What We’re Thinking About

We end each episode by telling you some of the things we’ve been thinking about lately, and those things take the form of books, films, tv, podcasts, articles, and whatever else strikes our fancy.  Because we thought you might want to enjoy those things too, we’ve linked to them here.

#22: We Got Options

After a long night singing and partying in transit starved Red Hook, Brooklyn, José is thinking about the short, wonderful, and accessible—Karaoke: Culture With A Two Drink Minimum—an academic paper analyzing the culture of karaoke. How does singing in public, as an amatuer, and for fun, up-end traditional musical structure? What does the joy we gain from karaoke mean, and what can it help us understand about ourselves?

Danielle is thinking about the 2 Dope Queens HBO special series. The queens are Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, two amazing comedians with sparkling chemistry and a line-up of fabulously funny stand-ups. And folks, their fashion game is on point. Watch the first episode free on HBO’s website.

#21: Borrowing Worry

José is thinking about the David Hockney exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among all the wild paintings from Hockney’s career, he was mesmerized by the displays showing the artist’s new project of drawing on an iPad. Here is a video showing Hockney sketching:

Danielle is thinking about two things:

  1. W.E.B. DuBois’ classic text The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of essays and short stories about his experiences and understanding of racial relationships at the turn of the 20th century. The work is exquisitely written and so many of its ideas (unfortunately) remain relevant more than a century later.
  2. Please Like Me a dark comedy TV series from Australian creator, Josh Thomas that is witty, rye, and avoids the typical TV tropes to offer stories and characters that are refreshingly honest. The full series is currently available on Hulu.

#20: When is Enough…Enough?

José’s been thinking about Leïla Slimani’s, The Perfect Nanny. A wonderful (and quick!) read by one of France’s great up-and-coming authors.

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.

Danielle has been thinking about the graphic novel, Ink in Water: An Illustrated Memoir (Or, How I Kicked Anorexia’s Ass and Embraced Body Positivity) by Lacy J. Davis and Jim Kettner. For those who have not read graphic novels because they are not inspired by superheroes or fantasy stories, you may enjoy this take on a graphic novel, a reality-based memoir that is pleasurable both for its thoughtfulness and its dynamic drawings. As immersive as a book but visual like a film, this book is a perfect first, or fortieth, foray into the world of graphic novels.

#19: Feminist Friendship

José has been thinking about Amanda Petrusich’s My Ten Best Albums of 2017. Besides paying homage to the phenomena of “Latin Crossover” and the mainstreaming of Trap music, the article pointed him to the Björk’s amazing new album Utopia (which has been on high rotation on his iPhone).

Björk, Blissing Me

And as a bonus, Migos

Cori has been thinking about Tricia Miranda, the dance/youtube/instagram sensation who has been choreographing and teaching a new generation of dancers. Currently Cori is learning Miranda’s moves for J Balvin and Willy William’s Mi Gente.

Danielle has been thinking about Of Oz the Wizard, a strange and extremely ambitious project in which editorial mad genius Matt Bucy has alphabetized every utterance in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. It is somehow ridiculous and mesmerizing, and you won’t believe how long you actually sit and watch it.

#18: You, Me, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones

José is thinking about The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ 1993 music video for their song “Don’t Know How to Party.” This early video from the band who would later become rich and famous with “The Impression That I Get,” is more than rough around the edges, complete with random shots of Boston and disorganized fans on stage. It is a nice reminder that quality takes time.

Danielle is thinking about Google Keep, an app from the Google suite that will possibly change her life. It is a searchable digital file cabinet that stores, notes, photos, audio files, web pages, etc. It is easy to tag items with labels, to color code them, and to search by label, color, type, or any word in any of the notes. She doesn’t understand why the whole world doesn’t know about this.

#17: From Happy Cow to Hopeful Child

José is thinking about the Complexions Dance Company’s new ballet Star Dust: a tribute to David Bowie, featuring the music of David Bowie, beautiful costumes and makeup, and exciting dance! He notes that unlike many other attempts to marry popular music and high art dance, this performance is both exciting and organic to both of its sources of inspiration.

Danielle is thinking about the Time magazine article by Claire Howorth called, “Motherhood is Hard to Get Wrong. So Why Do So Many Moms Feel So Bad About Themselves?” about the various expectations, norms, and myths around motherhood. From breastfeeding to co-sleeping, mothers are constantly given contradictory advice and judged for their decisions, leading many mothers to feel like they are failing to live up to some sort of imaginary standard. This piece outlines those feelings with compassion and insight.

