Culture Club: Episode 5

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October 24, 2014 by Wayne.

Previous Culture Club episodes can be found here

Welcome back to culture club! Probably the only episode of the week, since I’m looking to do a couple of other writing-related things, namely rewriting my Letterboxd reviews and exploring some ideas for poetry.

For now though…


Books

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich

Oh, this book.

Hmm.

Reading it from this vantage point in time means that very little about it is surprising. Stripped of this element of shock, does the tiny novella still stand up? Yeah, it does pretty fucking much.

A powerful, harrowing inside look at the gulags of old, and more generally at the human spirit and the will to survive at all cost.


Clothes

Naked & Famous – Raised Selvedge Denim in Weird Guy

My relationship with N&F pretty much started as soon as I began exploring the world of better-dressing. Or better quality clothes, at least. N&F was pretty much the first premium denim I started wearing – I can’t quite remember what the exact first pair were though. Probably either the deep indigo or the Frankensteins. I’ve gone through so many pairs by now. A good number of those ended up not fitting well and subsequently being sold off (same story with Kohzo, Iron Hearts, every APC pair etc). The rest were brought back to Malaysia, upon which I gained weight at an explosive rate, and they stopped fitting. A real shame.

That isn’t to say, however, that my wardrobe is currently devoid of N&F. Far from it. I have a grey cashmere denim blend in the Slim Guy cut – wonderfully comfortable, very light, and actually not that terrible a cut once it’s hemmed. I also have a pair of unused unbleached denim kopped from the closing down sale of Musa, and the recently acquired pair of Left-Hand Twill. That’ll be my new beaters once it gets back from the tailor. Oh, and I also bought a pair of used Frankensteins. Been too long without it. I do kind of regret it though, since they’re not fresh and they’re also quite uncomfortable to wear.

Anyway, fuck all that babble. Let’s get right down to it.

Naked & Famous. You’ll hear it a lot around /fa/, MFA, Styleforum etc. and for good reason. They’re priced very reasonably (mostly around $140 at RRP, they regularly go down to close to $100 on sale, and you can regularly pick up BNWT/barely used ones on forums for as low as $70), the denim and detailing are great even disregarding the low prices, and most importantly, they have some great fits. I’m only familiar with the three original fits – Slim Guy, Skinny Guy, and Weird Guy – but I hear they have at least 2 more cuts now. Regular Guy presumably addresses a lot of the whining about compressed top blocks, but I don’t see who the fuck Super Skinny Guy is supposed to cater to.

Back on course: Slim Guy generally fits well for most people who aren’t in excellent shape. The top block is very lenient, so it’s great if you’ve let yourself go a bit in the waist and thighs. The main problem is that there’s a bit of a boot flare starting from the knee downwards. Unless I’m mistaken, they’ve adjusted this a bit over the years, but it’s still quite noticeable. Again, it’s not too much a problem for me since I hem mine, though it does mean I can’t ever get stacks with this type of cut.

Skinny Guy is a great cut from them. Very slim, very flattering. Not as roomy as Slim Guy in the top block though, and it’s not as tapered as some people would like. I’m fine with it. It’s one of my favourite cuts across all jean brands.

The Weird Guy, though, is N&F’s flagship cut. It’s extreme. Very extreme. Think heavy tapering with a strange top block – the front rise is significantly shorter than the back rise. This does lead to some ball-separating pinches if they’re sized too small. That aside, the fit does look incredible when it’s sized correctly. A perfect fit for the more unique offerings, such as the Frankenstein.

So back to this particular pair that I sold off before returning to Malaysia – the raised selvedge denim. Just look at the photo. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Most importantly, it’s the single most comfortable pair of jeans I’ve ever worn. Third most comfortable overall legwear, after W+H sweats and Studio D’Artisan moleskin pants. But these are raw jeans! They’re not supposed to be comfortable!

Anyway, the way they flannel-ize it is quite interesting. Apparently they brush through the surface with a giant rake topped with fine needles to create tiny rips and tears. Then they brush the fabric in the opposite direction, raising the yarns and creating a fluffy texture. This process is repeated a couple of times on the outside AND the inside, which means it’s just as comfortable on both sides. Fascinating stuff.

Naked & Famous. They get a bit of ridicule sometimes for their wackier inventions, but it’s hard to speak out against a company that gives you incredible pieces like this for relative bargains. My first love in fashion, and the love affair very much continues.


