There are a lot of different ways to say that NBC’s "Parks and Recreation" is a very upbeat show. Willa Paskin classified the show as a “comedy of niceness.” Showrunner Michael Schur points out that everyone on the show is passionate about something. James Poniewozik talks about how the show is sincere where others are ironic. And at Splitsider, AJ Aronstein focused on the show’s optimistic view of politics. But here’s another way to say it: the show is twee.
Apparently, if Facebook wanted to repair its reputation, all it had to do was seem like it was helping to topple an authoritarian regime. Now that the U.S. media is loudly pushing the idea that social media can change Egypt—and next, the world!—it makes Mark Zuckerberg's tendency to monetize every aspect of our online lives seem less important.
But the same apparatus that causes commentators to overstate Facebook’s importance to the Egyptian protests makes the service a growing threat to our ability to control our own identities. Facebook makes other people’s previously-invisible mass of interpersonal interactions into something visible—something that can be quantized, aggregated, sold, tracked and controlled. [...]
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has had a weird history. From the schmaltzy (but great!) original recording through John Cale’s lyrical rearrangement and Jeff Buckley’s radical reduction, it’s become an object of abstract emotional grammar, used less for its words than for its gestalt feeling and its ability to convey meaningfulness even in the absence of actual meaning. Its aesthetic beauty feels so timeless that it’s like being in the same room with the Mona Lisa: you just sense you’re in the presence of something important, and you should pay attention, even if you miss the point of the original object. I had always thought that this progression represented a kind [...]
This weekend's walk-about with Courtney Love in the Times was both excellent and at the same time fundamentally indistinguishable from any other long-form profile of Love written in the last twenty or so years. There is a simple and straightforward reason for this. Courtney is the Dorian Gray of the American celebrity-industrial complex. Her public face shows us exactly what we want to see, while her private face is revolting (and even aging) and seeing the two in close proximity unsettles the viewer on an almost biological level. There's no denying that Love can be personally unpleasant; a former co-worker who went on to be Courtney's assistant [...]
Recently I decided to check in with Glenn Beck. (I do this semi-regularly with all the various cable news talk shows out of a sense of responsibility, though I never last more than about 10 minutes at a stretch.) I was not optimistic. Based on the clips I'd been exposed to by people who don't like Glenn Beck, I expected a mix between a revival meeting, a Klan rally, and the McCarthy hearings. Instead, I got Glenn in front of a blackboard, lecturing about…Calvin Coolidge.
I found this hilarious. In terms of presidents, it's like giving a lecture about James Bond focused entirely on George Lazenby. Coolidge lucked [...]
According to the government, the war in Iraq ends tonight at midnight. Given the war's inescapable presence in our politics over the last eight years, you would think we'd take this as the occasion for, if not celebration, at least some sort of commemoration. But so far, there's not even been much media coverage. Earlier in the month, the Pentagon staged a nighttime movement of combat troops from Iraq to Kuwait, timed to coincide with the evening news broadcasts, but aside from cutaways on NBC's cluster of channels (with some definite enthusiasm from MSNBC), it received about as much attention as a state visit to Senegal. A factoid [...]