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October 2020

MEMORIAL FOR A MOTHER: p.5 CONCERTS CRUSH COVID: p.8 GENDER, POLITICS, POLICY: p.10 DOES IT SPARK JOY?: p.12


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CONTENTS Staff of The Monthly Issue 31

Wilson Chapman Monthly Editor Catherine Buchaniec Creative Director Jacob Fulton Emma Ruck Carly Schulman Cynthia Zhang Designers Daisy Conant Zoe Malin John Riker Yonjoo Seo Janea Wilson Writers

Cover photo courtesy of Natasha Trethewey

Memorial for a Mother

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Concerts Crush Covid

8

Gender, Politics, Policy

10

Does It Spark Joy?

12

Liner Notes

14

Open Tab

15

Reel Thoughts

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Editor:

Whenever Northwestern starts another quarter and The Daily kicks back up again, I ask myself: what do I want to accomplish? Sometimes these goals are small and personal: when I was A&E Editor, the thing I wanted most was to get out of our newsroom before  a.m. every night (I mostly failed). Sometimes they’re more specific: my first quarter as Monthly Editor, I wanted to organize a special Pride Month-themed issue for June. That was one of the issues I worked hardest on, and I’m still extremely proud of how it came together. This is the last quarter I’ll be Monthly Editor, and we’re producing one less issue than we usually do, so it’d be easy to ride out this quarter doing the bare minimum. But I want to have an impact on this small but mighty magazine, and I want to do what I can to make it better than it was when I first started writing it. So for this quarter, my goal is pretty simple, even if I think I’ll still probably fail: I want to do what I can to make The Monthly less White. Every quarter, The Daily goes over the metrics for the stories that we produce, and the demographics of the sources each section interviews. As Monthly Editor, and as A&E Editor, I dropped the ball countless times when it comes to these metrics. I got lazy, and put down easy stories instead of looking harder. As a result, all of the sections I’ve led have had an overwhelming majority of White sources under my tenure. I can tell myself that it’s hard to improve metrics when NU is such a predominantly White school, that most of our famous alums are White, that the content I’ve produced is reflective of the diversity (or lack thereof) of the school’s various art scenes. But ultimately, I’d be a coward to give myself excuses like that. The content The Monthly produces ultimately falls on my shoulders, and I have a responsibility as an editor to make our coverage inclusive, both because it’s the right thing to do, and that’s when the stories we produce are at our very best. To not do everything in my power to do better isn’t just lazy; it’s harmful. So the specifics of my goals are this. For both issues, I want our cover story to be on a woman of color. The Monthly cover story is our most important story, and we tend to feature mostly White people in it. By consistently placing White people on the front of our magazine, even if we’re featuring POC in other features and profiles, we’re sending a message that stories about White people take priority over everyone else. Second, I want the White sources we interview to account for less than half of our overall sources; for context, in the spring, they accounted for over  percent of the people we interviewed. Third, I want to produce at least one story each this quarter centered on the experiences of Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people. This, in my mind, is that absolute bare minimum, and if I don’t achieve it then I’ll have failed as an editor. I also am anticipating I’ll fail at this task. For this first issue, I had three stories budgeted that were intended to profile famous Black women affiliated with Northwestern. A few weeks before the issue was due, two of those stories fell through, and I had to scramble for replacements. As a result, this issue is already way Whiter than it should be, even if all of the stories in it are fantastic. That’s still not an excuse, frankly; I could have come up with other story ideas profiling or centering Black people, and it’s on me that that didn’t happen. If I fail in my goals, I should be held accountable, and I’m not going to make excuses for myself, because ultimately this isn’t about me. It’s about making The Monthly a magazine for and about everyone, and that’s something I haven’t prioritized nearly enough.

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l a i r o m e M Mother for a Mot

orial rmorial ee a MothM for a Mothe Memorial r e for a Moth Memori for a M

l a i r o m e M emorial r e h t o M a r o f or a Mother Natasha Trethewey honors her mother Gwen in new memoir “Memorial Drive� by Wilson Chapman

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ne of the most devastating went through her mother’s hand. passages of Natasha TrethewTrethewey primarily works as a poet, and ey’s “Memorial Drive” arrives “Memorial Drive” reads like prose as poetry, halfway through the memoir, filled with lyrical passages and memorable in the chapter “You Know.” symbols that recur throughout: the bullet hole After 80 pages describing Joel left in the apartment wall, Trethewey’s Trethewey’s early life –– her birth to a Black birthmark on the back of her thigh, a recurring mother and a White father, her childhood scene of her nearly drowning in a pool as a growing up as a biracial girl in late 60s Missischild. To transition between poetry to prose, sippi, her parent’s eventual divorce, her move to Trethewey leaned into the similarities she Atlanta with her mother, her mother’s second found between the mediums, using silences marriage to another man –– in the first person, and pauses in the book in the same way she the book makes a sudden shift to second perdoes in her poetry and using the natural son, describing the experiences Trethewey went rhythms of language and syntax to inform through as occurring to “you.” her prose style. During the writing of the The chapter tracks Trethewey as her family memoir, Trethewey would start writing moves to the suburbs in 1976, and she slowly passages that would later develop into grows aware of the abuse her stepfather Joel is individual poems; some of these poems inflicting on her mother Gwen. At one point, were later included in her 2018 collection she tries to tell her fifth grade teacher that she “Monument: Poems New and Selected.” heard her stepfather beat her mother the night “I sort of thought of the book as an before, only to be told that “sometimes adults extended poem,” Trethewey said, “circling get angry with each other.” The chapter ends back on itself, using motifs that appear with Trethewey writing “Look at you. Even throughout, threads that I pull through now you think you can write yourself away the entire book like I pull through an from that girl that you were, distance yourself in the second person, as if you “I am happy that weren’t the one to whom any of this there are people happened.” who are reading the Trethewey said she wrote the chapter book and listening in the second person to comment on how and knowing some trauma divides people, fundamentally alterthings about the ing them from the person they were into loveliness and the the person they are afterwards. It also acts brilliance of my as a reflection of her own coping devices, on mother.“ how she has shied away from confronting the traumas of her childhood for years. “Having to write about that little girl, that experience was difficult enough that I entire collection.” want to not be her,” English Prof. Trethewey Although “Memorial Drive” acts as said. “I want to be separate from her.” an intimate look at Trethewey’s life, it also On June 5, 1985, when Trethewey was a positions itself as part of a larger story of 19-year-old undergraduate at the University of the historical marginalization and erasure Georgia, Joel shot and murdered Gwen, who of Black women in America, and the hisin the intervening years had fled their marriage tory of Black people in the South. In the and divorced him. opening prologue, Trethewey describes The memoir was the most emotionally returning to the site of the murder nearly 30 difficult work she ever created, taking her seven years after the fact, and draws the contrast years to complete. She stopped and started between how all evidence of her mother’s life is writing several times, continually revising the gone and the fact that the apartment building opening chapter focusing on her childhood in is located on the street (the titular Memorial Mississippi in order to avoid confronting the Drive) that leads to Stone Mountain, the trauma of the later material. Even now after largest memorial to the Confederacy in the writing the book, the events are still hard for United States. Trethewey also notes in the her to talk about; during our interview, she chapter describing her early childhood that her choked up describing the way that the bullet birth, as a child of an interracial marriage that

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was still illegal in the state she was born in, occurred on Confederate Memorial Day. Late in the book, a short, page-long chapter states that the official record of Gwen’s death gets the date wrong, erasing five days from her life. The day Joel shot Gwen, the police officer assigned to watch over the apartment left in the early morning in spite

“I sort

of being ordered to stay, his negligence causing her death. Trethewey’s friend and School of Communication Dean E. Patrick Johnson, who has worked with her on the school’s Black Arts Consortium, says these themes speak to modern problems surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, and how Black women’s issues are ignored and neglected. He pointed to how long it took for Breonna Taylor’s death to


of thought of the book as an extended poem.”

