Dad blogging, culture, and tacos: El Camino Real

Is it possible to be a parent and be self-deprecating?

I think as a human I’ve developed self-deprecation as a form of protection. People can’t hurt you by pointing out your faults if you point them out first. If you point out your own failures, there’s no need for anyone else to.

I’ve tried to build self-awareness, knowing what others sense and get from me and when all else fails, I’ve relied upon self-deprecation so if I did miss something it wouldn’t matter anyway.

I get really excited about things and can easily be disappointed by those expectations, so I’ve learned to temper them, not wanting to expect more than can be given to me. You can’t be hurt if you never expected anything great to begin with. My cynicism comes out of a grand optimism.

It’s also natural to think your children are the best thing to ever exist.

Before I was a parent, I would have called myself an above average person on a whole. That’s my level of braggadocio. Having a son has caused this to change.

Things I’ve called my son since he’s been born: the cutest thing to ever exist, the smartest child of all time, the biggest/strongest/most advanced child in America and probably the world, etc…

As soon as your child comes you begin to think of them as being special, unique, and advanced. You look at apps that tell you standard milestones for your child’s age and glee with pride at the one or two areas where your child is ahead. You want to believe that your child is particularly adept at being human and look for any sign proving this to be true.

But at some level this isn’t true. I mean, you should have all the hopes and confidence possible in your children, but this is an unrealistic way to look at the world, and an unrealistic standard for your children to live up to. There’s always someone who is better.

How do we deal with the tension at the heart of this?

Our children deserve our confidence and our pride. They don’t deserve the pressure of being the best child of all time. Which way should we lean? Should I follow the part of my heart that thinks my child is 12 times as smart as everyone else or should I laugh at and undermine these expectations? Is it even possible to be a deprecating dad?

Anyways, my child just learned how to roll, has your child learned to do that yet? Didn’t think so.


Today’s tacos: El Camino Real

What we listened to on the way: US Girls “In a Poem Unlimited”

What we ate: Carnitas, Carne asada, Al pastor

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El Camino Real has quite the large space, extending further than you expect the building to go, something I was delighted by after the last fiasco. When I went it wasn’t particularly busy, but there are numerous signs saying that they make their food fresh so please be patient–apparently timeliness isn’t a part of their reputation.

The layout is somewhere in between a typical taqueria with the feel of a meat shop, a large counter and menu giving you that feel. Their taco options are called “Big Tacos”, stuffed with more meat than your typical taco shop. Each taco comes with cilantro and onion, atop of two corn tortillas. The corn tortillas each felt fresh, not succumbing to dryness, something I’ve been grateful for at each taco shop I’ve been to. Each taco did come without salsa or a sauce of any kind, so be sure to hit up the salsa bar.

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The carne asada was the most moist and flavorful of every place I’ve been to thus far and was the standout. The carnitas were decent, not as juicy as I would have wanted them to be, but tender enough to do the job. The al pastor did not come dripping juices and flavor like can be pretty typical for it, instead it had a dry almost nutty flavor. I’m not sure how they cooked it, but it certainly wasn’t what I was looking for in that style.

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My son’s thoughts: He had a busy day leading up to this and fell asleep on the way there. I brought in the car seat only and he slept in it on top of the table where I was sitting.

Kid’s Fashion

This has less to do with pop culture parenting and is more of a rant than anything. But we need to do it.

Yes, we need to talk about kid’s clothing.
Now I’ve never been the most fashionable person, whenever I get inspired bouts of trying to be fashionable I’m often disappointed, ending in a sad lethargy and general nihilism about the fashion game. But kid’s clothing is quite awful in ways that even I can sense and am surprised by.
Kid’s clothes are far more focused on overalls, brightly colored plaids, and animals than they have any right to be. I get it, kids are kitsch; we show them dumb movies, sing them dumb songs, talk to them in goo goo gah gah’d speech, so of course their clothes have to be a little stupid, it’s part of their routine. That’s why we’re here though, we’re trying to teach our kids how to have good taste, (and also lead them into a generally holistic well-being–or something like that anyway…). I’m a kid’s kitsch combatant, so I have to say something here.
It’s okay to buy clothing without an animal on it.
It’s okay to buy a collared shirt that doesn’t have a truck on the pocket.
I love my son and I hope our bond is strong, which is why I don’t need to buy him a onesie that says “Daddy’s special boy” or “my Dad rocks”. Thanks son, but I know you’re still dependent on me for survival, so I don’t need to beg for your affection just quite yet.
Now there is room for humor and I’ll let you have agency in determining the kind of wit or pop culture references you want to force your child to wear. I would say generally to avoid these, because they still lean toward the cheesy side of things, but ultimately that’s up to you. For instance, my son has the name of a famous philosopher, so we took him home from the hospital wearing a shirt with said philosopher’s face on it and a quote underneath. I think that’s funny, but I could be wrong (The Good Place seems to agree with me though, so…). Tread lightly here, does the world really need another kid wearing a Star Wars or Marvel onesie? It’s Target chic at this point.
Instead, pick your most specific references, after all the hope is that one day your kid will be into a really specific thing and have to be like: do you listen to podcasts? Well they’re kind of like radio shows, but you download them on your phone. This one is an indie comedy one that I saw them record live in person and bought their shirt. The goal is an uber-specific reference that takes five minutes to explain to someone who lost interest as soon as you began trying.
When it comes to traditional every day clothing, the simpler the better. I always think that putting them in something similar to what you would wear is probably good judgment in taste, but I suppose having matching outfits with your kids is a whole different debate in kitschiness; we can discuss this another time.
Generally I think I would pick tones of tan, dark stripes, and avoid bright colors; let everyone know your kid’s the artsy, moody type.
When it comes to fancier clothing, people love to see kid’s wearing things that make them look very grown up and I’m down for this. Bring on the bow ties and the slacks and the blazers (I’m only a parent to a boy, so I have no advice for girl’s fancy clothing, but if you want to put your girl into a suit Princess Cyd style, then I have no problem with that). These are fantastic on children. Dapper kids are great.
Obviously though you should only buy what you can afford, I’m not advocating for a slew of $40 onesies from that boutique because at the rate your child is growing there’s no way you can keep up with that budget. Stay simple and stay selective. Your kid should wear cool clothes, but more importantly, your kid should not wear uncool clothes. That’s what we want. A grey onesie beats out the strange animal-kid puns that exist on 65% of all children’s clothing.
Join the movement: #againstkidskitsch
What’s the worst piece of kid’s clothing you’ve seen? What are your go-tos? Do you hate me? Let me know in the comments.

Dad blogging, culture, and tacos: Baja California Fish Tacos

There are not many guides out there about trying to keep up with movies when you have a young child.

I know this, because I’ve looked.

I figure professional critics use their normal work hours to go and see movies, while those of us who are in it as hobbyists must decide a few things. Is this a serious hobby? Something that can be sacrificed or pushed back? Obviously parenting is all about sacrifices–it’s sort of the driving force of raising a child, yet I do think I want to make a commitment to keeping up with my interests, down the road my children should appreciate that.

Yesterday, my son had a terrible night sleeping and only ended up getting a half hour between 5:30 AM and 10:30 AM, much less than typical. Now usually when he is sleeping I use the time to get the necessities done: showering, eating, getting dressed, etc… I knew that he would still battle rest if I laid him down even as he was getting tired, so I rocked him to sleep in my arms, kept him there, and opened up Netflix on my laptop. I was able to watch all of Nocturama, a French thriller I had been hoping to see (read my thoughts here). I hadn’t planned on being able to watch the whole thing, but in a rare Rumpelstilskin move, my son slept for 2.5 hours.

For those of us who are big time movie geeks, watching a movie in separate showings is pretty antithetical. It interrupts the flow, the story, and disrupts the magic of it all. But I suppose the cinephile parent must accommodate for this, expecting consistent interruptions when trying to get through 2+ hours of the artistic format we fell in love with. Having a son is more beautiful than I can describe and interrupted movies are a small burden to bear.

For you cinephile parents out there, were you able to keep up? Do you have strategies? Feel free to comment below.


Today’s tacos: Baja California Fish Tacos

Today’s taco run was also interrupted. Not by my son’s schedule, but by accidentally leaving the car lights on overnight and not having a vehicle to get anywhere.

It ended up being all right because there’s a nice taco place over by our apartment that’s within walking distance. We went there at noon to try their fish tacos.

What we listened to on the way: Nothing, because we walked.

What we ate: Shrimp, fish tacos

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Baja California Fish Tacos replaced a sushi spot right next to the gas station that we use, a super convenient way to get fish tacos, giant burritos, and ceviche at all times. This is their third location, with two other spots in Los Angeles. Confusingly there’s another local chain of Baja themed Mexican food serving across Orange County called Baja California Tacos, there’s no relation, though there may be a rivalry, as that chain is also highly acclaimed (I might get out there one day for a comparison).

I had wondered how it would do, as the sushi place had went out of business. It certainly wasn’t having any problems when I went there, with a line going out the door as it served customers on a Monday afternoon.

This is where there was some slight difficulty. I had a giant stroller and it made it very difficult to navigate an already claustrophobic restaurant that was packed tight with people.

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I went for a shrimp and a fish taco getting both with a fried batter upon the cashier’s recommendation. Each was good, stuffed to the brim with toppings: a slaw-like cabbage, creamy sauce, and pico de gallo. The problem with getting a fry batter is it can easily get soggy, particularly when topped with an amalgam of fresh garnishes.

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The shrimp did not really suffer this problem, though the batter easily separated from the shrimp throughout each bite, the shrimp easily maintained its chewy consistency beneath. The fish was not able to withstand the moisture, sogging up like a paper towel, too fragile to everything going on. The combination of all the toppings still made for a delicious bite, but wasn’t able to deliver on what you’re looking for–that crispy and fatty bite that comes with fried batter. The shrimp was the better of the two and is definitely recommended; going grilled might be the way to go when ordering tacos de pescado.

My son’s thoughts: He stared at me, perhaps a bit concerned by the crowd noises around him. When we went to leave I got a little nervous as to how we would be able to make our way through the crowd with the stroller. Luckily there was a side exit with no fire alarm where we snuck out without drawing attention.

Weekly recap: March 2, 2018

I made a few things in the last week, here they are:

“Crying Baby Karaoke: A New Lullaby Canon”

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I mean, does anybody ever say they like lullabies? Do we ever experience nostalgia for them? We are soothed by them, forget about them, and then later use them to soothe our own children. Lullabies are at the bottom of the barrel of culture that is intended for children. We complain about being forced to endure kid’s entertainment, but what if we excised it out of our children’s lives?
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I’m a pop culture glutton and I wonder how this will be passed along to my children. I catch myself fantasizing about my child knowing all the cinematic classics, ripping through the children’s literary canon, being able to namedrop Miles Davis, A Tribe Called Quest, and Courtney Barnett, having a favorite Sondheim show and lyric, puling off comedic bits and wordplay, being a slight history buff who’s politically literate, playing baseball while being able to site his favorite player’s year by year WAR, and advocating for social justice issues while preparing chilaquiles that inspired him when we went to the taqueria the night before. Oh and he should also have his own unique interests and personality.

Right now all he wants to do is put stuff in his mouth–which is great.

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Jacob and Taylor are back to talk about what’s good!

In What’s Happening What’s Up they talk about the Queer Eye reboot on Netflix, as well as the latest film from Ex Machina director Alex Garland, Annihilation, out now!

WEEKLY RECS

Taylor Rec #1:

Curling at the Winter Olympics…

I also tweeted out my favorite acting performances in the movies from 2017. Here they are:
Actor:
     1. Daniel Kuluuya, Get Out
     2. Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
     3. Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread

Actress:

  1. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  2. Brooklyn Prince, The Florida Project
  3. Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread

Supporting Actress:

  1. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  2. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  3. Elizabeth Marvel, The Meyerowitz Stories

Supporting Actor

  1. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  2. Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  3. Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name

Dad blogging, culture, and tacos: Taqueria de Anda

This morning my son was sleeping, so I made a mad rush to complete all the tasks I had set for myself, a combination of daily duties like showering and eating and all the culturally nerdy things I had wanted to accomplish: finish The Killing of a Sacred Deer which I had rented for free on Redbox and needed to return this morning (oh boy this movie might Yorgos Lanthimos most disturbing movie despite his other works including an incestual cult and dystopian world where love is violently enforced upon singles. It’s tonally and cinematically excellent though I don’t think it accomplishes anything thematically.), read Matthew Yglesias’ piece on Russia and Trump, and prepare for the latest episode of Good Taste.

These things pile up and I often set myself for failure by wanting to consume too much. I’m a pop culture glutton and I wonder how this will be passed along to my children. I catch myself fantasizing about my child knowing all the cinematic classics, ripping through the children’s literary canon, being able to namedrop Miles Davis, A Tribe Called Quest, and Courtney Barnett, having a favorite Sondheim show and lyric, puling off comedic bits and wordplay, being a slight history buff who’s politically literate, playing baseball while being able to site his favorite player’s year by year WAR, and advocating for social justice issues while preparing chilaquiles that inspired him when we went to the taqueria the night before. Oh and he should also have his own unique interests and personality.

Right now all he wants to do is put stuff in his mouth–which is great.

This is where you take deep breaths, say a prayer repenting of selfishness, and remind yourself of what you really want: compassion and curiosity. Go from there.


Today’s tacos: Taqueria de Anda in Placentia

What we listened to on the way there: The Black Panther Soundtrack, a Kendrick Lamar catered soundtrack? How could you not? Listen to my thoughts on it here. 

What we ate: Tacos de asada, cabeza, al pastor, carnitas

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Taqueria de Anda is building its empire off of simplicity, expanding across north Orange County with its traditional burrito and taco based menu (there’s apparently two different Taqueria de Anda’s that are both expanding and I can’t figure out the difference). Food is ordered via an assembly line of varying meats that tasted fresh despite sitting in serving trays.

