February Staff Picks: Memoirs, TV Shows, Video Games, and Björk!

Asmaani Kumar

Starting the year with Larissa Pham’s memoir-in-essays collection Pop Song: Adventures in Art and Intimacy has had a massive emotional impact on me. After months, I find myself falling deeply in love with art and writing, wanting to explore my chaotic mess of thoughts. That’s exactly what Pham’s writing does to you, her vulnerable expositions give you a strong nudge to explore your own memories and the story you want to tell about yourself. One of my favorite things about this collection is how so many times, it feels like an open letter. Pham writes with so much depth and sensitivity about the world of art, photography, music, politics, loss, trauma, and heartbreak. But in each of her essays, she circles back to this one person, as though she is in conversation with him. In some essays, his presence takes center stage and in others, he’s a fleeting paragraph but he’s always there. This is why so much of her musings are about the intimacy of human connections and even though I find a gap between her experiences of building and sustaining relationships, I completely with all of my heart understand where she’s coming from. There is this endless longing to feel and to create within the larger world, to have a sense of belonging, and she validates that with so much sensitivity and with feelings of her own. And if that isn’t enough to make you pick up Pham’s collection, I’m leaving behind one of the many heartbreakingly beautiful lines. She writes, “I had come to see something beautiful; I had come hoping to be seen. I walked around the museum, hand over my heart, returning again to Bourgeois’s drawings of hands and the pages of the fabric book on the wall. I mouthed the lines, half-aloud to myself. I felt so much it threatened to spill out of me, though I had no one to tell about it, and of course the person I wanted most to tell was you.”

Dominic Loise

Astrid and Lilly Save The World airs Wednesday nights on SYFY. This show is funny, heartfelt, and truthful about the high school experience. It had me hooked with the main character and them fighting monsters from another dimension was just extra goodness. As schools enact anti-bullying programs, it is good to see a show that doesn’t sweep that topic still existing under the rug. Astrid and Lilly’s pain from the daily social anxiety of high school caused the dimensional rift so they are the only ones who can close it. And unlike Buffy, their powers aren’t the usual enhancements. Lilly gets a leg cramp which increases in intensity as she is closer to the monsters. I love this power because it means she can’t run away from her problems. And Astrid’s sense of smell has been highlighted, which represents her empathy as in “she can smell when something is wrong”. I am excited to see Astrid and Lilly not only stop the monsters but realize that life and high school are easier when you have one true friend by your side.

Jessenia Hernandez

I recently started playing It Takes Two, the video game that won The Game Award for Game of the Year in 2021. I’ve been playing this exclusively co-op game with my boyfriend, who’s a bit more experienced than me when it comes to gaming—okay, that might be an understatement—but regardless of skill level, we’ve both thoroughly enjoyed it. This action-adventure platformer follows May and Cody, a couple on the verge of divorce. By some strange magic, the two get transported into dolls of themselves created by their daughter, Rose, and must find a way to get back to her and into their own bodies. This game is filled with unexpected storytelling, comical banter between the main characters, and lots of magic. Every section of the game introduces beautiful landscapes to explore and creative, diverse boss fights. I can get easily overwhelmed with difficult games, so playing as May was the right choice since she mostly gets to fight and blow stuff up. My boyfriend has been playing as Cody, who handles some of the more strategic parts of the game that often require precision. Despite the vastly different roles we play, we are almost always working together, communicating about tasks and timing to coordinate our success. As we get a better feel for collaborating in this medium, Cody and May are also learning how to work together. Not only is the game action-packed and pleasing to look at, but its story is compelling and emotional. It’s the perfect game to play with a significant other, friend, or family member. Be prepared to get frustrated with each other at times, but also get ready for that sweet satisfaction when you pass a level together.

Thomas Chisholm

I went to LA at the end of January to see Björk’s Cornucopia showcase. The brief tour is wrapping up the original run of Cornucopia shows that were going on in 2019. The concert focuses on Björk’s most recent album, the excellent Utopia from 2017. The show is stunning on every level with unreal visuals, incredible wardrobes, a team of flutists, and even a choir. It’s closer to an opera than a typical concert; a total work of art. I was especially impressed by the reworked versions of older songs. She did a cappella versions of “Venus as a Boy,” and “Hidden Place.” The choir actually sang the instrumental for the former. Björk was basically my last bucket list artist to see live and she exceeded all expectations.

Cover art is a tour poster from Björk's Cornucopia tour