This ginger tabby named Flynn shacks up with Tori Diaz, founder of This Cat is Chonky. Tori Flynn I’m standing at my desk working. Archer, a 10-pound bundle of sass and midnight fur, sits behind me on a stool, a single claw plunging repeatedly into the elbow of my sweater: “Pay attention to me!” Archer knows I’m looking at other cats. He just knows. I’m on Facebook, bearing witness to the fattest cats on the internet. It’s a private Facebook group called “THIS CAT IS C H O N K Y,” where proud members post photos and videos of their beloved fuzzballs and comments pour in by the hundreds. Along with over 270,000 others, I worship at the house of Chonky. We lurk here. We comment. We find deep comfort.Facebook has been slammed for privacy failures and scandals, and like social media in general, it’s been called out for feeding loneliness and depression. Even social-media-savvy political rock star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quit Facebook. I’ve been tempted to follow suit, but I stay, in part, for Chonky. And I’m not alone.Yes, Chonky is for oohing and ahhing over cats with belly flab and kittens with poofy cheeks. But for many, it’s also a light in the darkness. Selfies, cats and so many uploads: Our love affair with sharing photos Facebook Share your voice 5:14 Comments Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: What’s your relationship… Originally published June 12. Now playing: Watch this: 13 Photos Online One Chonky mod asked members to share what the group means to them — and got over 1,000 replies. “It’s a ray of sunshine in a gray world of negativity,” one member responded. Said another: “There have been many days where I isolate myself and cry nonstop but this group can stop that in an instant.” Members going through breakups put out the call for soothing cat photos to lift their spirits. People who just lost their beloved furry companions turn to Chonky for support and a virtual shoulder to cry on. Chonky founder Tori Diaz gets messages from group members who want her to know how Chonky has cheered them up during their most stressful moments. “What hit me the hardest,” Diaz says, “were the people responding saying the group has helped them through suicidal thoughts, depression and severe medical problems.” I visited Chonky one day when a young woman expressed thoughts of self-harm. The group arrived to tell her that her life matters. They shared their own stories of depression and how their cats gave them something to hold onto. The original poster later updated the message to say she had reached out to a therapist for help. This Cat is Chonky proudly advertises its wares with a chubby-cheeked cat banner. Facebook/This Cat is Chonky The first rule of Chonk ClubChonky isn’t the Wild West. You can share pictures of your cats and comment on photos, but you can’t sling insults. The group has strict rules of conduct. Rule No. 1: No chonk shaming. This is “the ultimate sin.” Don’t shame owners, either. That includes not calling them bad pet parents because their cats are overweight.”Don’t be condescending, judgy, or incite arguments,” the rules read. No politics or medical advice. In an internet world full of snark and trolling, Chonky is meant to be sacred ground. Jerks will be banned.Diaz, who lives with a ginger tabby named Flynn (pictured at the top of this article), created the Chonky group one night in May 2018. “One major issue I noticed in animal groups was owner and pet shaming, especially if the animal was overweight,” Diaz tells me. “It made me sad to see them being torn down for posting a picture of a beloved pet that they were excited to share.” In an internet world full of snark and trolling, Chonky is meant to be sacred ground. Jerks will be banned. Tags You don’t have to look far to see what Diaz is talking about. Reddit’s popular Aww group is sometimes beset by this issue. A post showing a short video of a fat and fluffy cat received responses calling the owners out for “at least negligence, if not straight-up abuse.” It’s hard to know the stories behind the overweight pets we glimpse on social media. Are they on diets? Do they have medical conditions? Are they recent rescues?Diaz created Chonky to be “a safe group to post chubby cats, or any cats, without meanness.” The term “chonky” came to her when she was looking at a photo of a fat cat. She thought it felt like internet-speak for “chunky.” Chonky strummed Facebook heartstrings right from the start, zipping to over 100,000 members by the end of 2018. When it hit 125,000, Diaz accepted the help of a small group of Chonky followers who offered to become moderators. They work their butts off. “Chonky isn’t immune to the problems of nasty internet users and trolling, myself and the mods just remove problem people fast and have learned what types of posts are most likely to start problems,” Diaz says. “A lot of love and work goes into keeping the group how it is.” Moderator Natalie Bunting, who also volunteers at a cat rescue, says the rule to “be nice” is the one most frequently violated. She has witnessed (and quashed) arguments for and against outdoor cats, political statements and personal attacks, like a member telling another to clean up a house seen in a photo. “There are literally well over a thousand member requests each day and at least 200 posts an hour,” she says. “It’s absolutely mind blowing.” Volunteering to wrangle Chonky posts is time-consuming, but Bunting sticks around because she’s connected with Diaz and the other mods. They blow off steam in a behind-the-scenes chat group, where Bunting says they laugh, cry and support each other. A lot of the conversation revolves around Chonky business, such as which posts should be