Tag: Culture

Five Things I Loved in August

“We don’t need to have just one favorite. We keep adding favorites. Our favorite book is always the book that speaks most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives. And our lives change. We have other favorites that give us what we most need at that particular time. But we never lose the old favorites. They’re always with us. We just sort of accumulate them.”
― Lloyd Alexander

It was a whirlwind month, so I figured a little introspection wouldn’t go amiss as we head into the month of “back to school” and “seasonal wardrobe” changes. The nights are getting cool, even though the days are still deceptively hot, and all of London is working hard to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible. Winter is coming, and all that, kittens! Here’s a quick run down of the things, profound and silly alike, that made my month.

stranger-things-poster-netflix1

Image via Netflix

Stranger Things. Count us among the many who inhaled the series in one go. Proud of the fact I am not (it was a late night). Would I do the same again? Instantly. Noir meets science fiction meets childhood depicted right meets 80s nostalgia. I can’t tell if I’m happy or not it got a second series as it strikes me as one of those wonderful things in real danger of being ruined by its own popularity…but I’m deciding to be optimistic. Anyone else have thoughts to share on the cult-inspired cult hit of the summer?

Shimmering Skin Perfector® Pressed

Image via Becca Cosmetics

Becca Highlighters. These gems come in liquid, cream, and powder form and each have different finishes and effects on the skin. I was always a blush girl but had a hard time getting over the idea of anything designed to make one shine, probably an overreaction to Twilight hype (or more likely just intimidation when considering how I was supposed to use such an item). Consider me converted.

Image via Amazon

Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto (audiobook). It’s taken me a while to give audiobooks a try, which is odd given that I listen to more podcasts and spoken word media than I do music, but I am coming around. I really enjoyed this book, narrated by the author herself. Lesley Hazelton has a deep contralto voice that I found a joy to listen to at the gym, on public transport, or just doing chores around the house. I like it when authors narrate their own books; they have the most intimate knowledge of their writing, of course, and so I think can probably imbue text with their intended emotional meaning better than even talented and experience voice readers. I wonder how much gets lost in emotional translation in many audiobook cases? I’ve listened to one or two audio books in my time that sounded absolutely silly or unenjoyable in audio form but when I picked them up in text later I had a completely different reaction to them. In almost every instance, I felt that the audio reader “got it wrong” somehow. In any event, I found this book not just delightful to hear, but the topic to be handled personally, intelligently, and even humorously. To write personally about agnosticism, which is usually debated nastily or dismissively in my experience, with wit and mischief was really interesting, and I came away wholeheartedly agreeing with her that whatever one’s personal beliefs, the real danger comes from “one dimensional thinking.” In the end, what Hazelton really seems to reject, in my opinion, is not forms of belief so much as fundamentalism.

Image via Glossier

Glossier concealer. Amateur beauty junkie that I am, I tend to keep an eye on companies and launches that tickle my fancy and test them whenever I can. London is a veritable beauty mecca but there are new and interesting US based brands popping up all the time that don’t have European suppliers or don’t ship here yet. Such a heartbreaker is Glossier who I have been lusting after ever since they came out with their Phase 1. I timed an order to correspond with our visit to Utah and have been testing all the goodies I stocked up on ever since and can dub the Stretch Concealer (in shade Medium for me) an absolute winner. The UK has been roasting for the whole of this month and most complexion goods simply slide off the typical mortal woman’s face in the tube but this baby has held firm. Alas I couldn’t order the Haloscope highlighter…next stateside jaunt.

Email chains with friends. With a chunk of time in July taken up with family travel and a new job offer, my mind was a bit preoccupied. Last month the girls and I (we keep up regular and spirited correspondence, deeply grateful we live in the age of email and text because that six-weeks-delayed-gossip-and-dependent-on-mail-coaches nonsense would simply have not done at all), wrote about creative projects, Tudor history, and shopping for decor in decommissioned masonic temples. Seriously. I’m planning an upcoming trip to Spain with one, getting to hear about a potential new gentleman friend from another, catching up on freelance work with yet another. Food for the soul.

