Staff Picks: Our Favorite Cultural Things This Week

Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

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The Oxford American

The Oxford American is a wonderful magazine, and it’s even better in its pretty print edition, where I can luxuriate in pieces like Alex Mar’s “The Secret Life of Nuns” or Jen Percy’s time at a ventriloquist convention, “Don’t Touch the Dummy” to my heart’s content. Got lucky enough to see Summer and Fall 2013 on the streets, and it’s enough of a treasure to encourage me to, well, you know, actually subscribe to the magazine, once I know my address for next year. —Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

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Michael Jackson’s Xscape

Am I a horrible person for liking a posthumous album over which the artist had proooobably no say at all? Maybe. Am I its target audience, late Michael Jackson fan (due to my age) thirsting for new songs from an old pop god, willing to ignore any doubts of integrity or intention on the label’s part? Definitely. I can’t stop listening to “Chicago,” and when I put my thumb over the Jackson hologram’s icky face at the Billboard awards, I didn’t even hate the “Slave to the Rhythm” “performance.” Oh well. —Isabella Biedenharn, Editorial Apprentice

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Saving Room for Cats Tumblr

It might be lack of sleep or general mid-year ennui, but my tastes this week have been entirely satisfied by minor tumblr masterpiece Saving Room for Cats, which provides an answer for the age-old question: why do bros sit on the subway with their legs so far apart? They’re, yes, saving room for cats. Of course they are. In other news, I need a vacation. —Tom Hawking, Senior Editor

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Panda Bear Gets Me High at Red Bull Music Academy 

Red Bull Music Academy is a must-go for fans of experimental music across all spectrums, particularly electronic genres. With its annual New York festival stretched across the month of May and throughout the city, making it to an event or two is far less taxing than dedicating an entire weekend. I caught Panda Bear’s Sunday set at Greenpoint’s Warsaw, and what I saw got me higher than I’d ever been on a Sunday night — no hallucinogens necessary. The Animal Collective leader played a set heavy on new material (get excited for the next Panda Bear album for sure), accompanied by insanity-inducing visuals. Lasers, cryptic videos of decomposition and food and women, flashing lights. Sensory overload meets near-religious experience. Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

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Terry Gross Interviews Edward St. Aubyn on NPR

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the conversation between Terry Gross and Edward St. Aubyn is great. Gross, like usual, seems to really care and understand her subject, and gets some great quotes out of the Lost for Words author. One of the best interviews with a novelist you will hear this year.  —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

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Kara Walker’s A Subtlety at the Domino Sugar Factory

With the imminent demolition of the Domino Sugar Factory — set to soon be replaced by 55-story condos — artist Kara Walker has placed a 35-foot tall “mammy-faced” sphinx in the middle of the gargantuan structure. Both a protector of the doomed space and a reminder of its hideous history of slave-trade entanglements, this sphinx’s unuttered riddle lies in the multiformity of Walker’s insinuations. A Subtlety‘s complicated politics is crafted by the combining of mythology (the sphinx), history (slavery vs. the wasteful luxury of sugar sculptures), space (Williamsburg and more specifically the Domino Sugar Factory) and material (sugar). Williamsburg — the greatest example of New York’s tendency to chew up the working class and spit them into its nether-regions — will, with the demolition of this space, again prove its flagrant disregard for its past, replacing it with a series of sparkling sky-dildos. The sphinx is a deliberately futile attempt to safeguard a community; it is a doomed, crumbling monument within a doomed, crumbling monument. While once the space was used to refine the crops picked by slave hands, its demolition in the wake of explosive gentrification perpetuates a history of marginalization. The exhibit also features a smattering of scary-sweet little molasses boys holding baskets, some full of the parts of other broken little boys, all bleeding sweetness in streams under their feet. Based on tchotchkes Walker had seen online, this aggrandizement and sugar-coating of caricatural figurines into life-sized candy objects magnifies the hideousness of the lens through which America once regarded its black citizens. This exhibit is so troubling, and so important, both as a bleak history lesson and as a bleak lesson in Williamsburg’s present. See it. —Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice