I decided to try it at an airport, because… I was already drinking a bloody, you know? Anyway I loved it, practically inhaled it, and then passed it on to a friend. She was looking for a pick-me-up, had been into the hard stuff lately. Pretty soon I found out another friend liked it, and a week later, a third confessed: She’d needed it, needed the break from reality.
Sometime after seeing Hamilton last summer—cough, humblebrag, cough—I came up with an ambitious reading idea, so ambitious that I shelved it for some future month/year, in which I might theoretically have a surplus of time and a deficit of new reality shows to watch. (Other such ideas postponed indefinitely: reading all of the books from a “Best 100 Books of All Time” list; reading every No. 1 New York Times bestseller for a year; actually finishing Infinite Jest.)
Hamilton is fantastic, and I’ll spare you the unnecessary piling on of compliments here. But outside of its amazingness, the show also prompted me (and many others) to pick up the biography on which it’s based, a tome by Ron Chernow that inspired Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda when he read it on vacation. Now, in the interest of full transparency: I haven’t actually started that biography yet, but it does occupy a prime spot in my apartment’s hierarchy of book piles—it could very well get read this decade. More important though, Chernow got me thinking: What if I tried to read one biography of each president, in order, starting with George Washington? Continue reading
Remember a few months ago when I told you Andy Weir’s stranded-in-space sci-fi novel The Martian is amazing and deserves all the great attention it’s getting as well as its Ridley-Scott-directed, Matt-Damon-starring movie adaptation? Well the trailer came out today and it looks GOOD.
If you haven’t read this book yet, jump on it.
Being a card-carrying* member of the lame-stream media, I am often forced to accept the ease with which the average consumer can — and loves to — pillory the current state of news. In 2014, finding an example of lazy, pandering or simply nonexistent journalism is as easy as turning on the television, or daring to type the word “cat” into a Google image search. And while there’s still a great deal of good work out there — for those so inclined to spend more time looking for it than bemoaning its alleged absence — it’s difficult to ignore that the ever-blurring line between information and entertainment has resulted in an America where MSNBC interrupts a congresswoman to report on breaking Bieber news.
*Still waiting for card.
As an emblem of The Problem With Media, Justin Bieber is tailor-made. He’s young, attractive and famous to a degree that both fascinates and disgusts us, revealing as it does some fundamental human tendency toward idolatry. As of late, Bieber has also proven himself a perfect storm of wealth and immaturity, the kind of person who gets his mansion raided by police because he egged his neighbor’s mansion. Without getting all intense about the state of journalism, it’s fair to say that Bieber is a car crash and America loves rubbernecking.
I’ve been a Duck Dynasty fan since the first season, when I would sing the show’s praises to anyone within earshot and foist recorded episodes onto unsuspecting visitors. And while my friends and family feigned a begrudging tolerance for the show — which is too improvised to be scripted and too staged to be reality — I could tell that they weren’t sold, not like I was. “It’s going to be big,” I’d mutter to myself as they shrugged off my over-eager descriptions of Si’s wisdom, or Duck Commander workroom tomfoolery. “Just you wait.”
And I was right. Having recently finished its fourth season, Duck Dynasty is huge. Eleven million viewers huge. Extremely comprehensive Walmart partnership huge. For the same intangible reasons that reality-show predecessors like Jersey Shore and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo captured a certain [ratings-boosting] je ne sais quoi, DD has easily become one of the most popular shows in the country. Which makes it super awkward for A&E that cast member/patriarch Phil Robertson – a crucial DD dispenser of old-timer Louisiana wisdom – made a series of offensive comments in an interview with GQ this week. The crucial excerpts are as such:
“‘Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.’ [Paraphrasing Corinthians] ‘Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.’”
… “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
… ”We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
Understandably, many people were offended. Many. A&E on Wednesday suspended Phil from the show “indefinitely,” which is a natural knee-jerk reaction, but also kind of like suspending Santa from the North Pole. Whether or not Phil commands the majority of screen time on DD, he is an important element of the family dynamic that makes the show so popular (I don’t buy into arguments that the aforementioned je ne sais quoi is the Robertsons’ read-between-the-lines Christian evangelism). Suspending Phil is like Jersey Shore suspending Snooki, or Honey Boo Boo exiling Mama June. However valid the reasoning, it don’t make no sense. Continue reading
If you’re looking for a tirade about the deterioration of culture—particularly television—then you’re definitely in the wrong place. While I do spend most of my days working with high-caliber journalism, and many of my nights reading, I also have a long list of guilty pleasures, including detritus like American Idol, Jersey Shore and nearly every iteration of Real Housewives. In the past, I’ve written impassioned defenses of Honey Boo Boo and stupid authors, and I will espouse the altruism of reality shows to anyone within earshot (“But they helped her get rid of all the dead cats!”)
So obvi I find myself eye-rollingly exhausted by backlash from Bravo’s latest glorifixplotation: Princesses: Long Island. The show, which fits nicely between the leather-skinned ladies of Real Housewives and the petulant adolescents of Teen Mom, centers on a group of Long Island 20-somethings who still live at home with their parents because, as cast member Chanel puts it, that’s “kind of a Jewish thing” and “kind of a Long Island thing.”
To the chagrin of many (and the surprise of few) it turns out that the National Security Agency is keeping an eye on us. If you’ve been sending tongue-in-cheek missives to your UK friends about “blowing up all of the buses because ughhh,” now might be the time to stop.
With this week’s revelations—brought to you by patriot/traitor/poor man’s Alexander Skarsgard Edward Snowden—Americans are understandably displeased. And, it would seem, anxious: Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have spiked on Amazon.
But are we really so close to the worlds envisioned by authors like Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Margaret Atwood? Let’s take a look. Continue reading