April: Culture Round-Up

symbols

Watching

Vinyl, Series 1, HBO

Hedonism is the beating heart of HBO’s Vinyl. Set in 70s Manhattan, it follows the tribulations of a fictional record company ‘American Century’ as they posture to bring themselves back from the brink of insolvency. Bobby Cannavale is Richie Finestra, the coke-snorting maelstrom at the eye of the storm, whose been sucked into commercial quandaries, but wants to restore the heart and soul to his floundering business. And just get back to the music, man.

It’s jarringly uneven and a little bit too full-throttle, like what you might cook up imagining what music industry moguls got up to, as opposed to feeling authentically like that story. Which is weird considering Mick Jagger co-created the show with Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter (of Boardwalk Empire fame). It would do better to leave aside some of the crazier plot-lines and focus on the details; like how an artist is ‘discovered’ and then packaged and peddled to the masses. Watching the rise of the fictional band The Nasty Bits (whose loose-canon frontman is played by Jagger’s own son James) are where some of Vinyl‘s better scenes lie; less The Godfather, more Mad Men. But perhaps the creators are just as keen to cling onto that sense of fable and legend and nostalgia.

The show’s appeal mostly lies in the costuming and soundtrack, with rock, soul & funk anthems belted throughout and some artistic musical interludes providing brief respite from the crazy antics. Olivia Wilde (as Finestra’s long-suffering wife and Warhol’s muse) and Juno Temple (a go-getting, drug-dealing assistant at the record company), meanwhile, look particularly fierce in their 70s garb. The first series of Vinyl was a bit like trying drugs for the first time. Good fun, but I’m not sure I’ll come back for more.

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READING

book-cover-500Grief Is The Thing With Feathers – Max Porter

Enchanting, devastating and unlike anything I’ve ever read, Porter’s Dylan Thomas Prize nominated novella, is an exquisite, pitch-black depiction of what it is to lose someone. That someone in question is a mother to two young boys, and a wife to a Ted Hughes scholar, left to pick up the pieces and adopt the role of sole caregiver. What ensues is something meditative, symbolic and lyrical, as the father imagines a crow who visits the family during their time of grieving. But simultaneously it gets right to the heart of what it means to experience bereavement; you’ll chuckle with recognition and perhaps even shed tears over the truth contained within its pages.

Listening to

The Talkhouse Podcast – http://thetalkhouse.com/podcast/

A great website where filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians, composers and other artists get together to discuss all things cinema/music/culture. It’s much more conversational and thus insightful than your standard interview, often because the subjects are friends already, or because the pairings are well thought out.

Recent highlights include Melanie Lynskey and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as well as Haim and Lauren Mayberry of the Chvrches.

 

Doing

Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre

Last night, courtesy of Mum Davis, I saw Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice in The Savoy’s run of Funny Girl. Amid rumours that she’d canceled a performance the night before due to drunkenness, Smith had a lot to prove, and sure enough she came out swinging. A phenomenal entertainer, she never misses a punchline, nailing both the slapstick nature of the choreography and the goofy expressions, but never neglecting the pathos and brio that make Brice such a brilliant heroine. Of course everyone’s waiting for ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’, which was rightfully spectacular, but every number was delivered to near perfection. Plus Darius plays Nick Arnstein, so there’s that to enjoy as well. The plot doesn’t quite flesh out the struggle Brice endured to achieve her Broadway stardom and smooths over many of the scandals to make for a more stream-lined show. Still, the mischievous, ground-breaking talent for which she’ll be remembered is radiantly captured.

N.B. Interesting to note that Sheridan’s understudy has stepped in whilst “Smith takes 2 – 4 weeks leave of absence from the production due to stress and exhaustion”.

funnygirl

 

The Wonder Women Talk: Do young women really have it harder today?

The Telegraph hosted a talk at House of St. Barnabas posturing the question as to whether women of the current generation are faced with greater, and more struggles than women before them. The discussion probed whether or not millenials, with our self-imposed vanities, grandiose aspirations, sky-high rent prices and myriad quandaries (online dating, depression, student debt…the list goes on) amount to increased hardship.

I would argue that whilst ‘we’ (speaking from a white, Westernised, middle-class, female POV) have claimed a greater stake in society; politically, economically, culturally and have a voice that’s listened to more than ever before, never has there been a greater disparity between aspiration and realisation, and therefore a greater opportunity for discontent.

Because whilst we have the vote, and have been afforded hard-won rights, we’ve also been sold on the idea that this is the generation in which our success as a gender is inevitable. That women can ‘have it all’, that the limitations hitherto in place have been removed, the glass ceiling shattered and so forth. The trouble is, ‘all’ hasn’t really been defined, nor how we actually achieve it. So whilst we struggle to close the gender pay gap and progress in our careers, all without trying to seem too ‘bitchy’ or ambitious because funnily enough there’s still a stigma attached to those traits in women, we also have to contend with juggling the call of motherhood, inadequate childcare support or unjust paternity leave provisions.

