Pop Culture

2009 09 19
Attention grabbing

Posted by in: Pop Culture

Up until very recently I had paid so little attention to Kanye West that I thought his name was spelled and pronounced “Kayne.”

Well played, Mr. West. Well played.

Howls of outrage (5)

2008 11 05
Coverage of Election Day 2008

The Newseum has a fun feature called Today’s Front Pages, the front pages of newspapers from around the US and the world. As of my posting this at 3 AM Eastern time Nov 5, it hasn’t yet ticked over to showing the Nov 5 papers, but maybe it will have by the time you read this. Here’s the link if you’re reading this after Nov 5 2008.

Right now the NYT home page has a tall all-caps OBAMA as its lone topline, then a smaller subhead below. I like this presentation best of the newspaper pages I’ve seen so far.

Another site that should have good stuff tomorrow: The Big Picture, the Boston Globe’s blog of giant-size photos.

Howls of outrage (3)

2008 04 24
Battlestar Galactica: A complaint

In the fictional world of Battlestar Galactica it is a fact of no little consequence that Cylons are virtually indistinguishable from humans, right down to the cellular level. And yet they’re different in all kinds of ways! For example, when they get killed, their consciousness gets uploaded so that they can just jump right into another body. But if they’re indistinguishable from humans right down to the cellular level then by what mechanism is this accomplished? And this is just the beginning of the features that supposedly make them very different from humans. The writers of the show seem to me to be making a really stupid move somewhere in the vicinity of this common mistake.

I’m not sure why this irritates me so much. I can suspend disbelief for an impressive variety of fictional worlds. But this! This I can hardly stand. Perhaps it’s because the mistake here is one that I see in serious contexts, whereas journalists don’t typically go around talking about star trek transporters as though we have currently working models. Anyway. Yeeeeearg.

Howls of outrage (29)

2007 07 21
Standing as one

After Paul posted a deliciously silly Kevin Costner movie trailer, Anne confessed in the comments that she just assumed that everyone had already seen it. People, this is how utility goes unmaximized! So, in the spirit of recycling old favourites for the odd soul who might have missed it the first time, I give you America: We Stand As One. When I first found this video, I showed it to my roommate at the time, a Serb who finds the U.S. deeply puzzling in many respects. We agreed that after much searching, we had probably finally found the Essence of America.

Howls of outrage (30)

2007 07 18
Um, ew.

There are just so many gems in this NYT piece on abstinence-only education. But this takes the cake:

In northeastern Texas, advocates of abstinence education vow to fight for their mission because to them, it is not just a matter of sexuality or even public health. Getting a teenager to the other side of high school without viruses or babies is a bonus, but not the real goal. They see casual sex as toxic to future marriage, family and even, in an oblique way, opposition to abortion.

“You have to look at why sex was created,” Eric Love, the director of the East Texas Abstinence Program, which runs Virginity Rules, said one day, the sounds of Christian contemporary music humming faintly in his Longview office. “Sex was designed to bond two people together.”

To make the point, Mr. Love grabbed a tape dispenser and snapped off two fresh pieces. He slapped them to his filing cabinet and the floor; they trapped dirt, lint, a small metal bolt. “Now when it comes time for them to get married, the marriage pulls apart so easily,” he said, trying to unite the grimy strips. “Why? Because they gave the stickiness away.”

Tune in next week when Mr. Love uses a straightened paper clip to show that curing homosexuality is as easy as a trip to Office Max.

Howls of outrage (3)

2007 07 15
For him, hope is a piece of pocket candy.

Posted by in: Movies, Pop Culture

This is, without a doubt, the funniest thing I have ever seen.

Howls of outrage (14)

2007 07 14
Movie night with Karl Rove

Archives are fun!

Tucked away inside 78,000 pages of documents from the Nixon administration, released by the National Archives earlier this week, is a little gem: a strategy memorandum from the man who would go on to become the architect of President Bush’s rise to political power.

