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Haut Takes

I write about music, politics and pop culture.

REMINDER: There was a hurricane in Puerto Rico.

Happy New Year, Babes!

On New Years Eve, Erin, Sally and I read our Spirit Animal tarot cards- because we have a healthy amount of investment in these sorts of things. I flipped over the card that would presumably dictate the next year of my life with the type of anxious anticipation usually reserved for scratch-offs and the reading of Times push alerts (at this point it could be anything from a nuclear bomb to an impeachment). Imagine my dismay when my 2018 spirit animal revealed itself as a hairy, eight-legged tarantula. The connotations surrounding these fearsome creatures are rarely prosperous. Erin stopped my brief spiral into the assumption that I would be poisoned by a spider in the new year, with this serendipitous description:   

Tarantula, a fire sign: At a crossroads, claiming life's purpose: The tarantula represents a moment when a great decision must be made. It involves prioritizing life's deeper purpose, or dharma. A habit or routine from the past is sidetracking you from your dream, yet a voice inside keeps begging you to refocus your attention. In order to find true happiness, you must choose dharma. Until you do, satisfaction will be fleeting. The tarantula hovers, patient and calm, like an old friend that knows your inner soul. It already knows you'll choose wisely.

In this tarantulan spirit, I quit my job this morning. No, I don't have a job lined up- save for a part time consulting gig. Yes, I am freaking out. And yes, I feel entirely liberated. I felt stuck, drained and uninspired in my career path and feel ready to take on the sacrifices that come with this quest for purpose.

I have very few insights or witticisms for you at the moment, as I'm still in the celebration stage (which included a Soul Cycle class and sampling expensive moisturizers at Sephora- two things I ironically will no longer be able to afford). As of January 31st I will no longer have a steady paycheck, health insurance or this 13 inch MacBook. I'm sure there will be some tears and sleepless nights to come, but I am confident in my decision. I'll keep y'all posted.

So with that, share the newsletter. And if you know anybody who is looking, holla at yo' girl... NYC area charter schools need not apply. 

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In this week's issue: Enjoy the site's new threads as I attempt to explain a sliver of what's happening in Puerto Rico, fill y'all in on what I read/watched/listened to over the break, and list eight reasons why 2018 is going to be bomb-ass year.


I. Puerto Rico’s Been Hit Twice: Mother Nature's a B, but the aftermath of Maria is nothing short of man-made.

In November of 2012 Alison and I (along with a gaggle of our eccentric neighbors) gathered on the stoop of our Jersey City brownstone, curiously anticipating the superstorm Sandy. We lived about a mile from the Hudson River waterfront and were beyond the evacuation zone, so we stayed- celebrating the already declared hurricane-related vacation day tomorrow would bring. The day had been a bit eerie, a noticeable haze had descended over the neighborhood bringing high winds, but little rain. As night fell we assumed the worst was over. Despite frigid temperatures, our building’s residents enjoyed being outside hashing out how reality failed to meet over-hyped meteorological expectations yet again. The couple who lived above us had just brought their newborn baby home from the hospital and one set of giddy grandparents was visiting. They debated moving their car further up Montgomery Street, just in case, but decided it would be a frivolous move. We were at ease.

Then it came. The so-called surge. It crept up Montgomery Street from the river in the form of a deceptively speedy wall of Hudson water. As it approached the intersection of Grove Street, the furious red of the stoplight ricocheted off its reflective surface with as much urgency as the cascading light of an ambulance’s siren. Before we knew it, four feet of murky water was spilling into the parlor level of our brownstone. Being the amateur storm chaser I am, I remained outside until I was convinced it was no longer safe to do so. The surge was unstoppable. It clawed its way through our basement neighbor’s barred windows, filling his apartment to within inches of his ceiling- and the floor of our first floor living room. Doug is a drummer and owner of a number of instruments that reverberated their way through many of my nap times. He desperately scrambled to carry his precious percussion into our hallway while shouting, “It’s breached!” Seeing a grown man desperately hoisting drums above his head while openly crying will forever serve as one of my most formative images of raw human terror.

