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Hump Day Recommendations

Escape: your cage. Remember Flaco, the Eurasian Eagle owl that captured New York’s imagination and ruled the city’s night skies after he was mysteriously freed from his cage in the Central Park zoo? He died over the weekend after crashing into an apartment building window. It was only a matter of time, they said, before Flaco’s flight of freedom would end with rat poison in his veins or a losing encounter with a highrise of some kind. But for many locals, Flaco continues to soar as a symbol of something. “He was showing us how we can break free out of our cages,” one unjaded Gothamite told the Times, “the mundane, the things that don’t serve us, the things that hold us back.” -Alex
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Read: “Several Short Sentences About Writing,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I’ve just finished my fifth (maybe sixth?) reading of this inspiring guide to better writing. This thoughtful set of writing principles helps me notice what I notice, in writing and in life, and write more simply. – Willis
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Watch: “The Zone of Interest.” I’ve never seen a Holocaust film quite like this. It focuses on the commandant of Auschwitz as he balances facilitating mass murder while trying to maintain a good home for his family outside of the walls of the notorious death camp. The film is a ruthless, deeply unsettling examination of the banality of evil. I will be thinking about this haunting movie, which was among this year’s Oscar nominees for “Best Picture,” for a very long time. – John

Watch:Californication.” It’s a kinda funny, kinda twisted, kinda lighthearted sitcom I’ve been binging. It will get you through the doldrums of winter. – Riley

Read:A Little Life,” by Hanya Yanagihara. This might just be the most devastating book I’ve ever read. It follows the lives of Willem, Jude, Malcolm, and JB who meet in college in New York and quickly become lifelong friends despite coming from very different backgrounds. Yanagihara has weaved in layers and layers of sadness by showing an abundance of trauma in every character’s life. The boys have just one thing tying them together: a will to break away from their pasts. – Suhani

Hear: Sweetness of Broken Dates. Today, the East African nation of Somalia is often associated with war and strife, but it wasn’t always so. In the '70s, Somalia – always a rich crossroads of African, Arab, and South Asian influences – enjoyed relative stability under the secular dictatorship of Siad Barre. The music scene in Mogadishu boomed. Male and female artists conducted wild experiments mixing traditional East African rhythms and melodies with Western styles like funk, R&B, and reggae. The album “Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa” rescues some of the era’s best records, which were hidden away in an archive in the (now) separatist enclave of Somaliland. The whole album hits hard, but my favorite track is probably Na Daadihi, by the 40-member supergroup 4 Mars (wait til the chorus comes in – it’s wild). – Alex

Watch: Society of the Snow.” Would you survive a plane crash in snowy mountains? That’s the plot of this Netflix thriller based on a true story. In 1972, an inexperienced pilot took a wrong route and crashed a flight carrying 45 passengers with 19 members of the Old Christians Club rugby team deep into the Andes. The gut-wrenching tale may make you cover your eyes at times, but it’s an Oscar-nominated must-see (just don’t eat while watching). – Suhani
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Watch:“Masters of the Air” Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg can’t stop producing WWII content, and I’m not mad about it. If you’re a history nerd like me and enjoyed “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” I would highly recommend checking out this new show on Apple TV. It focuses on the brutal air battles of WWII, offering an intense glimpse into Allied efforts to take the fight to the Nazis from above. – John

Listen: Twilight of the Aesir, Part II”: On the banks of the river Volga in the year 921, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, an ambassador from the Caliph in Baghdad encountered “the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures”: the Rus. Burly, tattooed slavers worshiping violent, jealous gods from the frozen north in ibn Fadlan’s day, within a few generations these fearsome “Eastern Vikings” had taken Slavic names and went to war under the Christian cross. In the second installment of Dan Carlin’s epic narrative about how Odin’s berserkers became brides of Christ, the veteran podcaster turns his eye to the much-understudied east, and the blood-soaked process that turned the Rus into Russians. (Skip the bit about their cleaning rituals — truly stomach-churning) – Matt

WatchBlue Eye Samurai”: This 2023 Netflix animated series deserves all the hype and more. Action-packed with a strong storyline, this show, set in the Edo period, centers around Mizu, a half-white half-Japanese outcasted samurai, out to seek revenge from the four white men who invaded Japan to bring in Western influence. The show has flawed yet well-developed characters, tons of blood, history, wholesome sidekicks, and a focused aim. It’s one of the best-animated shows I’ve seen and makes for a perfect Saturday binge! - Suhani

Read: “The Trials of Madame Restell” by Nicolas L. Syrett. For forty years, out of her home office at 148 Greenwich Street, Madame Restell gave an array of gynecological and abortions in nineteenth-century New York, when abortion was illegal but de facto tolerated. The book follows how Madame Restell built a gynecological empire by embracing that “there’s no bad press” as well as the shifts in medicine, morality, and law that shaped it.Riley
The Daily crew is usually busy focusing on geopolitics, but sometimes we make it to the cinema too. In honor of this year’s Oscar nominees, we share our thoughts on some of the Academy-selected films – and a couple that didn’t (but should’ve) made the cut.
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Visit: “Anyang” at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. This is the first major exhibition in the United States about the artistic and archaeological wonders found in China’s oldest imperial capital. The exhibit features some of the earliest samples of writing in human history, the so-called “Oracle Bone” characters etched into the belly bones of ancient tortoises, then cracked with red-hot irons to reveal the will of Shangdi. You’ll be amazed by the intricate bronzewares, covered in multimorphic animal motifs that shift with your perspective. My favorite? One of the earliest known depictions of a dragon, wrapping its serpentine body around a wide bowl. – Matt

Watch: "American Fiction." This poignant, hilarious satire is a deeply layered examination of race in the US and how narratives surrounding it are both shaped and perceived. Jeffrey Wright is fantastic as the lead character, Monk, a smug, grumpy novelist who has his world – and his assumptions about people – turned upside down as the film progresses. Highly recommend checking this out in theaters! – John

Listen/Read: “The Price of Netanyahu’s Ambition,” by David Remnick. I listened to this hour-long portrait of who Netanyahu is to Israelis and to himself in the aftermath of Oct. 7. I thought it painted a great picture of the political and media landscape in Israel right now and in the not-so-distant past. – Riley

Fight: Tyranny. Most conservatives who worry about “tyranny” seem to have in mind the supposedly coercive overreach of the government. But as the prominent arch-conservative Catholic writer Sohrab Ahmari sees it, the vast majority of the coercion that Americans experience in their daily lives actually comes from the private sector. In his book, “Tyranny, Inc.,” he argues that the court-backed power of employers, the massive privatization of public services, and the cult of deregulation have left Americans at the mercy of a new market-powered tyrant. Amazingly for a conservative, he ends up prescribing a revived New Deal to keep the playing field even. If nothing else, a bold attempt to break stereotypes of left and right — see if you find it compelling. – Alex

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