Culture

Media Matters

George Will Meets the Clerisy Media

By 6.24.14

The Clerisy Media strikes again. This time the target is longtime conservative columnist George Will, who was dispatched by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over a column on rape. But before that? The Los Angeles Times refused to publish letters to the editor from what the paper called “climate change deniers.” The Arizona Daily Sun has done the same.

A while back it was National Public Radio firing Juan Williams for comments made on Fox News about Muslims.

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Americana

Tonto and the Washington Redskins

By 6.24.14

Those of you who follow my writing will know that my taste in music is decidedly retro. The same can be said of my taste in TV programs. Give me The Bionic Woman over Mad Men any day of the week.

A few months ago, I began spending late Saturday and Sunday nights watching episodes of The Lone Ranger. I had not seen The Lone Ranger since the early 1980s when I lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I would watch it as part of the Matinee Money Movie that aired weekdays after school on the ABC affiliate based in Duluth, Minnesota.

I must confess that when I was younger I preferred John Hart’s portrayal of The Masked Man over that of Clayton Moore. But looking on it now, Moore’s interpretation resonates far more with me. Meanwhile, no matter which man led, Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto, stayed true.

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Flick Story

Disney’s ‘Maleficent’: Another Ho-Hum Gritty Reboot

By 6.24.14

My initial reaction on hearing that Disney was remaking Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of Maleficent was, “Oh God, not another one.” Batman, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White: Must everything get a gritty reboot? I'm surprised the recent My Little Pony show wasn't called “My Little Pony: Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death.”

And the villain's-eye view is also really played out. Grimmed-up, self-pitying tales of misunderstood outcasts are everywhere these days, simmering with Nietzschean ressentiment. It's like watching two hours of rationalizations: Other people never gave me a chance, you'd be like this too if you'd suffered like I have, I am secretly better than everyone.

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Mountain Men’s Conservatism

By on 6.23.14 | 11:51AM

Mountain Men is roughly a quarter of the way through its third season and continues to surprise critics with its popularity. The second season averaged between 3 and 3.5 million viewers per episode. 

What makes this remarkable is the incredibly repetitive nature of the show. The mountain men give voice-overs where they discuss the inevitable difficulties of living off the land as well as the dangers they face. The camera then moves to B-roll of beautiful landscapes. Predictably, a challenge arises and the characters must overcome it, until next week at least. There is almost no variation from this pattern, and yet the show remains quite popular. Why? 

There are two reasons for Mountain Men's success. First, it isn’t critically acclaimed shows that garner the highest ratings; even my favorite Mad Men gets crushed by formulaic (and entertaining) shows like The Big Bang Theory. These programs are popular because parents and families know what they are going to get. They can tune in and tune out because each episode is a self-contained story arc. Mountain Men is no different.

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Two-Time NL Cy Young Winner Kershaw Tosses No-Hitter

By on 6.19.14 | 12:23PM

Clayton Kershaw, who has won two of the last three NL Cy Youngs, threw a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies, striking out fifteen batters. 

It is the second no-hitter of the 2014 season. Both of them have been thrown by Dodgers pitchers. Josh Beckett hurled a no-no against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 25. 

It's amazing what can happen when you're asleep.

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Among the Intellectualoids

What ‘The Goldfinch’ and Commencement Speeches Have In Common

By 6.19.14

If you were following the great Commencement Speaker Bloodbath of 2014, you might have noticed that there were two stories happening. Here’s story number one: “hyper-sensitive college students suppress freedom of speech.” This was the story most people accepted at the time. The other story went like this: “college administrators and commencement speakers prove unable to handle freedom of speech.” This story, though less popular, fits the facts a little better.

Students, though loud and opinionated, have no real power; they can’t even suppress a mouse uprising in their dorm rooms without administrative help. As protests go, these were weak. Christine Lagarde, for instance, decided not to give an address at Smith’s commencement ceremony over a Change.org petition. When have you ever heard about a Change.org petition as anything other than the punchline to a joke?

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Flick Story

Rebellion Vs. Conformity in ‘We Are the Best!’

By 6.19.14

If We Are the Best! were The Breakfast Club, Allison would make over Claire—and the boys would just be accessories.

We Are the Best! is Lukas Moodysson’s confection about middle-school punker chicks in early ’80s Stockholm. Klara (Mira Grosin) is the cute, strident one with the cool parents. Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) is the mousy, insecure one who gets to stay over at Klara’s place so her mom can get on-again with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. They roam through their world, tiny splinters of arrogance and neediness, little idiots you’ll quickly come to love. 

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Round Three: USA and Ghana at the World Cup

By on 6.16.14 | 5:01PM

The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team makes its 2014 FIFA World Cup debut today at 6 p.m. ET. The Yanks face the Ghana Black Stars, which is sweet of lady luck—or FIFA, if match-fixing allegations are true—giving America the chance to find out if the third time really is the charm and get revenge for our knockout by Ghana in the last two World Cups. "Why can’t we beat them?" the Wall Street Journal asks with a tone of existential ennui.

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Game of Thrones: Privy Patricide on Father’s Day

By on 6.16.14 | 4:42PM

[Spoilers]

Game of Thrones recaps often read like fantastical obituaries. The season finale on Father’s Day marked the start of the Lannister downfall with Tyrion’s murder of his father Tywin. “I am your son.” Tyrion declared, before skewering Tywin on the privy with two close-range crossbow shots. So continues the dirge of Ice and Fire.

George R.R. Martin, the Grim Reaper, has created a show culture in which a character’s death scene becomes a celebratory event for the actors. For Ned Stark’s actor Sean Bean, death was just another day in the life of his volatile acting career, but for the victims of the Red Wedding, the situation was more emotional and surreal.

Actor Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark, cried on the plane ride home. After Ygritte’s last scene, the crew presented her with her character’s engraved bow.

Lord Tywin’s Charles Dance reportedly went out with applause and a personalized speech from the executive producers.

“He died like a boss,” said co-creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss in a joint statement.

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The Beer Spectator: Better for Teens to Drink Than Play It Safe

By on 6.13.14 | 5:05PM

The United States struggles with imparting its drinking culture to the young. As one of the few countries with a twenty-one-and-over drinking age, teenagers usually don’t discover the wonders of booze until college. On campus, fraternity parties and dorm drinking inevitably lead to excess. Freshmen get drunk, get sick, and learn about their tolerances with each can of Natty Light and cup of jungle juice.

To confront this, parents should start incorporating wine and beer into the family dinner during high school.

Of course, that’s if teenagers even want to drink alcohol. They may just want to smoke weed and play video games.

Unfortunately, kids today spend more time in front of a screen than any other generation, whether the device is a TV, mobile phone, or computer screen.  

Our youths mostly play it safe. Instead of drinking, smoking tobacco, and exercising, these teenagers play video games.

According to a survey of 13,000 high school students:

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