you can’t always take the analytical position

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Normal People.  In a scene from Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Connell Waldron finds himself feeling out of place at a book reading he attends. While everyone around him is gushing about it, Connell finds himself displeased with the experience and questioning its purpose. He thinks: “Literature, in the way it appeared at these public readings, had no potential as a form of resistance to anything.” Later, he gets home and reads notes for a story he wants to write and he feels an “old beat of pleasure”. He connects these pleasures to a variety of experiences: watching a perfect goal, hearing a bit of music from a passing car. Rooney writes: “Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.”

Moments like these are essential to Normal People which, like Rooney’s first novel Conversations with Friends, perfectly captures the tension between the political and the emotional. In this moment, although Connell finds himself incapable of connecting literature to the uneven world in which he lives, he can still recognize beauty and joy in the world. Normal People is full of social and political questions: Rooney’s characters discuss class differences as they talk about their romantic relationships; they question their access to money and the appeal for of it, the way it can be both “corrupt and sexy”; they discuss the Greek financial crisis at parties. However, the novel does not reject feelings for politics. As much as it functions as social critique, it is equally, maybe more, concerned with the ways we express our feelings, the way we shape ourselves to please other people, the moments we stay silent due to uncertainty. These things define our lives primarily, and Rooney is suggesting that they function simultaneously with the social, political and economic events that also shape our lives. It’s Rooney’s capacity to capture the tension within this relationship that makes her novels so appealing to read.

“A History of the Influencer, From Shakespeare to Instagram.” What do you think of when your hear the word ‘influencer’? Do you think about girls with itty bitty waists and big butts hawking fitness teas? Do you imagine Instagram shots of young women in six different outfits with a caption that includes the ambiguous term ‘#ad’? Can an influencer be anyone else? Laurence Scott thinks so. In “A History of the Influencer, from Shakespeare to Instagram” Scott explores the way in which influence works in our modern age. He suggests that “the social-media influencer (re: girl with the fit tea) has an eerie double in the hacker who covertly shapes political discourse” in that they are both “flourish in our increasingly networked world”. Put simply, influencers and their influence are everywhere, and take many forms. Yet many of us, including myself, resist the idea that we are influenced. Scott argues that this resistance stems from a desire to  maintain a sense of self. To accept that we are influenced in a neoliberal society is to admit that “we are neither entirely self-determining nor self-contained.” In modern neoliberal society, our greatest fear is the subsumption the individual (and his interests) to the group. Accepting that as individuals we are influenced feels, for many of us, accepting a loss of self. Discussing Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Scott suggests that “to be influenced is to be dominated--to experience an eclipse of personality.” That sounds terrifying. Yet the insistence that the individual exist their own without the interference or influence of others has failed to contribute to a well-functioning society. Adam Smith’s views on capitalism have not worked out the way he thought they would.

Resisting outside forces leads people to have a limited perspective. Over the past few years, we have seen how harmful existing in an echo chamber of your beliefs can be. It seems imperative that we open ourselves up. Maybe not to fitness teas and fast fashion brands, but to other people. At the conclusion of his article, Scott claims that the challenge we must now undertake requires us to “negotiate the inherent inauthenticity and cynicism of an influence economy” while preserving “our ability to be occupied, and perhaps changed for the better, by the alien ideas of other people.” Recently, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m influenced. I’m influenced by everything I read, watch, or listen to. But I don’t feel like my sense of self has been eliminated. In fact, I’m more aware of who I am and who I want to be. That may just be the potential of influence.

”Lie to Me” - 5 Seconds of Summer ft. Julia Michaels. Listening to 5 Seconds of Summer reminds me of being sixteen and finding joy in the most simple things, like listening to a band’s entire discography 24 hours before going to their concert. When their second album came out last summer, I was excited to regain that feeling again. But, after just one listen I found myself addicted to “Youngblood” and not much else. Recently, after succumbing to the suggestions of Spotify, I put the song “Lie to Me” (featuring Julia Michaels) on a playlist and have been obsessed since. “Lie to Me” is not revolutionary—it’s a breakup song filled with regret—but it has all the elements of the greatest bops, from lyrics that feel relatable to music that makes you want to dance at the bus stop. Add it to your summer playlist and thank me later.

in a big country i found home

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”.

trois choses: easy on a sunday morning

Roommate Dinner

Roommate Dinner

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.

images via ssense and    alealimay.com

images via ssense and alealimay.com

They have become shorthand for a specific philosophy in fashion: that something doesn’t need to be beautiful to be moving, that the unusual can be beautiful, and that the smallest details can lead to the most enduring results.
— Arabelle Sicardi

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.

trois choses: i will assume form

image from  The New Yorker

image from The New Yorker

“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.

trois choses: ‘cat person’ again, the secrets of Joe Biden, and bullet journaling

Another piece of conventional wisdom is that what other people think about us is none of our business.


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 timeabout 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.

TROIS CHOSES: Dick Cheney, Book Goals, and Joni Mitchell

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.

Trois Choses: Getting into a Groove

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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.

TROIS CHOSES: n**ga I'm feeling myself

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"Charcoal Baby" and "Jewelry" by Blood Orange

I've loved Dev Hynes for many years, and am constantly inspired the work he’s done but this summer I’ve gone deep. What’s so impressive about Dev, and the work he does as Blood Orange, is the thoughtful and intelligent art he produces without being pretentious. This is the man who is inspired by Phillip Glass and also loves a bit of an 80s synth sound. It feels really rare to have an artist who brings all these references into their music and yet comes out with a sound that’s wholly their own. When I saw the album cover for Negro Swan (out Aug. 24th!) I felt this indescribable wave of emotion and connection. Immediately I thought of beauty, blackness, art. I thought of Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet   and about who gets to be angels/swans. When the videos for “Charcoal Baby” and “Jewelry” came out, I sat in front of my TV enthralled by the beauty and the history that was threaded through both works. Every time I listen to “Jewelry” I shut down all the thoughts in my head just to focus on Janet Mock talk about turning all the way up and not lessening yourself so as to make others comfortable in certain spaces. I clearly imagine the celebratory black bodies fully expressing joy and excitement in the video. And when Dev sings “Do what you need to get by” I feel like I’ve been touched by my patron saint. If these songs are anything to go by, the album is going to be unbelievable.

Good Girls (Netflix) 

Halfway through the first episode of Good Girls I started bawling. I was surprised because it was the last reaction I expected to have. In fact, I spent several weeks avoiding it even though I was sick of sitting through episodes of Jessica Jones and according to Netflix’s (shaky) algorithm, it was a 98% match. But I was not disappointed! I immediately fell in love with the show and was watching it any time I had 20 minutes to spare. What makes Good Girls  so good is that it has the right mix of elements—a little bit buddy comedy, with a hefty dash of female empowerment and family drama without relying too much on clichés. I found myself rooting constantly rooting for the characters, even some of the worst ones,  which for me is a marker of good TV. Don Draper anyone?  An additional bonus: falling in love with Retta whose performance as Ruby, a black mother with a sick child trying to deal with an unforgiving healthcare system, is absolutely phenomenal.

Anxiety, Stress and Self-care 

The past few weeks have been pretty exhausting for me; I’ve been working, interning and getting ready to move, which means I have a few things keeping me up at night. I’ve also been feeling more anxious than usual and in the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few mild panic attacks at work that have wrecked my day. So this past weekend, after I had two panic attacks within the span of a few hours I decided that I needed to take a moment and just turn myself off. Tossing my to-do list—something that’s hard to do without guilt—I declared my evening Self-Care Saturday. I know that self-care is something that’s often scoffed at, but I think there’s something valid in taking a moment to take care of yourself without punishment, whether that’s making yourself a luxe meal, taking a bath or marathoning your favourite movies. In my case, I watched the third Harry Potter  movie which made me laugh and cry, and ultimately left me feeeling ready to take on my to-do list when the time came. 

  Honorable mention: The continued brilliance of Harry Potter.  

TROIS CHOSES: I Like a Red Rouge

Trois Choses is an evolving thing (sometimes monthly, sometimes weekly) that spotlights things I can't stop thinking about. It might be a movie, TV show, podcast or just a feeling. 

You’ve Got Lipstick on your Chin (Newsletter)  

I’ve been an admirer of Arabella Sicardi for years now, and their work has always encouraged to think bigger, to develop my ideas in ways that were unexpected. Generally, they're just brilliant. I've been a subscriber to their newsletter for a while and am super excited that they've chosen to reboot it. The first email was so good, I was inspired to write this post and share it with everyone. In the newsletter, they recommended an interview with Andrea Long Chu from the latest episode of the I'd Rather Be Reading podcast, "Bad Desires", which I listened to immediately and found particularly thought provoking. I'm currently in this place where I am really excited to learn, especially about things that I never would have thought to think about initially, and the interview, as well as Arabelle's newsletter are all a big part of that. 

