Poking fun at Pitchfork Media –– indie tastemaker slash never-ending bastion of cultural snobbery and Portlandia material –– is an act that is facile to the point of being self-defeating. This is the website, after all, that pioneered the decimal-digit review score and worked itself into logical convulsions deciding whether Andrew W.K. was ironically dumb or just dumb, and whether there was any discernible difference between the two positions in the first place. To call Pitchfork hilariously overwrought might be the most redundant statement in the universe. To call it pretentious would be lazy. Pitchfork is certainly both of those things, but more than that it has become a cultural artifact, Rolling Stone for the brunch-goer. When Pitchfork launched in 1995, however, it was essentially a local hub for Minneapolis area bands and college radio station diehards.
It was only fitting that Michelle Kuo gave her Cambridge reading at the Cambridge Public Library. College ’03 and Law School ’09, and now a professor at the American University of Paris, Kuo spent two years after college in Helena, Arkansas with Teach for America. Her memoir, Reading With Patrick, documents and reflects on her time working with Patrick Browning, a quiet and introspective student in her classroom whom she returned to Arkansas to see upon learning he had been placed in jail for killing another man. While awaiting Patrick’s trial, in which the unintentional death was ultimately charged as manslaughter, Patrick and Kuo read and wrote together every day. I sat down with Michelle to talk about the complex process of writing and discussing the memoir, the questions we ask ourselves as progressives and young people, and, of course, books.
The end of the 2008 financial crisis marked the beginning of an agitated love-hate affair between Hollywood and Wall Street. Movies that satirized, maligned, or celebrated the exploits of the veiled “masters of the universe” became incredibly popular. Hollywood had found its new villain, and the following years saw the release of a string of movies like Margin Call (2011), Too Big to Fail (2011), and The Big Short (2015). Steve James’s new documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, might be described as the anti-Big Short. It refuses to play into the tropes and excesses of its precursors. For one, it makes no attempt to glamorize the work of bankers or bamboozle the viewer into dumb awe with a barrage of inscrutable technical terms—CDS’s, MBS’s, tranches, and the like. Instead, the only source of the fantastic comes from the film’s very premise: Abacus is a profile of the only bank to have been criminally charged with mortgage fraud in the wake of 2008, and the family behind its operations.
J.D. Daniels’ writing has provoked a response that only a unique talent could. In both praise and criticism of Daniels’ recently published first collection, The Correspondence, there exists a common tone: a sort of what the hell is this? It’s a confusion that fresh style demands – a confrontation with the sheen of the new. Daniels manages to marry registers that might sound contradictory, but, in his hands, appear natural: bravura and vulnerability, academic erudition and folk wisdom, humor and frankness. And this wealth of material somehow finds the space to rattle around in a tightly bound, rhythmic prose. His essays take the liberty to chase ideas and often become something that they once weren’t in the span of just a sentence. It’s a thrilling agility. To read him can be like watching a brain at work.
A Tweeted History of Cage the ElephantSupporting Cage the Elephant was my first taste of hipsterdom. When I saw the band open for Stone Temple Pilots in 2010, I was one of the fifteen audience members who knew the words and stood by the stage. The hundreds of seated attendees who had never heard of the opener could see that I was a real fan.With every step the band took toward mainstream success, I tried to claim them as my own. I broadcasted my excitement for Cage the Elephant releases on Facebook (Figure 1). I refused to take pictures on my flip phone after their concert, fearing I might somehow replace my home-screen photo of lead singer Matt Schultz jumping into the audience.When I heard the single from their 2013 album Melophobia inside an elevator, I knew I had to accept that Cage the Elephant was popular.
"Make some noise if you wanna go to heaven.”When Chance the Rapper uttered this phrase about halfway through his set at Boston Calling, no one skipped a beat, the crowd roaring for everyone’s favorite friendly rapper. Pyrotechnics and massive screens began to roll as he transitioned into yet another immensely catchy and soulful song from his hit-studded repertoire. In front of the stage, beach balls flew and a sea of arms glistening with wristbands bobbed slightly off beat. All eyes focused on Chance. As he ran and jumped across the stage, it was hard not to revel at his fervor and knack for crowd engagement. But if college has taught me anything, it is to immediately transform my natural revelry into analytical impetus. And as a Religious Studies major, I couldn’t help but take a step back to look at the precedent and undertones of Chance’s massive performance.
