Tag: Pop Culture

Keeping Up With the K—er, Pop Culture

“In fact, pop-cultural references have become such potent metaphors in U.S. fiction not only because of how united Americans are in our exposure to mass images but also because of our guilty indulgent psychology with respect to that exposure. Put simply, the pop reference works so well in contemporary fiction because (1) we all recognize such a reference, and (2) we’re all a little uneasy about how we all recognize such a reference.” 
― David Foster Wallace

Kittens, leaving aside news for a moment, there is too much pop culture at the moment and it can be bizarrely anxiety-inducing. At the moment I’m catching up on The Handmaid’s Tale and American Gods, I have three audiobooks and a two week backlog of podcasts on my phone, and have five books checked out from the library. I’m following along the new season of Game of Thrones, and eagerly anticipating a bunch of films and new Netflix series. It’s a lot to keep up with.

A few weeks ago I found myself in a familiar situation: I had reached my limit on both checkouts and holds from my library and was nearing the end of my check out period on several books. I read fast and normally have at least two books going at any one time, but this time I was behind on my reading and I actually felt stressed at the prospect of not finishing books before I had to return them. Not only that, I had been on a waiting list for many of these books for weeks and if I didn’t finish them now, I’d have to wait weeks again before I could get my hands on them. Consequently, stress. Stupid stress, yes, but stress nonetheless.

Too much screen time, not enough walks!

I’m a finisher, almost constitutionally incapable of leaving a book, TV show, or movie only partially consumed. This doesn’t always serve me well as it means that I’ve struggled through pop culture that I have rushed too much to enjoy, wasn’t quite to my taste, and even downright hated all with the aim of just finishing it. For example, Jeff made me watch Twin Peaks with him, a show that I completely missed in its original run and knew only through casual references. Sacrilegious as it may be to say for some, I didn’t like it at all. It simply wasn’t for me. And yet, almost every night for a couple of months, I grudgingly insisted that we sit down and watch an episode just so I could say I had finished the damn thing.

This is, of course, ridiculous. Nevertheless, to solve my book backlog, I signed out of most social media and didn’t log in to Netflix or YouTube for a week so I could finish five books back to back, which made me feel quite cultured and au courant…until I noticed I’d nearly reached my storage limit on my phone because I had not kept up with my podcast feed.

Help!

I hear and read everywhere that we are living in a moment of “peak TV,” but you could also insert any other media platform into that statement quite comfortably. This weekend alone several trailers for upcoming films or TV shows that I’m genuinely excited about dropped. We are downright spoiled for choice when it comes to entertainment. Not only that, new technology and disruptive new platforms means that we have an almost constant stream of new ways to consume media, as well as very often whole new types of media itself.

Part of me thinks this is fantastic as there is so much stuff out there, you are bound to find a program, book, show, podcast, vlog, or feed that seems tailor made to cater to your personal interests and likes. On the other hand, it’s very easy want to consume everything and feel disappointed or frustrated when you can’t. It’s also not nice to feel like you’re out of the loop when friends or people you enjoy talking all things media with are in the know about something you’ve never heard of. The positive upside to this moment of peak pop culture, though, may be the fact that there is so much out there that it is impossible to even attempt to consume everything. Meaning that consumers can find what they actually like and disregard what they don’t.

This is the tack I have taken at least. I’ve given myself permission to not finish books I don’t like, drop shows that don’t appeal to me, and just tap out of pop culture I don’t care about. It’s such a dinky thing, but it’s been weirdly liberating to “give up” on media rather than slog through it or race to catch up with the rest of society.

Is there any pop culture out there that you genuinely love? What about something that you’ve given a total miss because you just aren’t interested? Have you ever felt guilty for not being able to keep up, or is this a weirdly C-specific problem?

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?

Oscar Review 2014

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
– Oscar Wilde

Ho boy, this is going to be a nicely divisive year, I can feel the comments section rumbling already! All in all, I’m quite pleased, there have been a couple of seasons of this now-annual event where I have found the frocks nice but boring, this year I feel we have something to talk about.

Major trends included statement necklaces (which I approve), lots of pale shades on pale girls (which I generally don’t), navy everywhere (which I’m fine with, it’s my kind of neutral) and pregnancy (which I’m too smart to have an opinion about here). J Law had the good sense to get her tumbling over and done with before the ceremony this year, Anne Hathaway has a comeback for all the haters obsessed with her bosom from last year, and we’re not even going to talk about Pharrell’s shorts.

If there was an overarching theme I noticed, I’d say there were some very definite nods to Old Hollywood glamor that I really loved. There were capes and vintage silhouettes and straight up call backs to iconic films and screen sirens. On the whole, I loved it. Dramatic and interesting are a lot more desirable to me than pretty and safe…usually. Sometimes things can go wrong. And with that, let’s delve deep into opininating.

Friends, minions, countrymen, lend me your thoughts!

THE GOOD

Lupita Nyong'o Prada

Lupita Nyong’o in Prada. Gorgeous frock on a gorgeous woman who has been nailing it on the style front all season. She’s an actress who masterfully harnessed the ability to stay in the public eye via her clothing early, professionally smart and stylistically successful. That blue sings on her and the whole thing moved beautifully. And I’m going to catch hell for this but as much as I think this look stuns, I have to admit I preferred the red caped gown she busted out at the Academy Awards.

