The Bullet List is something new I'm trying out: every Friday afternoon I'll list 5 pop culture recommendations I think are worth having a look at over the weekend (or any other chunk of space and time that happens to be free). It could be a film, a book, a TV show, a YouTube channel, a video game (it will probably never be a video game), a gig, a play, a Buzzfeed post, a podcast, or even a new place to experience pop culture (like listening to podcasts on a bench in Regent's Park). In any case, I'm going to stick to doing it every Friday. Hopefully they'll be of use to someone.
Aziz Ansari’s widely loved and critically acclaimed new show is definitely my recommendation of the week. While I’ve had problems with his stand-up persona, the same sensibilities – thirtysomething life, multiculturalism – translate beautifully in this 10-episode series. From the colour grading to the title typeface, it is a visually beautiful piece of comedy (and drama). Operating somewhere between early Woody Allen, Seinfeld and Louie, no show currently captures the complicated millennial zeitgeist as ably Master of None. Its most alluring feature? In an age where everything is dark, angry and cynical, the show allows itself to be earnest and sweet without ever being cringing.
Speaking of cringe-worthy, remember what Superhero costumes used to look like? Adam West running around in ill-fitting lycra, George Clooney’s nipple-accurate Batman suit. In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe however, superhero suits have become the most badass markers of contemporary pop culture. How did that transition happen? In this episode of 99% Invisible, Eric Molinsky speaks to leading costume designers (who’ve worked on Batman vs Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men: First Class) about the methodologies that made them reinvent the way we look at superheroes. As always with this podcast, it is introduced by the dulcet public radio tones of Roman Mars.
Hands down the most enjoyable – and darkest – piece of the extended Marvel Universe that has been produced so far, in my opinion. I’ve never been a fan of the massive nonsensical audiovisual orgies of the MCU (such as Avengers, Thor, etc), and have preferred the small screen fare such as Daredevil. Jessica Jones is not as much a superhero story as it is a 70s noir detective drama where some characters happen to have superpowers. The strength of the show lies in its casting. Krysten Ritter is infinitely watchable – and a complete badass – in the title role, Mike Colter as Luke Cage made me question my sexuality, David Tenant as Kilgrave is a multi-layered, terrifying and confusingly likable Big Bad.
Rebecca Solnit is a phenomenal voice in contemporary societ. I first came across her thanks to her 2000 book Wanderlust, a comprehensive non-fiction title exploring the history of walking and its relationship to how we think about the world. Solnit is also the person who coined the term ‘mansplaining’ and is a committed feminist, campaigning against institutional male arrogance and violence. In this essay for Lithub (I recommend subscribing to their daily newsletter) she eloquently tears apart the entire premise of a list put together by Esquire outlining the books every man should read. As you can imagine, they are books heavy with performative maleness – in the form of violence, misogyny and bigotry. As for a book everyone should read: anything by Solnit.
This Dutch band came into my life by way of Spotify’s eerily spot-on personalized recommendation playlist “Discover Weekly.” The first song I came across was Get It Together, which is all lo-fi vocals and scuzzy guitars that sounds like early The Hives being produced by Alex Turner. But once you dig into their discography you realize they’ve got a very particular – and peculiar – sound. Part Beastie Boys, part Nick Cave. It is refreshing at a time when a lot of identical sounding post-garage bands are putting out tracks all over the place. If you’ve got any doubts about their inventiveness just have a listen – and a mesmerizing look – at Witch Doctor.