Cultured Pop, Prepared Fresh Weekly

And now, the inaugural edition of what will certainly be my insanely anticipated and influential take on the weekly cultural offerings. Take notes.

Tunes: I’ve been digging on Vampire Weekend this week. Sure, their buzz was ridiculous. They were touted as the second coming of every big indie band in the past few years, along with Paul Simon circa-Graceland. If you remove all that hype and just listen in, it’s entertaining, grooveable, and original.

Digging into the archives, I’ve been getting addicted to old school androgynous glam rock. Think Lou Reed on his first two albums, and David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust era. Such weird, wonderful stuff, and the combination of pop, rock and sci-fi glory that is Ziggy is still mildly shocking and eminently enjoyable today.

Books: This week I finished Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. What struck me about this book was the starkness of the writing, the plain language, the step by step by step approach that seemed at once masterful and completely lost. I watched Didion search desperately for meaning at a time of tragedy, return to her journalistic education and seek out help in the only way she knew how. Of course, the painful and inevitable conclusion is that no matter how much “information” you can get, no matter how much “knowledge” you can obtain about death and grief and survival, it’s still not enough. It’s not a thick enough buffer to protect you from the reality of living without a loved one. Heartbreaking.

In two nightly gulps I finished a little novella by Joyce Carol Oates called Rape: A Love Story. It’s been a while since I read Ms. Oates, but I am continually in awe of her writing approach, technique and ability. This short snippet of a book felt just that – way too short. The story was extremely compelling, telling of a beyond-brutal attack in a small town and the repercussions. But I wanted more. At 153 pages, it felt like the book barely scratched the surface. It did get me thinking about my own writing, though, and encouraged me to continue taking some of the linguistic risks I take and experiment even more.

TV: JJ Abrams et al, how I love thee. You entertained and titillated me with Alias. You taunt and frustrate me with Lost. But I keep coming back for more. And you reward me for it. This week’s premiere of Lost was shocking (the ability of this show to continue to shock is shocking in itself) and rending. The Oceanic 6?? WTF?? And Jeremy Davies is here! Can’t wait to see what kind of douche he plays.

One other short take. I tried Torchwood last season, and gave up within a couple episodes. It seemed too monster-of-the-week-ish for me, too campy, lacking in emotion and compelling characters. But hearing that my boy Spike (James Marsters from Buffy and Angel) was making a guest appearance on the second season premiere as a bisexual bad boy was just too much. So I tuned in last week. And holy lord – there was hotness. There was male kissing. There was extreme fighting, and lots of drinking. All in a two-minute reunion scene between Capt Jack Harkness and his ex, Spike (of course he had another name, but I forget. He’s Spike). But even more, there was improvement in this show, in terms of storytelling ability and content. So I’ll keep tuning in. And hope Spike returns for more.