Culture Break: 08/18

The fourth installment in an ongoing series on the cultural things that break through the noise and touch the soul.

In the Dark
PODCAST — For true crime and podcast lovers, these two series from American Public Media are a gut punch. Whenever I watch or listen to something like this I always end up thinking just don’t ever, ever, ever get caught up in the American justice system because you never know! There’s too much room for error and too many players who operate without checks and balances. Sheriff, District Attorney, investigators, whomever.

The Wilderness
PODCAST — For several reasons, I’m a Democrat. I’m way more progressive than the typical Democrat. Some might say I’m a socialist, and I’m more than okay with that. I’d like to see the party go left in the upcoming years because I think that’s the best way for the country to move forward. But before we can move forward, where exactly are we? How did we get here? And where are the places we could go? If you’re curious, listen up.

Sharp Objects
TV SHOW — A murder mystery of the finest order. Moody, glitchy, confusing. Set against the backdrop of an unhealthy small town in southern Missouri, a reporter tries her best to tell the story she sees and help solve the crime. Amy Adams is a force. And the soundtrack is stellar. 

How to Understand the Obvious
ARTICLE — On the quest for truth, how do we understand our blind spots? This article on pre- and post-understanding and what happens when a truth shakes you to your core is a great read. How do we not only find truth but wisdom? 

TV SHOW — We’re bad at stopping to really ask the basic questions.  This show helps. A wonderfully executed punchy delivery of very important topics. The Racial Wealth Gap, Cryptocurrency, The Stock Market, and Weed. And things I didn’t really think I’d be all that into, like K-Pop and Cricket. You have 18ish minutes right? Then go watch one.  

APP — Find happiness by contemplating your mortality. Daily. If you think about your death five times a day, according to a Bhutanese folk saying, you will be a happy person. Give this app a try, see what happens.

Michelle Wolf, Nice Lady
COMEDY — It cuts through BS niceties. That’s for sure. And for the record, I don’t understand scrotums either. The ending has quite possibly the best text exchange I’ve ever heard.

Maha Music Festival
CONCERT — The best way to end the summer. From the harmonies of TV on the Radio to the resistance music of Hurray for the Riff Raff on day 1, the catchy pop songs of a ferocious Weezer set to the warm glow of Father John Misty and hypnotic melodies of US Girls on day 2, the Maha Music Festival is Omaha at its best. Lots of friendly faces, amazing live sets under blue sky, and a night air cool breeze, these are the reasons I keep coming back. You should come next year. It’ll be awesome.

FILM — Damn. This film, so good. Really into it. The story is really compelling and the Spike Lee touches are quite powerful. The real world bookends of racism and fear help frame in this very specific tale. Yes, this account and its characters make for quite the storyline, but it doesn’t exist in isolation. And the juxtaposition of how the black student union arrives at a unified chant of “Black Power” alongside the KKK’s assertion of “White Power” brings the similar exclamations together close enough to understand, on a gut level, what makes them so different. 

Culture Break: 07/18

The third installment in an ongoing monthly series on the cultural things that break through the noise and touch the soul.

VIDEO — The Carters are in the Louvre! The latest from Beyoncé and Jay-Z drops it like its hot. Huge stadiums with adoring fans? Yeah, they got ’em. All those skin tones, stylin.’

Sudan Archives, Sink
EP — From a 24-year-old violinist, these six songs are full of beats that skip alongside captivating vocals, intertwining emotions and grooves. Sink lower and get overcome by the journey into a meandering sound, chopping to and fro, looking for the feeling.

Jorja Smith, Lost & Found
ALBUM — From a 21-year-old English singer, this album is hauntingly beautiful, wandering and honest. An urgent cry out into a troubled world where we’re all looking for what we’ve lost. 

A Cultural Vacuum
OPINION — What happens to a life without music, film, art, literature, performance, experimentation? If it doesn’t die, it’s certainly diminished. As Dave Eggers puts in the New York Times; it’s myopic, unlearned, cruel. 

What A Day
NEWSLETTER — It’s politics, but hey, what isn’t these days. The delivery and the tone hit just right in our current political moment with humor, grace, wit, and snark. When your government is run by truly awful people, one way to cope is to just laugh at all the absurdity. And then call/write/organize/march/vote!

IDLES, Danny Nedelko
VIDEO — This hit me up side the head in the best way possible. I thought at first this could be punk rock from the 90s. Nah, 2018. It’s so fucking great I love it. Bring on Joy as an Act of Resistance and let’s dance our fucking asses off.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
DOCUMENTARY — The answer to the fast-paced, over-stimulated, too-much-to-handle programming for children at the advent of television? Why a turtle, of course! This film about Mr. Rogers was so good, so uplifting, so heartbreaking. See it in the theater and try not to cry, I dare you. At a moment when there is so much anger and resentment, this is an antidote. 

We the People
ART — Now on display at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, We the People by Nari War is made of shoelaces. It shows that our democracy is composed of many small parts: its citizens.

Hannah Gadsby, Nanette
COMEDY — This stand-up show starts out like something I was expecting and then changes into something very different. It’s so powerful and moving. A comedy about the limits of comedy, the limits of humanity, and the need for complete stories. Beautifully, heartbreakingly real.

Culture Break: 06/18

The second installment in an ongoing monthly series on the cultural things that break through the noise and touch the soul.

Dear White People v.2
TV SHOW — Oh this show. I was way into the first season. There were episodes that after ending I would just sit there, a little stunned. Some of the issues in the show remind me of my college experience, some not so much, and some seem so messy and complicated I’m just trying to keep up. It’s beautifully composed, timely and timeless. One of those shows that’s fun to watch and feels important at the same time.