“Having to write about that little girl, that experience was difficult enough that I want to not be her. I want to be separate from her.“ gain public notice compared to her male counterparts as an example of how Black women are forgotten and failed by the general public. “It speaks to a larger issue of how Black women’s contributions and lives, they have not been at the forefront,” Johnson said. “Even in African-American history, many of the women who were a part of the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-lynching movement, they were overshadowed, even though they were in many cases at the forefront of those movements.” Trethewey said as emotionally difficult

as the book was to write, she also felt it was something she needed to create, both for herself and for her mother. Whenever Trethewey made strides in her poetry career, such as winning the Pulitzer or when she was appointed United States Poet Laureate, she noticed that people wrote about her career and her backstory by focusing on her father, a poet and professor, and the impact he had on her. For the writers behind these pieces, it was easy to draw a straight line from Trethewey’s White parent and his poetry to her career, and reduce

Photos courtesy of Natasha Trethewey

her Black parent to a footnote –– a murdered woman. “Memorial Drive” acts as a necessary corrective towards that simplistic narrative, to ensure Gwen would never be forgotten. “I felt she was being erased, and she wasn’t understood as the reason I am a writer,” Trethewey said. “So as difficult as it is to talk about the details, I am happy that there are people who are reading the book and listening and knowing some things about the loveliness and the brilliance of my mother. That she’s not simply that footnote.” ◊


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hen the COVID-19 pandemic started, performance venues and live-shows were at a standstill. Even as restrictions began to lift and states began to allow gatherings, health risks for live events remain a major concern. Once the

city of Chicago allowed outdoor events to happen, Adam Weiss and his team got to work on the Lakeshore Drive-In event series, which provides entertainment in a safe way for people craving it after months of stay-at-home orders. Weiss is the co-founder of Lakeshore Drive-In and AudisBliss, the event venue’s parent company. He said the group worked to develop a plan of safety precautions for attendants, staff and vendors. Weiss, who got his start in event production in college, missed live shows and was thrilled when the plan was approved by Chicago. Since the events are all drive-in shows, contact with others remains limited. Lakeshore’s plan limits vehicle capacity to 6 people and allows them to only socialize with the people from their car in the 12-by8 foot box that surrounds

their car. There are also safety staff dispersed across the lanes to make sure people follow social

distancing guidelines. Vendors are accessible through apps, with food delivered to vehicles. Starting in July, Lakeshore has put on a variety of concerts and special events including performances by rapper Lil Yachty and the band Mt. Joy, as well as an advanced screening of an episode of HBO’s Lovecraft Country. These events will continue until the end of October as weather permits. Several of these events sold out, and Weiss said he noticed there is still high enthusiasm among attendants. As the events have gone on, Weiss said people have unfortunately become more negligent about following social distancing protocols. More people have to be reminded to continue wearing masks and to stay distant. However, he said very few people have been removed from the premises for failing to follow guidelines. Tionna Van Gundy, owner of Fueled Events, has noticed a similar pattern at her company’s CHI-Together events. When events resumed over the summer, it was much

easier to get people to follow their regulations, but now places have opened with more lenient policies. “There’s still a pandemic going on,” Van Gundy said. “We still have to uphold these policies and procedures. Nothing has changed on our end, we’re still doing everything we need to do. I think people got a little more care free.” Like Lakeshore, CHI-Together has provided drive-in entertainment throughout the summer. Van Gundy said the events grew out of an increased demand for entertainment and a desire to keep their workers employed. Attendants of CHI-Together shows are given an 8-by-8 foot area around their cars to gather with others of their party. With events held at Soldier Field, CHITogether was able to accommodate around 200 vehicles at each event. From July to mid-September, the regular series included movies five nights a week with a variety of genres ranging from from “Kung Fu Panda” to “The Big Lebowski,” creating events for all ages. Live music performances occurred before every screening. Private events at Soldier Field will occur until mid-November. On the other end of

the spectrum, Constellation Chicago has been holding concerts inside since Illinois began to allow gatherings of less than 50 people. Margaret McCarthy of Constellation said the venue capacity is capped at 46 people, but having a larger venue space has allowed them to socially distance people while inside. No more than two people are allowed at a table and the bar is closed to keep people from moving around too much. With such a limited capacity, Constellation is also offering live-streams of their shows for the first time ever. As a performance venue dedicated to jazz music, Constellation has an international following and McCarthy said the pandemic has allowed for that following to become even stronger. “We had to make a live-stream system, but now that we have it, we’re doing it for every show,” McCarthy said. “Some people don’t want to come out. Some artists don’t want to have audience members and we’re letting them choose whether they do or don’t.” ◊ Photo courtesy of CHI-Together

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Gender, Politics, Policy

Medill alum launches nonprofit newsroom The 19th*

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mily Ramshaw (Medill ‘03) spent part of the 2016 election cycle on maternity leave. When she saw how conversations about female candidates revolved around “electability” and “likeability,” she wondered how the coverage would be different if someone created a newsroom truly representative of the nation’s gender diversity. Three years later, Ramshaw heard the same sexist and racist conversations circulating as part of the 2020 election cycle, and needed to find out for herself. “It was time for me to take the next step to try to build the nation’s first newsroom at the intersection of gender, politics and policy,” Ramshaw said, sitting in her office in Austin, Texas that’s currently empty because of the pandemic. She started The 19th*, a non-profit newsroom covering underrepresented and marginalized communities. The organization formally launched in August, the centennial month of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, which granted women the right to vote. The asterisk acknowledges how the Amendment failed to provide the same rights for all women, in particular excluding women of color. The idea to include the asterisk came from Errin

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by Yonjoo Seo

Haines, the 19th*’s editor at large. It has become the organization’s logo, and represents the newsroom’s mission to tell stories about all people who are treated unequally based on their gender, instead of focusing exclusively on stories about cisgender White women. “Our logo is a part of our newsroom, a part of our culture,” Haines said. “And it’s a part of our editorial philosophy, thinking about who is still not being seen and who is still not being heard in our democracy.” The team considered setting the launch date back a year in light of the pandemic, but persevered. Ramshaw continued to fundraise in quarantine, trying to keep her 4-year-old daughter out of the screen during video calls, and built a team of 23 people, the majority of whom she has yet to meet in person. The 19th* went live and held its first summit virtually in August. Meghan Markle (Communication ‘03) and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) were among the women who appeared at the event, marking Markle’s first major media appearance since returning to the U.S., and Harris’s first sit-down interview since receiving the Democratic vice presidential nomination. “Thank God we didn’t stop in our tracks,” Ramshaw said. “This is just a critical time for the issues the 19th* was envi-

sioned to cover, and we’re really excited to be at that intersection.” Ramshaw built a team representative of the people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals whose stories The 19th* strives to tell. About 70 percent of The 19th*’s newsroom members are people of color and top managers are women of color. The staff is based all over the country, which diversifies the voices and perspectives the newsroom represents, Ramshaw said. The team finds ways to connect virtually in non-work related settings, playing icebreakers and talking through video calls during their all-staff happy hours. “We try to do a really good job focusing on the mental health and well-being of our team,” Ramshaw said. When she was recruiting members to join the team, Ramshaw messaged Haines, whom she had never met before, on Twitter asking to connect. Ramshaw called her to share her vision for The 19th*, telling Haines she was a fan of her work. At the time, Haines was an Associated Press journalist focused on covering race. She said she wanted the opportunity to change the way people talk about gender and politics. The opportunity to tell a different story appealed to her, so the two stayed in touch until the following fall when Haines became a founding member of The 19th*. Ramshaw similarly left her editor in chief position at The Texas Tribune, a non-profit digital newsroom founded in 2009, where she worked for 10 years. She said her experiences at The Tribune helped inform the structure and models that helped form The 19th*. The Tribune uses a diversified business model that relies on multiple revenue streams,


