Some of my all-time favorite people were born in February, so I hate to reject it wholesale, but it is a bleak little month if we’re being honest, and that’s true even when you’re not still dealing with an astonishingly intransigent pandemic. Gray skies, cold weather, and those appalling piles of sludge festooned with cigarette butts and dog piss everywhere are enough to make anyone wonder whether it might finally be time to decamp to LA, but yet we are all still here, staring down another few months of this drab vista until glorious spring arrives. One tried and true way to get through to the other side of a particularly gnarly February is to treat yourself to the luxury of being entertained, and luckily the month ahead has many ways to deliver on that even if the day-to-day sights and sounds ain’t it. Below, we’ve gathered an array of cultural happenings taking place in the weeks to come that might be just the spark you need to get out of the house and out into the world (either literally or figuratively). Happy exploring!
1. Pam & Tommy
Maybe it’s because I’m deep in a pit of nostalgia for my freewheeling youth, before I ever had to know what things like “viral loads” or “KN95 masks” were, but the minute I heard that Hulu was releasing an original limited series this month about Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee, and the sex tape scandal that dominated pop culture discourse in the mid-90s, I knew I’d be fully on board. That the eight-part show is chock full of star power, including Seth Rogen, who is an executive producer and also plays the real-life electrician who stole the tape from the Anderson/Lee home after a dispute over his fees, only piqued my interest further. The first three episodes of Pam & Tommy have been available since Wednesday, and a new one will drop every week from now through March 9. I’ll admit that it’s probably not the pinnacle of refinement, but if you are looking to be entertained in the cold, dreary month ahead, you could certainly do a lot worse.
2. The Trojan Horse Affair, available now
The only exercise I get anymore comes in the form of nightly, post-work walks through Sunset Park, South Slope, and Fort Greene, and the best way I’ve found to decompress from a stressful day of back-to-back Zoom meetings is to fire up a podcast that tells an engrossing true story that I’ve never heard before. Given that criteria, I have a feeling that The Trojan Horse Affair, a new podcast from Serial Productions and The New York Times that was released in its entirety yesterday, is going to fit the bill. The eight-episode series focuses on a 2014 anonymous letter that outlined a plot by Islamic extremists to take over a school in Birmingham, England, the national panic that followed, and the fact that no one ever bothered to figure out who actually was behind the letter. That is, until journalist Hamza Syed teamed up with Brian Reed (who you may know from S-Town) to get to the bottom of this strange story, and it sounds like the ensuing investigation takes enough mysterious and dramatic turns to make a stroll through the same damn streets I see every day significantly more exciting.
3. Black No More, now through Feb. 27
I’ll admit that it takes a lot to get me excited about a musical, but Black No More, a new show that’s in a limited engagement run at The New Group through February 27, doesn’t sound like your everyday musical. For one thing, Tariq Trotter (aka Black Thought of The Roots fame) wrote the lyrics and helped develop the music, which draws from a wide swath of jazz, gospel, R&B, hip-hop, and reggae. For another, screenwriter John Ridley, who penned the Oscar-winning adaptation of 12 Years a Slave (and incidentally isn’t typically a fan of musicals either) and choreographer Bill T. Jones (Hamilton) are also part of the creative team behind the show, which will likely end up on Broadway. The production is based on a 1931 novel by George S. Schuyler that presents a satirical, Afrofuturistic perspective on race relations in America: in it, a young black man undergoes a procedure to make his skin white in order to escape racism but soon learns that the plan is flawed. Tickets start at $30 and are on sale now.
4. The 2022 Winter Olympics
And in things that make the passage of time feel unknowable, today is somehow the first official day of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, and NBC’s live coverage of the Opening Ceremony already aired at 6:30am (Beijing is 13 hours ahead of ET). This year’s spectacle is made up of a record 109 events involving 2,871 athletes from 91 countries, and luckily others have put together some handy-dandy viewing guides for those of you who don’t want to miss any of the action on the ice or in the snow. NBC and Peacock will be airing live coverage and prime-time presentations of notable contest between now and the Closing Ceremony, which is scheduled for Sunday, February 20. Go Team USA!
