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28 Days of Black History, neo-noir excellence, essential Baldwin, and more.
Digest #22 - February 4th, 2021
Hello lovely readers,
It’s already February! Wow. 2021 isn’t exactly going how we expected so far, is it?
At my end, I had a strong start to the year. I spent the end of my holiday leave from work running and doing yoga every day, cooking great recipes, finding a lot of balance. Then, not long after, I was hit with an illness that took me about three weeks to recover from. Smell and taste phasing in and out, fatigue, body aches and migraines... So yeah… maybe Covid. Perhaps another virus. Or, possibly, running 5km a day while breastfeeding without replenishing electrolytes is a special kind of self-neglect. I’m really not sure what was wrong with me. But luckily nobody else in my household got sick at all.
Now that I’m healthy again, and back on top of my life and work, I’m here to share random cultural artifacts with you again! I appreciate your support and readership as always, and look forward to resuming our weekly editions.
I’m also pleased to announce the winner of January’s book giveaway is Giulia Balestra! Giulia I’m so happy to share Dream City with you, and I’ll be in touch to get your copy sent to you ASAP. For February, I’m giving away two copies of James Baldwin’s Another Country, described in number three below. You can enter here.
Sending sunshine from Atlanta,
28 Days of Black History
I’ve been eagerly following the first three days of Anti-Racism Daily’s 28 Days of Black History project. This is a month-long (28 day) series celebrating Black history in the United States. Each day the team shares different pieces (art, books, plays, songs, etc) that honor and celebrate the multiple facets of Black identity and Black experience. The exhibition also intentionally centers the voices of Black leaders who aren’t given the historical attention and respect they deserve because of their intersectional identities; in particular, LGBTQ+ people and those with disabilities. It is curated by Camille Bethune-Brown, a queer, disabled, Black History Curator working at the intersection of race and disability studies and Shanaé Burch, artist and educator passionate about leveraging arts and culture for public health.
In the words of the editor, Nicole Cardoza, from day one:
Each day will include a work, the historical context, and questions for individual reflection and group discussion. Today's art resonated with me because it holds a devastating part of our history with such grace and care; literally taking the pieces of the past and creating something anew. What can we learn from this today, as our nation faces yet another health crisis?
This series is 28 days long. You can expect one email each evening (or a weekly recap each Sunday, if you prefer). But remember that this work should continue for your lifetime. Let this be the start to your ongoing celebration of Black history.
I highly recommend you sign up for the digest by visiting 28daysofblackhistory.com and view the archive to catch up on the first few posts.
The Flight Attendant
Kaley Cuoco has surprised me in all the best possible ways. If you don’t know who she is, this article brilliantly summarises her television career, and the masterful way that she’s built her own reality as an actress. Her most famous role was as the token dumb-blonde character Penny, on the ‘adorkably misogynistic’ show The Big Bang Theory. Leaving this 12-year endeavor behind her, and taking all the cash it gave her, Cuoco founded her own production company and has started to create roles for herself that are worthy of her talent. The first of these, The Flight Attendant, was a wonderful watch from start to finish. A neo-noir kind of dark comedy murder mystery, but delightful and unpredictable. It manages to be original in a TV landscape that’s hyper competitive and oversaturated. The show also has the same energy I loved in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but with a strong female lead and compelling, well-developed characters. Cuoco’s acting is also impeccable in it, and I’m genuinely very excited to see what she does next. You can stream the show on HBO Max if you’re in the US.
This novel is one I love very much, in a dark, deep and multifaceted way. At the time of its publication in 1962, it was exceptionally controversial because it covers topics like homosexuality, bisexuality, suicide, domestic abuse, infidelity and interracial marriage. At its core, it interrogates the oppression, subjugation and alienation of Black people in America. The relationships between the novel’s characters are beautiful and complicated. Baldwin referred to Rufus Scott, the central character of the novel, as "the black corpse floating in the national psyche." Internalized racism manifests in this work as a deep self-hatred, and as a desire for Rufus to possess and control whiteness, through sex and through violence. It’s heavy reading, and it for me explores the deep complexity in Black American identity, and the ways that power and pain manifest within us. I consider this book essential reading, which is why I want to make sure two copies make their way to readers for Black History Month. Enter the giveaway here.
One of the most obnoxious, overbearing things all of my close friends tolerate about me is my obsession with learning rap lyrics. I get into phases where I manically pour over lyrics until I can perfectly rap a song that I particularly love, or excites me because it is particularly challenging. My mastery list gets longer over time. This is probably my proudest, and nerdiest, semi-secret talent: I can perform this Blackalicious song from top to bottom. I realised over the weekend that I had gotten rusty and couldn’t do it perfectly, then practiced in a fervent loop until I nailed it again. Daniel Radcliffe has done it live on television, which is cool but I mean, I’m pretty confident I could beat him in a rap cover battle. If you know Daniel please pass on my challenge and you’ll see how ridiculously serious I am about all of this.
Seared duck breast with fried potatoes
This is an utterly indulgent, impeccable, special-dinner winner. If you’re looking to make something amazing (and are of the duck-eating persuasion) I highly recommend following this recipe for some incredible results. It follows the general principles necessary for making perfect duck: drying the skin, scoring, thorough seasoning, stove-to-oven cooking, and complementary sauce flavors to balance it out (orange, honey, rosemary, and red wine). For any less experienced home chefs, I love that it also has really clear and simple video footage you can follow, along with the step-by-step instructions. I’m going to be cooking this for date night on Saturday, and will pop pictures in my Instagram stories so you can see how well (or how poorly, time will tell) I execute this. Plating isn’t my thing generally… which in other words means I make ugly food that tastes good, but I’m working on it.
A Gossip Girl reboot
Words cannot express how irrationally excited I am about Gossip Girl 2.0. This piece by Vulture summarizes what we know about the reboot so far, and all the queer, Black glory of the new cast. It’s first two sentences are also a perfect punch in the gut:
Ready to feel old? The original CW Gossip Girl ran for three full seasons before the invention of Instagram.
For better or worse, this show was a big part of my late teens and early 20s, and I’m invested in seeing where it goes in its refreshed iteration. I am unashamedly interested in the drama of fictionalized entitled rich kids living in NYC (let me live).
The updated show is also being developed by HBO to air on HBO Max, and since they have some pretty high standards for quality… let’s just say, my expectations are high for an elevated GG experience. Give me a release date HBO, for the love of all that is holy, I need to block my calendar in advance.
I’ve watched this clip on Instagram way too many times. Everyone I’ve sent it to has laughed. But hey - the poor kid’s little mishap has at least created joy for all of us laughing at their expense 😂