A Show About (but not About) a Lawsuit, A French Film Re: Family, and A Fierce, yet Sincere Novel

TV show: Good Girls Revolt (2015-2016) created by Dana Calvo

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The genius of Good Girls Revolt wasn’t in how it dealt with its central premise and raison d’etre: the suit filed by the female research assistants at News of the Week for the right to be reporters. The genius of the show was how it dealt with everything else. Looking back on lives and times, we tend to lose our sense of perspective. We focus on the singular events, the turning points, the times that changed. We lose sight of the fact that those events, points, and changes were also just a day in the life. Most things that happen are a long time coming, but the coming is hard to recapture after the impact of the arrival.

Good Girls Revolt captured that coming perfectly. The lives of the women, of the reporters, and of the magazine go on mostly as usual while the lawsuit brews in the background. The drama is that of an ordinary newsroom in the 1960s (though the periodization leaves something to be desired; the comment from one of the women that a party was “lit” was among the more jarring of the show’s occasional slips). People fall into and out of love, stories come and go, and the lawsuit is no big deal. Until it is. The press conference and announcement make the suit suddenly real and upend everything in the finale.

That’s what lawsuits are like. Everyone has a life apart from the lawsuit, and they just want to get on with it. But eventually, for one reason or another, they can’t. Then there has to be the conflict. And the conflict is all we remember. That’s why Good Girls Revolt is uniquely excellent: it’s a show about a lawsuit which is not about the lawsuit. Word on the street is that the show has been discontinued after its first season, but that first season is still well worth watching.

– David Shelton

 

 

Film:  It’s Only the End of the World (2016) directed by Xavier Dolan 

 

It feels rare to come upon a book or movie where one empathizes at least in part with every single character, but that’s what I found in It’s Only the End of the World. It’s plotless, just an afternoon where a young man – who says very little the entire movie – travels home to tell his family of his terminal illness. They have not seen him in 12 years, and the entire movie portrays all the family issues that result from how much they adore and admire him, but also resent his absence.

I found it especially poignant as an artist, because I’m frequently embarrassed that people treat me as un-relatable because I may have artistic talent. Where art should bring people together, sometimes it makes people feel an alienating sense of awe instead. The movie is French and won a biggish prize at Cannes last year, so you will feel very cultured if you watch it, and extra points if you use the French title when telling people that you saw it. I should also mention that I saw it on a plane, where everything seems more emotional than normal, so hopefully this movie doesn’t actually suck?!

 

– Karissa Tucker

 

 

Book: Salvage the Bones (2011) by Jesmyn Ward

 

Jesmyn Ward has been on my TBR stack for a while and I’ve only just gotten to her books beginning with this one. I could not put it down (trite but true). The pace is constant while the story swells and ebbs with subtle, localized tensions. 10846336The central character and narrator, Esch, has such a believable voice. As a young girl, whose mother has died, with an alcoholic father, and three brothers, she struggles with the line between childhood and a premature, inescapable maturity. The story hovers on the brink of an impending storm mirrored by the tempestuous though seemingly minor events of the plot.

Skeeter, Esch’s brother and senior by a year, owns and arguably carries a burning obsession for his pit-bull, China. He cares for her like his absent mother may have cared for him, with an outspoken intention of pragmatic purpose but a close kept tender love and pride for the animal. She is a fighting dog but the book starts with her giving birth to a litter of puppies, she is a mother. The thread of motherhood runs thick through the text. The children’s mother who dies before the narrative begins, a dog who has stunted maternal instincts and Esch acting in the role to care for her father and brothers. Ward poses the question of what motherhood means. She explores how this state affects a woman and those she holds an obligation to through birth. A maternal figure bears responsibility to nurture through food and through physical love.

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Pit bull’s smile

Esch, as the narrator, provides a powerful perspective for the reader. While young, her role compels her to cook for the family, watch out for Junior, the youngest, and take on tasks her mother would have done were she still alive (i.e. laundry, searching for chicken ward_jeggs, and caring for her father when he gets sick). Her sexual experience with various boys from her community also flirts with the boundary between young adulthood and greater maturity. Esch has been forced to grow up early in many ways but she still misses her own mother and compares the ideal of motherhood with observations of China and her pups.

