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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Zeitgeist Movement
Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:14 pm
Its been a full two years since From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France 1840- 1980 by Michel Fabre has lived on my bookshelf. Its really scandalous as to how I acquired such gold, signed by the author himself as it was protruding from a friends bookshelf at an ungodly hour of the night, I helped myself to literature ecstasy. Its a textbook that talks about the Harlem renaissance movement in detail, beyond Langston Hughes, that goes as far back as the New Orleans influence in black culture and travel in France and the beloved Sally Hemings, Thomas Jeffersons (beautiful) slave, who was known to be the first black person ever to travel to France during slavery. As Black History month slowly comes to an end, it would be pity if this book and Harlem was not compared to the recent happenings of New York Fashion Weeks Fall 2017 events and collections. After all, all roads lead to Harlems creative mecca, as told by Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, and ASAP Mobs faithful push to rebrand Harlem as Manhattans truest fashion zeitgeist.
For one, rising streetwear brand VLONE debuted its highly sought after Nike collaboration in Harlem earlier this month. Creative Director ASAP Bari along with members of the ASAP Mob, including ASAP Rocky (rumored to be dating Kendall Jenner at the moment), and dozens of fans visited the Harlem basketball court inspired pop up shop situated on the west side of 116th street. In a basketball court -like room, VLONEs signature orange decorated custom Spalding basketballs, as Nikes Air Force 1s with Harlem World graffiti and spray painted on sneakers and tees. The brands tagline was also written in old script font Every Living Creative Dies Alone on the walls of the dimly lit very chic retail space. Sneakers went for hundreds of dollars; I suppose the line to get into this streetwear arcade was never ending. The VLONE popup shop was much more refined with a strong brand message to welcome in the heavy collaboration with the billion dollar athletic company. VLONEs value and popularity over the past year has tripled with proof from its products currently being auctioned off for thousands of dollars on eBay. With the brands having repped Harlem from the very beginning, theres a lot to connect to how much Harlem continues to breed people who are not only for the evolution of Black American culture setting the bar, but also how much influence it has with an international audience. As a writer currently residing in Harlem, I wasnt invited to attend the After-Party or given a press recap which was covered by mainstream outlets like Vogue, VLONE has literally floated to the top of whats cool and hip and has simultaneously put Harlem back on the map, once again, as a place that is very much rooted in carrying on tradition, and not just another Manhattan neighborhood undergoing gentrification.
Harlems burgeoning coolness within the fashion industry is again, flattering but not necessarily needed, as it has always been a place of beauty especially during the Harlem renaissance. In the early 20th century, the architecture, the music, the food had all became to be what is known as today. But yet again, high fashion always seems to exude this Christopher Columbus attitude when it comes to exposing something new to the mainstream. What I mean is, it appropriates certain things in cultures that have always been known to the individuals in which the cultures belongs to, but not necessarily identifiable to the greater majority. When Alexander Wang decided to debut his fall 2017 collections in a abandoned theater in Harlem, he forced the fashion crowd to trek their way uptown for a chic adventure. An invited fashion editor (perhaps sarcastically) tweeted about his lack of knowledge of the train routes that far uptown. Did Alexander Wangs team care to invite some of the movers and shakers of Harlem or the greater community? Probably not. If this is too much, then perhaps compare this same concept to when Riccardo Tisci hosted the Givenchy Summer 2015 runway collections in New York and actually came to Harlem to invite random people on 125th street to his show because thats how much he was inspired by the culture for that particular collection. Were Alexander Wangs clothes inspired by Harlem? What exactly compelled him to host his show in Harlem is a question left unanswered at this point. It may seem like a small act of whatever, but the fact of a matter is Harlem is still a community full of black people desperately trying to hold on to their homes and culture, in the light of gentrification and appropriation running rampant in pop culture. Overall, VLONEs ability to reclaim the streets and build credibility with hoodwear, thus making it appealing to mainstream that is reaches the pages of Vogue is a huge accomplishment when it comes to owning the true black identity todays complex but still very elitist fashion world.
Here are 3 Black American Writers Who Have Travelled to Paris:
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Posted: February 19, 2017 at 11:12 am
Toujours, the Museum as Witness A selection of works from CAPC Contemporary Art Museum Bordeaux February 18May 22, 2017
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Museo Amparo presents a selection of some of the most important works from the Collection of the CAPC Contemporary Art Museum Bordeaux, representative of different moments in its history. The show includes pieces from the early years after the Museums foundation as well as from the 1980s, when it became more established; it also highlights its role in presenting new generations of artists and curators that represent the zeitgeist of different periods.Toujoursreveals a collection in constant movement, aware of cultural constructs and the spirit and ideas of its time.
The exhibition titleToujours always in Frenchis taken from the sculpture by Jack Pierson that welcomes the visitors to the show. This word evokes the idea of the continuity of an institution, of a collection and of the works created by the artists that have shaped the history of the CAPC. With its different definitions, the idea of continuity also refers to the time that has passed since the Museums foundation, its activities, the consistency of its programs and the commitment of the teams that have worked there.
How does a piece of art transcend? The wordtoujoursalso alludes to the museums role as witness to history and to its main mission: acquiring, conserving, studying, and exhibiting its collection. This is why the show focuses on a selection of pieces that establish a dialogue between them. Conceptual pieces by artists such as Daniel Buren and Sol LeWitt, closely related to the Museums first program of exhibitions or presented in later shows organized by Harald Szeeman and Marie-Laure Bernadac, coexist with emblematic interventions by artists such as Annette Messager and pieces by more recent creators such as Leonor Antunes, Wolfgang Tillmans and Lili Reynaud-Dewar.
This selection of works seeks to underline the museums role and its historic responsibility in the construction of a collection. Each piece is a witness, an idea, an opinion and it forms part of the history of the period in which it was made. It can thus be said that the pieces acquire a new meaning, because a collection reflects the different ways in which artists are witnesses as well as active participants of their time.
Toujoursproposes an interpretation related to the current socio-political context and the continuity of certain historical phenomena. It also analyzes possible relationships between language, movement, and space. Each piece has its own cultural reference and when juxtaposed with others in a new context, a dialogue is established in which a new analysis can ariseanother point of view about the history of a place (which could be the museum) or about our common history.
Among the works included in the exhibition areWall Drawing no. 2, 196890 by Sol LeWitt that establishes a link between Minimalism and Conceptual Art.Encadrant-Encadr, 3 rythmes pour 4 murs, 1991, created specifically by Daniel Buren for his solo show at CAPC muse that year, occupies an important place in the CAPC collection.Inventaire photographique des objets ayant appartenu au jeune home dOxford, 1973, by Christian Boltanski, a representative piece of his ongoing research on memory, and the most recent acquisition, Somnium, 2011, by Rosa Barba, a film inspired on the novel of astronomer Johannes Kepler, considered the first science fiction novel. The images present an uncertain landscape, inhabited between fiction and reality.
Posted: at 11:12 am
Keiko Hirosue hopes to see a change in how shoes are made in the US. Photograph: Maria Spann for the Guardian
It turns out that there are a lot of heels in the shoe business. You would be surprised how much [shoe design] in the corporate world is just copied! I was a little nobody and I wanted to say this isnt right to the director of Topshop, Elizabeth Dunn, a bespoke shoemaker and London transplant, tells me, her voice rising with emotion.
At Brooklyn Shoe Space, a professional shoemaker co-working space and collective that also offers classes for the public on how to make everything from simple moccasins to stitched oxfords and high heels, former employees of Big Shoe are hoping they can change the industry, one step at a time.
As Keiko Hirosue, the founder, talks, three other shoemakers in the collective have made their way to the childrens table where we are sitting, sharing their stories of leaving the corporate design world to strike out for themselves.
The toddler-height table was added at the shoe collective when one of the members, Ritika Wahal, a designer of childrens shoes, asked Hirosue if she could bring her son, then only 18 months old, to the workshop with her. Hirosue responded by getting small furniture and toys to keep the boy occupied while his mother worked on her shoe line at the wooden worktable two feet away. These days, Wahals son continues to visit the shoe collective, where his mother makes him shoes in everything from fine crocodile skin to novelty leather which he picks out himself.
Brooklyn Shoe Space taps into so many aspects of the current zeitgeist its a shared working space, part of the maker movement and marks a return to locally made, bespoke products while serving as a place for womens empowerment and support that it seems remarkable that independent shoe collectives are not popping up wherever young urbanites congregate. Yet.
All the women at the collective left corporate jobs in fashion design because they missed being close to the product, finding their own design inspiration and working with their hands, which they are eager to show me are calloused and abused from hours spent stretching leather over shoe lasts and hammering nails.
My fiance says I have the hands of a 60-year-old, Rebecca Heykes, a young shoemaker in a mod dress and boots of her own design tells me with a laugh. All around the workspace are in-process shoes, with hundreds of thin nails holding the leather in place, a testament to the hand-destroying work.
While all the shoemakers can talk endlessly about the joy of designing and painstakingly creating a prototype, none of them want to spend weeks making 30 identical pairs. So recently Heykes and Hirosue banded together with several investors to open their own manufacturing facility, renting space near their collective in the increasingly upscale neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In keeping with the spirit of their collective, they hired their two factory employees through a program that pairs recent immigrant women with meaningful work.
The two factory employees, who had no background in shoemaking, were taught the craft and now make about 50 pairs of handmade shoes a month for independent shoe lines.
There is no room for fast fashion at the collective, where weeks can sometimes be spent on creating a custom shoe for an individual client. Hirosue and the other women are big proponents of American-made shoes, on a small enough scale to ensure quality and careful attention to every detail.
They talk in hushed tones of Prince Charles John Lobb shoes, which they tell me are rumored in shoe circles to be the same pair he had made specifically for him more than 30 years ago. He gets them resoled over and over, Wahal tells me, leaning in closer.
Ultimately, Hirosue wants to see a change in how the US manufactures shoes, with prototypes made locally at collectives like hers instead of being packaged off to China or other countries that supply overseas low-wage labor to the fashion market.
But handmade shoes dont come cheap. The shoemakers sell their shoes at prices comparable to those at high-end designer shops, with stitched oxfords selling for around $400, simple sandals for $200 and one-off totally bespoke pairs of shoes selling for around $2,000.
While they continue making inroads with fashion brands across the river in Manhattan and hustling to find new boutiques to carry their individual lines, all of the shoemakers regularly teach classes at the workshop to help ends meet during slow times. Shoemaking students come from across the US, Europe, Asia and Australia, with a split of 40% men and 60% women.
Students typically spend five days learning the bare basics of shoemaking, walking away with an original pair. Hirosue herself started out as a hobby student, taking a quick class on fetish shoemaking when she first dipped her toe in the cordwainer waters 13 years ago. Once you start making, it is so addicting, she tells me.
The students who take classes at Brooklyn Shoe Space are a mix of those who simply want to make a special pair of shoes for fun and those looking for a little more technical knowledge before designing their own lines. Everybody wants to be unique and wants custom everything, Heykes explains, which has helped the shoe collective get about 10 inquiries a day from prospective students as well as designers. Being able to Instagram a pair of custom shoes and show off to friends also doesnt hurt when it comes to bringing in prospective students, Wahal adds with a smile.
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Posted: at 11:12 am
The temptation for filmmakers to return to material that helped establish their careers must be powerful, but it is rarely wise.
Its been 20years since Danny Boyles Trainspotting was released. That film captured the zeitgeist inan era of progression in the way films were made.
Revisiting such an iconic piece of popular culture engenders more risk and potential benefits. The new film will never live up to expectations unless it exceeds them.
Trainspotting 2 is a good film, which answersone question. The other question is whether it ought to exist. The answer to that will vary depending on whether the presence of one film will affect your regard of another.
Boyle has returned, as has screenwriter John Hodge. Most of the characters from the original return too, almost all of them having been in a state of arrested development for the past two decades.
Renton is back in Scotland to face the consequences of his betrayal. Sick Boy, now going by Simon, is still bitter about that betrayal. Begbie is angry and psychotic; nothing has changed. Spud is back to square one.
Are these men doomed to run in circles for their entire lives? Probably.
When the original Trainspotting was released, Boyle was in the middle of a movement of film that was inventing a new cinematic language.
Twenty years later and Boyle is still speaking that language. Its still engaging, and its still energetic, but its predictable, and in many ways, its forced. Perhaps it takes the vitality of an unproven filmmaker to make a film as innovative as Trainspotting.
Nostalgia, one of the characters says to Renton. Thats why youre here. Youre a tourist in your own youth.
Its an acknowledgement on Boyles part that he, himself, is looking back, but just becausehe is aware of what hes doing doesnt give him a good reason for doing it.
Its not a question of whether Trainspotting 2 is entertaining, or whether its good. Its both. But Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy and Spud are no longer immortalised in a time capsule in 1996. Perhaps they ought to have remained in the decade that defined them.
Theres a moment in Trainspotting 2 in which Renton is fleeing from a dagger-wielding pursuer. He leaps up onto the roof of a moving four-wheel drive in an effort to escape, urging the driver to step on it. For a brief moment, he smiles. The spirit of the original is in there somewhere, but ultimately it may not be enough to justify this new outing for some of the most memorable characters in recent cinema history.
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Posted: at 11:12 am
Is it any surprise that fashion designers have become politically-motivated in the current political climate? It shouldn't. At its core, theirs is a world about identity and self-expression, and so there's no time like the present for designers and models and editors to speak out about the ideals and progressive causes they have always embraced and defended.
