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. Dumble on.
I have been enjoying the existence of a second season of Yell You Better, the advice column-style webseries in which comedian Katie McVay yells at you “about your whole life, until you’re better at it.” Check out her hysterical expertise on everything from Tinder flirting to dating someone in the suburbs. Most episodes end with bonus rants on topics like book clubs or Katie’s hatred of statement necklaces. Follow the show on Facebook for more episodes in the future.
From the vocal layering that opens the album in “Quartz” to the fuzzy, dirty beauty of the title track that concludes it, Seeds is another example of TV on the Radio growing and surprising with each release. It’s more pop and synth-laden than previous records, but its infectious sonic assault has been in heavy rotation for me. “Right Now” inspires you to carpe every goddamn diem (on the dance floor), followed by the grunge of “Winter” and the rollicking roll of “Lazerray.” And then there’s “Happy Idiot”:
This album buries itself inside you. After the melancholy brilliance of Nine Types of Light, and the death of bassist Gerard Smith, Seeds is a welcome balm for a dark month.
My month was dominated by one night: Monday, November 24th, when the St. Louis County D.A. announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not face charges for shooting and killing Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO on August 5th. To keep the politics short: that decision was a gross miscarriage of justice that laid bare the deep hold that racism still has on our government, legal systems, and society in general.
Not typical pop culture fare, but the subsequent night spent on social media was a searingly emotional encounter with the intersection between pop culture and politics. I tweeted and re-tweeted relevant articles and observations, poured through the reactions and documents, got into passionate arguments on Facebook, and just generally immersed myself in the emotional fulcrum that is social media on a tumultuous night. I wish I hadn’t had to, of course, but on a night where justice was denied (again) it was cathartic to find millions who saw it just like I did.
I have not seen a single episode of Girls, but Lena Dunham’s literary debut Not That Kind of Girl is enough to make me want to investigate her work further. The essay collection is delightfully written, with vivid language, inventive similes and metaphors, and stories that kept making me laugh out loud in public places; Dunham’s tales of “relationships” conducted over AOL Instant Messenger, working at the most upscale baby-clothes store known to man, and e-mails she wishes she had written are absolute hoots. Simultaneously, the book is powerfully candid and Dunham’s writing about how to fulfill one’s self emotionally, vocationally, and sexually is motivational and encouraging. The best essay is “Barry,” a by turns comic and heart-wrenching story about an event Dunham can’t fully define, which should be required reading for any student of creative nonfiction or autobiography, but the entire book is full of short, well-composed diamonds.
This month, I picked up the three books written by music critic/editor Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone for some light reading. The first book, Love is a Mix Tape, tells of his marriage to his first wife, Renee, and of her tragic death from a brain aneurysm. (Light reading, I know.) The second, Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, is a form of autobiography about growing up in the 80’s. Turn Around Bright Eyes tells of how Rob met his second wife through karaoke. Low brow? Maybe. Entertaining? Yup.
The running theme through all of the books (as one would expect of a music critic) is music, revealing how it holds Rob’s life together, enables him to connect to others and to the world around him, and how it allows him to make sense of some of the greatest issues of our times. As a writer, Sheffield’s prose is witty and thought-provoking, yet more accessible than that of fellow low-brow critic Chuck Klosterman (whom I also love). The books are great reading for anyone who’s ever made a mix tape/CD/playlist for anybody else in their lifetime. Worst comes to worst, you’ll get some ideas for some new tunes.
This month I discovered the HBO comedy series Veep, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer. I love this show because all the characters are assholes. Meyer and are her staff are a bunch of ambitious egomaniacs sharing office space, and they have the most spectacularly vulgar insults for each other and for members of Congress.
The show isn’t interested in character development or likability. Every episode leaves me amused and horrified at whatever shenanigans befall the Office of the Vice President– half the time they’re teetering just above a total meltdown. The characters aren’t dicks all the time. That one shred of vulnerability or decency comes through just often that each half hour leaves you in stitches at the edge of the pit of despair rather than in it.