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Making Community Look Easy, Even Remotely

Beneath an electric-blue waterfall, activists and government officials enjoy a Cézanne-worthy bathing party. In a blue bikini, champagne flute in hand, labor leader Dolores Huerta splashes past Bernie Sanders, who is shirtless and unsettlingly sinewy, à la Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Transgender elder and civil rights advocate Miss Major dazzles in a frilly lavender…

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Beneath an electric-blue waterfall, activists and government officials enjoy a Cézanne-worthy bathing party. In a blue bikini, champagne flute in hand, labor leader Dolores Huerta splashes past Bernie Sanders, who is shirtless and unsettlingly sinewy, à la Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Transgender elder and civil rights advocate Miss Major dazzles in a frilly lavender one-piece. Gnomes with floppy caps and white beards, immodest in snug marijuana-leaf T-shirts and crimson Speedos, populate the plunge pool’s rocky perimeter. One is grilling, spatula in hand.

At the center, sporting a ludicrous propeller beanie, is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her judicial robe, scandalously shredded, dangles from her neck and shoulders, revealing hints of underboob. Like Bernie, RBG is disconcertingly muscular. A black bikini string rises over her powerful flanks. The banal treble of indie music underscores this perplexing, hypnotic tableau.

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“Here’s the first trivia question,” announces a loud voice, interrupting the party. “I hope it’s good.”
From a small video feed on-screen, New York–based comedian and artist Lorelei Ramirez speaks to a small internet audience. The bathers are in a Photoshop file titled DAMN-Recovered.psd that Ramirez is casually editing in real time. In a sidebar chatroom, viewers giddily send one another public text messages. They’re collaborating with Ramirez on the content of the drawing, sharing mental health tips, and extolling the healing powers of psilocybin mushrooms (someone calls them “God’s ibuprofen”). Writer Charlie Markbreiter—known in the chat as @charliedurian—acts as Ramirez’s off-camera cohost and moderator. Much to everyone’s delight, Markbreiter is typing out impromptu micro-fiction about skateboarding druids in a CVS pharmacy.
Welcome to “Art Is Easy,” Ramirez’s idiosyncratic Twitch stream.

Lorelei Ramirez, Fear Sux, 2020, digital drawing.
Courtesy Lorelei Ramirez

Twitch, which launched in 2011, is best known for livestreams of video games; some streamers earn significant money broadcasting feeds of themselves playing video games, and compete in sponsored gaming competitions, or esports. While some users watch streams of podcasters, comedians, and artists, the site’s core audience is males aged 18–34 who tune in by the millions to watch experts play battle royale or first-person shooter games like Fortnite and Overwatch.

Compared to the breakneck speed and graphic spectacle of a typical Twitch stream, “Art Is Easy” is like a mug of chamomile tea—albeit one sipped while huffing nitrous oxide. The vibe is calming and inclusive, yet gut-busting and blasphemous.
Ramirez clears their throat and unveils the trivia question: “Did you know that ninety-nine percent of ten makes up nearly fifty-five?”
A chyron text graphic appears on-screen, reiterating the obtuse question. Along the bottom of the viewing pane, a ticker scrolls repeatedly: THIS JUST IN: ALL POLITICIANS HAVE HUGE ASSES BECAUSE THEY SIT ALL DAY SIGN PAPERS [sic].
“Uh, it’s a yes or no question,” Ramirez clarifies while zooming the Photoshop window onto Justice Ginsburg. “If you could reply in the comments, let me know what you think the answer is and I will check back in. But in the meantime, we’re gonna color in our sexy little RBG.”

Lorelei Ramirez, Space Horse, 2020, digital drawing.
Courtesy Lorelei Ramirez

This pairing of cartoonish naivete with the irreverent debasement of #resistance liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg encapsulates the twisted allure of Ramirez’s comedy. Whether doing stand-up, publishing zines, or producing slick professional video works, Ramirez weds trenchant social criticism with juvenile buffoonery. Though at times confounding, the comedian’s approach has transcended Brooklyn’s alternative and DIY rooms. In the last two years, Ramirez has written for HBO’s popular show “High Maintenance,” had a recurring role on the network’s “Los Espookys,” been profiled in the New York Times, and written, directed, and starred in the Adult Swim television “infomercial” called “Pervert Everything.” A true comedy obsessive, Ramirez continued appearing at indie nights until COVID-19 put in-person performance on hold. “Art Is Easy” was born of the restlessness of not being able to perform live.
“Art Is Easy” has a variable format. Sometimes there are official guests, sometimes Ramirez aimlessly doodles the chat’s fantasies. This recalls the flexibility of “Not Dead Yet,” Ramirez’s interdisciplinary pre-quarantine Brooklyn monthly where the comedian field-tested new material and emceed diverse lineups that included comics Patti Harrison and Jaboukie Young-White, writers Peter BD and Darcie Wilder, actor Becca Blackwell, and periodic cohosts Ana Fabrega and Amy Zimmer.
With “Art Is Easy,” Ramirez has managed to adapt the outrageous experience of their live shows into something fresh and specific to Twitch. It’s an unlikely success, considering how flat some virtual pivots by artists and comedians have fallen. What sets “Art Is Easy” apart is its organic intimacy, the way that it easily achieves the “alone together” vibe that countless Zoom artist panels or Instagram Live comedy shows have aimed for and missed. And in the broader context of Twitch, “Art Is Easy” simmers subversively; a queer oddity nestled amid an often noxious, masculine commercial space.

Lorelei Ramirez, Dream Home, 2020, digital drawing.
Courtesy Lorelei Ramirez

Perhaps most important, “Art Is Easy” is devastatingly funny—even when tackling heavy material. Early in July, Ramirez welcomed comedians Francesca D’Uva and Edy Modica for an oddly timed chuckle-fest: D’Uva and Modica had recently lost a father and a stepfather, respectively, to COVID-19. They cracked jokes while processing grief, producing an afterlife-themed drawing of the departed (plus Frank Sinatra) titled All Dads Go 2 Heaven. (Merch with this and other “Art Is Easy” drawings can be purchased from Ramirez’s Teepublic store.) Later in July, comedian-artists Sarah Sherman and Katy Fishell joined the show alongside Theo Henderson, a homeless Los Angeles resident who hosts the podcast “We the Unhoused.” Together, the foursome, along with Markbreiter and the chat participants, drew an imagined park called Alpine where all are welcome and treated with dignity, regardless of housing status.
It is this warmth—the same welcoming atmosphere that Ramirez creates at their live productions—that keeps viewers coming back, even to a virtual space. For those feeling ever more atomized by perpetual quarantine-imposed isolation, or disempowered by the callous violence of the United States upon its most vulnerable, “Art Is Easy” does what great comedy should: it makes the audience feel less alone, united by cathartic howls against a system that is—while by no metric funny—increasingly laughable.

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Saturday’s gossip column

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard wants the Stamford Bridge club to attempt to sign 21-year-old West Ham midfielder Declan Rice. Any move for the England international could lead to Italy midfielder Jorginho moving to Arsenal.(Mirror)external-linkTottenham are in talks to sign Slovakian defender Milan Skriniar, 25 – but will not be forced into accepting Inter Milan’s £55m…

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard wants the Stamford Bridge club to attempt to sign 21-year-old West Ham midfielder Declan Rice. Any move for the England international could lead to Italy midfielder Jorginho moving to Arsenal.(Mirror)external-linkTottenham are in talks to sign Slovakian defender Milan Skriniar, 25 – but will not be forced into accepting Inter Milan’s £55m valuation. (Sun)external-linkInter will make a move to sign Manchester United and England defender Chris Smalling, 30, if they sell Skriniar to Spurs. (Football Italia)external-linkSevilla are expecting a second bid from Manchester City for centre-back Jules Kounde and could find it hard to resist an offer in the region of 65-70m euros (£59.4m-£64m) for the 21-year-old Frenchman. (ESPN)external-linkArsenal have lodged a £32m bid for Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, 22, but the Ligue 1 club want £54m for the France midfielder. (RMC Sport, via Metro)external-linkAouar has agreed to join the Gunners after no offers emerged from Manchester City and Juventus for his services. (Telefoot, via Mirror)external-linkLiverpool and England Under-21 striker Rhian Brewster, 20, is interested in a move to join Sheffield United, despite interest from Aston Villa and Brighton. (Sheffield Star)external-linkLeeds United are keen on signing 22-year-old Dutch midfielder Teun Koopmeiners from AZ Alkmaar. (Telegraph – subscription required)external-linkChelsea manager Frank Lampard is planning to hold talks with Spain keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, 25, following the signing of Senegal international Edoaurd Mendy, 28. (Star)external-linkNewcastle United manager Steve Bruce says he did not think about selling Brazilian striker Joelinton, 24, during the summer. (Mirror)external-linkWatford are keen on bringing in 25-year-old Sheffield Wednesday centre-half Dominic Iorfa, who is a former England Under-21 international. (Independent)external-linkFriday’s gossip column The back page of the Daily Express
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SuperM Unite: K-pop’s Avengers Call For Togetherness On Super One

