The thing about facial cleansers is that you don’t know how good one is until another one doesn’t work for you. I used to be of the camp that believed that a cleanser was just a cleanser. If you could wash your face with it, it was great. But overtime, as my oily skin became more untameable, I started to realize the effect one solid cleanser can really have. I’ve experimented with a variety of formulas, from soap bars (Cetaphil and Drunk Elephant) to gel (Cosrx) and oil cleansers (Tatcha!). Generally, I prefer creamy formulas and gentle exfoliants because I find that those go beyond the surface without stripping or irritating. Right now, I really love Tatcha’s The Deep Cleanse, which is a gentle exfoliant, semi-gel that’s good for everyday use. When I first purchased this, I assumed it was the same as their oil cleanser (which I love) with a touch of exfoliation. However, I was happy to be disappointed. Just a small amount works away at all the dirt and oil on my face. If I wanted I could bypass a toner, which I think is a key signifier of any cleanser’s quality. At $47CAD, it is a bit of a hefty price tag for a cleanser but it’s lasted me almost three months so far. You can extend its time in your cabinet by using it once or twice a week if daily exfoliation isn’t for you. My only beef with it is that it doesn’t come with a pump, which can lead to over dispensing but that’s small thing. My rating: 4/5.
Recently, I was listening to Tavi Gevinson’s playlist ‘In a Big Country’ when I heard a lyric from Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” that made me stop: “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die”. It was a lyric that I felt too perfectly described the limbo state I found myself in—the feeling that life was too disappointing, too exhausting but that death was too much to commit to, that to accept death was to give up too easily. This playlist is one of my favourite playlists ever but I’ve never really taken the opportunity to listen to it from beginning to end. It felt even more opportune to be listening to it at work, especially when I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with my work for some time and uncertain what I could do to change my satisfaction. Gevinson first shared the playlist in her Editor’s Letter for Rookie’s August 2017 issue, ‘Desire’. In that newsletter she talks about the desire for love and how people seek out fame as a way to fulfill their desire for love. And the way we chase these things constantly because we are always at risk of losing them. That made me think of being a teenager and hearing Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona say that she was chronically dissatisfied and recognizing that feeling in myself. And although I knew that it was meant to be a despicable feeling, I couldn’t help romanticizing it; I couldn’t help feeling that it made me more human, more real. In Mark Greif’s essay “The Concept of Experience (The Meaning of Life Part 1)” he talks about how we seek experience as a way of challenging our mortality; we are so desperately aware of the “only-onceness” of our lives that we chase experience in order to live many lives in the one life we have: “Your own experiences open a door into the inside feeling of somebody else’s life”. Plato suggests that the reason love that is about desire is always wanting of something and therefore, will never be satisfied. He seems to frown up this endless chasing. We want our futures to mean something. We chase an idea of perfection and beauty and success in the hopes that life is not just the ordinary but that we can somehow tap into a sort of paradise, even amongst challenges. We want to say at the end of the day, that despite the challenges we’ve faced, what we have now makes all that suffering worth it; we negate our suffering through our accumulation of experience, success and material things. And it’s still not enough. Back to that Sam Cooke lyric. It’s easy to feel like the hardships we face are endless, but just moments after he sings this HEARTBREAKING AND KIND OF LIFE CHANGING line, he gives himself hope when he cries: “I know a change is gonna come”. Desire makes it easier for us to feel like we’re escaping our hardships but none of this is forever. Life is hard but it won’t be forever. Maybe, for now, we can just rest.
Last week, in what caused my Explore page to gasp in a collective, WTF??, TMZ reported that Jordyn Woods, longtime friend of the KarJenner clan, was allegedly having an affair with Tristan Thompson, who happens to be father of Khloe Kardashian’s daughter and the same man who cheated on her while she was pregnant. All week, rumors were thrown back and forth, with much of the Kardashian clan keeping silent on the matter with the exception of some not so subtle InstaStories by Khloe. It all culminated in Jordyn Woods going on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk, and Khloe Kardashian angrily tweeting that Jordyn Woods was a lying, unapologetic homewrecker. It was a mess. In a new video this week, YouTube queen Jackie Aina discussed the issue, focusing less on the drama, and more on what we all could learn from Jordyn. One particular claim that Jackie made that stood out was how the Kardashians have a habit of keeping black people around them as a way to validate their appropriation of black culture. Because these people around them don’t criticize them for their privileged actions—Kim’s ‘Bo Derek’ braids; Kim, Khloe, and Kylie’s blackfishing—they could be secure in feeling that their actions were acceptable; they could go on doing the same thing despite multiple criticisms. Jackie argued that when these black people stopped validating the Kardashians behaviour or made a misstep—as Jordyn did—they were quickly disposed of, despite earlier claims of their closeness to the family. For me, I found that this was one of the clearest criticisms of the Kardashians that had come out of this whole mess. The Kardashians definitely dodge criticisms when they make missteps by finding ways to make themselves victims—re: Kendall’s Pepsi ad—and therefore, have failed to learn how to do better. Of course, most people don’t mind because they’re so sold into the cult of personality, but I think this event has demonstrated who and what the Kardashians care about the most—themselves and their business. Jackie also makes a series of other good points in the video, and if that doesn’t interest you, the makeup look she does is gorgeous (although simple).
In better, more fulfilling news, Solange released her latest album, When I Get Home last week, as well as an (Apple Music exclusive) film in which she uses Western (as in cowboy) motifs in reference to her childhood in Houston. The film also plays with a psychedelic New-Wave-esque aesthetic that feels like it would fit well in an episode Maniac. The heavy jazz sound that weaves its way through the album helps maintain this vision. Both the sound and the visuals of this album straddle the past and the future as if it is possible for them to exist side by side, simultaneously. If Seat at the Table gave us a Solange that had returned from a genesis, wise yet still uncertain of who exactly she was going to be or how she would express herself, When I Get Home demonstrates a Solange who isn’t worrying too much about how she comes off; instead she’s going to play and try new things and have fun. On “My Skin My Logo” her voice is playful and teasing, as she sings “I didn’t want a soccer, she had Gucci on her cleats”. I’m not sure (yet) what this lyric means but the energy it gives off seems more important. This a booty-popping, dancing on tables Solange and I love it. It makes me feel like we can all be so free. Favourite tracks include “Way to the Show” and “Down with the Clique”.
I’m not sure where the past few weeks have gone; February has gone by in a flash and it’s going to take a lot of conscious effort to make sure I am prepared for the month ahead. This year, I’m working on planning out my days so that I can maximize my time and make sure I balance work with enjoyment. Sometimes that doesn’t happen because of spontaneous plans but I’m working on going with the flow and making up for the moments I lag. I’ve also been reading a lot, both for fun and for class, and it’s been great reading a variety of options from Charles Dickens to Otessa Moshfegh. My Goodreads is definitely getting a workout. Now onto my three picks for the week:
The Course of Love by Alain Botton. Alain de Botton’s second novel, The Course of Love documents the courtship and marriage of Kirsten and Rabih, a young couple living in Scotland. Unlike the typical romance novel which focuses largely on the courtship narrative, de Botton seeks to move beyond that and focus on what happens after the fairy tale ending. Although it’s classified as fiction, it is clear that de Botton is a philosopher first, and the book feels like one big case study in understanding why and how a marriage goes wrong, and what can be done to keep it. I’m constantly intrigued by what de Botton has to say about relationships because it feels so radical to what I’ve long accepted. I’ve always been a romantic but my view of love and relationships didn’t feel compatible with my understanding of myself and others; if love was anything like a Kate Hudson fronted rom-com, I didn’t think I’d ever have it. But de Botton reminds us that the type of romance that Nora Ephron made exceedingly popular is primarily aesthetic. He encourages us to put forward our flaws and imperfections from the start, be open to learning from our partner, and being communicative in a honest (if at times awkward) way. One of the best things about The Course of Love is that the characters display ugly characteristics throughout but there is no sweeping judgement of them. Instead of treating love and relationships as a back and forth of loveliness and explosiveness, de Botton demonstrates how these exist side-by-side in every moment of a relationship. I’m still learning so much from this book and I recommend for everyone.
@lamodedujour’s Sunday newsletter. Most of the time, I curse Instagram’s Explore page for barraging me with Timothée Chalamet fan pages that I spend too much time trawling, but sometimes it does me good things. One of those things was leading me to @lamodedujour, an account run by Gaby Azorsky, former G-Team Editor and newsletter writer. Gaby’s Insta is peak aesthetic and that flows into her newsletter as well, where she talks about what she’s learning and consuming that week, the book she’s currently reading, and typically includes a recipe for a sweet (yet healthy) treat. The newsletter is pretty simple but what makes it so appealing is how thoughtful it is—Gaby’s care for her subject is obvious, and her voice is colloquial and intimate. It comes out every Sunday and it’s the perfect thing, whether you’re at work (like I usually am) or laying on your couch eating Eggos.
What Feels Good. I’ve been feeling really tired recently, like knockout, my-whole-body-is-feeling-it tired and since I was sleeping a ton, I suspected there had to be some other issue. After some Internet research, I reached the conclusion that my problem was most likely a low metabolism; in addition to my constant fatigue, I found myself feeling cold all the time, even when I was wearing major layers. Most advice tells you to get some sleep, get moving, and inject your diet with healthy fats and vitamins. So I’ve been making an effort to get more greens and other veggies in my diet, as well as being consistent with meals. However, I’m taking it slow. I’ve done detox diets and BBG programs before and it was always about overhauling my life. That was not for me. Now, I’m just trying to find what works out for me and going from there. What’s important now is doing what feels good and not pressuring myself to be anyone or do anything just because it’s trendy or socially acceptable.
It feels almost wrong to critique anyone’s memoir because it feels as if you’re saying, “your life wasn’t interesting enough; your life hasn’t entertained me” which not only feels a little crass but in instances such as Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, is also far from true.
Unlike most memoirs, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is a collection of essays, many of which had been previously published. The beauty of an essay collection is that, on its own, an essay has to do a lot of work to impress itself on its reader; but putting a series of essays together demonstrates the way that life stories coalesce to make something beautiful. A collection like this shows how a series of seemingly insignificant moments are always more than what we originally believe them to be—we just need to take the time to think about it. In choosing to format his memoir in this way, Chee gives the reader the opportunity to find the threads that connect, to piece his life together—an exercise that he has also recently done.
Yet at times, the natural beauty of Chee’s chosen format feels undermined by what feels like the forced lessons that the reader is meant to get out of the essays. Chee loves a great metaphor, and throughout How to Write an Autobiographical Novel he uses many of them to get his point across. Sometimes this works beautifully—a exploration of Chee’s relationship to money that’s really about loss and familial relationships (“Inheritance”); a tale about starting a rose garden that’s a lesson in fierce resilience (“The Rosary”). But at times, these fall flat and stop the reader from having much faith in the lesson they’re supposed to learn.
