PICKS OF THE MONTH
diskurso art magazine's
June 2020 Picks
Published July 1, 2020
The June 12-13 limited-access premiere of A Thousand Cuts on YouTube
(Two-day limited access streaming launched by FRONTLINE PBS | Official on YouTube, 12 June 2020; scheduled later release on various virtual cinemas, 7 August 2020)
A THOUSAND Cuts is a film by Filipino-American documentary filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz (Imelda) which portrays the current post-truth politics in the Philippines, which portraiture viewers may be able to easily see if their understanding of post-truth politics refers to that that's not only wary of journalistic reporting—that has a version of various truths running against the government's (or its friends') versions—but is also deep into the art and clever craft of gaslighting.
The film doesn't go into the nitty-gritty. It doesn't dive further into the cyber-libel case against Rappler editor-in-chief and CEO Maria Ressa that led to her arrest and conviction. Such an in-depth dive would require it to, for instance, look into the oft-alleged relationship between billionaire Wilfredo Keng and President Rodrigo Duterte and Duterte ally and former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo. That would demand, as we should say, a heavier kind of investigation, and this film only chooses to focus on Ressa as a human signifier of what should be a question or compound of questions regarding the problematic conflict between Rappler's journalism and the Duterte government's social media-based push for right-wing alternative metanarratives.
In other words, the film acts as an introduction into the Philippine matrix containing what it and its subject imply are the reinvigorated art of gaslighting, alternative facts dissemination, Russian whataboutism, and Stalinist diktats via lists touted as police or military intelligence-deriving. That last art fits snugly into what is positioned in the film as a fear-mongering stance of an official policy constantly flaunting the argumentum ad baculum. Yes, this film doesn't go into the details behind these local manifestations of a currently globally-trendy right-wing populist art, but it amply gives us the required abstract sprinkled with hints on why the Ressas of the world would be deemed as an enemy and why others would not be. True, an adjunct film would investigate further into why the Duterte government had its eyes on Maria Ressa alone (not Rappler entirely) as well as the Lopez family's ABS-CBN alone (keeping its hands out of the GMA network or the newly-Ramon-Ang-acquired Philippine Daily Inquirer, at least at the moment), but you are right: this is not yet that kind of film.
But it offers us yet another panoramic view of the controversial rise of this new gaslighting art in a setting that parallels those in the right-leaning populist media of the United States, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Belarus, and so on. In short, this re-strengthened art's relationship with rightism is being given the spotlight here. Its coverage of the Bato dela Rosa (him whose family name would be de la Rosa in Spain and Latin American countries) and Samira Gutoc senatorial campaigns not only offers a rightist vs. liberal contrast in the approach to the crime problem (the drug problem, especially) that the Duterte camp seems to have successfully hijacked for its communication as if it's solely its cause and not within other parties' roster of priorities. And that's putting aside the surfaced reports that have alleged that the President (or his son Paolo) has links with a particular drug lord. History has yet to judge whether dela Rosa's vigilantist view has been a fully-aware party to the Duterte camp's fearmongering utopia or has merely been conscripted as one from a "useful idiot" to service this very fear-mongering, that utopia that the film portrays as more of a dystopia with a clever framework inspired by gangsterism.
The full documentary. [Later uploaded by Frontline PBS | Official, 13 March 2021]
Pinoy Sunday on Netflix
(Launched 8 June 2020, Netflix Philippines)
PINOY Sunday, the 2010-released Filipino-language Taiwanese film directed by Malaysia-born Taiwanese director Ho Wi Ding, just got launched on Netflix Philippines last 8 June. Hooray!
This is the debut feature-length film of Ho, which he co-wrote with Ajay Balakrishnan. Ho went on to win the Panorama prize at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018 with his third feature film, Cities of Last Things, but even before helming Pinoy Sunday, two of his short films, Respire and Summer Afternoon, were already selected to appear at the Cannes Film Festival, where the former won in 2015 both the Kodak Discovery Award and the Young Critics Award during International Critics' Week. Pinoy Sunday itself won Ho the Best Director plum at the 47th Golden Horse Awards and the Best Picture award at the 2010 Comedy Cluj Festival in Romania.
Ok. For those who don't know it yet, Pinoy Sunday, starring Filipino actors Epy Quizon and Bayani Agbayani with support from Alessandra De Rossi and Meryll Soriano, is not a Filipino film in the usual Netflix sense. It is, as we said above, a Filipino-language Taiwanese film with Taiwanese-Japanese producers (except for now-California-based Filipino Mark Meily, who is a co-producer).
Pinoy Sunday is a comedy-drama film that could also be read as a tragicomedy, depending on where your politics lie (bourgeois or anti-bourgeois?).
We'd like to confess that we prefer tragicomedy to dramedy as a type, if only because it's where the comedy would actually become just the filmmaker's development-communication vehicle for a serious message, in the same way that magic realism had been the development-communication tool of many LatAm writers with very important political agendas to impart within their storytelling. The difference is really just in the context, dependent on the contextualizing viewer (or critic) who decides what to tag his comic-dramatic product as: dramedy or tragicomedy.
You see, in comedy drama, drama stuff progresses in the story, but lightened up with entertaining comedy; or, conversely put, there's comic stuff going on around the developing drama.
Tragicomedy is a slightly different animal, or rather, an entirely different point of view: it recognizes a tragic flaw underneath all the intermittently appearing comedy. At the film's ending, a tragicomic view would not necessarily be harder on the chest with the protagonist's realization of something, but it would certainly offer a deeper understanding. This is certainly the case with Italian neorealist (or Italian social realist) films like Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, which, incidentally, Pinoy Sunday may just be Ho's colorful (pink socialist) variation on.
(WARNING: OUTSIDE OF THE PLOT TEXT YOU CAN READ ON WIKIPEDIA, THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE BELOW)
A film on migrant workers, Pinoy Sunday focuses on two friends from the Philippines (Manuel and Dado) who travel to Taiwan to work at a Giant Bicycles factory. The film implies that many foreign blue-collar workers in Taiwan (and, by extension, in other countries) live in dormitories owned by the companies that hire them, and that compliance to dormitory rules such as curfew may be as strict as the discouraging of tardiness at work. This situation makes it hard for migrant laborers to separate their work life and home life. However, this is still deemed by many as a better situation than being in their country of origin where they might be enjoying the freedom to do anything in their own homes, going out and coming in at whatever time they please, but without jobs to gain money from, unemployed.
Manuel de la Cruz (Quizon) is a sort of dreamy person who can't adhere to strict rules. But being naturally imaginative, he can find ways to soften the factory-compound guard's heart and get away with his tardiness, unlike his friend Carros (who was with him and Dado when they arrived at the train station from the airport) who would later be dismissed from work and then go on hiding to escape deportation. It is later revealed that Manuel used to be a musician in a band that obviously got him nowhere, thus his decision to join the Filipino workforce in Taiwan. Although resourceful and ambitious, his character is also revealed to be a bit unlucky with women, even though he is always enamored with someone (who, it often turns out, would not be enamored with him).
Dado Tagalog (Agbayani) is Manuel's best friend and erstwhile bandmate who tagged along with Manuel because, like Manuel, nothing was happening to him in their hometown. Unlike Manuel, however, he is not unlucky in love and, in fact, soon falls into a relationship with a fellow Filipino worker in Taiwan, even though he is also revealed to be quite the family man who also misses his wife and daughter. When he is informed that his wife was rushed to the hospital after a minor accident involving a motorized tricycle, he worries. (The Philippine motorized tricycle here becomes a symbol of Dado's family―Dado, his wife, and their daughter, after the vehicle's three wheels―and is a motif that might also remind people this early in the film of one of the most affordable family vehicles in the Philippines; in the film's end scene, however, the motorized tricycle becomes a symbol of something else).
In the opening railway station scene, Dado goes to the restroom where he meets a countryman in handcuffs due out in a deportation procedure. When Dado witnesses situations like this, which Manuel doesn't, is it to signify Dado's being the realist one between the two?
Manuel is the optimistic fantasist, a stand-in for a part of the Filipino populace that continues to dream of having one of the best-looking women or men there is for a girlfriend/wife or boyfriend/husband (a showbiz-inspired tragicomedy by itself). Those fantasists would also endlessly be dreaming of a luxurious life as if all you need to display is hard work (sipag), perseverance (tiyaga), and a bit of strategy (diskarte) to get it. At their Taiwan dormitory's roof deck, Manuel expresses a desire to get a soft couch for that deck spot where they drink their beer, instead of just being content to sit on wooden chairs. Dado ignores him. Manuel's delusionary attitude is also portrayed as extending to his perceptions over blossoming relationships (or what he imagines are blossoming relationships) between him and some women, as in the present case with nightclub girl Cecilia (De Rossi) in Taiwan. Because he is delusional, it's only natural that he would also be confident. On a bus heading for Taipei Manuel tells Dado, "Siyempre, pagdating sa babae, dapat tayo ang nagdadala" (Of course, when it comes to women, we should be the ones taking the lead). This is one statement that points us to Manuel's overconfidence as a tragic flaw.
One Sunday Manuel and Dado take the bus to leave their city (we assume they're coming from Dajia, Taichung, where the Giant Bicycles factory is), heading out for the Catholic church in Danshui in Taipei to hear mass. In Danshui they are also supposed to meet Dado's girlfriend, personal care assistant Anna (Soriano), and possibly also Manuel's crush, Cecilia. However, the priest at the church preaches about everyone's going back to their respective families "in a faithful way," which may have pushed Dado, apart from his wife's little accident, to end his fling with Anna (during this Sunday, Anna's birthday) and buy presents instead for a balikbayan box to send to his family. Thereafter, Dado witnesses their friend Carros' apprehension by the police (again not witnessed by Manuel).
Meanwhile, Manuel experiences his first harsh realization in the film: he's been a fool toward Cecilia, who―without telling Manuel―turns out to be not in any bit interested in him (or in men of his financial stature).
Then we come to the ultimate motif in the film, the sofa left by an arguing couple, which Manuel embraces as a gift from God. We won't tell you the bunch of things that happen next. Suffice to be told that the two struggle to bring the couch to their dormitory roof deck in the rest of the movie, functioning as a trope for their class' desire to reach a certain level of luxury usually reserved for the propertied classes to enjoy. (Their journey back to Dajia, Taichung by foot gets some poetic license, considering that Taichung is 139 km. from Danshui, Taipei.)
In the end, the dramedy turns into precisely what we prefer you to think of it as: a neorealist tragicomedy. The struggle doesn't reach a fulfillment of the desired end, and Manuel's fantasies turn into realizations now in the level of Dado's pragmatic kind of relatively realist vision, drifting away in the river water like a dreamy song by Christina (the name of their defunct band, which somehow rhymes with Christianity, that poor-loving theology around God's tests and graces).
Dado calls Anna, who earlier expressed anger toward Dado's relationship-ending news during her birthday, and she promptly tells Dado she completely understands him, telling us how similar she and Dado are.
The comedy doesn't end with a "tragedy" for the two's Taiwan "gig," however (which makes it more of a Chaplin product than a De Sica one―incidentally, Quizon's father Dolphy used to play a Philippine version of Chaplin). In the end scene, after drinking at a beach hut (with a wooden bench and table) back in their hometown, the two go home on their motorized tricycle (likely bought from the meager money one of them was able to save―the tricycle now as symbol of realistic thriftiness as well as of contentment, as well as Dado and his wife's semi-adoption of still-reeling-from-disillusionment Manuel). On the tricycle the two joke about what they should cook for lunch. They start by mentioning the squid adobada, then the pork adobada, then finally the kangkong adobada, presumably as the healthier option, although we suspect/know this last was really what they already settled for from the start because it's the most affordable of the three adobada types.
So Manuel is going to be joining Dado (Diosdado, which means God-given, God's real gift to Manuel?) and his wife and daughter for lunch. Presumably because Manuel is still going through the pangs of having lived the life of an unlucky dreamer. But now we know that Manuel is a different person, or on his way to completely becoming one. His next life as a more mature figure (a new Manuel Quizon, get it?) could be written as this film's possible sequel.
an embed of illustrator Ray Nazarene Sunga's online story "Bukas Ulit" (click on the Facebook icon to see the entire 9-page webcomic)
(Posted on the artist's Facebook page 11 June 2020, reposted by Rappler on its Facebook page 22 June 2020)
WE don't know if illustrator Ray Nazarene Sunga heeded that call by Rappler to submit cartoons for its opinion page, but the artist definitely got the news website's attention with his posting on his Facebook page of a visual story he titled "Bukas Ulit." That story consisting of 16 comic book panels/frames triggered the website to re-post Sunga's entire work on its own Facebook page.
It's a simple COVID-19 lockdown-period narrative starting with the end of a day's work for a construction worker. It follows him on his journey home and ends with his killing a candlelight before he goes to bed.
What's special about this visual story is the fact that it got us to recall those black-and-white film scenes that incorporated color as a focusing device. Like when, say, Steven Spielberg used the color red in his black-and-white Schindler's List to follow a girl who went to hide from the Nazi police.
That same device is used by Sunga in his story with utter sensitivity. If someone would want to treat these frames of his as a screenplay and storyboard ready for short film adaptation, yes, we would be grateful. But we're already happy to see them as is.
Reality television show segment
The Cookie Monster Rates Chef's Cookies | Top Chef: All-Stars. [Uploaded by Top Chef World, 17 Jun 2020]
The "Quickfire Challenge" segment from Top Chef: All Stars episode 10
(Video published 17 Jun 2020 / Insight Productions, Shaw Media, Bravo, NBCUniversal / YouTube / Reality competition)
IN April 2020, a channel called Top Chef World joined YouTube, and thereafter video clips culled from past Top Chef shows were uploaded here. One of these new videos, taken from Top Chef: All Stars (2010), is of the Quickfire Challenge segment of that season's episode 10, which focused on cookies, but judged by Sesame Street's Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Telly. We're curious as to who actually did the judging that picked Filipino-American chef Dale Talde as the winner of the $5,000 challenge prize.
Stand-up comedy special
(Full video released 12 June 2020, YouTube)
THIS only has a panoramic take on a problem occurring somewhere on our planet.
Comedian Dave Chappelle uses the live comedy performance medium to deliver an oratory of a well-written serious Chappelle essay, all because one CNN dude named Don Lemon announced that he expects celebrities to contribute a sentence or two to the most recent Black Lives Matter cause to street-protest. What resulted was a surprisingly strong j'accuse speech from Mr. Chappelle, strong, yes, thanks to our expectations of an evening of comedy that ultimately were given a good reason to be disappointed and yet thankful for it at the same time, at least for this one night. On this night, Chappelle became an African-American version of Hasan Minhaj doing an angrier Patriot Act.
Here's Paste: "This short YouTube special is a furious, righteous, impassioned monologue on the murder of George Floyd and the protests that have sprung up throughout the country. In what’s easily the best work of his Netflix era, Chappelle doesn’t try to give voice to the movement or the justified rage rippling through America—as he says, 'this is the streets talking for themselves, they don’t need me right now'—but focuses on his own rage, his own disgust, which drips from almost every word he says. It’s searing, powerful, and proof that Chappelle is absolutely still one of the most vital comedians around, no matter how disappointing and regressive his most recent special was."
Stand-up comedy special
Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
(Launched 26 May 2020, Netflix)
IF stand-up comedy constructs today are to be written as text, one could argue that they'd all display the characteristics of postmodern literature. While telling their jokes, they all seem to be not only concerned with their authors' and audience's role in the narrative, but also with the interplay of truths and fictions inside these constructions. If so, it might be fair to say that Aussie comedian Hannah Gadsby's Douglas is one of the most postmodern of them all, not only for being self-reflexive all throughout, but for going as far as letting people know at the beginning that she's going to be managing their reactions in all the chapters of her gig. With that, as shown in this filmed Los Angeles leg of the Douglas tour, a sort of announced manipulation occurs―which displays the height of irony (or sublime parody), the manipulation being aimed at the most rightist of reactions within American conservative culture, an intolerant culture that has of late been moving further and further to the death-threats-flaunting international fascist right.
Many people's rewatch of When They See Us, the 2019 Netflix four-part miniseries, after its mention―in the IndieWire report titled As ‘The Help’ Goes #1 on Netflix, Critics Speak Out and Offer Better Movies to Stream―as one of the better films to watch (again) in this month of Black Lives Matter rallies protesting the killing of George Floyd
(IndieWire report published 4 June 2020, indiewire.com; When They See Us launched on Netflix 31 May 2019)
THIS month, as the US-wide Black Lives Matter protest rallies in the wake of the killing of George Floyd continues, igniting in a big way updated reactions to a longstanding problem in United States history and society, The Help, the 2011 film on racial healing (supposedly), became the #1 streamed movie on Netflix USA. There were a few writers and critics who just couldn't allow that statistical endorsement to pass without a social media comment complete with a counter-offer of a list of better (or more realistic) movies for people to watch. Film journalist and critic Zack Sharf of IndieWire reported on these critics' protestations towards a rating result, and so here we are, picking one (the 2019 miniseries When They See Us, launched on Netflix 31 May last year) from among those pieces counter-endorsed by these writers.
Then, on June 10, Netflix came up with its Black Lives Matter Collection, available in the Philippines, and The Help is not there (it's never been available on Netflix Philippines). When They See Us is in the collection, as it should be, along with 13th, Pose, Dear White People, Mudbound, and Who Killed Malcolm X?, among 35 other titles.
Read our comments regarding this Ava DuVernay-written-and-helmed miniseries in our June 2019 picks of the month list. But, to add, note please that this movie need not just be about the Central Park jogger case and the American issues around it. Its context embraces, without question, not just the reality about the psychology of authorities who've assigned themselves the role of judge/jury and/or punisher, but also the fact that these same authorities often go around the existing laws, or test these laws' limits, inspired by one cultural bias or another.
This film does not just touch on the laws that govern the fight against criminals and how these laws have been used for other agendas (including continuing racism-inspired legal beliefs by people in government like Donald Trump). It may actually be read without difficulty as also covering those doctrines that arm the, uh, war against terrorists, for instance, in the US and elsewhere, and how these doctrines may be used for purposes other than the anti-terrorist fight.
Rough and Rowdy Ways
(Released 19 June 2020, Columbia Records)
BOB Dylan's ultimate Rimbaudian subtlety is at work here, in the most fine-drawn imagist lyrics of the tracks, plunging us into beautiful, almost-surreal verbal montages that at the same time get as rough and rowdy (read: truly of folksy common sense) as when we first heard tracks like "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again."