The world Esch inhabits has its own set of cultural rules defined by a largely black community. Ward does an excellent job of fleshing out a world where the nuanced behaviors, speech, and lives of her characters feel intimate and grippingly tangible. While reading this book, I felt through Esch curiosity as she explores herself and the world around her. I felt her fears for the future, loneliness in her isolated womanhood surrounded by men, and her courage in bearing up under the mounting pressures forced on her.

– Jessica Webster

Things We Loved in the Year 2016

Book: Flowers for Mrs. Harris by Paul Gallico

It’s been a long time since I felt such pure delight in a book as I did for Paul Gallico’s “Flowers for Mrs. Harris” (published in 1958 and also available under the alternate title “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris”). I snagged it from a thrift store early in the year based on the cover alone. It’s thin, which initially was a draw, but ultimately left me hungry for more. The first thing that struck me about Gallico’s writing was that his observations about human nature and the details of human life felt immediately intimate, yet not cliché. I can’t think of anything I respect more as a writer and a reader.

I’ve since read another of Gallico’s novels (“Scruffy”) which was perhaps “better”, but this one had so many points of personal connection for me that it stands out in my memory. The basic story is of an older working-class woman who falls helplessly in love with the awesomeness of Chanel couture, and becomes determined to own a piece of her own for the sake of pure frivolous adoration. Indulgence without loss of wonder is something I treasure. My one criticism is that Gallico’s work tends to be a bit “precious”, wrapping up in the most perfect of bows at the end of each book. I gravitate toward realism and sadness in media, but I simply cannot begrudge Mrs. Harris a happily-ever-after, especially when I’m invited into that warmth as the reader.

–  Karissa Tucker

Book: The Well at the World’s End
by William Morris

As we sit back and reflect on the year, I can’t help but remember one of the books that took me the longest to read. The Well at the World’s End is a longer novel, but what makes it more difficult is its use of older English. I was first introduced to the work by C. S. Lewis himself, in his essay “On Story”.

The Well at the World’s End”, can a man write a story to that title? Can he find a series of events following one another in time which will really catch, fix, and bring home to us all that we grasp at on merely hearing those six words?… Morris in The Well at the World’s End came near to success, quite near enough to make the book worth many readings.”

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The story follows a young prince, Ralph, the fourth son of the king of a little land called Upmeads. When he is chosen to stay and rule the kingdom while his brothers earn fame and glory, Ralph runs away on his own journey. Along the way he hears whispers and legends of the well at the world’s end, and through many adventures, determines that he must journey to it if it exists. It’s the story of Ralph’s coming of age as he discovers love, honor, loss, glory, and that people are not always what they seem. The Lady of Abundance, Ursula, Bull shockhead, Richard, the Champions of the Dry Tree, and Gandolf all add richness to the story, showing their own characters’ and surprising the reader. As the pages turn, Ralph grows and matures in front of your eyes. At the end, I was proud of him and hope that when I have a son, he turns out like Ralph.

wweThe Well at the World’s End encourages me to continue to grow and mature. Ralph’s young heart was restless, so he went out and did the things he desired. But at the end, when he has completed those tasks, his desires shift. It’s not that those desires were bad and he needed to grow up, rather they lead him to where he needs to go. As someone who’s likely in the same stage of life as Ralph, I’m inspired to go on adventures and enter worlds beyond my own “Upmeads” with the hope of coming home some-day.

– Richie Gowin

Music: Photographs and Memories by Jim Croce

tumblr_m7lam3qhmx1qgl228o1_400According to its release date this isn’t from 2016, but that’s when I found it. This year the
music I was hearing made me feel a little like Bing Crosby’s character in White Christmas: “everyone’s got an angle.” Artists either focused on a specific subject, or a specific mood, or the intensity of a certain experience. With Jim Croce, there’s no angle. He’s what would once have been called “just folks.” It’s remarkable how comforting that can be.

I know it’s considered a bit on the nose to recommend greatest hits albums, but after listening to Croce’s whole oeuvre, this is the one I returned to consistently. It’s plain and simple about everything: heartbreak (“Operator” and “Lover’s Cross”) the defeat of local bullies (“Bad Bad Leroy Brown” and “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim”), a job you don’t want (“Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues”), love and infatuation (“I Have to Say I Love You In A Song” and “Roller Derby Queen”), hating where you live (“New York’s Not My Home”) and just wanting company (“I Got a Name”). In 2016, when I just wanted company, I turned on this album. In 2017, I’ll probably do the same.

Full album on youtube here.

–  David Shelton

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Music: We Got It from Here…Thank you 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest

2016 was an amazing year for music. Hundreds of albums were released and the hip-hop, rap, R&B, soul world boomed. Beyoncé created the stunning visual album Lemonade, her sister Solange released an incredibly thought provoking a timely album entitled A Seat at the Table, Young Thug gave us Jeffery, and Gallant produced a beautiful soul album called Ology. While these are all in my list of favorite albums from this year, the top place has to go to A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) who released We Got it From Here…Thank you 4 Your Service. Following a rough breakup and years without new work this album seemed unlikely to be realized. The group produced 5 studio albums and are known for their forward-thinking innovations and unusual sampling choices. 18 years later they released their sixth and final album We Got it From Here. The process of finishing the album was colored by the death of one of the group’s four members, Phife Dawg, making the release a tribute to him as well.

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While musician’s reunions are often met with excitement by their fans they are also frequently disappointing. These attempts can be forced, rely heavily on nostalgia, and leave listeners thinking “they just ain’t what they used to be” (like the fourth Indiana Jones movie…ugh). This album does none of that. While the style from ATCQ’s early work shines through, the music and lyrics are decidedly fresh and piercingly relevant. Songs like “The Space Program” and “We the People” comment on racial inequality and the contradictory intolerance of America on display in the events of this year. The artists call out injustice in songs like “Killing Season”: “I swear it’s killing season / Cause killin’ is still in season” “Things haven’t really changed/ Or they’re dormant for the moment” and “Movin Backwards”: “Po puts braces on my wrists like he was clapping his hands / How demeaning y’all? Who could be blind to racism?” The music that makes up this album stands as a strong independent work in the world of rap/hip-hop and perfectly polishes ATCQ’s indelible body of work.

The album features guest artists including Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, André 3000, Kanye West, and Busta Rhymes. ATCQ continues their sampling prowess integrating audio from diverse sources including Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Elton John’s Benny and the Jets, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Behind the Wall of Sleep by Black Sabbath.

Read more:

NPR

Pitchfork

–  Jessica Webster

A Fresh Western, A Sweeping Historical Novel, A Retro 90’s Hip-hop Movie, and a Stimulating Short Story Collection

Film: Magnificent Seven Directed by Antoine Fuqua

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I’m not a huge Western fan (I’m reading my first western book now), but I remember watching the original Magnificent Seven when I was younger and loving it. Good guys. Bad guys. And not necessarily a storybook ending. In this remake (the original itself being a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai epic Seven Samurai) the owner of the local mine wants to take over the town and will do whatever he needs to in order to run everyone out. Emma Cullen’s husband is killed in the initial skirmish, and while she seeks righteousness, if necessary, she’ll take revenge. She hires a warrant officer (Denzel Washington) who puts together a motley crew to save the town.

 
The remake has several things going for it. First, it’s incredibly diverse, with an African American lead, along with white, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American supporting roles. Chris Pratt’s character is very similar to his other recent roles (Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World come to mind), so it’s interesting to see what they do with him in the end.

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While the film has been a modest success critically (currently holding a 62% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), I believe this remake does justice to the original. The only downside is the villain who’s a little ridiculous, but hey, he’s not one of the magnificent seven, so give him a break.

– Richie Gowin

 

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Book: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi:

What a trip. When I finished reading Homegoing I felt my head spinning from the massive journey I just flew through. In her novel Yaa Gyasi creates an amazing collection of intertwined stories that begins in the heart of Africa at the dawn of the slave trade. In a perfectly comprehensive whirlwind she takes the reader through decades of oppression, romance, struggle and triumph. Through the variegated lenses of 14 separate third person narratives Gyasi weaves an integrated genealogy. Each story provides a unique perspective and through the generational progression reflects overarching socio-political evolution. The author presents issues of race and being black in a sensitive yet earnest way without ever usurping the voices of the individuals telling the stories. In exploring this issue, she writes not only about tensions between black and white people but between Africans and African-American’s (in Marjorie’s chapter she feels she is the “wrong kind of black”), and between African tribes.

The stories carry themes of belonging versus displacement and obviously (as the title suggests) of home. Where is home and what does it look like to people who have been uprooted from their original one? How long can you be away from home before you no 12wilkerson-master675longer belong in that place? The concept of family and remembering ancestral roots also lie at the core of this book. Gyasi makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall in a time machine skipping through years in beautiful, though often tragic, snapshots. She seems to have achieved what, the final character, Marcus, aims for: “what he wanted to capture with his project was the feeling of time, of having been a part of something that stretched so far back, was so impossibly large, that it was easy to forget that she, and he, and everyone else, existed in it–not apart from it, but inside of it” (295-96).

– Jessica Webster

 

Film: Dope (2015) Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

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Dope is one of those movies that I fell in love with from the opening scene. It’s quirky and witty, and elevates the poor-kid-in-a-rough-neighborhood drama into something I haven’t seen before. The movie has style on multiple levels, helped along no doubt by producer Pharrell Williams and co-star (and model) Chanel Iman (who spends most of her scenes topless, FYI). This movie combines conversations about pop sub-cultures, race, poverty, and drugs into an intensely interesting and gripping plot, but ends with a “mic drop” comment about how the general white population views poor black people that almost made my mouth hang open. Maybe this movie, which manages to be sort of a feel-good-movie in spite of all the stuff going down, strung me along and hit all the right buttons in a Hollywood sort of way, but it was totally worth it.

– Karissa Tucker

 

Short Story Collection: Island by Alistair MacLeod

It’s a rare book that makes you feel you have something to say. There are books that enlist you or repulse you, or if they’re very clever, do both at the same time. And there are books that give clearer voice to your own tangled thoughts. “I can’t say it as well as Keillor, but it goes something like…” However, all of these books make you want to talk about them. It’s harder to find a book that makes you want to talk to it.

On my first day at home after a long absence, I finished Island, a collection of short stories by Alistair MacLeod. I haven’t the same things to say as he had, and I could only dream of writing prose as pellucid. However, the turn of each story made me feel as though I had something I might say. He was talking about his home; I might talk about mine. This is the sort of book that brings thoughts and feelings about place and heritage to the surface. It’s the sort of book that is likely to read you.

– David Shelton

An ‘American’ American TV Show, A Diverse Historical Musical, and an Inspiring Offbeat Documentary

TV Show: American Odyssey (2015) created by Peter Horton

It’s been a while since I’ve mourned a canceled show quite this much, especially since this show is not really “in my wheelhouse” (which, I hate to say, is some combo of Spanish soap operas and period dramas). I’m the furthest thing away from into all things #merica, but this show manages to encompass a lot of the current political mood in the US without taking a political side. The main character, Sargent Odelle, comes across some suspicious info on a terrorist’s computer while on assignment in Mali, and spends the rest of the show trying to survive being killed for having unwittingly uncovered a vast web of corruption involving the US military and a large investment firm in the US. One review I read said that with a “been-there-seen-that premise and multiple muddled plots, American Odyssey can’t escape the shadows of its superior predecessors in an age of solid spy/action television.” Again, I haven’t watched loads of spy/action thrillers, but the thing that set this show apart for me (beside the government conspiracy thread, which feels eerily timely) was that is did an excellent job of humanizing the characters in Mali. There’s even a subplot about a man who has been framed as a terrorist and the impossibility of proving himself innocent when most people only want to believe the worst of him. I read that the show tacked on the “American” part to its title to come across as more patriotic, but frankly, I think this show is too fair to non-Americans to do well on American TV. BOOO. It stands alone pretty well as a single season, none the less.