Because of this, there were times when I found myself feeling disengaged and early on, I was ready to give up and move on. However, I continued and I’m grateful that I did. I found that the latter half of the collection was more engaging and essays like “The Autobiography of My Novel” and “Becoming an American Writer” were both touching and connective. Earlier essays such as “After Peter” and “The Writing Life” were also favourites because they felt genuine to the Alexander Chee that was revealed in the later essays.
Overall, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel feels like required reading for young writers, as both a reality check and a comfort. Nobody said being a writer was easy but Chee’s memoir shows that it can be worth it.
Writer Arabelle Sicardi on the History of the infamous Tabi boot I’ve never been inclined to purchase a pair of Margiela’s Tabi boot—which are sort of footwear representation of major camel toe—but have always been intrigued by them. I associate them with the people who take chances with fashion; people who appreciate Comme Des Garcons and Rick Owens, and can create the most amazing looks from the simplest streetwear finds. After a recent conversation about the boots, I took to the internet to find out more and discovered a recent piece by Arabelle Sicardi’s for SSENSE about their history. Arabelle was the first person I ever saw wear them and I’m certain that most of my associations with Tabis are primarily to do with them. Their love and appreciation for Tabis is clear in the piece—they talk about them with preciseness and care, providing technical information while weaving in the art and magic of the shoe. After just five minutes, I now have a deeper appreciation for Tabis, as well as the kind of fashion environment they represent.
Model/Stylist/Influencer Aleali May on PAQ I wouldn’t call myself a hypebeast, or even a hypebae, but there are times when I’m inclined towards utilitarian pants, Nike trainers, and oversized hoodies with the most particular details. In those moments, I often go to model and stylist Aleali May’s instagram for inspiration. While her streetwear influence cannot be missed, she does a good job with mixing it with luxury and more “feminine” pieces that make it seem possible to do the same thing without looking like your trying too hard. For that reason and more, it was really fun to watch the PAQ boys take a stab at styling May for Paris Fashion Week. Apart from giving me a shopping bug, the episode also made me think about how personal style functions beyond the pieces you select, and also involves your mood and your intuition.
Friends and Food I think most people can agree that sharing food with other people, whether it be dinner parties or bake sales, can feel like the most intimate act. In the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky to have experienced this intimacy many times, especially with new friends. Moving to Toronto, finding friends wasn’t my biggest concern but since I’ve been here, making them has felt really special. Working on friendships isn’t something that has always come easily to me, but when the richest moments of the past few months have been those in which I’m breaking bread, literally and figuratively, the work has never seemed more necessary. Or fun.
Originally written in 2018 for submission to Adeline Hocine for an article on Home Health Remedies
When I was younger, no matter what illness afflicted me—fevers, stomachaches, hay fever—the first thing my mother prescribed was a piece of ginger. Before the thought of paracetamol or cough syrups, I would be led to the kitchen where my father sliced away at a large piece of ginger. Standing in the kitchen, howling in discomfort and irritation, I would watch as he sliced away the rough brown skin, cut the large plant into chunks and crush them into a consumable paste that my mother would then cram into the corners of my mouth. Stubborn and ill, I would hold the ginger in my mouth, refusing to chew and swallow the bitter remedy. Finally, with the not so gentle urging of my parents, I would quickly and unhappily chew and swallow the ginger. And while the ginger was always a first step, and never the end-all-be-all remedy, it felt like a necessary first step to healing. It was as if I would never get better if I didn’t have some ginger to soothe me. And even the taste made me feel more horrible, I always felt better after the fact.
As an adult, I have yet to go back to this remedy that my mother depended on for so long. But the experience has left its mark. Whenever I find myself feeling poorly, I automatically reach for something that contains ginger. Long winter months and finals seasons has me drinking 4-6 cups of ginger tea, a day and when it comes to nausea, there’s nothing that feels as healing as some ginger-spiked kombucha (GT’s is my favorite). And while the ginger content in these drinks aren’t as potent as chewing the plant itself, consuming them always comforts me and makes me feel a little better (even if it’s a placebo effect).
I don’t know why my mother was drawn to ginger as a remedy. It might be the fact that is a common plant that has been used for centuries for healing, from China to West Africa, which is where we are from. I just know that despite her medical education (she’s a nurse) and the promises of “modern medicine”, it was ginger, an ancient remedy, that was her tried and true. As I reminisce of this experience from my childhood, I have a strong desire to go back to that sort of healing. Simple, raw and comforting.
“Sally Rooney Gets in Your Head” by Lauren Collins for The New Yorker. Out of the many writers whose writing and existence makes me write, Sally Rooney has a sort of special place. I first read her novel Conversations with Friends at the beginning of 2018, when I was in a state of disarray and burnout, and then again in the summer because it was the kind of novel that reminded me that good writing isn’t always complicated. From the profiles I’ve read and some of other writing, I get the sense that although extremely intelligent, Rooney is not interested in showing off. Instead she’s clearly interested in people: how they think, how they process their surroundings—both immediate and globally—and the ways in which they present themselves to others. She does it with an understanding of the many faults and complexities of human beings. Her ability to do this makes all profiles of her a delightful read, and this one from the New Yorker is no different. There’s a certain honesty and unpretentiousness that isn’t always to be found in profiles like this and it does justice to the appeal of Rooney. There were some things about internet language and being a millenial that I could have done without, but overall it was pretty stellar.
James Blake’s Assume Form. There’s something ghostly and otherworldly about James Blake’s latest that goes beyond some of his other offerings. Like any angsty ex-Tumblr kid worth their salt, ‘Retrograde’ has been on a variety of playlists since 2013. What he offers on Assume Form is both familiar and disarming, though appreciated. The same sort of mellow, unique storytelling exists, but he’s really played with the production leading to a different energy than I’ve heard from him. Listening to this new stuff feels more engaging. The songs work at your brain and are immersive, even if they’re just playing in the background. Favourite tracks include “Mile High” (ft. Travis Scott and Metroboomin) and “Barefoot in the Park” (ft. ROSALIA).
Maggie Rogers’ Heard It In A Past Life. I recently read an interesting perspective on Maggie Rogers that made listening to her latest album difficult for a few days. But pushing past all of that, I continued to go back to her new tracks and realized I found extreme pleasure in them, despite her being dubbed “unmusical” by someone whose opinion I really expect. Heard It In a Past Life feels like something that Joni Mitchell would have written if she went to NYU and was super into production. Songs like “Past Life” and “Back in My Body” feel like they’re reaching into some unknown past and rearranging the pieces; maybe to figure out the present; maybe to figure out the extent of their power. But the songs are never too mournful, and it’s clear that despite the presence of turmoil, at its essence this is a piece of work that is as interested in the expressive and joyful, as it is in the meditative and quiet.
In the past couple of weeks, I have bought two pairs of mittens which greatly disappointed me. One I returned, and the other I was forced into keeping due to those two lovely words sales associates love to say: final sale. Before these weary purchases, I had been hesitant to purchase any sort of glove contraptions due to a belief that I still hold pretty strongly: gloves are a scam.
If you’ve ever lived through a Canadian winter, you know that finding the right pair of gloves is an exercise that requires time, precision and a certain delicacy. Not only do your gloves have to keep your hands warm, they also have to allow you to be dexterous when juggling the million things you can now carry; they have to make sending a text from your phone quick and easy; they have to be easy to keep track of (how many gloves have you lost?); and they have to be cute. I know that’s asking a lot from just one winter accessory but that’s just how it is.
I, however, am not so demanding. I’ve sacrificed many expectations of my gloves—easy phone access, trackable, cute— and I still cannot find a glove to satisfy my needs. All I ask is for them to be warm and to fit! Take these mittens I am now committed to. Upon the first five minutes of wearing them outside, I feel my thumbs slowly firm up as they freeze into solid blocks. Five minutes later, the other four phalanges start to tense up, and as I clench my fingers into my palm in an attempt to get blood flowing through them, I notice that my palm is my freezing cold! It’s completely ridiculous.
But were the gloves truly to blame? If I’m being completely honest, I’m pretty much always cold no matter how wrapped up I am. In addition to gloves, I have a hard time with parkas, thick socks and winter boots. As much as I would like to believe it, all these things couldn’t be scam artists. And according to science, they’re not. According to Dr. Martha Gulati (via The Cut), being cold all the time can be attributed to the slowing down of your metabolism when you sit still for a long period of them. She stated that she was never cold when she was moving around at work visiting patients, but couldn’t help shivering when she was sitting down and working in her office. Which makes a lot of sense. It definitely explains why after 30 minutes in any one of my lectures, I begin to shiver, no matter how warm I had felt in moments prior. And unless you do jumping jacks before you leave the house, you probably are already a cold brick when you step out onto the mean winter streets.
So maybe gloves are not really at fault. It seems that yet again the human body has shown the extent of its weakness and delicacy. Maybe it’s too much to ask of gloves to battle against such a messy beast. We ourselves can barely handle the bodies we’re in. But I won’t lower my expectations yet. One day, I’ll find a glove that is worthy of Toronto’s brutal winds. Until then, frozen fingers it is.
Although the release of ZAYN’s sophomore album, Icarus Falls, was mostly a disappointment—there are only 13 tracks I find enjoyable/tolerable out of the 27 the album offers—his latest music video from the album has been much more satisfying. The video for “Satisfaction” is the fourth from the album and arguably the best. While his lyrics often get trapped in some version of ‘I was drunk and I was high’, ZAYN’s music videos are typically more artful and nuanced, showcasing a unique and educated perspective that his music may not immediately display. In “Satisfaction”, the story focuses on the love affair between a young man and woman, whose relationship is destined to end from the beginning. The video flashes between the loved up days of the romance and the young man’s experience of losing the young woman. The song itself is mournful, and attempts to come to an understanding of loss, and the video does complete justice to that journey. As much as it is a love song, it is also a tale of coming-of-age and rebirth. ZAYN himself is only present in the video for about five seconds (a PR choice perhaps?) but the lack of his presence only serves to strengthen the strong narrative of the video.
When Kristen Roupenian’s short story “Cat Person” first went viral, I avoided reading the story for a long time, certain that all the things that I had heard about would cloud any judgement I would have about it. For a few weeks, takes on the story dominated my timeline to the point that I thought if I heard about “Cat Person” again I would burst. I’d mostly forgotten about that moment of 2018 until last week when I saw that Roupenian had written a new piece for the New Yorker—nonfiction this time—about what it was like to experience her story going viral. In What It Felt Like When “Cat Person” Went Viral Roupenian discusses the moment she found out her story was getting published, the ways in which the reactions to it overwhelmed the proud moment, and attempting to deal with people’s conflation of the story and her real life. The article was interesting to read because it was a reminder of the real people who are often at the center of viral moments like this and are deeply affected by it, even if the discussion itself doesn’t have much to do with these people themselves. And as a writer, I also related to what it’s like to even think about people reading your work, never mind seeing so many different reactions to it at one time. That’s what made me save this one at the end—at the end of the day, as creators, we do our best to create the best thing we can and be respectful while doing so, but making people happy with what we make is not something we can control. Accepting that seems like the only way to deal with the firestorm.
Although I’ve paid more attention to Joe Biden than other vice presidents, I have to admit that I don’t know too much about him. I’ve always been charmed by his cool yet wise grandfather aura, and am the biggest fangirl of his friendship with Obama. So I was unpleasantly surprised to read an article on The Intelligencer that discussed the challenges that Biden would face if he was to run for president. According to the article, despite the great appeal of Biden, his long political history and the choices he made—including laws he helped write and backed—could really challenge his success once that is further aired. The article goes into better detail and can explain it a lot better than I can, but the unpleasantness came from finding out about some of the (very damaging) laws he was part of bringing into fruition and how, to some extent, he still holds the same perspective that caused him to support those laws. For me, it just goes to show how important it is to have all the information in all situations, but especially in political ones. I don’t live in America and so I have less of a stake in what happens with the 2020 elections. But in a world as intertwined as ours, it’s important to know the facts. And more importantly, in every situation, it’s important to know as much as possible about the people we support, good or bad, so that we can properly defend our beliefs.
If I’m completely honest keeping a proper bullet journal seems like an absolute nightmare. Most of the videos I watch make me want to just grab my journal and rip out every page in messy handwriting frustration. The only person whose bujo videos actually inspire me is Rachel Nguyen of That’s Chic, who recently did a third video on her bullet journal (watch above), where she walked through her process for using the bullet journal to get the most out of her time. Rachel keeps her bullet journal pretty simple which is perfect for me because I don’t’ really like to spend more than 30 minutes working on it. I’ve been more inspired to remain consistent with mine, no matter the lack of things I have to get done. If 2019 is your year of getting into the productivity game I recommend giving all her videos and watch and then planning your week like the boss that you are.
In the year of 2019, our society is obsessed with the concept of fame more than ever. And as more and more people get famous from transforming themselves into businesses, fame as a concept is sticky and constantly changing. One thing that isn’t changing is our confusion over fame—who gets it, who keeps it, and what damage does it do, both to the famous and those who follow their every move? It’s the latter question that Brady Corbet’s latest film, Vox Lux concerns itself with. Starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law, the film tells the story of Celeste, a young girl from Staten Island who suffers a spinal injury due to a school shooting, writes a song about it, and becomes instantly famous. The film is divided into four parts, with the first half following Celeste as a quiet but confident teen, who quickly falls in love with the adventure that is fame. The second half follows Celeste, now 31 years old, still confident but increasingly anxious and prone to explosive behaviour. As much as its concerned with the pitfalls of fame, it is more concerned with the ways in which we escape our pain—individually and collectively—and the ways in which pasting glitter over gaping wounds is both healing and damaging.
The film attempts to say this in various ways but in doing so, fails to fully realize any one message. Moments are often spat at out at the audience—sometimes in blurred and sped-up time lapses—and the narration, done by Willem Dafoe, is used to fill in the gaps the audience isn’t given time to fill. Personally, I would have been happier if they’d skipped the narration and sustained some of the most crucial moments. Yet, the film’s quick-paced energy perfectly reflected the anxious energy of Portman’s Celeste, and caused the viewer to feel that same anxiety. It was an anxiety that was all too common in 2018, the kind that came with news of one terrible thing after another.
Despite my qualms, I can’t deny that I enjoyed Vox Lux immensely. It was a puzzle that had to be figured out, and Natalie Portman’s performance was absolutely fantastic. I do wish that some of the amazing soundtrack they created could have gotten more play, but not every movie is A Star is Born. And I’m completely okay with that.
Have you ever spent much time thinking about Dick Cheney and what he did while he was vice president? If you’re anything like me (and I hope you are), you probably haven’t. Cheney has never really felt like a main character in the American political saga; more like the supporting character that’s a bit of a joke. But Adam McKay’s Vice changes all of that. The movie follows the former Vice President from his college days to his time as vice president to George W. Bush. It documents his early days as a drunken no-good bum, his eagerness to sink his teeth into the political game, and the lengths to which he was willing to go to gain power. Mixing in real footage and narration, the movie is bigger than Dick Cheney’s singular story. It’s a story about America; it’s a story about power; and it’s a story about what we accept in times of fear. What’s exciting about Vice, and what makes it one of the most important movies of 2018, is that although it’s a story about the past, it ties that past to our current moment, suggesting that America’s past is always relevant to its future. It references a variety of political players, young and less known at the time, who grew to gain access to large amounts of power, including former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia and current Vice President Mike Pence. In doing so, the film reminds its viewers that although Cheney may be a player from the past, the things he did, the actions he took are all precedent for what is going on in America right now. And the amount of power that Cheney was able to yield, despite the assumed boundaries of his position, act as a warning to what happens when we underestimate dangerous men. It reminds us that the attitudes and behaviors that made it possible for the American government to convince the American people to go to war with Iraq are the same that made Trump’s presidency possible. But as much as it is a dark warning, Vice is also expectionally enjoyable. It’s funny, hit you across the face type of watch, and the educational aspects aren’t all too bad. Plus the narrator is Landry from Friday Night Lights.
