Depending on where you live, the winter weather is probably at a weird transitioning stage right now. For a lot of us Northeasterners, there's been a weird mix of winter weather with uncommonly warm days-- Mother Nature ultimately toying with us. To help you prepare for the guaranteed warm days ahead and to free yourself of any lingering “winter blues,” here's a compilation of dance-y songs, all groovy in their own right. From some old school Walk The Moon, to the contemporary R&B stylings of Anderson .Paak to an alternative Drake cover by Baltimore band Modern Nomad, there's a little bit of everything to put some spring in your step. Listen here.
text, visual and playlist: lydia velazquez
Here is the thing about Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia: it shouldn’t work. Actually, it doesn’t work in a number of places. And it’s in those places that it somehow works best. Coming into the movie, I thought I was pretty damn smart. Thought I might major in film and could tell you the thematic weight that fell with Kane’s last whisper of “Rosebud.” I wanted everything to mean something. A tight little analysis I could type up and turn in for an elective course. Everything with rhyme and reason and easily explained over coffee when I wanted to hear myself talk. Pretty damn smart.
Magnolia was smarter. Released in 1999 to positive reviews and audience walkouts, it either had your number or it didn’t. I felt like I’d written mine on a bathroom wall. The film tracks roughly 10 characters of varying ages and fame (Tom Cruise! Julianne Moore! Philip Seymour Hoffman!) over one day in the San Fernando Valley. They are all somewhat distantly related to one another, like six degrees of separation but without Kevin Bacon. It is over three hours long and at the end — blink if you don’t want spoilers — frogs rain down from the sky.
I wasn’t introduced to the film so much as it was transmitted to me through osmosis, bit by bit, by my father, for years, until I finally sat down and re-learned everything I thought I knew about how things should work, feel, and end. When I was eleven, he showed me a scene from smack dab in the middle of the movie, with no context, in which each and every one of the characters is seen singing along to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up.” The movie is not a musical. It made my dad, who was, to my eleven year old self, a giant and possibly made of stone or unbendable metal, cry. I was knocked off balance.
I came into Magnolia looking for a story I could pick apart later until it was bleached bones and muscle. Empty but for beginning, middle, end. Like they teach in intro writing classes or around the carpet in kindergarten. Magnolia gives you beginning, middle, beginning, middle, middle, beginning. Until you finally get to: End? Or maybe beginning again. I couldn’t tell you. That’s the fun of it, the thread that tugs and makes the whole thing move. Who cares if the rug unravels when you’re having so much fun watching it come apart?
Magnolia, for all its strange Biblical allusions and endless IMDb trivia page, is not trying to preach anything. There is not anything to figure out or to know or to conclusively understand. It didn’t try to teach me right from wrong. The last shot, without giving too much away, reveals no truths worthy of bringing down the mountain. You can’t, in fact, even hear any of the dialogue because Aimee Mann’s Oscar-nominated “Save Me” is playing too loud. But there is a moment, just before the camera goes black, where the character on the screen — a twenty-something blonde who has tugged both pity and annoyance and pity again from audiences brave enough to make it through — looks directly into the camera. Aimee hits a guitar-riff hard before the next chorus. The blonde smiles, just a little, just a turn of the lips. Cut to black.
It’s nothing and it’s enough. It is not pretty or perfect or even exactly profound. But it hits where it hurts, presses just above some hidden bruise. It feels good, like hope and flowers under dirt. It doesn’t feel like a revelation or a lesson. I cannot for the life of me tell you what any of it means. If it’s about anything, it is things that are best left unexplained.
After it was over, my dad asked if I wanted to hear his theory on the frogs. On what the biblical allusions were saying and whether the relationship between the cop and the coke-head was meant to teach us something about saviors. Remember, I was always the one who wanted to tell you about “Rosebud.”
“No,” I said, breathing it all in through my open mouth. “I really, really don’t.”
And he smiled. Cut to black.
text: jadie stillwell
In honor of March being Women’s History Month, I wanted to talk about an interesting aspect of women’s history, and how it’s evolved over time—embroidery. Needlework has a long and interesting history as a practice, and it has become more and more of an art form since gaining popularity again. So, after a little bit of history, I’m going to introduce you to some of my favorite embroidery artists and makers of today. Maybe by the end of it, you’ll be inspired to pick up a needle and embroidery hoop of your own!
Since it became common, embroidery and similar needlework have been considered “women’s work.” Samplers were all the rage during the Victorian era of the 20th century—usually including letters or phrases, and examples of a variety of stitches (hence the term sampler, as each one contained samples of different embroidery skills a woman had). Some even say that a sampler acted as a sort of ‘romantic resumé,’ if you will; young women used samplers as a way to show off status and skill to potential suitors. As for samplers today, they’re more confined to the make-believe world of American Girl dolls, but embroidery itself is by no means a thing of the past. In fact, it has become more than just a skill, but a rallying point, to an extent, for feminist artists of all kinds: taking control of the idea of “women’s work,” and using it to empower women across the world.
I, for one, have been doing embroidery for many years, although I don’t remember quite when I started. I’ve spent years practicing and expanding my skills, embroidering patches and clothes for myself, my friends, and to sell. Over the past couple of years, I’ve even incorporated embroidery and thread itself into my artwork, especially as an undergraduate art student.
Today, across Instagram, Etsy, and beyond, embroidery takes many forms, whether it be patches and home goods, or even large-scale art pieces. Below is the work of some of my favorite leading ladies currently in the embroidery world.
Babyface Press: Babyface Press is the work of Caroline Mills. Caroline makes beautifully detailed embroidery hoop art, with a healthy dose of feminist imagery for good measure. A quote from her Etsy shop About page sums up her work perfectly: “I enjoy taking a form of craft associated with sexless stay-at-home moms and submissive housewives and flipping it on its head. I love the subversion of infusing blatant feminine sexuality in to the craft of embroidery and making something taboo adorable.” You can find the three featured embroidery pieces available here, in the Babyface Press shop (that is, if I don’t buy them first)!
Botanical Threads: Botanical Threads is one of my favorite shops on Etsy, with hand-embroidered shirts, bralettes, sweaters, accessories, and home goods galore, all with an emphasis on the natural world. The work is incredibly detailed, and features everything from gorgeous plant life and insects to fungi and venus-like “plant-empaths.” You can check out more here.
Baobap Handmade: Baobap Handmade is the exquisite work of İrem Yazıcı. The level of detail in her work is truly jaw-dropping, especially when you consider their practically infinitesimal size. Ms. Yazıcı has only been a practicing embroiderer since 2014, which is remarkable in regard to her skill level. Also, she is self-taught, which makes her work even more incredible. Her shop features all kinds of beautiful and quirky accessories, like collars, collar pins, and stunning clutches and small purses. Check her work out here, or request a custom order.
Hanecdote: One of the most notable artists in embroidery today is the incomparable Hannah Hill—the brilliant and talented artist behind the popular Instagram account, @hanecdote. I love her sense of humor in her work (the Arthur meme is a perfect example), but by far my favorite aspect of her work is how she incorporates all kinds of traditionally taboo—yet important—topics in her work, from self-love to mental health to heavy periods. It is my personal belief that Hannah Hill is the definition of an up-and-coming artist; I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her work in a museum one day soon. Follow her on Instagram, if you don’t already—you won’t regret it.
For more on embroidery, check out Kailey Boucher's interview with embroidery artist and creator of the Travelling Feminist Fiber Art show Iris Nectar here.
text: jackie andrews
visuals: babyface press, botanical threads, baobaphandmade, and hannah hill/hanecdote
Mating Ritual, an alt-pop-rock group formed by Ryan Marshall Lawhon out of the aftermath of his previous short-lived band Pacific Air, is one that prides itself on its dedication to pure creativity without getting caught in the constraints of genre categorization or traditional music release formatting. The band’s debut album How You Gonna Stop It? is divided into two halves and has two release dates to allow time for every track to be fully enjoyed.
How You Gonna Stop It? Vol. One expands on the band’s signature approach to human emotion by looking at the broader themes of 2016 under a microscope. Lawhon asks, “When does self love become narcissism? Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Does it matter?” Through these questions, Mating Ritual asks them of the band’s audience too, questioning the stances of their listeners on political problems of the day.
The band pulls 80s synths and 90s bass into their signature dance beats to get their message across in a catchy, provocative manner. The album’s opener, the eponymous “How You Gonna Stop It?,” questions a friend’s motives for continuing to act like a kid despite growing old, while “American Muscle” loudly asks, “Can anybody hear my voice?/Am I just screaming into the void?” Each of these two songs ponders the meaning of the bubble people build around themselves that disconnects their world from the outside. “Look the Other Way” brings attention to the intentional misunderstanding and lack of empathetic listening to the other side’s view that characterized much of political and social debates last year. “Fake It” further draws attention to this point by chanting “You can play your tune, but can you shake it like me?” “Night Lies” uses a big, crashing chorus to question a lover’s motives, bringing up past lies and wondering about the chance of a future. Volume One finishes with “Swim,” a nonchalant look at the end of the world as we know it.
How You Gonna Stop It? Vol. One is a solid first half of a debut, and with its timely, pointed political commentary on human reactions, it will be interesting to see how their content develops on the second half of their release.
text: kate klassa
visual: mating ritual
When discussing Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, it’s hard not to use cliché terms like “whimsical" because it is just that-- but in a very unexpected, un-cliché way.
The French film follows Amélie (Audrey Tautou), an emotionally isolated young woman who works in a small bar in Montmartre. After finding a box of childhood trinkets hidden in her apartment and reuniting the box with the now middle aged owner, Amélie is overcome by a newfound desire to help those around her and to create a memorable life for herself and others. Yet while helping others, Amélie loses sight of the importance of pleasing herself, particularly in regards to her muddled romantic efforts to pursue Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz), a loner in his own right who works at a sex shop.
One of the many aspects of the film that I find to be appealing is the complexities of it. When most people think of Parisian life, they assume it to be softer and slower than anywhere else, but Amélie's life is just as chaotic, if not more, than any other young woman's life. What makes Amélie’s life different, however, is how her imagination and empathy (results of a lonely childhood) take control of and often influence her actions and how she solves problems.
In regards to the film’s incorporation of the imaginative, it is worth noting the film's breaking of the fourth wall, but particularly in the way it's done. The narrator, for one, speaks directly to the audience, but there are also quick moments in which characters will speak directly to the audience or look (or even smile) into the camera. It feels less like breaking and more like tapping on the fourth wall.
Another notable aspect of the film is the beauty of the dialogue, or sometimes the lack of. It's important that any watcher know that, as mentioned, the film is French and therefore in French. So unless you're fluent, you'll need subtitles-- but after the first few scenes you'll be so enchanted by the story you will forget you're even reading. There is also a good chunk of scenes in which there is little to no dialogue, but the actors convey the unspoken dialogue clearly, with their expressive movements that make even the most complex of feelings evident. Considering the obscurity of the plot and the characters respectively, each conversation is so strange and unexpected.
An interaction that particularly sticks with me is between Nino and the man in a photo which Amélie gives to him. Nino's imagination taking a hold of him as he questions the man in the picture as to who the mysterious girl (Amélie) is and what she wants from him. The man beckons to Nino: “No, you dope! She’s in love!” “I don’t even know her,” replies Nino. “You do!" urges the photo. “Since when?” “Since always. In your dreams.”
As for the visuals of the film, I really take my hat off to Bruno Delbonnel-- the cinematography depicts Paris as beautiful and quirky as it is and as one would hope it'd be. The film makes use of a lot of camera movement and skewed angles to help convey the energy and excitement within the film. There is also a sort of yellow tint to the picture that gives off an aged but warm feeling, once again adding to the appeal and nostalgia of the work.
Amélie is no doubt a film for the hopeless romantic, the child-at-heart, and just about anyone else who wants to smile.
text: lydia velazquez
Max Donahue is a teenage designer from Massachusetts. I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about his inspiration, the process that goes into his silk screened graphic tees, and his plans for the future.
Adele Sakey: How did you enter into the world of fashion? What sparked your passion?Max Donahue: When I was younger I would play with dolls and make dresses out of paper. As I got older, I stopped. I was afraid of being made fun of for liking things that were typically associated with girls. Throughout my education, I realized that high school is the worst and the topics I was studying didn’t make me happy. During my junior year, I started designing clothes and I realized that was the direction I wanted to go in.
A: Who or what inspires you and influences your work? (Either other fashion designers, music, art, etc)?
M: Alexander McQueen and his life inspire me so much; I love him. I also always admire couture designers because I love the intricacy of their designs. In terms of art, I love Alberto Giacometti. His style of drawing is similar to mine and the way he sees the human figure is interesting to me. With music, Frank Ocean is someone who always makes me think; I love his lyrics.
A: I noticed on your website that you make silk-screened graphic tees. Can you talk a little about the process that goes into making them and how you come up with the designs?M: My shirts come from drawings in my sketchbook. I sketch them out and then scan them into Photoshop, where I edit them so they can be printed in black and white. I make the silk screens and then I can print the designs on to the shirts. The designs for my first series of shirts were inspired by different ways messages could be sent. I thought about how drawings and art could be used to say something, and also how messages could be sent in ways that not everyone can understand. Currently I’m working on a new series of shirts, which are inspired by love and the sociopolitical situation our country is in right now.
A: What is your favorite piece that you’ve ever created?
M: My favorite piece I’ve ever made was a dress I made last summer. It’s titled Paris Black and was my final project from a course I took at Parsons Paris. I was able to shoot the dress with my friend Dasha. Dasha was so fun to photograph and presented my dress really nicely; she’s gorgeous and we worked well together. The whole experience of making that dress and photographing it in Paris is something I’ll never forget.
A: What are your favorite current trends in fashion?
M: I love platform shoes right now. Marc Jacobs did really dramatic platform boots last spring which I loved; I love seeing platform shoes across different brands, from Fenty by Rihanna to Alexander McQueen platform sneakers. I also love how (faux!) fur is being used more frequently as an accent for pieces, i.e. seeing fur sleeves on a jacket.
A: Where do you see/hope to see the world of fashion progressing to in the future?M: I hope that designers keep using their voices and working to change society. I think it’s an artist’s job to create in times of injustice, and with America’s political situation right now, I think fashion can make the people’s voices heard. What you wear inherently makes a statement, so I hope that fashion will progress by continuing to express our feelings through clothes.
A: What are your goals for the future of YOUR fashion career?M: I want to make the most of my education at Parsons starting next year, and I really want to understand the industry more. Long term, I would love to have my own label, but we’ll see where things go. Right now I want to gain experience and start building my career by learning and working with other designers.
text: adele sakey
visuals: max donahue