Being a millienial woman is unsurprisingly, overwhelming. It’s all very well telling us we’re allowed to scale mountains and that the peak is there for us to reach, as it has been for men for centuries. But we still require the equipment to get ourselves there. And I don’t know about you, but it often feels like there just isn’t enough rope to get me to the top.

Oh, and in case that weren’t enough our bodies are more politicised and scrutinised than ever before. Our lives are increasingly spent online and it’s become harrowingly easy to degrade women with very little consequences. (But more on this in another post…)

The panel of women at the talk (Charlotte Proudman, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Zing Tseng and Judith Woods) shed light, or at least extrapolated on the many obstacles that women – especially of the younger generation – must confront. Answers are hard to come by and definitive change needs to be significantly more than theorised. That being said, I haven’t lived during any other era than this one. And perhaps if I were 90 years old, looking on at these twenty-somethings with the world at the fingertips I’d be laughing at how easy they have it.

 

BuyingIMAG0320

These trousers. ASOS Premium Check Boyfriend Peg Trousers at the bargain price of £16 in their sale.

When I was around 18 I purchased a brilliant pair of teal tapered trousers and like the purple cords I wore endlessly during my pre-teen years, they became an absolute staple of my wardrobe. I could dress them up in a blouse and brogues and I’d have an interview ready outfit, or dress them down with Converse and a t-shirt and still feel more fashionable than if I’d flung on a pair of jeans. What’s more, for the slightly wider-hipped wearer, they were tremendously flattering – cinching in the waist and gently grazing the thigh, without any around-the-crotch tightness, or figure-hugging exposure. Inevitably, these trousers that I cherished so dearly tapered off into non-existence. Having grown thin from repeated sartorial service, they had to be disposed of. It was with great sadness I mourned their demise, as I sensed I would never find a suitable replacement and would be left utterly bereft of the perfect trouser. I looked far and wide for a stand-in; dabbling for a while in more bohemian silk trousers, garishly patterned and great during the summer, but never as chic as their predecessor. I bought a pair of herringbone trousers during university, that were marvellously elegant, but missing the all important belt loops, which for my body type are a must (anything that fits over the hips is ridiculously too big for my waist). After a while I gave up, finding solace in reliable black skinnies or navy corduroys, occasionally reminiscing about their gorgeousness when I looked at my overwhelmingly sombre wardrobe and wished intensely for a splash of colour.

Then I found these bad boys. Regardless of what a certain Netflix series might have you believe, grey is the new black, and this came with a subtle nod to their teal originals, without being so eye-catching as to attract unwanted attention (that being said the first time I wore them, two separate people went out of their way *IN LONDON. ON THE TUBE. WHERE PEOPLE NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT LET ALONE SPEAK* to compliment said trousers). I was elated. Not just because of the price-tag, but because finally, after years my perfect trouser has found it’s way back to me and I can attempt to be chic once again.

 

Eating

Or rather drinking. I’ve been making a delicious peanut butter smoothie at work recently that satiates my appetite and peanut butter obsession, as well as providing that all-important morning protein hit.

  • 2 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • A generous dousing of almond milk
  • A handful of almonds
  • A handful of oats
  • Chia or flaxseeds

Whizz, and watch the magic come together.

March Culture Round-Up

symbols

WATCHING

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a couch potato kind of month.

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The Night Manager – A suave, and savvy rendering of John Le Carre’s political thriller as Olivia Colman’s Angela Burr is forced to use backwater channels and sly tactics to bring down the villain of the piece, played with debonair wit and a sinister fickleness by Hugh Laurie. Susanne Bier and the BBC brought out the fireworks for all but the finale, which was a little too polished for my liking. Still, when you’re treated to six concurrent weeks of taut, titillating drama with the added benefit of an oft-shirtless Tom Hiddleston, then I’d say that’s a production budget well-spent.

Girls, Season 5 – Girls is back and on top form. Aside from THAT wedding episode, their narratives have been much more disparate of late and it’s a storytelling technique I’m very much enjoying. With the news that this will be the penultimate season the writing has appeared to possess a renewed sense of purpose and certainly the characters feel less aimless (aside from Shoshanna whose taken to working in a Japanese cat cafe) and more as if they’re finally learning from their mistakes rather than accumulating a string of ridiculous anecdotes. The maturation of these four women (and the men who populate their lives) has provided as much awkwardness as it has entertainment, but one’s investments in their unravellings has finally started to feel like its paying off.

House of Cards, Season 4 – As the Underwoods reign appears to unravel, the 4th instalment of this wickedly smart Netflix series feels like a resurrection of sorts. The show had become a little dense, and dare I say it, boorish. This time around, whilst retaining the tongue-and-cheek wit for which the show has become renowned, it sheds flabby sub-plots and political minutiae in favour of character development and sees Claire come into her own. With the added benefit of new cast regulars (Neve Campbell as a campaign manager, Joel Kinnaman as a Republican rival and Ellen Burstyn as Claire’s mother), there’s plenty to get your teeth into. Perhaps the highlight is the show recognising that it truly soars when the Underwoods are allowed to do what they do best; scheme.

