Last week I did something that I rarely do anymore, I listened to the radio. Not satellite, but good ole fashioned real FM. Between the familiar voice of Elvis Duran (a radio staple since as long as I can remember) and odd public service announcements, I heard a song that I recognized, but that I hadn’t ever really paid much attention to, “Lights,” by Ellie Goulding. Giving it a full listen, I realized how infectious it was when I found myself still listening to it non-stop on Spotify over the next three days. Not only that, but I was listening to loads of Ellie Goulding songs that I never realized were Ellie Goulding, because let’s be honest, who the heck is Ellie Goulding? Sure she’s everywhere these days, but I was not connecting the dots. I’m glad I finally did, because between “Lights”, “Starry Eyed,” and “Anything Could Happen,” I found myself drawn to the beats and lyrics belted out by this vocalist who can do Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Kylie Minogue just as well as she can Adele. Here’s “Lights” a little Monday pick-me-up that may just stay with you for the rest of the week.
I grew up in a town with a large Hasidic community. We lived side by side, yet I knew very little about their world. Kept separate from secular schools and interactions, the insular culture was a mystery; so when I heard about “Unorthodox” by Deborah Feldman, I had to read it.
The memoir chronicles the author’s life from childhood through a rocky marriage, the birth of a child, and her eventual separation from her community. Not unlike the Amish, or other conservatively devout cultures, the Hasidic world that Deborah experienced kept its practices close to the vest, regulated childhood education, and used the fear of God as a means to promote devotion.
While this book merely reflects one woman’s experience and not that of an entire community, it opens the door to a world that many outsiders know little about. For example, Feldman describes how female education is relegated to prayer and a few hours of secular studies. At a recent in person appearance I attended, she noted that her teachers told her and her classmates not to absorb any of the secular education that was mandated.The thought process was that women need to be focused on bearing children and running a household and anything that distracts from these tasks were unnecessary disruptions. In a world where your life revolves around men and children, is there really time for such things as deconstructing the meaning of a Jane Austen novel or learning about the basic anatomy of a human being? Deborah Feldman would probably say, there has to be.
Feldman sought sanctuary at the New York Public Library. Teaching herself English and learning about worlds a hundred years apart from her own, but somewhat culturally similar. In these books, Feldman saw herself in the present and who she could be in the future. She saw a world full of possibility and did not let herself settle for her pre-determined path.
Feldman’s memoir tells the courageous story of her journey to find herself against all odds, to fight for the life she believed in, and to make peace with her decisions along the way. The book closes at the commencement of her new life, which left me with many questions about how she moved forward in such a bold manner. Doing some research on the author, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she is currently working on a follow-up memoir that relays her more recent experiences of assimilation to non-Hasidic society. Stay tuned!
George Lewis Jr., better know these days as Twin Shadow is one of many recent artists full on 80s nostalgia trying to recreate the essence of new wave glamor. My first encounter with Twin Shadow was courtesy of my ever-surprising iTunes library that had the song “Slow” tucked away in its trenches. Taking a break from my go to playlists, I went for random rotations and stumbled upon George’s vocals. An ever-80s fan, I was immediately hooked to the synth, deep vocals, and hypnotic ambiance created by the music and lyrics. I went on to explore Twin Shadow via Spotify and got hooked on the vibe. Is this new music? Technically yes, creatively, no. Is Twin Shadow here for the long haul? Probably not. Will you guiltily enjoy every minute of your Deloriane journey back in time with George’s new album,Confess?Yes. Bottom line, the 80s have been done. Many times over. But those of us who loved the decade will never turn away the opportunity to relive it and we are willing to accept any artists willing to risk their street cred to recreate it.
Today’s song of the day is “Five Seconds” by Twin Shadow. A very catchy tune that takes five seconds to get to your heart.
One of the things I love and sometimes fear about New York City is its many layers of sub-culture. I am fascinated by worlds that seem to exist simultaneously, yet never intertwine. I also love documentary films. That’s why Magnolia Picture’s, The Wolfpack, has been on my “to watch” list since its release in July 2015.
The film lightly tells the story of the Angulo family, a strong band of brothers, a sister, and a mother and father, who live in exceptionally close proximity to each other in a Lower East Side public housing facility. What is the clincher? That the father rarely lets them leave the apartment. It is cited in the film that they leave maybe nine times per year for short bouts of time; and in one year, they never left the apartment at all.
Most of the siblings seem to be in their mid to late teen years and have the strongest of bonds that one would expect given their unusual upbringing. What does a world of extreme isolation in the confines of one of the most sprawling cities in the world translate to? Extreme creativity. Limited in almost everything, including socialization, as they were home-schooled by their mother, the Angulos live in a fantasy world of super heros and other protagonists, supplied to them by their boundless collection of DVDs. To which, oddly enough, their very strict father allowed them unlimited access. They stage plays and transpose scripts, creating a magical world for themselves when access to the real one is not an option.
What is only lightly touched on from the surface is the true reasons for and day to day stories of their shared experience. What lingers is a sense of the incredible darkness that must lie underneath. This movie is deeply disturbing and makes you wonder how many other children are being overlooked and living in such circumstances. Silver lining is a key theme played out by the director. I found myself moved by the Angulo’s plight and touched by their ability to transfer anger and resentment about their experience into creative channels. This family demonstrates that, in life, resilience is a key success factor.