Film

Before Midnight

Oscar-worthy. Though I guess saying that devalues the film somewhat.

Anyway, Linklater’s “Before” trilogy is a unique, startling achievement. Seen individually, each movie is a gem – I’m sure everyone has their own favourite whether it’s Before Sunrise with its idealized fairytale of two souls meeting, the second movie that brought it to the ground with the realization that luck and chance play enormous roles in love, or this final one that paints the winding-down (or is it?) of a long-term relationship in agonizing detail. The last conversation between these two is exceptionally heartwrenching when you realize just how fucking realistic it is.

And yet, somehow, it’s not just about love either. When Linklater and co direct their attention to wider issues like the power struggle between genders, and growing old in general, it’s greatly benefited by the inclusion of other voices – in stark contrast to the private conversations we’ve grown so used to listening to.

For all these reasons – and many, many more – Before Midnight stands out even amongst the other brilliant showings in the series. The performances are raw and powerful as always, but this time they’re not mired in fantasies of chance-meetings or what-could-have-been. Instead we’re dropped into their lives far into the future, once romance has simmered down – if not sizzled out. Much of the movie is still about tracking shots while they walk through a town, but it’s more than that this time. Where the previous two films could plausibly have been set anytime in “the past”, Before Midnight is intent on placing itself firmly in the present, and tackles the evolution of communication and technology in our time, as well as their impact on relationships. It’s not just mirrored in the things they talk about – or even what the other people at the table talk about – but also by Jesse’s ideas for his upcoming novel.

Speaking of which, there’s also the whole postmodern metafiction thing going on. There’s the fact that much of the conflict arises from the breaking of a traditional social structure. There’s…

You know what? Fuck it. There’s nothing much else that I can say. This movie is really, really good, and the trilogy is exceptional.


Music

Interpol – El Pintor

El Pintor opens very promisingly. All The Rage Back Home may very well be my favourite Interpol single. It’s an uptempo number that drives past at a blistering pace, thanks to a thumping bassline, furious drums, and some incessantly addictive riffs. My Desire doesn’t quite have the same bite to it but by this point, it’s fairly easy to see the direction that the band is taking. They’re drawing heavily from their older material here. There’s a very noticeable undercurrent of melancholy amidst the bright guitars, but it never comes across as being particularly introspective. Instead, El Pintor is simultaneously sonorous and…understated.

Take the bass-and-drum interplay, for instance. They play hugely prominent parts in every song here, even as they come across as being slightly muted – in a way, their main role is to pump the everliving fuck out of the low frequencies as Banks soars overhead.

In standout tracks like the first song/single,¬†and Ancient Waves, the formula creates some instant Interpol classics that are an absolute pleasure to have wash over you. Sadly, some of the songs just aren’t that good. They’re enjoyable, yes, but not particularly memorable.

El Pintor still makes it into my essential list though. Probably because it fits so well as an album, despite having few highs throughout. Or maybe I’m just being sentimental.


TV

Bob’s Burgers

Bob’s Burgers got off to a pretty rocky start.

No, wait, that’s not exactly true. It was never particularly bad at any point in its four seasons (well, five now, but there’s only one episode out at the time of writing), but it’s hard to argue that the first couple of episodes were anything better than lacklustre. I didn’t have to force myself to continue (the way I did with, say, Parks & Rec) and neither did I see it becoming anywhere as good as it now is.

Because, yeah, it’s pretty fucking good.

I look forward to every episode knowing that I won’t be disappointed because I never have been. It’s genuinely one of the best animated shows out there, which is an astonishing accolade when you consider that we’re pretty much in the golden age of animation (okay, and TV at large too). There’s the experimental(-ly insane) Rick & Morty, the shows that hide great thematic depth and mature backstories behind wonderful animation like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls, and the irreverent hilarity of Archer. Amongst many others, of course. And yet, despite all that, Bob’s Burgers manages to stand proud.

Beyond that, it’s actually getting better. Now that they’ve fleshed out the characters, the writers are keen to take on more creative license to explore different types of stories – the greatest evidence of which is the two-part finale of season 4. Great stuff, that. Add to that the fact that it’s been consistently hilarious since around midway of season 1, and that it’s had a great heart to it since the beginning, and you have the recipe for one of the best animated shows out there. Speaking of which, Out There is another great show – but more on that next time!

Creative, inspired, unsettling – a comment on the fanmade Bob’s Burgers Partition parody, but equally applicable to the show itself.


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