 

READING

wheelemenWheelmen – Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell

If you’ve ever founded yourself lacking in knowledge on the topic of Lance Armstrong and the doping scandal, this is the book for you. Comprehensive doesn’t quite cover the level of detail and context that journalists Albergotti and O’Connell (of The Wall Street Journal) provide in outlining the endemic culture of cheating that plagued cycling in the late 90s and 00s – and the profit that was to be made as a result.

The tone is sometimes wistful, sometimes stern and shows a deep-seated admiration for Armstrong as an athlete, regardless of his Machiavellian reign and devilish manipulation of cycling authorities and public opinion. But with the facts, stats and science laid bare Wheelmen offers invaluable insight into the story, no matter how much you think you’ve heard before.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/

I also read this brilliantly insightful report; ‘The Obama Doctrine’ in The Atlantic, whereby Jeffrey Goldberg examines the current President’s handling of foreign policy since his election. It contains excerpts of conversations had with Obama himself, but never feels like its airbrushing or acting as a mouthpiece. There’s a refreshing frankness to its exploration of Obama’s reticence when it comes to military intervention. And if nothing else, you came away with the keen sense that for all his perceived failings, Obama is a measured and intelligent pragmatist, and regardless of whom replaces him the US will be a lesser country without his guidance.

 

LISTENING TO

MEGMAC EP

MEGMAC-EPI caught wind of this Australian songstress after the song ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ from her eponymous EP appeared in an episode of Girls. If Lena Dunham’s paying attention, then I figured ought to be too.

The five-song-strong EP is deliciously anthemic and optimistic. Exactly the kind of music you’d want to soundtrack a strut down a busy street; sultry, stomping and soulful, with the empowering vocals of Macy Gray and the earnestness of Laura Marling. Mesmerising.

EATING

Madeleine Shaw’s Raw Chocolate Tart.

The recipe can be founScreen Shot 2016-04-03 at 14.33.15d here.  I altered the ingredients slightly, adding dates and banana to the chocolate cream centre instead of in the base and forgo-ing cashews. The result was insanely good. The two textures compliment one another beautifully, with enough crunch in the base and smoothness in the centre to differentiate the layers. It was both sweet and rich enough to satiate dessert cravings, but without the sickliness of some chocolate recipes that prevent you go back for seconds. Or thirds. I even ate a slice for breakfast because it was there, and it has banana in it and well, who gives a fuck.

 

DOING

Curtain Call at Queen of Hoxton.

Sponsored by DIY Magazine and located in Shoreditch, this undeniably hipster band night gives the up-and-coming Kodaline’s and Wolf Alice’s of the world a chance to show a bearded and Vans-wearing crowd what they’re made of. The bands in question this time were Cut Ribbons (think Two Door Cinema Club or Of Monsters & Men) and headliners Tall Ships.

Cut Ribbons kicked proceedings off with ‘We Want To Watch Something We Loved Burn’ which made up for the lack of catchiness in its title with a soaring, synth-laden hook. The set continued to showcase their talent for energetic, electric songwriting, even if their performance demanded slightly more of these qualities. Still, it’s always a good sign for a band to leave the stage with the crowd wanting more. New to the circuit they may be, but this Welsh quintet sure as hell know what they’re doing.

Tall Ships came to the stage with the tall order of doubling-down on the effervescence that preceded them. And like all good men, they followed through. Their tunes are more meditative and sway, than crowd-surf, inducing. The set continued in polished, percussive fashion and the Cornish four-piece showed a serious capacity for delicate dynamism.

BUYING

Vichy Skincare

Vichy_001  Vichy_002vichy_003

 

 

 

Writing about skincare is overwhelmingly banal. The fact that Beauty Editors make an industry out of it is incredibly admirable (what else do you write other than moisturisers smooth your skin and facial wash cleans it?) But this month I decided to grow-up and invest in some beauty products other than the Simple range, so here I am writing about skincare.

Confession – I am one of those people that will ‘borrow’ expensive ointments and treatments but never purchase them myself. Whenever I go home I delight in using my mother’s Body Shop Vitamin E facial wash and luxuriously rich anti-ageing creams (I like to tell myself it’s the reason I still get ID’d) and it excites me no end to use the expensive hand-creams that are oft a feature of fancy establishments. But to part with £50 for the sake of using them regularly? Out of the question!

But recently, my usually reliable complexion has been a bit erratic, so I decided to splash out. Armed with very little knowledge and limited time, I dallied in the expensive aisle before settling on Vichy for no other reason than it looked nice. I bought the Normaderm cleanser, the Idealia Life serum and Aqualia Thermal Rich Day Cream because they promised to hydrate and revitalise and repair stressed skin and basically they sounded like little miracles in little bottles and it was too early for any other kind of de-stressing fluid that comes in a bottle so I chose them.

It claimed that it was good for both sensitive and dry skin, which translated to win-win from my ignorant perspective. And since trying them? So far so good. The products are all very fancy. They feel expensive and indulgent, and lo-and-behold they leave my skin feeling clean and soft. I have no idea whether it’ll impact the inconsistencies in my complexion, but damn do I want to keep touching my cheeks. 

Ps. If you happen to be using my bathroom in the next couple months, hands off.