The Nose

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David Letterman reinvented television. He's irreplaceable. He was a comedic revolution. According to President Obama, Letterman is "a part of all of us."

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This hour on the nose: Sports! Did you know it’s a mistake to include content that makes light of domestic violence? Damn, why didn’t WE know about it here at the Cleveland basketball office place? Like eight or nine of us watched the video and we thought it was totally fine, but now we can kind of see what people object to. Also...

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Which side are you on?

In the mammoth PEN Awards kerfuffle, that is. Table captains have walked out over the award being given to the survivors from Charlie Hebdo. And now 145 writers, including six table captains and such notables as Junot Díaz, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Eric Bogosian and Michael Cunningham, have signed a letter protesting the award to Hebdo. As LBJ  apparently never said regarding Vietnam and Walter Cronkite (but we'll come to that): Once you've lost Joyce Carol Oates, you've lost America. Francine 

One of the unwritten rulers of a weekly culture show like The Nose is that, if you're willing to "go low," as they say, you could probably alternate between Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck every week. They're both wonderfully talented, but they're also kind of useful idiots, reliably causing some kind of spectacle we can go after. And they used to be a couple.

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We don't usually talk politics  on The Nose, but that's OK, because Hillary Clinton isn't really talking politics (much) yet either. Instead, she's just trying to, you know, hang out with all 235 million voting age Americans at once. How does one do that? That's the kind of thing that interests the Nose. 

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What's up with all the weight talk? 

We're not even sure when it started, but Candice Bergen, who was always perfect and who is still perfect, really went there  in her current memoir and book tour.

“Let me just come right out and say it: I am fat.”

Mostly, it feels like someone opening the window and letting the fresh air in, right? And it lets us know that everybody eats and some of us eat too much. I mean, it turns out that the FBI -- which is being held to new fitness standards -- is full of stress-eaters.

Chion Wolf

 The only people who might have had a wilder roller coaster ride than Trevor Noah this week were the owners of  Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana. (That's the place that announced Wednesday morning they would not be willing to service the burgeoning market for breadsticks and nacho cheese dip at gay weddings.  By Friday, they had been forced to close temporarily because of all the harassment and had seen half a million dollars raised for them on the site gofundme.com.)

Anyway, we're not talking about Indiana on The Nose today. We promise.

Chion Wolf

Our topics today involve censorship, transgression, and reconciliation. 

Earlier in the week, The Nose panelists started talking about China's "dancing grannies" problem. This sounds like a Monty Python sketch, but it's real. In China's public squares, droves of people --most of them women and most of them with a little snow on their roofs -- assemble and dance, in various styles, to various kinds of music. 

Colin McEnroe

Starbucks is trying to start conversation about race relations in America, led by baristas across the nation. The effort has had mixed reviews.  

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Mark Oppenheimer hosts an All-Star New-Haven Nose Panel from New Haven.

For as long as fraternities have acted poorly,  adults have quietly tolerated and even gloried in it. Who can forget John Belushi and Animal House? Too often, parents and college administrators have excused the all-night parties, destruction of property, and drunken brawls as the rude, yet benign acts of those on the brink of entering adulthood, the last gasp of carefree youth. 

Julia Pistell

In a couple of weeks the nation will be transfixed by a competition in which basketball teams advance through a tournament laid out as a series of brackets.

Can the same process get people more interested in literary fiction? For a decade, the Morning News has been testing that theory. They year we decided to attach ourselves, like remoras, to their enterprise. We asked three super-readers to blow through as many of thoe 16 novels as they could; and today, on a special edition of the Nose, they'll talk their way through the brackets. 

Chion Wolf

What did we talk about before there was the dress?  The dress was made for the Nose and vice versa. The Nose is our Friday session when we get smart, funny people together for a fast-moving conversation about culture. The dress -- an otherwise unremarkable striped number that popped up on the internet Thursday afternoon -- took over social media and people’s lives simply because people who were otherwise similarly rooted in reality could not agree on what color(s) it was.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

This week's Nose will feature an out-of-towner (sort of):  Simsbury-bred NY scenester Brendan Jay Sullivan. As if the rest of us on the Nose didn't feel winter-drab and culturally frostbitten already.  Also in the house, Jacques Lamarre and Theresa Cramer. 

At the moment, Santa's bag of Nose ideas seems a little light. 

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Elizabeth Warren summed it up in a tweet:

On the next Nose, is there any way we can spin the departure of our favorite truth teller as a good thing?

It might be pretty tough. 

How do we put this in context at the end of a terrible week for the news industry, with Brian Williams being suspended from NBC News for six months, and the death of CBS News correspondent Bob Simon?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Our plan, from the  beginning, for today’s episode of The Nose had been to ask the panelists to see “American Sniper” and then discuss this unusual movie – unusual because director Clint Eastwood’s intention was to make an anti-war statement but the movie has been embraced far more ardently by boosters of the Iraq conflict.

By the numbers, it’s a surprising story. “American Sniper” grossed a quarter of a billion dollars in the month of January. Released on December 25, it’s capable of becoming 2014’s highest grossing film, although it would have to catch the latest “Hunger Games” iteration.

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On the Nose this hour: pre-watching Super Bowl ads.

