Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week

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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.

U2’s “Volcano”

Oh, I know, I know, U2 is so old and lame and they violated the sanctity of your carefully curated iTunes library or whatever. Look, I’m a movie guy, so my musical tastes don’t have to be hip; I’m a U2 fan, Songs of Innocence is their most fully realized album in a very long while, and “Volcano”—the song that I’ve pretty much had on constant repeat for the last month or so—is a perfect three-minute pop song, compact and versatile and just plain good. Its sound is vast, its hook is catchy, and if you’re willing to parse it carefully enough (as I am), it almost sounds like a mini-tour through their early discography: the bass-and-drums basics of the verse recalling Boy, the elongating depth of the bridge echoing War, the explosion of Edge’s jangly guitar on the chorus summoning up Joshua Tree, the experimentation of its later transitions pushing into the ‘90s electronic albums. U2 may be too far gone to have a hit song in 2014, but “Volcano” is as great as any of their big singles, and it’s fine if you didn’t want it — that’s just more for me. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Olive Kitteridge

While we went whimsical by writing about Maine accents in HBO’s masterful miniseries Olive Kitteridge last week, it bears repeating that the actual show was incredible, and easily one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year. I love the source, Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel-in-stories, and Frances McDormand and Lisa Chodolenko did a beautiful job in bringing Olive’s world to life, with the whirl of sadness and quietness that really characterizes a certain stripe of hardy New Englander. It’s a beautiful, special work. — Elisabeth Donnely, Nonfiction Editor

Selfie

OK, I officially gave in. I didn’t like the pilot of Selfie because it was extremely irritating but I did think it had loads of potential and, sure enough, it only took a few more episodes to win me over. There are still lots of irritating factors but the IRL text-speak and obnoxiousness of Eliza have both been toned down significantly. The friendship between Eliza and Henry is now enjoyable to watch, Karen Gillan is a fascinating comedic actress, and it’s become one of the shows that I laugh at the most. Now if only they could get rid of the groan-worthy episode titles like “With A Little Yelp From My Friends.” — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 by Shelly Oria

Shelly Oria’s New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, released Tuesday, is the most engaging collection of short stories I’ve read in a long time. It sings from the first page: the collection’s first, titular story, manages to wring a real emotional payoff out of a very unorthodox romantic arrangement. What follows are a series of pieces that vary in length and approach (and sometimes in emotional impact) but work very well together. Almost all explore geographical dislocation of Israelis in America, the slow crumbling of relationships, and the various social and sexual conundrums that face young women as they navigate their social and sexual worlds. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe at Brooklyn Museum

I’ve always been awed by the torturous glamor of perilously high heels, even if my eyes tend to be far bigger than my appetite for pain. That probably made me the perfect audience for Brooklyn Museum’s sprawling Killer Heels exhibition, which collects over 160 pairs of shoes whose origins span both centuries and the globe. Divided into sections that cover such topics as shoe design’s relationship to architecture, heels that reflect or react to new technology, and footwear as fetish fuel, the show has far more to it than a parade of Manolos for the Sex and the City set. Most provocative of all are the videos commissioned specifically for the exhibit, from artists including Nick Knight and (obviously) Marilyn Minter. “I don’t think this is about shoes,” I heard a scandalized middle-aged woman tell her friend as she extricated herself from the alcove that housed Rashaad Newsome’s delightfully gender-fucked contribution. She was only partly right. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

The “busy flea” scene on The Knick

Writers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler clearly liked the “busy flea” scene from Episode 3 of The Knick enough to name the entire episode after it. And, though this scene may seem like a digression for The Knick, it deserves attention. I just began watching The Knick, so I’m not sure what the subplot of Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) visiting prostitutes amounts to, if anything. But I know that up until this scene, it’d been a pretty sexless show. It’s interesting that this very bizarre moment — where the shady Barrow visits a brothel, displays a weird, stilted, pseudo-sweet relationship with a young prostitute, then prompts her to do the “busy flea” — would be the introduction to sex on the show. For the show’s tone is otherwise pretty grave, and the “busy flea” is one of the goofiest things I’ve seen on television: it involves the woman pretending there’s a flea on her, making high-pitched noises and gesturing wildly to shake herself of the flea, all the while undressing, while Barrow, in a repulsive deadpan, says “maybe it’s on your tit.” With the farcical quality of this foreplay, coupled with the very obviously unsettling power dynamic to which it belongs, The Knick shows that it’s not interested in using sex for titillation — it’s using it to continue its exploration of the wildly imbalanced dynamics of gender and class at the time. This is, after all, an episode that centers around a woman who lost her nose to syphilis, which she caught from her cheating husband. The “busy flea” may seem goofy, and it may even make you laugh uproariously, and for that reason, this introduction to early 1900’s sex is masterfully upsetting. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

The Negroni

Yesterday sucked. I mean, it was a gorgeous day, and then I went to Mallory Ortberg’s hilarious reading of her new book Texts from Jane Eyre, and the bartender gave me a free cheese plate. But then the election happened. Wendy Davis lost, Scott Walker won, and my little sister’s current home of Illinois has a Republican for governor. Granted, some cool things happened (read about it here) but — generally — what I needed was a drink. And a drink, indeed, I did have. For that reason, the negroni is my staff pick of the week. God praise the well-made drink, for delivering us from dejection in dismal times. Oh, and ps: find a recipe for the negroni here, and a list of New York City’s best negronis here (I’m partial to the negroni from one of my favorite NYC bars, the East Village’s Amor y Amargo). — Angela Lashbrook, Editorial Apprentice

Stevie Nicks singing “Wild Heart” in this old Rolling Stone clip

This video, which came to me via the twitter account of Perfume Genius, is, indeed, “healing me and guiding me today.” This clip, which finds Stevie Nicks singing an off-the-cuff version of “Wild Heart” while being prepped for a Rolling Stones photo shoot, is a nice reminder of what raw talent looks like. It’s hard to remember that, before she was a “witch” and then a witch, Stevie Nicks was just a really, really great singer. Oh, and also, just plain beautiful. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice