So much has happened in the past two weeks that I can’t cover here. Australia burned, Iran’s second most powerful leader was killed, A LOT of controversial WWIII memes were made, Nikkie Tutorials was forced to come out, and a whole lot more.
Highlights: What The Oscars got wrong, shifting our perspective on monuments, a royal exit, the sometimes tragedy of birth, meditating on cats and Elizabeth Bishop, the politics of textiles, the popularization of Botox, you probably aren’t Beyoncé’s friend, and the Bernie/Warren spat.
The Oscar nominations are literally so bad this year. I texted my friend who grew up in LA with parents in the industry about the nominations (as I do each year) and her reaction was essentially “Where is Lupita?!?” As this article points out, the nominations are more international—Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is nominated six times, and Antonio Banderas is nominated for Best Actor in a leading role for his part in the Spanish-language film Pain and Glory—but in almost every other way the Oscars basically got everything else wrong. Or at least not right.
Unfortunately, this list was not published in time to be included in one of my “Best of” lists from December, but it did come out in time to highlight just how much went wrong with the Oscar nominations this year. Not everything on this would be eligible for an Oscar—some are not even films—but it does highlight a few films, such as Hustlers and Clemency, that the Oscars egregiously overlooked.
I went to a panel that Titus Kaphar was on at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC last year and the question of monuments came up. In response, Kaphar offered a shift of framework. He said, and I am paraphrasing, that instead of thinking of monuments of the confederacy, or colonizers, or oppressors, as a period—a terminal punctuation mark—at the end of a sentence in history, we should instead shift the kind of mark that they are. Perhaps the monuments should be commas. But either way, we need to stop thinking about them as the end.
Over the holidays I went to London with my sister. We went to the Tate Modern with her friend (who is not British) and saw Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus, in which “a half-naked Venus spouts water into a tiered fountain from her breasts and slit throat in the vast Turbine Hall” of the museum.
In this piece, Ulrich Baer places Walker’s fountain in the context of new works by Kehinde Wiley and Wangechi Mutu, which also engage in the current contentious debate around the role of monuments. All of the artists are “placing imagined rather than actual figures on a pedestal,” and thus “[expanding] the monument debate from being a public concern, touching on politics and civic space, into something simultaneously rooted in the world of art, where the imagination is as powerful a weapon as historical knowledge.”
After relentless racism from the press, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced they would “step back as ‘senior’ members [of the royal family], and work to become financially independent.” While shocking to many (white people) this doesn’t come as a surprise to Black Britons, or people of color generally. As with most of the world, “no matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in [England] racism will still follow you.”
Here, Afua Hirsch gives a brief history of racism in England and why Meghan and Harry’s decision shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
Once I started reading this story I could not stop. It is one of the most interesting and tragic articles I have read. it discusses Emile Weaver’s neonaticide, a term used when a parent kills their baby within a 24-hour window after birth. Addressing both the psychological and societal stressors that may lead someone to do this, the article also questions how the cases are adjudicated in the US. “I think Americans have a unique penchant for blaming individuals for societal or collective ills,” said Michelle Oberman, a law professor interviewed for this story. “It’s important to start by saying, ‘To be sure, [Emile] deserves some blame.’ The question is, How constructive is it to give her all the blame?”
This story interests me for a lot of reasons. Firstly, in it Christine Marshall explores her relationship with Elizabeth Bishop and her work—and I’m always interested in people’s perspectives on the great American poet. Then there is the structure of the piece, vignetted into many short sections that flicker between multiple narratives all while remaining cohesive. It is a piece I read multiple times not only for its content but also to understand structurally, syntactically, how it works.
Today, it is very easy to forget where things come from. It is easy to be alienated from the labor that goes into the products we buy. It is all too easy to buy clothes, then buy more for no real reason and support one of the least sustainable industries.
In Argentina, a woman named Adriana Marina is dedicated to changing that, with the help of the super-fine fleece of guanacos, and a drive to make sustainable textiles, countering the “Argentine Paradox, a perplexing pattern in which this formerly prosperous country with wealth, an educated populace, and abundant resources throws it all away, again and again.”
I think plastic surgery is one of the most fascinating things. Maybe it is because I grew up in the age of Extreme Makeover. Fred Brandt, known as “The Baron of Botox,” popularized using the injection of wrinkle reduction decades before it was approved by the FDA for that function in 2002. Over his career, the “nerve-freezing substance originally used to alleviate twitchy eyelids, became Brandt’s paintbrush, a way to gently redesign a face by manipulating the muscles under the skin.” When he started in the 1980s, there were not many options other than surgery. With his syringe, Brandt not only revolutionized faces, but also a $16.5 billion industry.
Beyoncé dropped clothing from her Ivy Park athleticwear line in partnership with Adidas. She has been sending rolling racks of clothing covered in orange canvas to her celebrity friends all week and the hype is real. Now you know whether you are friends with Beyoncé or not.
You know, I am not really sure if this is my favorite take on the Warren-Sanders spat, where both candidates claimed that the other called them a liar, but I do like that it seems like an actual conversation, where sexism and honesty are both considered.
*All images taken from reference articles*
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