Midweek on Fleek : Things I like that you might too #13
Monday: One day. Tuesday: Two days. Wednesday.. Wait! Huh? What day? It’s Thursday. The third day.
And now I’ve got the obligatory Friends reference out of my system, here is a nice list of things you might enjoy listening to, reading and watching this month.
1) Podcast: Nancy
Was Dumbledore really gay or was J.K.Rowling just having an equal opportunities afterthought? What the heck are Conservative queers thinking? Could ‘Gay Camp’ be as festive as it sounds?
These are the kind of excellent questions Kathy Tu and Tobin Low ask on their podcast Nancy, through the medium of musicals, the Golden Girls and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Tobin and Kathy are adorable, geeky babes who I for one would really like to discuss the Drag Race All Stars 4 result with.
They finely balance modest self-effacement and joyous queer pride.
2) Audiobook: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Read by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Two hundred and thirty nine chapters of pure, unadulterated Tsarist Russian tragedy could only be improved on if read aloud by Husky Voice of the Decade Maggie Gyllenhaal.
The ice-skating princesses and sunburnt peasants in Anna Karenina teach us how gossip and expectations can poison us, how sweat-soaked labour heals the soul and how jealousy can send even the most charismatic noblewoman literally bonkers.
If you don’t have thirty-five hours to spare, I recommend playing your audiobook at double speed.
(I know this sounds like something a mompreneur would do at 4am after some micro-yoga, an activated charcoal smoothie & ten rapid-fire chapters of Retire Young, Die Loaded, but once you get accustomed to the garbled Terms and Conditions vibe, you’ll race through Tolstoy in under two years.)
3) Book: The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Sellout tells the story of a guy who (as well as cultivating spectacularly potent cannabis and cross-pollinating the perfect watermelon) suddenly finds himself with a retired star of the Little Rascals as his voluntary slave.
So he’s like FUCK IT, runs with it and decides to bring back segregation.
If you can handle the N-word being bandied about like ‘Believe me’ at a Trump rally, this book is fully hilarious, packs in loads of elaborate cultural references and does a really unique job of breaking down iffy-slash-destructive clichés about race.
In terms of style it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before (but then I have only read 7 books so *shrug emoji*)
4) Netflix Series: Tuca and Bertie
Premise: Two feathered BFFs voiced by Ali Wong & Tiffany Haddish.
From the twangy guitars, tambourines and chanting of the theme tune and beyond, the soundtrack is BANGIN with girl rap, house, trap and original musical numbers like I’m Losing My Shit about a panic-attack at Whole Foods.
Apart from a million beak-related puns, there is also exuberant ho-mance, highly relatable millennial content and a crucial cameo from Richard E Grant.
5) Podcast: A Piece of Work with Abbi Jacobson
Abbi Jacobson is one half of Broad City, which is like Tuca & Bertie with humans.
In this podcast she wanders around MOMA in New York City, discussing the art with rappers, influencers and RuPaul.
There’s often a fine line between hilarious and annoying isn’t there? (As I fear my Dad would open his speech at my wedding.) Abbi Jacobson is nowhere near that line, she’s insightful, playful and lands her jokes like an Olympic gymnast.
Discussing meaty naked dance pieces and Marcel Duchamp’s bicycle wheel with equally accessible joy, Abbi hints that being moved by art (in any direction) might be enough.
It’s the sort of chat you could actually join in with, instead of simply offering your memorised facts on Vesuvius, vivisection or the Vietnam War.
Because it’s all artsy and that, A Piece of Work is best listened to while making origami or ironing sequins onto your sports bra.
6) Audiobook: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Read by Kenneth Branagh
If you have ever read Heart of Darkness you will know that for a book that’s like 6 pages long, it’s kind of heavy going.
I read it last week and as I was dragging my eyeballs from word to impenetrable word I remembered my outstanding friend Katy Bull once suggested getting (her initials-twin) Kenneth Branagh to read it to me instead. So I did that next.
Dear Kenneth really does put his all into this Colonialist tale of the Congo river.
