Don Draper is a Rock Star

By on 4.14.14 | 4:26PM

The final season of Mad Men premiered last night and unlike last season, started off on a high note. Don Draper’s first appearance made him look like an absolute rock star. He gets off the plane, sees his actress wife, all in slow motion to the sounds of The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man,” and the only thought that comes to mind is: Wow this guy is cool. But then Matthew Weiner, as he so often does, flips things on us by having Don’s wife drive while Don sits in the passenger seat. The times they are a-changin’, you see. Women drive now, no matter how cool you are.

(Spoilers ahead) 

Weiner has been insistent that Don Draper is America. If that’s true, then Don’s excursions to the West Coast are his version of manifest destiny. Don seems to continually believe things will be better if he reaches the shores of California.

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Capitalism and Politics…in Space!

By on 4.14.14 | 1:01PM

Outer space is cool. Add “in space” after something and it becomes ten times more interesting. Brussel sprouts…in space!

NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization mission not only includes efforts to robotically capture and manipulate an asteroid into the moon’s orbit, but also aims to land humans on an asteroid by 2025. 

If the mission is successful, it will be the first time humans have left low earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972. This mission will serve to build capabilities in robotics and launch technology for the eventual goal of landing on Mars in 2030.

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The Beer Spectator Tries Wheats for Spring

By on 4.11.14 | 4:24PM

Beer appreciation is not linear; it's circular.  First you love beer naively, out of a simple joy.  Then your head gets filled with a bunch of crap about what's "good" and you begin disliking beer out of a blind prejudice.  Finally, you come back to appreciating beer for its own nature. – Jeff Alworth

I reached the third stage of Jeff Alworth’s beervana this week. IPAs trapped me in a room with a painted sunset on the wall. The scent of Cascade hops flowed through the ventilation shafts. Why ever leave?

But then I did. No more would I drink only the quadruple dry-hopped-aroma-hopped time bombs that were manipulating my taste buds.

Wheat beers are out there in the sunny fields. They’re waiting to be tasted!

With my first real taste of this type, I realized what Alworth discovered: beer is beautiful. Not for the hops, nor for the malts; holistically 

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At Large

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom Doesn’t Belong in a Museum.

By 4.11.14

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the sound of nails scratching on the Blackboard Jungle. The body ostensibly honored Kiss, Cat Stevens, Nirvana, and Peter Gabriel, among others, by inducting them into their club last night at a party at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But the real honor goes to all those bands—Def Leppard, The Cure, Cheap Trick, etc.—snubbed from the guest list. "Yeah, yeah, yeah" and "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and "Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom" don’t belong cooped up behind a glass case in a museum.

The Sex Pistols understood this when they refused attendance at their induction a few years back. “Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain,” the punk rockers announced in 2006. “Were not your monkey and so what?” They redundantly added: “Were not coming.” The Sex Pistols may never have nailed the music. But here, as in so much, they grasped the attitude—even in their intentional grammatical faux pas. 

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Artists Don’t Owe You Anything

By on 4.10.14 | 11:20AM

Popular works of entertainment, be they mutant teenagers flying across the big screen or young heroines flourishing in post-apocalyptic scenarios on the printed page, are subject to endless criticism. Richard Roeper has made a career doing this very thing.

However, in the age of the Internet, a new form of criticism has emerged. I call it Goldilocks syndrome. This is defined as criticizing art based on the critic’s view of what the art should be. In other words, this porridge is too hot (based on what? Your subjective tastes? What about the creator’s desire for the porridge?) or this porridge is too cold. True evaluation of art has to take the work on its own terms in its own context. Another way of phrasing this would be to ask the question: "What was the artist’s goal in creating this work and how well did he achieve it?"

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Ladies: You Can’t Have It All

By on 4.9.14 | 5:07PM

In a low-blow attempt to make Republicans look like evil, money-hungry white guys who don’t care about women, Democrats recently introduced equal-pay legislation for the third time since 2010.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans voted no:

Republicans said the bill would make it hard for companies to award merit pay or offer flexible work hours in exchange for lower pay and expose employers to costly, frivolous lawsuits.

Ignoring the tired debate over whether Republicans hate women, let’s ask the relevant question: Do women really make less than men?

The 23 percent pay gap myth was already busted. Megan McArdle argued today that if you compare apples to apples—a man and a woman of the same age who work the same number of hours in the same profession with the same educational status—the gap shrinks to 5 percent.

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What's Still Great

What Is It About ‘Metropolitan’?

By 4.9.14

On March 16, Whit Stillman's debut comedy, Metropolitan, left the Netflix streaming library. Such changes are routine—doubtless, Metropolitan will return. Still, I mourned its departure, and I wasn’t the only one.

Metropolitan, on paper, is not an especially lovable movie. “When I think about it,” wrote a friend as he recommended the movie to me, “this Metropolitan movie is sort of awful in most respects.” And it is. It’s awkward, often at odds with itself, and pretentious. It’s a comedy, but a major subplot is about date rape. It’s a character-driven film, but half the cast is forgettable. It’s all about the dialogue, but the dialogue is incredibly artificial. Some of the actors can’t really act.

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Flick Story

Muppets Take Siberia

By 4.9.14

The new Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted, is basically 1981's Great Muppet Caper if you make Kermit self-pitying, Piggy helpless, and Russia the villain. Also, there are several gulag dance scenes.

The Great Muppet Caper is my own favorite Muppet movie: a thoroughly entertaining, refreshingly messageless slab of '80s cheese, whose dashing villain Nicky the Parasite made my little heart go pit-a-pat. So I wasn't sure how much I wanted a new film with self-aware framing-device songs, international travel, jewel heists, and Muppets in prison. Haven't we already got one? Muppets Most Wanted even has a quick clip of Esther Williams-style synchronized swimming, in homage to the wonderful “Ah, Miss Piggy, it's you!” sequence from Caper. But the opening of Most Wanted had some charming jokes, including a great Swedish Chef/Ingmar Bergman gag, so I settled in and hoped for the best. 

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The All-American Captain America

By on 4.7.14 | 5:14PM

On Friday night I reluctantly dropped $17 to watch Captain America in 3D. Sliding into the cushy seat with a bag of popcorn and a Diet Coke, I hoped the experience would be worth it. Truthfully, I’m no die-hard Marvel fan, but by the time I left the theater, Cap had stolen my heart and ignited it with patriotic pride.

I was worried about classy Cap being thrown into the mess of our age. I’d rather him stay in 1940 so I could dream of time-traveling back to the good ole days when women wore skirts instead of yoga pants. Instead, I thought he successfully injected our cynical world with a dose of WWII American pride. 

So you can imagine my shock when I read Armond White’s scathing review of the film. He writes:

[Captain America] Evans’s emblematic face has no emotion behind it. What he conveys, actually, given the way the actor plays down physical passion in favor of bland duty, is a political anachronism.

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Gay Activists: Be Tolerant. Or We Will Destroy You!

By on 4.4.14 | 6:11PM

We have made great strides in the policing of thought in this country. Just ask Brendan Eich, one of the founders of Mozilla, developers of the web browser Firefox. Eich had just landed a promotion to the big chair as Mozilla's CEO. He lasted all of nine days. The reason? Back in 2008 Eich donated a thousand dollars to support Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage. The unearthing of this donation led to protests from gay rights activists and the high profile call for a boycott of Firefox by dating site Eich, as many people in circumstances such as his, was stricken with the sudden desire to "spend more time with his family" and quietly resigned.

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