Staff Picks: Our Favorite Cultural Things This Week


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

Amid the current, tragic cultural obsession with the fragile male psyche, I found a (depressing, albeit not equally so) alternative in Beauvoir’s trio of stories about women who have begun to unravel. Middle-aged, with grown-up children, they are tormented by catastrophes and betrayals and professional irrelevance and the sad, subtle distancing that occurs when couples have been together for too long. Each story is a detailed, empathetic psychological portrait — and the title one in particular, told as a series of diary entries by a wife and mother whose husband has taken a lover, is sure to tear out your heart. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Bar Rescue (Spike)

Considering I spend most of my time either watching reality shows or hanging out in terrible bars, it’s only natural that I love Spike’s Bar Rescue. It’s an even bigger guilty pleasure than Kitchen Nightmares. Each week, Jon Taffer visits a failing bar (usually due to bad marketing and a shitty owner) and gives it a top-to-bottom makeover, sometimes changing everything from the bartenders to the bar’s original name. It’s really ridiculous — Taffer often ends up in screaming matches, the “stress tests” make the employees cry, sometimes the bar fails anyway — but Spike’s Sunday marathons are a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon. Plus, if you’re looking to save money, the disgusting conditions of each bar (mold and mice!) will put you off drinking for a while. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

Charles Schumer, Senator and Phrostie Naysayer

It seems that Charles Schumer wants to kill summer early. The senator went after Phrosties this weekend, the illegal alcoholic slushies that tasted like both the best and worst nights of your college summer breaks, proving once again that nothing so perfect can last forever. To you, Senator, I may or may not be raising one or two of the frozen drinks that I’m pretty sure contain Everclear and/or Robitussin for old times’ sake, and I thank you for looking out for our health. — Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

Feral Foster by Feral Foster

I first heard Feral Foster perform at Roots and Ruckus – a weekly Wednesday-night folk, blues, and bluegrass show Foster organizes at the Jalopy in Brooklyn. After having sat through a subdued folk act – whose songs seemed as thin as the stalks of wheat you’d imagine a folk-singing Brooklynite never having plowed – I was floored when Foster took the stage, enlivening the room with the brazen beauty of his voice and the weight of his lyrics. Wavering between ululation, growl, and emphatic clarity, Foster’s vocal gymnastics impose their own emotional workout on his listeners. At the end of a track off his first album – just released this week – after an exhausting crescendo, Foster sighs, “Honey, the world’s on fire.” Perhaps referring to personal rather than universal apocalypse, the primal fury and ecstasy in his voice – the same voice that wails, “My time ain’t long,” on the closing track – announces its own sad mortality: this type of singing is becoming less and less common in contemporary music. A fervent voice shouldn’t sound like a relic, yet it’s beginning to – and Foster’s is one to hold onto for dear life. Check out the album here. — Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

“Starman” by David Bowie

I never quite went through a David Bowie stage. He’s always been such an outsize presence with a series of amazing singles that I never realized that, hey, the Thin White Duke has made albums, and great ones. So all I listen to right now is The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. It’s great, obviously, and it’s so fun to imagine some incredible alien who’s just amazing at playing rock ‘n’ roll to the point of transcendence. But “Starman,” that song: what a corker. Whether it’s the way that Bowie says “radio-o-o” at the beginning or the point where the chorus moves into that “there’s a star-MAN!” It gives me chills, every time. There’s something really epic and grand about it, and it’s a beautiful song. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

Shout Factory’s The Bob Newhart Show box set

The pop culture lovers over at Shout Factory have, of late, become television mercenaries, rescuing abandoned television shows and bringing them home with elaborate, full-series box sets, filled with bells and whistles. Last month, we told you about their Hill Street Blues set, which brought that groundbreaking program’s full run — previously represented by only the first two seasons, released in 2006 — to home video. Now they’ve gone and done the same for The Bob Newhart Show, which only made it up to season four in its single-season releases, which ceased eight years back; Shout’s new “Complete Series” box set (out this week) finally brings us the show’s last two seasons, along with several new bonus features. The best of that bunch is “Group Therapy,” a thoroughly entertaining roundtable (shot last December) with Mr. Newhart and several key cast and crew members, but the set also includes the show’s original, unaired pilot and its 1991 “19th Anniversary Special.” That’s just frosting, though; the main attraction is the show itself, which remains a low-key treat, quietly hilarious and still one of the finest workplace sitcoms of all time. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor