Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Faith in 2017

By Michelle Chihara

2016 began with David Bowie losing his battle with cancer. Prince died in the spring. George Michael died on Christmas. Last Christmas. Carrie Fisher died two days later, on my birthday, as it happens. Her mother Debbie Reynolds’ heart broke planning her daughter’s funeral. She died the next day. I imagine exquisite drag queens and other unsung heroes greeting them all with cocktails in the heavens, saying, I know you still had work to do down there but we just couldn’t wait for you any longer. It’s so grim these days, watching them destroy themselves. Continue reading

Only Emote

By Zack Hatfield

A little over a year ago, when entrepreneur and reality television tycoon Kim Kardashian debuted the first wildly popular line of celebrity emojis named Kimoji — an app that packages personalized emoticons and digital stickers for smartphones — a rumor propagated by online entertainment sites and the star herself claimed that Kardashian had broken Apple’s app store. The rumor proved false, but the publicity helped. Even more, people liked the Kimojis, which included risqué curves, Yeezy sneakers, a corset, a cannabis leaf, a car with suicide doors, and a now-viral image of Kardashian’s face with a pixelated tear placed below a kohl-dipped eyelash. Continue reading

Word of the Year: Surreal

By Jonathan P. Eburne

Each year, the editors of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary select a “word of the year” based on the frequency with which users search for it on their website. They recently announced the 2016 word of the year to be “surreal,” which narrowly beat out “fascism.” The winning term — especially considered alongside its runner-up — seems a fitting descriptor for a year so full of unsettling geopolitical, cultural, and environmental surprises. So we are told, at least. Since 9/11 the popular use of the word “surreal” has become a shorthand way to describe events that overwhelm our very sense of the real. Surreal, in this sense, is the new sublime. A fashion trend in language, perhaps — no less than the emojis and vapes and selfies and hashtags that exploded into common US English in years prior to 2016. Even so, it seems more than a little discomfiting that a word used to describe events “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” has become so familiar. Continue reading

VICELAND’s Desus & Mero: Late-Night Television With a Laugh (And Plenty of Thought)

By Thomas Klepacz

On the Wednesday, November 30th episode of VICELAND’s new daily program Desus & Mero, the show’s two hosts — Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez (or as Twitter and the world knows them, “Desus Nice” and “The Kid Mero”) — discuss the Charlotte Police Department’s withholding of charges against the officer who shot and killed Keith Scott, a 43-year-old man of color with a history of TBI (traumatic brain injury). As follows: Continue reading

Blade Runner 2049 and Los Angeles’ Korean Future

By Colin Marshall

“LOS ANGELES NOVEMBER, 2019.” So, with that stark title card, begins the film that presented the most fully realized vision of the city’s future in cinema history to that point — and maybe still to this day. It also fixed its setting in the Western imagination as the go-to image of urban dystopia, though when Blade Runner premiered almost three and a half decades ago, that date must have felt comfortably distant. Now, a week before the year 2017 begins, Los Angeles may have got on track to become a densely built metropolis with high-rise-lined streets filled night and day with activity (and not just of the vehicular kind) later than Ridley Scott and company imagined, but the transformation looks well underway nevertheless. Continue reading

A Short History of Madonna Expressing Herself

By Briana Fasone

Madonna’s moment, which was both deeply personal and unnervingly relevant, came at the Billboard Women in Music event, broadcast on Lifetime on December 12th. Accepting the Woman of the Year award, Madonna, who has never struggled to tell it like it is, delivered a blistering speech about facing sexism and  “constant bullying and relentless abuse” throughout her 30-plus year career. Continue reading

Clunky Beauty — Allison Miller at The Pit

By Daniel Gerwin

Allison Miller does funny things with drips. In “Jaw,” one of seven paintings in her current solo show at The Pit in Los Angeles, drips slide up the canvas in defiance of gravity, while others flow down as expected — clearly, she changes the orientation of her pictures as she works. Miller’s drips are not simply byproducts of her process, as in Franz Kline, for example; but instead, have been carefully preserved. She places tape over the drips she wants to isolate, then removes it only toward the end, preserving rectangles of color around the original drips so that they stand out against the final surface. It’s a goofy send-up of Abstract Expressionist marks with their connotations of emotional urgency and dramatic creativity, but also a canny way of reintroducing the drip as painterly language that escapes the confines of cliché. Continue reading

Blackstars: Life After Death in the Music of 2016

By Derek McCormack

2016 was full of unpredictable trends and occurrences, and the music released this year was no different. In fact, three of this year’s best-selling and acclaimed albums — David Bowie’s Blackstar, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker – all describe a fascinating new trend. In particular, these albums feature frontmen who have been forced into a powerful confrontation with death – for Bowie and Cohen, their own, and for Cave, that of his 15-year old son, Arthur (and perhaps, by extension, his own). Especially coming from three aging white men, this contemplation of mortality comes at a telling time — just as white male privilege and its collective patriarchal baggage are reentering the political spotlight. Perhaps making sense of this unique musical trend could help us to make greater sense of this tempestuous year. Continue reading