COMEDY: "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" - Mike Birbiglia
This hour-long comedy special is a masterclass in the art of storytelling. While Birbiglia's acts are all designed to come full-circle, with a line used in the first few minutes repeated at the end to provide closure to the performance, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" capitalizes on this circuitous style with uniquely neurotic aplomb. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll go no further than to say WATCH IT. NOW. It's on Netflix, so no excuses.
ALBUM: "Pure Heroine" - Lorde
Lorde is just a few months younger and a half-shade pastier than me, so it's safe to say we're kindred spirits, whether or not she's aware of our psychic connection. While her vocal stylings are unprecedented, her tracks dance-worthy, and her performance style fascinatingly zany, it's her lyrics that ensure her eternal royal status. Not only does each line cut like a diamond and each song complete a narrative, but each track works symbiotically with its compatriots to create one of the most complete album of this decade. While I have some distaste for the girls on Tumblr who love to point out Lorde's "genius" with affected shock and awe, they're right to point out this remarkable fact: The first line of the album asks, "Don't you think it's boring how people talk?" and the last line answers, "Let 'em talk."
TED TALK: "The Power of Vulnerability" - Brene Brown
I can't stand digital clutter. While my room may be a mess with clothes and books strewn about, my Google Drive and Chrome bookmarks and Spotify playlists are all carefully cleaned and curated. One bookmark I've never deleted, merely dusted around for years, is Brene Brown's wonderful Ted talk on vulnerability. Since I found it in 2010, I've seen the talk at least a dozen times and I except to see it at least 100 more in this lifetime. Like the other works mentioned in this list, Brene tells a story, her story in fact, and in doing so, she fortifies her audience. Through her tale of her academic discoveries and personal turmoil, she emboldens us, asking us to vulnerable, to open ourselves to others and therein expose ourselves to pain, but also to incredible joy. In a world where we craft armor out of social media profiles, make-up and fashion, and other trick of light available to us, it is a good reminder that stripping ourselves of the modern-day manifestations of age-old breastplates and gauntlets might actually help us to be our best selves.
YOUTUBE SERIES: The Cut's 100 Years of Beauty
This series, the most recent installment of which was released on Monday, attempts to take viewers through 100 years of beauty trends in various countries. So far, The Cut has released two videos of beauty in the United States, one detailing white trends, the other black; one video on Iran; and a third showing trends in both North and South Korea. While each video is a fun way to pass a few minutes, if taken seriously, it has the spectacular weight of an art history course. Just like Botticelli's paintings, the segments can be watched for their aesthetic value, or for the insights they provide into a given time and place. Viewers are able to send in their suggestions for the next country's trends they'd like to see deconstructed. I can't wait to see what comes next.
NEW TV SHOW: "Jane the Virgin"
"Jane the Virgin" is a tough sell. I want to talk about the love between the characters, about the way the writers play with their form creating a potent elixir mixing Arrested Development's experimental gravitas with The West Wing's emotional heft, and about the importance of a women of color leading a bilingual show that somehow engages all audiences. But before I talk about the show's virtues, I am always forced to explain its basic premise, and its basic premise isn't so basic. It's about a young woman who is saving herself for marriage and then is artificially inseminated by mistake. She's the Virgin Mary, except her life isn't playing out in the New Testament, it's the plot for a neo-telenovela on The CW. Like I said, a tough sell. But regardless of the difficulty, I'm determined. I will discuss Jane's virtues for as long as she is virtuous, because "Jane the Virgin" is one of the most tender and hilarious shows on television and we need more shows like it.
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