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Binging with Babish: For someone who doesn’t really cook anything that would be universally recognized as edible, I sure do love a good YouTube food channel. Babish brings together my obsession with YouTube junk food shows and pop culture: he makes recipes based on food that shows up in films and TV! Where should you start? I'd take a chunk out of the Ross' Thanksgiving Sandwich (link above) from Friends or nibble at Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls.
Cold Cuts: the latest project by Lebanon’s very own Mo Abdouni, founder of the irresistibly fun FIMP magazine (they had the best launch events) back in the day. This is his new video platform and his first couple of films — a doc about a Beirut drag queen (link above) and a music video for a German-Yemeni Berlin-based band — have quite rightly been lauded in Elle UK and Reorient.
Raymond Chandler: I’ve been on a bit of a crime fiction binge of late, partly because it is my favorite genre and partly because I’m finally trying to write some myself, and figured I’d go back to one of the stalwarts. I tucked into the Big Sleep, which is excellent, if “problematic” (that word itself is becoming quite problematic). There’s no doubt he’s a master of the genre, but I could have done with a little less slapping of 'hysterical' female protagonists who appear to have their legs poking out of their dresses for most of the plot. It made me realize I should probably tuck into something a bit more contemporary, and potentially from another part of the world.
That’s where Parker Bilal comes in. Bilal is the pseudonym of British-Sudanese author Jamal Mahjoub, and his crime fiction series follows the investigations of Makana, a former Sudanese cop, now a refugee in Cairo, working as a low-rent private investigator. I love what I've read so far.
Crime Writers of Color: My search for writers who aren’t white and male (again, nothing wrong with being white and male, far from it, it’s just that it doesn’t require much searching to find their output), took me to Twitter. I got a ton of very helpful recommendations there, which I put together in this helpful little reading list.
Bowling for Columbine: Somehow my wife, who is a monumental Marilyn Manson fan, had never seen this Micheal Moore joint. So I wanted to show her the scene in which Manson is the most rational and intelligent human being in the film (which isn’t surprising if you know anything about him), and we ended up watching the whole thing, and somehow it seems like something that feels very relevant even today. It even got us into a rewatching a whole bunch of late 90s Louis Theroux documentaries which kind of predicted that America was about to lose its mind (more on that in a bit).
Ryo Fukui - Scenery A regular at the Slowboat jazz bar in Sapporo, he taught himself to play piano aged 22 and released this beauty a mere six years later.
Rapp Snitch Kniches - MF Doom Love this track by prolific and slightly eccentric British rapper of Trinidadian-Zimbabwean origin MF Doom (Daniel Dumile).
The Bunny Tylers - Mothers Make Murderers Hypnotic track by Beirut drone/ambient duo The Bunny Tylers. The band is made up of Charbel Haber (of Scrambled Eggs and solo career fame) and Fadi Tabbal (of The Incompetents, and pretty much the producer behind everyone who plays alternative music in Beirut).
The Rise and Fall of the Sellout There is a rich tradition of calling artists who chose to not do exactly what you want them to do sellouts, but in this great Slate take (that digs into the terms origins on the left, and in jazz) Nicolay argues the word is on its way out of the musical lexicon.
The Lost Cause Rides Again: Don’t Give HBO’s Confederate the Benefit of the Doubt This impassioned piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates was written a couple of weeks before the deadly actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville. It argues that HBO’s green-lighting of an alternate history series where the South won the Civil War is tone deaf because it doesn't take into account the black contemporary experience in which it's not that clear that South actually lost and alternate histories don't seem so necessary because people of color in the South live that 'what if' every day. In light of the horrors of the past few weeks, it’s tough to see how this show pitches itself now and how it gets made at all.
How America Lost Its Mind Brilliantly written & sprawling essay on the origins of America’s gradual unmooring from reality, going all the way back to the 50s and 60s. If you wonder how millions of American's can watch InfoWars, read this.
Real Detective: Think Discovery ID true crime shows but with well-produced and acted reconstructions, no ad breaks and the most heart-wrenching interviews with real detectives you can think of.
Atypical: I cannot emphasize how brutally emotional, fun, well-written and raw this Netflix family drama about an 18 year old with autism, and the family around him, is. It is also brilliant acted, with star turns from Michael Rapaport, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keir Gilchrist, Bridgette Lundy-Paine and the hilarious Nik Dodani.
Episode of 99% Invisible Ever wonder who comes up with emojis? Who do they pitch them to and who decides if it makes it onto your phone. Why does the little pile of poop look a bit weirder on Facebook than it does on WhatsApp? Well this predictably excellent episode of 99% Invisible has all the answers.
Anyone who knows me or who follows me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, knows I'm a total sucker for bleak neon-lit landscapes at dusk and old cars in front of empty cafes. Think a mix of a Hopper painting meets Blade Runner meets a muscle car meet-up. Well Patrick Joust from Baltimore and Chris Malloy from Calgary are two of my favorite photographers who manage to capture that beautiful combination.
I think I’m going to drop this section because I really don’t watch films at all anymore. Working on a blog post about why I think that is (spoiler: all the good writers have run off to TV and everyone with a smartphone in a theater is an asshole).