5. The Worst Person in the World, now at the Angelika
Every review I’ve read so far of The Worst Person in the World, a new film by Norwegian director Joachim Trier about a 30-something woman who can’t seem to figure out what she wants from life, says that it is one of the best movies of the year, which seems pretty bold given that we’re only just inside of February. It does sound highly relatable though, as if it expertly taps into a certain sense of helplessness and hesitancy that can paralyze ambitious people with high expectations for their lives and themselves when they realize that adulthood might not play out the way they expected. Funny and sad and set in Oslo, a place I long to revisit someday, The Worst Person in the World sounds well worth donning a mask for a few hours to sit in the Angelika, where it’s been screening in limited release since yesterday.
6. Maeve Higgins, Feb. 9
I’ve had the good fortune to see Maeve Higgins perform live several times, and I always come away incredibly impressed by the Irish comedian’s ability to tackle pretty heavy political and social topics while still being very funny and never a drag. In addition to acting and performing comedy, Higgins is also a prolific and acclaimed writer, and on February 9 she’ll be appearing at The Strand to launch her second book, Tell Everyone on This Train I Love Them. It’s being billed as a love letter to America from an eternally curious outsider who sees all of the cracks but also the light that shines up through them, plus what I can only assume is a hilarious story about being too high on edibles in a Paper Source.
7. The Sweet Side of Sourdough, Feb. 13
A few months ago, I happened to catch a WNYC interview with Gage & Tollner pastry chef Caroline Schiff about her new cookbook, The Sweet Side of Sourdough, which is a primer on how to use the sourdough starter that everyone seems to be cultivating these days to make delicious desserts as opposed to loaves and loaves and loaves of bread. As someone who really enjoys a not-too-sweet dessert, I found myself desperate to try the slightly tangy, sourdough-infused chocolate chip cookie recipe that Schiff described on the radio, but feeding a starter is just one of the 85,312 things that I can’t muster up the motivation to do since March 2020. Maybe I can get it together before February 13, when Schiff is hosting an online cooking class through 92Y where participants can learn to make her Caramelized Blueberry-Basil Blintzes just in time to wow their respective Valentines. Tickets to the class are $25 each and do not include a copy of the book, which you can order here.
8. Faith Ringgold: American People, Feb. 17
On February 17, pioneering Harlem-born artist Faith Ringgold will be honored with her hometown’s first-ever retrospective exhibition of her work when the New Museum unveils the highly-anticipated American People, which will span six decades of Ringgold’s career in art and political activism. Now in her 90s, Ringgold is known for her piecework fabric art and paintings that tell stories about the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights era, and the second-wave feminist movement, and is an iconic social activist in addition to being an immensely influential artist. This exhibition, which runs through June 5 of this year, feels like a must-see, so expect long lines at the New Museum even with a timed ticket.
9. Lunar New Year Parade, Feb. 20
This month we enter the Year of the Tiger, and I’m happy to report that the annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival is back on February 20 for anyone who is looking for a way to ring it in with gusto. It is said that the Tiger is both exceedingly lucky and brave, two traits that we’ll need to call on if we are going to extricate ourselves from this pandemic, so it feels like a good omen. There’s nothing like the spectacle of the parade, which includes lion and dragon dancers, floats, marching bands, acrobats, and SO much confetti being shot from confetti guns, and it’s also a great excuse for a dim sum brunch if you can figure out a way to beat the crowds at nearby restaurants. The parade begins at noon at Sara D. Roosevelt Park and is followed by an outdoor cultural festival with musical and martial arts performances until 4pm.
10. Making the Nation’s Table, Feb. 23
One of the countless ways in which Black culture is deeply embedded in the American experience is through the immeasurable influence of African American food and culinary traditions, and Black History Month is a great time to celebrate that fact. As it happens, the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) and The Africa Center are teaming up to do just that with a new exhibit called African/American: Making the Nations’s Table, which opens on February 23. Curated by Dr. Jessica B. Harris, the preeminent authority on the foods of the African diaspora, the show will give long-overdue recognition to Black chefs, farmers, and food and drink producers whose vast contributions to the culinary DNA of this country can’t be overstated. Two highlights of the show include the Legacy Quit, a hand-sewn artifact which is 28 feet wide and depicts hundreds of stories of various African American culinary heroes; and the Ebony Magazine Test Kitchen, which was saved from wreckage and lovingly restored so that the public can experience it first hand. The exhibit will be open from February 23 through Juneteenth.