Are you a culture vulture too?



By Caitlin Kelly

As someone who grew up with limited access to television, (spending much of my childhood in boarding school and summer camp), my cultural consumption was books, art and music. (Although every dinner at home in my teens began with the theme music to As It Happens, the nightly CBC radio current events show.)

I do enjoy some television, mostly BBC, PBS, Netflix — original series, not the standard stuff of weekly network shows. Favorites include Wallander (Swedish version), Babylon Berlin, Call The Midwife, Victoria.

I confess — I’m also a fan of Lifetime’s Project Runway, now heading into its 17th season.

My favorite media are radio and film.

I listen to radio daily, (NPR, WFUV. WKCR, TSF Jazz from Paris) and typically watch two to three movies a week, either on TV or in the theater. (Not a fan of horror films, which I avoid; writing a book that included gun violence was quite enough!)

Only in later life did I appreciate what beauty I enjoyed in my parents’ homes, filled with Japanese ukiyo-e prints, Inuit sculpture, mirrored Indian textiles and more. That visual feast much shaped my own tastes — whether a Mexican wooden mask or a vintage photograph.

Today, thanks to the Internet, we all have ready and free access to millions of exquisite images, through the British Museum  (37,000 images) and many more. Even if you live very far from a gallery or museum, even just scrolling through Instagram, you can stumble across an incredible array of beauty and history.

I’m not as familiar with, or fond of, contemporary art and design (I try!); I do love the work of Julie Mehretu.

Growing up in Toronto, a large and multi-cultural city with good museums and galleries, also helped me develop my taste. Travel to Paris, Venice, Florence, London, Berlin, Boston, D.C. and San Francisco, (to name a few places),  has showed me more amazing art.

Two of our favorite museums focus on Asian design — the Sackler in Washington, D.C. and the Guimet in Paris.



A very rare event for me — I went to this auction and bought two 1920s French prints (Dufy, Vlaminck)


Musically, I feel woefully behind! I haven’t (she says embarassedly) yet tried Spotify, so I need to expand my horizons, although I’m not a fan of rap, hip-hop or country.

Only in the past month have I seen two operas, the first for me in decades, and enjoyed both. I don’t attend as many classical music performances as I could — in New York and environs, there are so many to choose from! — but enjoy it when I do.

As for popular music concerts…sigh. Some of the people I want to see sell out within minutes, generally.

I recently loved Old Stock, a terrific Canadian musical that’s just ended a two-month Manhattan run, and is headed for Bristol, England and Edmonton, Alberta.

I also saw a dark/powerful art show, “Berlin, Before and After”, at New York’s Neue Galerie, one of my favorite (small!) museums.

Living anywhere near New York City costs a fortune: highway and bridge tolls, taxes, commuting costs, crazy-high rent so you have to take advantage of all its various cultural offerings.

A daily list of low to no-cost NYC fun is The Skint; (“skint” is a British word for broke.)



This amazing image was in the hallway across my room in a boutique hotel in Rovinj, Croatia


I do read a lot, but mostly non-fiction, magazines and newspapers. I just finished astronaut Scott Kelly’s memoir, “Endurance” and am now reading “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” from 1929.

I write for a living (as some of you know!) so am always hungry for inspiration.


How about you?


What has shaped your cultural tastes — friends? family? the internet? TV? YouTube? formal education?


Any terrific recommendations to share?


15 thoughts on “Are you a culture vulture too?

  1. I’m a little surprised to be the first to comment, as you have such a questing band of followers.
    I watched a LOT of TV growing up and one Hell of a lot of scary movies, mostly starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, as well as the directorial work of Mario Bava and Roger Corman. Then, of course there were the great Universal films like Frankenstein (If you haven’t seen that, you absolutely must, Boris Karloff is magnificent).
    The themes from Batman and Star trek would make me drop everything and run for the tube, and then there was local TV wrestling, where the kids in the studio audience would come up during the breaks and shout out to their friends and families. It was a big deal.
    I read Jack London and Rudyard Kipling when I was a kid, then later I started reading Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Heinlein and that dystopian stuff, like Brave New world and a Clockwork Orange. I once set my sights on being the greatest man who ever lived, so I read Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead (What the Hell was I thinking)?
    I’ve listened to a very wide variety of music over the years. Take me Home, Country Roads was the first song that ever really made me feel something, Dark Side of the Moon was the first album I ever bought with my own money and the Moody Blues, well, they’re the Moody Blues.
    There’s a website called that gives you access to live streaming radio from all over the world. It’s definitely worth checking out.
    I’m certain I could go on, but I should save a little internet for everybody else. Thanks for a good post.

