Loose canon.

Via Andrea Harris: Starting with East of Eden, Oprah Winfrey is throwing her considerable cultural influence behind some literary works with at least debatable status as classics; the only question seems to be whether she has the standing to choose which works can be designated as such.
"I hope you know that you are stepping into the middle of what the '90s called the campus 'culture wars,'" said University of Louisville English professor Dale Billingsley.
(Gratuitous quote included because it's by one of my two favorite professors at the old alma mater, and a man of considerable sense.)

I spent some years at U of L during the early/mid 80s in pursuit of an English BA, sorting through both canon literature and the hot contemporary writers at the time (mostly ChickLit and PoMos, with all the attendant axe-grinding everyone pretended to find so terribly interesting.) If Oprah wants to uphold some semblance of literary tradition and actually gets the people who normally wouldn't touch Steinbeck with a ten foot pole to want to read him--I'm all for it. Even if East of Eden isn't really part of the canon, it's still well written. And the more good writing you get people to read, the better able they're going to be to decide for themselves what is and is not worth their time.

Matt Labash in the Weekly Standard covers all the reasons why I despise American Idol (and its ilk) in one snarkily hilarious column:
I'M NOT SURE exactly when I began feeling myself turning from "American Idol" friend to "American Idol" foe. Perhaps it was when I got a good look at the kind of company I was keeping. When Ruben sang his smash hit, "Flying Without Wings," many in the audience began sticking out their arms to make soaring motions (the song says "flying without wings"--keep up, people).

Or maybe it came with the ill-advised he said/she said gang war. The fellas sang a swinging version of Frank Sinatra's "The Lady is a Tramp," while the girls kept interrupting with Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious," singing "I don't think you're ready for this jelly." Indeed, I wasn't. Or perhaps the show's nadir came when Ruben and Clay pretended they were quarreling while crooning the Paul McCartney / Michael Jackson song, "The Girl Is Mine." Like Jackson before him, it's hard to imagine Clay even liking a girl, let alone fist-fighting over one.

Or perhaps it was when all of the Idols took the stage for a hokey, pyrotechnic shooting rendition of Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be an American." It felt a bit like the Icecapades without the ice. Whenever it was--maybe during the Bee Gee's medley--I decided I'd finally had enough.
The horror. The horror.


Must see tv.

Ladies and gentlemen, set your VCRs (or Tivos, if you're more technologically advanced than I am.) JKRank of Sofia Sideshow has a project airing on SciFi this Saturday night: Deep Shock. Features giant, evil electric eels, melting polar ice caps, nuclear warheads, and a villain named Chomsky (near-choked on my diet root beer over that one.) Critters gone bad!

Update 8/8: spelling correction. Gentlement?



Just saw my first episode.

1) Theme song sucks. Words fail me in describing just how much.

2) They have turned the Klingons into a culture of lawyers, and forced them to operate their "tribunal" according to the rules of modern American jurisprudence. If I may be permitted a descent into full geekdom, I would like to point out that a Klingon trial of an outsider would probably more closely resemble either a Soviet show trial or Judge Roy Bean, trial to be followed by execution and lunch.

3) I was told this was supposed to be closer in spirit to the original series. I didn't realize this was limited to recycling old TOS plots with a patina of TNG socialism.

And I still hate those fucking prosthetic foreheads.

This show sucks.
True confessions.

Ok...I have to come clean. I'm not actually reading any of the books at the bottom of the page right now because I took a fiction break to read the entire Flashman series by George Macdonald Fraser. Then I kind of got distracted by I, Claudius. And I'm still in the middle of Livy's Early History of Rome, but I've been messing around with that for six months.

Phew, that's better. I was starting to feel like a fraud.


Britain's mass bastardy.

Theodore Dalrymple's phrase, not mine. But I like it. Dalrymple looks at the revolution in British manners and the erosion of restraint in modern culture in general.
Buzzword of the day: Peterpandemonium.

I had a pretty good childhood, but I don't want to relive it, and this is just creepy:
London has become a magnet for young men and women determined to relive their childhoods. Every weekend thousands of twentysomethings dress up in school uniforms, to go clubbing at School Disco. People from all walks of life - doctors, computer programmers, hairdressers, lawyers - enthusiastically embrace this retro nostalgia. The young men in white shirts and blazers and the young women in short 'school' shirts take great delight in pretending that they are naughty teenagers having a snog on the dance floor. The School Disco scene has spread northwards, to Newcastle and Leeds; in February 2002, the School Disco Spring Term album went to number one in the charts.
God save us from the people who peaked in high school and don't ever want to leave. It gets worse:
Retro nostalgia is not just an Anglo-American phenomenon. 'Hello Kitty', a white kitten whose trademark is a flower or red bow, is hugely popular among Japanese adults. Female professionals and office workers bring Kitty stationery into the office; when they hit the bars they chat on their Kitty mobiles and offer cigarettes from their Kitty cigarette cases to businessmen wearing Snoopy neckties.
I do not get the whole "Hello Kitty" thing. There's something wrong with having a cartoon themed cigarette case. Personally it gives me sort of a combination Norma Desmond/pedophilia case of the willies.
Our society is full of lost boys and girls hanging out at the edge of adulthood. Yet we find it difficult even to give them a name. The absence of a readily recognised word to describe these infantilised adults demonstrates the unease with which this phenomenon is greeted. Advertisers and toy manufacturers have invented the term 'kidult' to describe this segment of the market. Another word sometimes used to describe these 20- to 35-year-olds is 'adultescent', generally defined as someone who refuses to settle down and make commitments, and who would rather go on partying into middle age.
Give it a snazzy label and it's mainstream. This would seem to be part and parcel of the neo-barbarian youth culture that believes in the twin virtues of piercing and unemployment. Or maybe I'm just reacting to this with horror because I'm hitting middle age and these are the people who were supposed to keep society going when I'm old. That's going to be difficult to do if you can't pry the fucking Nintendo controllers out of their pudgy little fingers before 40. Three pieces of advice for the 20 somethings:

1) Buy clothing that covers all your private parts. Nobody wants to see that shit.
2) Take that bone out of your nose, Shaka. This ain't Borneo in the 1800s. Nobody wants to see that shit either.
3) Move out of your parents' basement, even if it means leaving the big screen and the Playstation and selling off your mint condition Star Wars figures.

You'll thank me later.

[via Arts & Letters Daily.]
Cultural backwater, or Irony, USA?

So Sunday I'm here watching Key Largo on the big screen from the balcony. On the way out the elderly ladies next to my friend Jim and I start chatting about the movie.
Lady A: So did you like it? I know you don't care for these shoot-em-ups.

Lady B: Well...it was ok.

Lady A: You'll like the one next week better.
I checked the schedule. Next week is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Better than Key Largo.

You make the call.