What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Here are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  The topics range from the silly to the serious.

On Reading Your Book Club Book When You’re Not Interested in Your Book Club Book (Book Riot)

I think there are some universal experiences of being in a book club, and this piece from Book Riot hits on many of those things.  There are many reasons people join a book club.  For me, it was to read more broadly outside of my preferred genres and drink wine with other ladies.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone in our book club shares those same values.  This piece hits that:

But what happens when you have people in a book club for different reasons? This, in my opinion, is where the real strife of book clubs is. Not when some love the book and others hate it, but when some read the books religiously and others never finish a book, or even worse: when someone flat out decrees that they aren’t going to read a book club pick because it doesn’t interest them.

Like the author of this piece, I agree that the whole point of a book club is to read the book and discuss it.  You don’t have to love the book, and the discussion doesn’t have to take up the entirety of book club, but the implication of attending book club is that you have at least familiarized yourself with the book and are prepared to discuss it.  You are going to read things you don’t like.  That’s part of life.  And book clubs:

I’m not trying to say you should kick members out of your book club if they neglect to finish a book or two (or that you are a bad book club member if you’re that person—we’ve all been there). Just that being in a book club does come with responsibilities to your fellow members, and even if you aren’t interested in a book, QUIT YOUR WHINING AND AT LEAST TRY IT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Words to live by.

On Ferguson and the Privilege of Looking Away (Amy Dieg)

I certainly hope that you all are following the news of what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri.  I realize that not everyone is following it with the obsessiveness that I am, but I came across this piece and found it well-written, thoughtful, and resonant.  In it, Dieg talks about her reaction to the news out of Ferguson and her decision to look away when she felt uncomfortable from following the news too closely:

What I suddenly understand, much later than I am proud of, is that looking away is a privilege, one that many of us participate in with overwhelming regularity without even realizing it. I see the proof clearly on my Facebook. My feed has been almost devoid of news or discussion of Ferguson, despite the vast majority of my Facebook friends being people from and in Missouri.

I’ve talked about this in real life, but I also noticed the dearth of information about it on my Facebook.  This is sharply different from my Twitter feed, and it is interesting to think about what that means.  But also to realize that there is a privilege in being able to disengage, and what that means for me.

A Critical Review of Taylor Swift’s New Video for ‘Shake it Off’ (Pajiba)

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Taylor Swift’s new video for the catchy (totally frothy) single “Shake it Off,” and some of it is negative, which I’m sure Swift was expecting (and probably hoping for, in all honesty).  The big question seems to be: is the video racist?

Let me answer that for you: yes.

This article quotes heavily from Angelina Burnett, who posted this about the new video:

Try to imagine the surface evidence of your cultural identity – your clothes, your physical vernacular, your slang, your music – all things that are in no way indicative of what’s in your heart, despite having been used by those in power frequently and repeatedly, for centuries, to justify your harassment and murder…

Imagine those things being co-opted by a rich, powerful, pop princess on a day when the national guard has been called in to your small, working class suburb to restrict your right to protest that centuries old injustice. Try, just for a second, to imagine how that might make you feel — the double standard shoved so baldly and brazenly in your face. The very same things that get you called a thug or a ho, gets her called “adorable” and “staying true to herself”. Then times that feeling by infinity because it NEVER STOPS.

Cultural gatekeepers make billions of dollars co-opting black culture and then use that same culture against black men and women to prove they’re thugs who deserve to die.

Do I still enjoy Swift’s music?  Yes, but I also recognize things about her I find fundamentally fucked up.  This is one in a log list of problems.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend:

Gilmore Girls Season 5: I’m flying through the series at an alarming rate.  It’s pure pleasure, even when the later seasons don’t do it for me the way the first three seasons do.  I still love Luke and Lorelai together even if I think they both have serious communication issues, and even though Logan Huntzberger is the worst (I yell “You’re the WORST!” at least once an episode, and J. has taken to interjecting “Someone should punch that smirk off his face” everytime he’s in the room when Logan’s onscreen), this show is still one of my very favorite things.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1: J. and I continue on our Harry Potter rewatch, and I think that this is one of the best films in the franchise.  I love the animation of the story of the Deathly Hallows, and the scene where Harry and Hermione dance in the tent is such a welcome break from the bleak tone of the film.  I love it.

Jenny Lewis – “Just One of the Guys”

Lewis’s new album “The Voyager” is pretty stellar, but my best friend and I were rocking out to this video this weekend.  Well worth a watch, if only for the celebrity cameos throughout.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I took last week off because of the holiday, so here are the things I collected from the past two weeks that got me thinking.

Prey (Random House)

This piece, written by Kathleen Hale, is not an easy read.  But it’s a powerful, important one.  I visibly recoiled when I read this:

I lost a lot of friends that year, in part because I wanted to tell everyone about the trial. Boys fetishized me, thinking they could reintroduce me to sex, which I had never learned to hate—or else they pulled my head to their chests, kissing my hair, like they were enacting some paternalistic movie moment. In general, I think hearing what had happened made recently-deflowered Harvard boys feel like sexy dads.

This piece is long and upsetting, but it’s also extremely well done and well worth your time.  Hat tip to my sister, who sent it my way.

 Your Female Characters Are So Strong (The Toast)

This humorous (I mean, kind of) piece just takes the phrase “your female characters are so strong” and runs with it.  Mallory Ortberg is awesome, and this short piece helps illustrate just why that is.  Also, if you haven’t, start reading the article tags on the pieces at The Toast, because they are amazing (“Feminism sort of!” and “some quotes from Job and some from Paradise Lost I think”).

90 One-Hit Wonders of the 90s (Salon)

I sent a link of this to my best friend with just the word “AHHH” because that’s how exciting something like this is to me, a lover of lists and all things nostalgic, especially when it comes to 90s music.  She and I regularly (like, nearly weekly) drink wine and watch YouTube videos on our giant TVs together, so this is the perfect sort of thing to dissect together (and apart).

What’s amazing about a list like this is that it’s automatically polarizing by claiming to be definitive.  I can’t wait to really delve into a nostalgia hole with it.

A Reluctant Star, Sia, Deals With Fame on Her Own Terms (NPR)

I’m obsessed with Sia’s latest single, “Chandelier,” so when I stumbled across this NPR interview after watching her performance on Ellen where she sang live facing the corner away from the cameras, I was super intrigued.  Basically, Sia doesn’t want to be that kind of famous (she writes pop songs for other singers and prefers to make her living that way).  And she has the privilege of being able to deal with fame (or avoidance of it) in her own way, which makes her a total bad-ass.

It’s definitely an alienating approach, which is probably why I like it and respect it so much.  Plus, she had this to say about the whole thing:

“I’m trying to have a good life,” she says as we look at the wigs, which symbolize her fame and what she’s doing to escape that fame, all at once. “Basically, my plan is to enjoy what I have.”

What got you thinking this week?

My Weekend in Pop Culture

As per the last few weeks, these are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend.

obvious childObvious Child: I know I talked about this movie on one of my movie news posts, and I finally had the chance to see it this weekend.  It was GREAT.  Like, probably my favorite movie of the year.

The premise is simple: a young comedian gets dumped, fired, and then pregnant from a drunken one-night stand.  She decides to have an abortion, and the film chronicles all those things in a really straightforward, funny way.

Very smart, very funny, very sweet.  Jenny Slate is brilliant and I’m totally in love with her now.  If you have a chance to see it, definitely go.

SIa – Chandelier

I just discovered this video, and I’m officially obsessed with it.  I love the song, but I also love the video itself.  The girl who dances in it is apparently from the TV show Dance Moms, and she’s spectacular.  The choreography is really interesting and the entire thing is done super well.

 What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

My Weekend in Pop Culture

In keeping with last week’s tradition, here’s the pop culture I consumed this weekend.  We had a pretty busy weekend (it’s wedding season, y’all), but I managed to get in some quality time with these pop culture gems:

covert affairsCovert Affairs: J. and I started watching the first season of this a while ago, but got distracted and sort of fell off the wagon.  I started back up again this week, and something about it clicked for me.  It’s definitely Alias-lite, but it works for me on several levels: it’s light enough for summer consumption, Piper Perabo is serviceable as the lead, and the fact that it’s sort of silly but knows it makes it just enjoyable enough.

At any rate, I made it through the first season and now am well into the second.  I love me some female-driven TV shows, and it doesn’t hurt that Christopher Gorham turned into a total babe.

Robyn & Royksopp – “Do It Again” EP

The video is for the song “Sayit,” which isn’t necessarily my favorite off the EP, but it’s the only one with a video (that I can find).  The title track is actually my favorite, and it’s well worth your time to seek it out.  I love Robyn and I’ll take her in any form, including in this collaboration EP.

That Awkward Moment: I finally got around to watching this movie, and I have to say that I actually really liked it.  Like, laughed out loud, hard, several times.  It helps that I love Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller more than pretty much anything (okay, that’s hyperbolic).  But it was actually a pretty funny diversion this weekend.  I enjoyed it greatly.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

 

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

The Tortured History of Entertainment Weekly (The Awl)

This is a piece of long form journalism, and it is really long, but it’s also incredibly interesting.  In the piece, Anne Helen Peterson details the rise and decline of Entertainment Weekly (a magazine I still subscribe to, and have, for more than a decade).  It’s incredibly interesting for anyone who has ever perused the magazine, but it’s especially fascinating for those who like entertainment journalism or have (or had) a vested interest in the magazine itself.  The parts that worked especially well for me were about the late 90s-early 00s, as those were my adolescent years.