My own inner monologue is narrated by Caroline Aherne, so to get Ken in there for an hour or two makes a lovely change.
He just acts the shit out of what my brain could definitely sense was a powerful and atmospheric work of literature but couldn’t quite provide the necessary gravitas.
7) Podcast: Under the Skin with Russell Brand
Ol’ Russ has come so far since the wobbly days of Big Brother’s E-Fourum.
He does bang on about himself a lot, so it helps if you’re in committed infatuation, but I honestly believe it could be enlightening even if you didn’t fancy him (ya weirdo).
Occasionally I wonder if Russell (Shagger of the Year 2006 - 08) chooses only to discuss impenetrable social theory with staggeringly gifted men and saves his women guests the special ‘lady-topics’ of soft fabrics, polyamory and biscuits on purpose.
Let’s remain hopeful that isn’t the case, cuz although the cosy chat about early bedtimes with Fearne Cotton kind of crumples next to David Runciman’s monumental take-down of democracy, Rusty has clever questions to ask.
No shade to Fearne (or any of the women interviewed on Under the Skin) I’m just waiting in earnest for the producers to book a truly fire-breathing, lascerating, Ivy-League-erudite broad to give recovering sexist Russell Brand a run for his know-it-all money.
Disclaimer: I haven’t listened to every single one so if there’s a Nobel Prize-winning woman scientist in the archives let me know.
This week it’s Lena Dunham… :/
8) Book: Milkman by Anna Burns
As with The Sellout, this book is told in a distinctive voice. One that lingers in your head when you put it down for tea-sipping.
Like a long, rambling, agonising and - at points - wry phone call with a deeply troubled friend, Milkman is set in an un-named city, during un-named unrest, involving un-named religious groups and un-named rebel soldiers.
A bit like with Anna Karenina, the destructive potential of gossip and rumours, assumptions and misunderstandings is a big thing in this book.
That and the torture of being paid apparently harmless attention by someone with the power to ruin or even end your life.
“How could you be under attack by something that wasn’t there?”
*meaningful look to camera*
9) Podcast: Today in Focus
If you, like me, are one third of an elite, full Irish breakfast-winning pub quiz team, you probably make time each week to bone up (it’s an expression, thank you) on the latest world news.
It is a scientific fact that you can’t possibly be an entirely basic bitch if you read the Guardian once ever. And what is easier than reading? LISTENING TO STUFF.
Interesting episodes have been the one about Muslim mums in Birmingham protesting LGBT equality lessons at their kids’ primary school and the creepy phenomena of the Non-Disclosure Agreement where dodgy men get women to sign a contract promising never to acknowledge all the dodginess.
10) Essay: Notes on Camp by Susan Sontag
On Tuesday I spent most of the morning in a teal H&M dressing gown, sat on the edge of the bath, staring at photographs of Jennifer Lopez in a Versace tinsel wig. And I’m sure you did too.
For anyone who didn’t but cares, the Met Gala is a sparkly fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and this year the theme was ‘camp’. Oh boy.
People really rose to the challenge. Katy Perry dressed as a chandelier, then a hamburger. The back of Lena Waithe’s metallic pinstripe jacket, designed by Pyer Moss, read: ‘Black Drag Queens Invented Camp.’
I’d seen a few people talking about Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay in the run-up to the gala, so I thought I’d give it a read. Fashionably late = after the event :/
There is a glaring black-culture-shaped hole in Sontag’s essay, that’s for sure. She does at least acknowledge that ‘homosexuals more or less invented camp.’
It’s only 13 pages long though, and is good fun to read, dancing past Oscar Wilde, Tiffany lamps and Jayne Mansfield. She reminds ‘connoisseurs of camp’ why we love ‘the coarsest, commonest pleasures.’
But Susan! You’ve forgotten the glorious New York ballroom scene where Voguing was just beginning to emerge. Why you gagging so?
This week’s homework (for me at least) is to learn more about what flamboyant, magical things gay black culture was getting up to in the sixties when Susan wrote her whitewashed ode to fabulous.
The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s is maybe a good place to start 💃🏿