Sanitation Superheroine

People fighting for the basic human right of access to water and sanitation aren't typically splashing the covers of your major magazines or billboards. Which is crazy if you think about it.

People fighting for the basic human right of access to water and sanitation aren't typically splashing the covers of your major magazines or billboards. Which is crazy if you think about it. We called professional movie poster designer, Desi Moore, to make a fictitious movie poster and dedicate it to Sherina Munyana of Water for People’s Sanitation (WFPS) in Kampala, Uganda.

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Nic Harcourt on music

Nic Harcourt on the failing recording industry. PLUS: GOOD Video Feature

Earlier this year I made my first visit to MIDEM, an international music industry conference that takes please each year in Cannes, France. At the conference, just like at every other recent industry shindig, from South by Southwest in Austin, to CMJ in New York City, the overwhelming majority of panel discussions, and conversations in bars and clubs, focused on one thing: how will things shake out in the music business as new technologies remove control of music delivery from record labels and radio stations? Notice that I didn't mention MTV. The station pretty much removed itself from the music game several years ago, largely dropping videos in favor of game shows and dubious reality programming. MTV says that it made the programming switch because no one wants to watch music videos anymore. Fair enough. Generation (fill in Madison Avenue's current half-decade demographic description here) isn't watching videos. They're not listening to commercial radio because it (A) doesn't play the music they want to hear and (B) pretty much sucks anyway. They're not buying CDs because they can download the music they want (sometimes paying, mostly not) or rip it from a friend. So where is the music business heading? Can it actually survive the current chaos and uncertainty in any recognizable form? The simple answer is that the jury is on a long sabbatical, and nobody knows. What we do know is that the internet and digital revolution have thrown almost every aspect of the music business into the air and the chips are yet to fall.In the '90s, the record and radio industries systematically squeezed any last vestige of creativity out of their respective businesses in a constant kowtow to the bottom line. The record industry focused on divas (Christina Aguilera), boy bands ('N Sync), and alternative rock one-hit wonders (The Verve Pipe). As a result of federal deregulation, corporations gobbled up large numbers of radio stations, and the once eclectic landscape of radio became a wasteland of homogenized jingles, shortened playlists, and beer and mattress commercials. By the end of the decade, tuning across the radio dial for anything remotely original became a futile exercise. Drive across the United States and you'll find the same cookie-cutter radio formats in every market. Noncommercial radio (i.e. public and college) has become the last bastion of original music programming on the dial, as the audience has turned away from commercial radio in droves. Listeners have found other alternatives as well. Internet and satellite radio now attract significant audiences because they offer a choice. And that's really what the current state of play is all about: consumers having the freedom and technological resources to make their own choices.The industry is still grappling with the fact that music lovers will no longer be spoon-fed whatever flavor record labels are pushing that month. Do the labels have a future? Yes they do, but it will involve a very different way of doing business. Early adopters have moved forward in their embrace of digital streaming and new media, and are using technology to make their own playlists. The record industry must adapt or die. Radio advertisers are beginning to shift their budgets to target new media consumers. As for satellite radio, I've always believed that there are only enough potential subscribers to support one company. Both Sirius and XM spend more money than they make. I failed math badly, but I still know that only the U.S. government can get away with a financial plan like that. There are more choices around the corner. Digital radio, a new technology that allows existing radio frequencies to be split into up to six streams, is becoming more and more accessible, and it's only a matter of time until the web becomes truly wireless and you'll be able to listen to web radio in your car.Bad news for the music industry is, paradoxically, good news for artists. The web has allowed them the freedom to develop and find a fan base in a way they could never have before (see "Breaking it down," right). In recent years, I've known several musicians who refused traditional major label contracts (Damien Rice, Bright Eyes, Jem) in order to retain control of their musical visions, instead cutting deals that gave them access to marketing and promotional support. I'm sick of hearing boomers bemoan the lack of exciting new artists while they drop a couple hundred bucks to see (enter old-fart band name here) in concert. The truth is that there are many vital young musicians writing and recording important songs today, but you have to look for them. Corporate America isn't going to discover them for you. The world has changed; there are no pop stars anymore. But there is a wealth of amazing music that you can discover. For a music fan, there's never been a more exciting time.

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Public Domain

David Benjamin looks at five innovative projects revitalizing American urban spaces PLUS: GOOD Video Feature

In the summer of 1855, a thin volume of poetry called Leaves of Grass appeared in New York. The author, Walt Whitman, worked as a carpenter in Brooklyn and through his labor he understood places and people in a physical way. His poems captured the compression of bodies, the friction of life in a growing city. But the green cloth cover of that first edition also featured embossed gold letters nearly hidden by an overgrowth of roots and leaves. Nature, Whitman seemed to say, was dense, kinetic, and thrilling-like the city itself.At nearly the same time as Whitman was writing Leaves of Grass, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were crafting their design for Central Park in New York, drawing on a sense of place they shared with the poet. Olmsted, like Whitman, felt that New Yorkers should interact: "There need to be places where the rich and poor, the cultivated and the self-made shall be attracted together and encouraged to assimilate." Vaux described the natural elements of the new park as "a translation of democratic ideals into trees and dirt." Central Park, completed in 1873 and occupying 843 acres, established great public spaces as essential to American democracy and urban life.Today, the designers of a new generation of American public spaces draw inspiration from Olmsted and Vaux. The best new parks, like Central Park, offer pause from the speed of the city, frame spectacular views, and, most essentially, create versatile spaces for all kinds of people to do all kinds of things. They also provide an element of unmanicured wildness within the tamed city.The parks of today are being created on land reclaimed from industry, urban infrastructure, and military use. Modern designers are informed by ecological concerns, re-introducing native plants and establishing habitats for wildlife. And new parks respond to new urban conditions. While the physical labor and industrial pollution of the 19th century called for passive parks where people could rest and breathe fresh air (Olmsted thought of parks as the "lungs of the city"), landscape architect Ken Smith suggests that "today a big need is really physical activity-getting people to walk and move and run and bicycle."Central Park showed us that public spaces can embody the ideals and aspirations of a society. The best of the next generation of public spaces-in New York, Boston, Orange County, and elsewhere-promise the same.

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Melting Shot

Photographing children from every country in the world, in New York. PLUS: GOOD Video Feature

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