Conscious cosmetic procedures, AOC’s perfect speech, buttery kimchi noodles, and more.

Digest #7 - July 26th 2020

Conscious cosmetic procedures, AOC’s perfect speech, buttery kimchi noodles, and more.
The Seven - A weekly digest by Keeya-Lee Ayre

Digest #7, July 26th 2020


One

Netflix's latest reality offering Skin Decision: Before and After was a pleasant surprise. I started it with the expectation that I'd hate it and critically pick it apart; on the surface it seemed reminiscent of those terribly toxic plastic surgery shows from the 00s. What I found instead was the 2020, socially conscious, update. It's a show that is fundamentally about empowering people, giving them the capacity to exercise agency and make choices for themselves, and that puts their needs at the center. It is also refreshing to see two women leading the show; a brilliant plastic surgeon Doctor Sheila Nazarian, and Registered Nurse with her own skincare empire "Nurse Jamie". They avoid toxic ideas of what bodies should be, and accept patient's decisions about what confidence means for them as individuals. They also use less risky non-surgical treatments wherever possible. Mental health is also a major focus of the show. Patients include survivors of domestic violence and serious physical trauma, a trans man taking his final steps to present the way he wants to, and women trying to balance their sense of self with motherhood. It's still a makeover TV show and is inherently focused on outward appearance and societal beauty norms, but it has a lot of the heart and soul Netflix is known for (think Queer Eye). I’ve binged it all in one day and if reality is your thing I really recommend it.

Screenshot from the show. Doctor Sheila Nazarian, left, and Nurse Jamie, right.

Two

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) recently delivered an incredible speech to US Congress addressing her harassment by representative what’s-his-name (I honestly can't remember and I'm not Googling it right now because frankly he's not worth our time). It shocked me. Not because of what happened, it's all too common for women, and I think we've all been there. Also not because of how brilliantly she speaks, I've come to expect no less. No, I'm shocked because she actually dug up the energy to address this head on, and nailed it so perfectly, because honestly she shouldn't have to. As she says so powerfully in her speech, she stood up to confront this issue for her nieces, for little girls watching her at home, and for her own parents who raised her to be strong. This isn’t acceptable. And yet in America today, it is increasingly accepted. She did all of us a service by articulating something that so strongly resonates with most, if not all, women. We may not have the energy to do this ourselves when it comes up, but now we have her words to help us stand, and we know we're all still standing in this together. I don’t think it’s relevant whether or not you agree with her politics, you should care enough about humanity to know that women should live free from harassment and vitriol. If you haven’t watched the full speech please take less than 5 minutes to do it.

This incredible illustration is by Hera Hussain. I spoke to the artist, Hera, about including this, and she asked me to link to her nonprofit @ChaynHQ instead of her own profile. I strongly recommend you follow them! It's an amazing survivor-led intersectional tech project empowering women and non-binary people facing violence.

Three

These buttery kimchi noodles are my all-time favorite "oh I forgot about dinner" meal. It's so easy but always good. It doesn't feel like a lazy meal, even though that is 100% what it is when I make it. I always keep packets of fresh udon and jars of kimchi in the pantry, and eggs in the fridge. I actually use the linked recipe very loosely... For me this is very much a 'use what you have, don't stress about substitutions' recipe. Scallions are lovely to have but not critical; the dish is still delicious without. Gochujang, while uniquely delicious, can also be subbed for other Asian chili sauce (Lao Gan Ma is my fave), or just left out. Sorry if that's blasphemy but the kimchi has plenty of kick. The broth isn't necessary to make it lovely and saucy, in my opinion. But if you have it, go for it. If you've got sesame seeds on hand, garnish generously. For a non-animal-product version, vegan butter works just as well, and you can always skip the egg! I've also made this with soba instead of udon and I think the moral of the story is - put butter and kimchi on anything and you're good.

Photo by Alex Lau for Bon Appétit.

Four

Malaka Gharib, global health journalist at NPR who I adoringly follow on Twitter, published a stunning graphic memoir titled I Was Their American Dream last year. She reflects on her experience as the daughter of immigrants, in stories that will resonate with many first generation Americans. What struck me is how beautifully she captures the multiplicity of national identifies many of us carry. She is Egyptian-Filipino, grew up in California, went to Catholic school, and has a Muslim father she spent summers with in Egypt. Although her own experiences are different to mine, I felt a connection with her articulation of her own origins and the perplexity of those who encounter her multiethnic identity. Being half Australian (of British origin) and half Black American, growing up in Western Australia with a lot of time spent in Singapore... then finding myself staring at blank faces while explaining this to people in, well, any country actually... it's an experience those of us who know, know all too well. I could never capture it as well as Malaka does. The book is a beautifully illustrated dive into a wonderful woman’s upbringing.

My own copy of the book (with my cat Yuki and my son Leo's play tent in the background).

Five

I've been home all week alone, off work, with Leo (see number seven). So, naturally I've been watching a lot of Netflix. That means I have a second show to share with you this week! Based on the iconic 80s-90s book series that I loved as a child, The Baby-Sitters Club adaptation was an absolute delight for this 28-year-old and her 7-month old to binge watch together. It has a lot of fabulous nostalgic references, including many nods to Clueless (it even stars Alicia Silverstone as Kristy's mom - win!) but it nails its landing in the present day. Anachonrisms that are critical to the original series plot, like landline phones, are well explained and situated. 'Modern' social justice themes are well woven throughout without feeling tokenistic. Plot lines involve misgendering of a trans girl who a character babysits, income inequality at camp when activities are made inaccessible due to hidden fees, and a reflection on America's dark history of Japanese internment camps. I'm perpetually grateful to Netflix for lifting the bar and normalizing television content like this. The show also made me hyperaware of fully crossing the threshold, as I'm now reflecting on my childhood reading these stories, but with my own child beside me. Time is a funny thing, eh!

The Baby-Sitters Club cast photo, from Netflix.

Six

I've started to get into a fantastic podcast called Myths and Legends. The host, Jason, shares stories from mythology and folklore. He retells them in his own engaging plain-language way, making them extremely accessible. As someone who loves classics, including ancient Greek literature in a big way, but doesn't always have the mental acuity to read hefty volumes... this is so, so good. If you've ever wanted to digest epics like Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, here's your in! He covers stories from a wide range of cultures too, not just the West.

Here’s a little transcript I wrote out to give you a taste of what I mean. This is from episode 173, “Tunisian Folklore: Fortune”.

The Sultan looked at his jester trying to entertain him. While the jester stood there crying. The jester shook his head, then continued his little dance. The Sultan held up a hand. “Ok, now, that actually made it worse. What’s up?” The jester wiped his nose with the palm of his hand. He was sorry. It was just, his wife had died. Yesterday.

The Sultan nodded and pursed his lips. Wow, his jester’s wife had… that was a big one. The guy the Sultan paid to cheer him up, now needed the Sultan to do that for him. Was he up for it? Could he be a friend to this man who had done so much for him? Up to and including coming into work the day after his wife died?

The Sultan walked down and placed a hand on the jester’s shoulder. This was difficult. But he would be there for the jester and give him exactly what he needed in this difficult time. The Sultan would help.

So he called in his Sultana, his Queen. When she entered the room she grimaced. “Yeesh." Wasn’t he paid to make them happy? Why was he crying, was this like, a bid or something?

The Sultan took his wife into his arms. “Honey, please. His wife JUST died. Like yesterday.” The Sultana gasped and covered her mouth.

“Aw yeah, I know right! My boy’s single again, yes!” The Sultan said, high-fiving his wife. “Oh man I wish I was in your shoes”, the Sultana said. “Dead spouse, able to go out on the town again!”

See what I mean? I don't know the source material, but I can only assume it's not quite that comical. There aren't enough free hours in the day to get through all of this content (the show is up to episode 189C) but damn it I'm going to try.


Seven

As a general rule, this is not a space for my own content. However, I feel compelled to make an exception in this moment, because today is a huge day for my family. For the last week my Mum, Kerry, has been on an epic quest to move here to live with us and help raise Leo, permanently. She was supposed to make the big move back in April, but Australia’s borders have been closed (well, extremely restricted) for many months, to both incoming and outgoing passengers. She had to apply for special permission from the government to exit the country, which was only granted last week. She flew with her beagles from Perth to Sydney last Monday. The dogs went directly to LA, and Alex flew over to help collect them from customs. Mum flew via SF (only available flight) and met up with Alex in LA. For the past five days, Alex has driven my Mum and the dogs on an epic road trip from the West Coast to Atlanta. And, drumroll... they will finally arrive in Atlanta in just over one hour! The post I’m linking below shares photos of the basement renovation that Alex and I did, to create a home for Mum. We have poured so much love and energy into this project, to build a beautiful custom space exactly to her specifications. Alex designed and led this, and I'm just so proud of him and the entire finished garden apartment. Son-in-law (and husband) of the millennium award is in order, I think!

A photo of my Mum's new apartment, juxtaposed with a 'before' image. The rest of the photos are available on Instagram! She will see it for the first time in person in about an hour.

The Seven is a weekly digest sharing a collection of seven carefully curated stories, recipes, images, movies, essays, books, songs and other content. Thoughtfully contextualised and passed along with consideration, for your mental nourishment.


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