” said Yascha Mounk, an expert on populism and the author of “The People vs. Democracy.”

“The Freedom Party plainly believes that the security apparatus should serve its worldview, and that is dangerous,” he added. “It is testing Austria’s checks and balances.”

In far-right circles, the vaunted day neo-Nazis take power in a putsch is heralded as “Day X.” For some, like Ms. Geissler, that day is less fantastical than it may seem.

“I have to honestly say, since I have been working in the far-right extremism area for a very long time and have a lot of information, my first thought was: This is it, it’s Day X,” she recalled in a parliamentary hearing last year, describing the raid.

Indeed, Vienna, a famed hub of international spy intrigues during the Cold War, is back at the center of a battle between liberal Western ideas and extremist forces increasingly allied across European borders.

Austrian intelligence officials say the fallout is already being felt.

Inside the agency, senior operatives described a situation in which they now find themselves protecting informants and information not only from hostile states — but from members of their own government.

Even European allies and the United States, they say, have begun excluding Austria from certain intelligence sharing, wary of the far right’s extensive international network and in particular its sympathies toward Russia.

“We think very carefully about what we share with our Austrian partners because we can’t be sure where the information will end up,” one senior European intelligence official said in an interview.

Such concerns gained urgency in recent weeks after it emerged that the avowed extremist charged with killing 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, had donated money to the Austrian spokesman of Generation Identity, a far-right youth movement.

Austria’s young chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, 32, has promised a thorough investigation of any links, financial or inspirational. Yet some wonder whether his government can — or even wants to — carry out that task.

Mr. Kurz led his conservative Austrian People’s Party to victory in elections in 2017 by giving a youthful and more elegant repackaging to much of the agenda of the far-right Freedom Party, which he then invited into a coalition government. He still depends on their support.

The Freedom Party’s ties to far-right extremists, including Generation Identity, which is under investigation by several European intelligence services, are well documented. The intelligence service last year compiled a list of 374 members of the movement based on donations, including several active members of the Freedom Party.

One recent investigation identified at least 48 Freedom Party politicians or employees with links to Generation Identity. At least four ministries controlled by the Freedom Party, including the Foreign, Defense and Interior Ministries, have employed extremists, according to the investigation by SOS Mitmensch, a nonprofit organization.

And their ideas are influencing policy: Last fall, Mr. Kurz unexpectedly withdrew Austria’s support for the United Nations pact on migration after Generation Identity activists had campaigned against it.

“The march through the institutions appears a lot more deliberate than expected,” said Christian Strohal, a former Austrian ambassador.

Peter Pilz, an opposition lawmaker and a member of the parliamentary inquiry, believes it is a calculated advance. “They are systematically putting their people in strategic positions,” he said.

Mr. Kurz’s fans say that by bringing the far right into government the chancellor is domesticating it. Critics, even in his own camp, contend that he is enabling and sanitizing it.

“Sebastian Kurz has made the far right socially acceptable,” said Reinhold Mitterlehner, a former vice chancellor and fellow conservative.

In an interview in his majestic wood-paneled Vienna offices, Mr. Kurz said he stood by his decision to bring the Freedom Party into the government.

He rejected the idea that the raid had been politically motivated, though he himself now wants direct reports from the director of intelligence, bypassing his own interior minister.

“I believe in our justice system,” he insisted.

He also said the Freedom Party’s links to Russia were overstated and that he was satisfied the party was cutting all its ties with Generation Identity. “I have clearly set out my red line,” Mr. Kurz said.

Yet asked about Mr. Kurz’s red line, one senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, zigzagged his finger across the table in a demonstration of what it looks like.

Just in recent weeks, one Freedom Party official published a poem likening migrants to rats. Another demanded the removal of a television news anchor on Austria’s public broadcaster who had challenged him about a campaign poster many saw as reminiscent of Nazi propaganda.

In recent days, Mr. Kurz’s deputy chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the Freedom Party and a onetime neo-Nazi, called the notion of “the great replacement” of Europeans by migrants a “reality,” echoing the flagship conspiracy theory promoted by Generation Identity — and the manifesto of the New Zealand shooter.

The raid on the country’s own intelligence service in February 2018 took place after it had emerged that a far-right fraternity, co-run by one of the party’s rising stars, was using a songbook with brutally anti-Semitic lyrics.

The inventory of confiscated material, seen by The New York Times, was long. Officers from a street crime unit led by a Freedom Party ally took everything from personal cellphones to a DVD titled “Gina Wild — In the Frenzy of Orgasm,” a pornography film.

