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Welcome back to The Daily’s Sunday culture edition, in which one Atlantic writer reveals what’s keeping them entertained. Today’s special guest is Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer and the author of our Up for Debate newsletter.
Conor is dreaming about a Golden Girls reboot starring the Friends cast, reflecting on a poignant but hilarious one-man show from America’s “Roastmaster General,” and wasting time by playing chess on his phone.
First, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:
The Culture Survey: Conor Friedersdorf
An actor I would watch in anything: Once upon a time, I would have answered Paul Newman. I’ve long since seen everything he ever made. Then, after watching Deadwood, I thought that I’d watch Timothy Olyphant in anything––so I started watching his portrayal of Raylan Givens, on Justified. But after watching Walton Goggins portray Boyd Crowder on that same show, my new answer is that I’d watch Walton Goggins in anything. [Related: Justified: a neglected rebel amid television’s golden age]
The upcoming event I’m most looking forward to: It’s premonitions of as-yet-undeclared projects that excite me––a feature-length Paul Walker return in a hypothetical Fast 13 or 14 that advancing AI makes almost inevitable; the Golden Girls reboot with Monica, Phoebe, and Rachel in retirement.
My favorite blockbuster and favorite art movie: Although wildly different in so many ways, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Paul Newman and Robert Redford classic, and The Great Beauty, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, both probe, with a keen sense of humor and strikingly gorgeous cinematography, the question of how we ought to live.
Best novel I’ve recently read, and the best work of nonfiction: On Beauty, by Zadie Smith, who excels at writing novels as much as she does writing essays, and the unimaginably ambitious From Dawn to Decadence, by Jacques Barzun.
Authors I will read anything by: Raymond Chandler and Caitlin Flanagan.
A quiet song that I love, and a loud song that I love: “These Arms of Mine,” by Otis Redding, and “Good Vibrations,” by the Beach Boys.
A musical artist who means a lot to me: Although renowned for his Hollywood scores, Randy Newman is highly underrated as a solo artist. [Related: Why Randy Newman is America’s foremost musical satirist]
The last museum or gallery show that I loved: The historian and curator Richard Rabinowitz once walked me through his “Slavery in New York” exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, and it really stuck with me.
A piece of visual art that I cherish: My late grandfather, a carpenter by trade, designed and built his own house in the late 1960s, then began producing oil paintings until all of the empty wall space was filled––at which time he stopped painting!
A cultural product I loved as a teenager and still love: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill holds up. [Related: The complicated female genius of Lauryn Hill]
Something I recently revisited: Bygone Norm Macdonald appearances on TV and radio.
A favorite story I’ve read in The Atlantic: “New York After Paris,” from the October 1906 issue.
My favorite way of wasting time on my phone: The chess.com app.
An online creator that I’m a fan of: Andrew Schulz and all of the other talented comedians who made it by becoming undeniable among their fans rather than by getting an early nod from industry gatekeepers.
Something delightful introduced to me by a kid in my life: Dug Days, recommended for audiences of all ages.
The last debate I had about culture: I was contending that Dom in the Fast & Furious franchise would have been a Modelo drinker rather than a Corona drinker. [Related: Fast & Furious and pretty stale]
A good recommendation I recently received: The 2008 drama The Baader Meinhof Complex, and a short film, Pony, directed by Candice Carella about a rock star babysitting his niece, played by Miko Nakano, who steals the show.
The last thing that made me cry: If getting teary-eyed counts, then the last time was at the Village Underground, in New York City, watching America’s “Roastmaster General,” Jeff Ross, recount the history of his family in Take a Banana for the Ride. The poignant details were all the more impressive in the context of a one-man show that had me laughing as hard and often as in any stand-up set.
The last thing that made me snort with laughter: The Huell Howser episode that features the avocado-eating dog always gets me.
A poem, or line of poetry, that I return to: “Axe Handles,” by Gary Snyder. “‘When making an axe handle / the pattern is not far off.’”
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Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.