– Karissa Tucker

 

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Musical: Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda

One of the biggest broadway hits in the past few years, Hamilton is the story of the founding father who was never president. It covers his whole life: the drama, how he wrote like he’s running out of time, the scandal, and *spoiler* his death.

When I saw the show on Broadway, my friend told me to not listen to any of the music before the show, so the whole experience was completely new to me. The musical was a blend of hip hop, R&B, and rap (genres I don’t usually listen to). After a few numbers, I was able to keep up with the fast rhythms and lyrics, catching and following the story.

16450_show_landscape_large_03Hamilton uses a fairly minimal amount of props, instead using lighting, backup dancers, and a spinning stage to portray the action. Unlike some musicals that have plot-song-plot-song structure, Hamilton’s songs are the plot. If you listen to the soundtrack online you’ll essentially hear the whole show and know the story. However you can’t pick up on things such as who Peggy’s actress plays in the second half and their lyrical connection, witness King George take full command of the theater, or follow the final bullet as it heads towards Hilton himself. Tickets are hard to come by, but it is well worth it!

– Richie Gowin

 

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Documentary: Hot Sugar’s Cold World directed by Adam Bhala Lough

Hot Sugar’s Cold World takes you on a creative quest with composer/producer Nick Koenig, known by his stage name Hot Sugar, as he answers the question, “why do we need instruments anymore?”

Director Bhala Lough follows the producer in the field as he hunts for interesting sounds in non-musical environments and adapts them into melodies. Some examples of these recordings are: the sound of human skulls bouncing off each other, the first computer that went on the internet, ordinary traffic noises, Pop Rocks in someone’s mouth, or the sound of silence at a funeral. The Associative Music he ends up with are beautiful, layered, emotional pieces that subtly reference their source sounds. These songs will end make up Hot Sugar’s debut album, God’s Hand.

Though slow at times, the documentary moves along with visits from director Jim Jarmusch, a break up, conversations with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a trip to Paris, a fully tattooed Word War I veteran, and a sketchy craigslist meet up to buy illegal fireworks with actor Martin Starr.

Hot Sugar’s Cold World is a must see if you’re looking for some inspiration this fall. After a long dry spell, watching this documentary kickstarted a several month long burst of creativity for myself and my husband. The entire documentary is free to stream on youtube. It is split into eight parts, each around ten minutes long.

PART ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orBQp6aSF9I

other links:
http://associativemusic.com
http://hotsugar.tv
https://twitter.com/hotsugar

– Riayn Grey

Mystically Mournful Music, A Terminally Ill Physician, and Your Life in Seconds

 

For this post I asked contributors to respond to increasing global turmoil evidenced by shootings and rising tension between police and laymen in the US, international bombings resulting in hundreds of deaths in Turkey and Baghdad, and large political shifts such as the bizarre American presidential election race and the UK leaving the EU in ‘Brexit’.

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Music album: Scandalize My Name by Ida Maria (Børli Sivertsen)

Where the heck did this woman come from? As far as I know, she’s not very well known, and her sound is so… so…otherworldly. I almost hate to use that term because it feels overused, but I can’t think of any other theremin-heavy, shouted, album of hymns. ida-mariaThis album is explicitly Bible-y in the way that only a non-Christian artist could make it: that is to say, it’s really intriguing and good. Growing up as a missionary kid, I can tell within a half second (not kidding) if someone is preaching or singing about Jesus as I flip through radio channels. Ida Maria had me tricked, though. She has this Icelandic witchy sound and it happens to be beautiful in the context of these laments with titles like “Fix Me Jesus” and “City Called Heaven.” In light of the darkness nipping at our heels in the world right now (or in some cases, just plain devouring us), going around wailing, “I’ve heard of a city called Heaven, I’ve started to make it my home” seems absolutely appropriate. Ida Maria has created this space between my ears that is my private Cathedral chapel on the moors in which to mourn.

