1. “Smile, You’re Speaking EMOJI.” Adam Sternbergh, for New York magazine, on the rapid evolution of a wordless tongue.
“This elasticity of meaning is a large part of the appeal and, perhaps, the genius of emoji. They have proved to be well suited to the kind of emotional heavy lifting for which written language is often clumsy or awkward or problematic, especially when it’s relayed on tiny screens, tapped out in real time, using our thumbs. These seemingly infantile cartoons are instantly recognizable, which makes them understandable even across linguistic barriers. Yet the implications of emoji—their secret meanings—are constantly in flux.”
2. “Hollywood’s ’female stuff’ problem.” The Dissolve’s Genevieve Koski’s on the implications of a troubling new film trend.
“[Phil] Lord and [Chris] Miller say the right things in the interview, namely, ’It’s important to us that the movie plays broadly and that we inspire young women as much as we inspire young men.’ But Lord’s reasoning for that decision—’You can feel that the whole movie culture is now starting to wake up to the fact that half the audience are women…Frozen is reflective of that’—speaks to the increasingly troubling trend of ’womaning up’ mainstream projects, in hopes of riding a cool new wave of female empowerment. And while Miller’s terrible phrasing was likely unintentional, ’female stuff’ reduces the inclusion of women and stories that speak to them down to a gimmick, something to be grafted onto a project to expand its potential consumer base.”
3. ”The Sopranos is finally on Blu-Ray. Here’s the one episode you have to watch.” Todd VanDerWeff makes a case for “The Happy Wanderer.”
“But we would urge you to consider this less heralded classic instead. The thing about Tony’s evil is that it’s not always flashy. It doesn’t always involve murder or terrorizing others. Sometimes, it’s just about the sheer mundanity of becoming friends with the wrong person, who knows exactly how to exploit your weaknesses for his own personal gain. (In the case of Patrick’s character, that’s a gambling addiction.) Not all of us are friends with mob bosses, but we’ve all had that cancerous person in our lives. One of the show’s major arguments was that people only tangentially involved with Tony could have their lives ruined; imagine how poorly it goes to actively try to get involved with him.”
4. “Three the Hard Way.” Charles Taylor on the return of Sleater-Kinney.
“As if to prove that The Woods, the last Sleater-Kinney album to date, combined elusive, sometimes oblique lyrics with emotional urgency that wiped the misstep of One Beat from memory. The American jitters to which the band tried to give voice on One Beat found the right words in the opening lines of ’Jumpers’: ’I spend the afternoon in cars / I sit in traffic jams for hours / don’t push me / I am not ok.’ The quiet harmonies on that last line were deeply unsettling, suggesting both an acceptance of the stress of modern life and the possibility of eruption. It was what Joan Didion might have produced if Didion hadn’t always been so self-conscious of the dread she packed into her anomic haikus. When the eruption came at the end of the song, the music made the punk clatter of the band’s early work sound very…young by comparison. That’s not a putdown but a way of acknowledging the band’s discovery that if life trains you to expect bruising, it also teaches you that as you age bruises take longer to fade. From the cover painting of stage curtains parting to show a set of artificial trees, to the inside photo of the band in the forest at night to the album’s hard dark-walnut sound, The Woods was mysterious work that Sleater-Kinney was moving to all along, an accounting of perseverance in the face of anxiety that, the music seemed to say, had become the normal texture of life.”
5. “Charli XCX Interview.” The UK pop prodigy talks with Pitchfork’s Jillian Mapes about her whirlwind 2014.
“I wrote ’Sucker’ when I was really angry, and it’s about my very cynical view of the music industry. When True Romance came out, some people still doubted me as an artist and a songwriter. But once ’I Love It’ appeared, and later ’Fancy’ and ’Boom Clap’, people began to really pay attention. I find it difficult to deal with someone who rejects me and then kisses my ass later—even though I know that’s what the whole music industry is. One of the lines in ’Sucker’ goes, ’You joined my club/ Luke loves your stuff.’ People would always come up to me and say, ’Oh, [Dr.] Luke loves your stuff, well done’—as if that means, ’You’ve made it.’ That’s fucking weird to me.”
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