The Nose

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It has been a busy week in culture. There were the deaths of Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams, and the latter death brought up questions about how people behave on social media when an icon passes. Also, he who is tired of sharks is tired of death. But we might be getting tired of sharks!

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

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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.

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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.

obnoxious and anonymous / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

What with the death of Archie and the news that the new movie Captain America will have a black actor and the new Thor will be a woman. Also, on our topic list will be the viral audio of a guy trying to cancel his cable subscription against spirited resistance from a comcast rep on the other end. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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!

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

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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.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

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You may have forgotten Monica Lewinsky, but she has not forgotten you. She's back with a Vanity Fair interview that re-ignites the whole debate about her.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

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.

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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?

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The original Carl Sagan "Cosmos" was at least  partly a response to the Cold War. Its message: "We're such little specks, can we embrace our common destiny and get along?"

You could look at the movie "Noah" and the remake of "Cosmos" as two manifestations of an odd phenomenon. 

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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.

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President Obama has consistently refused to be a panelist on The Nose, but his appearance this week on "Between Two Ferns" with Zach Galifianakis has given us new hope!

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Can great television be as satisfying as great literature? On today's Nose, we'll apply that question to HBO's True Detective. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Last Sunday, we took a road trip into New York City, but before we left, I read Beth Boyle Machlan's New York Times essay about the joys she sometimes gets driving with her kids, and surrendering their collective eardrums to the serendipities of commercial radio. She learns some of their songs, they learn some of hers... Everybody gives up some of the fierce control we all maintain these days over what we call our "playlists."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

While tying together all the stories for today's session of the Nose, I keep hearing (in my mind) Charlie Seen say, "Winning!" We have a lot of stories about how people who try to win, often by following the logic of a game out to its extremes.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Today on the Nose, we'll discuss one of those eruptions that happen in the digital world -- a frenzy of discussion and expressions of outrage over an essay on the site xojane, by a writer who tried to describe her reactions, as a skinny white woman, to the way she thought a heavyset back woman was reacting to her in yoga class.

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It was a fertile week for topics, but here at The Nose, we've boiled them down to four.

First, the decision by NBC to capitalize on its live Sound of Music ratings hit with a revival of the live TV Peter Pan. No cast has been announced yet, so that allows us to do some "dreamcasting. "

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Today on The Nose, we'll talk about this relatively insignificant bit of Rush Limbaugh peevishness, and the degree to which each of us thinks he or she has (informally speaking) patented something: a word, a phrase, a style we've made our own.

Also, Adam Platt's decision to dispense with the fiction that he, as a restaurant critic, is anonymous. It's not exactly the same as claiming to create, but Platt is talking about the anxiety of influence in a different way. How can one do "pure" work? 

MN National Guard / Creative Commons

It's 10:30 on a Friday morning, which is kind of "zero hour" for me to figure out the final order of topics for The Nose, our weekly culture roundtable. Maybe I can straighten out my own thinking and give you a window on our process in the same big gulp. 

The show, if you missed it, is here. But people often complain they can't write down the endorsements. 

Let me go first because my endorsement was rushed at the end. I endorsed this (older) book as a nice gift for someone who loves jazz standards and the American Songbook. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Here are the topics for The Nose today -- and this week we had to throw out a lot of perfectly good ones because there were so many:

We pretty much have to tackle the controversy around Duck Dynasty. One of the real life characters in the reality TV show gave an interview in which he aired his strong religious views, which included multiple denunciations of homosexuality as a sin.

Chion Wolf

Today, on The Nose, well we can't entirely ignore the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, but the subject is so vast we can only break off one little part. We're going to focus on an essay by Adam Gopnik and published in The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago. Gopnik probes the question of exactly what changed as a result of the crime and its murky aftermath. 

Chion Wolf

Here's the plan for The Nose today. We'll begin with a widely discussed column by Richard Cohen of The Washington Post who took an odd detour from a discussion of Chris Christie's national electoral profile and suggested that conventionally-minded people have to repress a gag reflex when confronted with the sight of an inter-racial couple, specifically the new first family of New York City. 

Last minute update: I'm fascinated by this article from this morning about Jacqueline Kennedy's pink suit -- maybe as a way in to a larger dicussion about this moment, about the way 11/22/63 is back and being re-processed through the lens of 2013. But I'm not sure the panel will go for it. 

It's 5:30 pm on Thursday, and I have so many tabs open on my browser I think Chrome could just implode, taking us all with it. This is not unusual as we get ready for The Nose, a weekly cultural roundtable. We look for a certain kind of "talkable" item, and finding them can be tough.

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