Sometime in 2018, I decided to embark on a Goodreads Reading Challenge and challenged myself to read 25 books by the end of the year. By December 31st, I had only read 23 books, two of those being for school and two were re-reads. Instead of feeling satisfied that I had read anything at all, I felt disappointed. I started a new book on December 31st and for a moment I felt a pressure to finish it that very day, just to add one more book to the list. Which was completely silly. And to be quite honest, up until earlier that week, I had completely forgotten that I had set myself that challenge. What was nice about it was that despite the constant reminder that I should be reading, I still found myself reading more this year than I have in recent years. However, I found myself taking more time with books and being more selective about my choices, which was important to me. Once upon a time, I used to force myself to read books that I wasn’t interested in, just to say I had read them. It made the task of reading less enjoyable and I felt motivated to do it less. That’s why I really enjoyed this recent article from The Cut, “Should I Stop Counting How Many Books I Read?” in which writer, Katie Heaney shares the same premonitions as me about setting reading goal. She discusses how the pressure to meet a goal can outweigh your reasons reason for setting a goal in the first place: finding time to do something you love. In the end, it’s not about ditching goals altogether or setting lower goals. She decides that setting a goal can be a good thing but it’s not the worst thing to not meet one either.
While I’ve loved Joni Mitchell’s Blue for many years, I can’t say that I’m familiar with a lot of her discography. I pretty much love every song of hers I’ve ever heard, so recently I decided I would start listening to more of her other albums. “The Fiddle and The Drum” was a surprise—a song that I had never heard before but was immediately enraptured by. It came on shuffle when I was walking home one night and suddenly the humming street began to sparkle with movie magic. The track is completely stripped down, letting Joni’s deep and rich voice sink right into your bones. It’s the song that plays at the end of a movie that doesn’t have a happy ending; it’s the moment when the car is driving away; the moment when we see all the characters for the last time just going about their daily activities. It’s the perfect song for any winter soundtrack—a little romantic and a little weary.
HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY TO ME!
I’ve been thinking a lot in the past couple of weeks about what turning 21 would mean for me. When I turned 20, I felt wise, I felt powerful; I felt like I had the whole world for the taking. But then the the year didn’t feel like that I at all. In fact, instead of being the year I handled shit like a grown ass woman, 20 was the year of starting over. Of having to reevaluate my 4 year plan, and choose to start a new life, one that I didn’t exactly what it would look like. So as 21 slowly approached, I was hesitant to say it would be the year of anything because I knew how quickly those ideas could fall apart. Not feeling like 21 was going to be any major catalyst, celebrating seemed unnecessary and I was ready for the day to pass like any other.
BUT now, on the morning of the actual day, I feel an energy that I want to keep riding. An energy that I want to infuse every moment of the next 364 days because in this crazy world, every day you wake up should be celebrated. And every year you get is a treasure.
For the past few years, I have been living a mostly quiet life. I’ve become more introverted than I used to be. I spend more time alone. I’m more tired. I feel old so much of the time. But I want to feel young. I want to do stupid things. I want my heart to break.
That said, I’m not going to make too many plans for the next year. There are things that I want to do more of; things that I want to achieve; habits I would like to lose. But I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I’m going to see where the year takes me.
This year I’m going to take care of myself more. Listen to more Cardi B. Watch more movies. Have more solo dance parties. Learn more about my heritage. Embrace my blackness. Learn. Grow.
My sister kept asking me if I was excited to turn 21 and I couldn’t say yes because I wasn’t feeling it. This morning, I’m feeling it. Because, good or bad, I’m ready for whatever this year has to give me.
The most appealing factor about Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited was that there was a film version starring Matthew Goode. For me, that’s as good a reason as any to pick up a hefty-ish tome about England in the interwar period.
I didn’t know what to expect of the novel—I knew it was a classic, and I knew that there was an important male relationship between the central protagonist and narrator, Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, a seductive yet elusive character. The novel is told from the perspective of Charles, who at the time of writing is serving in the British Army during World War II. On one morning, he and his troop arrive at Brideshead, the former home of the Flyte family; a site that holds many memories. The story moves through Charles’ life, from his years at Oxford and meeting Sebastian, to leaving England for Paris and becoming an artist. Throughout, the narrative pulls back to present-day Charles as he attempts to arrange and understand the events that led him to the current moment. Because of the retrospectiveness of the narration, memory plays an important role in the novel. At the beginning of Book Three, titled “A Twitch upon the Thread” Charles says of the stories he’s told and will tell: “These memories, which are my life—for we possess nothing certainly except the past—were always with me”. In some ways, keeping these memories alive is a consuming task, yet to let go of them is to erase a large part of his life. In holding on to them, the past—and its dreams—never have to fade away.
