This week the newsletter is coming early because I graduate on Friday as a MATER OF A FINE ART (!!) and my fam rolls into town in a few hours. So I will be taking a much-needed step away from the Internet for a few days while I celebrate, and also say goodbye to New York. I depart for the beach in t-minus 6 days, and I'm not sure when I'm coming back. (Though I am most definitely coming back. I would miss it far too much to leave for good. And, uh, my apartment is here.) So there's a lot of old haunts to hit before I do. If you're in New York, let's get together to say goodbye. Next time you all get this, it'll be coming from sunny Maryland! Writing summer, here I come.
Must-read of the week: "My Family's Slave": The late journalist Alex Tizon, who passed away in March before this piece ran, finally wrote a story he's been plagued by for years: About Lola, the Filipino woman who lived with his family for 56 years, raised him and his siblings, cleaned, cooked, and took care of everything for no pay; and how he, realizing as a teen what she was—a slave, "given" to his mother at age 12 by his grandfather when growing up in the Philippines—tried to reconcile with that, eventually taking care of Lola and burying her in Manila. THIS is what great storytelling is. (35 mins).
This week in longreads: "Paris Hilton Invented Everything You're Doing in 2017, And She Knows It": Never forget that before Kim Kardashian was a mogul, she was Paris Hilton's lacky. The OG "famous for being famous" star, Hilton did it all first: The franchised personal brand, the reality show, the trend-setting, the selfies. Now, at 36, she's a billionaire with her own company and two hotels—and watching as aughts style returns and Kendall and Kylie imitate her old looks (11 mins). "Is An Open Marriage A Happier Marriage?": Monogamy doesn't always work. We know this. But now, more and more people are starting to accept that there can be a little fluidity with the concept, without dissolving a partnership. A really well-researched dive into modern relationships that decided to open up, and how it's helped them despite hardships (30 mins). "Harry Styles Isn't Following The Pop Star Playbook": Ok, don't @ me, but I'm rather enjoying the new Harry Styles album. I know, I was confused to find I felt so, too. But it makes sense—he didn't become a mega star as 1/5 of One Direction on looks alone. This piece, which I loved, explores how Styles is going solo differently than most ex-boy band members, straying into semi-outdated rock territory (think The Eagles). It's good, but in a world where EDM and pop are lightyears ahead of "real" rock on the charts, will it work? "Tokyo Plays Itself": Theme cafes proliferate in Tokyo, but, like Times Square isn't real New York, they play to a western "weird random Tokyo" idea of the city. Begun as distractions from two decades of a bad economy, they now stand as a symbol of a Japanese identity crisis (9 mins). "Five Years On, America Still Doesn't Know What To Do With Florida Georgia Line": My fab friend Nick Murray wrote a v funny piece about the band responsible for the birth of bro-country, Florida Georgia Line, and how, while they've spawned a whole terrible sub-genre of Nashville music (and turned Fireball into a THING), the band themselves is still all over the place... kind of like America? (12 mins) "Did Disney Ruin Pixar?": Yes, tbh. The movie studio responsible for the best animated films of all time—Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up, Wall-e, and more—that blended heartfelt (adult) emotions with children-pleasing animations was a success because it wouldn't let parent company Disney interfere, working with a highly concentrated team of creatives to produce its best film. Then, Disney bought it—and the shoddy sequels started rolling in. An interesting look at the way animated films get green-lit, and how they succeed (or don't) (9 mins). "The Strokes Oral History": Major LOL piece. In their heyday (2002–2005 ish), The Strokes were everything, and their first album, This is It, is still one of the best aughts rock albums. But the band failed pretty soon after, mostly because they just could not get their shit together, as this piece laughably shows with lines like: "I’m sorry I killed everyone’s dreams. I don’t know if they’re still mad at me" and[Fabrizio Moretti is] "such a bored rock star" (11 mins). "How Homeownership Became The Engine of American Inequality": For a long time, owning a home was seen as the symbol of making it, and tax codes responded in kind—home owners get a major tax break, whereas renters are stuck with paying more. The problem is that most renters don't own a home because they can't afford one or aren't in a situation to, meaning that, once again, tax laws benefit the privileged (25 mins). "The Bloodlines of America Run Through The Kentucky Derby": A weekend inside the Derby's festivities, including a celebrity-studded gala, the trainer's betting rooms, an old Black woman-run bar that used to host a festival commemorating forgotten black jockeys, and the sad, gross debauchery of Churchill Downs itself will make you reconsider the nostalgic pageantry of our famous horserace (14 mins).
This week in everything is political: If you didn't read the TIME profile on Trump last week, now's a good time to do it; it's a pretty spare depiction of a man who is first and foremost concerned with his ego and very unconcerned with knowing exactly how the government works. How online privacy is becoming a luxury only the rich and powerful can afford. On Mother's Day: "More than anything, I wish the sentiments we express for the women in treasured photographs were better reflected in statistics and policies." A joking-but-not-joking take on the real meaning of "not political." A therapist's advice on dealing in the age of Trump: "Positive thinking, when misplaced, is infuriating and unhelpful. Believing that “everything will be okay” sets us up for despair, because each new time things are not okay, we feel beaten down again."
This week in culture: Oh my god, YES, Polly on feeling like men are too intimidated to date strong women: "People who are afraid of their feelings like to tell very clear, sad, predictable stories to explain everything that’s happened and everything that’s going to happen. People who are afraid of their feelings are everywhere. Fear them. But don’t fear men. Don’t fear rejection. Don’t fear your own messiness and your own awesomeness. Every single trait you carry around is not a predictor of whether or not you’ll find love. You don’t need to read a census report to understand what happens next. You need to accept the fact that you don’t know what happens next." The music world was buzzing about the release of queer indie duo PWR BTTM's new album... until, on the day of its release, sexual assault allegations came out, and they're now toast—and seen as traitors to a loving, fostering scene. Mama June got a makeover (on a makeover TV show, of course) but it was less about her weight and more PR damage control. What happens when Malala grows up? Inside Colonial Williamsburg's luxury "historical" spa that's actually not super accurate since white people didn't bathe back then—only their slaves did. A brief interview with The National (<3) on their upcoming album, Sleep Well Beast, politics in music, and being more relaxed about songwriting. It's really hard to run a restaurant in Big Sur. The rise of the shishito pepper. A cooler way to donate to Planned Parenthood: Buy this (admittedly not cheap) box set of custom songs, talks, and skits by famous artists.
Songs of the week:"Have To Forgive" by The Building is one of the single most beautifully written songs I've ever heard and will get to you in all which ways. "They Say" by Chance The Rapper is another stunner from the Chicago kid du jour. Courtney Barnett is BACK with "How to Boil An Egg", a very her track. "Fool's Errand" by Fleet Foxes is a return to the gentle, sprawling Pac-Northwest vibes that is very soothing right now. "Anymore" by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is vaguely Smiths-ish? but good.
Album of the week: Honestly, there aren't a lot of new albums out right now so you might as well give the Harry Styles album a shot.
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