Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Cat Smith is enjoying The Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, Laura Stewart is listening to the new song from MAITA, Jason Sheppard is reading Anthony Daniels’ I Am C-3PO, and John Bernardy recommends The Official Watchmen Podcast.
Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog
Cat: My greatest joy of the holidays—when I absolutely know ’tis the season, is not the caroling, the tree, the family—it’s the latest edition of the Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. If you haven’t yet experienced this annual, glorious lampoon of boujee (or bougie, depending on which online urban dictionary you used to check the spelling) kitchen culture, you are almost as deprived as if you haven’t spent $600 for their Vitamix Ascent Blender (I’m assuming the “ascent” part is where, if you use it enough and in the right way, you transform into a giant snake).
I like Williams-Sonoma as much as the next person who likes kitchen porn, but let’s be real. Most of my business with them takes the form of me doing a lap through the store when I’m in a mall with an hour to kill before the movie I’m there to see. I look at the pretties, say “ooh” and “ahh” a lot, without actually buying anything, eat a couple of free samples if I was lucky enough to get there on a sample day, and exit, pursued by a bear brandishing a spatula shaped like a Stormtrooper’s head. It’s basically a museum experience.
With the catalog, you get to go next level. That’s where they keep their truly ridiculous merchandise. It’s the kind of stuff that you stare at with incredulity, not only because it is so expensive, but because it exists at all, and how proud it is of both those things. It’s the Sharper Image of the kitchen. Ninety percent of that crap isn’t anything you will ever actually need in your lifetime (or that anyone actually needs), but somewhere in the back of your mind, the Fates sing at you that it would be super cool to have and it works great and no one will EVER tell you that you could have fed a starving family for a month with what you spent on the Han Solo cast-iron creuset roaster (okay, but that one actually is pretty cool).
Drew Magary is a self-described “Professional Asshole To People Online”, and while researching this blurb (i.e., I googled him), I discovered that he’s been hating on lots more things than the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, including the Academy Awards, sports, axioms, and the fact that chili is not a health food. Look him up some time, and settle in. I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of snarky hilarity. Do not disturb until the release of the 2020 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, unless you have brought me some Signature Peppermint Bark, and a $4,400 coffee maker.
Oh, hello there! Welcome! Come on in! Come on in! Dust your boots off in the breezeway. I have a special mat you can use for it that’s woven from human hair sourced from the tribes of the South Pacific. Best snow-wiping hair ever designed, by God.
Laura: Stepping out from the shadows of shyness, frontwoman Maria Maita-Keppeler works through some childhood trauma on ‘Can’t Blame A Kid’, the latest single from Oregon-based band MAITA. The track is from the band’s forthcoming debut album Best Wishes—a record that had such a transformative effect on Kill Rock Stars (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill) label founder, Slim Moon, that he came out of early retirement when he first heard it in 2018.
“She stole all the light from the room” sings Maria, an apt lyric for Slim’s reaction after his wife Portia Sabin (who was running Kill Rock Stars at the time) first played it to him. Maria has a knack for tapping into feelings of introversion and uncertainty and these are what make ‘Can’t Blame A Kid’ such a compelling listen, so it’s easy to see why MAITA caught the attention of the passionate indie label.
It’s a bold start, with grungy guitars countered by the gentle vocals from Maria. At just two minutes long, it’s a short blast of melodic indie-punk with heavy percussion and more than a tinge of the early ’90s rock scene, especially in that neck of the woods. It’s that raw nostalgia that excites me about this band, and with the subject matter being about a friendship that weighed heavy during adolescence, this track really strikes a chord. I am highly anticipating the rest of the album. Watch the video for ‘Can’t Blame A Kid’ below, and keep your eyes peeled for more info about the release of their debut LP, Best Wishes, on April 3rd, 2020.
I Am C-3PO
Jason: With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker now in theatres, audiences will learn the fates of the characters we all have come to love. Perhaps, with the exception of Chewbacca, none is more loved than the exploits of droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, who have been a part of the journey from the very (and I mean very) beginning. C-3PO has of course been portrayed in every single Star Wars movie (with the exception of last year’s Solo) by actor Anthony Daniels and what better time for the actor to release a book of his experiences than right now?
Daniels’ book, I Am C-3PO goes all the way back to early 1976 when the unknown actor, known for his mime work, went in to meet a shy, bespectacled, curly-haired young director named George Lucas and didn’t think too much of the man or the project—at first—until he glanced upon an illustration (by Ralph McQuarrie) of a golden robot with am expressive face which the actor connected with immediately. He accepted the role of C-3PO but had no idea how hard playing this character would be.
While filming the very first Star Wars in spring, 1976, Daniels realized early on how difficult this would be: his overall vision was minuscule, his suit would scratch and cut him up daily, he bumped into things constantly, he felt isolated from the other actors in their freeing costumes and worse, they weren’t even going to use his voice. In the end, they did wind up using his voice but even after the huge success of Star Wars, everybody fell in love with C-3PO the character, but nobody minded the actor in the golden suit, which hurt the actor immensely at the time.
Daniels is very honest and candid about playing Threepio in the first saga (his relationships with Lucas, co-stars Harrison Ford and Kenny Baker and especially Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand were strained most of the time) and the author is not shy about voicing his displeasure about the near naked Threepio which we met in The Phantom Menace or the red arm he was made to display in The Force Awakens. But despite his misgivings, Daniels is appreciative of the outpouring love from fans as he himself offers loving words for Carrie Fisher, composer John Williams and most notably, the fans of the now 42-year-old series. Reading I Am C-3PO, it’s evident that Daniels loves Star Wars as much as we all do and is the first to say that not only cinema, but the world is a much better one with Star Wars in it. Take it from somebody who was there for nearly every part of it.
The Official Watchmen Podcast
John: There are a boatload of Watchmen podcasts, all bearing similar looks and names, and to cut through some of the confusion, I’ll be reviewing one of them every week of Watchmen’s run on HBO. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new favorite podcast along the way.
This week I’m looking into HBO’s The Official Watchmen Podcast with hosts Craig Mazin (writer/producer of Chernobyl) and Damon Lindelof (head honcho and main author of the show in question). The general consensus at 25YL is that this podcast explains things, but not so much that it ruins the experience. It actually heightens it, and I’d have to agree.
There are only three podcast episodes, coinciding with the release of the three volumes of soundtracks, and they cover three episodes at a time. Each conversation is simply produced—no music cue interludes between topics or the like—and the flow is perfectly paced at about an hour total per podcast.
The first podcast episode is titled “MASKS” (Episodes 1-3). They talk about generational trauma, taking on Watchmen in the first place, Easter Eggs for the original comic book series, why an early Ozymandias reveal didn’t happen, and the character of Laurie. The second episode is titled “NOSTALGIA” (Episodes 4-6). The hosts talk about the theory hive mind of the internet, gender, eggs, babies, how Lost was Lindelof dealing with daddy issues, how the writer room voices shaped this show, and how culture has an effect on oppressed culture.
This third episode, titled “EGGS” (Episodes 7-9), is what I’m going to focus on. Lindelof is proud, and still processing how he feels after the show’s been completed. He and Mazin look into the Millennium Clock as a concept/misdirection, Judd’s plan and where improvising began, and the nuts and bolts of Joe Keene’s plan. They talk about how exploring the results of extreme ideologies is what the Watchmen comics did, and they discuss the literal elephant. They discuss why Veidt cried at the end of his trial, and why Manhattan fell in love with Angela, as well as Manhattan’s passivity. Legacy as a concept is explored—as a positive notion for whites and how there are other kinds of legacy. The hosts discuss how the graphic novel was grappling with the meaninglessness of life, while this show was suggesting the purpose is to create something beautiful with it.
They discuss Manhattan’s experience of time, the Saw 2 effect on Lindelof, hiding in plain sight, and a deep look into what it means to wear a mask. I recommend Twin Peaks fans not watching Watchmen to listen to this part and think about how that show lives in layers. Some wordplay here is something I will be quoting forever.
They end discussion of the show by saying it’s not about whether or not Angela acquired powers, it’s what will she do if she did. Then they end the podcast with a discussion about the probabilities of a Season 2.
This one was a great listen, and I recommend it because it’s not going to tarnish any feelings left after the finale.
Over three episodes, host Craig Mazin () discusses Watchmen with its co-creator, writer and executive producer, Damon Lindelof. Join Mazin and Lindelof as they divulge narrative choices, explore the show’s connection with the groundbreaking graphic novel, and how it reflects our modern times.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!