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

 

Latest Posts

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Jul 25, 2008
Wendy Ho -Bitch, I Stole Your Purse

I first heard the homemade stylings of Ms. Ho in a song with the chorus “cocaine makes my pussy pucker, mother fucker”.  I have a weakness for this kind of reform school girl hoetry.  I know its kitsch, I fully understand that it’s quality is non-existent, though it’s certainly enjoyable as a joke and as a dark expression of our repressed desires to see Ho Heroines beating up rich bitches for their expensive accessories.  There comes a time to relax your critical faculties and enjoy a novelty act that, unlike a lot of mainstream pop, at least has novelty on its side. 


But the reason I really enjoy this kind of d.i.y. profanity is that is shows how much conservatism there is in the uniformly dull and dreary world of hip hop crime and sexuality.  Even the misogyny is boring, with the women stuffed in to clothes that look like punishments gyrating in front of expensive toys.  I guess the point of misogyny is not the desiring of women, but their potential easy, coerced accessibility.  Again, boring.  This is not to suggest that misogyny is bad because it’s not entertaining, just that people like Wendy Ho and other outsiders like the queer hip hop community have far more verbally expressive persona.  I think this sexual reserve in a lot of straight men rapping (What the hell does hittin’ it entail?) displays a lack of imagination when it comes to fucking coupled with a puritanical fear of the pussy.  Get on this, people, and unpack your adjectives.


Tagged as: wendy ho
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Jul 25, 2008

Pardon the brief hype but PopMatters was nice enough to publish my digital survival guide for publications article today.  I hope that some pubs out there find something useful in there to help them (lord knows they need it).


A few other thoughts to go with that:


- Why didn’t I just make it a blog entry here?
I was considering that but as the article kept expanding, it seemed like more than a blog entry.  I worked on it for over a month, gathering sources and considering and reconsidering what I had to say.  Also, I wanted to have someone else check it over to see if I really was making sense with everything I said (thanks Zeth, thanks Sarah).  In addition, I thought the topic might be important enough to other people in the industry to warrant making it into an article.  That doesn’t mean I’m slogging off my own blog or blogs in general but I do think there’s a difference between what I write here and what I write for an article (as I explain above).  Obviously since I keep doing this blog, I think it’s a totally valid form of communication and information, just a different type of both things.


Truth be known, there’s a large blog post that I’ve been mulling for a few weeks also (about the ongoing funeral for critics) that I unfortunately keep putting off because there’s a lot I’d like to say but I haven’t found the time yet to find the right way to say it yet.  My blog file here is littered with entries like, sad to say.  One day, I hope to go through them and finally post them here.


- So is the article the last word on it?
Obviously, it ain’t and not just because technology keeps changing the game every day.  I didn’t include a lot of specifics because, I readily admit, I don’t have all the answers.  No one really does at this point and that’s part of the problem.  As I point out, even as answers emerge, they’ll likely be over-run by the next tech innovation that comes along and everyone will have to rethink what they do yet again.  That’s why it’s so important to bear down on the tech component of the news industry and keep working on it.


I expect my share of slings and arrows ‘cause I didn’t nail down specifics but I’d also hope that anyone knocking the piece would at least come up with some of their own ideas or suggestions.  Hey, I can dream, right?


- So there’s NO real long-term solution?
Well… I thought about that since I wrote the piece and maybe there is something that can be done.  Maybe there would be some sort of organization (say it was organized by people in the industry including owners, publishers, writers, editors) that could experiment and try out tech ideas that could help out publications?  Maybe a non-profit could do this?  It could at least provide some good temporary solutions and also try to figure out some long-term ones too.  If I could ever find some free time, I’d be glad to be a part of this myself but I’d just be grateful to see some kind of group like this emerge.