The desire to hold onto the past is one that Ryder shares with interwar England at large. In the novel’s foreword, Waugh expresses his unhappiness with the novel and the language and speech of its characters. But he also sees it as extremely demonstrative of the types of attitudes that existed in England and therefore necessary in understanding the resistance of the older class. And while Waugh is critical of these attitudes—English traditionalism and its resistance to anything new—there is a certain sense of adoration for that period and those people that lived, hopelessly and happily, in it. The tension of being critical of something and loving it at the same time extends into the world of the novel as well. While the Flytes are devoted Catholics in various degrees, Charles often expresses his distaste for Catholicism, even getting into drawn out disagreements over the ridiculousness of it. And yet, throughout the novel he cannot help but be intrigued by the devotion of the Flytes. More poignantly, in one of the final moments of the novel, Charles finds himself giving over to the power of the religion, begging it to give him reason to believe. It’s a moment that is both surprising and beautiful.
Brideshead Revisited is not an easy novel to dive into. In fact, it took me 250 pages and 2 weeks to get interested and even longer to connect with the characters. However, it’s the complexities, the constant tension and the surprisingly revealing and delicate moments that make the slow burn worth it.
I listened to Wet’s music for the first time about two years ago. At the time, I easily connected to it, despite my lack of experience in romantic relationships. Because of that I couldn’t understand or describe what resonated with me so much. All I knew was that there was something that had me coming back day after day. Although their first album Don’t You, was super melancholic, it never made me feel sad. Instead I was comforted by the vulnerability, and listening to tracks like “Island” and “Small and Silver” felt like moments of catharsis. Although I had yet to have a great romantic adventure, the joy and pain that was involved in one was real to me. In an old interview, Kelly Zutaru, the band’s frontwoman described their music as being like underwater, a full immersion. It’s the moment when you’re fully underwater and everything goes silent and all the chaos becomes muffled. It’s less like drowning and more like a moment of clarity.
The band’s latest album, There’s A Reason, is quite different from their first. Although the subject matter still deals with heartbreak and loss, the sound is less melancholic and, in many moments Zutaru’s voice is bold and demanding. Favourites on the album include “Softens” and “11 Hours”. “Softens” was first released as a single and despite its beauty, it took me some time to fall in love with it. The issue was that I was listening to it on speakers, asking it to fill the space. But it’s the type of song that requires intimacy, whether that’s lying in your bed in pajamas with your phone pressed up to your ear or taking a long walk with your headphones in. Either way, the song’s brilliance can’t be lost in such intimate spaces. Zutaru’s soft voice cradles lyrics like “You don't know your place/The sun hits the table/At a beautiful angle”—lyrics that make me want to lie on the kitchen floor and weep. In “11 Hours” Zutaru’s voice is bolder. She sings about being powerless to one that she loves. She recognizes that the love she had hurt her more than it helped her. While the relationship may have made her powerless, in the song she demands her former partner to take responsibility: she no longer wishes to feel well because of them. With each drawn out “you”, she reclaims the power she once had.
Although Wet’s music lies within a certain realm of indie-pop, it’s the duality found in There’s A Reason—both lyrically and musically—that makes them stand out. It’s what keeps me listening time and time again, no matter the experiences (or lack thereof) I have in my own life.
In 2018 I:
Visited Paris for the first time
Faced the challenge that is apartment hunting in Toronto
Made new friends
Found a beautiful home with the sweetest roommates (with the help of new friends)
Got a new job
the power of the podcast (and Oprah)
why I had so much academic anxiety
how to be ok with sitting still
Toronto transit system
that faltering does not mean quitting
that growth isn’t something that stops and begins—it’s always happening
I listened to:
lots of Travis Scott and Ariana Grande
lots of podcasts including Girlboss Radio and Thirst Aid Kit
I watched (and loved):
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (I’ve now seen it 8 times)
Frances Ha (rewatched because it will forever be a favourite)
Bob’s Burgers (again and again)
That’s Chic YouTube videos
I read (and loved):
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Sula by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
** complete 2018 read list
What I’m looking forward to in 2019:
reading more books
Greta Gerwig’s Little Women
making more friends
growing more confident in my abilities
trying new things
finding balance in all things
Spotify did pretty well with my Top 100 songs this year, but there are just some things that an algorithm can’t perfectly put together. So here are my personal selects—some overlap with Spotify’s choices, others were missed or released too late to make it, and all are—in my honest opinion—motherfucking jams.
the tulips that grew in the garden
were a reminder of
when my father lived his life
with soil underneath his fingernails and
sweat dripped from his lashes
sometimes he did cry
over the majesty of his garden
the garden he had built
after the world
made him a ghost
the only way he was able to hold on
was by reaching deep into the Earth
scooping out its hot core
letting it warm his cracked
in his weakest moments, he made
to the sky
begs for his Father’s judgement
begs for his light to shine on him
begs for one more day
in the mornings
i look out at the garden
think of all the
and all the
that are planted there
faintly, my father’s heart
bends with the wind
faintly, my father’s heart
bats its wings
always in constant flight
yet rooted in the ground
I’ve been wearing makeup to cover up the variety of blemishes that cohabitate on my face since I was twelve years old so it feels pretty fantastic to be in a moment when I wear a full face of makeup only once a week, and that’s only because I want to make money. While I’ve always wished I was Glossier-esque and could get away with only brow gel and a glittery lip balm, the dark spots that scatter my face like a confetti gun went off and the deep, DEEP dark circles under my eyes tell a different story. Despite all my skincare routines and rituals, I’ve always depended on makeup. Recently, however, I’ve taken a renewed approach to skincare that makes me feel less like I need makeup and lets me enjoy it. It’s meant being less concerned with following the routines of people I admire or wanting to try the latest thing even if it doesn’t make sense for my skin, and using products that work for my skin and using them consistently. My skin is healthier, I’m busting out fresh & glittery eye looks. Here are the products that are helping me out:
Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask
Surprisingly and unsurprisingly: I love, love this mask. I was pretty hesitant about purchasing it despite its rave reviews because Instagram endorsed products have a hard time living up to their name and this mask is a bit pricey than the clay ones I slather on my face with abandon. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, no matter the arguments I made against it and so as soon as the Sephora VIB sale hit, I made the leap. I have yet to regret it. The Jet Lag Mask is all about nutrients that make my skin look plump and filter glowy after immediate use, and since it requires you to remove it using a small towel, there’s the added benefit of exfoliation. This mask is perfect for those mornings where not even a buttload of Vitamin C Serum or eye cream could save me. And because you only need a little bit to make it effective, that $59 price tag seems small in the long run.
