Week In Review
The Week In Review is a roundup of interesting, inspiring or thought-provoking things I've read this week. "How are you to imagine anything if the images are always provided for you? To defend ourselves...we must learn to read. To stimulate our own imagination, to cultivate our own consciousness, our own belief system. We all need these skills to defend, to preserve, our own minds." -- Adrien Brody
Photos: Ben Rasmussen via Vogue
America's Need for Beauty Pageants in Immigrant Communities | Lynn Yaeger (hi, again), Vogue
The undertaking is an outgrowth of a book Rasmussen is working on, an inquiry into the legal history of the concept of “American-ness.” Since he began this investigation, the subject matter has only become timelier and even more urgent.
...the beauty pageant itself is such an American institution: How many of us, no matter where our parents or grandparents came from, grew up glued to Miss America on television? So perhaps it should come as no surprise that people who arrived here more recently, bringing their own unique ideas about beauty and fashion, would embrace this all-American ritual as well. Regardless of their backgrounds, for the contestants, “It wasn’t about mainstream pageant culture,” Rasmussen says. “It was learning about and honoring the countries their parents came from, while making an American life for themselves.”
The Lighter Side of Rick Owens | Alexander Fury, T Magazine
He doesn’t take himself as seriously as his work would lead people to believe. Unlike many fashion designers, however, Owens is able to articulate, precisely and vividly, what he’s trying to do with his clothes, namely talk about those big, overarching themes affecting humanity, and offer something different in the fashion landscape...His collections deserve to be talked about, by us, and by Owens himself. They’ll be talked about by future generations, too, if Owens proves to be the Cristóbal Balenciaga of our time. Producing designs that defy fashion and challenge physics, turning the hard into soft, the cold into warm, blending masculine and feminine, he very well may be.
Sean Spicer Fixed His Suits. What About the Ties? | Guy Trebay, The New York Times
In a little over a month on the job, Sean Spicer, a thickset former Republican National Committee strategist and Navy reservist, has found himself likened in style terms to a graduate of clown college and a used-car salesman, and has also inspired Melissa McCarthy’s indelible “Saturday Night Live” impersonation of him as a gum-swallowing bully in an outsize suit and a necktie so bulky you would need a bulldozer to press it...
Far from the most serious issue facing a Trump administration, Mr. Spicer’s distracting neckwear still troubles those who bother to address themselves to the meanings subtly coded into our clothes.
War Consumes South Sudan, a Young Nation Cracking Apart | Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times
South Sudan’s conflict started as a power struggle between the country’s political leaders before slipping into a broader feud between the two biggest ethnic groups, the Nuer and the Dinka. But as it enters its fourth year, this war, Africa’s worst, is rapidly sucking in many of the nation’s other ethnic groups...[and] imperiling nearly every pillar that this young country’s future rested on: oil production, agriculture, education, transport and most especially unity...
Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, and every major cease-fire that has been painstakingly negotiated by African and Western officials has been violated...On top of all this now comes another calamity: famine. Last month, the United Nations declared that parts of South Sudan, which receives billions of dollars of Western aid, were suffering a famine.
Throughout History, the Powerless Have Fought With Words for Liberation | Mark Karlin, Truthout
"You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future." (Leader of Burkinabe Revolution [Burkina Faso] Thomas Sankara, 1985)
I think it's easy right now to feel like we are facing something unprecedented and unbeatable, but many of the people and movements in the book were fighting much harsher regimes, and still kept fighting for justice and liberation anyways. Some of them won incredible victories. I think it's important to remember that power is never really absolute until no one's willing to push back or speak out.
Here is The Nation's recap of the major things Trump (and his administration) have done (or un-done) in week 6.
How Emmanuel Carrère Reinvented Nonfiction | Wyatt Mason, The New York Times Magazine
"To write disagreeable things about the self, dishonorable things,” Carrère told me, reclining like an analysand on a black leather couch, “this doesn’t present me with any problems. I have very little shame. There are many things I’ve done or thought that I consider bad, but I don’t feel shame over them because I think that everyone feels they’ve done bad things. I think it does a reader good to see: ‘Oh, he’s the same way. Him too.’
“What’s difficult,” Carrère continued, sitting up, “is that when one writes about oneself, one is obligated to write about other people. And there, as much as one has the right to write absolutely whatever one wants about the self — and once again, for me, that’s not very difficult — to write about others is an enormous problem. The sincerity that you can exhibit with yourself, you have no right to inflict on anyone else.”
The Pope on Panhandling: Give Without Worry | The New York Times Editorial Board
He has offered a concrete, permanently useful prescription for dealing with panhandlers. It’s this: Give them the money, and don’t worry about it. The pope’s advice, from an interview with a Milan magazine published just before the beginning of Lent, is startlingly simple. It’s scripturally sound, yet possibly confounding, even subversive....
But what if someone uses the money for, say, a glass of wine? (A perfectly Milanese question.) His answer: If “a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?”
Feature image via National Geographic's Most Compelling Photos of the Week (last week!). It is the work of photographer Corentin Fohlen documenting Haitian costumes for the celebration of Carnival. Of his work, he says, "We talk about Haiti always in terms of poverty, but for me this island is one of the [richest]. Not with money, but with human creativity." Read more here.