Pop Culture

Meows on Melrose: Cats, Coffee, and Even Co-Working at Crumbs & Whiskers

Alright, alright, I know a good chunk of you are only here for the cat photos, and I promise there’s cuteness to rival the content on r/CatTaps in just a moment. But first, a bit of background…

You see, Crumbs & Whiskers founder Kanchan Singh reminds me a lot of myself—a young millennial woman who just loves cats. Full disclosure: When the PR lady said she wanted to introduce me to the founder at a recent Crumbs & Whiskers event, I was expecting, for some reason, to meet a twentysomething hotshot white guy entrepreneur who started the cat café as the charitable arm of his tech startup, or even someone more like the lovely senior ladies who run the no-kill cat shelter near my office. Needless to say, I was very wrong.

In late 2014, Singh was living the “dream” with a corporate consulting job and a cushy paycheck that let her shop, party, and travel all she wanted. But, as any of us who have been fortunate to live that plush capitalist lifestyle know, it gets a bit tiresome and empty after a while knowing that you’re not really working for social good—and sometimes working actively against it. Singh’s answer to this was to travel to Thailand and volunteer at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai. For her 24th birthday, some friends took her to Catmosphere, Chiang Mai’s cat café, where the idea for Crumbs & Whiskers was born.

Singh came back to the States, quit her job, and took a leap of faith by starting her own business despite the odds. And the odds were not in her favor—according to a 2017 Forbes article:

In 2014, cat cafés were virtually non-existent in the United States. And starting a business is rare for people as young as Singh. The share of people under 30 who own a business has actually fallen by 65% since the 1980s and is now at a quarter-century low, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Roughly one third of 25-to-34-year-old Americans told researchers that fear of failure was a barrier to starting a company—a sentiment slightly higher among women.

Kickstarter turned out to be an excellent solution for a young entrepreneur with a trendy idea, and Singh raised nearly $36,000 on the platform to open D.C.’s first cat café. Today, Crumbs & Whiskers has expanded to Los Angeles, where I had the pleasure of meeting several of the cat café’s adorable—and temporary—residents. That’s right, all of the cats at Crumbs & Whiskers are available for adoption, and the Melrose location works with Stray Cat Alliance, a local nonprofit dedicated to saving animals in need by finding them permanent homes and providing the resources for successful companionship.

If you’ve ever volunteered at an animal shelter, it’s likely that you’ve been tasked with “socializing the cats and kittens.” Crumbs & Whiskers is a lot like that—guests come in during their reserved times to snuggle and play with the cats, and the animals are all free to mingle or hide as they please. Food and drinks are delivered directly to guests from a nearby partner café. You can even set up shop all day with their “Co-working with Cats” option!

And now, as promised, here’s a shit ton of cat photos:

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Pop Culture

An Abandoned Sports Authority Transforms into a Disneyland-Lover’s Dream Exhibit

 

I was listening to a radio interview with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard the other day about the rapid changes he’s observed in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, his home for the past twenty years. Gibbard noted that his sadness over the morphing urban landscape isn’t directly due to buildings being demolished or shops closing down. Rather, he feels that his memories are connected to physical places and grieves as these familiar haunts—and with them, his memories—begin to disappear.

I couldn’t help but think of Gibbard’s analogy about “plugging your hard drive into physical places” when I first heard of “That’s From Disneyland!” a super-sized exhibit of Disneyland memorabilia owned by music agent Richard Kraft. When Kraft’s brother Dave passed away, he rediscovered their shared childhood moments at The Happiest Place on Earth. Rather than contenting himself with a set of mouse ears or a snow globe of Cinderella’s castle, Kraft began to collect vintage souvenirs and rare artifacts from Disney Parks, eventually amassing more than 750 items over the next two decades.

Kraft’s collection is currently on display in—drumroll, please—an abandoned Sports Authority in the San Fernando Valley. Much like a fairy godmother, famed auction house Van Eaton Galleries has turned the space into a 20,000 square foot pop-up exhibit, where guests are invited to get up close and personal with items such as a once-submerged giant sea serpent from “The Submarine Voyage” ride, José the animatronic Enchanted Tiki Room bird, and all four Original Haunted Mansion Stretching Room paintings. An intimate theater space, dubbed “Club Kraftland,” is located directly above the makeshift gallery and hosts a handful of special ticketed events throughout the remainder of the exhibit’s run.