- Is there anything you can do for now?
Yep.  There is one really important and simple thing you can do right now and keep on doing.  Any time you read a good article, make an effort to write to the author and compliment them.  Also, send a letter to their editor to thank them too.  This profession is getting to be more and more of a thankless job and every little bit of kindness helps.  Also, it shows not just the writer but also the paper itself that someone’s reading them and cares about what they have to say.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 24, 2008

After last week’s Bat-mania, it’s time for Hollywood to trek on, unveiling yet another array of tent pole titles. For 25 July, here are the films in focus:


X-Files: I Want to Believe [rating: 6]


In a summer that’s seen its fair share of outsized spectacle, everything about X-Files: I Want to Believe is somber, subdued, and in the end rather minor.

While some may consider it blasphemous, The X-Files was really nothing more than somber serious science fiction in an era overrun by otherwise slapdash space operatics. It channeled V, various conspiracy theories, and just enough Night Gallery ghoulishness to keep geeks glued to the set. When it failed to fully deliver on its multi-layered mythology (are you listening, Lost?) viewers began packing up and leaving the speculation to the likes of nerds like Whedon. Now, a TV lifetime since it’s last legitimate episode (and a previous film that filled in some midpoint alien invasion blanks), agents Mulder and Scully are back…except they no longer work for the FBI…and they no longer oversee the investigation of the X-Files…and this latest sequel has nothing to do with the show’s previous extraterrestrial cabal. Huh? read full review…


 


Step Brothers [rating: 7]


It’s hard to deny how absolutely hilarious Step Brothers really is. You may feel guilty as Hell for laughing at it, but it definitely does earn its cheap and childish giggles

Embarrassing as it may seem, we’ve all been there - laughing when the fat man splits his pants, fighting off hysterics after an old lady farts. Even the most erudite among us can’t deny that, on occasion, an expletive suits a situation far better then a calmly thought out rejoinder. Let’s face it - buried deep within all of us is a primordial appreciation of the infantile. Whether it is monkeys flinging their own poo or babies whizzing in their parents’ somehow shocked faces, the scatological and the sophomoric twinge an ancient aspect of our genetic make-up.  read full review…


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 24, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner.

Under fading skies, and in front of a casual yet receptive crowd, the Robert Glasper trio produced music that was both visceral and exuberant. It was just the chill, hip-hop associated jazz to cool a hot summer city night. Beginning with straight-up versions of songs from Glasper’s 2007 release In My Element, the group quickly developed into harmonious yet deconstructive musical tangents, each player part of a harmonious polyrhythmic dialogue.


The trio (Vincente Archer and Chris Dave backed Glasper on bass and drums respectively) dispensed smiles and head bobbing with each stylistic morph. During the fading denouement of “F.T.B” Glasper demurely faded into “My Favorite Things” before toying with “Scarborough Fair” on his way to the end. The melancholic, “Maiden Voyage / Everything In Its Right Place” featured more of Chris Dave’s rhythmically precise percussion volatility, dynamic hi-hat flurry, and sizzling rides.



Overall it was the trio’s grace, timing, dynamics, communication, and funky beats that captivated the audience, young and old alike.



Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 24, 2008

Embarrassing as it may seem, we’ve all been there - laughing when the fat man splits his pants, fighting off hysterics after an old lady farts. Even the most erudite among us can’t deny that, on occasion, an expletive suits a situation far better then a calmly thought out rejoinder. Let’s face it - buried deep within all of us is a primordial appreciation of the infantile. Whether it is monkeys flinging their own poo or babies whizzing in their parents’ somehow shocked faces, the scatological and the sophomoric twinge an ancient aspect of our genetic make-up.


Perhaps that’s why, in spite of our own civilized better judgment, the newest Will Ferrell/Adam McKay effort, Step Brothers, is so funny. Not only does it take foulness to a whole new level of arrested adolescence, but it actually banks on our love of such untenable tastelessness. The storyline is deceptively simple. While at a medical convention, Dr. Robert Doback meets Nancy Huff. Since both are single, they fall into an easy relationship. Fast forward a few months, and they are getting married. This really cramps the style of their sons - both of whom are middle-aged and still living at home.


Brennan Huff is a wannabe singer who refuses to accept his Mom’s new man. He also hates that his younger brother Derek consistently undermines his station and self-esteem. Uber-slacker Dale despises his Dad’s decision. After all, this means that a lady will be part of the Doback design, and this means much less musk-scented machismo. When they are forced to live together as step-brothers, sibling rivalries instantly come crashing to the fore. The result is 80 minutes of profanity, pranks, and the kind of over the top physical shtick that hasn’t been seen since Inspector Clouseau battled his manservant Kato for dominance over their Parisian apartment.


It’s hard to deny how absolutely hilarious Step Brothers really is. You may feel guilty as Hell for laughing at it, but it definitely does earn its cheap and childish giggles. Like a lewd, later day classic comedy team, Ferrell and symbiotic performance partner John C. Reilly make a terrific post-modern mess. They play off each other in ways that signal their same wavelength wantonness, and it’s clear that neither man is a hostage to current trends in male body typing. Though clearly created as a vehicle for both, it’s equally hard to imagine two other actors who could fit as easily into Brennan and Dale’s skid-marked shorts.


Step Brothers is, in essence, cinematic stand-up, all set-ups and payoffs. There is no real narrative nuance on display, the closest we get to reality being the foulmouthed fight between the four members of this cobbled together clan. Even the inclusion of Brennan’s self-aggrandizing brother Derek (a nicely nauseating turn by Adam Scott) is just the fuel for more prurient punchlines. While actual adults Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins definitely get to flex their foul mouthed muscles, it’s purely Ferrell and Reilly’s show - and they make the most of it. As they did in the delightful Talladega Nights, the pair swaps specialties, giving each other the opportunity to shine in ways that feel unique and unusual even if they are merely the same old scatology.


Of course, films like this need nasty set pieces to manufacture return adolescent word of mouth, and Step Brothers has plenty. Ferrell is beaten up and forced to lick a petrified dog turd…by a bunch of grade schoolers. Reilly gets the hand banana treatment from Derek’s wife. Perhaps most memorably, a conflict between the ‘boys’ results in Ferrell wiping a particularly private area all over Reilly’s drum kit…and the camera never flinches. Some might call it repulsive, but McKay understands the allure of such repugnance. In a world where Jackass frequently reminds us that our greatest comedic asset is ourselves, such gonzo groin antics are to be expected. Making them anything other than nauseating takes a certain cinematic skill, something the cast here completely understands.


Ferrell is always getting ribbed for playing the same stunted adult, a manchild incapable of reacting to situations in a grown-up, non-goofy manner. Here, he stands accused, but also adds a nice layer of pathos to his overgrown teen’s social IQ. We expect this from him and he doesn’t disappoint. Reilly is the real revelation however, if only because he moves so effortlessly from serious actor (The Aviator, Magnolia) to roles of outright idiocy. Here, Dale is the more defensive element of the pairing, the midlife crisis kid that fails to understand exactly why he has to conform to a life mandated set of rules. Together, they spark the kind of interest that gets us past the lax story designs and last act upheaval.


As a director, McKay doesn’t get a lot of credit. This happens a lot in motion picture comedy. Everyone points to Judd Apatow as some sort of cinematic savior, but this fails to take into consideration how adept he is behind the camera. The same goes for the man responsible for such broad scoped efforts as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and Talladega Nights. Here, the avenues are much smaller, but this doesn’t mean McKay lowers his aim. There is an ambition here that’s hard to shake, a sense that the filmmaker, in conjunction with his leads, wants to stretch old school slapstick into something almost surreal. Step Brothers is indeed a mind boggler, the kind of laughfest experience that has you shaking your head in dumbfounded disbelief at what has you giggling.


Naturally, any viewer offended by the notion of 40 year old men acting like they’re 14, including all the summer camp crudeness that accompanies the prospect, will despise Step Brothers. To them, it will be yet another example of bodily fluids replacing wit as a means of getting already shell shocked and desensitized audiences to laugh. But that would miss many of the film’s undeniable pleasures. Sure, there is something inherently sick about seeing a balding buffoon kicking the crap out of little kids, and nothing defensible can be found in a grown man groveling like a grounded middle schooler. But Step Brothers is a pristine example of vulgarity taken to endearing extremes. Check your sense of propriety at the door and simply go with the foul flow. Save the shame for another.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2015 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.