We here at The Addison Recorder read stuff. We also watch stuff. And play stuff, even. Sometimes, that stuff is interesting. Sometimes we just need to talk about whatever pop culture ephemera occupies our time. Which brings us to this column.
I don’t know about most of you, but whenever anyone mentions Belle & Sebastian to me, I think of moping around in big wool sweaters, lighting candles and incense, and the scene from High Fidelity. Then I listened to the group’s latest record, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, on Spotify while working one day, and found myself unconsciously grooving along to the upbeat Euro-dance rhythms and melodies. The opening track, “Nobody’s Empire,” sets the tone and keeps the ball rolling. You may or may not catch the lead single, “The Party Line,” and find yourself dancing. Personal favorite? “The Everlasting Muse”. At any point, are we talking hard rock? Nope. But it’s fun to dance to, and sometimes that’s all you need.
When an Atlantic article about a new podcast called Gilmore Guys made its rounds before Christmas, no fewer than three people tweeted at me to make sure I was aware of its existence. I’ve since spent the last few weeks catching up on back episodes, and now I love listening to Kevin T. Porter (a longtime Gilmore Girls fan) and Demi Adejuyigbe (a newcomer) watch and recap episodes of one of my all-time favorite shows. The Gilmore Guys are hilarious and have a great rapport. They genuinely love the show, they’re feminists, and they occasionally rap. If you’re not ready to start at episode one, start with #209, which includes a Gavin Degraw musical bit I was sure would get old but instead just got funnier. Come for the recaps, stay for the Melissa McCarthy impressions.
There are two very different but equally excellent films, both running under 80 minutes, streaming on Netflix right now. Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, a story of a teenage nun, her worldly aunt, and a World War II family tragedy coming to light in 1960s Poland, was nominated for Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography and deserves both honors. The entire film is never shot from the expected angles, frames, or perspectives, forcing the viewer to immerse themselves in the environments, while the screenplay by Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz is full of haunting moments but also humor, a nice tribute to John Coltrane, and genuinely earned self-discovery, as well as two incredible parts for actresses in a year these were hard to come by. You’ll want relief after Ida, so after time to let it sink in, Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats is an outstanding bit of comedy. Peretti’s humor is uproarious, her personality delightfully relatable, and she utilizes film technique in a way few comics do when releasing their stand-up hours, playing with audience reaction and backstage shots to great effect.
January was the month of Kickstarter bounty for me. Coincidence resulted in a lot of rewards arriving all within a couple weeks of each other. The most anticipated was the base set of the tabletop game, Cthulhu Wars.
Cthulhu Wars is a 2- to 4-player game (or more, once the expansions are ready), wherein you play the role of a Lovecraftian Great Old One looking to conquer Earth as humanity falls. Your opponents are other monstrosities with the same idea, so it’s time for an apocalyptic fight of monstrous proportions. The art and sculpts are amazing, the rules are easy to grasp, and it’s a lot of fun.
I’m a news and info junkie, but find most American news outlets to be deeply annoying, useless, or pernicious. (Hello, CNN, local TV news, and Fox News!) Lo and behold, a fantastic new media news source appears before me. VICE News is only about 15 months old, but with its mix of atypical reporters (i.e. not just middle-aged white guys), commitment to covering news that most mainstream sources ignore, and impressive ability to gather information in very dangerous places has made it invaluable. Whereas most American news is dominated by entertainment gossip and Beltway ephemera, VICE News has dispatched reporters to show life inside the Islamic State, dived into the Ayotzinapa 43 outrage in Mexico, and documented the rise of cartel-backed cocaine production in Peru. And that’s just three reports I watched in the past three weeks. They are bringing Americans a new level of access and insight to events that spans the whole globe.
Every awkward sexual experience, any philosophic nonsense born from alcohol, and all the late nights on a friend’s back porch, leaving only when the cigarettes run out. Those are the memories and uncomfortable realties I am reminded of every time I listen to Kyle Kinane—in his goofy, pseudo scumbag manner—tell me about the strange, little world he lives in. It’s the world we all exist in and his storyteller style of comedy makes it easy for aimless young folks to relate. His new special I Liked His Old Stuff Better was released this week and I couldn’t be happier. Along with his earlier work, this new release is a long form lesson in being a human. Kyle brings thoughtful noise to otherwise awkward situations and that’s a beautiful thing.
I’m tired of TV shows whose characters have to be assholish to the point of sociopathy in order to seem “complex.” I don’t know who started it, but unlikability has become the new norm. And like a copy of a copy of a copy, with each new iteration feeling a little staler. Which is why Togetherness, the new HBO comedy series from the Duplass brothers, feels like a giant breath of fresh air.
The show centers around four adults living under the same roof: a couple coping with marital malaise, a slightly adrift sister trying to restart her life and a down-on-his-luck actor friend. The premise is not particularly momentous, but what I love about Togetherness are the relatable characters and the relationships they share. They are flawed. They make bad decisions. But we’re allowed to like them and they are allowed to love each other. It’s such a simple concept, but in the current television landscape, it feels revolutionary.
January proved to be a fabulous month for sports. The College Football Playoff drew a record number of viewers (Editor’s Note: GO BUCKEYES – T), the NFL continued to infuriate everyone with horrible end-game officiating, #Ballghazi, and Rodger Goodell press conferences, and the NBA and College Basketball marched toward their respective post-seasons. But the sports world lost a beloved personality when Stuart Scott succumbed to cancer on January 4.
Scott debuted on ESPN2 in the early ’90s and quickly became a fun, well-liked, influential anchor on SportsCenter. Even as ESPN grew comfortably into a Fox-News-like controversy generator, Scott embodied the love of the game that sports fans find relate-able. He left his mark on pop-culture with his catch-phrases, and he left his mark on his friends with an unshakable enthusiasm for life. Months before Scott’s death, he bravely took the stage to accept the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYS. His speech is worth your time, and his life is worth celebrating. Thanks for all the laughs, Stu.