Personally, I do very much enjoy Disneyland, but to an extent—as in, my once-a-year gratis trip courtesy of a friend who does fancy lighting stuff down at Disney World in Florida. That said, I’m always curious about people who are into Disney. Even more so, I’m absolutely fascinated by the kind of Disney-a-holic who would drive all the way to an abandoned sporting goods store in Sherman Oaks and stand in line to see a bunch of old stuff that used to be in a theme park.

After hanging out with some super fans at last Saturday’s Club Kraftland event, however, I began to understand a bit more about Disney fandom, nay, obsession. The notion of memory being inextricably tied to a place—and said place being The Happiest Place on Earth—seemed to be true for almost all of the folks I encountered at the event, “Hanging Out With Paul Scheer: Disney Edition,” including Scheer’s guests: Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs, Toy Story 3, and Wall-E), Ben Schwartz (Parks & Rec, Ducktales), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Robot Chicken), and Allie Goertz (musician and editor at Mad magazine).

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The event, a Disney-centric version of Scheer’s monthly Largo show, seemed much like a two-hour, adults-only version of show-and-tell. Bloom, a native of Manhattan Beach, brought her parents Shelli and Alan, who became even more devoted to Disneyland long after they could use their daughter as an excuse to go to the park. Meanwhile, Garlin told a cringe-worthy story about the connection between his eldest son’s circumcision and a suspicious foil envelope thrown into the moat surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle (you do the math).

Club Kraftland is set to host two more events: “Maltin on Movies” with film critic Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie in conversation with Disney legend Floyd Norman, tonight, August 22nd; and “A Whole New World of Alan Menken,” a charity concert featuring legendary Disney composer Alan Menken, on Friday, August 24th. Additionally, “That’s From Disneyland!” will culminate in a two-day auction of the entire collection over the weekend, since, as Richard puts it, he’s ready to “let it go.”

“That’s From Disneyland!” runs through August 24th and is open from noon to 8 p.m. Entrance to the exhibit is free. The two-day auction will be held on Saturday, August 25th and Sunday, August 26th. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Coffin-Siris Foundation and CHIME Institute, two organizations that work with children with developmental disorders. For more information about location, tickets to Club Kraftland events, and the auction, please visit their website.

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Pop Culture

Is It OK to Hate Taylor Swift? A Reflection, in List Form

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Let me start off by saying I don’t actually know Taylor Swift on a personal level. Granted, by sheer luck (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it), I have found myself within one or two degrees of separation from her by a) living in the Nashville metro area for four years, and b) inadvertently befriending several folks who do know her. Well, knew her I suppose, back when she was more #solo and less #squad. Thus, I’ve heard, maybe more than most, a somewhat absurd number of reasons why I should hate her.

“She’s stuck up.”

“She’s so fake.”

“She hardly writes any of her songs.”

“She went on a date with [insert sorority sister’s name here]’s boyfriend once, and he still tells everyone.”

“She was super mean in middle school choir. All that stuff in her first album about the mean kids at school? There was a reason no one was nice to her—she wasn’t very nice in the first place.”

Now, with Hiddleswift upon us, these occasional asides from friends and acquaintances have morphed into full-blown listicles either worshiping her every Insta-move or dealing a play-by-play blow to her new beau. Swift has taken over my newsfeed. She’s taking over my text messages. She has even found her way into my fifteen-at-work break room convos, which are usually reserved for venting about customers who can’t seem to fathom the concept of a “return policy.”

I’d like to consider myself an intellectual, which I suppose is a bit presumptuous and a lot narcissistic of me. It is an identifier I have nonetheless come to embrace, snootiness and all. But I also have an unquenchable thirst for pop culture that seems to puzzle those I meet in more academic settings, such as in study groups for a graduate-level research design class. And so, dear reader, I attempt to present to you my version of a listicle: a (somewhat) researched, (semi-) theoretical, and (not-at-all) comprehensive run-down of acceptable and unacceptable reasons to hate Taylor Swift, based on an informal survey of peers as well as my own personal reflections.

OK Reasons to Hate Taylor Swift:

1) You can’t stand her music and think of dying goats every time “I Knew You Were Trouble” comes on the radio.

I get it. I feel the same way every time I hear a twenty-one pilots song on the radio. I don’t care how many times someone tells me they are the best live touring act out there right now (barf). Science has shown links between musical preference and personality. To each her own.

2) You consider yourself “of a certain age” and don’t know who she is other than the fact that her name keeps popping up as “News” on your social media (or local newspaper).

This is also very annoying and probably one of the most understandable reasons to begin to dislike someone strongly. As someone in my mid-twenties, I feel the same way about YouTube stars and/or any famous person without a well-rounded IMDB profile.