The topic of politics was unmissable during this past New York Fashion Week. It was on the runway in the form of the obviouspolitical slogans adorning clothing in the collections of Public School, Prabal Gurung, Jonathan Simkhai, Christian Siriano, and the CFDA's Planned Parenthood campaign, among othersor the slightly more nuancedthe political considerations in the clothes shown at Calvin Klein, Gypsy Sport and even Jeremy Scott.
It was in the street style and in the front row (Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Tiffany Trump both made multiple appearances; Clinton herself turned up on the last day at a stamp dedication for Oscar de la Renta). It was the talk of even the most raucous after parties. It was in the video W released yesterday of 81 different figures from the fashion world repeating the simple phrase I am an Immigrant.
While there may be an impulse by some to dismiss all these statements as the silly worrying of urban elites who should simply shut up and make pretty dresses, theres something else going on. This isnt a simple matter of left vs. right politics as we knew them in America for decades. All the unease in these corners hasnt sprung up over the idea of tax cuts, a smaller government or how best to deal with the future of Social Security. This isn't even sour grapes over the fashion industry's preferred candidate's loss. This runs much deeper.
It is because the goals and rhetoric of the Donald J. Trump administration, and the formerly fringe movements propping up his mandate, are at direct odds with the vulnerable people and values that have historically found refuge and protection within the fashion industry.
Behind the Scenes of Ws I Am an Immigrant Shoot with Adriana Lima, Anja Rubik, Maria Borges, and More
Fashion is, at its most powerful, about defining yourself through the way you dress and present yourself to the world. Whether it's someone codifying their social status through the predictablesay an affluent New Englander adorning themselves in the preppy chic of cable knit sweaters and polo shirts, or in turn, working-class Brooklynites appropriating those codes to re-invent themselvesor the proverbial story of the small-town aspiring fashionista who moves to the big city and redefines herself in thrift-store finds and Hood by Air sample sales, the power of clothes is here for both.
The dream of fashion is that identity is not something that is necessarily rigid and fixed from birth and class, but that identity is something that can be self-realized. This has been true especially in recent years as evidenced by the blurring of the masculine and the feminine on the runways, in the mixing of the high and the low in editorials, and in the ever increasing (though with long ways to go) celebration of diversity of all kinds, from race and religion to age and body shape (see Ashley Graham at Michael Kors this season, or the real women at Creatures of the Wind). The fashion world hopes that the clothes it produces lead to expression of one's chosen self-identity, whether it happens to be something someone adopts for a lifetime or changes every day.
This emerging movement on the right, however, sees identity as something absolute and fixed. They seem aghast at recent social progress and they somehow feel attacked when others speak up. In this emerging conservative mindset, Muslims shouldn't be offended by the phrase "radical Islamist," transgender people shouldn't complain about not having access to bathrooms, and concerns about voting rights are dismissed. The argument behind Trump's immigration ban seems to be that if you're a citizen from one of seven Muslim-majority countries, you have to jump through hoops and pass extreme vetting until it's 100 percent absolutely certain you arent one of the bad ones, or that if you're from Mexico, you're not one of the "bad hombres," in Trump's inarticulate phrasing. It's the racially-tinged equivalent of "guilty until proven innocent." They have defined their enemies at home in strict terms as well. All feminists, in the words of two worryingly prominent trolls whose names need not reprinting, will wake up one day and find themselves depressed, lonely cat ladies. Or, they're "nasty women," to quote Trump again. And anyone who has ever been offended by anything is simply a snowflake. These, by the way, are the "nicer" examples of their insults.
We Will Not Be Silenced: Political Statements Hit New York Fashion Week Street Style
This is why fashion has responded the way it has.
Its why Business of Fashion started the #TiedTogether campaign meant to make a clear statement of solidarity, unity, and inclusiveness. The campaigns white bandannas were shown on the runway at Tommy Hilfiger and passed out to guests at Calvin Klein.
Its why Gurung sent models down the runway wearing T-shirts proclaiming love is the resistance and Stronger the fear, and Siriano showed his own People are people shirt. Its why Public School showed hats that read Make American New York because they (wished)[http://www.essence.com/fashion/woke-new-york-fashion-week-moments] "the rest of the states were like New York from an inclusivity standpoint, from a diversity standpoint, from an action standpoint." It's why Raf Simons, after showing his namesake collection in New York, told WWD, "If you want to have a voice, you cant walk around it. If you have a voice, use it.
Fashion is a world where freaks and geeks have always been welcomed, if not outright thrived, where everyone from a young Puerto Rican illustrator like the late Antonio Lopez to the Minnesota-born, underground voguer Shayne Oliver can become the toast of Paris, and where immigrants like Oscar de la Renta and the children of immigrants like Alexander Wang can build empires. It's an industry that has long stood up for charitable causes, like its admirable and early advocacy to raise awareness and funding for HIV/AIDS and breast cancer research.
In other words, what may seem as recent "woke activism" has always been running just under the surface in the fashion community. The underlying message of the recent collections is that despite the niche it occupies in the cultural zeitgeist, for people in fashion, the personal has always been political, and designers are going to use the only platform they have, their runways, to stand up for the causes and individuals they believe in. In the end, there are some values that shouldn't be politicized at all.
'Make America New York' Is the New Motto of the Fashion Elite
I Am an Immigrant: Fashion's Biggest Names Issue a United Statement
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Posted: at 11:12 am
Outside, the world is abuzz aboutDonald Trumps presidency and the latest Kanye controversy. But inside this downtown New York building, the clock has been turned back to the early days of hip-hop.
Cameras are rolling on the set of the new VH1 series The Breaks, as a miffed music manager has burst into the offices of the Village Voice.
Its not the sort of thing you do,the manager, Nikki, fumes to a reporter.
Im not you, Nikki, Im a journalist. The truth is non-negotiable,the music writer fires back.
A moment later, the episodes director pumps her fist.
Cut it, print it, kill it. You got it,says Neema Barnette. Then the directorturns to a reporter to offer some finer context on the divisions inhip-hop at the time.See, Im a Harlem girl. Biggie, thats Brooklyn. Jay Z. Well JayZ is Jay Z.
The Breaksis a time machine of sorts and not just because of the outsized influence of the Village Voice. Chronicling an era when hip-hops role as a spark for both mass protest and mass commerce was just an ember, the eight-part series marks a new entry in scripted televisions growing rap canon.Where Empiredropped a soap opera into the contemporary hip-hop world and The Get Downexamined a birth moment in the late 1970s, The Breakssplits the difference.
Set in New York in 1990, the show lands at the cusp of thegolden age ofhip-hop a genre too new for anyone to know where it wouldgo, but too promising (for some) not to believe that the destination would besomewhere significant.
That period was very violent and very rough, but also very innocent in a lot of ways, especially the music,saysSeith Mann, a veteran director of shows such as The Wireand a co-creatorof The Breaks. And thats what we want to capture in the show how hip-hop grew from that innocence to a dominating business, how people in the arc of a season try to make choices so that they can make art.
