Category: Popular Culture

Iconoclasts

On billboards all around Los Angeles, mysterious outsiders, people who refused to conform to society’s rigid standards of propriety, are finally getting the recognition and respect they deserve. We’ve learned that creative mavericks like Renee Zellwegger, Brian Grazer, and Sumner Redstone (CEO of Viacom) are mold-breaking, rubric-smashing, trail-blazing innovators who go it their own way,...

Rosa Parks, Shirley Horn, and America’s Enduring Schism

Rosa Parks, an unintentional maker of history, was buried this weekend. She was an ordinary citizen of the United States who did something extraordinary, something that today seems so normal and reasonable that the courage Parks must have summoned at the time is easily forgotten. She refused to abideĀ a transparently unjust law, and she was...

In Praise of Sarah Silverman

Her new movie, “Jesus is Magic,” proves (to us anyway) that Sarah Silverman is one of the funniest people in America. Essentially a video record of her stand-up comedy act — with some superfluous musical numbers and off-stage vignettes thrown in to make the project a “film” — J.i.M. features most of Silverman’s best stuff,...

Fast Food

On a recent scorching day, I was riding my bike to an appointment, feeling parched. I had an urge to drink one of those semi-frozen concoctions known on “The Simpsons” as a “squishy.” I’ve heard them called “slurpees” and “icees,” and I recall my notoriously strict anti-sugar parents allowing my brother and I to have...

The Truth About Travel Writing

Since there’s probably a good novel or two in this subject, I can’t divulge all the dirty secrets at the moment. But I can say summarily that spending close to 15 years as a professional travel writer exposed me to the weakest sense of ethics and the highest exchange rate of quid pro quo you’ll...

Poem: Song of the Misanthrope

Because the center of the universe can be located easily the anthem I pen is naturally of me: I did this and I did that, throw in a semi-automatic rat-a-tat-tat — and now you’ve got a song for radio, Which rhymes conveniently with “ho,” a word to which I’m well accustomed, unlike instruments I’ve never...

Jared Diamond, Television Phenomenon

The historian, biologist and UCLA Professor Jared Diamond has accomplished a feat more rare than altruistic Congressmen. He’s transcended the anonymity and general irrelevance of academia. Like Camille Paglia, Alan Dershowitz, and Noam Chomsk, Diamond is a scholar who’s achieved pop culture notoriety. His two best known books, the recent “Collapse,” and “Guns, Germs, and...

Fishbowl or Shroud?

You may hate your job, husband, car, wardrobe, and neighbors. You may bridle at the indignities of waiting in lines, dealing with low-wage clerks, negotiating traffic, and cleaning up after the dog. You may wish your life wasn’t your life. But you don’t want to be famous. Not really famous. The money’s good, and having...

The Word Fuck

At the World Series of Poker, which is happening in Las Vegas now, players may say anything they like, no matter how distasteful or rude. They may not, however, say the word fuck, either as a noun or verb. Those that do incur a ten-minute penalty away from the table, where they may reflect on...

The Chase

Living in Los Angeles, in a neighborhood that’s near Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, enclaves of wealth and luxury that neatly summarize all that is grand (achievement, possibility, beauty) and horrible (excess, vulgarity, greed) about America, one has ample opportunity to reflect on the pros and cons of consumer-driven capitalism. The question that comes to mind...