Friday, January 30, 2009

I Jumped the Gun

I wasn't so sure the Dating A Banker Anonymous blog was real or just fluffy web satire. But then again, it was covered in the NY Times, so it had to be real, right?

Then I read NPR's Monkey See blog, which follows pop culture in the way that I would follow pop culture. (Read my post from a few days ago. You'll get the idea.) Monkey See blogger Linda Holmes did a little research into the DABA blog, and she pretty much convinced me it is fake.

I'm a sucker for anything that makes me feel superior to rich people, I guess.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pop Culture Hypocrisy

Sometimes I wonder if I'm only kidding myself that I'm distinctly high-brow when it comes to pop culture. I like to think I only expose myself to books, movies (or "film" as I like to think of it) and television I can consider art or commentary or above mainstream American appeal.

Who am I kidding?

Let's see - Top Chef, the highest rated food show on cable. The Office, one the most watched comedies on TV. And Juno? The largest grossing indie film in Fox Searchlight history.

I was going to write a post about my "issues" with the Oscar nominations, but the Gaza conflict has started up again, the Congo's death toll is more than 5 million and even here in Austin, the refugee population is rising. And all I can blog about is the Academy Award nominations? Does anyone watch the Academy Awards anymore?

But I'm not going to feel guilty. I think there's enough room in my life for passionate social justice activism and shallow love of media. After all, sometimes a film comes around that changes the way we think. Sometimes, a TV show can give us vital social commentary or even influence the outcome of an election. (Thanks, Tina.)

Now I gotta come back to my original point: Maybe the stuff I watch and read is slightly more ... quality than what most Americans are watching. But a lot of other people are into this stuff, too, and I'm ready to admit that I'm not any better than the mindless masses when it comes to my favorite shows and movies.

There is one specific reason I mention this: I bought Seasons 1 and 2 of 30 Rock, and I can't stop watching it. I spent about four hours yesterday watching Discs 1 and 2 of Season 1. I even had a dream about Jenna arguing with Liz.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Beef with Top Chef

I consider myself a practical foodie. I like accessible, affordable, and healthy food. I enjoy eating out and learning more about the palate. I'm an amateur home cook and a semi-professional local restaurant critic (professional only when The Onion decides to print my reviews, which isn't all that often).

So with this healthy obsession with good food, it's no surprise that I'm addicted to Bravo's Top Chef. The contestants on the show are high caliber, and the judges are the best of the best of the culinary world. I can only be in awe of the people on this show.

However, I have some issues with the show:
  • The Judges: Sometimes, I think the judges are too critical. I guess if my palate was as refined and I was being paid oodles of money to criticize food on television, I'd probably be a downright bitch, too. But they don't seem to enjoy the food at all. It can't be that bad. Sometimes it looks disgusting, but really, it can't be as terrible as they say it is. I think they exaggerate for the camera.

  • Padma: She does have some expertise, but for someone who has a BA in theater and no culinary training, I have a hard time trusting her as much as the other judges. She's my least favorite aspect of the show, but she's a supermodel, so she's not going anywhere. (Side note, Top Chef needs a Tim Gunn, a mentor who helps the contestants along but doesn't judge them.)

  • The Challenges: They are put under immense pressure during these ridiculous challenges. That's why it's good television. But sometimes, I wish the judges would take the challenges into account. I mean, it's got to be nearly impossible to create Thanksgiving dinner using toaster ovens, microwaves, and one burner. Ridiculous. I don't think they should make the challenges easier, but the judges should keep the challenge and conditions in mind when they judge the food.

  • This Week's Elimination: I'm most disappointed with the outcome as last night's show. Arianne was sent home because she made a poor lamb dish. But she was on a team that let her down. For those not watching the show, Arianne was on a team with two contestants who seem to have a romantic/sexual chemistry. I have a conspiracy theory that the producers encouraged the judges to oust Arianne because they want to develop the Hosea-Leah storyline. If so, it's bull shit and I thought Top Chef was a more highbrow competition reality show.
Needless to say, I'm bummed that Arianne is gone. But I'll keep watching for now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Are We Getting the Full Story? Do We Even Want It?

From the New York Times: Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War

Honestly, I'm glad this story was featured on the New York Times's website yesterday because I've been wondering if we've been getting a good picture of what's going on in Gaza. With borders closed and nearly 40 percent of casualties affecting women and children (this is not including grown male civilians), this war almost sounds like genocide.

The article above makes me wonder if here in the U.S. - the land of free speech and open media - we're experiencing a form of self-censorship. Perhaps we aren't getting the full story of this war (possibly about our own wars in the Middle East). I understand that Al-Jazeera is probably biased. Sure. It makes sense. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be getting stories from inside Gaza just because our government's been in bed with Israel since its foundation.

I have to wonder if we value our free speech and free press enough to be asking these questions. Americans are afraid to ask questions that may lead to more unsettling ones, but I always believed the system would get the right information out there. But it seems we've gotten a little too comfortable and the media isn't doing its job. So what next? Start watching Al-Jazeera on YouTube?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yep. CDs Are Obsolete.

Are most albums these days released online for free in some form?

Andrew Bird's latest isn't officially out until January 20, but NPR went ahead and put up for free on December 23. Well, you can stream it for free. Listen here.

As of track 3, it's a little cheerier than past efforts, and a little more produced. Plenty of whistling still, so I'm pleased.

Monday, January 5, 2009

More on the Food Issue

The New York Times has published a few op-eds on the future of agriculture and food in this country. (Read them here and here.)

I keep thinking that in the next 50 years, the United States must become more agrarian simply to survive. Sometimes I play out a scenario of an environmental and economic apocalypse that destroys life as we know. Not life itself. People will keep living, but we won't be living this way. It's more than gardening, recycling, changing our lightbulbs. It's systemic. And we've got to do more.

If you're interested, take a good look at the Food Democracy Now website and read some of Michael Pollan's books. I think we can actually make some changes through grassroots politics. But we've got to do something.