THE WORD: Kaizen

We all start the year with the best of intentions – full of hope for the new skills we will miraculously acquire in the coming months and the radical transformation we will achieve. And then reality knocks on the door to pay its annual visit, leaving all those language apps and gym memberships gathering dust, along with all our other coulda, shoulda, woulda plans…

This is where the Japanese principle of kaizen can be of assistance. This compound of two Japanese words essentially means ‘good change’ or ‘change for the better’. The concept of continuous incremental improvement has already been co-opted by business gurus, seeing it as a way of refining business processes. However, it can be equally applied to other fields, including one’s personal development. Kaizen could be a pathway to seeing your annual goals as a gradual ongoing process instead of the unrealistic aspirations so typical of New Year’s resolutions. Give it a try, and enjoy the journey.

Perfect If: You’re determined to make 2023 a better year, and feel that it isn’t our ability to change that is challenged, but rather our ability to manage our own expectations.

THE MOVIE: The Pale Blue Eye

Although it received a limited theatrical release on 22 December, most of us will have the first chance to see director Scott Cooper’s detective mystery on Netflix, where it streams from 6 January. The film is based on Louis Bayard’s 2007 novel of the same name, and recounts an investigation into a series of murders at West Point in 1830. A highlight for viewers will be the ridiculously stellar cast featuring Christian Bale as a veteran detective and supported by Hollywood legend Robert Duvall, alongside the likes of Gillian Anderson, Timothy Spall, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Toby Jones. The real twist, however, revolves around the presence of Harry Melling, best known for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films. Melling delivers a standout performance in The Pale Blue Eye in the role of Edgar Allan Poe. Yes, you read that right: Edgar Allan Poe.

Perfect If: You like nothing more than to spend a dark winter’s night absorbed by an equally dark, gothic mystery..

THE DOCUMENTARY: Fight The Power: How Hip-Hop Changed The World

As if the prospect of a four-part PBS/BBC docuseries on how hip-hop changed the world wasn’t enough to whet the appetite, the knowledge that the project is the creation of Public Enemy co-founder Chuck D makes this arguably the first landmark documentary of 2023.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of Chuck D on contemporary culture, with songs like “Fight the Power” today ranking on lists of the greatest songs ever written, and even enshrined in the Library of Congress. The poet laureate of political consciousness in modern music, Chuck D has imbued hip-hop with an impassioned energy and unapologetic rage, using his brilliantly crafted lyrics to not just speak truth to power, but to confront the abuse of power. Premiering on 31 January, he explores the development and direction of this cultural movement via interviews with the likes of Melle Mel, Ice-T, Fat Joe, MC Lyte, Lupe Fiasco and many more.

Perfect If: You want to hear the ultimate insider take on what turned the music of the streets into a cultural phenomenon.

THE READ: Good for a Girl

Lauren Fleshman’s account of ‘a woman running in a man’s world’ is one of the most eagerly awaited non-fiction books in early 2023. Published on 10 January, it couldn’t be more timely as the author examines the enduring challenges facing women in sports, many of whom are failed by structures designed more for men and boys. As a champion athlete herself, Fleshman is acutely aware of these challenges and their potential to lead to injury, eating disorders, mental health issues and more. In a sporting landscape beset by abuse scandals in various sports, as well as inequality and failing systems, Fleshman’s voice makes her a powerful advocate for change.

Perfect If: You identify with Fleshman’s manifesto, and are inspired by the ever-growing interest in women’s sports.

THE ACTIVITY: Embracing Winter

Come on, wake up. Winter is here, and it’s not going anywhere soon. That leaves us with a choice. We can all stay inside, shut our eyes and hope that it will eventually go away, or we can accept reality and embrace the distinct challenges and opportunities of the season. While we concede that the whole staying inside and hiding away from the cold thing does have a certain seductive charm, let’s just leave that for especially lazy Sundays and those days with the most extreme weather.

Instead, we maintain that there are endless diverting winter activities that are well worth heading outside and piling on extra layers of clothes for. Why not try out winter swimming? Or even ice sculpting, if you’re feeling creative rather than sporty? You could even gather a few friends together and plan a winter picnic. Trust us, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. Whatever you do, winter is there to be embraced. Sure, it might not be the most lovable of seasons, but it’s the only one we’ve got right now.

Perfect If: You’re a glass half-full type and aren’t afraid of a little ice or snow.

THE SHOW: The Unfriend

The set-up of this new play might sound a little conventional, with its story of a middle-class English couple who befriend an American widow on holiday before, guess what, she turns up at their home a few months later. Rest assured, however, this play is much darker and funnier than it sounds, which is no surprise to fans of the BBC’s Sherlock, as this is the debut play from the brilliant team of writer Steven Moffat and director Mark ‘Mycroft’ Gatiss. Already a success at the Chichester Festival theatre, the play now opens in London’s West End on 15 January with a fine cast, including Frances Barber and Amanda Abbington.

Perfect If: You like your comedy with a splinter of ice at its heart.

THE SOUND: Elle King – Come Get Your Wife

Five years after her last album, the rich, bluesy voice of Elle King returns with her third album Come Get Your Wife. In a month without many major releases, the singer’s return is a welcome one. With a standout voice, adaptable to any popular musical genre, she is a performer whose talent deserves a bigger stage. The new album, set for release on 23 January, continues her foray into the country music scene.

Perfect If: You warm to Elle King’s irreverent, larger-than-life personality

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