Some of them,he addsdryly, wont stay innocent.
Picking up where a 2016 VH1 original movie left off, The Breaksfollows the interlocking lives of a group of people with various roles in the burgeoning sphere. Theres a trio of strivers that includes a wannabe producer, Deevee (Mack Wilds), the management acolyte Nikki (Afton Williamson) and a rookie radio-station programmer David (David Call). They cross paths withvoluble mini-mogul Barry (Wood Harris), a talented but gang-affiliated MC (Antoine Harris, no relation to Wood) and the thirsty reporter, Damita (Melonie Diaz).
Inspired by Dan Charnasacclaimed nonfiction history The Big Payback(Mannsfellowco-creator),The Breaksincludes among its executive producers John J. Strauss, an executive producer on Mozart in the Jungle,another show about dogs eating dogs in a musical subculture.
As with that Amazon Prime video series, the multiple plot lines of The Breaks nearly all involve characters desperately seeking to carve out their place in a world Nikki trying to establish herself in Barrys company, Damita looking to be the genres go-to chronicler whose animating principle remains more passion than money (though the latter is not entirely absent).
The Breaksis set a few years before artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, De La Soul and Wu-Tang Clan began flexing their cultural influence and solidifying hip-hops East Coast movement.
I think theres something really romantic about it; it just seems like a more dreamy era,says Wood Harrisduring a break in shooting. It felt like a time anyone could be a mogul and with a beeper, which if you tell a young person about now, they will laugh,he says, chuckling as he gesturesto a prop on his belt. Or think its something that only exists on YouTube.
That's hardly the only playful affect: "The Breaks" brings the dorkily endearing names of the era ("Chuck Chillout") as well as the baggy and colorful fashions. Theres also another kind of wink-y appeal to The Breaks.Much of the show plays on the audiences familiarity with how much rap blew up.In the second episode, when Deevee argues with his hospital-worker father who wants to send Deevee to South Carolina because he doesnt think his son is involved in a real business the audience can nod knowinglyat the younger mans insistence on hip-hops bright future.
Still, the creators say theyre intent on driving home how precarious a moment it was for the genre.
It wasnt inevitable that hip-hop would become as massively popular as it did,Mann says. Hip-hop in those early days was dicey it could have gone the way of disco and go-go.
Nor was it clear who would document its ascent. Though hip-hop journalism at the time had a heavily male component, producers tip their Snapbacks to pioneers like Raquel Cepeda and dream hampton.I think what surprised me is how much women were involved in covering it and bringing the news to the wider world,Diaz says. Its just not something you hear about a lot.
Those looking for a heavy original musical component to the show may be only partly satisfied. While bits of new songs, written by former Little Brother member Phonte Coleman and produced by DJ Premier,are heard,the creators chose to focus more on dialogue and character than beats.
Overt references to real-life figures also are somewhat scant, though tracks from Public Enemy, already well-established by 1990, are present, as arefictional portrayals of new jack swing artists like Keith Sweat. (This fictionalization is by design, say Seith and Charnas, giving them freedom to create without becoming caught in a tangle of rights and legal action.)
Charnas says he actually pitched the series to Fox as far back as 2010, long before Empire,and was met with indifference and even confusion. He soon landed at the shows current venue.
Everyone at VH1 got it right away,saysthe author, who often serves a truth-checking role on setthat has ledcolleagues to dub himthe Treasurer of the authenticity bank account.
The Breaksmakesa lot of sense for the network,said Chris McCarthy, president of MTV, VH1 and Logo.VH1 has always been comfortable both with looking back and celebrating the present.So, hip-hop in the 90s is a very natural place to be.
In recent years, the network has developed a programming slate that draws a large female African American audience, including reality franchises such as Love &Hip-Hopand Basketball Wives.But scripted is a more expensive undertaking, and if the appeal for a hip-hop show stretches into broader demographics, the accompanying risk grows too.
Also debatable is whether televisions hip-hop era has reached its saturation point.
After a breakout first season, Empirefell off a cliff both in the ratings and, to many observers, creatively, while The Get-Downmade a comparatively small splash in Netflixs zeitgeist pool. Hip-hop may now be such a cultural given that the idea of how it emergedis only of modest interest.
Creators of The Breakssay anyone taking that view ismaking a mistake.
I dont think Obama is president without hip-hop it brought so much into the mainstream,saysCharnas, who underscored that connection in The Big Payback.
What's interesting about the time and hopefully the show is the unwitting heroes in hip-hop. A lot of people who werent setting out to change the world were the ones who did.
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)
See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour
Posted: February 18, 2017 at 4:12 am
Floods, protests, power struggles, a military takeover Krungthep, known to the rest of the world as Bangkok, has endured more than its share of hardships recently. The loss of the countrys beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who remained remarkably popular throughout his 70-year reign, hit particularly hard last year. Thailands populace is nothing if not resilient, though: after a dozen coups dtat in less than a century, they have to be and, in spite of it all, the capital continues to flourish and, in the process, reshape its identity.
For decades, this was a city that imported everything, to which strings of glitzy megamalls attests. But somewhere along the way, Thailand began to foster its own considerable creative pool. Look closely and youll notice that generic luxury brands are ceding shelf space to funkier fashions by Thai designers; local chefs proudly flaunt family recipes on the hottest tables in town; and even north-eastern Thai folk music is in the midst of a revival.
Bangkoks historic heart may rest on temple-studded Rattanakosin Island, but its contemporary pulse is scattered throughout smaller, splintered neighbourhoods in Sukhumvit, Sathorn and Silom and can be harder to pinpoint. Travellers looking to tap into the zeitgeist should venture past the backpacker cocoon of Khao San Road and make their way towards nearby Phra Athit Road, a boho hangout with live music venues and restaurants near the Chao Phraya river, then make a beeline for Chinatown. On Soi Nana, off Charoen Krung Road, minutes from Cantonese holes-in-the-wall and stores selling traditional herbal remedies, shophouses are being refurbished into galleries and unpretentious bars.
Booming, chaotic, at times overwhelming, but never, ever boring, Bangkok is more culturally diverse, complex and compelling than ever.
After stopping by celeb chef Ian Kittichais signature restaurant for updated Thai classics, such as massaman-braised lamb shanks and jasmine-infused panna cotta, youll want to learn how to cook like the maestro. Classes at Issaya Cooking Studio teach some of the chefs best-loved recipes, plus insights into everything from mixology to sous-vide techniques. Courses from 2,000 baht (45), issayastudio.com
Bangkoks art movement has blossomed in recent years. Artha Gallery keeps the emphasis on regional talent from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. Over in Sathorn, head to Sathorn 11 Art Space, which features exhibitions on the ground floor and four resident artist studios above, and H Gallery, with edgy works by Asian artists in a converted mansion. Closer to the riverside, be sure to visit Bridge and The Jam Factory, housed in a sprawling multipurpose complex designed by starchitect Duangrit Bunnag.
