If you haven't heard about Serial, the one podcast to rule them all, one podcast to bind them, it's time your captors let you out of the fallout shelter to rejoin civilization. There's still time to binge a few episodes of the true crime show, before our pop culture panel, The Nose, goes deep, deep into Serial.
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.
"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.
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."
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.
"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?
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?
Presidents and their vacations are a chronic paradox. The job is way too hard and pressure-laden to do without occasional breaks. The job is also so important, that breaks always seem a little self-indulgent, and they're barely even breaks. The nuclear football is never far from the basketball hoop, and all the other duties of office follow you right onto the sailboat. President Obama taking some heat right now for playing golf while on vacation, right after processing and speaking about the tragic murder of James Foley. This is a little bit about a presidential vacation, and a little bit about this particular president, who frequently stands accused of having a peculiarly icy set of emotional reactions.
Watching Richard Linklater's "Boyhood", you keep waiting for the car crash, or the random act of violence that puts one of the characters into Intensive Care. Not because he gives you any reason to expect that, but because watching a lot of movies and television conditions us to anticipate a rhythm of plot points and dramatic upheavals, and then they don't come. Because one of Linklater's points is that time itself is a series of upheavals. Just growing up and growing old is a harrowing, exciting, and mind-blowing process. It turns out that the best way to make a movie about everything is to make a movie in which not much happens. We'll talk about the wildly original "Boyhood" on The Nose.
Can you ever make sense of a whole decade? That's what the National Geographic Channel tries to do with its three-part documentary on the '90s. So we get Bill Clinton, the building of the internet, Waco, O.J., the Oklahoma City bombing, Prozac, Starbucks, Tanya Harding, Kurt Loder, In Living Color, Rodney King and Reginald Denny, Anna Nicole Smith, the rise of SUVs and NMA, the fall of the Walkman and Tamagotchis, the Great Gretzky... This is starting to sound like a Billy Joel song.
Breathes there a man with soul so dead that he has never written a song parody?
Everybody does right? They get passed around on the schoolyard from the time we're little. Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, etc.
And, you might knock one out for a co-workers retirement party.
And, the internet is one big old song parody farm. In between last week's Nose on which we talked about a really terrible Comcast users service call and now, somebody on YouTube has set that call to music. No kidding.
We've never done this before but last night the three Nose panelists and I gathered at my house so we could all watch Snowpiercer, a sci-fi summer action movie with a brain. Snowpiercer is a meditation on leadership, climate change and socioeconomic inequality and it manages to tackle all of those topics without skimping on the bloody axe fights. It's based on a French graphic novel and it stars the actor who played Captain America in two movies and we're going to spend a lot of time today in that universe.
It's time for our cultural roundtable, The Nose! Insert smiling cat face with heart-shaped eyes. With 250 new emoji coming to a phone near you, we think it's time to give these tiny additions to our written language a face with stuck-out tongue and winking eye. Don't go all Hear No Evil Monkey on us!
This week on The Nose, our culture roundtable, we'll tackle "Columbusing," the act of believing that something never existed before you discovered it. Also, this week's biting episode in the World Cup makes us wonder if vampires are setting a bad example.
Jeff VanderMeer is one of the hottest writers in the science fiction and fantasy genre. MG Lord is a humorist and recovering political cartoonist who has written books about Elizabeth Taylor and Barbie. Louis Bayard writes historical fiction who specializes in detective novels, but his new book features Teddy Roosevelt stalking a mysterious beast through the Amazon. That's the river and jungle, not the book dealer.
It has been a strange week for mixing gay right, media, and politics. Texas Governor Rick Perry surprised a San Francisco audience when he said, "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at homosexual issues the same way." Anderson Cooper had an edgy conversation with a Texas -- what is it about Texas? -- state rep who supports the so-called "conversion therapy."
Today on The Nose, we begin with an essay, "Faking Cultural Literacy." Writer Karl Taro Greenfeld said, "It's never been so easy to pretend to know so much, without actually knowing anything." We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter, or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them.
Can the culture of one nation ever understand that of another? Critics say Fox's newest reality show in which 12 witless contestants believe their in a fight to the near death for the attention of England's Prince Harry. "I Wanna Marry Harry" is said to represent a new low in reality television.
This was a week when Connecticut professors got rambunctious, when pine tar was discovered in places it shouldn't have been, and when President Obama played soccer with a robot. I can't guarantee which of these things will make its way onto our weekly pop culture roundtable, The Nose, except definitely the professors.
This one from UConn mocked and challenged the arguments of a creationist, and this one from Eastern was caught railing against Republicans, calling them "racist, misogynistic, money-grubbing people" and saying colleges will close if the GOP takes over the Senate.
Scientists say the papyrus that mentions a wife of Jesus is not a forgery. Stephen Colbert will take over when Letterman leaves. I'm not saying the two things are connected, but maybe our weekly culture roundtable The Nose will find a common thread.
It might seem like a small thing - the departure of Stephen Colbert from his late night role in which he depicts a strutting, preening, right-wing media star. In the last analysis, who cares who takes over the Letterman show?
A hilariously fussy hotel manager with a taste for the high life is wrenched from his gay surroundings by the specter of war and a false murder charge. That doesn't sound terribly funny, but it's the premise for "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the latest Wes Anderson movie. Our Nose panelists all went to see it, and it will be one of our topics on this show.