The songs here could be read as a capitulation to America's current backward spiral into its Old West beginnings, but it should on the whole be appreciated as a paean to freedom (not just one's own but others' as well). Which appreciation in itself delivers the Old West question of whether freedom can best be served by letting it apply to the big capitalists first or, in contrast, the people first. Such is the basic conflict, after all, in Americans' point of view towards things up to today, within a division that could only have been expected to widen after the realizations of post-Reagan deregulations that even the Democrats' Bill Clinton continued. Oops. Are we veering away too far from our subject? Nah, we don't think so. Let us illustrate:
But first, Dylan's still-ragged vocals fit snugly into the landscape of his lyrical aggression here, even while his music in the album continually lies back to the collaging of traditional elements. After all, this collection might have been inspired by My Rough and Rowdy Ways: Early American Rural Music, Badman Ballads, and Hellraising Songs (Classic Recordings of the 1920s and '30s) volumes 1 and 2 that Yazoo Records came out with in 1998, even though Dylan points to Jimmie Rodgers' "My Rough and Rowdy Ways" as his model for this outing. But it's not as if Dylan's songs here work like entries to a soundtrack for a western film; far from it. Like in the early days of Blonde on Blonde, or even earlier, as he turned poet more than mere writer of protest songs with Another Side of Bob Dylan, the bard's compositions here gather personal, mythical, earthly, historical, contemporary, international, as well as idyllic imageries to provide an anarchist view of life, which fortunately looks more left-anarchist than right-. Or, okay, just liberal for being acknowledging of, or open to, his own persona as a man containing multitudes (contrasting with, say, Eric Clapton's one-time anti-immigrant sentiments that seemed blind to the multitudes in his own music).
So, now to our earlier thesis regarding the album's politics. You see, ultimately, the album qua utilitarian product can be beamed in the direction of our current international landscape, as a sneer on the burgeoning trend towards the studied implementation of demagogic utopias of "law and order" or narrowing "discipline" by both the new fascists and the equally fascist-spirited ruling communist factions of the planet. The songs, while confessing their rowdiness, celebrate that roguishness to wallow in all of its multicultural glory before the censors win in trying to deliver their hypocritical theonomies to enforce primness. Such rough rowdiness is, after all, anathema to the silent obedience of sycophants kowtowing to a government backed by red-tied, finely-clothed corporate plunderers. Such rowdiness would every now and then directly or subtly write a protest song or verse line, offending the anti-rowdy religious now backing the fine people of America's actually-Mammon-obsessed plutocracy.
There are three songs here that delight us more outstandingly and advance the rowdy vs. prim thesis by more than a mile.
There's "Goodbye Jimmy Reed," which at first pushes the fact that the USA is a confusion of religions. It opens with Dylan pointing out, "I live on a street named after a Saint, / Women in the churches wear powder and paint, / Where the Jews, and Catholics, and the Muslims all pray, / I can tell they're Proddie from a mile away." Proddie is slang for Protestant. Then the song quickly declares, in the same verse stanza at that, "Goodbye Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Reed indeed. / Give me that old time religion; it's just what I need." For Dylan to imply that the blues is actually now his preferred religion, after trying out Judaism etc., is quite rowdy of him, isn't it? He doesn't stop there. He goes on to call to Reed, "Go tell it on the mountain, go tell the real story," parodying Christianity, underlined by "Tell it in that straightforward, puritanical way." Which is sweet, considering blues puritanism is definitely harmless compared to that fundamentalism in a judge who'd lord it over pregnant women who'd very much like to decide what to do with their own bodies. And as if that's not blasphemous enough for an American to sing, Dylan cries to Reed, "Thump on the Bible, proclaim a creed."
But this isn't just about the blues religion compared with what that word would often refer to as a religion, it's also about the religion of music-making as an artform, where Dylan puts himself in Reed's shoes and sings with the following comments: "You won't amount to much, the people all said, / 'Cause I didn't play guitar behind my head" (which contrasts Reed with a Charley Patton or a T-Bone Walker): "Never pandered, never acted proud, / Never took off my shoes, throw 'em in the crowd."
Still, after alluding to Bacchus in a later verse, politics and religion seem to enter the scene again when Dylan narrates in the final verse: "'God be with you, brother dear. / If you don't mind me asking, what brings you here?' / 'Oh, nothing much, I'm just looking for the man, / Need to see where he's lying in this lost land. / Goodbye Jimmy Reed, and everything within ya, / Can't you hear me calling from down in Virginia?'" Down in Virginia is the title of a Jimmy Reed album. Reed died in California, but he was buried in Illinois. All blue states, yeah? But still all a part of a still "lost land."
Then there's "Mother of Muses," which acknowledges a different American present time. It mentions heroes in generals Sherman, Montgomery, Scott, Zhukov and Patton, who all fought against the spread of Fascism and Nazism, then other types of heroes here represented by the persons of Elvis Presley (he who popularized black singing among whites) and Martin Luther King. But the whole song prays not to Zeus but to a female goddess, Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. In another verse Dylan desires the company of Calliope, one of Mnemosyne's daughters, because she's the Muse of a field that Dylan picked, eloquence and epic poetry, and is supposed to be one of the more spunky ones that can't be made to "belong to anyone." This song in fact can be appreciated as something that may bring us back to Dylan, the protest song writer, if only with the lines "Mother of Muses, unleash your wrath. / Things I can't see, they're blocking my path. / Show me your wisdom, tell me my fate. / Put me upright, make me walk straight. / Forge my identity from the inside out, / You know what I'm talking about."
Then there's "Crossing the Rubicon" that warns despotic leaders of what it means for them to continue pursuing their generalissimo ways qua points of no return, this being about "the 14th day / Of the most dangerous month" (the day before the Ides of March) when Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of senators. Is it a coincidence that the Latin word Rubico comes from rubeus, meaning red, and that the US Republican Party is the US's red party? Is it a coincidence that the Rubicon is a shallow "red" river? And since the US Republican Party touts itself as the party of the Bible, Dylan here sings, "What are these dark days I see? / In this world so badly bent, / I cannot redeem the time, / The time so idly spent, / How much longer can it last?" as if to echo Ephesians 5:15-16, as pointed out by sw16, a contributor to Genius.com. Another Genius.com contributor, NateW, says the line "I feel the holy spirit inside" seems to be inspired by 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, finally noting that "Christianity has a reputation of being all about rules and guilt, but Paul is saying the complete opposite here and Dylan is reveling in the freedom that comes with being secure and unashamed before God." Rrrrrr-rough!
Television documentary series
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
(Streaming release: 27 May 2020, Netflix)
ROTTEN Tomatoes critics' consensus was paraphrased thus: ". . . by focusing on the stories of survivors Filthy Rich sheds light on the lasting impact of Epstein's crimes."
Meanwhile, Adam Graham of The Detroit News averred: "There's a bigger, broader story to be told about Epstein, his web of secrets, the network of the rich and powerful and the ways that money corrupts. That will be a knockout. For now, 'Filthy Rich' is a good start."
Based on Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson, of course Lisa Bryant's documentary series, being by Lisa Bryant (Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers, Gone: The Forgotten Women of Ohio), has no choice but to focus on the survivors' stories.
