Category: Popular Culture

A Tale of Two Venues

Last night in Los Angeles, the Grammy awards were distributed at Staples Center, the basketball/hockey arena downtown. The vital business of marketing jesters ennobled by the moniker “musical artist” went smoothly from what I gather; the festivities were broadcast all over the world, and demure statuettes were disbursed to those who played along with the...

A Punky Revelation

In the early 80’s I played in a “hardcore punk rock” band. This means our music was super-fast, loud, angry, rebellious, and disinclined to follow mainstream rules. (I realize in retrospect that we were willing to follow a different set of rules, a parallel code informally understood to delineate “authentic” hardcore punk rockers from “posers.”)...

The Rolling Stones: I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

The 40th Super Bowl was held this weekend, in case you’ve been in Antarctica and were successfully shielded by the foghorns of mass culture blaring the news at you from every possible media outlet. There was, as usual, a not very compelling football game, expensive advertising, and a gala entertainment spectacle before during and after...

The Prize Industry

Our friend Tierney Sutton’s latest album, “I’m With the Band,” has been nominated for a Grammy award in the category of vocal jazz. Although she probably won’t win, simply being recognized by the recording industry has been (and will continue for some time to be) a boon to her career. It’s effective shorthand: Grammy nomination...

To Kill a Mockingbird, Revisited

The plot of Harper Lee’s book about racism, childhood, and paternal love revolves around the rape trial of a black man, Tom Robinson, defended by a white lawyer, played in the movie version with transcendent nobleness by Gregory Peck. In both the novel and the movie, the evidence strongly suggests that Robinson is innocent and...

A Tale of Two Singers: How Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Two professional singers live on my street. One is an emerging star named Mae who both critics and fans praise for her soulful and passionate vocals. The other is Sheryl Crow. While there’s no accounting for taste — which is another way of excusing America for preferring Janet JacksonĀ to Tierney Sutton — it must be...

The Male Brothel

Tabloid favorite Heidi Fleiss, a young woman whose two best talents appear to be self-promotion and the marketing of nubile flesh, recently announced via the winking and blushing media, including the credulous Los Angels Times, that her latest venture in pimping would be in Nevada, where prostitution is legal in several clear-thinking counties. This time,...

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,...