approved or whether a member should be banned, but sometimes it veers into talk of families, food and work. “The subject can change 30 times within 30 minutes and it is the most entertaining chat I’ve ever been a part of,” says Bunting, who has two chonks of her own: Cubby and Baxter. “They are the goodest boys,” she reports.This rotund fluffster is the kind of cat Chonky members love to coo over. Amanda Kooser/CNET Chonky terminologyChonky is a closed group, so you need to be a member to see the fur flying. Here’s a typical day in the life of Chonky: Emily shared a photo of her wide-load black cat sitting on a cable box, eyes poppin’ and two front legs dangling straight down. It attracted 222 comments, including some photoshopped parodies showing the cat wearing a business suit or strolling through a Western town. Another poster demanded to see the group’s “oranges” and kicked off over 600 comments about ginger cats.Lizzie posted her gorgeous 14-year-old fluffy boy, who’s in declining health. She received lots of love. “Cherish your time together, I’m sure he does,” wrote one Chonky member.If you’re fortunate enough to be accepted into Chonky and you can abide by the simple rules, you will need to know some vocabulary.Beans: toe padsCat tax: providing a photo of your own cat when requesting photos from othersChonk: a fat catFloof: fluffinessHamb/hambina: a catNip nops: nipplesPeets: cat feetSlonk: a skinny catSmol: smallTeef: teethThicc: fatVoid: a black catUsed in a paragraph: My boi Archer is a semi-chonk void hamb, while his sister is a smol void slonk. They’re not thicc super-floofs, but their lil peets are adorbs.Fear of the inevitableBunting’s avocado-loving cat, Cubby, suffered from a mysterious illness for months before vets finally diagnosed the rare Cushing’s disease, an adrenal gland issue that can be difficult to treat. The Chonky team posted a GoFundMe fundraiser on Bunting’s behalf, and the community has fed money toward the $2,000 goal to offset Cubby’s steep health expenses. “Sending healing energy for Cubby! Thanks for sharing the chonks with the world,” wrote one Chonky-loving donor.Bunting says the campaign absolutely blew her away at a time when she was dealing with an unexpected death in her family. “As silly as it sounds, the whole thing gave me reasons to smile during an extremely difficult time,” she says. Chonky fans are also mailing her little shirts for Cubby to wear to help protect his fragile skin. “I still have no idea who sent some of them,” Bunting says. Enlarge ImageThe author and her own chonky cat, Archer Amanda Kooser/CNET I’ve been working on this article for a while. My big boy Archer has curled up inside his UFO-shaped cat bed under my monitor stand. He’s sleeping, but there’s now a tiny paw appearing from beneath my keyboard holder, reaching out daintily for the front of my sweater. “Pay attention to me!” I shift my position so his teensy sister Delia can sit on my lap. I visit Chonky a couple of times a day. I do it for the respite of cat pictures. I’m also here because I’m afraid of the future. My cats are over 17. I’ve known them since the day they were born in a friend’s closet as little wiggling bundles of fur, and I love them like they were carved from my own heart. They both have kidney disease. Delia is getting clumsy. Archer had a mysterious seizure some months ago. The vet calls them seniors, and I know someday, probably not too long from now, I will lose them both. As much as I lurk on Chonky, I rarely post. When the day comes that I have to say goodbye to my beautiful cats, I already know I will go to Chonky for solace. And I know a vast community of cat-loving Chonksters will be there to support me. 7
Popular on Variety The new VRV deals come after the shutdown of Warner Bros. Digital Network’s DramaFever and the announcement from Turner and WB that film-aficionado service FilmStruck is ceasing at the end of November.Arlen Marmel, general manager of VRV, said “there’s no top-down mandate” from WarnerMedia to cross-license content but he said more WarnerMedia content will be coming to the $10-per-month VRV bundle in 2019. “WarnerMedia has leaned into VRV,” he said.Last month, AT&T said WarnerMedia in 2019 will launch a broad subscription-streaming entertainment service anchored by HBO pulling in content from other parts of the former Time Warner. As part of launching the plan, AT&T said it would be “consolidating resources from sub-scale D2C [direct-to-consumer] efforts.”“It remains to be seen what that bigger, broader WarnerMedia bundle looks like, but we hope VRV could be part of that,” Marmel said. “If we look at the broader landscape, clearly it’s difficult to operate any business that’s sub-scale. With VRV, we knew that aggregation was critical.”All told, VRV offers some 100,000 episodes in the bundle. With the addition of Boomerang on Nov. 13, the service will include 12 channels, priced at $10 monthly (which if purchased a la carte would cost $50). The lineup includes Otter Media’s Crunchyroll and Rooster Teeth, anime channel HIDIVE, Viacom’s NickSplat, Cartoon Hangover, AMC Networks’ Shudder, Mondo, Geek & Sundry, Nerdist, CuriosityStream, Boomerang, and VRV Select (a channel stocked with content licensed from partners including Syfy, El Rey/Univision, Warner Bros., and MGM).Otter Media isn’t disclosing how many paid VRV subscribers it has signed up. Overall, it has more than 4 million registered users and over 2.5 million monthly active users. (VRV offers a selection of free, ad-supported video in front of the paywall.) On average, premium users stream around 60 minutes per day.“The vast majority of our users do buy the bundle. There’s a lot of power in that,” said Marmel. “We can really reduce the friction to access that content.” AT&T acquired control of Otter Media this summer, buying out Chernin Group’s majority stake in the venture in a deal reportedly valued at $1 billion. Otter Media portfolio includes Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Fullscreen and VRV.The first four episodes of “Final Space” season one will be available exclusively on VRV’s streaming platform starting Wednesday (Nov. 7), with subsequent episodes to be released weekly. TBS has greenlit the show for a second season, which will eventually come to VRV along with any potential future seasons.The show is produced by Conan O’Brien’s Conaco and New Form in association with Turner’s Studio T. “Final Space” was created by and stars Olan Rogers, a filmmaker with nearly 1 million followers on YouTube, with a cast that also includes Fred Armisen, Tom Kenny, David Tennant, Tika Sumpter, Steven Yeun and Coty Galloway. The second season is currently in production and is set to feature O’Brien as a recurring character.“With ‘Final Space,’ we created a show that pairs genuine emotion and real stakes with comedy and premium animation, making it a perfect fit for VRV,” Rogers, also an executive producer of the show, said in a statement. “We hope VRV’s community loves the series and catches up on all the action before season two premieres next year.”Eric Berman, VRV’s head of content partnerships and business development, said the deal for “Final Space” emerged after VRV was talking with TBS about potential co-productions. “They said, ‘Here is something we have the rights to,’” he said.VRV’s programming strategy is focused around four quadrants: anime, like Crunchyroll; nostalgia-driven “kidult” content like NickSplat, “Jabberjaw” and “Freakazoid”; adult animation like “Mike Tyson Mysteries,” “HarmonQuest” (greenlit for a third season at VRV) and “Cyanide and Happiness”; and alternative reality, like Syfy’s space bounty-hunter series “Killjoys.”As with other SVOD services, content comes and goes on VRV. After Sony Pictures Television’s Funimation last month ended its cross-licensing deal with Crunchyroll after two years, VRV also lost access to Funimation channel. “We’re upset to see Funimation go and never want to remove content from our fans, but we’re able to add other content,” Berman said, noting that HIDIVE will bring its full slate of over 500 dubbed, subtitled and uncensored anime to VRV before the end of 2018. AT&T’s WarnerMedia has shut down two niche streaming-video businesses — but it’s apparently still bullish on some narrowly targeted entertainment plays.VRV, the fandom-focused video platform run by the media group’s Otter Media, is boosting its lineup of animated programming from other parts of WarnerMedia.VRV has nabbed exclusive streaming rights to intergalactic comedy “Final Space,” whose freshman season aired earlier this year on TBS. The service also is adding two series from Warner Bros. Animation’s catalog — Adult Swim’s “Mike Tyson Mysteries” and ’70s cult classic “Jabberjaw” — as well as Boomerang, the cartoon subscription VOD service from Turner.“We believe there is a consumer need for aggregation, and working with our sister companies within WarnerMedia allows us to offer even more great content that our fans can watch and experience together,” Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, said in a statement. Meanwhile, the three seasons of detective/thriller comedy “Mike Tyson Mysteries” and talking-shark show “Jabberjaw” (which originally aired in 1976) will join VRV in 2019. It turns out that the former heavyweight boxer is a huge fan of the latter — and Tyson recorded a promo for VRV in which he sings the “Jabberjaw” theme song.“What we’re trying to accomplish with VRV is to tap things outside the mainstream, the stuff that’s hanging out on the fringe,” said Marmel. The former exec joined Crunchyroll in 2014 as head of marketing and distribution following Chernin Group’s majority investment in it, and he has been general manager of VRV since early 2017.Pictured above: “Final Space” ×Actors Reveal Their Favorite Disney PrincessesSeveral actors, like Daisy Ridley, Awkwafina, Jeff Goldblum and Gina Rodriguez, reveal their favorite Disney princesses. Rapunzel, Mulan, Ariel,Tiana, Sleeping Beauty and Jasmine all got some love from the Disney stars.More VideosVolume 0%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard Shortcutsplay/pauseincrease volumedecrease volumeseek forwardsseek backwardstoggle captionstoggle fullscreenmute/unmuteseek to %SPACE↑↓→←cfm0-9Next UpJennifer Lopez Shares How She Became a Mogul04:350.5x1x1.25×1.5x2xLive00:0002:1502:15
Ebola vaccine trials are set to start in Switzerland this week after receiving the green light from the country’s authorities, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.Swiss regulators announced they would allow trials of an experimental vaccine made by Britain’s GlaxoSmithKine, and tests on some 120 individuals were set to get under way at the CHUV hospital in Lausanne this week, the WHO said.‘This marks the latest step towards bringing safe and effective Ebola vaccines for testing and implementation as quickly as possible,’ the UN’s health agency said in a statement. There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus, which has killed nearly 5,000 people in the outbreak centred in west Africa.The experimental GSK vaccine is one of two considered particularly promising by WHO. Called ChAd3, it is based on a genetically modified chimpanzee adenovirus and trials have already begun in Mali, Britain and the United States, the WHO said.‘The trial will test the safety of the vaccine and its capacity to induce an immune response,’ it said.