We, including Doug, spent the night on the floor of our neighbors who lived on the second floor. We were without heat and power and this point, not to mention disconnected from an internet or cell service that would update on the progress of the storm. None of us slept much. Doug spent most of the night weeping with his head in his hands muttering iterations of, “I’ve lost everything.

The next day was deceptively sunny, but our block was destroyed. Downed power lines and waterlogged cars lined our street. Our apartment had mercifully avoided flooding only by inches. Most of the stagnant, supremely dirty water had dissipated and our neighbors wandered the streets in a daze. With no electricity or lines of communication, people were panicking. Our third roommate frantically scurried around an elliptical path from her room to her car where she charged her phone using its cigarette lighter to place desperate calls to her mom. The tunnels in and out of the city were inaccessible due to flooding, and the bridges were so sandwiched with standstill traffic people had begun to abandon their cars and walk into the city, where the skyscrapers above 34th street still sparkled with unfettered electricity.

School was cancelled for the rest of the week. We definitely took the opportunity for some fun. Our friends Carolyn and Thomas hosted a Sandy party that I credit with cementing some of my closest friendships. But after a day of darkness, we were over it. New York City was inaccessible to me for the first time in my life, and anxiety was building. Alison and I walked down the waterfront to Hoboken, encountering a fisherman pulling fish from toxic waters glimmering with a sheen of oil and debris. I, of course, asked him if he planned to sell those fish. His response was a demonic chuckle and a statement that it didn’t matter to him if the waters were contaminated, as long as people still bought. National Guard tanks rolled through the charming Hoboken streets as its resident bros strolled the sidewalks with 30-packs for their post hurricane parties.

Alison’s mom thankfully secured a hotel room for us near Newark Airport and headed to Baltimore for the week shortly afterward. We spent much of the time eating at great restaurants with Tyra, Mark and Caitlin, watching Pitch Perfect and Justin Bieber videos (no shade, no shame). Our exodus had turned into a vacation. We begrudgingly returned to Jersey a week later as our schools slowly opened. My campus was located in the Vailsburg neighborhood of Newark, and remained without power for the rest of the month (but you better believe the power in neighboring, affluent South Orange was restored within days). We held class at folding tables on one decrepit floor of a Newark public school building whose bulletin boards were covered with obscenities from when the classrooms were last used years ago. Many students were absent for weeks as their families were forced to either leave town or were stranded in their apartments due to the city’s lackluster public transportation. Plenty of teachers and staff had lost their cars or their entire homes.

Our apartment remained without heat or power for the rest of November, but we suffered very little. We had so many invitations for accommodations, we had to turn people down. I spent most nights on an air mattress in Carolyn and Thomas’ living room, from which I watched the reelection of Barack Obama and tracked the restoration of the area. Our request for FEMA funding was buried by those who needed it much more, including our neighbor Doug. In the end, we received $1,000 that Alison and I split because FEMA funds are distributed per household. On the advice of my penny pinching father, I refused to pay the month’s rent due to the lack of response from our Russian landlord and her trifling lawyer. We moved back in at the end of the month, a little tired- but a couple thousand dollars richer.

For those of you who lived in the area, this story probably resembles a number of anecdotes of friends who were put out from their homes for a few weeks but were able to bunk with friends and family. Utility companies, municipal and federal governments and FEMA worked quickly to restore power to the city and its neighbors. Recovery efforts are still underway on the city’s subways, making for inconvenient weekend travel from Brooklyn, but the city quickly returned to relative normalcy. There are still conversations about how to protect our city’s watery boarders from future storms, and many residents in the tristate area were severely affected by the storm-but for many of us conversations about Sandy are usually accompanied with an “lol” and “what a week off.”

This dedicated, well-paced post-storm recovery effort has not been delivered to the people of Puerto Rico. It has been just over 100 days since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. More than 50% of its residents are still without electricity, the death toll is incomplete, inaccurate and growing each day. The country’s plight is suffering from a severe case of media amnesia. In this week’s Haut Takes, I attempt to rectify this willful ignorance championed by our shameful ignoramus in chief.

The people of Puerto Rico are suffering. We’ve all enjoyed the island’s rich culture either on its shores or from afar, and we have an obligation to its recovery. Information is power, so let’s take a look at what’s actually happening in Puerto Rico.

