Friday Culture Watch: To Read, To Listen, To Make, To Do.

by amy

To Read.
Ask any vocalist or music lover what they think about autotuning, and you are bound to get an earful. This method of electronic pitch correction (basically the “tuning” of a singer’s voice so it is on-key) is a controversial issue for some who believe it is a way to mask tonal deficiencies in an artist’s voice. Though primarily used in the studio, autotuning can also occur in live performances. Read this piece, from The Verge’s Lessly Anderson for a solid background on the past, present, and future of autotune use in music.

One of the names that often comes to mind when people talk about autotune is the R&B singer T-Pain who has made so much use of autotune in his work that he even inspired an iPhone app called “I Am T-Pain,” which simulates the effect. But T-Pain can really sing—listen to this week’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert featuring the artist. (And read this piece from last March’s New Yorker about the artist.)

To Listen.
Yes, yes, I did. Bought Taylor Swift’s new album 1989, that is. And you should too—because it is upbeat and catchy in all the best ways. And for those of us who remember this era of pop music, TS takes us back. And it is so much fun. (And since that is by no means a critical review, you can read the NYT review here.)

To Make.
One of my favorite snacks to make is popcorn. But I haven’t bought microwave popcorn for two years now. Good thing, apparently, as it is harmful to your health. What I use instead is this handy microwave popper from Sur La Table. Fill the bottom with whole kernels, add a pat or two of butter on top of the vented rubber cover (the butter will melt and drizzle over the popcorn as it pops) and season with salt to your taste when it’s done. It makes great popcorn! And at under $25, it makes a great gift for someone along with some popcorn and maybe a few seasonings.

To Do.
And once you make that popcorn, get ready to watch a movie tonight (after trick-or-treating, of course) that will be expiring from Netflix on November 1. If you’ve been waiting years to stream Apocalypse Now, Steel Magnolias or St. Elmo’s Fire, act fast! The complete list can be found here.

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the death yesterday of Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino. I met him back in 1993 at a debate against Jim Brett when he was first running for mayor and I was a college student tasked with interviewing the two candidates for my Intro to Journalism class. He was a kind and gracious respondent to a nervous 18-year-old that was looking for a quote for her story. And he served his city like no one else. Rest in peace, Mayor Menino.