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The tacos were served classically, two corn tortillas topped with each respective meat, onions, cilantro, and salsa; limes on the side. I opted to split between their two salsa options, both green and red. The carne asada and carnitas were both a little dry, though each had great flavor. The cabeza almost had the opposite problem, extremely moist and fatty, there was an almost nutty flavor to it. If you don’t like fatty textures, it likely wouldn’t be worth ordering, but that flavor is real good.

The star here again was the al pastor. Texturally perfect and featuring an exquisite blend of spices, al pastor is the #QUEEN of taco fillings and at Taqueria de Anda that’s no exception.

My son’s thoughts: He stared at me quite seriously throughout the whole meal. I took him home and he fell asleep on my chest for the next 2.5 hours.

 

Crying Baby Karaoke: A New Lullaby Canon

marleyBeing a new parent draws the cliched questions you would imagine, typically revolving around you and your child’s sleeping habits. Getting much sleep? Sleeping through the night yet? Get used to sleeping now, because you’re going to be missing out!

Four months in our child has learned the concepts of day and night and has mostly grown past the random nightly wake ups. Having passed this point I can affirm most of the warnings and questions as being a fairly true representation of caring for an infant. Our son was mostly calm, but did experience evenings of terror, seemingly due to an inability to flagulate (the struggle is real). We stayed up late nights with him, feeding him, walking around with him, and searching for solutions to extract gas from his system.
But this is supposed to be about pop culture isn’t it? Why are we discussing this?
Let me tell you about what I’m going to call Crying Baby Karaoke.
Many parents use songs to help soothe their children. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, “Rockabye Baby”, there’s even a whole slew of Swedish kid’s lullabies. But entering into parenting I’ve oft wondered how necessary the lullaby canon is. Do these songs have enough inherent value to continue passing them on from generation to generation?
I’m going to argue no. I mean, does anybody ever say they like lullabies? Do we ever experience nostalgia for them? We are soothed by them, forget about them, and then later use them to soothe our own children. Lullabies are at the bottom of the barrel of culture that is intended for children. We complain about being forced to endure kid’s entertainment, but what if we excised it out of our children’s lives?
 What should we do instead? Our children are still crying through the night, they must be calmed in some way! That’s where Crying Baby Karaoke comes in. This is where you come up with songs, songs that you very much enjoy, to sing to your child, comforting them throughout the night without lulling yourself to sleep.
 Now technically any song that you enjoy could be used, because the child is a baby and literally does not know anything about how the world works and can be convinced that “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” is about falling to sleep. But we’re not that cruel here. We’re trying to grow our children into functioning human beings, so we will set some standards.
 1. Songs must have a lulling or calming presence to them, whether that be the melody or the lyrics.
2. It has to be something you know and like. Don’t sing songs you don’t really know–that’s just frustrating. Don’t sing songs you don’t like–that’s even more frustrating.
 These are the songs I spent those evenings singing to my son, as he suffered through gastrointestinal problems–a new kid’s song canon–karaoke sung to the tune of a crying baby.
1. “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World’s song is a little over sincere in itself, it’s a very straight forward just be yourself anthem (it literally says that at one point). It’s probably cheesy in how positive it comes across, but when you’re up at 3 am and your son refuses to sleep and is pulling at your chest hair in frustration, sappy pop emo can be quite comforting.
Key lyric:
It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right
2. “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps
This song re-burst onto the scene when Guardians came out and fits quite well into our baby karaoke by literally addressing a child. I don’t think I had ever sung this song before, but it’s lyrics popped into my head while rocking him late one night.
Key lyric:
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna be easier
Ooh-oo child
Things’ll get be brighter
Ooh-oo child
3. “The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit
Frightened Rabbit’s songs tend to fit into calm or relaxing typically, but usually ring of desperation rather than comfort, with singer Scott Hutchinson often embittered and angry at someone. Here is not really any different, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures and you reach the need for melancholic moods. This song should be sung a little more quietly than its standard version, like this acoustic one they performed.
Key lyrics:
So will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight
Would you come brighten my corner?
A lit torch to the woodpile (aye)
4. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley
A straightforward everything will be okay classic. Bob Marley is of course the king of reggae and reggae is the genre of care free living. It’s an obvious one, one they even made into a kid’s book. 
Key lyrics:
Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing’ don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
5. “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd
Sometimes you have to lift songs out of their context a bit. “Not While I’m Around” paints a heavenly vision of comfort, but in typical Stephen Sondheim fashion, all bits of hope and comfort are surrounded by an underlying (or overlying) sadness. This lovely lullaby in Sweeney Todd is in the midst of pure evil, where Toby’s sweet naivety blinds him to the truth of what’s going on. Ignoring the haunting nature of this, “Not While I’m Around” is actually quite sweet and I used it many times to comfort my son.