3) You are jealous of her cats.

As a fellow cat lady, I can empathize. I too want cute little munchkin cats to act as accessories in lieu of traditional purses and such. But alas, we can’t all be so lucky.

NOT OK Reasons to Hate Taylor Swift:

1) You think she’s a “slut.”

But what is the threshold for “slut,” even? Is it rebounding too quickly like with Hiddleswift? Is it dating too many guys in general (and how many is too many)? What about those unconfirmed reports that Swift has never *gasp* cashed in her V-card? If the former is true, is the threshold the number of boys you’ve swapped spit with? Once, I made out with three different boys in two weeks (all with the middle name of Edward, weirdly enough). Does that make me a slut? Why should we even care about which (and how many) dreamboats Swift has shared snuggles and/or sexy times with, other than the fact that we would like to be the one sharing snuggles with said dreamboats? (And if you’re trying to assert that you wouldn’t love to be on a swan with a Scotsman who looks like this, you’re lying to yourself.)

Without even bringing in any hardcore feminist theory, I think it’s pretty clear that this is a moot point. But if you want feminist theory on “sluts,” read this.

2) You think she’s a “mean girl.”

Have you actually been personally victimized by Taylor Swift? No? I didn’t think so.** I suppose it’s pretty easy to infer from those picture-perfect Instagram blasts that Swift and her squad are trying to rub their picture-perfectness in your face—along with the fact that you weren’t invited. But maybe, just maybe, these ladies are just snapping some pics to remember the occasion. I mean, how many times have you done the same with your gal pals? Not to mention the number of times you made your friends retake that #candidselfie because someone’s bangs were parted funny, or someone’s smile gave them a fat chin face, and so on…

**Exceptions can be made for those I know who have actually felt belittled by Swift during an in-person encounter, either as a child growing up in Pennsylvania or as an awkward adult at an industry-only party (or if you’re Camilla Belle). I’m sure there are those out there who feel the same hatred towards me. Apologies to everyone who may fall into this category. I hope I can make it up to you someday.

3) You think she promotes unrealistic ideals for women.

Now this is a tricky one. I must admit that on certain days, days when I’m scheduled to work fourteen hours between two jobs after attending class in the morning, days when I find my tummy pudge larger than usual and my chin riddled with acne because all I’ve eaten in the past 24 hours are a giant bag of Ruffles I keep in my desk drawer in case of emergencies and a $1.19 Taco Bell burrito I managed to scrounge up the change for since payday is still two days away, days when I get up at 5:30 a.m. and don’t stop moving until 11:30 p.m., I really, really, really hate Taylor Swift. I hate how I open up Instagram, or Buzzfeed, or even just my Facebook in search of mindless entertainment and instead have to be confronted with her unnaturally perfect blonde head of hair, or her otherworldly glowing complexion, or her perfect little chicken legs. I hate how she takes on the “I’m just like you” stance by posting photos of her bloody cat scratches one minute—just to turn around and flaunt her glamazon Vogue shoot a few posts later. I hate how it seems that at least 50% of her year is spent being fabulous and not working, while I watch my (surprisingly) above average household income be siphoned off into rent payments and car payments and tuition payments and health insurance payments and so on… I hate how fun and lovely and celebrity-filled her 4th of July holiday seemed to be, all while on my end, I was grateful for the mere fact that a) I had some alone time waiting for my husband in the car while he worked a late shift and b) I could use said alone time to catch up on paying bills and sending work emails and scheduling doctor’s appointments that, between working two jobs and being a full-time student, I haven’t even had the time to think about.

But this story, this hatred, really isn’t about Taylor, now is it? It’s about me. It’s about the luck of the draw. It’s about white beauty. It’s about capitalism. It’s about uneven playing fields and neoliberalism and obsession with celebrity and everything in between. It’s about the kind of media I choose to consume, even though it has a greater chance of giving me FOMO than helping me relax. It speaks volumes about what we value, consciously or otherwise, as a society, and very little about the pop star herself.

Bet you didn’t think this listicle would take such a dark turn, did you?

In short, it’s easy to hate on celebrities because we—well most of us—don’t really know them. It’s easy to project all of your hopes and dreams and fantasies and frustrations upon a (flawless and perfectly coiffed) representation of a human being staring back at you from your TV/laptop/movie/iPhone screen. Though, if you pause for a second from drinking the haterade and reflect, you might realize something about yourself. Even if it is just that you secretly have a thing for malicious Norse gods.

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