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weird newspop culture

To Catch a... War Criminal?

Emily Lasky

Posted: Feb 17th 2009 8:00AM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Weird News, Pop Culture

Not to be outdone by CBS and its show Arranged Marriage, the potential ratings smash (or sign of the cultural end times, depending on your viewpoint), NBC just baked up its own batch of crazy: a show about catching war criminals.

The show would be a spin-off of To Catch a Predator. Predator used online traps to bring potential pedophiles and sex offenders to the houses of decoys pretending to be underage boys and girls. Instead, waiting inside the houses would be host Chris Hanson, a camera crew, and a lot of questions (see below; the interview begins at 5:17).


This new version would feature foreign-born war criminals. The first episode will be focused on Leopold Munyakazi, who is wanted for perpetrating a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. He is currently a French professor at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.

The government is a wee bit displeased with NBC's plans to chase around war criminals with cameras. The Department of Homeland Security believes such a show would interfere with the government's ability to capture these predators and use legal force against them.

Due to the government's negative reaction and the overal logistics, it's hard to imagine this show actually coming to fruition in the To Catch a Predator mold. A more reasonable version would be a documentary series shedding light on awful war criminals. But that probably wouldn't get high ratings.

So cue Chris Hanson, waiting for war criminals in a house NBC has rented and outfitted as a fake embassy.

Full Article »

pop culture

CBS Arranges Marriages for Lonely Hearts, Ratings

Emily Lasky

Posted: Feb 3rd 2009 4:58PM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Pop Culture

Till cancellation do us part!

From CBS and the producers of quality reality shows (ignore the oxymoron) Top Chef and Project Runway comes the first sign of the Apocalypse: a show about arranged marriage.

The series, currently called Arranged Marriage to make sure America gets the point, will feature four single adults between the ages of 25-45 who agree to be set up by friends and family. Unlike on Fox's 2003 matchmaking scheme, Married By America, on CBS's show, the two couples will actually get married. The series will then follow their lives as newlyweds/strangers.

Dating shows are almost as old as the concept of dating itself and reality TV is known for its incendiary subject matter (see: CBS's Kid Nation, anything that's aired on Fox that isn't American Idol), so it's not that surprising that we've reached this point. Plus, the show could try to use the angle that arranged marriage is an ancient tradition in some Eastern cultures that could work here, with the right producing team. And, in a society with a 50% divorce rate, seeing an unlikely marriage succeed (if one of them in fact lasts) could be a huge pick-me-up.

But this feels like television has become a satire of itself. This joke of a show got picked up because the envelope has been pushed so far that network execs no longer know what to do to manipulate peoples' lives for entertainment. As usual on reality shows, love has nothing to do with marriage, but this goes to the extreme. CBS is putting the carriage well before the horse, giving the whole concept a more unseemly feel than one usually experiences, even when thinking of reality TV.

I have no idea if I'll be watching, but one thing's for sure: now that Arranged Marriage has been announced, we are clearly days away from Tiny House:

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sportsweird news

Arizona Sees Porn During Super Bowl

Emily Lasky

Posted: Feb 2nd 2009 10:27PM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Sports, Weird News

Touch-what now?

Late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIII, right after Arizona Cardinals' receiver Larry Fitzgerald scored to give his team the lead, viewers in Tucson, Arizona, were treated to a touchdown celebration of a different sort: porn.

Comcast customers in the area accidentally received a feed from adult channel Club Jenna, which, despite only lasting for a few seconds, still managed to include full frontal male nudity. The feed started with local NBC affiliate KVOA before reaching Comcast customers. However, only customers with standard broadcast or analog service experienced the interruption in regular programming. Yet another reason to upgrade to digital, folks.

As of yet, Comcast has not discovered the cause of the disruption. All signs point to the only Pittsburgh Steelers fan in Arizona, though his prank was witnessed in vain given the final score.

Thanks to Comcastus Interruptus and Bruce Springsteen's suggestive slide toward the camera during the halftime show (see below), this was the sultriest Super Bowl since Nipplegate. And I'm not even counting Conan O'Brien's Bud Light commercial.

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politicsmusic

Beyonce Serenades Barack & Michelle

Emily Lasky

Posted: Jan 21st 2009 3:29PM

Filed Under: Politics, University of Pennsylvania, Music


Last night marked Barack Obama's first night as leader of the free world, so naturally, he spent his time getting down with his presidential self.

Obama and the First Lady attended the Neighborhood Inauguration Ball, just one of 10 events the Obamas attended Tuesday night. The Neighborhood Ball was the first inauguration event to be open to the people, and the first ball the Obamas visited on their whirlwind night. The Ball featured performances by Jay-Z, Sting, and Stevie Wonder, among others, and was broadcast on ABC. It was a fitting moment for the new president to include regular people in the inauguration festivities and turn the Ball into a celebratory concert people of all ages could enjoy.

At the Neighborhood Ball, the couple danced to Beyonce performing Etta James' classic "At Last" and later, Obama threw down some old school moves with Aretha Franklin and other attendees (see below). It is the rare president who can do "the bump" with class. As Obama settles in today and begins work on a million different issues, including suspending some of the military trials at Guantanamo, remember this image and know that we clearly entered a new age:

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music

Rap Is Scottish; America Is Confused

Emily Lasky

Posted: Dec 29th 2008 7:40PM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Music

According to Ferenc Szasz, a professor of American and Scottish culture at the University of New Mexico, rap music, that hallmark of modern American culture, actually comes from medieval Scotland. Because in addition to kilts, golf, and throwing logs, the Scottish are also well known for spitting those phat rhymes.