– Karissa Tucker

 

 

 

Book: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

In our neighborhoods, on our streets, across the globe, people are dying. Today, political and social crises swell – Black Lives Matter, Brexit, and Aleppo to name a few. Reckless hate and extreme violence threaten everyone. However, many of us meet death in a another, but no less painful, way – through injury and illness, in a hospital bed.

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When Breath Becomes Air offers insight and inspiration for anyone who struggles with grief and loss (past, present, and future). The realm of medicine remains unique yet universal. It is the arena in which humans grapple with death, and, “in so doing, … confront the meaning of a life.” From his unique identity and perspective as physician and patient, Paul Kalanithi teaches us how to live courageously in the face of one’s own mortality.

– Nancy Davong

App: 1 Second Everyday created by Cesar Kuriyama

Every day we create memories whether we like it or not: good, bad or indifferent (a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately). I think people want to create good memories and I hope with everything happening in the world today we will do things to get involved in the fight for justice and peace. Many of us collect/filter/hashtag moments using social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook. Kuriyama developed 1 Second Everyday (1SE) after a series of events including dissatisfaction with a demanding job, blunted creativity, and minimal family time. He took a year off work as a sabbatical and this project began. It was funded as a Kickstarter and now has over a million downloads. (Watch the TED talk he gave for more on his story here.)

This app allows users to capture video clips that are one second long and in a streamlined, extremely user friendly interface provides tools to create mashups of the clips into longer movies. You might be wondering why we need another app on top of all the others we use to take photo/video but this is different. Something Kuriyama mentions in talking about this project as he recorded a year of his life in one second intervals is that it forced him to think about how he was spending his days. If you do nothing but watch TV for a day you’ll have nothing to record. 1SE gives its users an impetus to get up and do things worth remembering.

– Jessica Webster

An overlooked American Classic, Edge-of-your-seat Anime action, and a Visceral Music Experience

Book: The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hawthorne is typically associated with his short stories. He’s even more typically associated with the austere New England setting of his work. However, in this lesser-known novel, Hawthorne takes the reader to Italy, into the heart of old Rome. The Marble Faun is one of the first of the American international novels, a form perfected later in the century by the likes of Henry James. James himself had high praise for the book, which I will not quote because James was clearly writing before the advent of the “spoiler alert.”

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The themes of the work are the usual ones for Hawthorne: guilt and repentance, morality and sin, heaven and hell. Hawthorne’s work benefits from the historical setting, and the additional room afforded by the novelistic form. More than any other of his works with which I am familiar, The Marble Faun displays the author’s uncanny ability to deliver, in the midst of describing a scene, an observation that speaks directly into the heart of an apparently unrelated matter. This book is one of those few which are not considered American classics, but should be.
– David Shelton

 

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Anime: Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) original manga by Hajime Isayama, anime directed by Tetsuro Araki
Yes, my roommate got me into an anime. It also happens to be one of the top animes of all time. In this world, all of humanity (mostly German) lives behind a wall to protect themselves from human devouring Giants called Titans. When the wall is breached, death and tragedy ensue.attack gif Titans are impervious, mindless, eating machines. The show is full of tragedy, complex relationships with well developed characters, a theme song you CANT skip, and gore galore. The first season is on Netflix, but you’ll have to wait along with the diehard fans for season two that’s been postponed for three years, even though it’s nearly complete! It’s hard not to binge watch this action filled thriller.

– Richie Gowin

 

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Music album: A Man Alive! By Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down (2016)

I’ve loved Thao Nguyen ever since she sang “As sharp as it stings / As sharp as I sing / It still soothes you doesn’t it / Like a lick of ice cream” in 2008. This fourth album from Thao Nguyen was produced by Merrill Garbis of tUnE-yArDs (both artists are from the San Francisco/bay area). Thao explains how many of her new songs explore feelings of abandonment and recovery from her father leaving when she was young. In her World Cafe session/interview she says that she has been acutely aware of the fact that her father isn’t dead. He left and still exists somewhere in the world. She could find him. He is a man alive.

