Category: Popular Culture

Judging Athletics

Let us consider the absurdity of judged sports now, before the inevitable scandal sure to arise sometime before the current installment of the Olympic Games have concluded, before nationalist passions and hometown prejudices cloud the discussion, and before headline writers ask “Was She Robbed?” Let cool heads prevail. Diving, gymnastics, and figure skating are athletic...

Waiting as a Social Bond

The great rock band The Sex Pistols had a song back in the 1970s that railed — railing being the primary function of all Sex Pistol songs — against their former record company, EMI. Watching a massive queue the other day outside a neighborhood hotdog stand brought back memories of John Lydon (aka “Johnny Rotten”)...

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 Jackson 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,...