Category: Popular Culture

Participatory Democracy in Bell, California

If there were such a thing as a Public Outrage Meter, it would be registering unprecendented levels of angst. The Gulf Oil Spill. The Wall Street Bailout. LeBron James. The latest (and possibly greatest) case of societal outrage, at least in my corner of the country, is being directed at the public servants of Bell,...

Ode to “Opening Night: The Improvised Musical”

Los Angeles is lousy with talent. Just as the plethora of beautiful men and women on the streets (and in the stores, and everywhere else) start to blend into the palm-lined boulevards, it’s easy to become immune to the charms of so many funny, clever, quick-witted people. When you see theater or hear music or...

Three Theories on Chronic Lateness

Everyone is late sometimes. Stuff happens. Some of us, though, are always late. For everything. “Traffic” isn’t an adequate excuse when you’re late for events in your own home, or when you’re the headliner of a concert scheduled to hit at 8PM and you roll in, unflustered, at 8:45PM. There’s an underlying reason. We propose...

A Letter to Craig V

Dear Mr. Venter, I read today that you and your team at the Human Genome Project had successfully implanted synthetically-created DNA into a living organism (a bacterium) and got it to replicate your man-made code. That’s marvelous! The possibilities for your discovery feel fantastical, like something culled from overly optimistic science fiction. Soon we really...

Villains Masquerading As Heroes

Warren Buffet. Haim Saban. Carlos Slim. Barry Diller. Jack Welch. Meg Whitman. A thousand other achievers lauded in the pages of Fortune and Barron’s and the Wall Street Journal. These superstars of Money Porn are the grand champions of the cruel game we all play, willingly or not. They won; millions more lost. That’s the way the contest goes and whether...

Mission to Mars

It’s a big universe out there. We’ve all looked skyward, trying vainly to gauge the distance to a star, mesmerized by the immensity of space and the comically irrelevant role we play in the Grand Scheme of Things. We’ve all imagined that somewhere out there in the twinkling infinity something awaits us. We’ve gone to...

A Fun Little Easter Parable

Joe is a human being.  Joe is unsure if he is homoseuxal or heterosexual. But like most human beings, he has urges that involve activities other than procreation. Rather than figure out who he is or what he likes, Joe decides to sublimate his confusing desires, announcing to the world that he is no longer...

The End is Near!…for Selling Recorded Music

Before 1909, when technology changed everything, performing artists earned a living by performing. The only way to sell talent was to traipse it around the countryside and throughout the theatrical circuit. Packaging a voice on phonograph recordings, distributing the disc through retail channels, and marketing the product as a valuable commodity was a radical and...

Remix Manifesto

1. Culture always builds on the past. Whether it was composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt using Gypsy melodies in his compositions, Metallica borrowing song structures from Diamond Head or The Rolling Stones recording Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” as a “traditional, arranged by Keith Richards,” composers have always used previous works as inspiration for...

Caloric Equality

Our finely developed sense of American vanity keeps us obsessed with working out and dieting, with inspirational weight-loss stories and TV game shows in which dramatically shrinking waistlines are seen not as a sign of dwindling well-being but as a heroic conquering of anarchic eating compulsions. We fortunate ones desperately want to be thin, but...