Saturday, November 1, 2003

RES IPSA LOQUITOR: Honestly, wasn't it a lot easier to like Emo Punk before we gave it that stupid name? As soon as I heard somebody use that term I knew that an organic tendency had grown into a plastic genre that would thereafter exuse any extreme of derivative excess or spiritless prefabrication. No, really.

As soon as I heard it called something, named by society for an industry that would market it as such, I knew that there was an "Emo Punk" cover of Peter Cetera's Glory of Love out there somewhere, and that when I found it, it would suck. Where is Screetching Weasel when you need them? ...I'd even settle for Kevin Seconds.

And sadly, I think I have to blame Green Day, who I love, for proving that this mode of punk music mass hyper-marketable. Turned it into a goddamn twinkie.

Friday, October 31, 2003

"YOU KNOW THAT GROSS JUST-BRUSHED-YOUR-TEETH-AND-THEN-DRANK-ORANGE-JUICE FEELING?" The good folks at Low Culture do, which is why they want to know: What the fuck is up with citrus flavored mouthwash and toothpaste?

Now, give me Old Bay flavored toothpaste, and I'm all over that.

(Speaking of which: anyone want to cook Herr's Old Bay Chip-Crusted Deep Fried Calamari Rings With Roasted Red Pepper Coulis?)
IN TELEVOLUTION, REALITY DATING IS THE PLATYPUS: First there was the Dating Game, then Love Connection and Studs, all shows in which people exposed their wooing, in varyingly suggestive degrees, for no other reason than brief publicity. Those shows begat Blind Date, Elimidate, Chains of Love, Dismissed, and many others, each based upon the premise that young and often extravagantly incompatible imbeciles are watchable if hot tubbing is a possibility. At some point in that line, a gene mutated and we got the deformed spectacle of desperate women on the perceived cusp of old maidhood fighting to wed a lying, unfunny, possibly menacing comic. The DNA righted itself, however, when TV realized that one minor tweak -- replacing "menacing and fake-rich" with "bland and actually rich" -- turned sad pimping into fairy-tale romance; hence the Bachelor/ette. Mad scientists, unsatisfied with this natural progression, amped up the deceit and asked: how long will we feel bad for watching women claw each other to get to a dull-witted construction worker if they think he's rich? (Answer: a couple of weeks.)

Thank goodness we didn't stop there. We now scale the heights of reality dating evolution and simultaneously plumb the depths of dignity with a show featuring alpha-male contestants competing for the affections of, and pawing at, a lovely pre-operative transsexual (link via
AND IN A VERY SPECIAL HOLIDAY EPISODE, THOM PAINTS VERTICAL STRIPES: Fighting off the shark with all its might, Queer Eye returns on November 18 with five new episodes.

I've predicted the demise of the show before, and really, hasn't all the momentum now been lost? Now that the summer's gone and there's new programming all around, does anyone still want to see Kyan tell another guy to shave slower and with the grain? To see Jai accompany others on their shopping sprees and look cute, but have nothing for himself to do?

It's kinda like ABC still broadcasting Who Wants To Be A Millionaire after we've seen someone win the million dollars. We know what they can do, and we know what it looks like. Is there anything else to see here?

Thursday, October 30, 2003

FROM THE NOSTALGIA FILE: Heard, in a deli, a song I've been thinking about a lot lately but haven't heard since the early 1980s: the Beatles medley by Stars on 45. Proof positive that if you come along at the right time, you can make anyone -- American, European, or Taiwanese -- buy any load of crap you're selling.
IF SEASON TWO WAS 'TWO CATHEDRALS,' THIS SEASON IS HALF A STOREFRONT SYNAGOGUE OFF FAIRFAX NEXT TO THE 20/20 VIDEO: Of course people want off ER -- it has been tired and dull for years. The question is why we're not hearing more about people wanting off of the West Wing. TWW is populated with a lot of auction-glib actors who thrived on Sorkin's dense, textured scripts. They got a lot of lines, they got to seem smart, and they got to do a show that was at times genuinely funny in a smart way.

The only thing that can be said for this season is that it's less preachy. It also has less of everything else -- less dialogue, less intelligence, less humor. The contrivances this season -- Will typing insults into the teleprompter script; people accidentally tipping off the FBI as to the First Daughter's whereabouts -- have been embarrassing. Last night's episode hinted that it's only going to get worse as Wells replaces Sorkin's characters with robots programmed to exhibit one or two traits: Leo as Jerky Hard-Ass Boss; CJ as Idealistic Crybaby. They're already planting the seeds for depatures -- Sorkin vet Malina may be moving to the Navy Observatory; Schiff wants to quit; Janney may get fired -- and I would be surprised if the season ended without a serious loss of talent. The real question is whether anybody will be watching by then.
ROSALIND SHAYS MEMORIAL THREAD: Due to popular demand, the comments section of this post is hereby opened to anyone who wants to know about -- and discuss -- The Impending Spoiler That Will Ruin 'ER' Forever.

Click on Comments at your own risk. You've been warned.
DON'T GIVE THIS SUCKER NO STATUE. GIVE HIM GUTS: I'm disappointed at the good people of the Philadelphia Daily News for not picking up on an obvious reference today.

Here's the scene: Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz is speaking at a rally in South Philadelphia. His wife is there. Members of the Democratic-affiliated electrical and cement masons unions have crashed the event, and are attempting to drown out the candidate with booing and abusive heckling:
According to witnesses at the scene, cement mason Michael Fera - who had heckled Katz at an event earlier in the month - went a step further, badgering Connie Katz with lewd remarks out of the earshot of the candidate as she left the rally.

"You know you want to be with a real man," he allegedly said.

And they leave it at that.

