Culture

Drug Stores Selling Groceries, Lifestyles

I haven't yet figured out how to synthesize Rob Walker's column about the drug-store chain Walgreens starting to sell fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods neglected by traditional grocers and produce sellers and my somewhat mind-blowing experience at the brand-new Duane Reade (a NYC drug-store chain) in the hipster haven of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Neighborhood activists have encouraged a boycott (on Facebook at least) of this particular Duane Reade location because it apparently represents the wrong sort of gentrification and is uncooling the area with its non-mom-and-pop-ness. It sits across from another local pharmacy that has served the neighborhood since before it was colonized by 20-somethings and is therefore acceptably authentic.

To counter the bad vibes, Duane Reade apparently did some market research and concluded the way to win over locals was to hide the pharmacy in a remote corner and stock the store with a beer counter where one can have growlers filled; a huge walk-in beverage cooler that features, as it says above the entrance, "retro brands"; haute niche brands in both the food and makeup departments -- Ronnybrook Farms, Skyr Icelandic yogurt, Demeter fragrances (including Paperback, Dirt and Riding Crop) -- in the immense and gleaming K-mart-size basement-retail floor with luxuriously wide aisles. We can't give you mom-and-pop authenticity, the store seemed to be saying, but we can collect more of your lifestyle accouterments in one store than you ever dreamed was possible. People were audibly cooing and gasping in delighted surprise as they wandered around and saw just how much Duane Reade was willing to pander to them.

It's at this point that I want to draw some righteous parallel between poor neighborhoods and crypto-bohemian ones, between the food desert on the one hand and the desert of the real on the other. Whereas the Williamsburgers apparently want to see their warped integrity reflected in their neighborhood retailers, the people in food deserts see only society's general intention to ignore them until they disappear. The oversaturation of symbols and the esoteric plane on which the lifestyle war is being fought in the one neighborhood reflects the dearth of social resources in the other, the misplaced energies of a social order seeking profit opportunities and thus reinforcing hyperindividualism among the privileged.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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