and The 19th* adopted a similar business model. Ramshaw said once the pandemic lifts they hope to hold in-person events similar to The Tribune’s, putting the audience first in everything they do. The CEO of The Tribune, Evan Smith (Medill MSJ ’98), said Ramshaw’s leadership, vision and strategic sensibility as editor in chief were essential to The Tribune’s success. He expects the skills she learned at The Tribune to help her at The 19th*. He also said The 19th* has stayed true to the mission they put in front of people, which can be difficult for media startups. “News organizations have good intentions… And then often, because things don’t go exactly the way they thought of, the environment changes,” Smith said. “(The 19th*) has done a great job of leaning completely into their mission.” Ramshaw said fundraising was difficult due to the pandemic but her experience as a journalist was surprisingly helpful in this task. “I think (reporting skills) have translated into pretty good fundraising skills because you sort of get fearless asking people for what you need, or the information you want, (or) in this case, the funding you need,” Ramshaw said. She considers herself something of a “dyed-in-the-wool” journalist. Ramshaw’s parents were journalists, and she reported for her high school newspaper before working for Northwestern Magazine and The Daily, where she caught the local news bug covering Evanston City Council meetings. Given the 19th*’s early success, Ramshaw said she feels an enormous responsibility to make sure The 19th* is doing its audience the best possible service in this historic moment, and is focused on doing work that is impactful to the largest number of people.

She said it has been encouraging meeting these people by chance in her everyday life. Her mom’s realtor saw her 19th* mask over the weekend and asked if she worked there, reminding Ramshaw of when she thought, ‘Did I make it?’ the first time she saw someone with a Texas Tribune bumper sticker. ◊

11 Courtesy of Laura Skelding


Does it spark joy?

by Daisy Conant

How four students are making their living spaces feel like home during online learning

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ow do you make a house feel like a home? Or to put it more aptly for Northwestern students, how do you make a largely empty dorm, an Evanston apartment or a childhood bedroom feel like a comfortable and sane space to live while balancing Zoom classes, quarantines, and weekly existential crises? From shrines to their favorite singers to bedroom wall art galleries to four-legged roommates, here’s how four students managed to bring a bit of joy to their living arrangements this quarter.

Making home feel like home Growing up with three sisters, Communication senior Mac Lim didn’t have her own space until she got to college — and even then, she always shared it with a roommate. But with the University’s last-minute closure of the Evans Scholars House, Lim has been able to transform her childhood bedroom — a “blank slate” since her sister left for college — into a setting that’s uniquely hers, filled with her own supplies and collegiate memorabilia. “I’ve been struggling to find something or some sort of space that feels like it belongs to me, especially when I've always shared what feels like everything,” Lim said. “So feeling that I have one thing that can be my own is definitely helpful for my mental health.”

Shrine of the times

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A mantle displaying a unique curation of her roommate’s art, a piñata, and farmers market flowers. A collage of magazine cutouts, postcards, and photos of family and peers that she’s been collecting for years. A homemade shrine to singer-songwriter Harry Styles. For Medill sophomore Soumya Jhaveri, decorating her Evanston apartment was a way to create a space that she felt was her own and reminded her of what college could be, despite the distance between her and the friends she made last year. “The previous six months when I was at home, I just didn't feel focused in that space because it didn't remind me of who I was now,” Jhaveri said. “It felt very middle school — my walls were still l bright blue. Being able to transform (our apartment) into somewhere I can spend hours in the same place every day was something that was really important to me.”