But badgering a wife at a Philadelphia rally? Am I the only person in the City of Brotherly Love who's seen Rocky III?

Let me set the scene: Rocky's being honored at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with the dedication of a staute in his honor. His wife Adrian is there, eager to see her husband announce his retirement from the ring. The Abraham Lincoln High School (which Stallone attended) marching band is there, playing, of course, the theme from the Rocky movies.

And, as anyone who has seen the movie remembers, heavyweight challenger Clubber Lang is there too. After challenging Rocky to a match, he spots Adrian in her fur coat, and this is what he says:
Hey, woman! Hey, woman! Listen here, since your old man ain't got not heart, maybe you'd like to see a real man. I bet you stay up late every night dreaming you had a real man, don't you? Why don't you bring your pretty little self over to my apartment tonight, and I'll show you a real man.

My prediction for this election? Pain.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

AND TO THINK SHE FORGOT THE EIGHTH DWARF, HUNKY (KOVAC): You think I'm having problems with ER?

Check out Heathen's TWoP recap of last week's show:
Aw. It's like the seven dwarves of ER here. We have Wheezy (Coop), Stumpy (Romano), Screechy (Weaver), Needy (Abby), Cocky (Pratt), Dopey (Malarkey), and even though we haven't seen her yet, Bitchmaggot (Chen). Sure, it's not a fairy-tale name, but she's not a fairy-tale personality.

Were people saying this stuff back in the day about St. Elsewhere?
JOINING THE RANKS OF TEX COBB, GINA GERSHON AND JOAQUIN PHOENIX, AMONG OTHERS: Thanks to Philadelphia Weekly's Jessica Pressler, I am now officially a bold-faced name. Eek!

(The original Nas sighting item is here.)
GEEKS LIKE ME: A few nights ago, when Jen and I went out for our anniversary dinner (and, like, wow on that front), we got to talking about growing up and trying to fit in socially, and I mentioned my best friend Craig from high school, with whom I was very close but who also ran with a D&D-heavy crowd that I wasn't as fond of.

But the thing was, while there were D&D geeks back then, and computer geeks, and math & science geeks, there weren't rammaging hordes of pop culture geeks yet. Heck, I wasn't even one yet. There wasn't a geek subculture in which I really fit in.

(High school for me was 1986-90, for those keeping track.)

Why was this? How did it happen that now, there are these masses of pop culture geeks dominating the internet and print media where we did not exist before?

After thinking about it some, let me sketch out three general trends which converged in the early 1990s to make this kind of geekery possible -- something that has led many of you, I figure, to sites like this. Subject to revision, here goes:

1. The technology was ready. Start with cable television and VCRs, the tools that allowed people to rewatch programming and movies over and over again. Until you could watch Top Gun five times a weekend thanks to TBS, you couldn't get past just watching it for story and, while re-watching it for the nth time, start to notice its blatantly homoerotic subtext.

And then Usenet bulletin boards came, and then the Internet, and soon people had a place to share these thoughts, and to unload all the knowledge of The Brady Bunch that years of syndication created. It provided a space where we knew we were not alone. But just as importantly . . .

2. There was a new popular culture worth discussing. And on this, two shows more than any other, which both emerged at around the same moment, lent themselves to the kind of obsessive re-viewing and analysis that is the hallmark of pop culture geekery: The Simpsons and Twin Peaks.

Both shows rewarded detailed re-watching, lending themselves to discussions of minor plot points and obscure characters. And The Simpsons, more than any show before or since, itself was a recycler and interpreter of popular culture, inspiring meta-discussions of formula and stock characters in a way that shows like SNL which mostly stayed at the level of parody.

Moonlighting, too, was often very good at calling attention to its own conventions and spoofing them, but after Maddie got pregnant, it all went to shit.

A few smaller thoughts here on the culture itself: one, that the alternative music explosion -- that is, before we started to have to put quotes around the word "alternative", gave our generation music over which we felt some sense of ownership; two, but related, that the John Hughes films, in catering to our generation growing up, played a strong role in both making us feel part of the popular culture and in providing a common text for discussion.

Also: I think that Kevin Smith, and to a lesser extent Quentin Tarantino, may have had something to do with it, at least in terms of creating a whole "cultural insider"/outsider dynamic where if you were "in", you got the jokes, etc.

And finally on this point: MTV's Remote Control and Trivial Pursuit had something to do with it. Maybe, a lot.

3. Geekery gained legitimacy. In February 1990, Entertainment Weekly debuted. Pop culture snark had a voice. Also, see Prof. Robert Thompson, the man who gave it academic legitimacy.

(There's more to fill in here, I know, but EW's at the center of it, I think.)

There is a counter argument: Maybe pop culture geekery existed all along (see, e.g., Star Trek geeks), and my generation just needed to get old enough to gain the critical distance from the culture to stop merely being consumers and to start being able to focus on both the bigger picture and the details.

But pop culture geekdom isn't just obsessive detail analysis. It's more -- and I know some will scoff at the term -- meta. It's big picture, What Makes This A 'Very Special Episode'/Why Does Ted McGinley Ruin Shows type stuff, as well as just being a mood, a way of watching tv/movies that I don't think really existed before the early 1990s.

Or maybe it did. And maybe I've got this all wrong, or everything I just said is completely pointless, or obvious, or both. How did you become a pop culture geek?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

SET YOUR TIVOS, VCRS AND RELATED DEVICES: The West Wing episode "Two Cathedrals", which has been hailed by many of you as the best hour of dramatic television of the past decade, airs on Bravo tonight at 7pm and 11pm, as well as noon tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2003

$.02: Damn. I would throw in here, but I seem to have an acute case of "the shorts" on this topic. Does anyone but me remember The Adventures of Pete & Pete?