And in the memorandum, this:

In his memorandum, Mr. Rove offered suggestions, from having college Republican clubs show “nonpolitical films for fund-raising (e.g. John Wayne flicks, ‘Reefer Madness’)” to developing a “Student Guide to Lobbying” with a “forward by Bush/Nixon.”

I found the reference to “Reefer Madness” confusing at first. Why in the hell would young Republicans be gathering to laugh at anti-drug propaganda, I wondered? Finally I realized that the interest in the film wasn’t ironic. But don’t accuse me of being stoned for taking a while to appreciate this point. Seriously, have you seen it? Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch the entire thing here.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2007 05 06
Yes, Prime Minister

It’s a real pity that Netflix has chosen, at this stage at least, to do its new on demand service through Internet Explorer. If I understand correctly, this means that you’re screwed if you use Linux, which we do on the hand-me-down laptop in our bedroom (and which actually has the more reliable internet connection). Still, it’s nice to be able to click on a movie and have it start playing – usually without much fuss – almost immediately. And they’re not charging extra to watch a generous number of hours, at least yet.

The offerings are still a bit spotty, I notice. But more than spotty, they’re peculiar. If you were digitizing movies for a new service, would one of your first choices be “Real Genius,” the 80s film starring Val Kilmer? No, it would not. I wonder what’s up with that.

Television offerings are similarly thin and idiosyncratic. But! I recently found they have all of the British television show “Yes, Prime Minister.” This is good. I can watch them now whenever I want, and I can watch them over and over again without even worrying about returning them in the mail.

The only complaint I have about “Yes, Prime Minister” so far is the laugh track. I hate laugh tracks. They make me laugh less, since I hate having it implied that now is a time I really ought to be laughing.

Howls of outrage (14)

2006 12 11
Trailer Park Boys

Posted by in: Pop Culture, Television

The Dagger Aleph is right: The Trailer Park Boys is pretty funny. She’s put up a clip on her site illustrating its virtues. It’s very much worth watching, but if you’re at work you might wait until you get home.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 06 09
You must be this tall

I’ve occasionally wondered about the fact that at 5’8” I seem to tower over the average New York City cop. In the thirty seconds that I allot to research for research-based blog posts, I was able to determine that there was some sort of court case a while back that changed entrance requirements to the police academy. Result: a bunch of shorties patrolling our streets.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeah, if you misremember the details, and squint your eyes a bit it’s totally like the movie Police Academy. This is pleasing.

Howls of outrage (5)

2006 03 12

A student recently lent me the movie Alexander. Main impressions: Forget about the historical inaccuracies. That’s between the movie’s historical consultant and his psychiatrist, who will no doubt remind the historical consultant that that’s par for the course in a Hollywood movie. That’s not to say the movie was a success. Even worse than the psycho-babble about Alexander’s motivation was the silly pseudo-Irish accent that some of the actors would put on or take off depending, perhaps, on whether the voice coach had wandered off the set drunk yet that day. These two features were combined nicely in Angelina Jolie’s (playing Alexander’s mother) repeated assurances to the young Alexander that he would some day conquer the “warld.” (I said pseudo-Irish, so I take it that encompasses moments of pseudo-Scottish.)

Howls of outrage (2)

2005 12 06
The Colbert Report

Posted by in: Pop Culture, Pundits

I went to a taping of The Colbert Report yesterday evening. It was reasonably entertaining. He does a fantastic O’Reilly impersonation, though I imagine that’ll get old soon, if it hasn’t already. Maureen Dowd was the special guest. In the very brief interview, she managed to say things that were even stupider than I expected, which is quite an accomplishment. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Howls of outrage (2)

2005 11 05
Radosh on Slate on Star Wars

Posted by in: Pop Culture

When I read this Slate piece on Star Wars, I couldn’t figure out whether it was satire or not. Now I see that Daniel Radosh, the greedy fucking bastard, was also puzzled, along with the commenters at his site. The mystery has even managed to survive direct questioning of the author of the piece by Radosh.

