February Culture Digest
February, really, feels like the start to my new year far more than January did. For one, my university semester doesn't start until January 28, and, more poignantly, the onset of the month marks the end of my tenure at Couturesque, the magazine that I founded and have been Editor in Chief of for the past five years. It is a new year, and a new moment for new goals as I begin more efforts to write and think about Arts and Culture, and what exactly it is that I have to say about them. I'll be writing more this month for other outlets, on exhibitions and films that are shaping culture, and hopefully finding a way to also share the things that are shaping me, here. After the mass exodus of bloggers onto Instagram in the past few years, it feels nice to return to something more longform and permanent, where I can elaborate on my thoughts without the caveat of having to post a cute picture or perform some kind of cool young adult social media etiquette practices. I am excited by the prospect of all of this newness and what I can try to make of it in the coming year. What does 2019 mean to you? What would you like to see yourself experience, learn, and do, that feels fresh and exciting?
This month begins with a handful of new music from many of my tried and true favourites, but while these selections might seem expected, the songs themselves are fresh, contemplative, and energising in their own ways. First, Florence & the Machine had to go and drop an EP last week, gifting us with the irreverent (and deeply perceptive) Moderation and the slower Haunted House, which is somehow both eery and sweet. I've had many a Twitter rant extolling the singularity and otherworldly giftedness of Florence Welch, but her abilities as both a songwriter and performer always escape the incompetence of my analysis. I have grown up listening to Flo (my dance teachers played her for our warm-up everyday, since the Lungs era) and to me, her work really exemplifies coming into power. Maybe this is why I can't stop listening to Moderation, in particular, in which the lyrics "You want me to love you in moderation / do I look moderate to you?" jump out at me; hearing them, wearing vintage cowboy boots and a 1970s prairie dress on my way to a Gender Studies talk, I feel like Flo and I are in solidarity with one another in our refusal to make ourselves small or easy to understand and placate. Owning one's oddities and refusal to exist on someone else's terms gets handled neatly with those six words and the ferocity of Florence's iconic voice.
Another work of therapeutic songwriting comes from one of my other favourites, the young singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin, who I had the pleasure of hanging out with and interviewing for Couturesque in the fall. Julia's second album is on the horizon, and her new track, Pressure to Party comes as my new semester of school resumes and with it, a reinvigoration of social self-doubt; I'll be working to combat that in the coming days, and "I know I've locked myself in my room / but I'll open up the door / and try to love again soon" will probably be on repeat in the background as I do so. Oh, and the video is pretty sweet too (check out that elaborate oner).
Finally, Kelsey Lu has had a string of beautiful music videos and dreamy bops over the past year or so, and I'm Not In Love is the latest one to put on as you light some candles, or read a book, or stare wistfully out of a window at night.
I'm seriously mystified that Grace & Frankie gets less love than it does. The Netflix original is an age-positive, sex-positive, hilarious love letter to female friendship and it is one of the rare comedies that actually makes me laugh out loud (sometimes at the fact that I've literally said some of Frankie's lines, or variations of them, in real life.... re: parabens, palm oil, Feminist Friday', and being a fake vegan).
Film-wise, I am watching a lot right now, both in anticipation for the Oscars (I still love them, fight me) and catching up on older gems, for my own edification and cinematic knowledge. New loves include Roma (I could get lost in this film and be alright with never finding my way out), Madeline's Madeline (a delicate, disturbing portrait of all of our own brokenness and how we handle it or push it onto others), and Annihilation (I have never seen a sci-fi, action, or thriller picture led by an all-female cast, that isn't about their gender, and isn't trying to play up sexiness or fragility. I feel a think piece coming on). An older (re)discovery is Paweł Pawlikowski's Ida (name a more perfect film from the last decade). I am struck by the similarities between Roma and Ida (their directors are friends) as quiet black and white masterpieces portraying the inner turmoil and self-actualisation of two young women that might otherwise be left unnoticed, on the margins, in often isolating and laborious positions.
I recently discovered The Park in Chelsea on a walk with my parents a few weeks ago, where we ate dinner in a reclaimed parking garage turned indoor garden, and I had the most divine ricotta-stuffed ravioli with wild mushrooms and lemon dressing, a.k.a. the cumulation of all of my pasta-related dreams.
On the very opposite end of the spectrum, Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered frozen banana slices have been keeping my heart warm on these cold East Coast evenings.
I wrapped up Alice Bolin's Dead Girls right now, which has been both highly informative and also a bit of a let-down. Dead Girls is a nonfiction portrait of the American pop cultural and literary obsession with murdered/kidnapped/brutalised young white women, perpetuated through true crime shows, horror movies, and detective novels. Bolin highlights how these media properties are guilty of treating women's bodies with callousness, exposing a mass fetish for extreme vulnerability, and critiquing the relationship between whiteness, purity, and crime. There are numerous chapters on topics that I, frankly, don't care about, and don't feel compelled to after reading them either, and then others that make me rethink my favourite films or books, and even reanalyse my childhood and my sense of self. I'm glad to have read it, but it wasn't what I was entirely expecting and takes a few turns that seem to lead nowhere, despite the overall importance, I think, of the work as a whole.
I am also hoping to finish Reckless Daughter shortly, an anthology of journalism covering Joni Mitchell's life and career. No great lifechanging moments here, just a renewed appreciation for someone who I have long admired as an artist and as a Canadian icon.
I am embarking on a year-long task of becoming as fluent as possible in French. Catch me doing grammar exercises once a week and watching French films, YouTube videos, and listening to the Quebecois channel on Spotify.
Want to see:
This coming month, I will definitely be making time to catch Pawlikowski's newest film, the Academy Award-nominated Cold War at Village East Cinema, in addition to the upcoming skateboard doc/treatise on toxic masculinity, Minding the Gap, opening at IFC Center this week (which reminds me that Mid-90s is now available to rent online).
Art-wise, I've been meaning to hit Midtown for Women.Now which closes Feburary 18, and unfortunately does not coincide with MoMA's Joan Miró retrospective (opening February 24), though the two museums are so close together and I will be going to see both.