Some Sunday Stuff: December 8th.

Our “Jesse Tree”, with actual Jesse Tree ornaments from Inspired Traditions.

Hola! I’ve been playing Christmas music all week… but haven’t pulled our Christmas tree out the closet yet. I did put the wreath on the door and some garland and lights up in the dining room, though, along with an Advent wreath. Oh, and a pretty new Jesse Tree… which is totally not an actual Jesse Tree but a gold, glittery two footer with LED lights. So I guess our apartment is beginning to look a bit like Christmas.

By the way, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was sweet. I baked macaroni and cheese using this recipe by Patti Labelle. It turned out pretty good (Z would say it was excellent), but the Velveeta was just not working for me. I’m no cheese snob, and have dipped my fair share of fries in melted Velveeta (or whatever cheese-like product), but the manufactured flavor of hunks of Velveeta right next to actual cheese is… obviously wrong. Due to popular (read Zoe) demand, I’ll try it again around Christmas/ New Year’s, but will keep to using real cheese.

Cheese, cheese, cheese. I hate that I was so repetitive in that last paragraph. Let’s get to some links, shall we? First up, this ridonculous story about a new piece of post-modern “art. From Bloomberg:

Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian Photographer: Zeno Zotti Jacopo Zotti

A infamous $150,000 banana duct-taped to a wall has disappeared again — this time because it was becoming an unsafe distraction.

“We sincerely apologize to all the visitors of the fair who today will not be able to participate in Comedian,” Galerie Perrotin, where the work was being showcased, said in a statement Sunday, the last day of the exhibition.

The Comedian is the name of the work by the Italian artist provocateur Maurizio Cattelan, composed of a ripe-ish banana, duct tape and a 14-page manual for its installation and upkeep.

If art is a living thing, then the piece evolved Saturday when another artist provocateur named David Datuna unpeeled tape and skin and ate the banana.

“Art performance,” he said. He was a “hungry artist,” adding that it was “delicious.”

Initial price: $120,000, bid up to $150,000. Two bananas went to museums.

In its statement, Art Basel thanked the security guards who helped control the lines to see the banana — or the concept of transience of oblong yellow fruit or something. Enough was enough.

“The installation caused several uncontrollable crowd movements and the placement of the work on our booth compromised the safety of the artwork around us, including that of our neighbors,” the statement said.

“Comedian, with its simple composition, ultimately offered a complex reflection of ourselves,” it said.

Or a simple display of stupidity. Just my hot take. Moving on, by now you’ve probably seen that Peloton ad that helped launch a million mocking tweets. If you haven’t, here you go:

So this commercial is… unfortunate. The wife looks positively deer-in-the-headlights frightened, so much so I didn’t really notice the dang bike the first or second or however times I’ve seen it. Z said she “looks like she has mild anxiety,” which is pretty apt, especially come from an 8 year old. Also, the actress looks to be in very good shape. Yeah, thin folks also need exercise, but being that we supposedly time traveled a year with her on her over-priced bike #fitlife journey, I think most (read all) of us thought there would be more of a transformation from “creeped out” to “slightly-less creeped out, but smiling”. There’s a TON of stuff out there all about this ad’s inherent badness, but I figured I’d just do a quick rundown here:

There’s this Ryan Reynold’s ad featuring the Peloton actress:

The news that this ad actually helped drop Peloton’s stock, via Business Insider:

Peloton’s stock plunged 15% in three days this week, wiping more than $1.5 billion from its market capitalization.

The connected-fitness startup is weathering a social-media backlash over a recent holiday advertisement. “The Gift That Gives Back” features a young woman receiving a Peloton bike for Christmas and then filming herself exercising on it over the next year.

The ad, which has racked up more than 4 million views and 15,000 dislikes on YouTube, has been widely panned as sexist, tone-deaf, and dystopian.

Well, it does totally give me Black Mirror vibes. And here’s a thoughtful think piece from Medium on how ad agencies really need to find a 21st century Don Draper immediately. (okay, that’s not actually what Alec Opperman writes here at all:

Sometimes, an ad can be a perfect distillation of the nightmare in which we live. Earlier this year, Burger King tried to “start a conversation” about mental health and encouraged its viewers to #feelyourway, which, coming from a fast food company, seemed like a good way to sell depressed people hamburgers. In 2017, Pepsi’s “Live for Now” campaign had Kendall Jenner solve racism with complimentary cans of Pepsi. In 2005, GE put sexy coal miners to the tune of “16 Tons,” a song lamenting the coal industry’s exploitation of workers.

“The Gift That Gives Back,” a Peloton ad featuring a perfectly fit woman learning to love the burden of being gifted exercise equipment isn’t quite like the others. Peloton did not try to cash in on civil strife or mental illness, nor did they try to appropriate art that likens its industry to the stealer of souls, Satan. Instead, they tried to make our confession-obsessed society look good, even romantic.

Philosopher Michel Foucault declared in 1976 that the “confession” was “one of the West’s most highly valued techniques for producing truth.” The act of spilling your worst thoughts and deeds to your neighborhood priest spread to the justice system, to hospitals, education, and relationships. Whereas we might have once chronicled our impure thoughts and deeds in the confessional, we now do so to judges, psychiatrists, teachers, parents, and lovers.

This is important because, where one might view power as something exercised by cabals of people behind closed doors, it instead exists as a network that permeates throughout our relationships, in our institutions, in our thoughts and actions. It is not simply that a teacher holds power over you, but that you’ve learned to behave, think, act, and relate to your teacher in a way which makes you a “good student.” When one confesses to their partner that they have not used their $2,000+ exercise bike, it affirms that it is they who control their exercise destiny, that they must carry their own shame, that the only crime here is their own. The real power lies in the relationship itself, not some kind of dictatorial power one holds in their partner’s exercise routine.

Foucault did not live to see how confession would become a foundational force in the age of the internet. We have become singularly obsessed with the curation of our self, transmitting both our triumphs and failures, while Silicon Valley quietly collects enough personal data to determine if we’d be more receptive to an ad for a vitamin subscription service or discreetly packaged erectile dysfunction pills. Or, in the case of Peloton, creating a sense of virtual accountability with a remote spin instructor or a digital journal for your sedentary husband to quietly judge.

If your curious, Judgey Hubby from the ad is on Insta as “Peloton Husband”. You’re welcome.

Princess Margaret with director Alfred Hitchcock during her U.S. tour in 1964. (Getty Images)

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my binge included more than just food since I managed to polish off season three of The Crown. One of the earlier episodes focused on Princess Margaret’s trip to the United States, showcasing how marvelous Helena Bonham Carter is as middle-aged Margaret (just as Vanessa Kirby was as her younger self). Here’s a fun video about the real trip across the pond:

And finally, here’s Pentatonix with Tori Kelly for this lovely mashup of “Winter Wonderland” and “Be Happy”. Have a great week!

Bonus: check out my full (and still growing) Christmas Playlist on YouTube here. 🙂

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