Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Sunday, Jan 31, 2010
While sick last week, I took the opportunity to catch up on a marathon of HBO's Hung.

As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I am currently enjoying a three-month free trial of HBO and various other premium channels, which probably explains the predominance of HBO and Showtime series in my writings. If you don’t want to pay for premium channels and can’t convince your cable provider to give you a free trial (give it a try one day), then, well, I was going to apologize, but you probably aren’t reading this blog.


Anyway, I recently DVR’d the first season of HBO’s Hung. I remember reading primarily negative reviews when the show premiered, so I set the recent marathon to record out of a somewhat morbid curiosity. Much to my surprise, I found Hung to be an extremely enjoyable viewing experience. The leisurely paced first season chronicles high-school basketball coach Ray Drecker’s attempts to dig himself out of a financial and psychological hole by becoming a prostitute (or, as his wonderfully clueless pimp Tanya Skagle deems him, a “happiness consultant”).


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Saturday, Jan 30, 2010

I can’t help leaving Episode Two behind with a distinct distaste for the judges and their pipe cleaner frameworks, especially the slithering way Michael Kors talks about women and age. He may as well come out and call some of the dresses “deathy”.


There’s this stunningly vacant moment in the introduction to the Vogue documentary, The September Issue, where Anna Wintour theorizes (as much as a woman who spends her days saying “this one”, “that one” can be said to theorize) that people make fun of fashion because they are intimidated and have never been part of the popular crowd. I’ve always made fun of people in fashion because many of them, like Anna Wintour, seem self-important and dumb. And yet, in the same documentary, the viewer meets Grace Coddington, a woman whose sense of the beautiful was so painterly and grand, that I instantly understood how someone could devote their life to capturing the essence of rapture. She had instinct, intellect and vision. Fashion is not intrinsically the province of special needs.


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Thursday, Jan 28, 2010

Everything is big in Texas, including, judging by the American Idol auditions in Dallas, the talent. It was in Dallas, after all, that the judges found Season One winner Kelly Clarkson, and the clips from those days were a reminder of how the judges looked nine years and several million dollars ago. Joining the table for day one in Big D was the generally entertaining Neil Patrick Harris, who acknowledged his role as the show’s Jerk of the Day by ironically describing his goal as to crush as many dreams and make as many people cry as possible.


The Doog may have had little sympathy for the contestants who prostrate themselves in the hallway and wail to high heaven after being cut (“If they can’t handle this heat, that [Hollywood] stage is a broiler”), but he had less opportunity to lower the boom than on previous shows. Easing up on the parade of clowns, the show focused almost entirely on promising singers, handing out a whopping 32 golden tickets, a season record. The only attempt at drama on this night was the producers’ efforts to set up a pissing contest between Harris and Simon, which wasn’t terribly convincing despite careful editing.


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Thursday, Jan 28, 2010
Courtesy of the folks at ABC, five seasons of Lost in just over eight minutes.

If you are like me, you’re already getting excited about the return of Lost next week.  It has been five seasons so convoluted and compelling that it is cathartic just to know that the end is in sight.  Of course, if you’re truly like me, you’ve also forgotten more about what happened in those previous five seasons than you remember. 


The producers at Lost and the good folks at ABC actually don’t get enough credit for their recaps.  Here’s their latest, which condenses five seasons in eight minutes and 15 seconds (which, by my somewhat shaky math, takes about 4,627 fewer minutes than watching all your DVDs again).  This won’t help anyone catch up with Lost, but it is a clever, funny, poignant, and ultimately useful way to warm up for the new season if you’ve been watching all along but need to be reminded exactly what the deal was with that hatch again.  Hopefully, the final season itself will be this good.


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Wednesday, Jan 27, 2010

Eleven thousand hopeful Los Angelinos filled the Rose Bowl to audition in front of Randy, Kara, and Simon, plus the wizened gaze of guest judge Avril Lavigne. It may be the City of Angels, but Avril showed up in a devil-horn hoodie, which fit her giggly, sneery ridicule of the contestants. Perhaps it was her snaggletooth, but Avril’s mean streak apparently rubbed off on the rest of the judges, who turned in their rudest performance of the auditions so far. At this point, the show misses Paul Abdul, if only because she was often the only one with the decency not to humiliate people to entertain the home audience. Ellen Degeneres will likely be helpful in this regard although by the time we get to her, the worst of the singers will have already been laughed off the stage.


Indeed, Avril is too old for this type of giggling (or the hoodie), and she’s also too young to scoff at some of these hopefuls. The worst it got was the reaction to A.J. Mendoza, an Adam Lambert wannabe—they are, predictably, out in droves this year—who made the unfortunate choice of singing Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”. Mendoza badly oversang, yes, but he seemed like a nice enough guy and claimed to have gotten some encouraging feedback from Lambert himself, which gave him confidence going into the rehearsal. The judges did their best to deflate him with a blast of snickering ridicule, even though Mendoza was trying to listen to them for genuine criticism.


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