Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A comic, an album, and some nifty pocket journals

An image from Saga

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

A few months ago, while editing Oliver Sava’s review of Saga #19, I got to the part about the menstruating walrus and rolled my eyes so loudly that books editor Andrea Battleground overheard me. She said that Saga was actually her favorite ongoing comic, and thus challenged, I borrowed her trade paperback of Vol. 1. After tearing through it in on a Saturday morning, I then spent another $30 buying up the rest of Saga because I couldn’t wait until Monday to borrow anything else from her. Saga might be the comic that eventually converts me to developing a real affinity for comics, instead of just having a mild passing interest. Despite the fact that one race of characters has wings and another horns and another TVs for heads, the story is deeply human at its heart: It’s about families coming together and falling apart, and about what happens when people fall in love and find that love tested. Told from the perspective of a child whose parents married despite hailing from warring planets, Brian K. Vaughan tells a story that’s a little bit Firefly and a lot about the joy and sadness of everyday life. Artist Fiona Staples is a master storyteller, and even other comics newbies should find her art rich and accessible. Issue #24 was released a month or so ago, and the five-ish weeks between issues is already far too long for me. If you get really serious about it, check out the $50 deluxe hardcover that was just released, which collects the first 18 issues plus lots of extras. And guys, the menstruating walrus is actually really funny. [Laura M. Browning]


Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste

Trying to look at an album objectively can be a struggle. In the case of Azealia Banks’ debut LP, it’s almost impossible to listen to without hearing all of the chatter leading up to its release: the two-year album delay, the bouts with various record labels, the nasty things said about Banks, the nasty things Banks said about others, and unending discussions of the words “female” and “rapper.” Forget all of that, give the record a spin, and what you’re left with is one hell of a fun pop album. Sure, you could call Broke With Expensive Taste a bit manic, but it’s that loose-cannon attitude that gives the album its kinetic, irresistible charm. And Banks is a wizard of verse and versatility. The 23-year-old New Yorker devours genre after genre, imbuing each with her electric charisma. Whereas a lot of dance music can start to feel distant or repetitive after a few listens, Banks offers up something that is purely her—rambunctious, ambitious, and infinitely exciting. Every time I hit “repeat,” I find myself drawn in by another off-kilter sound or tongue-in-cheek verse. On album highlight “Chasing Time,” Banks sings “Check my watch, I had my future in my pocket / But I lost it when I gave it to you.” Is this a diss for an ex that she let hang around a little too long? Is this a veiled jab at her one-time record label? Who cares? I’ve waited all year long for an album this unequivocally enjoyable and Azealia Banks more than makes up for lost time. [Cameron Scheetz]

Moleskine Cahier Pocket Journals

If you ever find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, and you make the mistake of bringing this up to an acquaintance who happens to be a doctor, you’ll probably get an earful about something called sleep hygiene, a set of rules that includes not working or reading in bed. I’m pretty sure that similar rules applies to creativity—that there is, in other words, such a thing as writing hygiene, and the reason why so many people, myself included, have trouble writing anything really interesting on a computer is because it’s a mixed-use space that isn’t exclusively creative. Mind you, this is 2014, which means that it’s necessary to do most of the work of writing on a computer, but, for me, the really juicy stuff still happens in spaces that are intended exclusively for writing, i.e., on paper. Every one of those spaces has to be filled up differently and is exciting in its own way. I prefer large classroom-type spiral-bound notebooks (college ruled) or small hardcover journals (unlined), though occasionally I’ll go for out something a little airier, like a Soviet-style 18-page school exercise book—which I buy in bulk whenever I’m back home—or some hotel stationery. (Really, there’s nothing better than getting off a plane, uncapping that extra fine point Pilot Precise V5, and cutting loose on some hotel stationery while Bo Hansson blasts from your room’s combination phone dock/alarm clock.) One thing I’ve never managed to get into, though, are Moleskines—those cult, tasteful Italian notebooks with the elastic bands. However, earlier this week, I had some time to kill before a screening and nothing to write on, so I ended up buying a pack of kraft brown Moleskine Cahier pocket journals on a whim. Turns out they’re great, clean, focused little note-spaces, good for short sentences and bits of information, with a stitched binding and a pocket-like flap in the cover to tuck receipts into. They’re comparatively cheap, too—a pack will set you back $8.95 plus tax. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]


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