#16: Teen Movies Will Save the World

José is thinking about 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait. Largely (and unfairly) dismissed as a teen movie, CHW exhibits many of the qualities that make (good) teen movies so useful for learning how to have conversations: in one coherent film, it features a range of different characters forced to interact with each other; the false swagger/frigidity of teens then stripped to their emotional core; the multiple layers of meaning and interpretation pushing us to move beyond the film in front of us. Oh, come on! His wardrobe alone leaves him open for public mockery.

Danielle is thinking about the children’s book Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth. This lovely retelling of this old European folk tale depicts three monks who visit a village and teach the wary and untrusting villagers how to make stone soup. Each villager contributes something from home to make a nourishing and rich meal that is greater than the sum of its parts, thus teaching them all a lesson about generosity and community.

#15: All News is Fake News

José is thinking about The Florida Project (2017): a film that shows the life of a mother (Jancey) and daughter (Moonee) in Orlando, Florida. Despite their rough economic circumstances living in transient housing, and Jancey’s (at times difficult to watch) parenting, the film shows both the beauty of childhood and the depth of the bond between mother and child.

Here is the trailer: 

Danielle is thinking about 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreats with teacher S. N. Goenka, available at meditation centers all over the world through dhamma.org. This meditation course is 10 days of silent meditation, getting up at four in the morning, sitting for multiple hours a day, and having a totally life-changing experience. It’s not always pleasant, but it is deeply informative and revealing—a journey inward unlike any other.

#14: I’m Not a Masturbation Couch

José saw MoMA’s Items: Is Fashion Modern?—an exhibit of 111 items of clothing from the 20th & 21st centuries— which “considers the many relationships between fashion and functionality, culture, aesthetics, politics, labor, identity, economy, and technology.” Here is a video:

Danielle is enjoying singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton’s music video for her song “Vim and Vigor” from her 2016 album So Ferocious. This fun and provocative video turns the traditional tropes of half-naked women serving a man’s every need on its head, as Carsie is surrounded by good looking, often scantily-clad men that shower her with food, drink, and other pleasures.

#13: Emotional Work for White People

José is thinking about Danielle’s creative piece “White Noise,” a true story about her experience coping with postpartum psychosis after the birth of her daughter, published in Literary Mama. You can watch her read the piece on this video.

Danielle is thinking about NBC’s television series The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, now in its second season. This cute and silly romp through the afterlife dabbles with some moral and philosophical issues, as one of its central characters is a professor of ethics and moral philosophy. Season one is currently on Netflix.

#12: Is Belief in God Morally Wrong?

José is thinking about “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017” an exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York. He was moved by Carl Pope’s “Some of the Greatest Hits of the New York City Police Department: A Celebration of Meritorious Achievement in the Community,” which featured a massive shelf of engraved trophies for police officers who shot and killed civilians. Moving.

Danielle has been thinking about the 2017 Camp Hollywood Lindy Hop Finals in Los Angeles, CA. If you want to see some of the best swing dancers in the world do jumps, kicks, and flips, check out this YouTube video.

#11: Tolerating the Nazi Next Door

José is thinking about Taylor Swift’s video Look What You Made Me Do, off her soon to be released album reputation (sic). After comparing it to T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, he reviews the symbolism of several scenes, and then he and Danielle laugh like middle school teens.

Danielle is thinking about the 2016 documentary Tickled, which is sort of about competitive endurance tickling, but really a crazy mystery story in which filmmaker and journalist David Farrier finds himself assaulted by verbal abuse and lawsuits as he follows a twisted trail into a shadowy world. Danielle watched it, mouth agape in incredulous giddiness.

#10: Help Yourself

José is thinking about Cloud Gate (a.k.a. The Bean) a Chicago sculpture by Sir Anish Kapoor. More than just a shiny, tourist’s photo-opportunity, it draws interest with its simple, reflective surface. Walk under the Bean to see yourself and your fellow pilgrims in an otherworldly perspective.

Danielle is thinking about French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1946 essay “Existentialism is a Humanism.” This short, accessible, and provocative essay is full of concrete examples and compelling language–a good text for the beginner philosophy student and a persuasive example of philosophy as self-help.

#9: In Defense of Snobs

José is thinking about Miles Davis’ 1959 masterpiece, Kind of Blue. Considered the greatest Jazz album of all-time, in later life Davis would say:

“So What” or Kind of Blue, they were done in that era, the right hour, the right day, and it happened. It’s over […]. What I used to play with Bill Evans, all those different modes, and substitute chords, we had the energy then and we liked it. But I have no feel for it anymore—it’s more like warmed-over turkey.

What must it feel like to dismiss a work that you have created while it is still (rightly!) adored  by others? 

Danielle is thinking about Joni Mitchell’s canonical 1971 album Blue. Hailed by music critics as one of the best albums of all time, Mitchell’s personal and poetic lyrics and playful vocal range takes you on a journey of heartache, wanderlust, and homecoming. It was Danielle’s personal soundtrack for her travels through Spain during her college years.

#8: Where is the Pain?

José saw (and highly recommends!) the Meow Meow Revolution: a modern neo-cabaret show performed by Melissa Madden Grey. Her show mixes traditional pop/jazz standards with an irreverent and self-aware campiness that makes it “the thinking man’s” low-brow entertainment.

Danielle has been watching the new Netflix series GLOW about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in the 1980s. Starring Alison Brie and Marc Maron, this fun and fabulous romp through big hair and melodrama is thoughtful about gender, race, stereotypes, and the images we present to the world.

#7: Death Rattles of Dance

José got himself a Garra Rufa treatment in Prague. After the traditional thai massage, his feet were placed inside a tank where several dozen tiny fish ate his dead skin. He 💖 it, and (contrary to D’s claims) the fish did not die.

Danielle’s been thinking about Season 3 of NPR’s podcast Invisibilia, especially “Emotions Part One.” She was especially struck by the idea that emotions are socially and culturally constructed, which means that we don’t feel emotions that we don’t have concepts for.

#6: White Girl Sings the Blues

José is thinking about Conor Neil’s  Amazon Staff Meetings: “No Powerpoint”. Amazon has a policy of starting each meeting with 30 minutes of silent reading, and José considers if other business meetings suffer because they do not have the time for critical reflection before their discussion.

Danielle is thinking about an episode of the FOX television sitcom Brooklyn 99. The episode entitled “Moo Moo” (season 4) features two black, male characters negotiating how to deal with racism in their jobs as cops. When Sgt. Jeffords (Terry Crews) is harassed and unjustly arrested by a white cop while off-duty, he and Capt. Holt (Andre Braugher) disagree on what to do.

#5: Lottery Players Lack Imagination

José is thinking about Melissa Segura’s Buzzfeed piece on a Chicago detective accused of framing 51 people for murder. He is struck by how powerful family loyalty is—in the face of the overwhelming hopelessness of a murder conviction—and how perseverance helped uncover injustice against those many wanted to write off.

Danielle is thinking about snowboarding. Coached by a snow-whisperer guru at beautiful Mt. Hood, she discovers the Tao of Snowboarding and recommends a trip down the slopes for anyone who wants to learn how to lay back.

#4: Giving with Reason

José was especially bedazzled by Kara Walker’s 40 Acres of Mules at MOMA’s Unfinished Conversations.

Danielle is reflecting on the audiobook Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang, who gave himself a challenge to seek out rejection for 100 days and shares what he learned along the way.

#3: T-Shirt Feminism

José is thinking about Maggie Nelson’s, The Argonauts, a gender (and philosophy!) bending memoir that recounts the author’s relationship with her gender fluid partner, her pregnancy, and her fascination with both language and theory.

Danielle is thinking about the hilarious and remarkably feminist CW tv show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which just finished airing its second season.

#2: Stop Traffic…and You Die

This week José re-considers Weezer’s, “Pinkerton”, an album widely panned at its reception, but now (20 years later) considered a classic.

Danielle is thinking about the book Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, which discusses why certain ideas “stick” and others don’t. They offer clear, concrete ways to make your ideas stickier.

#1: I had a crumby trip because I’m a crumby person

This episode, José is thinking about President Obama’s farewell address, which you can find here, and George Parker’s analysis of it in the New Yorker.

Danielle is thinking about Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (Simon and Schuster, 2012, audiobook read by Heather Henderson), which tells the story of a 24-year-old young journalist who is afflicted with a rare autoimmune disorder that attacks her brain and sends her into a month-long psychosis.