View Source

Are Your Illegal Drugs Pure? New Zealand Will Check Them for You.

According to the most recent data from the Ministry of Health, around 9 percent of New Zealanders have used an illicit drug in the past year, with cannabis the most popular. Synthetic cannabis is a common problem, with more than 40 deaths associated with the drug reported in 2018. (The country narrowly voted against legalizing marijuana in a referendum last year.) Drugs are the third most common reason young people are kicked out of school.

While New Zealand has long struggled with methamphetamine abuse, party drugs are increasingly common. In 2019, the New Zealand police seized more than two million Ecstasy tablets and their equivalents, up 560 percent from 2018.

It is these party drugs in particular that have resulted in injury or death, sometimes as a result of people taking mislabeled or contaminated drugs. This year, KnowYourStuff received almost 1,000 messages from festivalgoers who reported atypical reactions to drugs sold to them as MDMA, including paranoia, seizures, severe nausea and days of insomnia. The drugs are believed to have been contaminated with synthetic cathinones.

Speaking in Parliament last year, Andrew Little, the minister of health, emphasized that the current New Zealand government saw drug policy as a health matter rather than a criminal one.

A prosecution-led approach has not worked, he said, adding: “It’s not changing. If we want to change behaviors, then we’ve got to take a different approach.”

The data is spotty, but promising.

A survey from Victoria University found that 68 percent of surveyed festivalgoers who used the testing services changed their behavior, with some reducing the amount they took while others disposed of their drugs altogether.

A similar study held at a festival in Canberra, Australia, in 2019 found that “all those who had a very dangerous substance detected disposed of that drug in the amnesty bin.”

View Source

Itchy to Perform Again, Musicians Eye Return to Touring

Like many musicians, J Mascis, the leader of the stalwart alt-rock band Dinosaur Jr., has struggled through a year without touring.

“I’ve never been home this long since, like, high school,” Mascis said in a phone interview from his home in western Massachusetts. “To have no idea when or if you can do anything again, just sitting around,” he added, trailing off. “My mental health has definitely suffered.”

But a few weeks ago, Dinosaur Jr. took a step toward normalcy by announcing an extensive fall tour, with a handful of warm-up dates booked for as early as May.

“We’re not naïve; we know we might have to reschedule,” Mascis said. “But just to have something on the books somehow makes things a bit more hopeful.”

33 percent of their regular capacity, up to 100 people for indoor spaces. Throughout the country, rules from local governments have kept many clubs and theaters closed, or allowed them to operate at reduced capacities — which for many of those places does not allow enough business to cover the basic costs of operating and of paying artists and employees, said Audrey Fix Schaefer of the 9:30 Club in Washington.

“The only thing worse than being totally shuttered is being partially reopened,” said Fix Schaefer, who is also the communications director for the National Independent Venue Association.

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant fund, which they can apply for starting April 8 — are eager for the business.

The relative handful of clubs and theaters set to reopen in the spring are doing so with altered seating plans, temperature checks and adjusted financial deals with performers. A recent rock concert in Spain, with extensive Covid-19 protections, drew 5,000 fans. These events are being watched closely by the concert industry, which went into 2020 anticipating its biggest year ever but ended up losing nearly $10 billion in box office revenue, according to data collected by Pollstar, a trade publication.

calendar.) Tables have been arranged to allow space between parties, and patrons, who must wear masks when not seated, will get their temperatures checked upon entry.

“Even if it’s for 100 people, it takes on such a significance to be putting on a show,” said Michael Dorf, the venue’s founder. “It feels like a sacred job, putting on culture.”

Miller, a regular performer at the dozen City Winery spots around the country, said that he had struggled with the forced grounding from Covid-19, though he also noted the silver lining of spending more time with his family. The idea of playing live again, he said, both excites and terrifies him.

Foo Fighters and others; Summerfest in Milwaukee, a major urban concert series, is also planned for September. But whether Lollapalooza in Chicago will go forward is unclear.

In New York, a smattering of clubs are also planning shows, like Bowery Electric and the Bitter End. But the majority are holding out for when they can reopen at full capacity, or close to it, many proprietors said. The industry has been placing its bets on summer or fall for that.

fall tour at large clubs like Avant Gardner in New York and the Anthem in Washington. Sam Denniston, the group’s manager, said that all signs have pointed toward that being feasible, as millions more people get vaccinated and more venues fully reopen. Yet uncertainty about the pandemic means that anything could happen.

“It’s kind of like penguins sitting on the edge of a cliff, and they push one in to see if there’s a killer whale in the water,” Denniston said. “I kind of feel like we’re that first penguin. But someone’s got to take the risk.”

While stadium-sized artists are counting on the pandemic coming under control and the full revival of a mothballed industry by the time they hit the road, for many others below the superstar level, a year without shows has simply been long enough.

“I don’t know if I can wait another six months to a year,” Miller said, “to do my job again.”

View Source

Since the Oscar-Nominated ‘Collective,’ Much and Little Has Changed

BUCHAREST, Romania — On Oct. 30, 2015, a fire ripped through a nightclub in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, leaving 64 people dead. Almost six years later, a documentary about the fire and its tragic aftermath has been nominated for two Oscars.

It would be the first Oscar win for the Eastern European country, but the film’s success is bittersweet for many Romanians, given its painful subject matter — particularly since many believe not enough has changed since 2015.

“Collective,” which has been nominated for best documentary feature and best foreign film, follows a group of investigative journalists from a sports newspaper as they uncover painful truths about the Romanian health care system.

a review for The New York Times late last year, Manohla Dargis described “Collective” as a “staggering documentary” that offered “no moment when you can take an easy breath, assured that the terrible things you’ve been watching onscreen are finally over.”

For people in Romania, however, much of what is shown onscreen is painfully familiar.

Catalin Tolontan, then the editor in chief of the daily newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, is one of the main protagonists of “Collective.” Before the documentary, “We used to receive 10 or 15 messages per day from the public, with scoops or information,” he said in an interview. “After the movie we received 70 to 80 a day.”

Earlier this year in Mongolia, when a woman with Covid-19 was transferred from the hospital in freezing temperatures just days after giving birth, journalists began asking tough questions of the government, apparently encouraging one another on Facebook by referencing “Collective,” which a local television station had shown days earlier. Protests followed, and the government ultimately resigned.

“If you are a journalist in a small country and saw ‘Spotlight,’ you could say, ‘Well, this is the U.S., they have a lot of resources, they have a strong democracy, they have a bond between the public and government,’” Tolontan, the newspaper editor, said. “But if you are in Mongolia or the Czech Republic, Indonesia, and you saw this movie, you think ‘They’re like us.’”

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “Beyond the Hills” and “Child’s Pose” have received top awards at international festivals over the years, but none has won an Oscar.

Andrei Gorzo, a Romanian film critic, said that it was harder for Romanian viewers to see “Collective” as a morally clear-cut tale of a few good people fighting to change the rotten system.

Instead, he said, it captures a specific moment in Romania, when urban, middle-class voters believed in a new breed of politician, young and unsullied, who could clean up Romanian politics. “It is impossible for me to watch the film without acknowledging that a lot of that romanticism has turned sour since then,” he said.

Others are more optimistic.

“The generation that will change things here is not the generation that is 35-plus,” Nanau said. “It’s the younger generation, and these are the people that write to us, that we have met in the cinemas.”

Tolontan said he saw “Collective” as “a point of no return” for Romanian society.

Whether the film wins at the Oscars ceremony next month, many Romanians still hope that the film’s biggest impact will be at home, and that they can leave its content in the past.

View Source

Testing, One, Two. Fans Flock to an Experimental Indoor Rock Concert.

“If I had not been vaccinated already, I really would have thought twice about coming here,” said Cristina Delgado, a doctor. But Ana, her sister, who was also vaccinated because she works in health care, felt differently. “I was going to come whatever, because I want to save culture and return us to normal life,” she said.

Inés Villasuso, a 24-year old nurse, also said that “it would have been better to get everybody tested again later, to have scientific evidence that can really convince the authorities that such a big event can be held safely.” But she and her twin sister, Eva, agreed that the concert outstripped their expectations. “It felt like living a total dream,” Eva said.

In an interview before the concert, Julián Saldarriaga, a member of Love of Lesbian, said that the band’s decision to perform had received very broad support, but also generated “some criticism, from people who have called us irresponsible or who say that we only care about money.” But for his band, he said, “we really saw this as an opportunity to take part in the recovery of culture.”

Rather than featuring a supporting act, the concert was preceded by a series of videos about Covid-19, shown on the big stage screen and interspersed with hits from the distant past — like “Come Together” and “Here Comes the Sun,” by The Beatles — whose themes warmed up the crowd.

To comply with the safety protocols, on Saturday, concertgoers visited one of three smaller Barcelona music venues to get a rapid antigen test for Covid-19. The cost was included in the €23 ticket price.

Christiana Guldager, a photographer, said that she cried before her test at the Razzmatazz nightclub. “I’ve been dancing so often in that place that it made me feel very emotional to find it instead converted into a mini-hospital,” she said.

View Source