Print to Resist
WEBSITE — There is power in a poster. For what it says and what it leaves out. In a time when our rights are worth fighting for and our voices must be heard, the Print to Resist gallery is a powerful resource for standing up for what we believe in.

Revisionist History Season 3
PODCAST — Need a podcast recommendation? This one is my favorite. Malcolm Gladwell assembles some of the most thought-provoking breakdowns of tough subjects I’ve ever heard. From this season, the episodes on memories are absolutely mind-blowing.

Death & Co
BOOK — Hobbies are good to have. And as I try to fuse my love of fine liquor, precise craftsmanship, and following the directions closely, my wife got me a beautiful book full of what I can only assume are the best cocktail recipes in the world. Would you like something shaken or stirred? Whiskey or gin? Up or on the rocks? 

The Ultimate CCR Playlist
PLAYLIST — There I was, in the desert, barreling down the freeway in a rented Ford Focus on my way to Moreno Valley by way of Palm Springs. Cutting through mountains, dipping into valleys, windows all the way open, speeding past semi-truck after semi-truck under that beautiful California sun, the radio cranking that urgent, visceral vocal that made me think of another time when America was teetering on the precipice of collapsing national values in the midst of a crisis of confidence so large the fullness of Creedence was the only thing that could help a troubled soul tolerate the fever pitch of injustice after injustice because it’s for damn sure I’m no fortunate son either. 

Father John Misty, God’s Favorite Customer
ALBUM — Overly dramatic. Self absorbed. Kinda whiny. These are some of my own least favorite qualities, not things I look for in my music. But the new Father John Misty is so good. It’s so very Father John Misty and I find myself completely captivated and unable to stop listening. It’s honest. These days, that’s all I can ask for.

Anthony Bourdain, WTF
PODCAST — Like a lot of people, I was stunned by the news of Bourdain’s death. Shook me hard. The following day Marc Maron posted his interview with him from 2011. A wonderful conversation about life, work, failure, struggle, and adventure.  

MAGAZINE — Beginnings. Stress. Darkness. These are the themes of the first three issues of a publication that explores and celebrates the risks people take in the process of creating something original and worthwhile. It’s absolutely beautiful. The design is impeccable and the stories compelling. It’s a reminder of why the Internet is a poor substitute for reading and why print will never die.

Eric Wareheim’s Instagram Account
WEIRDNESS — Few things on social media are better than posts like this. I’m not super familiar with the antics of Mr. Wareheim, aside from his role on Master of None, but I will say I’m certainly a fan.

Culture Break: 05/18

In order to call attention to the greatness all around us, the thinking and ideas moving our culture forward, every month I’m going to post a selection of the most interesting stuff/things I think you should know about.

Music, film, podcasts, books, TV, websites. Whatever breaks through the noise and touches the soul. In a time when it feels like beauty, storytelling, reflection, empathy, and creativity are being overlooked, this list will highlight examples of these in action. What we’re capable of when we’re at our best. If I miss something, please send it to me.

Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
ALBUM — Certainly the best new album of 2018 to this point. Janelle “my oh my” Monáe! I am currently being fully engulfed by the sensual, sonic creations of this fantastic collection of songs, start to finish. Partying hard, sex in the swimming pool? Yes, of course. The politics are powerful, the beats enthusiastic, the message inclusive. Yeah, I like it.

Young Fathers, Cocoa Sugar
ALBUM — I first heard Young Fathers on KEXP. I was in the office working away listening to the best radio station in the world when I was hit with this driving, melodic, unconventional sound. “Ooooh, what is this?” Whatever it is, it feels a little dangerous, a little prophetic, and a whole lot captivating. I loved White Men Are Black Men Too and this new album is even better.

Ugly Delicious
TV SHOW — In my attempts to get better at cooking, David Chang’s Netflix show gives me something to strive for. And new places to travel to for the food alone. His message of pushing forward the medium, getting good by copying, and celebrating the inclusive nature of food resonates in this time of our backwards politics of ruthless exclusion. I also have a new found appreciation for tacos. And I bought the book.

The Monk of Mokha
BOOK — I’m not ashamed to say I cried at one point while reading this book. Dave Eggers definitely knows how to paint a picture with his wit, charm, and direct delivery of the written word. An immigrant story of self-discovery and crazy adventure, it lets you know that an unwavering relentlessness might be the only thing we need to make our dreams come true. That, and plenty of coffee.

DOCUMENTARY — Go see RBG. Not only is Ruth Bader Ginsburg a total badass and wicked smart, the law is where the direction of our country is solidified. The law matters greatly. And voices like hers have made America better for so many people. Let’s hope she’s in the Supreme Court for (many) years to come.

Isle of Dogs
FILM — The new Wes Andersen is absolutely stunning. An amazing visual masterpiece with an infinite number of beautiful and precise compositions. To the critiques of it being problematic at best and at worst racist, my response seems to be, “I don’t know, I guess, but goddamn that soundtrack is fucking awesome.”

awards for good boys 
INSTAGRAM — I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what it means to be a man in this particular America at this particular time. This Instagram account does a good job of awarding good behavior. Like when you read the headline of the article about toxic masculinity and then share it on Facebook.

This Is America (Official Video)
VIDEO — The surreal new video from Childish Gambino is, surreal. Shirtless, groovin’ and shootin’ and spinnin’ and twistin’ and smokin’ and runnin’ ... The melodic singalongs brutally interrupted with violence, I guess that is America. Get down! 

I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye
ARTICLE — The latest from Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic on Kanye West’s embrace of Donald Trump. On the subject of freedom, at the heart of the article:

... a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own.