What to know before we begin:

  • Puerto Rico is indeed a U.S. Territory, despite what certain orange world leaders would like you to think. You don't need a passport to travel there and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth. It was claimed for Spain in 1493 by everyone's favorite Italian Imperialist. The U.S. invaded and took possession of the island in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. PR elects its own governor, but is disenfranchised in federal elections. It is governed by Congress, despite not having congressional representation.
  • As you probably know, Puerto Rico carries a tremendous amount of debt- approximately $72 billion- and operates with a $2.5 billion deficit. In 2015, PR defaulted on a $158 million bond. In 2016, President Obama signed the The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) into law in an effort to help PR restructure and pay off its debt. It also deferred loan payments until May 2017. The country is in the midst of an 11 year recession.
  • 41% of the island's citizens live below the poverty line with an unemployment rate of 11%- almost triple the national average. The average per capita income outside of San Juan is $11,688 a year, less than 50% of that of Mississippi, the poorest state on the mainland.
  • The savage tax bill served the island another ferocious blow: From CNN, "The final draft calls for a 12.5% tax on any income generated from patents and licenses held by foreign companies outside the United States [a major increase over the current 0% tax rate]. Under U.S. tax codes, companies in Puerto Rico are treated as foreign corporations, even if their parent organization is located in the mainland United States and they employ U.S. citizens." This will make it very difficult to rebuild the island's industry. Ironically, the island also serves as an off-shore, tax haven for the world's wealthiest.
  • Hurricane Maria struck the island on the morning of September 20th, moving diagonally across the island from the southeast to the Northwest, bringing with it 150-220 MPH winds. 3.4 million people lost power. In the 100 days since, 200,000 Puerto Ricans have fled their island for the mainland. That exodus is predicted to include 14% of the island's population by 2019.
  • Another devastating hurricane hit the island in 1899, shortly after the U.S. acquired the territory. The U.S. government shipped 1.2 million pounds of food and 19,000 pounds of supplies to San Juan within 10 days. In 2017, the first aid delivery arrived in San Juan on October 10th carrying 12 pallets of food for a city of 350,000 people
  • There are now only about 5,000 federal personnel providing assistance in PR.
  • Donald Trump has not publicly mentioned Puerto Rico since November 29th.

What's happened with the electricity so far?

  • In the latest estimate, published in the New York Times on 12/29 about 50% of the island's residents still do not have power. 
  • Governor Ricardo Rossello and Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the island's bankrupt electric utility provider, originally promised that 95% of the island's power would be restored by December 15th. That rolling deadline has been pushed back well into the spring. The majority of restored power is currently being conducted in and around San Juan in an effort to draw much needed tourism back to the capital. Citizens in the more rural and mountainous areas of PR will likely be without power for months.
  • On October 2017, PREPA's contract officer Ramon Caldas signed a contract with Whitefish Energy, a utility company from Montana with only two employees. Caldas and Whitefish's director first made contact on Linkedin (yes, you read that right). It is still unclear why Caldas chose Whitefish over the more than a thousand government approved agencies bidding to restore the island's power grid. Caldas claimed that they were able to send help the fastest. They sent help, and charged over $300 an hour for utility workers who were ill equipped to complete the job. Caldas and Rossello cancelled the contract on 10/29, but continued to pay the contractors through November because of a 30-day notice stipulation in the Whitefish contract (which was never reviewed by PREPA's legal team). The FBI is currently investigating the impetus for the deal and its subsequent implosion. BE VERY AWARE that Whitefish Energy is native to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's hometown, and is funded by a private equity firm who gave generously to Trump's campaign. Zinke also called Hillary Clinton the anti-christ, then asked to take a picture with her during the inauguration luncheon.  (Reporting in this paragraph is from Vox, with more links available below- as this is a Pandora's box one issue of Haut Takes cannot contain).
  • On 11/15 one of the few utility poles Whitefish planned to install fell sending the percentage of Puerto Ricans with access to electricity from 40 to 18
  • Just a note on the impact of electricity: Think about the last time your home lost power. It was scary AF, right? Now think about all of the imperative emergency services that rely on electricity that don't involved charging your iPhone. Now remember that power outages usually correlate with an emergency that will likely result in an uptick in deployment of emergency services. Now realize that they are unavailable when people need them most. Now consider this statistic for comparison: In August 2003, NYC experienced a 28% increase in overall mortality after losing electricity for ONE DAY. Stressful, right? The emotion you are feeling is called empathy. Savor it. 