And of course there's a bigger, broader story to tell here. This is not, after all, just about the narcissistic evil that Jeffrey Epstein was. This is also about the corrupt authorities of America and the lacking laws that continue to enable them, as much as it is about individuals like Alexander Acosta, Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, Les Wexner, Steven Hoffenberg, and all the other people that allowed Epstein to cater to their desires as part of their personalities' privilege.
Television documentary series
Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi
(Streaming release: 18 June 2020, Amazon Prime)
IMDB.COM's description notes for Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi (directed by Sarina Roma and David Shadrack Smith) goes: "Host Padma Lakshmi takes audiences on a journey across America, exploring the rich and diverse food culture of various immigrant groups, seeking out the people who have so heavily shaped what American food is today."
Deep Down Happy
(Launched 5 June 2020, Bright Antenna Records)
FROM Sports Team's debut studio album Deep Down Happy, enjoy these Britpop-ish tracks of the current post-punk revival that actually also read as sardonic social chronicles of present conservative British life and some of the representative royal inequities experienced therein. If you got the satire in the songs' concise lines, then you'll get what the album title actually meant to put on your modest teatime plate.
(Released 3 June 2020, Jewel Runners/BMG)
THE Vulture and Vox reviews were quite erudite and convincing. Let us pass their story on to you, but flavored with our own purple jam about this album's push apropos a new Battle of Magenta against the new American monarchs.
Run the Jewels, if you still need to know, are Killer Mike and El-P, both 45 years old now. The former's got a sharp, private version of realpolitik. The latter's got silly-surreal down-to-earth negativity, on-the-gibbet comedy, and ominous-thumps production concepts bugging his brain. The duo combine to create . . . an anthropological documentary? A parody? Realist photography? Expressionist groaning? All of the above? And El-P and co-producers Little Shalimar and Wilder Zoby together declare a favor in RTJ4 (the duo's new album out since last June 3) for a library of tastes waved against the limiting sonic trends being vetted by the fashionable set. The result is an album that's more art than fashion, more creative politics than somebody-already-said-that complaining.
"Yankee and the Brave (Ep. 4)," for instance, opens the duo's album with a scene that has them parodying the buddy cops film, although it could actually be re-dramatizing the Christopher Dorner situation and shootings. That's straight to the topic, then, without a time-wasting intro. And that is just right, given that their last collection was in 2016 when things were not yet deep into the Trump era of coaxed white nationalisms.
"Ooh La La" (featuring Greg Nice and DJ Premier) follows. It's where El's lyrical photos warn of a globe hurtling towards a new world order helmed by greedy autocrats while poverty-stricken black men in America content themselves with getting rich by mere crack. It's here as if to offer evidence of where we already are, because we're still partying, as Killer Mike would lampoon this apathy of his people in his verse, even while there've already been a thousand homicides committed by police.
KM grew up in the midst of the Atlanta child murders of 1979-81. His father quit the police force at the cusp of the Nixon-launched war on drugs. El, meanwhile, grew up in NYC and saw how the murders of Michael Griffith and Yusef Hawkins shaped his frown in the mirror. Or how the eight months for Bernhard Goetz and the 7-12 years for the Central Park Five gave a clear contrast for the black-and-white self-portraits of KKK-hearted America. Fast forward to the present, with your Michael Browns and George Floyds, and you'll have the rationale for songs like "Walking in the Snow," "Ju$t," "Pulling the Pin," and "A Few Words for the Firing Squad (Radiation)," our favorites for their more universal clarity.
From "Walking in the Snow" we've got lines like “Every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free / And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me / And till my voice goes from a shriek to whisper ‘I can’t breathe’ / And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV.” Nah, George Floyd's "I can't breathe" wasn't the first, in case you need to know. But the strongest lines here, perhaps, are “Funny fact about a cage, they're never built for just one group. / So when that cage is done with them and you still poor, it come for you. / The newest lowest on the totem, well golly gee, you have been used. / You helped to fuel the death machine that down the line will kill you too (Oops). / Pseudo-Christians, y'all indifferent, kids in prisons ain't a sin? Shit. / If even one scrap of what Jesus taught connected, you'd feel different.” By the way, in Canada "walking in the snow" means deciding to resign.
With "Ju$t," featuring Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha, love the line “Got a Vonnegut punch for your Atlas shrug,” among other gems Ayn Rand won't be happy with (or would be proud of as the rightist in the house). “Look at all these slave masters posin' on yo' dollar,” goes the track's chorus, reminding everyone of the fact that Harriet Tubman was supposed to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill this year.
The penultimate track, "Pulling the Pin," has El-P getting sublime on many of these frustrations, but, after Mavis Staples sings “There's a grenade in my heart and the pin is in their palm” in the chorus, Killer Mike's expressionism speaks for millions when it goes, “Why the fuck must I be miserable? / The devils, they do the despicable. / And still they move like they invincible, / These filthy criminals sit at the pinnacle, / Doin' the typical, keepin' us miserable.” It soon declares the possibly inevitable, a Christian jihad against the "pseudo-Christians": “Like Jimmy Savile, they cheerfully kill kids in a ritual. / I'll murder the miserables, I'll make it all biblical. / I'll cut off their heads, they'll beg for their life and I'll put it up digital. / Fuck the political, the mission is spiritual. / A murderous miracle that was sent here to just punish the terrible.”
Closers are supposed to be anticlimaxes, but "A Few Words..." go on to paint the darkness of our times like it's the rationale. “I used to wanna get the chance to show the world I'm smart (Ha ha ha ha),” it goes. “Isn't that dumb? I should've focused mostly on the heart / 'Cause I seen smarter people trample life like it's an art, / So bein' smart ain't what it used to be, that's fuckin' dark. / You ever notice that the worst of us have all the chips? / It really kinda takes the sheen off people gettin' rich.” As an iteration of "Pulling the Pin"'s proposal, the track promises: “When they got you feeling like a fox running from another pack of dogs, / Put the pistol and the fist up in the air, we are there, swear to God.” It and the album finish things up with “. . . when the chips are down / I really don't think you wanna bet against / Yankee and the Brave,” Yankee referring to New Yorker El and Brave referring to Atlantan KM, singing that last verse with a cadence mocking white country music's.
Is the era of playing the victim over? Are those types of times, when a fist is all you have against a racist with a gun, on its way out? Why else is this endgame reality being seemingly pushed on the US East Coast rappers' CD cover, over a socialist-pink square at that, looking like a declaration of what could be declared any day now? Yes, that declaration. Unless people stop helping “to fuel the death machine that down the line will kill you too” now.
To Love Is to Live
(Released 12 June 2020, Caroline International)
ROLLING Stone: "The (English punk group Savages') frontwoman (Jehnny Beth) explores electronic sounds and stream-of-consciousness self-analysis for a dark, compelling listen."
