Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Why Afrofuturism Matters

By Elizabeth Reich

You’re already a consumer of Afrofuturist art, though you may not know it.

On either television or YouTube, you’ve likely seen the transfixing commercial for Apple AirPods, featuring “Down” by Marian Hill, with acting by Lil Buck, who begins his footwork on the street but soon steps into the air, moving along invisible walls and waves of sound. His dance — and Hill’s music — envision a world in which Blackness floats free of the constraints and violence that so often weigh it down today. And this freedom, enabled by technology and the fundamental belief that black life matters, is one definition for what has become a big, encompassing, and increasingly important term: Afrofuturism. Continue reading

S-Town: When a Podcast Becomes a Book

By Nic Dobija-Nootens

Near the end of the first episode of the new crime podcast S-Town, from the makers of This American Life and Serial, host Brian Reed asks himself, “What am I still doing here?” Reed is in the small town of Woodstock, Alabama, watching S-Town’s subject, an eccentric clockmaker named John B. Mclemore, tinker around his shop. Reed came to Woodstock to investigate a murder Mclemore emailed him about, but at this point in the show, the basic facts of the murder, and the issue of whether it even happened, are in question. Reed thinks he might be facing a dead end, but Mclemore, a 50-year-old southerner with chest tattoos, nipple piercings, and an expert knowledge of antique clocks, intrigues him to stay. Eventually, Mclemore pays off. Continue reading

Art Inside: Fieldnotes

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

“It’s crazy how art can actually make you feel something.” I smile and nod. It is crazy, isn’t it? And yet sometimes — in the flurry of making and discussing, marketing and analyzing — we forget that primal aspect of art. But not here, never here: on the inside, where art is a lifeline like nowhere else. When I hear this comment, I am sitting with a group of men at a small table, one of multiple clustered around the large gymnasium. We are in a prison, one of four where I created and now oversee what has become an expansive and collaborative art program with 20 teaching artists facilitating multiple weekly classes in four prisons. At this table, we are looking at the men’s artwork and talking about their progress. One of the men, Shaun (all names are changed), has been with our program since the beginning and has taken nearly all of our classes. He recalls that when he started, one of our teaching artists looked at his colorful psychedelic drawings and said, “You’re an artist, man, you have to own it!” Shaun beams as he recalls this and proceeds to help the newer students look at one another’s art and express what they see. Continue reading

Un-treasured Time: A Conversation with Phil Elverum

By Cypress Marrs

In my mind, Phil Elverum is a man who needs no introduction.

I met Phil probably in 1997. I would have been four or five and he, a teenager, was recording music in K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio, which, as it happened, was across the hall from my artist mother’s studio. As I was scurrying around the building’s dusty halls and trying to make shoes out of construction paper, Phil was recording atmospheric songs on a 16-track about landscape and longing. Continue reading

The Zoo, Revisited

By Ian MacAllister-McDonald

The second act of Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo was originally a self-contained one-act called The Zoo Story, written in 1958. In it, a laconic textbook editor named Peter is approached in Central Park by Jerry, a disheveled hustler who’s spent his life on the fringes and is desperate for a meaningful human connection. If you have had a homeless person approach you and start talking in a way that doesn’t make perfect sense, then you can imagine Peter’s unease. Likewise, if you’ve ever been surrounded by people, but still somehow managed to find yourself deeply, suffocatingly lonely, then you can imagine Jerry’s desperation. The play is about these two men: one who wants to mind his own business and the other who needs someone to talk to, and how they reach the worst kind of compromise. Laugh-out-loud funny at times and heart-wrenchingly sad at others, The Zoo Story is an almost-perfect short play. Continue reading

Literary Cookbooks: The Power of Culinary Melancholia

By Rhian Sasseen

There came a point this winter at which I realized that I was reading more cookbooks than novels, more cookbooks than poetry collections, certainly more cookbooks than newspapers. When I turned on the radio and tried to listen to the day’s events, I found myself compelled, rather, to turn it off and to flip through a Madhur Jaffrey or Nigel Slater volume instead. I stirred ginger into chickpeas and cream into gratins instead of learning what the oligarch would do next. I made elaborate lists of ingredients and recipes to cook almost compulsively, and in this, I was more diligent than any diary keeping or calendar. Continue reading

Eating Korea: an Anthony Bourdain-Approved Search for the Culinary Soul of an Ever-Changing Country

By Colin Marshall

Koreans I meet for the first time tend to draw all their questions from the same well. What they ask starts out basic — why I came to Korea, what kind of work I do, how did I become interested in Korea in the first place — and then gets more culturally revealing. Having asked how long I’ve lived here, for instance, they often follow up with, “Until when will you live here?”, I question I wouldn’t even imagine asking a recent arrival in America. When the subject turns to matters of the table, as in this food-centric society it always does, they almost invariably ask not “Do you like Korean food?” but “Can you eat Korean food?” — a matter not of taste, they imply, but ability. Continue reading

The Most Beautiful Minute in the History of Cinema

By Steve Light

for Joe Bucholt,
as good, as kind, as lovely
a person as you could ever hope to know,
yes, the best, the most beautiful kind of person

In his book, Profanations, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben includes a little essay, barely a page and a half long, “The Six Most Beautiful Minutes in the History of Cinema.” Agamben speaks of a sequence in a never-completed film of Orson Welles that sought to depict what further adventures Don Quixote and Sancho Panza might encounter if they were to find themselves in the 20th Century. Welles, after a dispute with the studio executives concerning the editing of his film Touch of Evil, simply took off for Mexico, where he began shooting his Quixote film. Continue reading

The Upside Down World: Shadows of Cold War Ghosts in Stranger Things

By Ting Guo

With Stranger Things, Netflix produced an original science fiction drama that went viral. But for me, it is also offered up a political drama that illuminated elements of our persistently divided world — and how we might save ourselves from it. Here, in what is admittedly more a series of fragmented reflections than a full account of the series and all of the ways it can be linked to the Cold War and its aftermath, are my thoughts, while watching it in Indiana, reflecting on the present moment and on how different my 1980s was from that shown in the movie and that remembered by American viewers of the same show. Continue reading