The author’s response is funny (see it at that last link), but dead wrong: in the course of it he suggests that “there is nothing outside the text.” Actually, let me take that back. I’m not sure exactly what someone means when they quote Derrida to this effect. So I’ll just note that, whatever he means, figuring out whether the piece is satire really does require us to look outside the text. The piece is pretty stupid, which is the original reason for thinking that it may be satire. But then we notice that the author is an English professor, and the horrible suspicion arises that he actually means what he says. And what about the forum in which it was published? Slate has really declined in quality over the last three or four years, and so during this time there has been a steep drop in my willingness to assume that something stupid on the pages of Slate is a joke rather than simply something stupid. (Or are all those Christopher Hitchens pieces parodies? If so, fucking brilliant is all I can say. He totally had me going.) And we also have to imagine the editors at Slate mulling over the appropriateness of the piece for publication. If they understood it as satire, they still had to have understood that most readers would miss the point. And it’s no good for editors to say in such circumstances, “Oh well, the hoi polloi will read it straight and the clever folks will see that it’s brilliant satire,” since the piece really isn’t brilliant satire, even if it’s satire. It’s pretty middling as satire, if it’s satire — and obviously the clever folks can’t see that it’s satire if I can’t see it, since I’m clever, q.e.d. So there you go.

(Is this post itself satire? Goodness me, no. How could you think that?)

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2005 08 09
On Ali G. and Postmodernism

Posted by in: Pop Culture

So I’m walking around the periodical area of the library, trying to work out an angle on some problem in my dissertation, when my eyes alight upon the portion of a magazine cover advertising an article entitled, “Who is Ali G?”. The magazine, as it turns out, is Jewish Frontier: A Labor Zionist Journal. Not being one to turn down an opportunity for distraction, I decide to take a look. Most of the article consists of prosaic descriptions of the various characters, skits, and interviews featured on “Da Ali G. Show.” One such story recounts Ali G.’s recommendation to former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh that he should check out “Barely Legal 3″. But here’s my favorite part of the article:

Ali G.’s reception has not been particularly rosy, however. First, he misrepresents himself to obtain interviews with civic officials, whom he mocks, and in a sense, humiliates. Worse, there are concerns about the racial connotations of a white guy dressing up as a black guy to portray black culture as ignorant and misogynist. It does not help that there is some truth to the Ali G. character: Not that back culture is ignorant or misogynist, but that elements of black culture—the so-called “gansta’ rap” scene–do indeed has such malignant aspects. [1]

[Footnote 1:] Personally, I hesitate from making this judgment; it is arguably an oversimplification, as well as the imposition of a subjectively external cultural standard. Nevertheless, it seems that the consensus, even in the leadership of the African-American community, is to criticize as “malignant” those blatantly chauvinist, violence-celebrating “f#ck the police” aspects of the “gansta rap” phenomena.

I find it hilarious that the author, Ari M. Chester, would find it necessary to distance himself from the “oversimplification” that “elements of…the…”gansta’ rap” scene…have malignant [misogynistic] aspects.” But then again, why inveigh against the imposition of disgusting and objectifying social roles for women in gansta-rap culture when one can instead inveigh against the imposition of subjectively external cultural standards?

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2005 06 19
Aw, Belgium

Harry Farrell at Crooked Timber writes:

Matt Yglesias notes that “MPAA rules for avoiding an R-Rating � allow you up to two uses of “fuck” as long as the word appears in a non-sexual context.” A bit reminiscent of the “Rory” Award, featured in Douglas Adams� Life, the Universe and Everything, which was granted for the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word “Fuck” in a Serious Screenplay. In the US edition of LTUAE, this was changed to the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word “Belgium” in a Serious Screenplay, neatly proving Matt’s point about the unique censoriousness of American media.

I had no idea that was the case, and I’m annoyed to learn it. On the other hand, much to my chagrin I actually find “Belgium” a bit funnier.

Anyone else have the same reaction? Be honest.

Howls of outrage (11)