It’s officially winter up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the year-end hustle has thankfully wound down a bit. Some of us are traveling to see loved ones for the holidays, while others stay put and get cozy. In any case, we’re enjoying the blissfully slow pace as a time to relax and take in things we’ve never seen before, catching up on revelatory self-help books, the year’s must-see TV, and ambitious creative projects. Check out our latest discoveries below!
During the research process for my recent Top 10 Television Opening Title Sequences of 2022 article, I came upon the Apple TV+ drama Pachinko. The opening credits blew me away as its own, self-contained project, but it also did its job in piquing my interest to watch the show. I have since only seen the first episode, but I am hooked. Much like the opening credits, the show is visually stunning, with swooping cinematography and frames so lovely they could be stand-alone photographs. The story of the series is just as rich, depicting the multigenerational journey of a Korean family in Japanese-occupied Korea in the early 1900s who appear to ultimately end up in Tokyo, with one golden child son in New York City in the late 1980s (once again, I’m only one episode into the series, so more details about their immigration story will surely come to light!). I highly recommend adding Pachinko to your list of media to consume over your holiday break! —Charlotte Beach, Feature Writer + Content Editor
How to Make Mistakes On Purpose: Bring Chaos to Your Order by Laurie Rosenwald
I am often late coming to the party because I don’t really like parties, but I apologize for not reading Laurie Rosenwald’s helpful unhelpful self-help book when it first came out in 2021. Taking over a year to dig into it was a mistake indeed. Had I acted earlier, I might have been laughing sooner and taking myself less seriously when I most needed to. Rosenwald (aka Rosenworld) tiptoed in the entrepreneurial footsteps of Dolly Parton’s Dollywood to create a universe of counterintuitive notions of life and design, spreading a schmear of wisdom on our daily bread. Her outlook is refreshing and her off-kilter perspective never fails to elicit a chuckle or laugh: two of the many human traits most necessary to retain our collective sanity. —Steven Heller, Editor-at-Large
Quentin Skaggs and his avant-garde Christmas trees
Those who celebrate Christmas all have their own traditions with Christmas trees— artificial, pre-decorated, Douglas or Noble fir, Blue Spruce or Scotch Pine. But, I was filled with holiday joy when my friend Quentin Skaggs, Graphics Manager at a Southern California University, shared photos of his distinctive and dazzling Christmas tree creations from recent years. Recycled egg cartons, beer pong cups, balloons— they all beat a boring old Douglas fir any day! Happy creative holidays! —Deb Aldrich, Publisher
Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991)
I recently listened to the podcast Pop Pantheon’s very enlightening take on Madonna and host DJ Louis XIV and guest Rich Juzwiak described Truth or Dare as the gold standard of pop docs, so I finally watched it this week. There are tons of reasons why this documentary is fascinating, like its oddly current politics and fashion, plus cameos from Pedro Almodóvar, Sandra Bernhard, and an endearingly earnest Kevin Costner, who Madonna makes fun of for calling her show “neat.” But I think the most interesting things about Truth or Dare are the parts that make it feel out of line with modern standards: namely Madonna’s, uh, loose boundaries with her coworkers and her willingness to be seen in a super unflattering light. I can’t imagine a movie like this ever getting made again, for good reasons (three of Madonna’s backup dancers sued her after this came out, and they were absolutely justified) and bad reasons (modern pop stars are PR machines now, and even “honest” depictions of them usually feel focus grouped to all hell). Madonna is both so powerful and so weak at the same time, so self-assured and so doubtful. She’s admonishing a backup dancer for even jokingly comparing her to Janet Jackson, pulling petals off a flower as she tortures herself over Warren Beatty (of all people!), patronizing a childhood friend to her face after hinting at a hunger for her approval. I definitely can’t quite say the stars are just like us, but Truth or Dare portrays Madonna as both so huge and so human in a way famous people just aren’t anymore. I’m also blown away that you could argue this period wasn’t even her peak, that she would still be making music that was both wildly popular and innovative for another 15 years after the release of this movie. Her above speech about getting censored by The Vatican also feels extremely relevant during yet another period where popular art is held to an aggressively high moral standard and so allergic to real criticism. You could really talk about this movie forever, and I definitely get why people still do. —Sarah Fonder, Managing Editor