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

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Thursday, Jan 6, 2011

One sometimes wonders whether we need a new film category: the “Blockbuster Cult Classsic”. Of course, Cult Classics in the more conventional sense are films that were critically and popularly panned upon release but went on to make inroads to the collective consciousness, either through appreciation of their awfulness or critical re-assessment. But the question is, do films create “cults” only when initially unpopular? Or is “cultishness” defined by certain kinds of popularity?


One should immediately distinguish between “fanboyism” and “cultishness”. The kind of cult meant here is that of film buffs whose guiding criteria is quality, not nerd enclaves more concerned with esoterica for its own sake. Tricorder-bearing Trekkers and bow-slinging LOTR enthusiasts can definitely be described as “cultish,” but that’s another question for another day.


No, “Blockbuster Cult Classic” would signify a film that sold big at the box office but was not received to its fullest critical or popular potential until well after it had left theaters, a film that was always popular but achieved new heights only after the passage of time. Of course, films are constantly rising and falling in the estimations of the taste-makers. But some experience this roller coaster ride more than others, and many among them were huge ticket sellers and critical darlings.


Films like Ghostbusters, Casablanca, or The Godfather were extremely popular and well-received upon their releases but arguably didn’t achieve “cult” status until way later. Anyway, just a thought. Any other suggestions out there for “Blockbuster Cult Classics”?


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Tuesday, Dec 28, 2010
Here’s a look at gifts from over 50 years ago.

Now that the Christmas season has passed and the gifts have already been received, let’s take a nostalgic look at popular gifts through the years. The 1950’s marked the beginning of mass TV advertising, making the following items popular gift ideas.


Remco Electronic Transistor Radio: It was the iPod of the 1950s. Brand new transistor technology made radios so inexpensive that children could put one together as a science lesson.


 

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Thursday, Nov 4, 2010
It was 40 years ago today that David Bowie arguably invented glam rock with the U.S. release of his third studio album The Man Who Sold the World.

It was 40 years ago today that David Bowie arguably invented glam rock with the U.S. release of his third studio album The Man Who Sold the World. While the dominant storyline usually contends that glam’s genesis began with Marc Bolan’s glitter and satin-wearing appearance on the British broadcast Top of the Pops in March 1971, Bowie nonetheless predated T. Rex’s performance that mixed raunchy guitars with androgyny by addressing sexual uncertainty over hard rock riffs on the Sold the World’s opener “The Width of a Circle”.


What’s more, Bowie’s first iconoclastic challenges to the alpha male rock star stereotype continued during the Sold the World era with him donning a dress during the album’s U.S. promotional tour, and he later showed up wearing the same garb on the album cover for the 1971 UK release of the project. 


But the Sold the World metamorphosis wasn’t just a stylistic change up but a musical diversion as well. Bowie abandoned his psychedelic folk-leaning roots on the release, teaming up with the virtuosic Mick Ronson (who later formed the backbone of the Bowie’s Spiders from Mars band) to concoct an album that leaned towards the proto-metal electric heaviness of then contemporaries Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.


Though Sold the World is now often overshadowed by Bowie’s commercial breakthrough Hunky Dory and the glorious run that is the Ziggy Stardust albums, the 1970 release is when Bowie’s strange odyssey really began. And when he became truly great.



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Thursday, Sep 16, 2010

It’s either genius at its most inventive or someone with just too much time on their hands. However, Toronto’s James Cochrane took a bunch of old electronic devices and computer parts, including printers, along with a handful of household items, to create the Bit-52s – a robotic cover band of the B-52s. Creating a series of Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, Cochrane was able to replicate the B-52s’ ‘70s seminal hit “Rock Lobster” in its entirety in what appears to be his basement. The only question that really remains after watching this video is: does the “band” take requests?


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Friday, Sep 10, 2010

During the big “boy band” craze of the late ‘90s, early ‘00s, LFO stood out. Their hip-hop style and inventive, fast wordplay gave them memorable hit singles in a crowded, competitive field. Perhaps the biggest reason for their success was lead singer Rich Cronin, who partially wrote and produced much of the group’s music. Their biggest hit was “Summer Girls”, a nostalgic nod to a summer romance, punctuated with Cronin’s memories of early ‘90s pop culture. Where else are you going to find a song that mentions Abercrombie & Fitch, Fun Dip, Michael J. Fox, and New Edition, amongst other things? In 1999, it was virtually impossible to find someone under the age of 30 who couldn’t recite the chorus of “New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick…,”.



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