Books

'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?' Mindy Kaling Gets Real

After reading this book, everyone will want to hang out with Mindy Kaling.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Publisher: Crown Archetype
Length: 222 pages
Author: Mindy Kaling
Price: $25.00
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2011-11
Amazon

Mindy Kaling may be best known for playing Kelly Kapoor on The Office -- a character who, Kaling will have you know, bears only a slight likeness to her true self -- but, of course, that's just one of her many roles. The likable comedian is also a television writer, prolific Tweeter, apparent shopaholic, and newly minted author of a brilliantly titled book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). It might seem that at just 32 years old, Kaling is a little young to be penning an autobiographical collection of essays. But then, it's her relative youth that makes her so relatable to the Internet generation, you know? She's an Ivy League grad and a Hollywood success, yes, but in her book (and online), she's just one of the girls.

If there's one thing that stands out about Kaling in her book, it's that she really is incredibly relatable. The book jacket describes her as "just a Girl Next Door -- not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka." Seriously, though, she's a Girl Next Door for a new era. Just look at the title. Who hasn't ever wondered, in a moment of insecurity, if everyone is hanging out without them? It's the stuff of Facebook jealousy and AT&T Taco Party commercials. Lots of us have been there.


Her tale shares some of the relatable, comically mundane qualities of The Office, but without the cubicle-gray bleakness of the mockumentary. Instead, the story is pink, fresh, lively, and distinctly female -- but it isn't driven by sexual politics.

Since comparisons to Tina Fey's Bossypants are inevitable (Kaling even acknowledges this in her introduction), let's get that business out of the way quickly: Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling have lots in common biographically, to be sure. But while Fey's book has a sense of whimsy and weirdness about it, along with plenty of feminist musings, Kaling's essays are rooted in comparatively ordinary experiences -- being teased for her weight as a teen, spending Friday nights at the Cheesecake Factory with her clique, and realizing she actually has more in common with a tomboyish comedy geek then her girly confidants. Again: it's pretty textbook coming-of-age stuff.

The daughter of an architect and doctor, Kaling grew up a self-proclaimed "chubby" kid in a strict but loving family in Massachusetts. In another book, demanding parents with an overweight, arts-oriented child might've made for a salacious plot; by Kaling's account, though, her mom and dad were hard-working, clear-eyed mentors who supported her success -- not tiger parents in the least. They emphasized academic achievement, sure, but Kaling mostly recalls the fun she had with her family, which is refreshing and notable for a memoir. There aren't any juicy confessions or accusations here; just amusing stories from Kaling's perspective.

That's not to say that she shies away from hot-button topics. Kaling talks about weight, race, and Hollywood’s obsession with conventional beauty in an unselfconscious, tongue-in-cheek way. But by her account, there aren't any personal skeletons in her closet. (Besides, how would they fit? It's probably too stuffed with Anthropologie sale items.)

After high school, Kaling attended Dartmouth College (to "pursue [her] love of white people and North Face parkas," she jokes), where she made some great friends and developed skills as a writer and performer. She then moved to New York City with two best friends after Dartmouth, rented a tiny Brooklyn apartment, and looked for a job -- without much luck.

And that story has become increasingly familiar to college graduates, I'm sure. Like many 20-somethings today, Kaling succeeded winningly in school, only to find that the real world didn't have much professional use for her. In New York, she was adrift for a while before gaining underemployment as a babysitter (where, like most babysitters, she enjoyed freeloading on chicken nuggets, bagel bites, and other kid-friendly junk food). She then found an underpaying job that at least offered health insurance, much to her mother's relief. And finally, she did what more and more underemployed college grads are doing today: She made her own gig.

In order to fulfill creative potential, Kaling and her best friend, Brenda, wrote themselves breakthrough roles in a fringe theater play called Matt and Ben, in which they portrayed fictional versions of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The show won accolades, collected glowing reviews, and caught the attention of industry professionals, and from there, Kaling's life began to change. But her success might not have happened if she hadn't initiated it.

Amid the autobiographical details, the book also has heaps of funny, insightful essays on Hollywood, guys, dating, fashion, and beauty. Standouts include "Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real", in which she unpacks familiar characters like the manic pixie dream girl (whom she dubs "the ethereal weirdo") and the likeable but flawed female lead ("the klutz"); "Guys Need to Do Almost Nothing to Be Great", which every man between the ages of 25 and 40 should read; "Men and Boys", which every male should read; and "Don't Peak in High School", which should be required reading in high schools across America.

And, of course, there are moments throughout the book when Kaling recalls feeling excluded: in high school, in the early days of The Office, and as a guest writer for Saturday Night Live. They're fleeting moments within funny, charming anecdotes, but they're relatable and real, and they make the writer even easier to like. If everyone was hanging out without Kaling before, her new book, I’m sure, has changed that.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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