In a previous Cultural Column on famous movie monsters last semester, I mentioned the upcoming movie The Shape of Water’s potential to tell a story of radical empathy. Having now seen the film, I can say with certainty that the film delivers on that potential—The Shape of Water is a beautiful tale told with passion, and a massive accomplishment for director del Toro.
Fried plantains, a.k.a. “tostones” in Puerto Rico and Cuba, are eaten in many Latin American countries, especially in the Caribbean. I’ve decided to share my abuela’s version of the popular dish, adding a little Puerto Rican flair to the Grail in the process. Although tostones are generally served as a side dish, I’ve added a recipe for a dip so that, if you so choose, you can serve the tostones as a snack.
Plátanos fritos se comen en muchísimas partes de Latinoamérica, especialmente en el Caribe. He decidido compartir la receta de mi abuela de este platillo popular, dándole un toque puertorriqueño a the Grail en el proceso. Aunque los tostones generalmente se sirven como acompañamiento para otro plato, he incluido un mojo por si quieres servirlos como un tentempié.
Only around three-hundred men stormed the Winter Palace in 1917. The process was slow, with red guards climbing onto ledges and struggling to break windows to gain entrance to the seat of the Provisional Government. But it was with this occupation that the world was forever changed.
Eighteen years ago, the film American Beauty was released. The film celebrates no particularly important anniversary, so why this current moment to look into it? For this question, I have no answer other than American Beauty deserves at every moment a thorough analysis. The film follows the life and death of Lester Burnham, a upper-middleclass suburban father who gains a particular infatuation with his daughter’s high school friend. Over the course of the film, Lester attempts to return to the glory days of his adolescence, quitting his job, smoking weed, and working out. Eventually, he is murdered by his neighbor out of suspicion that Lester is in a relationship with his teenage son.
This year, as threats of nuclear war fly, Nazis march through the streets, and police continue to brutalize poor people and people of color, I’ve found myself watching a lot of monster movies. As if to distract myself from the human monsters outside my window, my Netflix queue and Amazon watch list have filled up with films like Colossal, The Host (the 2006 Korean one), District 9, and Pacific Rim. And above them, good as they all are, towers the shadow and primeval roar of Godzilla.
In 1824, if you wanted to disseminate an image of innocents senselessly killed in the Mediterranean during a brutal conflict, you had to paint one yourself. If you were talented enough, your painting would be exhibited, analyzed, studied, and eventually hung in the Louvre, but above all it would remain your painting, forever connected with your name. In 2015, if you wanted to disseminate an image of innocents senselessly killed in the Mediterranean during a brutal conflict, all you needed was a Twitter account. Just over two years after the body of a refugee child washed up on the shores of Southern Europe, the iconic photo of him—face down, red-shirted—has appeared atop the pages of nearly every major newspaper, on numerous humanitarian websites, and in countless social media feeds. Very few of the people who posted this image knew the name of its photographer, or that she was a twenty-nine-year-old reporter who’s worked for Dogan News Agency (DHA) since her teenage years, or that she’s spoken in interviews about the pain of seeing the dead child. I myself knew nothing about her until I started researching this article.
Niels Lyhne is a novel that fits many moods but rather defies generic classification. If you’re in the mood for something artistic and don’t mind being pretentious about it, you can say that you’re reading it on Rilke’s recommendation. Its author, Jens Peter Jacobsen, was a favorite of the poet. Rilke speaks more often about Jacobsen’s novellas in his letters, but sadly, they proved quite difficult to find in an English translation, so I settled for second best. (The translator, Tiina Nunnally, deserves special applause here. Translators are always underappreciated.) If you’ve read much either about Rilke or written by him, it will be fairly apparent why he lauds such exuberant praise on the novel. Originally written in Danish in 1880, the prose style is incredibly descriptive; some might say needlessly so. Jacobsen has a metaphor for everything and is exquisitely articulate. If you’re not into an elaborate writing style, my advice is to skip this one. But, if springtime on campus has gotten you in the mood for something a little more flowery, look no further!
The 5th annual Portland Black Film Festival took place at the Hollywood Theater on NE Sandy Boulevard, starting on Thursday, February 9th, and ending on Wednesday, February 22nd. The Black Film Festival aims to bring the underrepresented African American experience to the forefront of Portland moviegoers’ attentions by exhibiting typically underappreciated black cinema in what has been justifiably called The Whitest City in America.
“Reed must be the place where we take things apart and put them back together.”
Last weekend, my favorite Reed theater production so far came to life in the Black Box, featuring five actors and five chairs. More Eliot chairs and desks were suspended from the ceiling beyond the stage, tipped sideways, upside down, made strange by the lighting and suggested flight.
When you pick up The Sellout, by Paul Beatty, please don’t read the back cover. While essentially true, it has the same problem as the blurb of any good book: it oversimplifies the novel into something that it actually isn’t. The first time I picked up the book, I read the back cover and then put it down. The same process occurred the next three times I considered adding it to my ever-impending reading list. I just wasn’t interested in another anger-driven, “rage against the man,” drama-filled opinion piece. The current American political situation provides more than enough headlines of blind hatred and negativity as it is. When I finally bought the novel as part of my quest to read all the Man Booker prize-winners, I was blown away. Rather than a family drama unfolding into an outlandish scheme, the novel is—like its protagonist—intelligent, good-humoured, and fed up with a lack of action in the world around it. As a Man Booker winner, it bears greater resemblance to Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (although it is markedly more brief) than to, say, Hilary Mantel’s historical dramas or Julian Barnes’ introspective societal commentary. The Sellout is far more politically and socially relevant. While not as grounded or perhaps as intense a read as James’ masterpiece, The Sellout and its protagonist, Me, inspire more critical examination of what is going on in the news and also on campus.
On Thursday, October 6, this year’s Visiting Writers Series launched with a winning author, Dao Strom. Born in Vietnam, Strom is currently a Portland-based writer whose newest work, We Were Meant To Be a Gentle People (published in 2015), is a crossroads of music, poetry, and visual art. I attended all but one of the Visiting Writers Series events last year and none of them stood out the way Strom’s set did. There was a microphone and DJ equipment set up stage left with two chairs. Center stage stood a taller microphone. Behind that, against the wall, the screen had been pulled down and images of Strom wearing wings and walking on the beach were projected onto the wall in time with instrumental music playing in the background. Her reading was a beautiful mixture of her own voice singing original work, a collection of instruments, and readings she gave, with key words or definitions or phrases projected onto the screen behind her.
Trevor Noah isn’t American, and it’s a fact he doesn’t let you forget. Born and raised in South Africa, Noah’s identity seems to be inexorably defined by his relationship with his home country. Because of this, race is a recurring theme in his comedy, and he often tiptoes on the line between acceptable and not, in a way that is almost universally amusing. Noah also has a way of guiding his audience down a line of thought, has us hanging on his every word, and then hilariously undermines our expectations.
Rejoice! Isaiah Rashad finally got out of bed, and his new album The Sun’s Tirade sounds like he recorded the whole thing not long afterwards. Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rashad is signed to Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), the label for California superstars Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q. The rest of their Black Hippy collective, rappers Jay Rock and Ab-Soul, also call the label home as well as lesser-known artists like SZA and Lance Skiiiwalker. TDE has made a name for itself through the astronomical critical and commercial success of Kendrick and Q, a reputation that was shored up with the release of Isaiah Rashad’s 2014 EP Cilvia Demo. Cilvia was Rashad’s first widely available body of work, and showcased a laid-back, playful rapper and singer with an ear for soulful production and a willingness to tackle subjects like depression and heartbreak in his songs. I was one of many who listened to the album on repeat and quickly became a fan of the guy who wasn’t really doing anything new, but was rather doing the old really, really well.
A release that has been stuck on my mind a lot recently is the new tape from The Savage Young Taterbug, titled Shadow of Marlboro Man. Taterbug is a lo-fi weirdo in the vein of Daniel Johnston, but he can tend to stray a bit weirder, if you could believe it. There’s a raw edge on a lot of Taterbug’s recordings, as if he is shouting at you from alternately the other side of the room and three rooms over, depending on how lo his fi is feeling that day. On some tracks, you can also kinda see Taterbug as being the roguish counterpart to Youth Lagoon, an act that, at least in its infancy, was reserved and fragile. They also have similar vocal deliveries. On this release, the recording quality is actually pretty high, and the songs carry a fair amount of bounce and groove. A standout is “Victor the Vapor Rubber,” equal parts catchy and creepy. Maybe it’s the mindset I’m in, because there’s a fair amount of DNA shared by this song and “Squealer Two.” Guess I’m ready to glam out for Renn Fayre. Stay safe and have fun at the Big Party, dudes, I’ll see you on the other side.
A more serious suggestion: I just finished reading the new book A Murder over a Girl, by Ken Corbett, a couple days ago, and it was absolutely devastating. Corbett tells the real-life story of the court case surrounding the murder of Leticia (fka Larry) Brown, a person of color who is killed during homeroom by her junior high classmate, Brandon McInerney, just weeks after coming out as transgender. The book examines the troubling cross-section of white supremacy, transphobia, toxic masculinity, child abuse, and queer and racial erasure present in both small-town America and the court system that oversees it. Corbett doesn’t go deep into queer theory or issues (even if he is rather knowledgeable about it) but instead lets the story, and the people surrounding it, unfold over the course of the book. A really emotionally challenging read, so be warned if you want to pick this book up.
So, in case you didn’t know, thesis is due next week. This means that, when the editors of this grand publication emailed me to ask me to write a shorter column this week to make room for an advertisement, I wasn’t exactly complaining. In fact, I wondered if I could just send in my thesis abstract and call that good enough for the column. But I’m not sure if any of you want to deep dive with me into the politics of social and textual exclusion in the American campus novel, and if you do, just get a taste of the real thing and spend some time on Reed Facebook (ZING!).
How do you prioritize? Always an important question to a Reed student, and there are many resources available to us that give us insight into how we can prioritize our academic demands (for many of us over spring break, that insight may have been: DROP EVERYTHING YOU HAVE A THESIS DRAFT DUE IN THREE DAAAAAAAAAYS). What we aren’t given a whole lotta insight on is how we can prioritize our cultural consumption. For that, I’m here to help.
I talked at length about The Life of Pablo without even mentioning the music! I bet that’s the first time that’s happened! But honestly, it’s good stuff. I think the noise about the rollout has sometimes overshadowed the actual noise (understatement of the year), but perhaps, like we could say about many things regarding Kanye, what seemed off the cuff is actually intentional. The music on The Life of Pablo indicates a low-key release, at least the lowest key Yeezy could possibly reach for. This is kaleidoscopic Kanye, you try and see one version of him and it is instantly replaced with another version. For a quick sec it seems like Graduation-era Kanye has returned, but then he throws you face-first into 2009 Taylor-interrupting Kanye; some beats would be at home on the first half of Yeezus, while others carry on the glory of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This is mid-career retrospective Kanye, and it seems that it may be a turning point to something different from him. I don’t know what it is, but this album, as inconsistent as it is, makes me think we’ll be getting a more moderate, consistent Kanye in the future. He’s just as likely to prove me wrong (especially if we are truly getting another album this summer) but if he’s still operating at this level, I’ll take it. Kanye 2020.
IDK why “Arthouse Horror” has become such a thing lately, but it has and it should be much better than it is. I was excited for The Witch, I was. And let me tell you, as a piece of craft, that thing is immaculate. But if you go to movies for, ya know, themes and characters and such, The Witch may not be for you. I don’t know if I’m the most suitable dude to go in on why The Witch fails as a certain type of feminist narrative, even if its director Robert Eggers thinks it succeeds, but I know someone who is. She likes her horror gory and her feminism obligatory, heeeere’s Kasie with her hot hot hot take:
Whew, I didn’t know if we were going to make it through that. I’m not talking about the album, or even the pre-release hype cycle of name and tracklist changes, or even Kanye’s extracurricular twitter emissions (Innocent ?????? Yeah right), but I’m talking about the nonstop internet chatter and complaining about all of the above. Yeah, he changed the name at least three times, yeah, he was still putting it together, in a very public manner, up until, and past, the release date. Get over it, no one needs another “ugh Kanye enough already” comment on the music journalism website of your choice (and if you are a “Waves is the superior album title” truther, you can just get out).