Category: Popular Culture

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...

Why We Need Celebrities

During his first visit to Hollywood, a friend of ours wanted more than anything else to see celebrities. He wasn’t interested in any particular person, such as the star of his favorite crime drama or the pinup girl action movie heroine whose poster he has hanging in his garage. Any star would do. “I just...

Notes on Les Miserables, La Boheme and Love

The fabulously entertaining stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is sold to consumers as “the world’s most popular musical,” an honorific that seems accurate upon first consideration, since Alain Boblil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s retelling of the novel has been produced in every part of the world (including China) and enjoyed by millions of appreciative...

Mel Gibson’s Christ Porno

Last night, while most of us slept, the most cleverly marketed movie in recent history opened on thousands of screens across America. Before a single megaplex presented Mel Gibson’s “Passion of Christ,” the film inspired more editorializing, hand wringing, righteous anger, righteous pride, and cocktail party theorizing than every other work of creative fiction composed...

Mistaking Commercial Popularity With Artistic Achievement

Not long ago a couple of friends invited us to watch a concert DVD of one of their favorite performers, a woman named Beyonce Knowles. One of our friends, a musician, said that although most fans admire Ms. Knowles for her pretty face, powerful singing voice, and shapely ass, the really impressive thing about her is...