Friday, July 16, 2010

Pop Culture Roundup

This week I read Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. The author, Charles Pierce delineates how American society has bought into a mentality where experts are to be suspected and reviled, and everyone knows everything because it feels right to them. He spends a lot of time talking about the vision and writings of James Madison, who helped envision a republic where people would become educated and govern themselves. He then shows how we're attempting to govern ourselves without the education part: everyone is an expert, the true experts are marginalized as "elitists," and everyone trusts what their gut tells them. All of this, Pierce observes, is thanks in no small part to the political climate that has emerged in the past decade. He presents some of the biggest cultural events of this very young century to make his case: the rise in popularity of talk radio, the start of the Iraq war, Terry Schiavo, the global warming debate, and the founding of a creation museum. In each of these instances, experts in their field are pushed aside or demonized by people aiming to score points for the conclusion that they've already reached without really knowing anything about the issue, usually for political gain. I found this book both insightful and infuriating, especially when you realize just how cynical and destructive these political tactics are, as well as how successful they've been.

We watched My Name is Bruce this week. It stars Bruce Campbell as himself, who is kidnapped by an obsessive fan ("It's finally happened!") in order to help defeat a demon in a small mining town. It's as campy as any other Campbell film I've ever seen, but in a self-aware way. Campbell also makes fun of himself and his movies: he's living largely on alcohol in a run-down trailer and is in the middle of filming a crappy sequel to Cavealien before the fan comes asking for his help. I found the movie hilarious, mostly due to my low expectations and because the plot was just so silly to begin with.

The new season of True Blood has been a lot less campy so far. They've introduced some werewolves, because we can't have any "human falls in love with a vampire" story without werewolves. Actually, the main werewolf character is pretty cool. In fact, a few of the new characters are much less over-the-top than some of the regulars, which I've liked. That, and when they have Bill Compton be dark without yelling, it's much more effective. Hopefully the show sticks with the general feel they've got going so far.

I added a new blog to the sidebar called Catalog Living, which adds captions to pictures from furniture catalogs. It's pretty funny.

Here are Steve Carell and Paul Rudd spoofing Lebron James' "Decision:"