Lenika Cruz’s Cultural Picks: BTS, ‘The X-Files,’ and More


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Hello and welcome to the cultural Sunday edition of the Daily, in which a Atlantic the writer reveals what entertains them.

Today our special guest is Lenika Cruz, an editor who will publish an Atlantic Editions book about South Korean pop group BTS in January (pre-order it here). Lenika recently wrote about the fun of watching movies on airplanes and Mariquita: A Guam Tragedy, a book she called “the story of all the Pacific Islanders whose lives have been shattered by the wars of empire”. She is currently reviewing X filesplay Stardew Valley and watch YouTube video essays on horror and arthouse movies.

But first, here are three Sunday readings from Atlantic:


The cultural inquiry: Lenika Cruz

The upcoming event I’m most looking forward to: I desperately missed live music during the early years of the pandemic, so I’ve been on a real gig lately. I recently saw Muna when they performed in DC; it was the first time I had been to the 9:30 Club in ages, and the whole show was joyful and glorious and wonderfully eerie. In the coming months, I’ll be seeing British-Japanese pop artist Rina Sawayama, electro-pop duo Magdalena Bay and indie-rock legends Modest Mouse, who are touring their album’s 25th anniversary. The lonely crowded West. My husband and I are going to this last show together; LCW was one of the records we bonded over when we met in high school 15 years ago, so it’s going to be very meaningful and cute. [Related: A new generation of pop stars are dancing with the devil.]

My favorite TV show right now: My partner and I reviewed X files this year, and we’re now into Season 4. This show is without a doubt a masterpiece, and several episodes easily belong to television’s greatest hours of all time (“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” ” Home”). But there are certainly loads of bits scattered all over the place, episodes so terribly bad they’re entertaining (“Teso Dos Bichos”, “Teliko”). It’s fun to watch Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny do their best with horrible material. [Related: What The X-Files understood about the search for truth]

My favorite blockbuster and my favorite art film: I’m a big boy Titanic Stan. It absolutely holds its own and earns every minute of its runtime. Picking my favorite art movie is tough, but one movie I’ll never forget is Kanal, by Polish author Andrzej Wajda. It is the second film in Wajda’s trilogy which features the best known and acclaimed Ashes and Diamonds. Kanal is one of the most heartbreaking and breathtaking films I have ever seen. [Related: I just saw Titanic for the first time, and it is awesome.]

The best novel I’ve read recently and the best non-fiction work: I loved the novel Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, of Gabrielle Zevin, that my friend and Atlantic my colleague Morgan Ome recommended me (she also wrote about it for a recent book review). I read it in a day and a half and felt helpless afterwards. How could I switch to another book? In short, it’s about friendship, love, trauma and video games. As soon as I finished it, all I wanted to do was either re-read it immediately or… play some really good video games.

For non-fiction, I read The yellow house, by Sarah M. Broom, earlier this year. It’s one of my favorite memoirs of all time, brimming with voice and humanity and a massive amount of research and reporting. It is a tender and complicated love letter to a city (New Orleans), a painstaking reconstruction of a forgotten history and a courageous settling of family accounts.

A quiet song that I like, and a loud song that I like: Calm: “Nowhere Near”, by Yo La Tengo. Strong: “Not in motion”, per DNA.

A musical artist who means a lot to me: Well, I have a book from Atlantic Editions coming out next January about the one and only BTS! My love for this band is no secret to those who know me or follow me on social media. (I hope not?) BTS are unique artists in a generation. Even though they have slowed down their group activities as the members prepare to enlist for their mandatory South Korean military service, they all plan to go out with individual projects.

The eldest member, Jin, will be the first to enlist, so he released a beautiful single last week titled “The Astronaut,” which I’ve been listening to nonstop. The clip is loaded with meaning – it follows an alien who has landed on Earth, found a family, and chooses to stay even when lucky enough to return to his home planet. The song itself, which Jin co-wrote with Coldplay, features English and Korean lyrics and evokes both bittersweet nostalgia and warm optimism. When Jin’s shimmering guitars and uniquely powerful voice wash over me, I feel a strange sense of cosmic comfort; I’ve only just gotten to the point where I can hear it without crying. [Related: The spectacular vindication of BTS]

“I’m a big boy Titanic Stan. It absolutely holds its own and earns every minute of its runtime.” (Merie W. Wallace/20th Century Fox Film Corp/Everett)

The last museum or gallery exhibit I liked: I was at a literary event at the Brooklyn Museum last month, and paintings by a diasporic CHamoru artist named Gisela McDaniel were projected on a screen for the duration of the conversation. His work is beautiful and raw, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Something I recently revisited: I tried to get into the Stardew Valley video game last year but had a hard time adjusting to it right after playing a lot of Animal Crossing (a superficially similar but very different and easier game) . I gave it up after just a few play sessions. After reading Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, I picked up my Nintendo Switch Lite to try again. This time I became obsessed. I now understand why people love this game so much and why it must have been such a comfort to play in the early months of the pandemic. (FWIW, I live on a farm on the beach with my wife, Penny, and my cat, Miso.) [Related: The quiet revolution of Animal Crossing]

My favorite way to waste time on my phone: I don’t waste time on my phone 🙂

An online creator I’m a fan of: I don’t spend as much time on YouTube as I used to, but I recently watched some clever video essays from a creator called Spikima Movies. The person behind focuses primarily on horror and arthouse films, analyzing them formally, aesthetically and thematically. I particularly enjoyed the videos on Hereditary, Eternal sunshine of the spotless mindand Cairo; I found them intelligent, revealing and brimming with a palpable affection for cinema. [Related: Hereditary and the monstrousness of creative moms]

A good recommendation I recently received: Hmm. A friend convinced me to buy a pair of Crocs, even though I spent years laughing at them and swearing I would never wear them. What can I say ? They are comfortable, colorful and versatile. Young people considered them cool now. One of my favorite things is discovering that something I previously thought was bad is actually good, and then trying to get others to overcome their blocks and experience happiness with me.

Read previous editions of Culture Survey in Sophie Gilbert, Hannah Giorgisand Jordan Calhoun.


The week ahead
  1. Haruki Murakami’s book Novelist by vocation (Tuesday)
  2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Friday)
  3. Bruce Springsteen’s 21st album, Only the strong survivea collection of R&B and soul covers (Friday)

Writing
A fixed frame from the Andor series
(Lucasfilm Ltd / Disney+)

Star Wars goes political

By Adam Server

In the eighth episode of star wars prequel series Andormysterious art dealer turned rebel leader Luthen implores extremist fighter Saw Gerrera to unite with other factions against the evil Galactic Empire.

“Aren’t you tired of fighting with people who agree with you?” Luther pleads with Gerrera. “There’s no way any of us can make it real on our own.”

“Kreegyr is a separatist. Maya Pei is a neo-republican! Gerrera responds in disgust. “The Ghorman Front? The Partisan Alliance? Sectorists. Human Cultists. The Galaxy Partitionists. They are lost ! All, lost! Lost!”

I want it to be clear that as star wars fan since childhood, I have no idea who these people are… But none of that matters.

Read the article completely.


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