What have been your summer standouts, darlings? And more importantly, what other pop culture do I need to catch up on as a matter of priority?

Hooked

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive.  ~Anäis Nin

Once a week my friends from London and I get together, nominally to watch The Office and 30 Rock but really to gossip and catch up and reminisce about England.  I’ll never forgive Marie for going back this summer while I’m here, but I’ll be back in Cambridge for Christmas (this year with a husband.  Weird) so I just have to hold out strong until then. 

84_charing_cross_roadAnyway, in the spirit of Anglophilia, Marie had rented a movie for us to watch and I’m completely smitten!  It’s called 84 Charing Cross Road and chronicles a based-on-a-true-story 20 year correspondence between an American writer and the proprietor and staff of a bookshop in London that specializes in antique books (incidentally, a 200 year old edition of Newton from this place cost less than £5!  Why couldn’t I have lived in the 1940’s?!).  This film is absolutely charming, and I don’t mean it in the patronizing way that word gets used, it’s an engaging, delightful film and you get completely engrossed in the story.  I may have to go on another Amazon.com spree here shortly!  That and the next time I’m in London I’m going to have to find the real 84 Charing Cross, even though I understand the shop isn’t there anymore which is tragic in my opinion.  Excellent choice, Marie.

coldcomfort1But this incident got me thinking: I’m indebted to friends or circumstance for so many of life’s little gems.  Way back when I was living in Micronesia my friend Biscotti Rose, during one of our many slumber parties, declared, “I have a movie you just have to watch!”  And thus I met Cold Comfort Farm, with some of the greatest English actors working today: Kate Beckinsale, Aileen Atkins, Rufus Sewell, Joanna Lumley, and Sir Ian McKellen.  Years later I bought the novel and laughed even harder at it than the film.

Angel introduced me to a science fiction series that I was initially dubious about.  After all, scifi?  Isn’t that for people who go to conventions, think Klingon is a legitimate language, and don’t make physical contact with the opposite sex until their 30’s?  Not so!  You want a series that delves deeply into human psychology, valor, and vice?  Lois McMaster Bujold is the writer for you.  Peregrine, I maintain, is responsible for much of my cultural happiness.  Even though I resisted her civilizing efforts for years.  She first exposed me to Chocolat and Amelie, plus more books and fine food than I can name!  

yourangBBC and PBS stations!  Where would I be without them?  Agatha Christie’s indomitable Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, the upstairs/downstairs dichotomy of London’s 1920’s in You Rang M’Lord?, the hilarious, frantic antics of Hyacinth “Bouquet” (actually pronounced “Bucket”) in Keeping Up Appearances.  I keeping-up-appearances-the-full-bouquet1stumbled upon each of these gems while doing late night laundry across the years and they fulfill my need for British TV (even though You Rang, M’Lord? never shows up here, blast).  I also watched my first opera on PBS when I was 9 and have been hooked ever since. 

 

cyrano_de_bergerac_drg126021French classes exposed to Gerard Depardieu as Cyrano de Bergerac and Le Comte de Monte Cristo, as well as Marcel Pagnol, and the first time I read Rousseau it was his La Nouvelle Heloise.  I read my first ancient Greek play on a whim after pulling down a random book from my mother’s library, but I was hooked and at 13 I wrote a short play on the ancient model that won me a competition and was produced by Theatre Virginia.

IRS Guy introduced me to a fabulous little restaurant called Gloria’s Little Italy and while he didn’t make it past a second date, Gloria and I have been very happy together ever since.  Peregrine (again!) first took me to Bombay House for Indian food.  J., who lived in Korea for 2 years, has completely addicted me to Korean cuisine and knows the best holes in the wall for oriental food, to say nothing of the local hotspots (he’s lived here longer than me).

What sorts of treasures have you discovered through other people?