Anne Hathaway Gucci

Anne Hathaway in Gucci. Speaking of smart! Remember the craziness last year when this woman was campaigning hard for an Oscar (not helped by a rather juvenile, breathy, “It came true!” when she got the thing) and everybody turned on her in the most ridiculous way for it? How her pink dress with unfortunate frontal puckering inspired instant twitter accounts and memes? Yeah, Anne Hathaway kindly invites the haters to eat it. This dress clearly calls back to last year’s in style and shape, but this time she’s literally darkened up and armored herself. Clever, clever stylist behind this one. Though I’m braced for minion pushback on this one, I stand firm that this dress was a deliberate Do Over and I say, go for it!

Cate Blanchett Giorgio Armani

C., you ridiculously contrary creature, I hear you exclaim, you hate pale women in pale shades. Well there’s always an exception, ducklings. Her name is Cate Blanchett, she is wearing Armani and she is stunning so you all will just have to deal with my hypocrisy.

Olivia Wilde Valentino

There were many bumps out and about, Olivia Wilde’s in Valentino was the best. Apart from looking wonderfully classy that gown has pockets. An instant win in my book.

Emma Watson Vera Wang

Emma Watson in Vera Wang. This is where my bias comes out because that 90’s looking t-shirt ballgown hybrid thing she’s got on that actually looks comfortable? I would totally wear that. [Editor’s note, I initially typed the designer in as “Vera Want.” If that isn’t subliminal messaging I don’t know what is.]

Chrissy Teigen Monique Lhuillier

Chrissy Teigen in Monique Lhuillier. …Look, let’s just ignore everything from the neck up, okay? There’s no justifying it so let’s pretend, just put your thumb over the screen for a second. Now look! A bold print on the Oscars Red Carpet!

THE OKAY

Oh here we go…this is where the pushback comes.

Amy Adams Gucci

Amy Adams in Gucci. This look was praised to the sky but to me it falls under the boring but safe in a big way. The navy blue is a perfect shade for her but the getup lacked some oomph for my taste. It’s also very similar to Jennifer Lawrence’s gown. Speaking of!

Jennifer Lawrence Dior

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior. She loses some points for the hair and makeup styling, and doing the down-the-back necklace thing (which I liked the first time, admittedly) two years in a row but the red (in a sea of muted blushes, darker but muted tones) won me over. To be fair, the photo is not at all doing the color justice here. On screen that gown was a gorgeous, sizzling red. Minions who can find me that exact shade of it in lipstick form will be promoted to an exalted state in my someday empire.

Viola Davis Escada

Viola Davis in Escada. She’s worn emerald green before (and for good reason!), and I love her hair and makeup, but the dress is a bit too shiny and oddly fitted.

Idina Menzel Vera Wang

Idina Menzel in Vera Wang. The dress is pretty (but safe, for a Broadway diva at least), the diamonds are to die for. But the face is washed out, the hair is bland, and the lips need color pretty badly.

Charlize Theron Dior

WHY? Why must Charlize Theron insist on wearing Dior gowns that do freakish things to her breasts?! This is going for Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X but the unfinishedness of the straps bothers me.

Kristen Bell Roberto Cavalli

Kristen Bell in Roberto Cavalli. Okay, but pale girl in a pale frock syndrome strikes again. She looks utterly washed out to me.

Elsa Pataky Elie Saab

Elsa Pataky in Elie Saab. Look, the woman is heavily pregnant with twins and she still showed up smiling and in heels. All I’m going to say is that I didn’t like it on her.

THE BAD

Sally Hawkins Valentino

Sally Hawkins in Valentino. This is one big helping of Too Much. Perhaps this would have worked better if styled differently or worn by someone else, but as it is it’s a pale shade on a pale girl with messy looking hair and too much detailing.

Alfre Woodard Badgley Mischka

Alfre Woodard in Badgley Mischka. No favors done to anyone’s chest region here.

Julie Delpy Jenny packham

Julie Deply in Jenny Packham. Cleopatra by way of the 1960s. This could have been ranked higher, but I think the hair styling tipped it over into frumpy for me.

Kerry Washington Jason Wu

Holding down the bump category for the Bad is Kerry Washington in Jason Wu. I anticipate pushback here too, but I don’t love this shade on her and think she looks just a bit too rumpled. The overall effect is of us catching her in nothing but a (admittedly luxurious) bedsheet, but not in a good way I find.

Julia Roberts Givenchy

Julia Roberts, no! A dress that looks like those droopy shirtwaists from the turn of the last century combined with a doily in mourning and a peplum too? This Givenchy doesn’t work for me at all.

Gabourey Sidibe Theia

Gabourey Sidibe in Theia. Too much everything.

Anna Kendrick J. Mendel

Anna Kendrick in J. Mendel. I sighed. From the back it looked like it could have been worn by that fabulously vamp fringe character from Singing in the Rain…then she turned around to reveal clunky shoes, awkward pleated layers, unattractive cutouts with unattractive netting, sheer panels, and sideboob. I dislike those elements on their own, put them together and I cringe. Easily my pick for worst of the night (Liza Minnelli is exempted because she is Liza Minnelli).

FAVORITE ACCESSORY

Karen O Camilla Staerk

Bring me that clutch immediately!

FAVORITE LOOK OF THE NIGHT

Sari Mercer

Sari Mercer. The hair, the lip color, the complexion, the diamonds, that gown. Do me a favor, everyone, and from now on let’s all mutually agree that I look like this 100% of the time, alright?

Now, it’s your turn. Come to the comments and decry my taste!