    1. Ooooh, Radiogarden! Thanks!

      I love the stuff you’ve shared here — the little TV I did get to see was stuff like Mission Impossible (remember that theme music?!)

      We just had a friend from London here yesterday and we were playing (as usual) TSF Jazz. She loved it!

  2. Oh my God, this is a long list. Obviously, reading has been a huge influence on me, considering that got me into writing. Harry Potter started it, but you know my stuff is more influenced by Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, and others these days. I go to the movie theater quite often, and I watch a lot of network and Netflix TV. Manga and anime has also been a big part of my life, and many of the dolls/figurines I collect reflect my love of Japanese culture and entertainment. As far as music goes, it varies, but generally I like classical, heavy metal, 80’s music, and J-Pop/K-Pop.
    I’ve also recently gotten into lecture courses on my phone. You know the Great Courses? You can download audio lectures onto your phone and learn on just about any subject while you work or drive. So far, I’ve listened to three: one on Dante’s Divine Comedy, one on the King Arthur legend, and one on who the Celts really were. And right now, I’m listening to one on the Victorian era. It’s fascinating stuff.

      1. I think the Victorian England would def. get my vote — it’s embarassing to admit, but I learn a lot of history from watching historical films and TV. I didn’t understand before why the Irish famine was partly fueled by English greed and anti-Papism (which was in an episode of “Victoria.”)

  3. you have certainly enjoyed a mix of cultural experiences. i think each of these shape who we become in some way. i love films, especially small, art, indies, and foreign films. i also love books, a mix of fiction and non-fiction – humor, travel, bios, historical. on televisions, i’m most a documentary, news, history, movie person, not so into any series at all. i love to read real newspapers, even in their shortened form, listen to all kinds of music, and attend live theater. i still have yet to attend an opera, though high on my list. i really enjoy certain styles of art and artists, especially natural artists like andy goldsworthy, and hope to continue to experience new cultural frontiers for the rest of my life –

    1. Separated at birth? 🙂

      LOVE Andy Goldsworthy’s work — one of my few deep regrets in life was not buying one of his images, years ago, when it was still $$$ but sort of affordable.

  4. I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV growing up, so I read books instead and I’m still a voracious reader. 🙂 My favourite genre is literary fiction from around the world, although I’ve recently started reading modern poetry. A friend introduced me to the ‘Instagram poet’, Rupi Kaur, and I can relate to her verses as a young woman navigating life and love.

    I enjoy a good Netflix series although I prefer films. Last summer I signed up to Netflix to watch Mad Men, having never seen it. What a great series! I planned to cancel my subscription after that but it’s still going and I’m currently in the middle of a Spanish series (El Ministerio de Tiempo), which is very entertaining.

    I’m a big music lover and listen to Spotify daily. Since I signed up, I’ve discovered so much new (to me) music and it has really expanded my music tastes. I’d be happy to email some of my current favourites, if you would like. 🙂

    Oh and I mustn’t forget to mention podcasts. UK radio isn’t great so I prefer to listen to podcasts when I’m driving…This American Life is a favourite!

    1. This sounds like a good mix…

      I really need to read more fiction. Have you read A Little Life? It’s amazing.

      Would love a list of music!

      Yes to podcasts — I listen to TAL every Saturday (here on at 1pm and followed by The Moth at 2pm, also worth a listen.)

      1. Yes! A Little Life was amazing. I very rarely cry at books but it brought me to tears.

        I’m a Moth listener too. I love the format — true stories told live on stage can be a powerful thing indeed.

        I’ll send you some music recommendations at the weekend. 🙂

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