The article focuses a great deal on the tension between the magazine’s journalists and the industry at large.  Because EW originally started as a magazine unafraid to take a critical eye to Hollywood, the relationships between it and studios and Hollywood folks has been a strained one.

The editorial maxim was a simple one: Write the best story. Don’t worry about who owns the product, or even if it’s a popular one—just cover it in a way that’s compelling. That maxim was what gave EW its unique critical voice and, more importantly, its incredibly loyal readership. Over the course of the 90s and early 2000s, protecting that voice engendered more and more conglomerate animosity.

At any rate, it’s a really interesting piece and well worth your time if you have about 20 minutes or so.

A Meditation on Britney’s “…Baby One More Time” (The Toast)

If you aren’t reading The Toast regularly, you should be, because it’s pretty much my favorite thing on the internet.  At any rate, this interesting, thought-provoking and melancholic piece has stuck with me, and will, I think, continue to stick with me for a while.  Part dissection of Britney Spears’s most iconic song and part meditation on the author’s life, it’s a piece I could relate to while also being completely riveted by the prose.

But to my mind, “…Baby One More Time” speaks as keenly about the loneliness of love as any other artifact of our culture—it’s not about losing someone but the impossibility of ever really having them. “When I’m not with you, I lose my mind,” Spears sings. “Give me a sign.” Romantic love doesn’t lessen the opacity of other people’s thoughts and motivations; it heightens it, because the desire to know and inhabit the beloved’s mind is so great…I’m convinced that I’m not reading too much into the song or overcomplicating—pop music can speak deep truths because it is simple, because the truest truths are simple.

Probably why this works for me so well is because I love any writing about pop culture that also intertwines personal experience.  It’s my kryptonite.  All the same, this piece is excellent.

“Game of Thrones” Fails the Female Gaze: Why Does Prestige TV Refuse to Cater Erotically to Women? (Slate)

I don’t have  a ton to say about this one, but I will say that this article gets to the center of what I find so frustrating about TV and movies when it comes to issues of “male gaze” versus “female gaze.”  It’s a smart piece.

 

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I’ve been mostly trying to read SVH novels to play catch-up on my other blog, but I did manage to read a couple of articles that got me thinking this week.  Here they are:

How a White Australian Model Imitated Southern Black Rap – and Topped the Charts (Slate)

I completely understand that Iggy Azalea is controversial and kind of problematic, but I also kind of like her music, and I think “Fancy” is a damn fun song (the video is pretty awesome, too).  This article is definitely taking a critical eye to the performer, and much of the criticism is deserved, and I think, spot-on:

Having trained herself to rap in a cadence vastly different from her native speaking voice, Iggy’s comes off brash but studied, and she resembles no one so much as her mentor, Atlanta rapper T.I. Listen to the way her tone rises on the line “You should want a bad bitch like this, hah?”—a clear homage to T.I.’s singsongy, conversational tone on smashes like “Live Your Life” or his rap bridge on Justin Timberlake’s classic “My Love.” They say that good artists copy and great artists steal.

There’s some interesting stuff to unpack here, but the fact that Azalea is one of the very few females to crack the top of the Billboard Hot 100 says something, and it’s not without merit.

How a Meme Becomes a Myth (The Awl)

This is a very short, sad piece.  You might have heard about it in the news this week: two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin were charged with stabbing their friend nearly to death and claiming that they did it to please the Slenderman, a creepy fictional creature that started as an online prank on the Something Awful forums.

This piece talks a little bit about the case, and a little bit about the media shit storm that surrounds it.  It’s sad and terrible.  But we can all agree that the media is fucked, right?

The John Green and Fault in Our Stars Media Bingo Card (Book Riot)

It’s written by Kelly Jensen, so you know it’s going to be good:

It’s interesting, though, to see what the overlaps are in these pieces. In many ways, they’re downright sad in how they present the YA community, the YA readership, and how they represent girls and girl interests especially. It’s fascinating to think about the media attention Green’s book has received, both in quantity and in quality, and compare it to other YA authors who’ve gotten the big screen treatment. Did we see this for Veronica Roth’s Divergent earlier this year? Will we see this for Gayle Forman’s forthcoming If I Stay?

Slots on the Bingo card include “John’s hair,” “John cried,” and “girls crying.”  In short, it is the best antidote to TFIOS overexposure and exhaustion one could hope for.  Awesome.