An industrial space with eclectic collections, Speedy Grandma fills up with creative types at weekends. Treading the line between gallery and bar, Cho Why is one of several revamped shophouses injecting new energy into Chinatown. Events range from a street-art fest to a rooftop paella party. Across the street at 23 Bar and Gallery, the artsy incarnation of one of the citys legendary dives, expect indie tunes and no-nonsense drinks.
With more than 8,000 stalls selling everything from parakeets to pottery, Chatuchak Weekend Market, up by the Mo Chit BTS Skytrain station, remains the one to beat. Go early or late, when the tropical temperatures are more forgiving, as navigating the 27 sections can prove a dizzying experience. Plan for a post-shopping sundowner at Viva 8, a ramshackle bar with excellent mojitos where DJs spin house. Many up-and-coming Thai designers try to make it here first, so keep an eye out for next seasons labels before they hit the big time.
Head to Talad Rod Fai (Sri Nakarin Soi 51) and Talad Rod Fai 2 (Esplanade Complex) for all sorts of vintage bric-a-brac. At the Rot Boran Market (The Walk, Kaset-Nawamin road), known as the Classic Car Market, VW bugs and other old-school autos find new life as pop-ups selling just about everything.
After visiting the requisite temples Wat Saket for the view, Wat Phra Kaew for the glittering, gilded everything, and Wat Pho for a massage and seeing all manner of standing, sitting and reclining Buddhas head to the Thonburi side of the river for this lesser-known cultural gem: a teak house decorated with quirky sculptures. Shadow puppet performances, a traditional art that is becoming increasingly scarce, are worth seeing, but be sure to call ahead, as showtimes are irregular. 315 Wat Tong Salangam, Phet Kasem Road, +66 2 868 5279
If the concrete jungle becomes a bit wearing, consider a cycling trip over to Phra Pradaeng, a mangrove-covered peninsula on the western side of the Chao Phraya. ABC Amazing Bangkok Cyclist offers half-day tours for 29pp, including longtail boat transfers and mountain bike rentals, realasia.net
Salty, sweet and screaming hot, Bangkoks street food is adored by all strata of society. Hygiene is sometimes questionable and MSG rampant, but that shouldnt stop anyone from dining like a king on a shoestring budget. Keep your eyes peeled for rib-sticking jook (rice porridge with pork crackling and raw egg), comforting khao mun gai (chicken and rice) or its rarer, biryani-inspired cousin khao mok gai, crispy hoi tod (eggy mussel or oyster pancakes), fatty khao kha moo (meltingly tender braised pork leg with gravy), Isaan-style jim jum (hot pot), and the ubiquitous trio of gai yaang, som tom and khao niew (grilled chicken with spicy papaya salad and sticky rice). Noodles, including yen ta fo (neon-red glass noodles with tofu), ban mee (thin egg noodles often served with wontons), suki (bean thread noodles, egg, cabbage and seafood or meat) and richly flavoured kuai tiao ruea (boat noodles in a spiced, blood-enriched broth with offal), are served around the clock and can be ordered haeng (dry or stir-fried) or nam (wet with soup broth). For sugar fiends, khao niew mamuang (mango sticky rice) is a dependable go-to, but consider branching out to khanom krok (custardy coconut confections) and the dangerously craveable kluay kaek (deep-fried bananas in a coconut batter).
Gentrification has edged out many of Sukhumvits street eats, which means travelling a bit further to find larger pockets. Victory Monument and the surrounding area has an abundance, as do Silom and the historic areas of the city. Chinatown, especially Yaowarat and Charoen Krung roads, is packed with stalls that have been serving the same dishes for generations.
It might have started out as an artisanal pickle cannery in a hostel, but this eatery is currently whipping up some of the most interesting fare in town. As the name references, 80% of ingredients are local, while the remaining 20% allow for creative wiggle room. Chef Napol Jantraget delights in genre-bending plates like charcoal-grilled squid with fingeroot glaze, black garlic paste, popped rice berries, roasted peanuts and local sour greens that are rooted in Thai traditions, but also draw on his time at a brasserie in Toronto. 1052-1054 Charoen Krung Road, +66 2 639 1135, on Facebook
Duangporn Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones, a Thai-Australian chef duo who cut their teeth at Londons Nahm, are best-known for their uncompromising Thai fine-dining eatery Bo.lan. The pairs second offering ditches the fancier trappings in favour of gutsy countryside bites, best washed down with a Chang beer or a whisky-soda. Order a couple of rounds and nibble on sai ouwa (coconut-smoked northern sausage, 4) and kor moo yang (grilled pork neck with tamarind sauce, 5), while deciding which mains to share. 394/35 Maharaj Road,+66 2 622 2291, errbkk.com
Rare Khon Kaen and Trat recipes from the owners grandmother help explain this cosy places enduring popularity. Its hard to order wrong, but steer away from the usual pad thai and opt for khai jiew pu (omelette stuffed with crabmeat, 3) or ka lum tod nam pla (stir-fried Chinese cabbage, 2), an umami bomb anointed with pungent fermented fish sauce. 160/11 Soi 55 Sukhumvit road, +66 2 714 7508, supannigaeatingroom.com
Bangkoks sizable Indian diaspora has given rise to some excellent eateries, including this number, which steers clear of cliched curries and peppers in subtler nods to the subcontinent, such as the decorative latticework derived from mosques and cheeky broken-English signs in the bathroom. Order the gently spiced lamb sheekh kebab (9) or the house-made paneer tikka (8), which is as silky as cheesecake and just as rich. After dinner, walk down the street to a darkened alley where, behind a door by an abandoned phone booth, salsa dancers shimmy to live bands at Havana Social, the owners hidden Cuban-inspired speakeasy. 38/8 Soi 11 Sukhumvit Road, Fraser Suites Hotel, +66 89 307 1111, charcoalbkk.com
Ash Sutton, the genius behind bars including Iron Fairies and Maggie Choos, outdid himself with this hideaways stripped-down, brooding aesthetic and succinct Prohibition-era cocktail list. A gleaming copper distillery serves as the centrepiece and produces the places namesake elixir, a south-east Asian spin on gin, fermented with a heady mix of fresh pineapple, coconut, lemongrass, ginger and juniper. Park Lane, Sukhumvit 63, on Facebook
Follow the sounds of soul and funk four nights a week to one of Bangkoks best live music spots. The lack of a cover charge and the rollicking house party vibe help explain why the crowds keep coming, even when the tiny joint is past capacity. Bigger bands often see the party spill out onto the street, which doesnt seem to bother anybody one bit. 945 Charoen Krung road, on Facebook
Slide open an unmarked wooden door in Thonglor and step into this dimly lit drinking den housed in a three-story shophouse. A long marble bar and gleaming, ceiling-high shelves displaying a formidable liquor collection make this one of the sexiest speakeasies in town, while the craft cocktails by legendary local mixologists Suwincha Chacha Singsuwan and Naphat Yod Natchachon mean the narrow space is packed on weekends. 125 Sukhumvit Soi 55, +66 98 969 1335, on Facebook
Drop whatever preconceptions the term lifestyle mall calls to mind, because this industrial complex buried in Thonglor houses some of Bangkoks best bars and eateries. A crawl should start with a craft brew and greasy grub like laab fries at Beer Belly, then go for something stiffer at U.N.C.L.E, a leather-upholstered lounge with tipples such at the Honey Keep It Cool, with cachaa, lemon-infused green tea, Fernet-Branca, honey and Tullamore Dew whiskey. Touch Hombre has the best selection of mezcals and tequilas in the city, not to mention authentic bites like elotes callejeros (grilled corn with cotija cheese, chipotle-spiked mayonnaise and lime). Finish your night with a trip to Beam, a warehouse-style club where techno pounds till late. 72 Soi Sukhumvit 55, on Facebook
A G&T here might well carry a lingering, savoury aroma of peppered pork jerky or Thai tea. Housed in an 80-year-old shophouse, cluttered with vintage Thai furniture, this watering hole has earned a cult following for its gin infusions made from whatever the owners find from neighbouring Chinatown stores. On a weekend, be prepared to queue for one of the coveted 16 seats. 76 Soi Nana, Charoen Krung road, on Facebook
An opium-den fever dream of paper lanterns, Chinese dragons and slinky qipao-clad ladies, Sing Sing Theaters retro-glam, over-the-top vision of 1930s Shanghai packs the dance floor on weekends. Sukhumvit Soi 45, on Facebook
OK, so its expensive, but for a luxe stay, this is the place. Six years in the making, this Bill Bensley-designed passion project of local celebrity, actor and former indie rocker Krissada Sukosol Clapp is chockablock with antiques. The resulting property is remarkably atmospheric, especially on the serene verandah overlooking the Chao Phraya. Guests can learn to fight like a champion with an Olympic Muay Thai trainer or even pick up a sacred sak yant tattoo from Ajarn Boo, a master of this ancient art. Doubles from 295 room only, thesiamhotel.com
A night at this colonial mansion might evoke memories of a stay at an eccentric uncles, if said uncle were the swashbuckling, well-travelled type and a bit of a hoarder. The place is crammed with curios, ranging from the intriguing (retro typewriters) to the downright kooky (cheetah skulls). Its got character to burn, not to mention a rooftop pool, a restaurant serving Isaan and Lao cuisine, and prime location just off of Sukhumvit Road. Doubles from 93 B&B, cabochonhotel.com
Signs of this riverside boutiques previous existence as a coconut sugar factory are everywhere, from the original storage tins in the walls to the oversized wheels of jaggery that serve as tables in the restaurant. Each of the rooms is named and colour-coded to different times of day, starting with 7:00 AM in early-morning hues and ending with the crepuscular-tinted 5:00 PM. If the budget allows, spring for one of the later suites, which feature lovely views of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) at sunset. Doubles from 80 room only, innaday.com,
With floor-to-ceiling windows in its 25 rooms and a lively rooftop restaurant with river views, the new Riva Arun makes for a great spot to soak in the scenery. Doubles from 72 room only, snhotels.com
Travellers neednt spend a fortune to sleep comfortably in this town, thanks to a spate of design-forward hostels opening in trendy neighbourhoods. Decked out in warm wood tones and sporting a craft beer bar, co-working space and third-wave coffee shop, ONEDAY (dorms from 9) is as hip as they come. In Ari, a lively residential area with tons of street food, The Yard Hostel (dorms from 13), made of upcycled shipping containers, quickly established itself as a neighbourhood haunt, as well as a social stop for wayfarers. Considerate extras bicycles for rent, two-month luggage storage, barbecue equipment for impromptu grill parties and a friendly staff add to the experience. In Chinatown, Loftell 22 (dorms from 7) offers comfy dorms and private rooms in two previously abandoned historic buildings in Talad Noi.
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Posted: February 17, 2017 at 1:18 am
Before nasty women in pantsuits but after rocker chicks with shoulder pads came dirrty girls with belly-button rings. (Just ask Christina Aguilera.) The zeitgeist of the late 1990s and early 2000s made navel piercings a ubiquitous symbol of sex appeal, but they seem to have disappeared from the navels of both pop stars and girls next door. Whatever happened to the trend that took young, free-spirited women by storm?
The zeitgeist of the late 1990s and early 2000s made navel piercings a ubiquitous symbol of sex appeal, but they seem to have disappeared from the navels of both pop stars and girls next door.
If you ask Sara Czernikowski, who manages a Rochester, New York, piercing shop called Dorje Adornments, nothing ever happened. Although Czernikowski says 1985 to 2005 undoubtedly served as the peak for navel piercings, the number has not dropped dramatically since. In fact, her shop pierces three to five navels each day, and sells another five navel bars to customers daily. While there are no national statistics readily available regarding the perceived rise and fall of navel piercings, Czernikowski says that anecdotal experience among other piercing professionals seem to confirm the longevity of navel piercings popularity.
According to Czernikowski, navel piercings first rose to fame thanks to the 1970s gay leather movement. I could go on [forever] about how we attribute all modern body modification to the gay leather scene in New York City from the early 1970s to now, Czernikowski says. She points to the Gauntlet, a body piercing studio originally run out of founder Jim Ward's West Hollywood home, as a huge influence on the culture. Eventually the Gauntlet opened shops in San Francisco, New York City, and Seattle, helping to set the standards and practices for body piercing nationwide.
Without the leather scene, Czernikowski says, there would have been no Gauntlet. Without the Gauntlet, there would have been no inspiration for Cryin [the 1993 Aerosmith video that popularized the trend with women] and therefore no surge in popularity for navel piercings.
In Aerosmiths infamous video, Alicia Silverstone is seen getting a navel piercing, although she admitted to having a stand-in for the actual piercing [because] she found it disgusting, according to Czernikowski. Once the video for Cryin dropped, Silverstone rose to fame, and so did navel piercings and, thus, the association of belly-button rings with young women was born. Even the phrase belly-button ring is rather infantile, but thats exactly how navel piercings came to be known.
How does piercing a cavern of your body that collects lint and bacteria strike people as sexual?
Missy Wilkerson spent the 1990s as a piercing apprentice who was so passionate about body modification that she had a plethora of piercings herself including one on her labia, which she pierced at home. Wilkerson agrees that the stigma associated with belly-button rings is both the reason it rose to mainstream fame and a frustrating display of misogyny. I think navel piercings are unfairly maligned because of their association with young women and adolescent girls, Wilkerson says. Its pretty gross and sexist.
How does piercing a cavern of your body that collects lint and bacteria strike people as sexual?
The late 90s and early 2000s were the eras when Britney, Janet, Christina, and Shakira were just a few of the pop divas who bared their midriffs and gyrated on stage while showing off fancy navel jewelry. For many, Britneys 2001 Im a Slave 4 U performance at the VMAs forever serves as the epitome of bold sexuality. She rocked a revealing green get-up, a dazzling navel chain, and yes, the infamous snake.
Its this association that made navel piercings so taboo and all the more desirable for teenage girls during the piercings heyday. Danielle Hayden, who is now 28, experienced resistance when she asked her parents for permission to pierce her navel in high school for this very reason. She explained that her dad thought it was a sexual thing and kept saying stuff about me wanting to look sexy.
However, Haydens parents were not the only ones to make assumptions about the very aesthetic she loved so much. There was a guy I was attracted to in college who assumed I was more sexual than I was because I had a navel piercing, Hayden explains. Despite her chaste nature at the time, her piercing was associated with a sexuality she had not yet fully developed.
The inability to allow navel piercings to just be exactly what they are a piercing is a microcosm of our larger inability to separate sexy from sex.
The inability to allow navel piercings to just be exactly what they are a piercing is a microcosm of our larger inability to separate sexy from sex. Sure, a navel piercing can be sexy, even if that wasnt the wearers intended purpose. But by sexualizing a piece of jewelry, we restrict a trends ability to be universally embraced.
This is perhaps most apparent when bringing gender into the picture. Even before the gay leather movement of the 1970s, Czernikowski explains, the very first wearers of navel piercings were men, and the adornment may date back to ancient Egyptian civilization. But because of the pop culture takeover of the late 90s and early 00s, which branded navel rings as youthful and feminine, a piercing that was previously non-gendered became incredibly gender-exclusive.
In Czernikowskis shop, men often get navel piercings, she says. Because of the shops large selection, the navel jewelry offered at Dorje Adornments is as diverse as the clientele. In the spirit of a navel-piercing-for-all movement, Czernikowski says, The men who work for us have navel piercings as examples to clients that there is no gender attached to body modification.
The average navel-piercing client at Dorje Adornments is a 30-year-old woman. Women ages 15 to 19 and women over 40 are tied for the second biggest female client groups, which might strike some as a surprise. No, navel piercings arent just for hormonal teenage girls, and no, they are not obsolete. There are those who think the navel piercing is not only outdated but also childish, but clearly that is not the case.
Although its mainstream popularity has been stymied by both the oversaturation of navel piercings and growing acceptance of body modification in general, it may be time for a comeback. Crop tops, chokers, and velvet are all recently resurrected trends, so perhaps navel piercings will have their moment in the sun again.
Who knows? Maybe well get to see a stud like Liam Hemsworth, Joe Jonas, or Chris Pratt rocking some navel jewelry right alongside babes like Beyonc (who wore a navel ring on the cover of Shape), Demi Lovato, and Vanessa Hudgens. In the meantime, patrons across the country will still flock to their nearest piercing shops, keeping the aesthetic of the late 1990s alive.
In the meantime, patrons across the country will still flock to their nearest piercing shops, keeping the aesthetic of the late 1990s alive.
Missy Wilkerson, the fiery spirit who once spent her days apprenticing in a piercing shop, rocks a single septum piercing these days. When she thinks back to her navel piercing which she had to remove a couple years ago because of rigorous karate training she has fond memories of the aesthetic she can no longer enjoy. I loved the way the navel piercing looked, she said. And I loved my jewelry a curved barbell with a winking red stone that resembled a garnet, my birthstone.
Navel piercings may not be plastered everywhere these days; they have taken a break from the limelight in favor of a more quiet popularity. But sheathed underneath button-downs and pantsuits and shift dresses and jumpsuits, the navel piercing lives on in men and women of all ages.
Perhaps navel piercings are a sign of liberation. Perhaps they are a sign of youthful rebellion. Or perhaps they are just a sign that yes, navel piercings look damn cool.
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Posted: at 1:18 am
By Christina Bagnilincoln@wickedlocal.com
Nowhere is the phrase history repeats itself more accurate than in the world of fashion only look to the returning trends of bell-bottom jeans and crop-tops for proof.
Fashion historian Karen Antonowicz found herself fascinated by the cyclical world of clothing while working as a dietician, and hasnt looked back. She earned her master's degree in textiles, fashion merchandising, and design, with a concentration in historic costume and textiles from the University of Rhode Island, and has taught fashion history there ever since.
Antonowicz will be holding a seminar titled "Shoes Through the Decades" at the Lincoln Public Library Feb. 23.
Its about the way people lived, not only what they wore, she said. In the Victorian age, the wealthy liked having many things around them. Their houses and outfits were very cluttered. Now, its more about minimalism; theres a whole zeitgeist. Its the spirit of the times, because fashion follows the world.
Nowadays, Antonowicz said, one can see the trend of healthy living mixed with the more casual way people live their lives through the lens of popular shoes.
Its all about the sneaker. There are more flats, now. Uggs are still pretty big, she said, referring to the Australian shoe company. Some girls still like heels when they go out. Designers make these shoes desirable, getting that height and style.
While shoe styles today are all over the place, certain trends reflect the population they appear in.
We get a lot of students in our store, and they tend to like older styles, more vintage, like Oxford shoes, she said.
The store she is referring to is Nostalgia, a three-floor antiques shop Antonowicz runs with her husband in Providence, Rhode Island. Between teaching and running Nostalgia, Antonowicz spends what time she has left furthering her love of education by running focused seminars on periods of fashion history.
She explained that looking at footwear can tell a lot about a generation, from Queen Victoria right up to the sneaker of today. She referenced the British series Downton Abbey as an example of accurate early-century clothing.
They had narrow shoes then, at least the wealthy families did, Antonowicz said. Then, after the war the hemline (of dresses) came up, and the shoes and stockings became more elaborate because you could see them. Then, in the 1920s, the hemlines went really up, and the shoes had to look nice and work well for dancing. It was the Jazz Age, they had to do the Charleston in these shoes.
During World War II, the war effort meant shoes couldnt be made of rubber or leather, so they made do with cork or wood. This created wedge shoes, still popular today. Particularly interesting is the history of shoe height in the 1950s, when femininity was rising, so were heels. Then when the hippie movement and the feminist movement began, women preferred comfort over conventional beauty and heels plummeted to flats. Disco made shoes rise again, and so on.
Its a cycle, Antonowicz said. Fashion reflects the world.
Other seminars she teaches focus more on clothing, such as on the fashion of American First Ladies or the fashion of the cocktail culture in the 1950s and 1960slook to the AMC show "Mad Men," she suggested, for a taste of that style.
These shows are accurate to a point, she said. Sometimes the colors are a bit different, or the cut is a bit different, however theres usually a reason for that. Downton Abbey is usually right on. Their designers sometimes take a dress from the time that is beyond wear, and add it to a new piece, so it has a bit of integrity. Theyre so talented.
Antonowiczs passion for fashion is sure to enlighten anyone, not just those with a closet bursting at the seams.
People often dont realize what it is all about, but they always ask me to come back, she said. Its a mixture of entertainment and education.
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There's a case building that television more than wealth or family or real estate, certainly more than politics - is what President Donald Trump loves most.
The evidence was there all along. A camera in the room is the only thing that seems to truly animate him, for it brings with it the promise of big (or easily inflatable) ratings. A television show is the only thing that ever offered Trump, briefly, a unanimous and undisputed success. Absent the camera, he is an even bigger fan of watching TV, much like his fellow Americans who harbor a hard addiction to watching cable-news shows morning, noon and night.
There have been reports (usually anonymously sourced) that some of Trump's staff members wish he didn't watch so much, but why would he stop? The long-offered promise of truly interactive TV has arrived for at least one American: him. Cable news hangs on his every word, while he returns the favor by mimicking some of its worst talking points, often within enough minutes to create an unsettling semblance of harmony.
Sad! As HBO's John Oliver showed in a clip Sunday night on the long-awaited return of his satirical politics show, "Last Week Tonight," Trump is so addicted to cable news that the cabin of Air Force One now echoes with the cheapo commercials that accompany his all-day diet of noise, including the Empire flooring jingle ("Eight-hundred, five-eight-eight ...") Our president, Oliver joked, is like the septuagenarian who has collapsed and died alone in a house with the TV blaring; it takes neighbors days to notice anything amiss.
Thus, Oliver concluded, the only way to get a factual argument across to the president is to make a set of catheter ads to air during cable news, featuring a folksy ol' cowboy who subliminally explains such necessary concepts as the nuclear triad. Oliver's ads began airing in the Washington, D.C., market on Monday morning on Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Maybe just maybe Trump noticed.
Meanwhile, a fomenting Trump resistance movement has seen that televised mockery might be effective in creating the sort of tiny cracks that eventually cause meaningful collapse. The mockery required for this job is not the kind of whip-smart, fact-based, ironic criticism inherited from Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" and still practiced with dedicated verve by TBS' Samantha Bee, NBC's Seth Meyers, CBS' Stephen Colbert and Oliver (who spent 24 minutes Sunday night on a segment devoted to the preservation of the concept of "facts.")
Rather it's the plain, old fashioned, over-the-top mockery that shows a White House hopelessly out of control, compromised, flaccid from the get-go and comically inept. This was best displayed by none other than Melissa McCarthy, a comedic film and TV star recruited by her pals at NBC's "Saturday Night Live" to lampoon White House press secretary Sean Spicer on the show's Feb. 4 episode and again a week later.
The sketches were so brutally effective - starting from their obvious top layer of derision for Spicer's bellicose, combative style, all the way down to the more ingeniously subliminal dig of having women portray the innumerable men who surround and advise the president - that they set off a wave of excitement on the left: Can it really be as easy as dishing up the most basic form of insult humor and then broadcasting it far and wide? Does electoral revenge reside in a barrage of unsophisticated, easy-to-write, tiny-hands jokes (or, in a supercut from Oliver's show, the insultingly spot-on "Donald Trump doesn't know how to shake hands"), rather than a clever, humorously but laboriously spun counterpoint of wonky facts?
Perhaps. In anticipation of "SNL's" Feb. 11 episode, hosted for the 17th time by actor Alec Baldwin, who has found some always-needed career rejuvenation as the show's go-to Trump impersonator since last fall's campaign, America's TV addicts and critics (who now include most of the political press corps) rubbed their hands together in anticipatory glee: Would the episode be just mildly devastating or completely annihilating?
That the episode was found a tad wanting is nothing new to lifetime "SNL" watchers. The show is nothing if not a decades-long study in demand-resistance, causing its viewers to always desire more than it actually delivers. Lorne Michaels, who now controls far more of the TV comedy realm than a mere 90 minutes on Saturday nights, wisely avoids taking requests from his audience, because we tend, as a voting bloc, to suggest the easiest and least original premises and jokes.
Yet, sensing the desires of the internet zeitgeist, "SNL" featured a short, melancholy film in which cast member Leslie Jones floated the idea that she, not Baldwin, should step into the role of Trump. Her fellow cast members interrogated her intent as Jones sat in a makeup chair acquiring an orange comb-over, wondering whether there's a workable shtick here: Could having a black woman play Trump be an effective weapon against the watcher-in-chief? The ultimate insult, as it were?
This assumes that Trump still watches "SNL." He may profess not to - but honestly, come on. It's hard to believe that he'd be able to resist looking at anything that's about him, or even, perhaps, taking credit for the show's impressive jump in ratings. "SNL" is now enjoying its highest-rated season in 22 years, according to Variety.
Lest anyone forget, many viewers of "SNL" still hold the show culpable in providing some of the crucial hot air that floated Trump to his many victories, by allowing him to host while he was a serious contender for the presidential race. The time for truly effective mockery came and went while "SNL" and the rest of the comedy world dilly-dallied with Trump.
All presidents have watched more than their share of TV. One thinks of LBJ's custom array of TV sets in the Oval Office to track all three networks in breaking-news situations, or the Reagans enjoying a night in front of the tube with their TV dinner tray tables. Even the Obamas made sure to get on the inside track with HBO, having "Game of Thrones" screeners delivered before they aired.
As we continue to ask ourselves what Trump watches, and how or if it shapes his decisions, it's probably worth noting that there's a lot he doesn't watch - or at least, we've never been told of anything remotely interesting in his DVR queue.
If insider accounts are to be believed, it's all news, all the time - and perhaps still looking in on NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice," the show that still credits him as an executive producer even though he goes out of his way to pooh-pooh its current iteration. (About this, he's not wrong. The only reason left to watch "Celebrity Apprentice" might be if you're in a Nielsen family and want to irritate the president.)
In other words, he's missing so much - some of the greatest television ever made, much of it rich in instructive, metaphorical storytelling about power and moral consequence.
Even though Trump appears to lack the necessary attention span, I still find myself wishing that he had joined me and the 10 or so other Americans who were transfixed by HBO's "The Young Pope," a befuddlingly beautiful 10-episode series that just concluded. It's about a new pope, Pius XIII (Jude Law), who is determined to drain the swamp that is Vatican City. He is steadfast in his conservative beliefs and unconcerned with alienating the church's liberal side. He loathes the press. He won't travel. He is consumed by a sort of divine narcissism and he can deliver a real scorcher of a sermon to his underlings.
Yet, not only did Pius win over the cardinals with his agenda, he also, finally, convinced the rest of us that his aim was true. In 10 hours, he went from a horrifying firebrand to a persuasive messenger, maybe even a pope for the ages.
In this way, TV always has something to tell us, even when we're the president. And the president might seem more human if he would very publicly pick up a few, well-made scripted shows and tell us what he thought about them. The first step is learning how to change the channel and break some bad viewing habits.