So why is it so hard to restore Puerto Rico's power anyways? Glad you asked. Vice News Tonight, 12/20

Vice News' Roberto Ferdman travelled to Puerto Rico last month to interview residents, engineers and PREPA officials about what exactly is causing the hold up. Here's what to know:

  • PREPA built its most powerful utility plant in the barrio of Aguirre, which in the state of Salinas. Salinas is in the Southeastern corner of the island and is home to much of its oil industry. 75% of the island's electricity is produced in the southeast, but 70% of the island's population lives in the north. The island's power grid was already a tangled, rat king of conduction before the storm, making its restoration even more complicated. Engineers now have to reconstruct this complicated grid, which primarily runs through the country's mountainous center. This means that most of the downed power lines and utility polls are thick with vegetation and buried under debris. A engineer from the U.S. Corps of Engineers reported that it took his team a week to clear a site before they could even begin repairs. He estimated that this same job would have taken 1 day on the mainland.
  • The Corps needs thousands of 60 foot tall utility polls to complete the repairs. These are the towering monstrosities you see on the sides of highways. They ordered 50,000 in early October and have since only received 11,000. They are also competing for poles with the needs of engineers in Houston and Florida. Once the poles arrive, they need to be airlifted by helicopters into the mountainous regions where 36,000 workers wait to receive them. 
  • Again, Puerto Rico's electrical grid was a mess before the storm. PREPA declared bankruptcy in 2014. In an effort to recoup their losses, they have laid off 25% of their staff and skimped on basic upkeep for a number of years. The infrastructure that is supposed to radiate electricity throughout the island has been unreliable for years. Thanks to something called the Stafford Act, passed in 1951, FEMA dollars can only be used to restore infrastructure to pre-storm quality. Engineers can complete repairs, but not upgrades. So even if power is fully restored, its longevity is tenuous. Puerto Rico would have to ask Congress for additional disaster funds to significantly improve their system.

Let's talk consequences. Maria's Bodies: 100 Days of Darkness, Mattathias Schwartz for NY Mag, 12/22

This article is a mix of human interest, political commentary and storm reporting. Here's what to know at first glance. But read it in its entirety, if even for its photo journalism.

Centro Medico: Puerto Rico's biggest and most sophisticated hospital lost power after much of its roof was ripped off in the storm. It has more than 1,000 beds spread across six buildings. Its trauma center is called ASEM and was the hardest hit. The center serves 3.5 million Puerto Ricans and was disconnected from electricity for more than a month after the storm. It has three, really unreliable, generators. Its neo-natal unit flooded during the storm forcing an immediate evacuation of newborns. Only one of its elevators survived the storm and machinery that stabilized critical care patients is being powered by a small number of emergency plugs. Below, what's happening inside:

  • Pedro Martinez, an orthopedic surgeon, arrived at CM two days after the storm. The building was too hot and moist to perform any surgery. He returned on 9/26 to find 57 patients were waiting for surgery, the conditions only allowed him to operate on 4. There was no sterile equipment left.
  • Medical professionals noted conditions that made the hospital ripe for infection: slippery floors, sweating patients, unsterilized equipment. One doctor said it was "perfect conditions for bacteria to grow."
  • On 9/22, CM CEO Jorge Matta Gonzalez requested a back up generator for ASEM from the Department of Health and Human services. The Army Corps of Engineers inspected the property on 9/24 and denied the request since the two out of three of the hospital's generators were still working.  
  • PREPA returned power to CM a week after the storm but intermittent blackouts occurred as frequently as every 30 minutes, so CM engineers decided to use their own generators as energy sources with PREPA as a backup. 
  • On 10/20 the generators shut off in the middle of the day leaving the ER and operating rooms completely dark. Patients were sewn up by the light of their surgeons' phones. ASEM spent 35 minutes in complete darkness. During that time, a resident physician named Kermith Ayala Muniz posted a live video to Facebook narrating the conditions. Two days after the post the Corps arrived with a new generator.

