Staff Picks: ‘Maude,’ ‘Semele’ at BAM, and Panini Jokes

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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Brownbook, “The Elders” Issue

In this corner of the northwestern hemisphere, rarely do you get access to such thoughtful articles and beautiful photographs of the contemporary Middle East and North Africa as you do with Brownbook magazine. Architecture, food, Peroxide blondes, travel, design, bodybuilders — this magazine covers it all. In the 50th issue (available now), Brownbook interview six ‘elders,’ who are continuing to live “with grace and gusto well beyond their 70th birthday.” If travel is not in your cards right now, just grab an issue, head to your favorite cafe with outdoor seating, and prepare to be transported. — Ona Abelis, Editorial Apprentice


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Pérez Art Museum Miami

I had the tremendous luck of escaping the Big City and fleeing to the Medium-Sized City of Miami this past weekend, and while most of my time was spent water-gazing and scoring a harsh face sunburn, I also managed to make it to the Pérez Art Museum, which is perhaps the most beautiful museum I’ve ever visited. Don’t get me wrong: the big players of the New York art world are beautiful in ornate (Met) or stark (MoMA) ways, but the thing about the Pérez (designed by Herzog & de Meuron) is that, through simplistic concrete forms and naturalistic elements (wood, plants, so much natural light), the building transforms the art-viewing experience into something that seems, somehow, organic. It was still a place of silence and stilted conversation, but it was the most I’d ever felt I could breathe while viewing fine art. Also, it must be said: great, great bathrooms. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice


Steve Carell’s Naked Hairy Chest… I Mean, Steve Carell as Fabio in 1994

God bless Splitsider for posting this footage from a 21-year-old Second City show featuring Carell and Colbert in the midst of a Fabio impression. Great, now I get to spend the rest of the week feeling conflicted about being attracted to the man responsible for the least sexy naked chest scene in the history of comedy, imitating Fabio no less. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor


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Semele at Brooklyn Academy of Music

I don’t know anything about opera, but as a fan of Greek mythology, beautiful music, and over-the-top spectacles, I was quite charmed by Zhang Huan and the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Handel’s Semele — all three hours of it! Stirring Buddhist monks, Chinese-inspired architecture and costumes, and sumo wrestlers into the Classical story of how a jealous goddess got revenge on the vain mortal who’d captured her all-powerful husband’s heart, the production is overstuffed in the best way. The sets are gorgeous (especially the one that places a garden in the midst of a temple), the effects are awesome, and the whole thing — from orgy scene to a comic interlude involving a cartoonishly aroused donkey — is delightfully filthy. A few moments seem unnecessary: why start and end such an energetic live show with film clips? But on the whole, Semele is a great rejoinder to the conventional wisdom that opera is a staid, outdated art form. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief


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Maude: The Complete Series

We like to pat ourselves on the back for how far television has come since the dusty old 1970s, with our edgy antihero dramas and subversive comedies, but Shout Factory’s upcoming full-series box set of Norman Lear’s six-season wonder Maude (out next week on DVD) is a reminder that maybe we haven’t come that far after all. Sitcoms today won’t even have an OBGYN perform abortions; Maude, in its first season, spent two episodes on the subject. (Those episodes were also written by Susan Harris and co-star Rue McClanahan, which makes them both great television and an awesome Golden Girls pre-union.) In fact, it’s hard to imagine any network show, in these timid times, risking red state alienation by giving us a proudly, even belligerently, progressive protagonist like Maude Findlay. And Bea Arthur is magnificent in that role, livening up even the weakest lines and broadest situations with her deliciously dry delivery, yet underscoring the character’s essentially serious nature—which was given its own spotlight in the remarkable one-woman fourth-season episode “Maude’s Analyst,” which remains one of the most scorchingly searching and admirably experimental half-hours ever to air under the cover of “sitcom episode.” Shout’s set offers plenty of extra goodies—featurettes, lost episodes, and other oddities. But the main attraction is the show itself, 141 episodes of great character comedy and social satire that still stings. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


 

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Warring articles about the North Korean Film Festival

Only a handful of foreign journalists were allowed at North Korea’s Pyongyang International Film Festival, but two of them sold pieces to big publications for their March 2015 issues. The article that ran in GQ was a dud, a “look at this crazy thing I did!” piece of self-serving journalism that was easily bested by Vanity Fair‘s coverage, a fascinating, weird little piece about North Korea and the movies. Advantage: Vanity Fair! — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor


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The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Panini Joke

It didn’t take much for The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to win my heart. But the joke that sent me from swooning fan to slobbering obsessor combined two of my favorite things that start with “p”: panini and puns. In a scene just following the trial of Jon Hamm’s preacher/cult-leader/The Apprentice applicant character, a self-serious reporter realizes she has something that needs clarification and exclaims, “Stop the presses!” — immediately followed by: “My panini can wait.” Thanks to Netflix, I was able to re-watch this moment many times over. This re-watching also reopened, as the best art often does, an existential question I’d once pondered but had forgotten: the endless debate over the usage of “panini” vs. “panino.”  Unless the reporter has more than one sandwich waiting for her on the press, should she not have said “panino?” But since everyone says “panini,” should the show — and everyone else — not just give into grammatically populist appeal? Yes, the sandwich may be flattened, but its implications grow deeper and deeper. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor