Cultrface is a blog about culture and how it can enrich our lives.

9/21/21

I’ve been waiting months for this and it’s finally here. So sad that it’s the last one but what a send-off.

For those who don’t know, Demi Adejuyigbe has been making videos to commemorate 21st September, the date Earth, Wind & Fire sang about in ‘September‘, and to donate to various charities over the years. They’ve become more elaborate as time has gone on and today’s was his last.

This year’s charities are

  • West Fund – a west Texas abortion fund that uses collective resources to uplift border communities.
  • Sunrise – a climate change advocacy group
  • Imagine Water Works – a Mutual Aid Response Network in New Orleans that helps people during floods, storms, and other natural and manmade disasters.

You can donate to any or all of them using this link and watch all 6 of his 9/21 videos on YouTube.

Rachel Syme on Michelle Pfeiffer's considered career

For The New Yorker, Rachel Syme interviewed Michelle Pfeiffer about her life and career which hasn’t followed the same kinds of paths most Hollywood actresses have taken (on purpose):

You’ve given different reasons over the years why you don’t love being interviewed, but the one that stuck with me is that you were always afraid people would “find you out.” That if you told too much, you’d be exposed as a fraud.

Well, that’s typically my fear about my performances, that this will be the performance I will be discovered as the fraud that I have known all along that I am. That really comes from not being classically trained. I didn’t go to Juilliard. I didn’t study a lot. I studied in workshops and things like that, but I didn’t come from the theatre. There was a real snobbery when I started acting. In fact, one of my first jobs was a television show, and I played the blonde bombshell where I had fake breasts and was in hot pants, I didn’t even have a name, she was just called “the bombshell.” I was working with a lot of actors who were all from New York. I just felt really unworthy, and I think that never leaves you.

In terms of my discomfort with doing interviews, I think it’s early on not understanding the difference between things that you say, and the way things look in print, and things coming off in a way that was not your intention. I think you just get really guarded. I just had a hard time even formulating a sentence because I was so guarded.

When people talk about Michelle Pfeiffer and wonder why she wasn’t “bigger” (whatever that’s supposed to mean in any context), I think of Daniel Day-Lewis. Now retired, he was an actor who chose his roles carefully, was notorious for his method acting and that time he went to Italy to become a shoemaker. He won awards and was applauded for his journey. But somehow Michelle Pfeiffer is questioned for being careful and considered and choosing her own paths alongside her career and parenthood. We know what the difference is between them (and it’s interesting that they both starred together in The Age of Innocence and how their careers diverged and converged since then) but the criticism is unfounded.

Oh, and that TV role where she played a blonde bombshell? That was in episode 12 of Delta House, a TV spin-off of National Lampoon’s Animal House. Stream that below.

Delta House - Episode 12 - Hoover and the Bomb (Animal House Spin-off/Sequel)

Language without emojis

Clo S. of This Too Shall Grow went two weeks without using emojis and chronicled her experiment:

On the first day of my experiment, I was already worrying that I wasn’t warm enough, or wasn’t conveying my reactions well enough. On the second day, I missed using emojis. It hadn’t even been 48 hours, but the good stuff comes when you push through, so I kept at it. On the third day, finally, I started feeling good about this. I wrote:

“This is actually cool, I don’t know if I want to get back to emojis. Maybe I just needed to get the habit out of my system.”

No shit, Sherlock.

In the first few days, I did have to edit emojis out of my messages, as I was using them reflexively. During this experiment, I pondered about the importance of emojis to convey banter, being concerned that without them, I’d simply come across as mean.

I could probably do two weeks but it’d be tough and I’d worry if I was coming across as cold and distant. But if you asked me to stop saying “lol” and “haha” at the end of sentences? Big struggle. I was talking to a friend the other day who’d asked me how I was and we talked about how we used “lol” to cushion the blow of expressing less-than-pleasant feelings. It’s a crutch, for sure, and emojis add a certain flavour to our digital conversations, for good or bad.

Emoji related: Standards Manual’s new book dedicated to late 90s Japanese emojis

Ricardo Junqueira's Lisbon lobby photography

A photo of an old-style tiled lobby in Lisbon.

The Spaces interviewed Ricardo Junqueira, a man with a love for photography and Lisbon’s vibrant lobby areas:

Brazilian photographer Ricardo Junqueira relocated to Lisbon in 2012 and got his start shooting for Airbnb. ‘As tourism bloomed, I had the chance to capture more residential spaces – I photographed around 2000 Lisbon houses’, says Junqueira. ‘The variety I find at people’s homes is so spectacular and impressive – like a [built] “biodiversity manifesto”, so the entryways are like a chapter in this romance.’

[…]

What do you look for in a building or a shot?

I’m interested in diversity, and I am fascinated by the richness of ordinary things. I was born in Brasília, surrounded by great modern architecture, which has influenced how I appreciate architecture. Photographers and architects have something in common – the need to organise things in a limited space. I look at shapes and arrange them in a harmonious way inside the rectangle.

Portuguese tile and Lisbon related: Porto’s Banco de Materiais and its azulejos and a love letter to Lisbon

Zack Handlen's review of 'Marge Be Not Proud' is superb

I’ve never got into episode reviews for TV series, especially for shows like the Simpsons (mostly because I don’t watch new episodes and why would I want to read someone else’s opinion on a show I already love?) Except there’s good reason—you can learn something new. And I did when I read Zack Handlen’s review of ‘Marge Be Not Proud’, the 11th episode from Season 7 (aired in 1995). In a nutshell, Bart wants a video game, can’t get it, sees his friends steal it, gives into peer pressure, does the same, gets caught and tries to hide it from his parents. The main theme of the episode was the love of a mother for her son and examining what could possibly break it (or at least damage it a little). We also saw the effects of Bart wanting something so badly that he did something unthinkable, even for him. Where Handlen excels is digging into those themes further from each stage of the episode:

“Marge Be Not Proud” is, at heart, about being a kid, and about how something you want so desperately, so badly that it’s killing you, no really, it is honest to god killing you right now how much you want this—how that sort of wanting isn’t the same as needing. And how easy it is to take for granted that your parents will always treat you the same way, no matter what; how corny and annoying and, gah, lame Moms can be, right up until they aren’t there anymore. There’s a fundamental stasis to the core relationships of The Simpsons. Homer and Marge will always be married; Maggie will always be the baby; Lisa and Bart will always be in grade school; and so on. Bart’s never going to hit his teenage years, find drugs, maybe dabble around in punk for a while, date someone with lip-piercings, or lose his driver’s license. But this episode, however briefly, gives a sense of what it make be like for him to get older and break his mother’s heart, when he’s still young enough to feel that loss.

I’ve been in this situation before and, although it was fleeting, it hurt like hell. It’s a stereotypical notion that mothers love their children unconditionally (emphasis on ‘stereotype’ as this is not an unbreakable rule). Kids test their parents and get away with a lot but that one time you don’t is the worst.

While some fans felt the shoplifting element was too pointed and “more of an afterschool special” (I literally saw two comments like that and I don’t get it), it made sense. Bart’s character is based around being bad and getting in with some of the baddest kids in the school who steal and use fake IDs. Of course he’d find himself in that position and cross the line he’d toed for years (that’s human years, not Simpsons years). We always knew there’d be a happy ending because bad times never last longer than an episode (not including ‘Who Shot Montgomery Burns?‘) but the journey towards that resolution was the interesting part. And there were plenty of jokes in there, my favourite being Homer’s meandering diatribe at Bart for stealing.

Stealing, how could you?! Haven’t you learned anything from that guy who gives sermons at church, Captain what’s his name? We live in a society of laws! Why do you think I took you to all those Police Academy movies? For fun? Well, I didn’t hear anybody laughing! Did you? Except at that guy who made sound effects. Where was I? Oh yeah, stay outta my booze!

And I’ll leave it there.

Simpsons video game related: Play 3 Video Games Featured On The Simpsons

Zito Madu on learning French

This is now the third time I’ve covered Zito Madu on one of my blogs (see his features on Playrface and Sampleface). Here, he discussed his year of learning French in 2020:

Marseille is a beautiful city, as most cities by the sea and with ancient architecture, large churches and cathedrals tend to be (not to mention Le Corbusier’s city within the city). It seems like a place built for pictures, and it’s no surprise that there is an infinite number of pictures of it online from the prescribed tourist vantage points. Being in the city, though, I still felt the urge to document what I saw and add to that ever-growing collection of images depicting the city from an outsider’s perspective. I walked from Saint Charles station to Old Port, across Le Panier, through Cite Radieuse, to the Velodrome stadium, and then to the Notre-Dame de la Garde, taking all the necessary photos along the way.

The city is also known for its crime—people who heard I was going there offered advice not just on where to visit, but where to avoid. I walked around for days and looked at all those spectacles and spots engineered for a tourist to be amazed at, but I also went to those places that I was told not to go. It wasn’t so much an act of rebellion or thrill-seeking—Marseille is a city of immigrants, proudly so, and I figured that the people in those shunned places were probably people like me, only separated by luck and the cruelty of Western borders. It felt incorrect to think of a city as beautiful without seeing the people who make it possible, those who are often hidden away from the bubble of tourism.

I was right. Walking through those narrow streets in my black tracksuit, I fit the image of many of the people there. The problem was that I couldn’t speak to anyone. So I declared that I would learn French, because I wanted to live there, and I wanted to be with those people, to talk to, learn from, help, and suffer with them.

A few weeks ago, I posted about the romance of language learning and while there is a connection of love between the two, this is less an affair and more a deeper humanitarian love. Although the learning journey didn’t turn out how he wanted, that aim and passion for Marseille still remain and I wish him good luck in the future.

Liam Wong – After Dark

Liam Wong's After Dark book

We’ve featured Liam Wong previously and now he’s back with a new book called “After Dark”.

After Dark is a one-of-a-kind publication documenting Wong’s nocturnal journeys through the world’s most captivating cities. Following his début monograph, TO:KY:OO, which captured Tokyo’s beauty at night, Wong widens his lens from the city that became his spiritual and photographic muse to Osaka to Kyoto, London to Seoul, Paris and Rome. But he goes still further, seeking the rich tapestries of night-life in the foggy historical streets of his hometown Edinburgh, penetrating the backstreets of the megacity Chongqing, seizing the verticality of Hong Kong from its rooftops.

In classic Liam Wong style, the book has been crafted with a meticulous eye for detail. I particularly like the cinematic feel of the shots and the custom typeface, designed by Toshi Omagari exclusively for the book. 

If you love photography or cinematography, you’ll love After Dark. A crowdfunding project was set up by Volume and met its goal within 48 hours. You can still pledge for a copy here.

The natural photography of Théo de Gueltzl

Théo de Gueltzl is a Paris-born photographer who has found himself in a lot of different place since he left his native France.

When we last spoke to Théo in 2017, he was living in Bogota following a road trip he had undertaken from Los Angeles, through Mexico, and into South America. There he established a studio and began planning his future trips. He had “the bug for travelling” and, four years later, he still does. His recent photographic work is full of far-flung landscapes and portraits of different communities. This kind of work, he says, is integral to his practice and is the very reason he continues to pick up his camera. “I think I have been very much driven towards telling the stories of communities from other parts of the world in the hope of helping to preserve the diversity of culture,” he explains. “In a time where we are all looking at the world through the same filtered window, and living on a planet that is always growing and changing, I like the idea that photographs can act as proof, carrying information about how people lived in a certain place at a certain time.”

via It’s Nice That

Théo’s passion lies in nature and its richness. You’ll find jungles, beaches, lakes, and foliage in his work and beautiful backdrops to complement them.

Follow him on Instagram for more.

A review of Emily Rapp Black's book, 'Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg'

Sophia Stewart reviewed Emily Rapp Black’s new book, ‘Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg’ for Hyperallergic:

The question that propels Emily Rapp Black’s Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is simple and self-implicating: “Why do we (I) love Frida?” Throughout the book’s fourteen loosely-linked essays, Black lays claim to Kahlo for unique reason: like the painter became later in life, Black is an amputee, and both women’s lives were shaped by physical disability. In her youth, the author formed what she calls “the perfect imaginary friendship” with Kahlo. “I chose to try and understand the story of her body as a way of knowing or accessing mine,” Black writes, “as if the story of her life set out a path or trail that, no matter how difficult, I might follow.” Latching onto public figures like this is common among young disabled people, who are desperate to find other people in the world like us, to trace a possible road map for our own lives. Still Black admits the limits of an attachment to a woman who “lives only in the terrain of my imagination where I set all the terms of the story.”

But what about the rest of Kahlo’s legion of fans? Few, if any, other artists have become objects of such intense parasocial affection. Kahlo’s disembodied likeness adorns lipsticks, coasters, aprons, magnets, leggings, notebooks, keychains, backpacks, even Christmas ornaments. (Full disclosure: I have previously owned a Kahlo-emblazoned pencil case, t-shirt, pair of socks, and sticky-note pad; I still display her “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” in my bedroom.) Surely the outspoken communist would have abhorred the commercialization of her image and art. But what would she make of how her life has been interpreted, packaged, and flattened by her own admirers?

Hero worship is commonplace with the ever-evolving popularity of social media and the need to show the world and fellow fans that they love their fave and they’re better than yours. But with that adulation comes problematic behaviours, misguided quotes, and misunderstood ideologies. Frida Kahlo is no exception.

The pioneering designs of Thomas Miller

Motorola, Bauer & Black, and 7 Up—just some of the names that Thomas Miller worked on during his career at Goldsholl Associates. He’s also best known for his mosaics in the lobby of the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago. The Black American designer worked on everything from logo design to animation, but, like many of his peers in the 20th century, his journey was fraught with racism:

“I had to be super-qualified,” he told Fitzpatrick. “I took things in art that weren’t necessary, like airbrushing and retouching and things you didn’t have to do because I wanted to be prepared in case someone would ask me to. They couldn’t use that as an excuse for me being not qualified.” In the design profession, he discovered another rigid color line: a racism more genteel than a Klan march but no less degrading for the young professional. The Ray-Vogue School, for instance, limited the number of Black students who could enroll. On the job market, Miller experienced racism in moments that could have come from the pages of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. “You’re very talented,” one prospective employer told Miller. “Too bad you are so dark.” Another suggested he could work but only behind a screen, out of sight from clients. 

via AIGA Eye on Design

AIGA awarded Miller the 2021 AIGA Medal for his pioneering work in the design industry.

Read more about Thomas Miller on the Chicago Design Archive website and SoulFul Design.

Rikki Byrd on the anti-Black history of American department stores

I, like many other Black people, have been followed around stores for no reason other than my race. Add general anxiety to the mix and that makes me feel even more uncomfortable to just… browse. Rikki Byrd chronicled this anti-Black racism for Vox, via the depiction of Marshall Field’s in the hit series, Lovecraft Country:

Set in 1950s Chicago, Lovecraft Country’s deliberate insertion of Marshall Field’s exemplifies the show’s commitment to blending horror, magic, and science fiction with historical references to explore racial injustices faced by Black people in the US. Ruby’s determination to work at Marshall Field’s not only references racial discrimination in department stores writ large, but her persistent return to this store specifically is reflective of its impact on the city.

Now a Macy’s in downtown Chicago, Marshall Field’s was once a pillar in the Windy City, transforming the retail experience from merely an errand to an outing worth looking forward to. From its ceiling designed by Tiffany & Co. to its series of retail firsts, the building has a storied history complete with success, failure, and innovation. It also has a history of racism that long impacted Black Chicagoans eager, like Ruby, to work and shop there.

For more stories about anti-Blackness in stores, read this piece from Cassi Pittman Claytor, Traci Parker’s Black Christmas in American Department Stores, and Michael Liscky’s article on racism outliving the American department store.

'Learning a new language is a lot like entering a new relationship.'

I’ve been learning Portuguese for the past 4 years and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. If it was a romantic relationship, it’d be my longest to date. Marianna Pogosyan used this love analogy in her piece for Aeon:

Learning a new language is a lot like entering a new relationship. Some will become fast friends. Others will hook their arms with calculus formulas and final-exam-worthy historical dates, and march right out of your memory on the last day of school. And then sometimes, whether by mere chance or as a consequence of a lifelong odyssey, some languages will lead you to the brink of love.

Those are the languages that will consume you – all of you – as you do everything to make them yours. You dissect syntax structures. You recite conjugations. You fill notebooks with rivers of new letters. You run your pen over their curves and cusps again and again, like you would trace your fingers over a lover’s face. The words bloom on paper. The phonemes interlace into melodies. The sentences taste fragrant, even as they tumble awkwardly from your mouth like bricks built of foreign symbols. You memorise prose and lyrics and newspaper headlines, just to have them at your lips after the sun dips and when it dawns again.

More on love and languages: Colin Jackson’s Welsh language journey, the Klingon language and its influence on modern culture, and love from a Black perspective.

Community through food from people of colour

Catharine Hughes looked at the various UK community food projects headed by people of colour:

“Community is the act of coming together, but for me, it’s the coming together to achieve something,” says Fahima Jilani, the owner of Mosa Mosa, a Bengali food platform based in the West Midlands. Fahima began Mosa Mosa back in 2017, born out of a love for food passed down through her family. Initially, she was working at markets and catering small events like birthdays, and then the British Red Cross approached her to ask if she would be interested in providing meals for teenage asylum seekers, who were attending guidance sessions.

“These asylum seekers come predominantly from East African countries like Sudan, Eritrea, and I think they do genuinely appreciate spicy food, and I bring them South Asian food that is also spicy. Although it’s not the same culture as theirs, I think it’s comforting,” says Fahima.