Men Without Women By Haruki Murakami Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen 228 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95 In his new book Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami tells the stories of seven heartbroken men to explore the condition of solitude—of being a Men Without Women, which the titular story insists is “always a relentlessly frigid plural.” The fidelity of the stories to this central theme is tight and precise, giving the collection an overall feel similar to one of the “days” in the Decameron—if, instead of the plague-ridden Italian countryside, the aching lovers roamed across Murakami’s melancholic Tokyo. In Murakami’s treatment, solitude emerges as a chronic condition whose incurability stifles the possibility of action.
(Yoni Wolf has been making music since the mid-nineties and has been frontman of the band Why? since it formed in 2004. Why? released the album Moh Lhean in March 2017 and is currently on tour through the US.)EE: Hey! Thanks so much for doing this. You’ve started off on tour lately—how’s that going?YW: We’ve been on tour for about three weeks now. It’s fine, we have a day off today, so I’m walking around with my lady friend; gonna do some cooking, gonna do some laundry, et cetera.EE: We wanted to ask about your latest album, Moh Lhean— is it pronounced Mo Lean?YW: That’s fine.EE: You’d been on a little hiatus until it came out, right? It’s a lot of new songs — I was wondering if you could tell us a little about what went into it: process, time frame, inspiration…YW: Well, we recorded this one at home, so it went on for a while, as things tend to do when you have as much time as you want to work on them.
In 2014, Albie and Chris Manzo, the sons of Real Housewife of New Jersey Caroline Manzo, became the faces of BLK, a designer Canadian spring water the color of coal. BLK is infused with fulvic acid, a natural compound popular in alternative medicine, which gives the water its signature black hue. The company was started by two sisters Jacqueline and Louise Wilkie, who believe the drink’s “alkaline fulvic trace” saved their mother’s life. On Wikipedia, “Blackwater” may refer to the private American security consulting firm associated with the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, a liquid waste remaining after coal preparation, and a wastewater containing feces, flushwater and urine from toilets, an acute kidney disease, towns in Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Romania, United Kingdom, and the United States, and assorted artworks.
Jamie Stewart, a square-jawed man with a razor-sharp side-part, has a low voice, a few tattoos, and the airs of someone with a strict hygiene regimen. Stewart is the anchor behind Xiu Xiu, a dark experimental act out of San Jose, whose combination of relentless nihilism and dry humor often splits the critics. Stewart is Xiu Xiu’s only constant player –– the band has added and shed eleven members since forming in 2002 –– and the band’s sound, like its membership, is always changing. Their repertoire ranges from the grim and percussive Angel Guts: Red Classroom, to Plays the Music of Twin Peaks (a bleak but lovingly rendered take on the cult TV show’s soundtrack), to Nina (an out-there tribute album to Nina Simone, that sounds more like an out-of-breath Anohni [à la Hopelessness] than anything from the Simone catalogue) to the upbeat, nearly noise-pop Forget, the band’s tenth release, which came out this past February.
Elif Batuman –– acclaimed New Yorker contributor, recent author of The Idiot (a novel set at Harvard in the ’90’s) and former Advocate member –– is every bit as genial, witty and inspiring as her Twitter page makes her out to be. It was truly a pleasure to have the chance to chat with her about her debut novel, The Idiot, Turkish heritage, and the 19th century Russian novel. She proves that it is, in fact, possible to be dazzlingly intelligent, publish two best-selling books and still be one of the warmest, most approachable people ever.B- We're very excited about The Idiot. How did you decide on your subject matter, and how was it to transition from writing mostly non-fiction to fiction?E- The Idiot is based on a draft that I wrote many years ago in 2000-2001; at that point I was in my early 20s.
These days, I often feel like I’m using Big Data to figure out the history of Big Data so I can better understand how Big Data is making me obsessed with Big Data. There are a few things I know for sure about this often perplexing pattern:1. The history of Big Data and the rise of the Internet appeals to me in part because I know it is inextricably tied to the history of American National Security and the rise of the military-industrial complex, 1950-1990, which also feels super consequential. 2. The plethora of data-driven archival databases and the precise search methods within them make it possible—in ways unimaginable even fifteen years ago—to pin down the corporations, figures, and products that made possible both the incomprehensible vastness of our government’s worldwide surveillance state and the incomprehensible vastness of the Internet.