Art imitating life, life imitating art Between his video studio and the reassuring sticky-note messages that mark his apartment lies Rishi Mahesh’s “art wall.” A culmination of the Communication senior’s four years of compiling visual arts skills through a hobby that “brings him peace,” the works vary from Sharpie cartoons on repurposed posters to abstract watercolors of his backyard. Of the collection, Mahesh noted he’s found the most interesting piece to be a self-portrait he worked on from the beginning of his displacement from Evanston to the start of Fall Quarter — a piece he sees as both a reflection of his artistic progress and his pandemic life. “It’s a pretty grotesque, literal image of myself,” Mahesh said. “It was the thing that I was working on for the most tumultuous kind of time, and I think it represents that time.” He added he’s grown to rely on these elements that make up his apartment for comfort, especially as we live through “the worst f--king time in history to be alive or whatever.”

You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character Weinberg senior Christina Carty explained a difficult part of the existential dread of a pandemic and transitioning to remote learning is grappling with where to place herself on the spectrum of “this sucks” — often resulting in her feeling like she has to tell herself her experiences and frustrations aren’t valid. So above her bed in her Evanston apartment, she placed three paintings portraying herself as her favorite narratives: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Little Prince, and Howl’s Moving Castle. “Having the paintings and seeing myself as these characters who go on these huge adventures and have these big arcs, felt like a reminder that it’s happening now for me as well,” Carty said. “I’m always the main character, regardless of what’s happening, and I can honor my experiences and my emotions with the same intensity that Scott Pilgrim gets honored in his movie and The Little Prince gets honored in his story.”

Photos courtesy of Christina Carty, Rishi Mahesh, Soumya Jhaveri, Mac Lim

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— by Wilson Chapman

S

On “Róisín Machine,” Róisín Murphy is at her disco-queen best

omewhat ironically, given how the pandemic has effectively shut down dance clubs for the entire year, one of 2020’s biggest music trends has been the reemergence of disco as a major force in pop. The genre never entirely went away, even at the height of the (openly racist and homophobic) “Disco Sucks” backlash in the early ‘80s, with its sound and style bleeding over into ‘80s pop music and continuing to influence dance music for decades. But in 2020, a hit pop song openly cribbing from the disco playbook is the norm rather than a fluke, from Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” to Lady Gaga’s “Stupid Love” to BTS’s recent number one hit “Dynamite.” Even touchstones of ‘70s disco culture have been making something of a comeback in popularity, such as the rise of viral roller-skating videos on TikTok. Next month, in a natural culmination of this trend, Kylie Minogue will be releasing a disco-influenced album titled, appropriately, “Disco.” I like all of the songs I’ve mentioned, but to be clear, calling them “disco” songs is an exaggeration. They all certainly take some inspiration from disco music, but that inspiration mainly informs the bells and whistles of standard pop songs that otherwise could have been made pretty much anytime in the last decade or so. There’s nothing wrong with artists adopting select elements of the genre to suit their individual styles, and the songs are often better for it, but it does risk diluting the term, with any moderately upbeat synth-song being touted as “disco-pop.” Two 2020 releases stand out, then, in how they use disco to inform their style in ways that go deeper than basic aesthetics. The first is English artist Jessie Ware’s fantastic record “What’s Your Pleasure?” which mines the sound of early ‘80s post-disco music scenes, particularly

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the Hi-NRG movement, to stellar results. The on these songs is evident in the level of polish second is Róisín Murphy’s fifth studio album, on the record; the songs are long, impeccably “Róisín Machine,” recently released on October designed dance tracks, filled with layered vocals 2. and huge, dramatic builds that lend a theatrical Unlike many of the artists feel to the record. behind this disco renaissance The opener, eight of sorts, who are just now and a half minute incorporating its influences long “Simulation,” into their music, Murphy is an epic that takes has been working with the its time to get going, tools of the genre for years. starting out with a The Irish artist got her start muted intro filled with as the vocalist of late-’90s/ breathy vocals before early aughts electronica the beat kicks in and duo Moloko, then went slowly transforms into solo after she broke up an effortlessly likeable with her then-boyfriend groove. Courtesy of Skint Records and producer Mark At its core, disco is a Brydon. Her 2005 debut “Ruby Blue” genre of big hooks and was a fascinatingly weird fusion of electronic big feelings; it’s a style suited for melodrama, for music with jazz trappings, but it was her follow expressing broad emotions like desire, hatred, up, 2007’s “Overpowered,” where Murphy found despair and lust. Murphy understands this, and her niche as a dancefloor queen, an expert at she’s an expert at crafting songs that play to the constructing sparkling, infectious grooves. Since genre’s strengths. She’s never better than she then, most of her music has had a bit of the genre is on the best track “Something More,” which in its DNA, but “Róisín Machine” is her most starts with a Greek chorus of sorts that repeats disco album since “Overpowered,” and arguably the phrase the lyric is built around, “I want the most disco project she’s released in her career. something more.” Eventually Murphy kicks in Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also her best work with the chorus, a plea for love that you’re just as yet. likely to cry to as you are to dance to. When she Murphy has been working on the songs that transitions to the bridge about halfway through, form the core of ‘Róisín Machine” for the better it’s the type of killer moment that turns a good part of a decade; several of the songs on the song into a terrific one, transporting the listener album were originally released as part of a series into a state of euphoric longing and bliss. of limited-edition vinyl 12-inch singles produced “Something More” demonstrates all the by her frequent collaborator Richard Barratt. strengths of disco, and what the genre can achieve The first song on the album to be written, the in the hands of an artist who knows it inside and icy “Incapable,” was released back in 2012. The out. If disco’s comeback produces more songs like length of time that Murphy has had to tinker it, then long live disco. ◊


Comida Cantina offers flavorful food, wherever you eat it

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hile dining at Comida Cantina on Central Street, it’s easy to feel like it’s been serving customers its Mexican and Latin American-inspired cuisine for years. Wait staff talk about dishes with deep familiarity and the atmosphere is comfortable and homey. But the restaurant opened in January, and according to general manager Eric Green, only experienced a few months of normalcy before the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close its doors. Green said everything about Comida has changed in the last few months, from how it interacts with customers to its overall business model. One thing has stayed the same, however: incredibly delicious food that you dream about after taking your last bite. The friendly staff and industrial aesthetic at Comida are all a part of its draw, but the food and drinks are why there’s often an hours-long wait to get a table at the restaurant. Green said the menu represents food that’s a cross between fine dining and casual, which gives customers the ability to eat their favorite foods, like empanadas or flautas, with an upscale twist that comes from unique spices or ingredients. My favorite dish is the Latin fried rice topped with seared ahi tuna, which is crusted in Tajín, a chili lime salt that bursts with flavor. Beyond its innovative dishes, the pandemic forced Comida to add items suitable for carry out service to its menu. Burritos, fajitas and customizable bowls are all new additions, but Green said customers have welcomed them. Comida is also known for its agave spirits – like tequila – and mezcal bar, including mixed drinks like a Paloma and daiquiris. Green said margaritas are Comida’s signature drink, and they come six ways: classic, spicy, hibiscus, guava, mango and strawberry. The restaurant sells 12-ounce bottles of its margaritas as well, so people

can host a party at home, Green said. Comida recently welcomed customers back into the restaurant to dine indoors, in addition to continuing its pick-up service. In August, Comida also completed building its rooftop deck with heat lamps where patrons can enjoy eating outside, even during the chilly fall. According to Green, it’s the second rooftop deck in Evanston – the other being Five & Dime – and overlooks a beautiful view of Central Street. Comida has live music on the deck, where it occasionally hosts yoga classes. Green said there are also plans to add a bar to the deck. He wants to continue seating customers outside as long as they can bear the impending cold, and Comida will add a delivery option during the winter. Green recognizes that customers miss the pre-pandemic dining out experience

— by Zoe Malin now, and will even more so this winter when outdoor options become few and far between. But he believes that eating at or ordering take-out from small, local restaurants like Comida will bring a sense of comfort to people during these unpredictable times. “We named this restaurant Comida because food brings people together, no matter where you’re eating it.” Green said. “As long as the food is great and you’re in good company, that’s what matters.” ◊ Photos courtesy of Comida Cantina Evanston

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Reel Thoughts

er

ohn Rik

— by J

HBO documentary “Class Action Park” provides thrills and chills

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o read about Action Park is one thing. Last summer, Sports Illustrated published a piece on the New Jersey phenomenon known as Action Park, a water park with seemingly zero rules and limitless danger. Author Jack McCallum’s retelling of Action Park’s 1980s heyday read like a mythological legend passed down through generations, with each daring feat more unbelievable than the last. To watch Action Park is an entirely different experience, one that capitalizes on the capabilities of documentary film in introducing this generation to a park so wild it must be seen to be believed. The documentary “Class Action Park,” released in late August on the HBO Max streaming platform, uses actual footage of adolescents diving off 20-foot cliffs into crowded, frigid pools and park patrons crashing off ill-constructed rides, interspersed with interviews of now-grown Action Park regulars. Most impressively, the documentary captures the duality of a historical aberration, harkening back to its rise with equal parts nostalgia and horror. “Class Action Park” is gifted with an outlandish premise even Hollywood couldn’t make up. The park opened its doors in the 1980s in Vernon, New Jersey as one of the first major water parks in the country. But founder Gene Mulvihill had his sights set much higher.

Courtesy of HBO

He set out to make a park high on freedom, short on rules and guaranteed to provide a great time. As the documentary shifts from ride to ride, it becomes clear that Mulvihill’s dreams have been realized, for better and for worse. There’s The Tarzan Swing, a short rope swing leading to a 10-foot drop into a frigid stream; Cannonball Loop, a fully enclosed loop-theloop built by amateurs; and a ball ramp made of PVC piping that was so hazardous that it didn’t make it past the testing stages. “Class Action Park” shows some of these rides in action, while resorting to cartoon animations and interviews to tell the horror stories of others. Interviewees detail unspeakably gruesome injuries as the stuff of legend, while noting that the omnipresent danger was an essential ingredient to the fun. “Class Action Park” also investigates the darker side of the park, and there is no shortage of material to cover. The bruises and broken bones aren’t aberrations — between poorly built rides, snake-infested waters, alcohol and negligent lifeguards, it becomes obvious that Action Park was set up to fail patrons. The footage (in which dense crowds pack an unsanitary amusement park) certainly makes for an interesting watch during a pandemicinduced quarantine. The filmmakers paint an incriminating picture of Mulvihill through his faulty park operations and conscientious abuse

of his legal and political power. To see the lives and families that were irrevocably damaged by the park’s lack of ethics is heartbreaking, and the documentary’s sudden tone shift provides a sobering counterbalance to the thrill of the park’s various deathtraps. Still, the gleam in the eyes of the Action Park employees and patrons is undeniable, and it is the duality, rather than one agenda, that “Class Action Park” underscores. Interviewees express horror of the thought of their children in such a negligent environment, yet proudly display their battle scars of decades prior and speak of the intoxicating adrenaline rushes the haphazard rides pent up. “Class Action Park” can be interpreted in a multitude of ways — a witness to unbelievable and only-in-the-80s rides or a stern warning against the absence of rules — but it functions tremendously well as a psychological case study. Like, what kind of crazy person would buy a ticket to such a circus? How far could the culture of the park devolve? Who in their right mind would ever devise a mess of this magnitude and go to such immoral lengths to ensure its success? To many, Action Park was about the experience, and after watching all of those abrasions and dislocated shoulders, I’m content to experience Action Park through the safety of a streaming service, with a couple decades of distance. ◊

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Profile for The Daily Northwestern

The Monthly: October 2020  

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