Key lyrics:

Nothing’s gonna harm you
Not while I’m around
Nothing’s gonna harm you
No, sir, not while I’m around
What are other unconventional songs that you used to help calm a crying child? What else can we add to create the New Lullaby Canon? Comment below and I’ll add them to a giant playlist (If I approve).

Dad blogging, culture, and tacos: Taco Mesa

It’s my first day doing paternity leave, four weeks at home with just me and the son, which sounds fantastic, but it’s also like wait I know how to take care of him right? I mean I do. BUT, do I?

I could take it easy, chill at home, go for walks, make sure he is consistently comfortable, even turn on the TV to let indiscernibly bright lights confuse and occupy his brain for a while, but instead I’m choosing to go out and get tacos.

You see, I really like tacos and I was reading in OC Weekly the other day about all the best tacos in the county and thought why not spend these four weeks going out and eating a bunch of tacos?

I think this is a pretty reasonable idea.

So this here is my fatherly review of getting tacos with my boy, something I hope to keep up as I eat more and more tacos.

Today’s tacos are from: Taco Mesa in Orange.

But first:

Let’s talk about stomachs. My son has had stomach issues, trouble pooping and passing gas, since he was born. This made me curious (if we don’t have curiosity, then what do we have?). How does the system work? What’s happening when there’s gas in there? How fast do we digest foods? I did some research and here are some fun facts.

-From your throat to your anus is actually just one long tube. Down the esophagus, into the stomach, into the lower intestines, and then the waste goes out.

-When we’re burping, we’re just releasing excess air. This happens when we somehow swallow air–either through normal eating, foods that release carbon dioxide such as sodas, or some people will even just swallow air as a nervous habit.

-Gas builds up when certain foods pass through into the intestine or colon undigested or partially digested. Certain bacterias produce gas which is then released through flatulence. Some foods have bacterias that produce more gas than others and some people have trouble digesting certain foods, thus they see an increase in gas when some foods are eaten.

Now you know.

Now, tacos.

What we listened to on the way: Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast “Picket Line Pals w/ The Doughboys”. I saw this episode was released and just had to listen to it, it has one of my favorite podcasts, featuring one of my other favorites and it met all my expectations.

What we ordered: Blackened calamari tacos, pescado frito taco, pastor taco

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Taco Mesa prides themselves on being a healthy Mexican restaurant. It’s not quite what it sounds like, the tacos were not lined with bean sprouts and quinoa, instead they go toward the organic/natural/wild-caught/free range side of things. It’s fully authentic, yet thoughtful, somewhere in between your high end hipster taco bar and a taqueria on the corner.

I had heard that the “Best of the West” blackened menu was worth checking out, so I ordered the blackened calamari, alongside fried fish and pastor. Each came on Mesa’s signature tortillas, forest green in color, made on site, perfectly soft and textured while maintaining typical corn tortilla form.

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The blackened calamari was an excellent take on a fish taco, creamy and fishy with an overload of dripping juices, as every fish taco is wont to have.

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The fried fish felt a little dry and lacked the saltiness I wanted along with the fry batter. When all flavors were combined, it was a decent bite, but definitely fell short of the other two.

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The al pastor ended up being my favorite, though some of that can be attributed to personal preference. Al pastor is typically my go-to taco, all in an effort to recapture what is probably my favorite taco of all time, a street vendor who used a rotisserie cooker similar to doner kebab, with the pork wrapped around a pineapple, absorbing all its juices. This was actually quite similar, served with grilled pineapple and watermelon radish, the pork was perfection. Only downfall for me was an overabundance of onions which could have been replaced by some sort of cabbage or salsa to accompany the meat. It was still delicious.

My son’s thoughts on the meal: He slept the whole time.

Pop Culture This Week: 7/20

Last week I excitedly wrote about the latest Netflix venture Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, which I had previously seen (and if you Google it, it still says it) was coming out Friday, July 17th. Apparently that’s not true, as I discovered when trying to find it on Netflix. I only have one purpose with these post, to inform the reader what is happening throughout the week and I failed at this. Apparently the internet is a much harder place to navigate than I previously imagined–I apologize–and hope I can gain back your trust.

ALBUMS 7/24

Ducktails “St. Catherine”

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The side project of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile releases their fifth album this Friday. Listen if you like lo-fi pop with a psychedelic tinge.

Ashley Monroe “The Blade”

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Another country release in the edgier vein of Kacey Musgraves. She was also a part of Miranda Lambert group The Pistol Annies which is a pretty cool name, so you might wanna check it out.

MOVIES 7/24

Phoenix

A World War II drama/thriller which follows a Jewish woman recently freed from an interment camp–disfigured from the horrors that occurred there. After getting reconstructive surgery she heads home to a husband who can’t recognize her. The underlying tension lies in the mystery of who betrayed her to the Nazis–was it her husband? She uses her new anonymity to figure out this mystery. This film has pulled great reviews, and is likely as intense as it sounds.

