Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week

Need a cultural pick-me-up to get you through the rest of this week? The Flavorwire team has you covered, with our list of favorite cultural things we’ve enjoyed in the past seven days to keep us–and hopefull you–culturally stimulated. Tell us what you’ve enjoyed in the comments below, and treat yourself to some engaging artistic and intellectual fare.

Jon Moritsugu

Der Elvis by Jon Moritsugu

Jon Moritsugu was a Brown University student when he created his thesis film Der Elvis, which caught the attention of critic J. Hoberman. The writer called it one of the top 50 films of the 1980s. The filmmaker became part of the second wave transgressive cinema scene, with underground 16mm classics like his grimy updating of the familiar Mods versus Rockers clash, Mod Fuck Explosion. He’s now the subject of a dual retrospective this week at Spectacle in Brooklyn and the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Recently, Moritsugu embraced Kickstarter. His newly funded film Pig Death Machinedescribed as a “psychological horror screwball comedy,” has been unleashed on the masses. —Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Miss Lonelyhearts

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West

This past week, New York City has seen some of the best weather it has in a long while. Who could forget what seemed to be a six month long winter, which greeted us this summer well into the late weeks of May. That dismal weather was not at all dissimilar to the atmosphere of Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West, a short novella about the titular character, a man we only know by his pseudonym, who gives advice to strangers whose problems range from a missing nose to abusive relationships and attempts at suicide. In an attempt to find meaning, Lonelyhearts goes on a spiritual voyage—from illicit affairs, binge drinking, to religion—but his quest for love and meaning is always tempered by New York City, which never fails to stifle him. In one affair, Lonelyhearts’ mistress stands in a dark room, beginning to undress. West paints this picture with hauntingly beautiful and evocative clarity: “She made seas sounds; something flapped like a sail; there was a creak of ropes; then the heard of the wave-against-a-wharf smack of rubber on flesh.” A perfectly poignant read for a day in a sometimes unforgiving city. —Marcus Hunter, Editorial Apprentice

the examined life

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

I just sped through Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life. Grosz is a psychoanalyst with 25 years of experience and the book is a string of vignettes about what he’s learned in the process. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the vignettes have a bit of a short-short-story quality: highly compressed with a lot of insight and resonance. (And some of them are just enjoyably weird.)

And I recently decided to start running with some training/help from a coach. (If you’re in Brooklyn and interested: Geoff Badner.) I run like someone who never learned to properly walk, and my hand-eye coordination is so bad I’m lucky I can get a fork into my mouth in order properly eat. As a result, I’ve never been terribly athletic, though — tragically — I enjoy sports. So it’s been helpful to have someone tell me how to improve form so I don’t injure myself trying to do something most five year olds do effortlessly. But as part of my related reading, I picked up Haruki Murakami’s book on running and writing, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I’m late to it, but the author draws some great parallels between novel writing and long-distance/marathon running, which to anyone who’s tried to write a novel is probably an obvious metaphor, but when Murakami tells it, it’s engaging and insightful. –Elizabeth Spiers, Editorial Director

the monster show

The Monster Show: A Cultural history of Horror by David J. Skal

A good year and a half ago, I perused Matt Zoller Seitz’s listcle of essential film criticism texts, patted myself on the back for already owning a few, and worrisomely placed the rest in my Amazon cart. I’ve worked those titles into my reading stacks since, and just finished reading The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror by David J. Skal. It’s a brainy, thoughtful, beautifully written examination not only of our collective love of scary movies, but the cultural forces (from World War I to the Holocaust to the AIDS epidemic) that manifest themselves in those works. It’s a fast, fascinating read, and as essential for horror movie fans as the more recent (and no less excellent) Shock Value. –Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Steve Gallegher pill

The Backdoor Pharmacist

This week (and for the last couple of weeks) I’ve been enjoying the work of The Backdoor Pharmacist, the mysterious drug columnist at ANIMAL New York. The writer’s identity remains a secret, but whoever he is, his columns are exhaustively informative, and also manage to be hugely entertaining without ever being “Oooooh! Drugs!”. He comes across like a walking Erowid with a flair for prose, a Fear and Loathing-era Hunter S Thompson with all the humor and none of the rage. This week he tackled something called Kratom, and in previous weeks he’s written about MDPV, modafinil and phenazepam. (The latter, incidentally, gave rise to one of the great paragraphs of our time: “You’ll get back off phenazepam and have a million angry voicemails from your friends that you were dicks to. You’ll have vague memories of squirting it into the mouths of street urchins and letting them loose. You’ll be missing a lot of condoms ’cause you were fucking everything and — this is no joke — you may have bought several grand pianos on the internet. Do you know how hard it is to return a grand piano? They make you pay for the shipping back!” Lesson learned, kids.) —Tom Hawking, Music Editor

Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach

Pop culture hasn’t been particularly kind to millennials lately, but Noah Baumbach’s collaboration with Greta Gerwig is the perfect antidote to all that negativity. Frances Ha is a brief, lovely reminder that even if your career and relationships (romantic and otherwise) are in shambles, it’s still possible to pick up the pieces and make a good life for yourself. While Baumbach contributes a sophisticated visual style that’s more Manhattan than mumblecore and an ear for awkward exchanges, this is Gerwig’s movie more than it’s his. If you love her — and you should — you’ll love Frances Ha. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

game of thrones rr. martin

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Hey, have you heard about this series yet? Well, I officially picked the worst possible time to start reading these books — I picked up the first one last Thursday, having never seen the HBO show, and then had about four panic attacks an hour on Monday morning as I tried my best to navigate the internet without having the entire thing spoiled for me as the rest of America talked about whatever the hell this Red Wedding business is all about. (Please do stop talking about it now. I’ll give you permission to share your thoughts again in about three years when I catch up.) — Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

Medicine-Shot-Forth-Self-Living

Shot Forth Self Living by Medicine

Aside from Kevin Shields, shoegaze musicians don’t get much credit for their groundbreaking experimentalism. The most egregious example of this is the criminally underrated Brad Laner, mastermind of noise pop outfit Medicine. Pitchfork called the band America’s closest answer to My Bloody Valentine, but the only thing they really have in common is ear-shattering industrial pop that sounds like nothing else. Their first two LPs, Shot Forth Self Living and The Buried Life, are fantastic starting points for anyone hoping to get into Medicine, but the former is one of shoegaze’s most beautifully abrasive works. Songs like “Aruca” and “One More” are perfect examples of how the genre rescued guitars from banality, just the first two songs in an hour of sublimely composed chaos. The band will release their next album later this year, and the destructive pop of Shot Forth Self Living proves we should all be just as excited as we were for MBV. —Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice