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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Art

Sew Your Soul: Lucy Sparrow Opens Sparrow Mart in Los Angeles

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I first caught wind of British artist Lucy Sparrow a little over a year ago, in an email from a colleague fangirling over 8 Till Late, Sparrow’s felted Manhattan bodega at The Standard, High Line. Yes, you read that right: Sparrow stocked an entire store, cat and everything, with felted versions of everyday bodega items.

Thankfully, as seems to be the fate of most buzzed-about New York hits nowadays, Sparrow’s creations have finally landed in Los Angeles. Sparrow Mart is four times bigger than its east coast counterpart and features over 31,000 felted pieces, from California rolls at a sushi counter to a selection of hot sauces—Tapatío included.

The Cornershop, Sparrow’s first go-around with a fully felted, entirely shoppable installation, restocked an abandoned storefront in London’s Bethnal Green neighborhood back in 2014 and was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign. After Cornershop’s success, two installations followed shortly after: The Warmongery, a felted weapons shop, and Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium, which recreated sex shop items in—you guessed it—glorious technicolor felt. The latter was inspired by Sparrow’s years working as a stripper in various London nightclubs and featured such eyebrow-raising offerings as scratch n’ sniff Hustler mags and STIs in candy jars.

On her West Coast debut, Sparrow comments: “As a child, I was obsessed with the exotic, turbo-charged technicolour glow emanating from across the Atlantic. The source of this neon rainbow was Los Angeles—a seemingly mythical place to a child growing up in grey, post-recession Britain—and one that has hugely influenced my artistic practice. Thanks to the amazing team at The Standard, Downtown, the felt is finally coming home to the city of endless possibilities and colour.”

According to Standard Culture, 8 Till Late “was supposed to run the entire month [in June 2017], but it had to close a week early because we couldn’t stop her products from flying off the shelves.” Judging from the queues forming every weekend outside the Los Angeles edition, don’t expect Sparrow Mart to last long either.

Lucy Sparrow’s Sparrow Mart runs from August 1st through 31st (or while the felt lasts!) at The Standard, Downtown Los Angeles. The exhibit is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Ladies We Love

Ladies We Love: Catching Up with Emily Lee

Representation matters. We’ve certainly discussed it before on the site, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon. And if you don’t believe me, or even the experts, take it from Dinner Party’s Ladies We Love alumna Emily Lee. Even after touring the world as a musician, as well as working on the music for an Oscar-nominated documentary, she still finds herself moved, and perhaps a bit spellbound, by fellow rocker Mitski’s success—so much so that she requested if I could maybe not print the exact number of how many times she’s seen—and cried at—Mitski’s shows.

Along with my friend and fellow Asian American feminist Willa Zhang, I caught up with Emily in Los Angeles on one of her first stops on tour with new band Loma. Read on for more about New York vs. Los Angeles, post-election politics, and three Asians unapologetically geeking out over getting a taste of representation.

Last time we talked, you were on tour with Shearwater, and right now you’re on tour with Loma. What else have you been up to lately? Well last year, I took the whole year off from touring with Shearwater since Jonathan [Meiburg] is working on his book. And last time we talked, I was still on leave from my old job at PBS. Since then, I quit that job to be a musician full-time, but I also do freelance music supervision work, which is what I was doing at my old job. So last year, I music supervised two documentaries, and one of them was nominated for an Academy Award.

That was Knife Skills, right? Yep. It was the first one I did last year. It’s like, how did this happen?

Everything you touch turns to gold! Haha, yeah it’s very weird. But I’m still going—it’s just the beginning.

You’re gearing up for a very long tour with Loma. What is touring life like? Well luckily with this group, we’d all kind of toured together with the Shearwater tour, and Loma is made up of members of Shearwater and members of Cross Record. It’s been great—well, I mean we kind of just started—but I feel like we’re all friends already, and we all know each other. These members, there’s no weirdness. Everyone’s really open, no tension. And there’s seemingly a lot of room in the van right now, which is really nice.

Where are you the most excited to go on this tour? Oh man, I’m actually really excited to be here. The place that we’re staying in Santa Monica is just, you know, being a New Yorker, I’m just like, “I could never imagine moving to L.A.” And I’m always like, “I hate L.A.” But this place in Santa Monica—it has a pool, and the only thing I want to do is wake up in the morning, go outside, lie by the pool in the sun, and read The New York Times. It’s the thing I want to do. And today, we went to the beach, and the people we’re staying with are like, “You seem so natural as a Californian.” And I’m like, “I don’t drive though.”

That’s fair. It’s sometimes the deal breaker if you want to move to California. Exactly. I don’t like driving. And then there’s all that traffic…

I feel that. It’s a real roadblock. It’s not something to take lightly. Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s like, oh in New York, I just have to hop on the subway and can be somewhere in like 40 minutes. But I literally drive one to five times a year. It’s to drive my mom around during the holidays.

