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I am often tormented by the etiquette of email. As a literary form — if we can call it that — email sits somewhere between the formality of handwritten letters and the intimacy and expediency of text messages. At times, due to its vast range of applications and correspondents, learning the craft of email often feels like learning how to code switch online, perhaps more so than any other form of digital communication. Though there are not many hard skills I’ve acquired at Princeton as an English major, I’ve at least learned how to write a pretty decent email.
“Signatures,” a two-part senior thesis show by Megan Pai ’22, mobilizes the audience not just as spectators, but as performers and collaborators.
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The day I went to see “The French Dispatch,” it was raining hard in Portland — more than the usual misty drizzle — but a long queue had already formed outside the theater more than 30 minutes before showtime. The date was Thursday, Oct. 21; the time — 7 p.m. PST, marking the first showing of the night at The Hollywood Theatre and one of the first public screenings of “The French Dispatch” anywhere. After several COVID-related delays, the film’s release was much anticipated by critics and cinephiles alike. Originally meant to hit theaters July 24, 2020, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on July 12, 2021, and was officially released in the United States and the United Kingdom on Oct. 22, 2021.
Let me begin with my body.
As we spring right into March, welcome back to the fifth installment of Intersections, a newsletter run by The Prospect section of The Daily Princetonian dedicated to delivering arts and culture to your inbox.
As we ease into the Spring Semester, we are excited to welcome you back to Intersections, The Prospect's newsletter dedicated to delivering arts and culture to your inbox.
In the documentary “HyperNormalisation,” Adam Curtis explains that cyberspace, as it was initially conceived, promised an alternate world free from the politics and corruption of the “real world.” This digital realm, its idealist advocates believed, presented an opportunity to build a democratic utopia accessible anywhere by anyone — it would be a sacred and protected space separate from reality.
In “photúalma,” artist Lauren Olson ’22 examines confinement, family, identity, and history through a series of short films and podcasts. Her films feature audio clips ranging from conversations in an art history class at Princeton to Olson rapping along with Kendrick Lamar in “Money Trees.” Slides of her photographs, most of which she shot in her brother’s music studio at home in Ohio, phase on- and off-screen in a kaleidoscope of vibrant reds, oranges, and blues. When I first watched Olson’s work, I was intrigued by her raw authenticity to self, evident in details such as the unedited footage of her photos in Adobe Bridge at the beginning of “33.” The third video installment of photúalma, “SIN.ME,” feels particularly candid, with fragments of Olson’s process behind the camera and an intimate look at the private, eccentric moments of everyday life that often pass by unrecorded.
In light of the immense constraints artists are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lewis Center for the Arts has awarded Hodder grants to ten artists for the 2020-21 academic year.
For the past several days, I’ve wrestled with whether or not I should voice my thoughts online. Activism on social media can often seem performative and masturbatory, each post a way for the user to publicly assert their wokeness. I don’t mean to undermine the power of social media. It’s an incredibly useful tool, and it would be foolish not to take advantage of the platform, but it would also be foolish to ignore the massive audience afforded by social media — for many of us, the largest captive audience we have access to. By racking up views, likes, and comments, social media taints anything we post with a self-lauding effect.
With the economy teetering in uncertainty, the art world has come to a standstill. Cinemas, museums, and performing arts theaters have closed their doors indefinitely, putting thousands of artists out of commission and compromising the important arts institutions that we recognize as cultural pillars. While older, more established institutions may survive the crisis, buoyed by a strong support network, many younger, smaller institutions will suffer. In my home state, the Oregon Symphony had to lay off their musicians, conductors, and several staff members in an effort to avoid total collapse. During the days that followed the announcement, posts and comments choked with anguish flooded my Facebook feed as Oregonians and musicians mourned together in solidarity.
On March 16, President Trump began referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.” Other xenophobic varieties officials have used include: “the Chinese flu,” “the Wuhan coronavirus,” and my personal favorite, “Kung-Flu.” Many who have faced criticism for using such names have offered the defense that previous diseases have also been named after places, such as the Spanish flu and Ebola.
Watching the cast of “Parasite” cluster center-stage at the 92nd Academy Awards, I saw faces like mine crowd the screen and shared with them a collective sense of achievement. Through the language of my grandmother, I traced the lineage of suffering from the first Korean immigrants to America, to the economic struggle of my grandparents, to the linguistic barrier my mother faced when she arrived to America as a child, to my own internal anguish as a Korean American — all culminating in the great exhilaration of this moment of celebration. A moment which seems to directly counter the residual notions of Orientalism and racism towards East Asians that remain in America but, in retrospect, exists in an isolated, carefully groomed setting of perfection and global harmony, a moment which appears to celebrate Korean culture but in actuality reinforces the global influence and dominance of Western culture.
In high school, I never received a single letter grade on the traditional A to F scale, and I didn’t even know my exact GPA until I began applying to colleges and had the opportunity to look at my transcript for the first time. I went to a progressive, liberal high school where grades were de-emphasized and our teachers discouraged us from focusing on raw numbers. Instead, we were told to think about our growth holistically within a subject, using growth as a measure for success rather than our test scores and essay grades. In alignment with this mentality, we received “verbal equivalents” (e.g. EXCELLENT, NEARLY EXCELLENT, VERY GOOD, etc.) instead of letter grades. Sometimes teachers would return papers and tests without a verbal equivalent or any other tangible indication of performance aside from constructive feedback. Our school never selected a class valedictorian for senior graduation, and we couldn’t graduate with honors or any other form of distinction.
From an outside perspective, the stationery store seemed irrevocably ordinary. My friend and I were walking along Newbury Street in Boston during spring break when we first encountered the shop. Its interior held an impressive collection of writing utensils on a table extending the entire length of the store, countless stacks of notebooks to choose from, and small gizmos and other knick-knacks peppered throughout the room. A stationery fanatic myself, I was seduced by the vast range of options, obsessively uncapping and capping different pens and paging through all the notepads to test the strength and grain of the paper against my fingers.
“I’ll do anything to have good packaging for the way that it looks on my shelf. It makes me so happy and makes my bathroom look fancier,” says freelance stylist Summer Miller in a New York Times featurette on the rise of boujee soap. She’s not alone — Miller is one of many millennials who has both grown up in the digital age and become enamored with capturing the perfect aesthetic. Pretty soap is just one facet of this obsession. As social media influencer Alexander Atkins suggests, his generation “seems to be more aesthetically driven [than previous ones].”