They also took copies of hard drives, containing years’ worth of classified information received from foreign intelligence services, and the Neptune software used for classified exchanges.

It was not long before Ms. Geissler, the chief of the extremism unit, detected the first signs that Austria was being kept at arm’s length by allied agencies.

In May of last year, a colleague was disinvited from a European meeting about Generation Identity two hours before he was due to head to the airport.

Last September, Ms. Geissler herself attended a meeting and realized that several sessions had taken place without her. “I asked why we hadn’t got the information,” she recalled for a parliamentary hearing. “I was told concretely: ‘We weren’t allowed to make contact with you.’”

And last July, Austria was excluded from a Europe-wide tracing request for a Russian diplomat suspected of being a spy. The Finnish intelligence service sent a note to other members of the Club of Bern, the informal forum for Europe’s intelligence services, pointedly marked: “Except Austria.”

The Freedom Party has a cooperation agreement with President Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia party and last summer, the Freedom Party-backed foreign minister invited Mr. Putin to her wedding.

Asked in a closed hearing which foreign services had expressed concern that there was a danger of leaks to Russia, Peter Gridling, the head of the intelligence agency, listed them one by one: “U.S.A., England, Netherlands, Germany.”

To avoid formal exclusion, Mr. Gridling has pulled his agency out of all working groups. But the flow of meaningful information has largely dried up.

“The Freedom Party is jeopardizing the integrity of the national security services and thus the security of the republic,” said Stephanie Krisper, a lawmaker for the liberal Neos party and a member of the inquiry into the raid.

For now, the tug of war between the far right and Austria’s checks and balances continues.

Ms. Geissler, who has been urged to take early retirement or transfer to a different department, like “sports,” has refused to go. She declined to give an interview. Reached by phone, her lawyer said that she could not risk becoming “vulnerable to the authorities.”

Austria’s courts have already declared nine of the 10 raids that took place that day in February last year as unlawful.

Three of the four officials who were suspended, including the director, Mr. Gridling, have been reinstated.

Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the intelligence agency, a strict new protocol has been put in place in case of another raid.

The officers at the entrance have been trained not to be intimidated by threats and instructed not to allow a search party in before a number of senior officials have been informed.

“Next time we are better prepared,” one official said.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/07/world/europe/austria-far-right-freedom-party.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

How to Plan a Trip to the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts

Thousands of hikers head to the White Mountains of New Hampshire each year to stay in the high mountain huts of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Accessible only by foot and connected by the Appalachian Trail, the eight huts offer rustic but comfortable hospitality. For families with younger children, or hikers who may not have the time, skills or gear to undertake a more serious backpacking expedition, hiking the huts lower the barriers to entry to the backcountry.

James Wrigley, 34, has held almost every huts-related job for the last 15 years, from hut croo member (“croo” is a derivative of the word “crew”) to hut director, his current role. He first visited Lonesome Lake Hut when he was 3 years old and hiked there with family or friends nearly every year thereafter.

“When I was a kid, the huts allowed me to get out in the outdoors in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” Mr. Wrigley said. He now hopes his own 3-year-old child will be up for making the trek this summer.

The communities that are forged in the huts is one thing that makes them so special, Mr. Wrigley said.

“It’s pretty rare that you get a bunch of strangers around a table to talk about life,” he said, “When you’re having dinner and playing games together, it’s a really wonderful experience.”

About the huts

The eight huts are connected by more than 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Madison Spring Hut was the first, built in 1888. Other huts were added and modernized as their popularity increased over the years. These days around 30,000 hikers stay in the huts every year.

Nightly stays, which include dinner and breakfast, cost between $110 and $175 per person, with cheaper prices on weeknights. Discounts are also available for A.M.C. members and visitors staying three or four nights. An A.M.C. annual membership costs $50 for an individual and $75 for a family. A $25 membership is available for seniors and under 30-years-olds.

During the full-service season (May through October for the lower elevation huts and mid-September for the more exposed, higher elevation huts), hikers are greeted by the croos who pack in supplies and provide hot meals and educational activities for guests. During the off-season, some of the huts remain open but they are staffed by a caretaker only and visitors must bring their own provisions.

Planning your trip

The A.M.C.’s White Mountain Guide, now in its 30th edition, is an invaluable resource for planning your trip. Some of the huts are easier to reach than others, so you’ll want to think about your fitness level and the kind of trip you’d like to have. You can also call the A.M.C. reservation line (603-466-2727) for information.

Reservations for the following summer are usually available as early as August or September. Weekends at the Lakes of the Clouds and other popular huts fill up quickly, but weekend stays are available at other huts if you book in the early spring.

