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The Trend Report™: Any Kind of Luck
Some counter programming, looking at new and old media items that reflect these times so accurately.
"This is not a ‘meme’"
The way Ukraine is using Twitter is an exercise in contemporary use of language. If you don’t understand, look at Russia’s account: it’s regressive, old, traditional. Ukraine’s is progressive. Their Twitters offer a window into who the countries are and how they express themselves. How wartime countries perform themselves online will be a major talking point in years to come.
"“We aren't going to lay down our arms."
People marching through central Moscow
Russian forces as they take a Ukrainian airport
“That’s pretty smart”
Meet Volodymyr Zelensky
explosions in Kyiv during live shot
Widening conflict risks deadly toll on civilians
“This picture, my god”
There is a lot of content around what’s happening in Russia and the Ukraine. Here are a few I perused this week.
Ukraine: How to help
A few ways help, tilted toward artists and musicians.
Taiwan warns Chinese aircraft
Not to worry you! But…
This man went viral this week for obvious reasons.
Meet Ketanji Brown Jackson
Enjoy a little good news. As a treat!
National Guard Is Deployed to Schools
In response to there being fewer and fewer teachers in America, military personnel are being put into schools in New Mexico. What could go wrong?
"You can’t stay home in your pajamas"
Not my mayor but this dude sucks.
Employees Have Logged Fewer Sick Days
Interesting! But it’s not what it seems: part of the lower sick days is because people come to work sick instead of taking sick days. Oy.
Texas investigate care for trans youth
What does art mean in hard times?
At its best, art is a vessel, to capture our feelings, to hold that which cannot be explained or described, so we can examine it objectively, to feel and reflect on the moment in a way we haven’t been able to. At its worst, it simplifies or trivializes experience, distilling it down into something hollow, removing the meaning of a moment and replacing it with forced feelings, prescribing a diagnosis that often serves other parties.
Art, in moments like these, has to be honest. It should be without dazzle. It should be ugly! It shouldn’t be simple but instead slightly dense, complicated, with the power to overwhelm, making you feel worse to make you feel better. That is what art must do in hard times.
Nate Scheible's Fairfax accomplishes this in so many ways. Originally released in 2017 on experimental label ACR and recently reissued on Warm Winters, the album features nine sound pieces that float between knotted, tough noise and ethereal, gauzy sweeps through sound. Woven throughout, unexpectedly and in some ways out of place, is the voice of an older woman who speaks closely to a microphone, talking to someone, telling her story in audio snippets.
The woman, who sounds a bit like Amy Sedaris, plays a small role in these 47 minutes but emerges in these 37 minutes as the best everyperson protagonist for these times. She is unnamed, unseen, but narrates her story over expressionist soundscapes that amplify her situation. She’s someone going through intense health struggles, is short on money, and is trying to deal with a particularly lonely situation. She, like so many of us right now, can’t find the will to go on. She needs and wants yet this American life bears down on her, draining her, sucking out her life.
But she has hope, and it’s this hope that drives Fairfax so beautifully, even if in bits and pieces, not fully realized until the triumphant closing track "There's Nothing That Says I Cannot Dream," where chimes blur and strings bloom into a flood of quiet but deafening emotion. The rare electronic “storytelling” album, Fairfax allows listeners to be an audience to the timeless, overwhelming drama of life as told in the present. From the gloomily hopeful “With Any Kind of Luck,” where saxophones create a comforting bed for tragedy, to “Our Doubts Are Traitors,” a drone-driven meditation on meditation, Scheible reveals all of our situation in this woman’s story, asking listeners to wonder if they are listening to themself speak, even if it so clearly is this unnamed narrator.
What twists the knife in this story is that this woman, that these tapes, were found, a product of being discarded, just one of the many effects of one person’s little life. Scheible came across these tapes and, recognizing this story, wove them into his work – and the result is this album. So many of our stories go untold or are undocumented. So much of our “our stuff” will never be shared, instead lost to the private. So many of our tragedies happen remotely. So much suffering takes place without an audience. Fairfax brings our separations together, to reveal our ills so plainly, to inspire hope in the most unexpected of ways. It’s a remarkable piece of narrative music that will capture your feelings if you allow it to.
Easily one of the best – if not the best – sound-based electronic works, rivaling that of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops or DJ Healer’s “The Interview,” it is a piece so taut with emotion that you have to fight to not cry by the end of the album, as you tour every emotion available in the palette of feelings. It’s dark and bright, with a bottomless depth that will keep you aglow for days. It’s a striking piece of art, of hope, in difficult times, the rare reminder you that we still have our dreams even when we have nothing. Trust that that is what will get you through.
"you owe it to yourself to be happy"
As counter programming to the Texas trans item, this coming out moment on Drag Race is just…very beautiful and is the rare sort of positive (trans, queer) representation that isn’t played on television very often!
“the goal of the transition closet”
Speaking of positive trans and queer things!!!
"one group who achieved levels of academic success"
A fascinating study about how gay men overachieve and have overachieved (in academics) for generations.
FDA Grants First Condom for Anal Sex
This is amazing! But also…what the fuck it took this long to get approved condoms for anal sex??
Coachella's COVID-19 Rules Worries Experts
So what of Coachella being lax on Covid safety? Health experts don’t like it, especially since people are coming from all over the world to attend.
Jack Corbett Makes Economics Wacky for TikTok
I love Jack Corbett and think he is a genius. If you haven’t watched Planet Money’s TikTok, you are missing out.
Babies Have Entered the Chat
I love you all and all of your kids but this story stressed me the f out about parenting while working. The photos are beautiful though!!
Magpies Help Each Other Remove Scientists' Tracking Devices
Birds are geniuses and I love them.
Is everything viral an industry plant?
There’s the creeping feeling that more and more accounts are not-real. This story captures it!
The Smartest Way to Keep Avocados Fresh
I kept seeing people share avocados in water on Twitter and thought it was a hoax but…I guess it’s a real hack!!
Self-portraits inspired by 19th-century Iranian beauty ideals
Some amazing non-binary photography!
First Ever Recording of Dying Brain
“The rhythmic brain wave patterns which were recorded during the man's time of death were observed to be similar to those occurring during dreaming, memory recall and meditation.” I love this shit.
I recently rewatched the movie Pleasantville. It’s a good! If you’re unfamiliar, the 1998 “fantasy” film is about a young Tobey Maguire and a young Reese Witherspoon getting sucked into a television, where they are a part of a black-and-white sitcom about idealized American life. It’s a great little social study! Which, as has been written before, is not perfect as the absence of diverse races in a metaphor about racism, sexism, ableism, and other -isms is glaringly problematic.
Yet, whiteness withstanding, the film has a sharp insight into what the way our world was, is, and will be, for better or worse. For example!
The first ten minutes include a state of the union via high school teachers speaking on different subjects. There is a skewering of the economics, where a teacher explains that good jobs and good money will be harder to come by for high school and college graduates. Then, another teacher discusses climate change and how flooding and famine will become the norm and that the temperature of the planet will go up. Both seem so hyperbolic! Both were jokes in 1998! If only they knew. And do note that the students being spoken to, high schoolers in the late nineties, are Millennial cusps, a group who are living to see these environmental and economic truths come to be.
The largest thrust of the movie is that the quaint town is introduced to sex in various ways, inspiring a sex-positivty that, while common today, is still something that is far from accepted in the macro.
And, to that, female pleasure is prioritized in the film as both Reese Witherspoon and Joan Allen’s characters seek and share pleasure by loving their bodies and what their bodies can do. This, for both and in very different ways, brings about an enlightenment and brightening of the world around (and inside) them.
There is a sharp point about the role of women at home and at work, all done through something as small as not-making-dinner for one’s husband being a political act.
Through Jeff Daniels’ diner cook, you see the stupidity of jobs in America, that one spends all their days working a job they hate instead of pursuing a dream, all because that one’s dream doesn’t “help the economy.”
And, through this Jeff Daniels character, there is a mediation on the value – and importance – of the arts, and how art is often the best reflection and articulation of the world.
Notions of “the traditional” are questioned constantly, with the phrase “family values” thrown around to trigger the white, heterosexual dog whistles designed by Ronald Regan (who, of course, starred in the sort of media that the movie lampoons).
A big theme is the pursuit of knowledge, taking one’s head out of the sand, and seeing the world for what it is, which brings enlightenment as well. Whether questioning what’s at the end of the town’s street or how a book like Huck Finn can open up new worlds (even if slavery somehow gets, uh, not-mentioned), the feeling that knowledge-is-power is everywhere.
While there aren’t literal people of color in the film, the way it speaks to (racial) prejudices is ridiculous and, well, an issue that remains, compounded by the villainizing of things like critical race theory.
Is this movie perfect? Not at all. Is it entertaining? Yes. Did I watch it this week and feel like, strangely, history is repeating itself, to articulate these problems, only for no one to listen? Yes.
I am sure in 1998 when Pleasantville came out, adults talked about it being a cute little metaphor for these times, only to take the lesson at face-value. You can’t help but watch a movie like this and wonder: what has changed? Not much, which may be where the movie gets its power: that we’re stuck in a loop, that we’re still in so many ways awaiting to turn to color.
"This is worse than that moment."
“Someone said Americans have main character syndrome”
Andy Cohen's Powerful Wordle Message To Russia And Ukraine
"a diplomatic solution so incredibly ingenious"
All the bad lol items related to the war. As they say: laugh, to keep from crying.
"Bitcoin holders realized they might be bad guys"
"AI to capture what historical figures"
These AI-old-people-as-contemporary-people always gets my click.
"Arthur characters are all grown up"
If you missed it, the last episode of Arthur aired and all the characters grew up.
Immediately using all of these emojis.
"in awe at this headline"
Been thinking about this bad Britney Spears turn of phrase all week.
“if croque madame”
Obsessed with this Tweet.
“pedestrian splatter zone”
No more cars!!!!!!!
“I need 2.22.22”
Been thinking about this Tweet all week.
"a possum got into my friends house"
And, finally, the best TikTok of the week.
And, finally, my favorite food group.