Paula’s Choice BHA Skin Perfecting Liquid
Liquid exfoliants are a very terrifying thing that I’m still weary and cautious despite the fact that I sing praises for this baby from Paula’s Choice every time I use it, which is every single night. After the first few uses, I could see my skin peeling off which was both kinda scary and uber cool, and after just a week my notoriously oily and large pored face started looking smooth and glowy. Do we sense a theme yet? Now my skin is feeling pretty balanced, and using it every night has been helpful when any wayward blemishes rear their ugly heads.
Paula’s Choice Balancing Cleanser
Accepting that I had oily skin also meant accepting that I couldn’t just use any cleanser like I was a cool and effortless vlogger who could use Dove bar soap and still look fantastic. I picked up a balancing cleanser at the recommendation of Into the Gloss and have been enjoying its benefits since. No more mornings of waking up with a thin layer of grease on my face or having my makeup separated as my skin got more and more oily throughout the day. The best part of this one from Paula’s Choice? It deep cleanses like nobody’s business meaning makeup removal happens in a snatch.
Laneige Water Bank Hydrating Gel
After a short period of using Weleda Skin Food and JASON’s Vitamin E cream turned my face into a rashy, blemish-y mess, I was looking for a face moisturizer that was so light that it melted into my skin on contact. Laniege’s Hydrating Gel is the lightest cream that I’ve ever used and is still extremely effective. It gives my skin just the right boost it needs and makes me feel a little bit like a glistening cyborg. And it’s hydrating enough that I despite the intense dehydration I experience overnight, my skin still feels moisturized when I wake up. It’s like magic.
Robin Givhan is renewing my fashion obsession
There was a time in my life when fashion felt like my whole life. I used to obsessively flipped through the same issues of Vogue, tried to learn as much fashion vocabulary as I could and wrote the most amateur-ish of fashion show reviews. Over time, that passionate obsession faded into a vague liking and these days, I doubt that I could call myself a fashion fanatic. But in recent weeks, there has been a strong light in the very dim tunnel: Robin Givhan’s reviews for The Washington Post. Givhan is a respected fashion critic, who’s books on historical moments in fashion—fashion’s battle at Versailles, Michelle Obama’s fashion choices as a first lady—are groundbreaking and provoking. Her fashion reviews feel equally the same; her perspective always feels fresh and she seems less concerned with the sensationalism that often surrounds things and instead focuses on the collections at hand, the precedent the sent and what that means for the future of fashion. The more I read, the more I am reminded of why I loved fashion in the first place: for its possibilities, for its expansiveness, and its ability to bring beauty into the world while saying something worthwhile.
The new Blood Orange music video
Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, just released the music video for “Chewing Gum” from his album Negro Swan and after just one watch I was overwhelmingly impressed. I’m constantly awed by Hynes’ unique brand of artistry and the layers of his work, and this was no different. Like the other videos from the album, the “Chewing Gum” video isn’t overly complicated—it’s Dev Hynes and A$AP Rocky driving ATVs in hazy, sunset dripped desert, looking fierce and free. Apart from its visual beauty, what struck me most about the video was the fresh perspective it gave me on the song and what it means. When Hynes looks straight into the camera and sings “Tell me what you want from me,” it has a fierce demand that feels unexpected from the soft tone of his singing voice. A big theme of Negro Swan is the freedom of being fully yourself, of doing the most, and the power that you get from being surrounded by the right people, the people who let you be free. In this video, both Hynes and A$AP are not just demanding their right to that freedom and power, but taking it. As their scarves dance around them and the drive on seemingly endless strips of road, they become more free and you as the viewer, feel it too.
On Being Podcast: Alain Botton
Lately, I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m interested in pursuing and entering a romantic relationship and if so, why. Despite this desire, I’m also hesitant and a little afraid of what that would actually mean. I love listening to and reading radical perspectives on love and relationships, and so was especially excited to listen to Alain Botton’s episode of On Being with Krista Tippett. Love is Botton’s subject—he’s been writing about love since he was 23—and his perspective on it feels valuable and increasingly so the more I think about it. He said three things that stuck with me, the first being that the scariest part of entering into relationships is that we have to make ourselves “weak,” to not con. The other two things: relationships aren’t just the lovey-dovey parts, but also involve everyday responsibilities; and we shouldn’t be fear imperfections in ourselves and our partners but be open to them. It’s such a good listen and I’ll be talking about it with everyone I meet for the next little while.