Courtesy of SM Entertainment Halfway through Super One, the first full-length studio album from the South Korean band SuperM, something unexpected happens. After the breakout single “Tiger Inside,” a fearsome composition of guttural growls and clapping beats, cools off, its fiery sound gives way to the twinkling piano keys of the group’s first ballad, “Better…

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Courtesy of SM Entertainment

Halfway through Super One, the first full-length studio album from the South Korean band SuperM, something unexpected happens. After the breakout single “Tiger Inside,” a fearsome composition of guttural growls and clapping beats, cools off, its fiery sound gives way to the twinkling piano keys of the group’s first ballad, “Better Days.” It’s a hopeful song about overcoming hard times collectively, and with its slow-burning, ‘90s-tinged nostalgia, it seems at once outside the group’s typically boisterous sound and perfectly placed. The dichotomous arrangement of the two tracks resonates as the sonic equivalent of reaching the peak of a mountain, then looking out over a cloudy expanse, off to “better days, better days, better days” — and toward forever. You realize the world is so small.
“The lyrics are, kind of, very healing,” the 24-year-old Thai singer Ten says of the track during a Zoom press conference. After he speaks, his six collaborators — Taemin, Baekhyun, Kai, Taeyong, Mark, and Lucas — clap and cheer wildly in response. “I think people, when you listen to ‘Better Days,’ you can get that energy that we, us together, can make a better day.”
The “Avengers of K-pop” have been making history since they arrived on the circuit less than a year ago. The first K-pop supergroup, comprised of seven key members from acts under the parent company SM Entertainment (SHINee, EXO, NCT 127, WayV), their eponymous EP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the first Korean artists to do so with a first release. Their sound became synonymous with the electricity of their earliest, instantly iconic single, “Jopping,” a formula followed by “2 Fast” and “Super Car.” That inherent energy is perhaps what made their work immediately appropriate for big-stadium tours: They embarked on their first world tour, We Are the Future Live, months after their debut, concluding at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden. It’s also what makes their first ballad such an outlier within their catalog, albeit perfectly at home on Super One.
“We all need to come together and unite,” 27-year-old Taemin declares of the LP’s core message with the help of a translator. “We all need to come together to overcome rather than just the individuals.” That notion resonates immediately and poignantly while the group speaks to a group of journalists separated by continents and a global pandemic; at the end of the chat, they pose for selfies with smiles and peace signs for the digital grid of writers. This experience, a yearning to be together while being forced apart, is framed on the bumping, radio-ready English closing track “With You,” which was previously performed during Global Citizen’s Lady Gaga-curated One World: Together At Home benefit livestream. But the notion appears throughout, as on “Tiger Inside,” about unleashing one’s inner strength.
Courtesy of SM EntertainmentThough collective healing might be the driving theme of Super One, it’s equally defined by its eclecticism. It grooves into R&B on “Step Up” and “So Long,” while the album’s titular opus, “One (Monster & Infinity),” a hybrid remix, is an all-out banger with a gooey techno beat. The track might give SHINee fans flashbacks: It’s the first medley of its kind from an SM group since “Sherlock (Clue + Note).” “When I recorded ‘Sherlock’ with SHINee back in the day, at that time, it was like one of the first times we were doing this, so it felt very experimental,” Taemin adds. “At that time, I was a little worried but not worried about how this would end up sounding at the end of the recording process… A lot of people might think that mixing two songs together is, kind of, quite tall of a task, but we were able to do it, and I’m really happy with the results.”
A debut album is a symbolic, defining moment for an artist’s career; on Super One, SuperM are both the sum of their parts while also transcending that, a unique symbiosis among larger-than-life singular talents. And yet, there’s still more for the boys to learn along the way: “I’m sure everyone feels the same way but, as artists, when we start out our careers, I can’t help but to feel that a lot of the moments that we go through feel like we’re still trying to get there, like we’re not fully there yet,” 25-year-old Taeyong says. “There are a lot of moments where it might’ve felt like a failure but actually, everything was like a step to build up what they have now.”

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Enola Holmes on Netflix: Everything you need to know about Sherlock’s sister – CNET

What’s the Phoebe Waller-Bridge connection? Why’s Sherlock’s sister being sued? All your questions answered about the movie starring Millie Bobby Brown.

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What’s the Phoebe Waller-Bridge connection? Why’s Sherlock’s sister being sued? All your questions answered about the movie starring Millie Bobby Brown.

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