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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Sake, Sheba, and Momofuku

April 12th, 2016 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The Color Purple (Fiction, Alice Walker, 1982) Woman survives the abuse of her father and husband in the Jim Crow south to experience a sexual and spiritual awakening. In a bid to say something quasi-fresh about a pillar of the contemporary lit canon, I point you to the extreme economy with which it presents its Dickens-scaled narrative.—RDL

Recommended

The Birth of Saké (Film, US, Erik Shirai, 2015) Documentary takes us inside a 140-year old brewery that makes saké the traditional way, a process that requires such round-the-clock attention that the workers leave their families to live communally for six months out of each year. Gorgeously photographed portrait of an exacting group of people who take on the tough job of bringing sublime pleasure into the world.—RDL

A Burglar’s Guide to the City (Non-fiction, Geoff Manaugh, 2016) Examines the relationship between burglary and urban space, eventually casting burglary as a hack (or even a détournement) of architecture. Patchily edited and occasionally drifting into the faux-lyrical, it nonetheless — like the modern city — contains and offers endless possibilities for criminal adventure gaming. –KH

Everybody Wants Some!! (Film, US, Richard Linklater, 2016) Freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives at Southern Texas University, and at several interlaced epiphanies, in 1980. More thematically focused (virtually every character is a college baseball player) than its ancestor Dazed and Confused, it invites experience (not least via the sous-vide that is the period soundtrack) rather than depending on plot. –KH

The Ezra Klein Show, “David Chang” (Podcast Episode, Ezra Klein, Mar 30 2016) Interview with the iconoclastic yet personable head of the Momofuku empire covers cooking, innovation, edible intellectual property, and the maddening complexity of food ethics. For my money the most illuminating sections address the tricky economics of the fine dining business.—RDL

Good

The Queen of Sheba (Non-fiction, H. St.-John Philby, 1981) Posthumously published raisonné of Arabian legendry about the Queen of Sheba devotes most of its space to the post-Q’uranic tradition of Bilqis, whom Philby identifies as a mythologized Zenobia. Neglects the Ethiopian and Talmudic traditions almost completely, but an interesting bagatelle even for non-Philbiacs. –KH

Not Recommended

Bends (Film, HK, Flora Lau) Woman (Carina Lau)  flails for a new footing after the sudden exit of her rich husband and his money; meanwhile, her chaffeur tries to figure out how to get his wife into Hong Kong to give birth there, avoiding the penalties of the mainland’s one child policy. Exemplifies the slow cinema style in which an underwritten script, uninflected performances and listless, elliptical pacing conveys alleged profundity. At least there’s Christopher Doyle cinematography to look at. —RDL

Sleepy Hollow Season 3 (TV, Fox, 2015-2016) Its delightfully kooky days long behind it, this year’s version of Ichabod and Abbie vs monsters struggles to integrate a group of deadweight new supporting characters, veers through a series of half-realized ideas and finally says “oh, the hell with it.” The two leads keep the show just on the brink of watchability even as it gives off the telltale tang of behind-the-scenes creative turmoil..—RDL

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