The Art of The Essay: Hilton Als (The Paris Review)

I never felt there was a separation between the art I loved and myself

Another person whose work often pushes me to look deeper and consider how and what I consume is Hilton Als, which is why I loved this interview with him in the latest issue of The Paris Review. The interview feels very special--it manages to capture his voice, literally and as a writer. Many times, it feels less like an interview and more like one of Als' spectacular essays--questioning, profound, and celebratory of the people that have been influential in his life. He talks about his family and the ways in which they have been un/able to preserve their history, how he "became" a writer, and the continued search for voice. This interview is one that is meant to be read again and again, not just because it's inspiring but, like many things I associate with Als, you discover something new and magical with every read. 

Luke Cage (Netflix)

Embarrassingly enough, I watched all the episodes of Luke Cage in about a week which is A. unsurprising and B. a testament of how good it is. Whenever I watch anything with superheroes, it's usually background noise and feels excruciatingly long. Luke Cage was different. First of all, watching a show that has a primarily main cast and that is able to cover the complexities of black life, while still celebrating it is so refreshing and, in some ways, life-changing that it's harder for me to watch other stuff that doesn't have that. Even better, Luke Cage is well written and fantastically made--there are clear motifs, the aesthetics are amazing, and the characters so multi-layered that it's hard to find someone to fully root against. I definitely want to spend more time digging into it, especially the role of art (the paintings in Harlem's Paradise, the importance of the musical acts in the club) and how it plays into the ways in which black people build their lives. And I'm going to be honest, even though Black Panther exists and I love Sebastian Stan, Luke Cage is hands down the best thing from Marvel I've ever seen. 

 

TROIS CHOSES: I'll Be By the Batphone

TROIS CHOSES is a monthly roundup of three things (books, music, movies, etc.) that I particularly enjoyed or that stood out to me. Read April's here.

UN: The Gentlewoman (Spring&Summer 2018) 

The Gentlewoman is one of the magazines that has reinvigorated me both as a writer and as a consumer of culture. My sister and I happened to come upon their Spring&Summer 2018 issue in our local bookstore (which just started selling it) and, in our excitement, had to snatch it up. I didn't have plans for reading it through but that's what I ended up doing. What makes The Gentlewoman stand out is its predilection for following its curiosities and interests. Sure they cover "relevant" topics and individuals, but it's never in a way that feels like just another part of someone's press tour. I loved every interview in this issue, even if I had never heard of the person before, and was so inspired (& motivated) by their "Modern Details" that I've been writing itsy-bitsy devotionals to everything from apple pie to Weleda Skin Food. 

Deux: "Depression Takes My Body Away", Arabelle Sicardi for Racked

Being chronically ill taught me a while ago that bodies are full of surprises, that they are unreliable narrators of our dreams, and that something can be a failing, but it doesn’t mean you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our bodies speak for us in ways that we can’t control. How they give away a lot--like how the freshman 15 is tells a story of both immaturity and excessive indulgence. In this piece, Arabelle Sicardi talks about not feeling like they had much control over much--their body, their life, their feelings and impulses--but being able to push against that through fashion or, more specifically, personal style. I remember when I was the biggest Arabelle Sicardi fan so many years ago and how they would talk about fashion as armour. And that always resonated with me, but does so even more today. I’ve never felt less in control than I have in the past few months and despite my various attempts at organization and control--colour coded calendars, to-do lists, daily journal entries--I rarely feel in control. Clothes have not only made me feel more in control, but they have been a way to build a fortress around myself. One that allows me to move in the world and feel protected. This article helped me realize that in a way that all that other stuff--the podcasts, the online guides, the self-help books--didn't. 

Trois: Yoga with Adriene

Last summer, in an effort to lose the Freshman 30+, I chose to complete a 60 day detox--no gluten, no dairy, no alcohol--and started Kayla Itsines BBG program. When I first started, I just wanted to lose some weight. I didn't want to become consumed with being a toned, slim Instagram model; I just wanted to fit in my new clothes. Unfortunately, I was soon saving pictures of toned and tight bellies on Instagram and taking daily images of my changing body. I'd convinced myself that I was in a healthy state of mind, but in some ways I was obsessive, and at times punishing. I relished in those days when I felt hungry but stopped myself from eating outside of the allotted amounts of food I had determined. And after the 60 days where over, very few of the habits I had developed stuck--I went back to my usual bread eating, chocolate enjoying self. When this summer came around, I wasn't interested in getting into the gym or going on another restrictive diet (although I did muse over Whole30 until I found out you couldn't eat rice). But I did want to be active and commit to something, so I turned to yoga. I chose Yoga with Adriene because I had seen Estée Lalonde doing the videos on her Instagram, and the fact that the videos were (on avergae) only 25 minutes. I’ve had *experiences* with yoga before--I still have a yoga pass that I never finished using--but it’s never made me feel as good as doing Yoga with Adriene has. I’m currently doing “True: 30 Day Yoga Challenge” and it’s definitely changed things for me. I try and do a video every morning, and it really sets the tone for my day. Adriene is all about throwing away the idea of doing yoga to become trimmed and toned (she says it will happen), and instead focusing on certain themes + non-physical goals. Themes like SURRENDER and SELF-LOVE allow me to use the time on the mat to mediate, or just take a moment to breath. Since I've started, I've noticed how completing a practice every morning makes me feel productive and accomplished. Adriene herself is a little kooky--she makes the most random jokes--but her kookiness is what makes doing her practice so comfortable. There is no pressure to be a perfect yogi, or the most fit person ever. She reminds me that I can just have fun. Maybe at the end of it all I'll have more toned arms, but that's not the goal. 

TROIS CHOSES: APRIL

troischosesapril.jpg

Trois Choses is a monthly series highlighting three things I consumed each month that excited me or had an impact. 

UN: Jane the Virgin

I started watching Jane the Virgin after my friend, Sara, recommended it to me because we were talking about how I felt so stuck as a writer and that I was currently looking for a mentor and felt like I had little to offer. And Jane is a writer too. I had already been recommended the show a few times but never felt inclined to actually give it a try. At that point, everything felt really dull, my senses felt non-existent and I really needed to watch something that was fun and light-hearted, especially since the last thing I watched was  the very cold, very dark Fargo. SO I started watching and I fell in love. It’s almost embarrassing to admit this but I watched all four seasons this whole entire month. I fell in love with (almost) all the characters and was so invested. And it was also encouraging to me as a writer. I wouldn’t say it inspired me but it’s depiction of the writer’s journey and the ups and downs was very comforting in that I was reminded that there is no straight or easy way to being a writer. And one reminder that Jane always got was to BE BRAVE, which has accidentally become on of my affirmations for the rest of the year. An added bonus: Tyler Posey is in the 4th season and I literally grinned through every episode.

Deux: Startup, Season 2

I’ll basically read or watch (or listen to!) anything about starting a business, but often times the material can be more discouraging than encouraging. It focuses on mostly the positives and the ways in which the people who start businesses were built for it, whether they were selling lemonade at 6 or working at Subway and knowing that wasn't their path. Even their challenges felt overly positive and I found it hard to relate to that. That’s what makes Startup so special. Their goal is to give a direct look into the creation of business, the ups and downs, as they're happening. Sometimes it's cringey and uncomfortable, but ultimately it's really encouraging to see people have worries and concerns that I get because it makes me feel less alone, less of an anomaly. Even if starting a business is the last thing on your mind, it’s still a really good listen for anyone that has to work with other people. Season 2 is especially good because compared to Season 1, the drama and the struggle that come with starting a business with other people was off the charts. Season 2 followed Dating Ring, a matchmaking/dating service founded by Lauren Kay and Emma Tessler. It follows the duo through a positive start, losing a teammate and major fights. My favourite episode was the one where they go to visit the CEO Whisperer, which was such an enlightening thing to listen to. At the time of listening I was definitely feeling conflict in my working life, and this season gave me a lot of perspective on what I was dealing with.

Trois: "Every Goodbye Ain't Gone" by James Baldwin

"You drag your past with you everywhere, or it drags you."

This is one of those essays that I ended up reading by accident, but turned out to be exactly perfect for the moment. I feel like this whole month was full of happy accidents. So far 2018 has been pretty tumultuous for me and when I thought I was getting pretty settled in April, everything went topsy-turvy again. And this essay felt like such a comfort. A good essay for me has always been about finding a connection, not feeling alone in the world. And this essay was that and also explored that feeling. That moment when you can recognize that you're not alone, that you can explore and break away from you've known and still find your way back, or find the way to where you're supposed to be.