Super Bowl advertisers have forced us (conned us?) to live in their world, not just for Sunday, but for days spreading in either direction. This piece explains how, in 2011, a VW ad was released on the YouTube's days in advance of the game and went viral, setting the stage for what we have now: a protracted debate about various ads. You probably have to, on YouTube, sometimes watch an ad so you can watch an ad.

Today, that 2011 ad has 61 million views on YT. Those are people volunteering to watch it, as opposed to people waiting for the game to resume.

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Academy Awards are not intrinsically important; therefore, Academy Award nominations are not intrinsically important, but these things are great moments for starting conversations and taking stock. They work pretty well as mass cultural Rorschach blots, and as is the case with many things, the ways in which they make us unhappy are probably the greatest source of interest.  

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Later in the show, we discuss this essay in praise of the conventional office life, but first, Colin writes: 

Which are you? The kind of person who can't wait to talk about Serial? Or the kind of person who doesn't do it, doesn't get it, and dreads having other people bring it up? The former sort of person was summed up by a recent New Yorker cartoon that showed a woman on a city sidewalk, flagging down a fellow pedestrian and saying "Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about the latest episode of 'Serial'?"

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Which are you? The kind of person who can't wait to talk about Serial? Or the kind of person who doesn't do it, doesn't get it, and dreads having other people bring it up? The former sort of person was summed up by a recent New Yorker cartoon that showed a woman on a city sidewalk, flagging down a fellow pedestrian and saying "Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about the latest episode of 'Serial'?"

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Pope Francis changed our plans for The Nose today when it was revealed informally that the souls of animals may go to heaven. In fairness, the Pope was consoling a boy whose dog had died but nonetheless, the pronouncement kicked off a larger conversation that ranged from the outreach Christian wing of PETA - who knew there was one - to the National Pork Producers Council.  

Chion Wolf / WNPR

We. Are. Obsessed. When you watch the news, scroll through Facebook, check in on Twitter, everybody always seems to be talking about the same things: From Peter Pan to Bill Cosby, from cronuts to Kardashians, from Michael Brown to Serial, we are increasingly collectively obsessed. What's behind that? Speaking of obsessions, we'll also take a long look at hate-watching last night's live Peter Pan on NBC, and how they dealt with Native American stereotypes.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

You've probably heard, seen and read a lot about Bill Cosby this week, but I think today's Nose panel tears into the topic in some interesting ways. I hope you'll listen and maybe even comment down below. Later in this show, you'll hear us talk about Mike Nichols, a disagreement about how many people can live as a family in a one-family house, and whether Allison Williams can forbid us from live tweeting her live NBC appearance as Peter Pan.

Ruth Hartnup / Flickr Creative Commons

Here are the three stories going up the Nose today.

In August Shoshana Roberts took a walk through the streets of New York City followed by a hidden camera. Over 10 hours she was verbally harassed 108 times by men yelling stuff. That doesn't even count the whistles and other nonverbal noises - one guy walked right next to her for five minutes. It's not exactly news but it captured something. The video has been watched more than 22.4 million times. But, some people have issues with the way race is shown in it.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

"The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers." (Wikipedia)

Some version of the uncanny valley phenomenon is tangled up in the national freak-out this week over actress Renee Zellweger’s post-nip & tuck coming out party. Of course, the uncanny valley usually flows in the other direction — from the artificial toward the almost-natural. Cosmetic surgery can work in reverse. We almost recognize Renee. It’s so close — but also indubitably the result of manufacture — that we are unsettled by it.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Here on The Nose today, we're at least potentially talking about high-tech employers who offer egg freezing as a benefit for female employees, a proposal to get rid of high school football, the sinking sensation that it's time - or too late - to fight back against Amazon, and the Florida debate that almost broke down because of a candidate's use of a fan at the podium.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Why do opposing political candidates so often wind up disliking each other? I get that there are forces in motion against one another, but does that have to turn into animus? Wouldn't we all like to think that we could keep things on a certain humanistic level if we were running? Say things like "Ralph is a great guy, even if he's dead wrong about everything. I really enjoyed getting to know  him during this campaign, and I admire his commitment to his vision, even though I think the rest of you would be nuts to embrace it."

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One way to think of this is, a middle school principal should not be making blood-spattered slasher films. Another way is, it's kind of amazing that every middle school principal doesn't go home and make blood-spattered slasher films.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

"Comic book movies, family-friendly animated adventures, tales of adolescent heroism, and comedies of arrested development do not only make up the commercial center of 21st century Hollywood, they are its artistic heart." So writes critic A.O. Scott in a somewhat controversial essay from this week. We will discuss cultural immaturity on this episode of The Nose.

Then, we'll probe the delicate subject of "Fingerprint Words". The premise is that each of us has a word or two - a perfectly good word which we use correctly - that we use a lot. One of mine, I happen to know, is "warranted". I also know where I got it, and to whom I have spread it.

Finally, we'll explore reports that eating cereal is in steep decline. An entire civilization of elves and leprechauns now teeters at the edge of extinction. How about you? Has your perfectly warranted retreat from maturity caused you to give up cereal?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

What would Aristotle say about knees and seat backs? There's a device you can buy that makes it impossible for the person sitting in front of you on an airplane flight to recline. That's caused at least one fight during a mid-air flight that we know about. Is using this device going too far? Or is the lack of space in the first place the real problem?

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