Centro Medico was actually in better shape than most hospitals across the island. Most do not have working generators. One hospital in Aguadilla was an average of 97 degrees and another was shut down because of mold. These poor conditions are making local hospitals inopportune places to seek care. Residents are forced to either forgo care altogether or settle for walk-in clinics that are not designed for their level of trauma. 

How people are dying: This section includes the stories of a few of Maria's victims. They are gruesome and tragic, but give perspective on the scale of this disaster. Obviously a number of people are succumbing to complications from chronic diseases, but remember that there is a major uptick in broken bones and burns associated with lack of electricity. Stagnant water and hovering clouds of mosquitoes also threaten to start an infectious epidemic. There are very few vaccines left on the island. Not to mention water is running dirty from taps, or not at all. The island's food supply has run dry and aid delivery has proved difficult. Here are a few of their stories:

  • Jesus Miranda Matos, 18 years old: Matos was a part of the clean up effort in Toa Baja. He died from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection contracted by contact with animal urine. There are 70 current cases in PR and 2 confirmed deaths.
  • Jose Perez Santiago, 55 years old: Santiago was bipolar and was unable to access his medication after the storm, causing somewhat erratic behavior. On 10/23 he went to refill his propane tank for his camping stove at a local hardware store. The canister leaked in the passenger seat of his car and caught fire. Santiago was admitted to Centro Medico with severe burns. He died a week later from Sepsis.
  • Milton Molina, 40 years old: A number of Molina's relatives had moved into his house after the storm. He felt responsible for their well being and acted accordingly. One morning he collapsed on his bathroom floor and died. Cause of death is still unknown.
  • Harry Figueroa, 58 years old: Figueroa died on 10/4 after he went two weeks without the oxygen machine he wore while sleeping.

And for some good news, civilian heroes: Two are profiled in the article, but as often happens in times of tragedy, neighbors show up for each other. Here are two of their stories. Both are from the municipality of Toa Baja:

  • Ernesto Matos Santana, 79 years old: A fisherman with a row boat, Santana had never installed electricity in his home. The day after the storm, Santana decided to row his boat through the flood waters looking for survivors as neither the mayor's office nor the police were able to do so. He rowed carefully, avoiding downed power lines, and hoisted families off of their second floor balconies and roofs and row them to safety. In the 60 hours after the storm, he saved 15 families. Many made their way to the shelter Milly Ortiz set up in a local school.
  • Carmen Chevere Ortiz (Milly), 41 years old, BAD.B: Milly is a pharmacy manager in the Toa Baja neighborhood of Villa Calma. As floodwaters crept onto porches and patios, Milly encouraged all of her neighbors to evacuate. She led them to the local school, broke down its gates and renamed it el arca, an appropriate name given the dogs, cats, pigs and horses that accompanied them. Milly broke into the school's kitchen and rationed whatever food she found. She delegated roles and divided space, creating a registry of her residents. 24 hours later it had more than 200 names. When a convoy of cargo trucks attempted to bypass the school two days later, Milly organized a blockade and forced the trucks to take the elderly and children to a nearby state-run shelter. Milly spent most nights awake in her car, standing guard of her neighbors. In the months since they've returned to their homes, Milly's house has served as a refuge for many, as she runs an aid depot out of her garage. The article closes with a Christmas celebration she organized in her neighborhood. In 2018, she plans to rent an office space to serve as Villa Calma's official recovery center.