Since we last spoke, I feel like there have been more breakthroughs with female musicians of color, especially Asian Americans. I don’t know if it seems that way because I’m more in tune with it, or if you can just come across this music more easily nowadays. But, I guess, do you have any current favorite female musicians of color? On that last Shearwater tour, I got insanely, intensely devoted to Mitski. Like intense. I’ve seen her in concert at least five times.

Whoa, that’s a lot. That’s devotion. I know. I know. Can you make that number a little smaller? I don’t want her thinking I’m crazy! But yeah, her music really spoke to me. And, “[Your Best] American Girl,” I think every time I hear that song or go to a show, it’s just, tears. I don’t know what touches me so hard with her music, but I’m like, “She understands me.” It’s amazing. I don’t understand…

I’m like, “This is what it’s like to be represented.” You know, I feel that in the past, I never really sought out representation. I just thought, oh, you know, we were just not in that world so much, and that’s fine. My favorite artists aren’t Asian American women. But once one hits, you’re like, “Oh my God.”

It’s when you get a taste of it. Yeah, it’s like Fresh Off The Boat. Where has this sitcom been all my life? It tells my entire family’s story.

I feel with a lot of Asian Americans, we all had this collective awakening of like, “Oh we could, we could be on TV.” I didn’t even know that I should dream about that. I think that was a huge thing to unlock first—you should want that first, and then you can go get it. But if you don’t even know you should want it, you can’t go get it. Right. In those, you know, Caucasian sitcoms, that was the norm. And growing up in a very white suburb in New Jersey, it just felt like that is the representation, that I identify with this white culture, but now seeing this actual story of people that are very similar to my—well our, probably—backgrounds, it’s like, “Oh wait, no, they weren’t telling my story. This is my story.” Oh another artist—Awkwafina.

Yes! I think I saw her in a Gap commercial recently? I know! She’s getting huge. She’s in that new Ocean’s movie? The remake.

I love her rap videos on YouTube. I’ve watched them so many times. And she has that podcast, er, it’s more of a video thing. Yes! “Tawk” is so good!

Last thing—I know Shearwater’s never been shy about political leanings, but I feel like lately, especially after the presidential election, it’s pretty explicit on social media how the band feels about things. Do you feel that as a musician, you have more responsibility now, more than ever, after the election, to speak up? I never thought about that, but yeah. Yeah, totally. Because as public figures, I mean, I am in control of the Shearwater Twitter and Instagram accounts. I let Jonathan do most of the political things because I don’t want to speak for him even though he says I totally can, but I do feel like when we speak, when we say something, there’s so much response. It feels like people really appreciate having people who have a platform speaking out.

And I feel like it’s so hard. I mean, you know, we all—many people are feeling the same way, and to have an artist say it and then be able to collectively comment on that artist’s post, it forms this other type of community around the thing you’ve already said is your community. So if you’re a fan of this band, and this band says something that you agree with, and then those fans, your fans are like, “Oh yeah, we totally agree on this other thing.” And I think that’s, it’s like, I do think it’s important to build this…

You’re connecting in more ways. Yeah, exactly!

Emily is currently trekking through Europe with Loma. To see the band perform live, check out their tour dates here.

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Events

Yours in the Sisterhood: An Evening of Female Storytelling at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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There’s nothing quite like driving into the Hollywood Forever Cemetery after dark, under the light of a blindingly bright full moon (or, more precisely, a super blue blood moon). Along with about a hundred other women and allies, I tiptoed around shadowy graves to the Masonic Lodge for the first meeting of The Secret Society of the Sisterhood, a new monthly storytelling event featuring an incredible lineup of iconic, diverse women.

Without revealing too much about the meeting—it is, after all, a secret society—the evening’s stories all revolved around a central theme, “Reclaiming My Time.” A few highlights: Jade Chang took us on a deep dive regarding the true insidious nature of the slightly pervy but seemingly innocuous punchline, “That’s what she said.” Last-minute replacement Del Harrison gave us her honest opinion about getting involved with men on cocaine. Spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty. Mara Wilson told a story about the time she came out to her parents—and they were, to her surprise, not that surprised, thanks to a comment from her childhood charm school teacher. And Randa Jarrar gave us a glimpse into the world of BDSM, a community where she felt safe, compared to “the vanilla stuff that was scary, undiscussed, unnegotiated.”

Candles were lit. We took a group oath. Somebody quoted Ursula Le Guin. Another invoked Beyoncé. There were some tears and many, many laughs. At one point, I had a friend hold my cup of wine because I was laughing so hard I needed to clutch my gut with one hand and fan myself with the other. If that’s not enough of an endorsement for you to attend the next meeting, I don’t know what is.

The Secret Society of The Sisterhood will meet once again by the light of the full moon on March 1st. The lineup includes author and stand-up comedian Jen Kirkman, writer and producer Gloria Calderón Kellett, actress Nicole Byer, and former rock and roll groupie Pamela Des Barres—with more sisters to be announced soon! Tickets are $25 online and $30 at the door. For more information, please visit The Sisterhood’s website.