Under the Radar: "(The multi-talented French artist's) solo work reveals Beth to be an artist who can convey a range of emotions in a far more nuanced way. To Love Is to Live is an album of depth and subtlety that is poetic, passionate, elective, and cohesive."
MusicOMH: "It seems to be a study of gender, sexuality, innocence and sin, and ultimately identity; and it feels literary, in the way it deliberately and self-consciously turns over its themes."
Floor Is Lava
(Released 19 June 2020, Netflix)
WE get it. "The floor is lava" is a popular children's game. So, why not upgrade it for TV with some great art direction and witty narration indeed? Something that could have a mini-course that might look like a scene from Uncharted. The result? A gripping watch that also made us laugh at our reactions.
But, let's face it. For most of us, the chances of a real lava situation in our towns might be zero percent. However, this game has actually the same scenarios you'd encounter in floods, and we all know that floods have become more and more a common ground for the citizens of our planet. And while it's true that many would still walk in floodwater with a smile, knowledge about leptospirosis infection, electrocution, and snake bites due to floods has been increasing, and thus avoiding getting parts of our bodies in contact with floodwater of any color is not a sissy thing to do anymore. And that’s why Floor Is Lava is relatable on that angle and is a pragmatic drill for our time.
Note: not even fit sportspeople and well-trained military personnel got a guaranteed win in the matchups. Another thing to know before watching: each game/episode has its own $10,000-winning team; there is no advancing to a next stage and no finale winner of a bigger prize, making for a broader set of individual characters or teams of characters.
Here's an additional value our readers would love: each set design variation made for the game's episodes could actually pass for a nifty and semantically-rich installation art piece set in a gallery basement.
So, thank you, show creators Megan McGrath and Irad Eyal, director Brian Smith, and production company Haymaker Media for this secretly-useful fun treat.
Da 5 Bloods
(Streaming release: 13 June 2020, Netflix)
WE fully agree with Max Weiss of Baltimore when he wrote, "Sometimes the best way to call attention to an historical injustice is through bold entertainment. That's certainly what the great American auteur Spike Lee has in mind with Da 5 Bloods."
(Streaming release: 24 June 2020, Netflix)
FOR this Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk documentary film, Rotten Tomatoes gave these recommending words: "Harrowing yet essential viewing, Athlete A shines an unforgiving light on horrific abuses -- as well as the culture that allowed them to continue unabated for years."
Sideways to New Italy
(Released 5 June 2020, Sub Pop Records)
MELBOURNE indie rockers Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever concluded their two-year international tour and instantly went back to the studio to take off once more from Beatlesque optimism within whatever incomprehensible moment (see that kind of optimism in the videos for "Cars in Space" and "She's There," or from inside the sadness of the lyrics of "The Cool Change," a song about someone's absentee dreamer father). That latent optimism may, after all, be the very flavor of music-making that got them to prove to the world that having three singer-songwriter-guitarists in one band isn't always going to be a handicap. Because, like a Swiss government recognizing peers as equal mates, the ready power trio treat their destiny with each other as an opportunity to reach the ultimate highs in teamwork. Therefore, Tom Russo, Joe White and Fran Keaney, like a super-trio of point guards for a 5-man team, perfected their roles in the committee of composition and arrangement for the republic of RBCF to come up with an album with enough sunny intricacies to last 52 more weekend listens.
Stand-up comedy television special
Jesus Trejo: Stay at Home Son
(released 29 May, Showtime/Hulu/Apple TV/Vudu/DirecTV/Amazon Prime)
SEAN L. McCarthy of Decider: "An impressive debut from this Southern Californian who isn’t exactly hopeless, although (Jesus Trejo) always finds himself quite helpless. And in tears. Sad for him. Funny for us. Trejo found himself becoming a caregiver to both of his immigrant parents for a while, for a time even giving up comedy to take over his father’s landscaping business. 'I felt like I lived the American Dream backwards,' he realizes, having graduated from college and pursued his comedy dreams, only to wind up mowing lawns."
Lara Downes: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
(Uploaded 31 May 2020, NPR Music)
GOOD call by NPR Music to have Lara Downes in their online Tiny Desk (Home) Concert series now, five days into the ongoing rallies (and riots) around the killing of George Floyd.
People, listen up. California-based Downes is a pianist who has been exploring the more inclusive score shelves that also contain the underrepresented and forgotten names in American music history. It so happens that many of these names are African-American, and Downes has acknowledged that the very first real American music, apart from the Native American, were those spirituals and working songs (and then the freedom songs) that came from the slaves. From this springboard of a thesis she found herself championing many African-American composers' work, and in her latest album project, titled Some of These Days (released just this April), she gathered music that “pulls at so many parts of me—and pulls them together. The part that is a strong woman; the part that is an audacious artist. The part that is a brown girl. The part that is my father’s daughter with roots up in Harlem. This is my history.” The blurbs for the album in her website describes the project as “a musical reflection on social justice, progress and equality.”
For her May 31 from-home concert for NPR, Downes chose three compositions featured in that album: Margaret Bonds' “Troubled Water,” Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's “Deep River,” and Florence Price's “Some of These Days.” Also watch and listen to her talk about the river as metaphor in this March video:
Television talk show episode, political satire piece
"Is College Still Worth It?"
(Released 14 June 2020, Netflix; 15 June 2020, YouTube)
SOMETHING'S different. Last year Hasan Minhaj would do his show's episodes in a giant studio in front of an audience. That was so for the Volumes 2-5 of this Netflix series, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.
The comedy part of this revolutionary show's Vol. 6, however, has now been left to each of us. That is to say, all the laughter would now have to come from you and whoever's with you while watching this in these lockdown months―there'd definitely be not much groupthink in the laughter this time. But the progressivist strong progressive opinionating from Minhaj and co-creator Prashanth Venkataramanujam is still there, and it's gone stronger in light of the visuals coming from all parts of the video, still thanks to director Richard A. Preuss, instead of solely from the usual video screen within Minhaj's stage performances before his now-absent studio audience.
The reason why we were prompted to include this episode, "Is College Still Worth It?" from Volume 6, in this, our present month's picks list, is this: it very much looks like a Part II to 2019's "Student Loans" episode from Vol. 2, which we recommended February last year in our picks list for that month. Read what we wrote in that prompt to see our socio-philosophical rationale for this present episode's inclusion.
Tekla Aleksieva, Chocky, 1979, tempera and aniline dyes on paper, 33 х 49 cm. Collection: Vesselina Sarieva. [Photo grabbed from blokmagazine.com]
Cultural activist Vesselina Sarieva's exploration of 12 artworks from Bulgaria's past and recent past as contained in an article-project for The Calvert Journal, with text written by Victoria Gyuleva and titled "12 era-defining artworks that trace shifting perspectives in modern Bulgaria"
(Published 4 June 2020, The Calvert Journal)
ART historians (and art critics invoking art history) are best measured not just by the artists they mention (and the reasons they'd give for mentioning those artists) but also by the particulars of these mentions, viz., the specific works that would function as evidence of the worthiness of those very mentions. For how can we talk about Picasso at a party without the bringing up of at least a single oeuvre by the master and expanding on the significance (or insignificance) of that piece? Such a mention, after all, is solely what would qualify the merit of our continuing regard for the man (or the man's works), at least during that party.
Now, a most recent model for this devil-in-the-details ideal approach might be in this project for The Calvert Journal with text from Dateagle Art editor Victoria Gyuleva. In the project, Gyuleva articulates Bulgarian curator and gallerist Vesselina Sarieva's take on recent Bulgarian art history, focusing on an exploration of no more than 12 singular artworks. This is why we're pushing this: the mini-curation that happens here reminds us that the global ideal we tried to give voice to above is there for cultural workers (or people who want to work for culture) to showcase their reasoning (and depth) within, beyond their usual capacity to conjure a peacock-words treatment for a money-making PR job or for another mere promotion of their blogged tastes.
Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen
(Launched on Netflix, 20 June 2020)
WE plead guilty, director Sam Feder, to some of the latent prejudice you allude to here. Such an educational outing on a subject we thought we were already quite educated about!
the nbcnews.com report on the painting of Black Lives Matter Plaza by the office of Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser's order to create the Black Lives Matter Plaza
(Ordered and implemented 5 June 2020)
WHAT happens when activism (accompanied by artivism) and government power combine?
Activism implies actions from outside or below official positions of power. Therefore, actions promoting political reforms from inside government office positions cannot be in this category. Activism-like actions by people or groups in power (whether they be leftists, centrists, or rightists) cannot be deemed of activism, even when they are not in the level of mere sloganeering but are sincere and resolute in their use of government resources for desired program ends. Propaganda by those in power aimed at opposition to a program in calendar, however correct that propaganda may be (as seen from a certain position of valuation), also cannot be counted as activism.
Unless, of course, one is not in the highest office and finds oneself using their low office's rights or prerogatives to support a certain activist intervention or belief aimed at a higher office. That is precisely what happened when Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser, who is not known for being an activist prior to working for government, renamed the two-block-long section of 16th Street NW in her city's downtown as Black Lives Matter Plaza Northwest, simultaneously ordering the city's Department of Public Works to paint the area's street ground with 35-foot yellow letters that spell "Black Lives Matter" and to place street signs with the road section's new name. Upon her announcement of the renaming, the mayor said, "Breonna Taylor, on your birthday, let us stand with determination."
This is no ordinary street in the city. The street leads to the President's Park and to the White House, a building presently occupied by the U.S. president increasingly seen by the American population as a racist, thanks to actions (or inactions) as well as statements that would convince even the giver of the thickest benefit of the doubt of the correctness of the reading on the person of Donald Trump.
We are not applauding the plaza alone that Bowser created. We are primarily saluting Bowser's act of activism in office that resulted in her artivist product. This is because her action of intervention is more astounding than the resultant plaza, or, rather, the plaza cannot be appreciated independent of the interventionist action. This is our treatment of it, given that the product artwork would still be living a precarious life within the toxic dynamics of current American blue-red politics. Already, for instance, Bowser's actions are being contested in court, and this challenge is a mere part of a large war between two sides of America currently at each other's throats over the reclaiming or preservation or destruction of symbols both static (e.g., slavers' monuments) and kinetic (e.g., BLM kneeling to the flag).
Having said that, we hope the plaza lasts, knowing that it's only a yellow flag planted on a "hill" in a continuing war where police reforms are still on a slow march to the biggest battlefronts in America.
Sorry We Missed You
(Streaming release: 12 June 2020, Amazon)
WRITTEN by Paul Laverty for director Ken Loach, here's "a gripping indictment of the modern gig economy" (Time Out).
UNTITLED (Black Is)
(Released 19 June 2020, Forever Living Originals)
ALBUMISM: "Just as D’Angelo’s Black Messiah landed at the perfect time, so this monumental piece of work [by Sault] arrives with a bible in one hand and balled fist in the other to demand equality and freedom for all at exactly the right moment."
End of Sentence
(Streaming release: 27 May 2020)
FRANK Fogle's failed parenthood struggles to make it up to his son Sean (Logan Lerman). Sean's endless hatred for his father and the world, meanwhile, in turn vehemently struggles to be rid of this father (John Hawkes) who fetches him at the prison gates after Sean had served his sentence. In this film written by Michael Armbruster and helmed by Elfar Adalsteins, the two characters' common thread is Frank's recently deceased wife (Sean's mother), whose dying wish was that they both scatter her ashes in a lake in Ireland.
What would it take to put a period to wounding paragraphs of thought (the flow of which continues to tear the two apart) towards a common understanding of contexts? A criminal offense that victimizes them both? Hmm.
Future Teenage Cave Artists
(Released 29 May 2020, Joyful Noise Recordings)
IN 2013, Yoko Ono became Meltdown festival's curator of the year. Among the acts she personally picked was San Francisco band Deerhoof, who by that time had already released their 12th studio album. The band currently consist of founding member Greg Saunier (whom Rolling Stone put alongside Brian Chippendale and Zach Hill as together composing "a generation of trailblazing 21st-century avant-rock percussionists"), bassist Satomi Matsuzaki with the lullaby and Ono-ish singing manners, and guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez sparring for a Captain Beefheart-esque brew. Under that lineup, Deerhoof have enabled themselves to continue with their foray into challenging music (they cite The Shaggs' Philosophy of the World, once oft-regarded as one of the worst albums ever recorded, as an influence), maverick theme takes, and the combining of noise punk's homages to the philosophy of Edgar Varèse, art pop's melodies, as well as lyrics-writing absurdism with announced allegorical intents.
Welcome to their fifteenth full-length studio product (three years since their last), Future Teenage Cave Artists, released by Joyful Noise Recordings. A postmodernist concept album about a dystopian future, many of the instrument and vocal tracks here were recorded on a laptop's built-in microphone to give us that DIY-in-the-future atmosphere or a DIY-in-the-present anti-establishment taste of subversion.