So, how many people have died? The answer is incredibly unclear. Official Toll in Puerto Rico: 64, Actual Deaths may be 1,052, NY Times, 12/9 and ongoing

The Times published this interactive article in December. As its title indicates, by December 9th only 64 deaths had been directly attributed to Maria. This number is misleading. In comparison to years past, an incredible additional number of people of died. Some of these deaths remain unattributed but have direct links to the consequences of the storm (all of the deaths detailed in the previous section are not attributed to the storm). The investigation is an objective round up of facts. The interactive charts in the article paint an even clearer picture. Here are the numbers to know:

  • In the 42 days after the storm, the recorded number of deaths was 1,052. Officially, only 64 were attributed to the storm. 313 remain unattributed. The rest are attributed to natural and medical causes.
  • Since the storm, the Demographic Registry of Puerto Rico has recorded an average of 118 deaths per day, as compared to an average of 75-80 in previous years
  • 9/25 marked the island's deadliest day with 135 deaths, compared to 75 people on the same day in 2016.
  • Our paper towel throwing president arrived on 10/3 to praise the island for its admirable death toll of only 16, and thanked God it wasn't a REAL, Katrina like disaster (Death toll- 1,800+). By the day of his visit, 556 additional people had died compared to the same 13 day period in the past two years.
  • In this same period, there was a 50% increase in deaths from Sepsis, a complication of severe infection usually associated with unsanitary medical care. There was also a significant increase in deaths from pneumonia, emphysema and other breathing disorders, Alzheimer's and diabetes. 
  • The majority of deaths occurred in nursing homes, asylums, retirement homes and hospitals. In the 42 days after the storm, 3,660 people over the age of 60 died, compared to 2,760 during the same period last year.
  • 11 refrigerated FEMA trailers serve as an overflow morgue as brick and mortar morgues are past capacity. 
  • In mid-december Governor Rossello announced there would be a review of all deaths attributed to natural causes. 

The article does not editorialize the reason behind the this soaring death count as the NY Mag article does, but one hopefully makes the inference that hospitals without sterile conditions, lack of access to electricity/ medication/ food/ clean water/ shelter and exposure to stagnant water/ swarming mosquitoes/ unpredictable vegetation/ stress are all directly responsible. These numbers are only expected to grow as hazardous conditions spread and recovery efforts spread to more remote areas of the country.

Related Links:

  • Read more about the Whitefish disaster in the Washington Post's reporting.
  • Let's now forget about another natural disaster turned humanitarian crisis that has hit one of our neighbors. It has been eight years since an earthquake devastated Haiti. The 12/19 episode of The Daily tells the story of a group of men who are tending to the country's unclaimed bodies and providing them with proper burials. 
  • Check out music made in the wake of Maria in solidarity with Puerto Rico from Beyonce/ J Balvin/ Willy Williams, Anthony Ramos (BAE) and Miguel. 
  • How you can help: Here's a list of organizations affiliated with the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund and the Archdiocese of New York. Lin Manuel Miranda gives you four options, or you could fly to San Juan and see him star in Hamilton. More suggestions from NBC News and PBS.

II. The holidays are meant for media.

What I watched: TV, movies and music videos

  1. Call Me by your Name is as beautiful as they say and captures those languid teenage days of midsummer like nothing else I've seen. Also, Timotee will have you smitten.
  2. Divorce, Season 1, HBO: Sarah Jessica Parker's Frances as a 40 something woman divorcing her husband of many years isn't just a logical next step for the actress, it is the logical next step for her most famous character. It is hard not to see Carrie Bradshaw in Frances' mannerisms, ideologies and interactions with men. Thomas Haden Church also perfectly captures the spirit of a middle aged man who is trying to hide his misogyny with sheepish charm- AKA most of them. Season two starts this month.
  3. Big Mouth, Season 1, Netflix: A teen in a Brooklyn bodega described this show to Ava and me as "OD", which apparently means "overdose" or "over doing it" which plainly means too much. And this show is TOO.FUCKING.MUCH. It is a cartoon created by Nick Kroll chronicling the horrors of puberty. The teens experiences all of the horrors that puberty brings but with a crass humor that celebrates its absurdity. It is also sex-positive, feminist and true. One episode focuses on the never welcome "head push", which if you don't know what that means by now- consider yourself lucky. The cast includes Kroll, Jessi Klein, Jenny Slate, Andrew Rannells, Jon Hamm as a seductive scallop and Maya Rudolph and Will Arnett as the "hormone monsters". 
  4. Dear White People, Season 1, Netflix: I am late on this one, but glad I tuned it. I enjoyed the series more than the movie by the same name. The acting and writing is sharp and expresses varying viewpoints on racial dynamics on a college campus. As the title suggests, I encourage all my white readers to watch it- especially those of us who work (ed) in education and have been told our work is done once our kids reach college. 
  5. Five Foot Two, Netflix: This documentary follows Lady Gaga from her breakup with her fiancee to her Superbowl performance last February. I have always been fairly apathetic towards Gaga, but this doc made her far more endearing in my eyes. She is vulnerable in her pain, both emotional and physical but also aware of her position as a wealthy pop star. I appreciate her for allowing herself to be seen this way on camera. 
  6. Family Feud, Music Video: This Ava DuVernay directed short film featuring Jay-Z's song by the name. I say featuring, because this video is a lot less about the philandering that inspired its lyrics, and a lot more about feminism and woman as head of family. It begins in the year 2444 with Michael B. Jordan, Thandie Newton and David Oyelowo embroiled in a violent struggle for power and flashes back to a 2050 roundtable to woman revising our constitution. Who's at the table? Literally, everyoneA grown Blue Ivy sits at the head surrounded by Rosario Dawson, Brie Larson, Niecy Nash, Mindy Kaling, Rashida Jones and more. Obviously, Bey, Jay and present day Blue are present and accounted for. No link provided because it's currently a Tidal exclusive. If you're nice to me, I'll give you my login.