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Events

Secret’s Out: The Secret Society of The Sisterhood Comes to Los Angeles

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If your interests include storytelling, celebrating human connectivity, and hanging out with a group of brilliant, diverse women in a cemetery under the light of a full moon, this event is for you. On January 31st, The Secret Society of The Sisterhood, a monthly, topical storytelling event, will launch its inaugural meeting at The Masonic Lodge in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The Sisterhood brings together some of the most iconic women of our generation to read or perform something prepared for the theme of the evening. The theme for January 31st is “Reclaiming My Time.” Special guests for this month’s meeting include a handful of celebrated and prolific multihypenates:

  • Mara Wilson, star of Matilda and critically acclaimed author of Where Am I Now?
  • Jamie Lee, comedian, writer, and star of the hit TV show Crashing and author of the bestselling book Weddiculous
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste, singer-songwriter and Academy Award-nominated actress
  • Jade Chang, celebrated author of the The Wangs vs. the World
  • Our Lady J, songstress and accomplished writer and producer for HBO’s Transparent
  • Randa Jarrar, award-winning writer and author of Him, Me, Muhammad Ali

Trish Nelson, writer, performer, and founder of BanterGirl, created this event series and will be hosting the evening. Nelson is also one of the people who recently came forward about abuse in the service industry, speaking out against Ken Friedman in the The New York Times. Her experience is one of the things that motivated her to create the new series in Los Angeles.

Chevalier’s Books, L.A.’s oldest independent bookstore, will be at the event, selling the works of lineup members, in addition to a curated selection of titles from other must-read female authors. A number of female artists will also be on site to create pieces during the event that will help capture the evening’s experience for audience members. Those items will be featured and available for sale in the lobby after the show. And to top it all off, ticket holders will be invited to an intimate post-show gala with complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres in the Eastern Star Room.

Proceeds from The Sisterhood events will go to various female-centric charitable organizations. For the January 31st gathering, proceeds will be donated to WriteGirl, an organization developed to help young girls find their voice through creative writing mentorships.

The Secret Society of The Sisterhood will commence on January 31st at 8:00 p.m. at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Masonic Lodge. Tickets are $25 online and $30 at the door. Parking is free (yes, really!) onsite. For more information, please visit The Sisterhood’s website.

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Events

Get Your Pop Culture Fix at Vulture Festival Los Angeles

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Calling all pop culture lovers: Are you feeling a little empty inside after realizing you blew through the new season of Stranger Things this Halloweekend? Did that fresh new trailer for Annihilation leave you chomping at the bit for Natalie Portman’s next performance? Perhaps you’re already missing the cast of Scandal even though there are still three episodes left? Or maybe you’ve been holding out all these years for the chance to ask Damon Lindelof about the ending of Lost…and the meaning of life? If so, the folks at Vulture Festival Los Angeles have you covered.

Just like its NYC-based cousin, Vulture Festival Los Angeles has one hell of a stacked lineup. Besides the talent mentioned above—Natalie and Kerry?!?–the festival features the likes of Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, Sofia Coppola, Roxane Gay, Amber Tamblyn, Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Ted Danson, Jonathan Ames, Robert Pattinson, and a whole bunch of other ridiculously cool people.

What’s more, the weekend-long festival offers a wide variety of pop culture panels, screenings, and other awesome—if slightly absurd—events. There’s an 8:30 a.m. private tour of The Broad art museum with New York magazine and Vulture senior art critic Jerry Saltz. There’s a scavenger hunt across Hollywood with the stars of Search Party. There’s even a 100th song celebration sing-a-long with Rachel Bloom and the cast of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

And to top it all off, tickets to most events are only $25 and include access to the AT&T Vulture Lounge poolside at The Hollywood Roosevelt and a free drink. If you’re in more of a “treat yo self” mood, however, a limited quantity of all-access Vulture Passes are available for $495.

Vulture Festival Los Angeles is going down on November 18th and 19th at The Hollywood Roosevelt and a handful of other venues in the L.A. area. To see the full lineup or to purchase tickets, please visit the Vulture Festival website.

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Events

The House of Peroni Arrives Stateside

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Debuting in London back in 2013, The House of Peroni is an annual event series that highlights a dynamic mix of forward-thinking artists and craftsmen. The vibrant, immersive pop-up experience hosts both private and public events, from intimate artist Q&A’s to live performances, and features a cafe bar and lounge for guests to relax and socialize.

This fall, the House of Peroni takes a stateside cross-country road trip which kicked off earlier this month in New York City and includes stops in both Los Angeles and Miami. The current iteration—designed by Dinner Party favorite St. Vincent—takes inspiration from Italy’s eccentric “Memphis” motif and features collaborations from poet and artist Robert Montgomery, cult Italian filmmaker and photographer Fabio Paleari, bespoke hat maker Brandon M. Franklin, and set designer Lauren Machen.

The House of Peroni will be open to the public in Los Angeles this Thursday, October 19th. Tickets for DJ sets from Tyler Blake (Classixx) and Turbotito (Poolside) are available online through Eventbrite. For Miami folks, The House of Peroni will be open from November 1st through 4th. Check back on their website for further details about hours and tickets.

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