Thao’s lyrics carry powerful emotion and convey raw vulnerable questions. With lines like “We’re not born for departure / But we do learn to take it” and “Leave me here / In disbelief again” in the song “Departure”, the artist sings honestly about her own experience with hurt. Her poetic and striking lyrics are backed by incredible tracks that incorporate dissonant/discordant beats and noise with driving melodies that pair perfectly with Thao’s voice and circling choruses. The sound has descriptions like “a driving banger fueled by a chopped-up hip-hop beat and analog squelches” (NPR’s Mike Katzif on “Meticulous Bird of Prey”) and “a cool-down strut sounds like its slinked off some mid-’70s Rickie Lee Jones record” (Stuart Berman for Pitchfork on “Guts”). The songs on this album often evoke a little girl putting on a brave face. She combines an innocent straightforward expressiveness with a questioning that borders between wounded and accusative. The swinging arc of the album shows Thao’s visceral reaction to her father’s abandonment, but simultaneously displays a fierce liveliness that shows strength and willingness to confront trouble head on. The final track, “Endless love”, doesn’t offer the listener concrete resolution. The simple lyrics, “I’ve got an endless love no one can starve / I don’t want it, carve it on out of me,” sound less like a nice tidy end and more like a lament. It would be easier not to feel than to be vulnerable to the world. Despite this final line the artist hasn’t gotten rid of her capacity to feel, instead she allows herself to be transparent with her audience in a beautiful, tender yet resilient and accomplished body of work.

– Jessica Webster

Bits of Film, Adventures with a Highwayman, and Dystopian Fiction

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Website: Crossframed.com:

This website is a real gem. An anonymous cinema fan from Portugal created a website where he provides hundreds of selected film clips from classic, to foreign, to popular movies. There are clips from Star Wars, Dr. Strangelove, Fellini’s 8 1/2, and Requiem for a Dream among many more. At the bottom of the page you’ll find a link that randomly ques up one of the bits. The clips are short and sweet, some lasting up to five minutes while others are only a few seconds. This is a fantastic way to spend a minute or two, get a quick dose of cinema, and maybe find a film you didn’t know you needed to watch.

– Jessica Webster

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Book: Captain Lightfoot by W. R. Burnett

One of my good friends once told me how she spent an entire summer going to dollar book sales and filling up her bookshelves with all sorts of genres. Sometimes she would have heard of the book before, sometimes she thought the cover just looked interesting. And it was only a dollar, so it didn’t really matter. That’s what this book was for me.

Captain Lightfoot is about an Irish boy who stumbles into the life of a highway man. It’s a quick, light, adventurous read about growing up, the struggle between being a successor or your own person, and light hearted romance. If anything, you’ll at least get a few laughs over Michael and Aba’s friction. –

– Richie Gowin

the-heart-goes-last

Book: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood:

Set in a future dystopia where money is scarce and many Americans struggle to find cars to make into homes, a couple finds refuge in an experimental facility named Positron. While in Positron, individuals can lead perfectly normal lives, doing normal activities for one month, but the next they are put into a prison and switch back and forth every month thereafter. As our couple escapes the cruelty of the outside world, they believe themselves blessed to have found such ‘safety’ in Positron. However, as they discover the true intentions of the facility they begin to realize the substitution of morality for obedience. Stan and Charmaine are ‘forced’ to make decisions that beckon the reader to consider the value of comfort and whether the price paid is for pleasure or just the abstinence of pain.

Atwood’s inspection of sexuality is raw and insightful; it appears nihilistic but there is overtone of ‘carry on’ that seems indicative of the normalcy of dysfunctional relationships. The author is willing to wrestle with ‘common uncommons’ and certain scenes within the book exhibit an imaginative exercise of human depravity that is not excessive. The work is often dark and even at times repulsive but it provides a geography that tests the characters like a Honda Civic off-roading. They are broken, bent, dismayed and even tortured by circumstance but by that test become the perfect setup for what I think is Atwood’s primary question of the work: How comfortable are you willing to be?

It was a good read and there are so many great sentences and paragraphs that even if the story was not compelling it would still be worth a pass over. Enjoy 🙂

– Christopher Rodriguez