What I read: I detoxed from news and articles over the break, but here are a few literary recommendations:

  1. Halsey Street, Naima Coster: A debut novel from a popular short story writer about the gentrification of Brooklyn and the relatable complicated relationships adult children often have with their parents (and other adults).
  2. "Especially Heinous: 272 views of Law & Order SVU", Carmen Maria Machado: From Machado's exceptional, freaky collection Her Body and Other Parties I don't even know where to begin with this story. If you are familiar with Law & Order SVU, you will recognize the title as part of the show's tagline that describes sexually driven crimes as "especially heinous." The short story is actually a novella where Machado reimagines episode abstracts for all 272 of the show's episodes. Machado's SVU captures how the heinous crimes Stabler and Benson encounter how they affect them. There, that's all you get. Read it, you won't be disappointed. 
  3. The Best American Short Stories, 2017, edited by Meg Wolitzer: I was in a short story type of mood last week. All of the stories in this collection are excellent. Each somehow captures some facet of our chaotic cultural moment. Stand outs include Leopoldine Core's "Hog for Sorrow" about a friendship between two young prostitutes in NYC and Chad B. Anderson's "Maidencane". 

List of the Week: 8 Reasons 2018 is going to be a bomb-ass year (and Feminist AF).

  1. On Do Not DisturbDrake promised us that he'll "be back in 2018 to give you the summary." That's this year! (Also all these artists are rumored to be releasing new music this year, and Coachella and Gov Ball have released their 2018 STACKED lineups.)
  2. We will bear witness to how the Oscars, Golden Globes, et. al respond to the #metoo moment. A group of Hollywood women, including Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep, have banded together to create Time's Up Legal Defense Fund to support those who have experienced sexual misconduct in the workplace. They are asking attendees to wear black to the Golden Globes this Sunday in solidarity- stay tuned.
  3. The Women's March is becoming an annual event with a flagship march in Las Vegas on January 22nd, and sister marches in cities across the country. 
  4. On November 6th ALL 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 int he Senate are up for contest. Polls are leaning towards Democrats have the opportunity to install a powerful rebuke to our current regime. Here is a list of 100+ black women running for office this year. 
  5. The Georgia Bulldogs play for their first college football National Championship since 1980. Next Monday the Dawgs face off against Alabama, who have had a real monopoly on the title for much of the past decade. While I am fairly disconnected from UGA sports at this point, everyone loves a winner- and familial bragging rights.
  6. The following shows return or debut in 2018Atlanta, The Good Place, Divorce, High Maintenance, The Chi (Lena Waithe's new show on Showtime). And don't forget, Hoda Kotb has filled Lauer's seat on the Today Show. 
  7. Almost all leading astrologists agree that this is a year for global transformation- hence January's two full moons. Take that as you will. 
  8. And on a purely personal note, I finally felt empowered and courageous enough to leave a career that no longer served me. 
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HAUT OUT

Alexis Haut