The most useful review of the album we've read so far? Pitchfork's, although you can maybe also take a peek at Joyful Noise's longish website "blurbs" on the album.
But if you want our own guide notes, here goes:
In the opening title track, which is actually Deerhoof's introduction to the magic-realist "sci-fi" that's about to happen, Matsuzaki sings about leaving a mark that will outlast all of the present's and the future's empires (likely because these empires won't pay that mark any notice). She invites us to "try" this sci-fi―"You'll want it, yeah, you'll see," the song promises. "But you stopped me," the song or Saunier counters, "you stopped me," likely talking to the deniers in our present, but also possibly because it's not really sci-fi (that one can try to watch "just for fun").
"Sympathy for the Baby Boo" suggests a bit of futuristic maternal violence with "Took a little trip, Wild West view, / Baby Boo, Baby Boo. / Blew his little chance to bring you, / Baby Boo, Baby Boo. / Now his little girls lose theirs, too, / Baby Boo." Although the song may be talking to a baby likely here represented by an image of a fat-cheeked Monokuro Boo pig, in one line it slips in the clause "baby, boom boom," indicating perhaps that the scene is another postwar baby boom time. But unlike the late 1940s-onwards one, it's now the kind where women are getting impregnated by men who themselves have little chance of surviving and may have been led to eat babies. It mentions a broken-down car (symbolizing a post-fossil-fuel age?) and talks of humans gone wild, though cars and fossil fuel have themselves always been associated with 20th-century wildness of another dumb sort (advanced by boomers). . . . Then, remember that the Monokuro Boo is not one pig but is actually composed of twin pigs, one black, one white. Is Baby Boo a mulatto whose father with the little chance was black? Is that why the track has the word "sympathy" in it, cognizant not only of the future that Baby Boo will be facing but also of what shall happen shortly to Baby Boo's father's "little girls"?
"The Loved One" comforts a community whose concept of God has gone kaput. "O Ye Saddle Babes" mocks a cowboy as a corporate invention whose cattle may have helped hasten the planet's climate change reaching catastrophic heights, then implores everyone, all "little doggies" now, to just get along.
"New Orphan Asylum for Spirited Deerchildren" brings in allusions to the eating of young animal meat and to a country that celebrates its children's animation films about young animals while it glorifies the hunting of the same. Could it also be referencing the case of someone like, say, Jeffrey Epstein (or R. Kelly) who "shot" a lot of Bambis, killing their future? When Matsuzaki sings "You gotta be good," is she imagining herself as a realist storyteller to children in an orphanage of the future?
"Zazeet" celebrates the end from both the Gaia hypothesis' non-anthropocentric view and in a cosmic way, while "Farewell Symphony" appropriates that event around Joseph Haydn's composition-of-the-same-name where his musicians in 1772 were told to pretend to leave their patron's house one by one in order to join their spouses. In Deerhoof's song, with the artists gone, the arts are celebrated in people's imaginations.
"Reduced Guilt" is not so much a song about survivor guilt as about the absence of a reason to go on living. The penultimate track, "Damaged Eyes Squinting into the Beautiful Overhot Sun," and the final cut, "I Call on Thee," a Bach prelude, seem to both pray to the Sun God either for a miraculous redemption or an equally redemptive death.
The official lyric video for the album's title track. [Uploaded 25 March by Joyful Noise Recordings]
The music video for "Farewell Symphony." [Uploaded 20 April by GregFromDeerhoof]
Street art journalism piece
photo from the report (link below)
The report titled "They're weaving their culture into the fabrics of their face masks" by CNN's Alaa Elassar
(Published 30 May 2020, edition.cnn.com)
THE state and city quarantines in the United States may have been loosened due to demands to open up by a chunk of the American population even as the number of infections in the country continues to climb. But one thing for sure, the other half of the country's citizenry aren't taking any chances and are still practicing, as per Anthony Fauci's advice, the wearing of face masks outside. Let's not talk here about that other half mocking the science behind all these requirements, or the leaders leading that mockery. Let's limit ourselves to that half of America that continues to wear masks. Here's where we'll let CNN's Alaa Elassar's report come in:
Because much like the balcony that gave an outlet for music talents to announce their presence to their multi-storeyed neighborhood (and then, via YouTube, to the world), the face mask requirement, according to Elassar, seems to be providing a wall for a number of members of indigenous groups in the US to exhibit their groups' fabrics or fabric designs on.
As far as we know this is the first such display of indigeneity or ethnicity on the homemade face mask during this current pandemic (please correct us fast if we're wrong), thus might be temporarily regarded as another first from the American nation. However, it must be noted that this display also definitely demonstrates the fact that the US is both multicultural and "multinational," and is in fact the richer for it (just as Argentina is). This display definitely conflicts with the white nationalism currently ruling the US government's thrusts at the federal and many state levels, so, good job, Ms. Elassar.
On the Record
(Streaming release: 27 May 2020, HBO Max)
OPRAH Winfrey was executive producer, but she later withdrew from the film, citing "creative differences". Anyway, eight executive producers remained with the production, and with the script written by Kirby Dick, Sara Newens and Amy Ziering, the project went on under the direction of Dick and Ziering.
We don't know what "creative" flair Winfrey would have preferred, but as it is the end-product looks . . . perfect. Anyway, the film examines the sexual assault allegations against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and, according to Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus, "uses harrowing first-person accounts to powerfully and persuasively confront the entrenched sexism of an industry and its culture." In other words, the case is sensational enough you don't have to sensationalize it.
Television documentary series
(Streaming release: 21 February 2020 (Part 1), 19 June 2020 (Part 2), Netflix)
FINALLY it's complete.
The Kathryn Taylor-created series has Rotten Tomatoes gushing: "Filmed over the course of three years, Babies is a landmark series that explores the miracle of the first full year of life through the pioneering work of leading scientists from across the globe."
Dan Kois of Slate: "It's when I watched the researchers interact with their cherubic subjects, though, that I grudgingly gave in to the magic of Babies' scientific method."
Melinda Houston of The Sydney Morning Herald: "The research process is often as interesting as the results. This is also, of course, wall-to-wall adorable babies."
Helen Brown of The Daily Telegraph: "Although the whole thing could have been compressed into half the length, perhaps it all moves at the right, soothing, gooey-eyed pace for those whose brains are currently being pureed by newborns."
John Serba of conservative magazine Decider: "Just eggheaded enough to engage those of us who want to put a smidgen of math behind the overwhelming flood of emotional sludge we parents feel when we're being parents, or thinking about being parents, or generally existing as parents."