Support for Lebanon, 90s-inspired comedy gold, Michaela Coel's triumph, and more.

Digest #9 - August 9th 2020

Support for Lebanon, 90s-inspired comedy gold, Michaela Coel's triumph, and more.
The Seven - A weekly digest by Keeya-Lee Ayre

Digest #9, August 9th 2020


One

Less than a week ago, Beirut was devastated by two massive explosions at its port. As you may have read, this tragedy can hardly be called 'accidental', as it was the direct result of negligence by a corrupt government that has long exploited its people. Lebanon has been in an escalating state of crisis for many months now, and food insecurity was already a major issue before the explosions. Now, the situation is dire. This informative and well-explained post by @theslowfactory lays out in simple terms what happened, why it's particularly devastating, and what you can do to help. Many different organisations are tagged that you can support, and these have been vetted by multiple sources I trust online. Avoid giving any money to a government-affiliated body. Instead, civil society organisations and reputable independent organisers will ensure that donations get to those who need them most. Sending love and prayers to everyone in Lebanon is great, but what would be better is if you can send whatever money you can. Right now.

Post by @theslowfactory - click through to read each slide (10 total), and the caption.

Two

Palm Springs, Hulu's recent original film starring Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg, is exceptionally good comedy fare. I approached it without expectations, basing the choice to watch it on nothing more than a Hulu promotional tile (I'm not one for watching trailers). Excellent writing, superb acting and a fun premise align to make this a movie that hits it out of the park. I don't want to ruin the film for you, but even the most basic plot description is going to do that, so I might as well lean in: it's basically an updated Groundhog Day. That, but it’s modernised in a fresh and exciting way. To offer a taste without giving much away, multiple characters become stuck in the same time loop but at different points, plus theoretical physics and philosophical ideas come up. The characters are flawed but lovable, and developed and executed with a true sense of depth. For a film that feels like it would be too predictable, it just isn't.

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg pictured in a screenshot from the film.

Three

I May Destroy You lives up to its hype. It’s the best show I’ve seen all year. But please be advised upfront that this show is underpinned by sexual assault, and it depicts it graphically. It handles the issues of consent and trauma with a depth, sensitivity and nuance that I’ve never seen before - but it will be triggering for many people. Michaela Coel, the brilliant writer and performer behind Chewing Gum, stars in and writes each episode. She also co-directs the majority of them. Michaela loosely based the show’s concept on her own experience of sexually assault, and the aftermath of this on her personal and professional life. The show wades into murky waters that are usually avoided - it explores consent and boundaries in many different situations, contemplating the grey areas and facilitating important conversations about power. It also confronts deception, coercion and male sexual assault in ways that are usually avoided by mainstream shows. It's exceptionally smart, and somehow it also manages to have a sense of humor and wit in spite of such dark subject matter. In the apt words of Vox writer Emily VanDerWerff, “it never focuses on the crime when it can focus on the survivor.” But to reiterate: if confronting issues of consent, power and the prevalence of rape culture sounds like too much for you (for absolutely any reason) definitely skip it. It’s difficult to watch. All episodes are currently available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK and the show is currently airing on HBO in the US.

Weruche Opia and Michaela Coel in a screenshot from the show.

Four

If you've never had shakshuka before, we need to rectify this immediately. It's a North African dish that is incredibly simple to make but devastatingly good. Whenever I'm in a bad mood and want to feel optimistic about life again, I whip up shakshuka for brunch. That might sound weird but, it always works. With my little pot of stellar brunch, I feel I'm an accomplished person and remind myself I'm capable of producing happiness. Unlike many recipes, it's possible to just make a single serving for myself when I'm working from home alone, but is easily sized up to accommodate more people. I don't use a specific shakshuka recipe when I cook it, mostly because I know it well and make adjustments based on the fresh produce I have available. I found this blog post sharing the recipe, which basically follows the method I use. It also contains stories and cultural context that will help you appreciate the dish a little more. If you make it and love it, please tell me, I'll experience your joy vicariously with you. If you don't like it (my husband Alex isn't a fan) that's okay, we can still be friends.

Photo by Tori Avey.


Five

I've been playing Tiwa Savage's latest release "Dangerous Love" on repeat all day. If you don't know who Tiwa is, you should. She is a Nigerian artist who got her start in the industry doing backup vocals for Mary J. Blige and George Michael in the 90s as a teenager. She also had a stint on the UK's version of The X Factor, before signing with Sony and working in the UK. She then returned to Nigeria, inspired by the entertainment industry's growth there. Which was a brilliant decision, as the music coming out of Nigeria in the past decade is on a whole other level. Tiwa sings in English and Yoruba, and soulfully blends Afrobeats, R&B and hip-hop to create a distinctive sound that is basically all of my favourite things at once. This queen is also 40, and she's only getting better with time. I'm excited to hear what's next. I dare you to play this without dancing, even just a little.

A screenshot from the "Dangerous Love" video.


Six

I have been a huge fan of Oscar Wilde's for the last dozen years. It's a strange thing, really, that my teenage self felt better understood by a 6'3 queer Irish man who died 92 years before I was born, than by anyone I knew at the time. He perfectly articulates in his work things that I experienced very acutely at my posh high school where I was on an academic scholarship, surrounded by wealthy (often obnoxious) people. I always felt like his intellectual arrogance was performative, and gave him armor to hide behind. This was my modus operandi for the hardest parts of my adolescence, and so I saw myself in him. I opened my copy of his collected works today, and nestled in the front cover I found three photographs of myself visiting Paris for the first time. In the photos I'm eighteen years old, kissing Oscar's grave at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. This was something I had desperately wanted to do: I even dressed up for the occasion. I found out later it was actually an illegal act of vandalism, and many parties got together to clean the monument and cover it in glass to stop people from kissing it. And yet, we fans stay steadfast in our belief that he would have absolutely loved it. In my opinion, his most powerful piece of writing is the letter De Profundis, which he wrote to his toxic ex lover Bosie from prison while serving a sentence for being gay (to oversimplify a long saga). If you can find a copy, read it. It's painful, profound and beautiful all at once.

A photograph of the inside cover of my book, showing me defacing Oscar's grave, with love.

Seven

I'm leaving you with something to make you laugh, but also sigh and cry-out-of-frustration because it’s too real. Regardless of whether or not you are religious or follow a Christian, Abrahamic or any other kind of faith, the basic tenets of why a white Jesus figure is deeply disturbing should be clear after you see this. How are whitewashing, Eurocentrism in non-European contexts and white supremacy materially harmful? Here’s a 101 class disguised as a funny video.

A still from the video by @larrygayvid on Instagram.


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.


Every month, I'll be running a book giveaway that is free to enter for all subscribers. For August, I'm giving away a copy of Malaka Gharib's I Was Their American Dream, the graphic memoir discussed in digest #7. If you win, you may receive either a paperback (posted anywhere in the world, free) or an ebook: your choice. Enter here.


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