Getting there

The A.M.C.’s Pinkham Notch Visitors center, near Gorham, N.H., is a convenient jumping-off point for hikers, offering hiking maps and knowledgeable guides and selling any small-item gear you may have forgotten in the gift shop. It’s a three-hour drive from Boston and a 6.5-hour drive from New York City. You can park and leave your car in the parking lot there. The Concord Coach Line also offers service from Logan International Airport or Boston’s South Station to Pinkham Notch. Many hikers spend a night at the Joe Dodge Lodge before embarking on a hut-to-hut trip.

During the peak summer months, the A.M.C. offers shuttle service to a number of trailheads. You can also hike directly to Lakes of the Clouds Hut and Madison Spring Hut from Pinkham Notch.

On the Trail

The Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains is one of the toughest stretches of trail in North America. Appalachian Trail “thru hikers” (who are hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail) slow to a crawl in the White Mountains. After hiking 15 to 20 miles a day on average on other sections, they often manage just 7 to 8 miles in the Whites.

The slow pace in this region is the result of an incredibly uneven trail bed and trails that drive straight up the mountains (unlike in other mountain ranges, where trail builders use switchbacks to make the climb less steep). Yet for those willing to face the arduous terrain, the rewards are many: sweeping views of the breathtaking Pemigewasset Wilderness, the Presidential peaks, and for the intrepid, the chance to summit Mount Washington, one of the tallest peaks on the Eastern Seaboard.

It is usually safe for an intermediate hiker to plan on hiking at a pace of one mile per hour. The distance to or between huts is generally no greater than eight miles, and often much less. Zealand Falls Hut, Lonesome Lake Hut and Mizpah Spring Hut can all be reached via family-friendly hikes of just a few miles. In fact, one child per adult can stay free at Lonesome Lake Hut during the summer.

On summer weekends the trails are a regular thoroughfare, crowded with day hikers, backpackers, thru-hikers and hut-to-hut hikers, though solitude can still be found on some of the more difficult and remote sections of the trail.

At the huts

After a long day on the trail, the warm light of a high mountain hut are a welcome sight. When you arrive at a hut, you’ll check in with one of the hut croo members and they’ll help you get oriented. Each has a common area and one or more separate bunk rooms. You’ll want to pick out a bunk and stash your gear in the bunk room — there are no private accommodations at the huts so you’ll need to be comfortable with co-ed, communal living. Wool blankets and pillows are provided (but no pillowcases), so if you’re a warm sleeper you’ll do fine in midsummer. Many hikers like to bring a light sheet, sleep sack or sleeping bag as well. In the shoulder months, a warm sleeping bag is essential.

Bathrooms are gender segregated, and feature composting toilets (that actually don’t smell much at all) and sinks for brushing teeth and washing up. Neither showers nor towels are available.

Fresh baked bread, other snacks, tea and coffee are self-serve at the hut. There are also plenty of board games and books if you find yourself with some time on your hands. A hearty dinner is served at 6 p.m., family style, so be prepared to get to know your fellow hikers. After dinner the croo offers educational talks on subjects ranging from alpine vegetation and boreal forests to the hydroelectric system used at one of the huts.

Bedtime comes early with quiet hours and lights out from 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. If the morning light doesn’t wake you up, the hut croo will by singing a song or reading a poem.

The day’s weather is radioed in from the Mount Washington observatory and announced during breakfast, which is served at 7 a.m. A goofy skit instructing guests in basic Leave No Trace principles, proper hut etiquette and cleanup follows.

What to pack

The A.M.C. is fairly prescriptive online about what you need when hiking in the White Mountains. The 10 essentials, are just that, but the club also lists a more comprehensive list of gear you will want to be comfortable during your trip.

A few items that bear re-emphasizing:

MOLESKIN No this is not a notebook, it’s a kind of blister prevention adhesive. If you are already a seasoned hiker, chances are you never leave home without it.

TREKKING POLES The steep and dramatically uneven terrain of the trails on the White Mountains is tough on even the strongest knees, and it can be challenging to keep your balance and avoid falls without the aid of two poles.

EARPLUGS There are almost always one or two loud snorers in the shared bunk room.

CASH Snacks, hot soup and small gear items can all be purchased for cash in any of the huts. The hut croos also accept cash tips.

HEADLAMP A headlamp is essential for functioning in the hut at night, not to mention staying out of trouble should you find yourself hiking after dark.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/08/travel/amc-huts-white-mountains-hiking.html?partner=rss&emc=rss