Paper Towns

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The latest adaptation of teen novel writer extraordinaire John Green seems to combine two teen movie tropes: the one special life-changing evening and let’s road trip to solve some sort of mystery that only WE can solve. And it apparently seems to be doing so to pretty good effect as the reviews are pretty good.

Unexpected

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A teacher and one of her students both get pregnant at the same time, which not only sounds terrible, but also makes for a terrible movie poster (see above). However early reviews paint the film as charming and humorous. Not sure the film will be a hit with the crowd that might typically watch it or that the people who actually would like it will actually see it, but these reviews spark intrigue for me.

Southpaw

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A gritty boxing film with a gritty buffed up performance from Jake Gylenhaal with Rachel McAdams combining her gritty performance in True Detective while paying tribute to Amy Adams’ gritty performance in The Fighter and 50 Cent to make sure you knew there was some real grit in there, all directed by Antoine Fuqua who previously helmed other gritty films like Training Day and The Equalizer.

Cavalo Dinheiro (also titled Horse Money)

A surreal and haunting documentary that allows a Cape Verdean immigrant to tell stories of his life–some filled with truth–others stretched or imagined. It’s very darkly shot and the trailer escapes any sort of defined plot.

Pixels

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Why is Adam Sandler in this film? He’s hardly any sort of leading man other than being in his own Sandler-esque comedies. He’s not really the proto-type for a nerd, which is the kind of hero this movie about video games coming to life calls for. It’s a pretty clever idea that I would be exponentially excited for if Sandler wasn’t the star. Sandler belongs in films that use his idiosyncrasies either as straight forward showcases of man-child as comedy or as incapable human beings trying to survive in the world (a la Punch-Drunk Love). Director Chris Columbus is fairly capable at directing blockbusters (his catalog is spectacularly full of the biggest films to the point that one wonders if he is almost an auteur of big motion pictures–I mean just look: Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Bicentennial Man, Harry Potter (1&2), Percy Jackson, not to mention countless producer and screenwriting credits). There are no reviews out yet, which is not a good sign, and I can’t imagine it will be very good.

Other movies: Samba

TELEVISION

Apparently every television network decided to premiere their new reality TV premises this week, because that’s pretty much all we’re getting. Esquire’s The Agent follows four sports agents around, FOX debuts Knock Knock Live a door to door game show that follows around Ryan Seacrest as he comes to your door! FOX also gives away a lot of houses in Extreme Home Makeover fashion, with Home Free. Last Comic Standing is back on NBC, Esquire is having a burger competition (The Next Great Burger), and VH1 gives us what we’ve always wanted, twins battling other twins in Twinning! TLC proves that God is real with Answered Prayers, while actual funny comedian Jimmy Pardo hosts a quiz and puzzle game show called Race to Escape on Science. Lastly, E! premieres two new follow these people around shows in Stewarts and Hamiltons–following Rod Stewart and George Hamilton’s families–and I Am Cait–the soon-to-be record breaking show about Caitlyn Jenner.

All this talk of reality TV, but really the reality show you should watch is from South Korea and is called The Genius. Here, a link to the first season on YouTube.

CURRENT JAM:

This video of Chance the Rapper performing “Sunday Candy” alongside Kirk Franklin is great and is a reminder of how great this song is:

Pop Culture This Week: 7/12

Big week coming up!

Last week’s

MUSIC

7/17

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Tame Impala “Currents”

Tame Impala’s psychedelic rock sound has nearly made me a psychedelic fan (there’s just none enough drive to it for me typically). 2012’s “Lonerism” was a critical hit and new album “Currents” is likely to show up on a whole lot of end of the year lists. The band has slowly been releasing songs for a few months now–a strategy that seems to be working–exciting me for this record more than I ever thought I would be, mainly because the songs are really good. The music is weird and sprawling and doesn’t have much “drive” to it, but there is a catchiness and a whole lotta good songwriting that will likely make it one of the year’s best.

Chemical Brothers “Born into the Echoes”

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Electronic music that feels like it should be the soundtrack to a movie–on a sidenote, the Chemical Brothers did the soundtrack to 2011 film Hanna and both the movie and the soundtrack are really good! The new album will feature some guest spots from Beck, St. Vincent, and most importantly Q-Tip.

Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell “Sing into My Mouth”

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Iron & Wine combines with Ben Bridwell (singer for Band of Horses) for a covers album. If you’re looking for softly sung indie folk covers this is probably the album for you. Feels like something that would benefit from a fall release–purchased while standing in line awaiting that newly rereleased pumpkin spiced latte.

Ratatat “Magnifique”

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Instrumental guitar rock with electronic and experimental tinges–anyone into instrumental songs that has grown tired of local jazz radio will presumably enjoy it. In fact, it’s making good background music to write to right now.

