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

 
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Friday, Feb 12, 2010

The pomp and circumstance of the Winter Olympics are set to kick off in Vancouver tonight. And while athletes and enthuisiasts alike are girding their high-fives for triumph, there’s also plenty of room for tribulation. Thanks to the internet, the failed feats of Olympians both past and present are available at our fingertips. A rudimentary search of YouTube on the morning of the joining together of the world’s nations provides plenty of Olympic bloopers, including one set to the jarring tune most recognizable to anyone ever subjected to the high-speed bawdy chase scenes on the old Benny Hill Show. Hold the torch aloft, Olympians. Just hold it perfectly still, or you may soon wind up in a montage of infamy.



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Monday, Feb 8, 2010

With audiences of up to 150 million viewers, the Super Bowl is traditionally the highest-rated annual event on American TV. However, the reason for this has very little to do with football. The modern day Superbowl is a combination of virtually all facets of the entertainment industry. Celebrities appear, top musicians perform, patriotism is on display, highly anticipated movies are advertised, and new products are pushed to consumers for no significant reason other than the fact that they can be.


A pre-taped performance of Jay-Z with an orchestra performing “Run This Town” (without Rihanna, oddly) ushered in the experience. Later on, Queen Latifah sang “America the Beautiful”, but she got off to a shaky start probably because of microphone problems. Carrie Underwood then sang the national anthem in acapella with complete confidence. The half-time show was a mini-concert by the Who. Despite their rough voices, they were instrumentally great in their performances of “Pinball Wizard”, “Baba O’ Riley”, “Who Are You?”, “Tommy”, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.


The football game itself was an interesting match, the Indianapolis Colts, last year’s champions, were up against first-time competitors the New Orleans Saints. While New Orleans won the coin toss, a seemingly trivial moment that is treated like it holds the utmost importance, the Colts mostly dominated the game. That is, until the last quarter, when the Saints surged ahead by five points. The game actually ended 44 seconds early, with New Orleans besting Indianapolis with a score of 31 to 17. Quarterback Drew Brees held his baby on the field before accepting the Most Valuable Player award, with a noticeable gash on the side of his face. Meanwhile, the cameras cut to the celebration in the streets of New Orleans, noting how far they have come since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.


With all of this drama, though, CBS routinely reminded viewers that the much-hyped commercials were on the way as if they were the main event. Some of these were for CBS’ TV shows, including a montage of NCIS-style head-slapping set to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and a preview of a new medical drama produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Miami Medicine, that premieres in April. A funny, but intrusive moment came when Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory appeared on the screen to notify us that he hacked into the Super Bowl and that he wishes that whatever team you do not like is “less effective”. As for the rest of the commercials, I’ll detail the best and worst of them in another post.



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Monday, Feb 1, 2010

While the show proclaimed itself, “ladies’ night”, more noticeable was the theme of robots, metallic fabrics, and the future. The Black Eyed Peas performed “Imma Be” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” with dancers dressed as speakers, Beyonce’s dancers resembled Robocop. Even the head of the recording academy referred to the future in his annual overwrought speech to the public.



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Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010

For those of us who can’t make it to Utah this year, don’t feel bad: you can still experience a lot of the action on the Sundance Channel’s website. On top of red carpet photos, critical buzz, and high society party reports, 31 Days of Sundance streams some interesting behind-the-scenes video about the upcoming indies / possible future sleeper hits.


Among the films featured is The Freebie, a low budget dramedy about a seemingly content couple who, despite their superficial chemistry, are having little sex behind closed doors. To mix up their sex life, the two decide to grant each other a “freebie”, or a no strings-attached one night stand with another partner (shades of Curb Your Enthusiasm). The film is written, directed, and starring newcomer Katie Aselton (The Office, The League), who in this interview is joined by her costar, a increasingly mature Dax Shephard.


Aselton recounts how when she complained no one was calling her for work, her husband and League co-star Mark Duplass (referred to here as the “king of the do-it-yourself film movement”) just told her to stop complaining and make a movie. After coming up with an idea (an important part of the process), Aselton did just that, using her modest budget to film bedroom scenes with Shephard in her own home, with her husband present. All in all, it sounds pretty decent. If it doesn’t get picked up by a studio, I’m pretty sure I’ll catch it on Netflix’s instant stream queue in the near future.



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Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010

Back in December, there were reports that Eddie Vedder proposed to his girlfriend in D.C. He was in the nations capitol on December 2009 to pay his respects to the Boss as part of the Kennedy Center Honors Bruce Springsteen Tribute Performance where Vedder performed “My City of Ruins” from the 2002 album The Rising. Vedder starts solo on his guitar but is shortly joined by the soulful harmonies of a gospel choir. Even as he sees his city in ruins he stands undeterred by the sight and prays for the strength to rebuild aided by the congregation’s voice which stretches higher.


Springsteen formed his version in response to the events of September 11th, but one can’t avoid noticing hints of other recent tragedies in it’s context as the evocative song tinges with dark echoes of New Orleans after Katrina in 2005 and the anguish of Port Au Prince now. There is a lot of emotion in these words so give it a listen; it will be worth spending your dollar to support Haiti relief efforts. Buy this song now from the Pearl Jam store (MP3) or on iTunes. “Proceeds from the sale of the track benefit Artists for Peace and Justice Haiti Relief.”


Eddie Vedder Haiti Relief Single



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