Thursday, September 25th, 2014
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The Internet Has a Problem(atic)

The word "problematic" is a firehose for—what, exactly? I know it's loud and sprays everywhere, but I can't locate its target. It is common knowledge in certain corners of the internet that "problematic" is codependent with the think piece, that short, poorly researched form of essay that exists to criticize recent cultural phenomena on usually disingenuous political or moral grounds.

Fifty years ago, "problematic" was modest, mousy and rare, maybe akin to "thole" or "vellicate"—nice for a dinner party, but far from a buzzword. Today, you can't go online without bumping into a "problematic" or two: "Hip-hop videos featuring bling and babes" are "problematic"; "The Promising…Future [...]

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A Decade Later, Whither the Metrosexual

When was the last time you considered the metrosexual? If you are a reasonable person—not this guy—it’s been about ten years. Or at least I thought so, until, after a decade of silence, three people mentioned metrosexuals to me in the same week. Perhaps because it’s the twentieth anniversary of its coining and the tenth(ish) anniversary of Queer Eye.

In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s [...]

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11

The Ways in Which White People Talk Over Music

If you want to scream whiteness, almost nothing beats rap-talk-singing—that half-monotone half-melodic vocal technique you may recognize from the likes of Beck’s "Loser" or many recent commercials. These days, rap-talk-singing is typically parody in the vein of Sir Mix-A-Lot's famous "Baby Got Back" intro. (You know: "Becky, look at her butt. It is sooooo big. She looks like one of those rap guys' girlfriends.") It is not always clear when white people rap-talk-sing self-deprecatingly. Perhaps this is what happened to Taylor Swift, whose most recent single, "Shake It Off," is somewhere between a great Gap ad and a bad pop song.

Although "Shake It Off" [...]

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6

The Generation That Weaponized Feelings: What Was An "Emo"?

Emo 4.0 champions Future Islands.

Recently I’ve found myself over-emoting in unclever ways. To keep a handle on things I have decided to call myself emo, although I never used that term as a self-descriptor when it was actually appropriate in the early 2000s. I didn’t even learn what an emo was until the summer of 2005, at debate camp, when a boy with one of those pretentious monosyllabic names like “Chad” or “Brad” or something came into the lunchroom wearing a Death Cab For Cutie t-shirt and blew my mind. I’d heard of DCFC before but had subconsciously conflated them with Hootie and the Blowfish, which [...]

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1

Robopoetics: The Complete Operator's Manual

Here’s a game: which of these poems was written by a human, and which by a computer?

A wounded deer leaps highest, I've heard the daffodil I've heard the flag to-day I've heard the hunter tell; 'Tis but the ecstasy of death, And then the brake is almost done, And sunrise grows so near sunrise grows so near That we can touch the despair and frenzied hope of all the ages.

vs.

Red flags the reason for pretty flags. And ribbons. Ribbons of flags And wearing material Reason for wearing material. Give pleasure. Can you give me the regions. The regions and the land. The regions and wheels. All [...]

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3

On "Dawson," on "Dexter," on "Damages": The Artists and Art of TV Shows

A couple months ago I was watching an episode of the second season of "Dawson’s Creek" when I saw an intriguing painting, "Winter’s Mist," by an artist called "Jarvis." "Winter’s Mist" looked vaguely familiar and the artist’s name was something I might’ve heard in college. Here is what the on-TV college lecturer had to say about it:

I’d like to close with this piece, "Winter Mist." It’s Jarvis’ most famous work. No one can deny after looking at this exquisitely tuned surface, the juxtaposition of color and shape, the intensity of his lines, that Jarvis was in complete control of his new technique. Sadly, three weeks after Jarvis completed [...]

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6

Sochi Olympics Photo—Or Site-Specific Contemporary Art Installation?

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5

How Did Pumpkin Become Beloved? Labor, Nostalgia, Refreshment And White Women

This story begins, like so many before it, with a marathon session of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” Specifically, the show’s 1999 Halloween episode, “Episode LXXXI: The Phantom Menace.” (STTW has a real gift for prophecy.) Sabrina, played by Melissa Joan Hart, is a faux black sheep with a heart of gold; her manager (cum boyfriend cum soon-to-be-war-photographer) is as auspicious as he is handsome—which is a lot—but is also a bit dunderheaded. The setting: a Central Perk knockoff:

JOSH: Y’know, I’m really surprised our special pumpkin flavored coffee hasn’t been more popular.

SABRINA: Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that it’s a hideous shade [...]

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