Other: Jason Isbell “Something More Than Free”

MOVIES

So many movies this week–big, small, sequels, even a documentary sequel that all the film nerds will be treating like the Avengers sequel–it’s a breath of fresh air from last week’s Minions & Self/Less double feature.

7/15

Court

An Indian picture about a man who gets called to court, accused of causing another to commit suicide. From there it goes on to look at the court process and more largely India as a whole. It’s won quite a few awards on the international circuit and the few reviews that have come in make it seem promising.

7/16

Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser

Remember when David Spade was all the rage??? Did you think his work in Emperor’s New Groove, Tommy Boy, Dickie Roberts, and post-Jon Ritter 8 Simple Rules was exemplary and outstanding comedy??? Well you can relive that era once again by going to Crackle.com on July 16th. Yes, it will be released on a non-Netflix web site for all Dirt-heads out there. With this release it looks as if  guess VOD is the new straight to video, though it certainly seems as if this streaming-first approach is where Netflix is hoping to take movies. Maybe we’ll all look back one day at this release and remember how Crackle’s release of Joe Dirt 2 changed the movie industry forever.

7/17

Trainwreck

The new Judd Apatow venture is out to rave early reviews and really how could it not? It stars newly crowned comedy heroine Amy Schumer, the beloved Bill Hader, and the first major role for LeBron James (is this LeBron’s big eff you to Space Jam? Is Bill Hader the Daffy Duck of the movie?). It will likely have all the raunchy humor of an Apatow film matched by an underlying and not-so-subtle sappiness, combining for what will probably be the summer’s best comedy.

Mr. Holmes

There were probably enough productions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary character prior to Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch and whoever stars alongside Lucy Liu in Elementary, but the latest take on the man from Baker Street seems to be the most interesting–at least from the outset. Sir Ian McKellan stars as an aging Sherlock Holmes who is now losing the gifts that once made him so special. It’s much more a reflection on this loss than on the adventure and mystery of prior tales, but isn’t that what we want out of our motion pictures–existential reflections on aging, life, and loss? (*Checks box office scores*) I guess not.

The Look of Silence

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In 2013 a documentary came out called The Act of Killing. It was about atrocities that took place in Indonesia and followed the people who committed them, people still very much in charge and almost heralded as war heroes in their country. Critics adored its explorations of an unchecked evil and the ways that art intertwined in their lives. The Look of Silence is a sequel to that film, this time from the perspective of the oppressed. A survivor confronts those who killed his family–the perpetrators are his neighbors and director Joshua Oppenheimer is there to cover it once again. It’s strange to see a sequel to a documentary like this, especially one that was so disturbingly powerful. For this reason I don’t think critics will champion this one quite like the last, but for anyone who can stomach gruesome tales of violence these films certainly are eye-opening.

Ant-Man

Alas we get to the week’s blockbuster, the latest in Marvel side characters that will probably, eventually join together with other people from the main Marvel universe. Honestly this thing could be really bad, I mean, Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) abandoned it and critics are fairly mixed on it so far. On the other hand it does have Paul Rudd and he is unbelievably charming and probably capable of carrying it as far as his ant wings will allow him.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

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Based on a somewhat famous psychological experiment where researchers put certain people in charge of others in a mock-prison test to see what would happen (hint: not good). The film looks really gritty and the based-on-a-true story premise will probably help and hurt it, but it should be interesting.

Irrational Man

The latest from Woody Allen seems to be buried beneath all of these other great releases, which isn’t a great sign of the studio’s faith in the production. I think that’s just how it goes with Allen, he makes a movie every year, but it’s only every few years you actually go see it because he’s come up with Vicky Christina Barcelona or Midnight in Paris. This one does have Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone and is apparently some sort of murder mystery type movie?

Catch Me Daddy

Looks to be creepy, violent, and intense, but is also critically adored.

Others: Safelight, A Hard Day, Twinsters, Lila & Eve, Alleluia

TELEVISION

7/15

The ESPYS

I don’t ever think I’ve seen this award show, even when I was really into ESPN, but hey they’re on this week!

7/16

The SyFy channel has two interesting bits of programming debuting this week. The first is a Zachary Levi hosted trivia show that is trying to built off of all the rage for trivia night at the pub. The second is a comedy talk show that is focused on science fiction in pop culture hosted by David Huntsberger (from the podcast Professor Blastoff). Both sound like lighthearted fare that could actually make for fun summer programming.

Geeks Who Drink (SyFy)

Reactor (SyFy)

Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll (FX)

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Denis Leary is the star of this new show about a rock star. It seems pretty easy to guess which beats the show is going to go after (look at the title). Honestly it sounds like ground that has been tread far too often, but it is FX and with these things you just never know.

7/17

BoJack Horseman (Netflix)

7/19

Tut (Spike)

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You’ve always wanted to see a Game of Thrones style epic about Egyptian pharaohs presented by Spike TV right?

Others: Married (FX), Welcome to Sweden (NBC), The Jim Gaffigan Show (TV Land)

OOPS I FORGOT THIS LAST WEEK

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I underestimated how much critics loved this comedy about transgender prostitutes that was shot entirely on iPhones or maybe I wasn’t sure how much my audience would be into it. Either way, this movie is going to be heralded for a while in artistic communities.

CURRENT JAM

Not much just a lotta Ghostface Killah.

MUST READ

What Every American Should Know” by Eric Liu

This piece on why Americans need to have a sort of cultural canon and why this is necessary in order to be successful. He presents the idea of America as omni-cultural and it is brilliant on so many levels.

This formerly stated that Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp came out this week, but it didn’t.

Pop Culture This Week: 6/22/15

I am too into pop culture and all the current happenings so why not write about it more generally while offering a guide to what is out there for people. Maybe this will come in weekly installments, maybe I’ll get too apathetic, for now enjoy this weekly update on what’s happening this week in popular culture.

MUSIC 6/23

Son Lux “Bones”

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Son Lux is an interesting artist–an experimental talent who combines a knack for creating orchestral-lite pieces with atmospheric electronic sounds. Backed by his deep vocals, it all combines to make something that is nearly always interesting but not necessarily easy to listen to. The moments of beauty tend to be there and he is really effective at creating mood (he has worked on several films including one of my favs Looper, as well as upcoming Paper Towns). If you like Sufjan at his most Age of Adz-y you may enjoy this (he worked with Sufjan as a part of hip-hop project Sisyphus last year). He doesn’t quite have the critical pedigree that Sufjan does, but certainly has talent.

Kacey Musgraves “Pageant Girl”

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This is country’s critical darling for some reason, particularly resonating with people at NPR and the like. This is probably because she offers some critique of the place she comes from while simultaneously fitting pretty perfectly into that mold. She doesn’t really do much for me and the reviews are down from her debut, but it will probably sell a lot of copies so lookout for her as a potential crossover act.

Other albums of note: Meg Baird “Don’t Weigh Down the Light”, Wolf Alice “My Love is Cool”, and The National playing “Sorrow” for six hours straight in “A Lot of Sorrow”

MOVIES 6/26

Ted 2

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Yes the Seth MacFarlane movie about a stuffed bear that comes to life and does fratty things with Mark Wahlberg made a lot of $$$ and now it’s back in order to make a bunch more. The first one was decent critically and I can’t imagine this one will be anything close to that, so you should probably just go see Inside Out instead.

Big Game

This movie sounds strangely fascinating–about a Finnish boy participating in a rites of passage/wilderness survival venture who runs across a crashed plane where the American president (played by SAMUEL L. JACKSON!!!) is found as a survivor (I already want to think of this as a Snakes on a Plane sequel). They must survive together, not only against the wilderness, but also against kidnappers trying to take the president hostage. If this doesn’t sound crazy enough, I should add that it is directed by Jalmari Helander whose credits include Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale which is essentially a Christmas horror film that uses a Santa-like figure and Norse Jul traditions to make a crazy and fairly terrifying movie. Plus the title is Big Game which asserts that somebody will be hunting somebody else, which sounds out of control. Watch the trailer for this, it feels like something that will be a cult film for years to come.

Other movies of note: Just go see Inside Out and maybe check out Dope, it looks, well, cool.

TELEVISION

6/24

Big Brother 17 (CBS)

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Not much to say about the newest season of Big Brother though I do like to irrationally advocate for it now and then. Its underlying game mechanics are actually quite complex even if its exterior remains the silliest of all reality TV. It’s not as perverse a show as you’d think, I swear! Another noteworthy announcement is that we will see the first transgender reality contestant (at least in a major US competition) so that should be a newsworthy topic over the first few weeks and maybe longer depending on how the other houseguests react to her.

6/28

Humans (AMC/Channel 4)

I only wanna talk about the most intriguing of culture, because there is already so much out there, but this does seem to show some promise. Humans is a sci-fi show based off of a Swedish idea, taking place in a world similar to the present except for there are AI servant robots (what could go wrong?!?). It looks to add to the catalog of other culture looking at how we relate to AI and its potential dangers (Her, Ex Machina). The most interesting thing to me is that it is a co-production taking place between British Channel 4 and American cable channel AMC, but I doubt any of you really care about that.

Other TV to check out: Well, True Detective season two premiered yesterday at the time of this writing; reviews are not great but we can all watch it in nostalgia of the first, right?

OTHER

I don’t have much else for ya, I’m sure the Barack Obama episode of WTF with Marc Maron will probably get released this week and that should be a fascinating listen.