More specifically, Szasz's argument is that rap battles are derived from "flyting," in which two people insult each other via vulgar, satirical rhymes. This practice was so popular, poets would perform in front of kings, such as the Flyting Of Dunbar and Kennedy, performed in front of King James IV in the 16th century.

Centuries later, flyting crossed the Atlantic when Scottish slave owners traveled to America and passed the practice onto their African-American slaves. According to Szasz, the American version of flyting first appeared as a war poem published in Vanity Fair in 1861.

Watch the clip below of Eminem battling in 8 Mile (NSFW because of the language) and then compare it to the text of Dunbar and Kennedy (supposedly also NSFW if you can actually understand it). The two should be similar in terms of the use of obscenities and clever word play as well as the competitive nature of the activities, in which only one performer is judged to be the winner.

And do not be surprised when in retaliation, New York City claims that Sean Connery is from the Bronx.

8 Mile:

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sports

O.J. Pushes Luck, Finally Loses

Emily Lasky

Posted: Dec 6th 2008 9:24AM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Sports, News

O.J. Simpson was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday for robbery, kidnapping, and assault. He was arrested in September of 2007 for leading a group of armed men in an attempt to steal sports memorabilia from two dealers in Las Vegas. Simpson said the items were actually his. Clearly the court did not agree.

Simpson was convicted October 3, 2007, 13 years to the day after he was found innocent in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Despite the lingering skepticism surrounding the acquittal, the court maintains that the 15 year sentence this time around is not an attempt to right a wrong, but is a typical sentence for these kinds of charges. He will be eligible for parole after nine years.

Below is a clip of Simpson from the classic cop movie spoof The Naked Gun. This clip is ironic for two reasons. One: it features Simpson's character failing to stealthily break into someplace. Two: he's playing a cop.

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politics

What Obama Spent $3,000,000 On Last Night

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 30th 2008 5:41PM

Filed Under: Politics, University of Pennsylvania, Media

Perhaps SNL got my hopes too high, but Barack Obama's 30-minute primetime special on NBC, CBS, and Fox wasn't anything special. And not to knock Obama's narrating skills, but could he not have gotten Morgan Freeman or the guy who does the Harry Potter audio books or something? Give the show a little kick? He's got enough money to get those guys.

Anyway, it was clear that the Democratic nominee was targeting undecided voters in key states, focusing on families living in Ohio and Missouri, among other battlegrounds. On the upside, the format allowed Obama the time to get to many different topics, like healthcare and education, and speak about them for much longer than in any 30-second piece. In addition, each family story, which focused on their struggles, always ended hopeful, with Obama laying out his plan to change things. The key word, as ever, was change, which may be all people need to hear at this point.

On the downside, however, the special leaves Obama open to attacks about how he raised the money to pay for the airtime. While he has raised more money than Bush and Kerry together in 2004, he did change his mind about how how he would gain that money, an easy point to pick on with only days to go before the election.

And on the upside, again, since ABC put on Pushing Daisies instead, maybe people actually watched it. That show is very good and needs viewers.

Whether this special really will change the minds of undecided viewers is unclear. I personally find that this close to the election, other tactics are more successful, like hearing why voters in the middle are voting for Obama. Perhaps, though, he did pick up some of the baseball vote thanks to people turning to Fox expecting to find pre-game coverage for Game 5 of the World Series and finding Obama talking instead (jump to 5:14):

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NM Paper Sees Through Time, Declares Obama Winner

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 27th 2008 8:48PM

Filed Under: US Elections, University of Pennsylvania

In an example of foresight and/or unwillingness to change its schedule, the New Mexico Sun News has already published an issue heralding Barack Obama as the winner in next week's election.

The Sun News is a bi-monthly publication, so this piece of front page news ran in the Oct. 26-Nov. 8 issue. Rather than report election results late, editors decided to do it up Chicago Tribune style and assume that unlike with Dewey and Truman, this time, the paper would be right. And as of this exact second, polls say they are indeed correct.

Apparently, depending on your political leanings, this means you don't have to vote. Celebrities (and Penn students), the New Mexico Sun News has misunderstood your video!

Warning: video includes sarcasm and cursing:

Full Article »

culture

Worry About Sexual History? Send an STD Card

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 22nd 2008 9:13AM

Filed Under: Culture, University of Pennsylvania

Only two things can truly bring people close together: technology and... let's just say, ahem, intimacy. And now, inSPOT.org has brought those two together for a very important purpose: to get people to get tested for STDs.

This venture is an outgrowth of attempts by public health officials in San Francisco to quell the outbreak of STDs like syphilis among gay men. Upon discovering that many couples make plans to get together online, officials decided that the Internet would be the best means by which to contact people who may be infected.

The website, developed by Internet Sexuality Information Services, allows people to anonymously send e-cards to their partners to warn them that they may need to get tested. The e-card directs the recipient to public health information about how to get checked out. So the e-cards are just like e-vites...to the doctor.

inSPOT is linked in with many major American cities, like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, and is still expanding to other parts of the country and the world. In today's age, in which so many people are doing so many things, this site is beneficial for two reasons.

One: it allows people to tell their partners they may have been exposed to an STD without fear of embarrassment or anger.

Two: it disseminates health information more effectively, allowing people to quickly deal with the situation.

STD e-cards: more helpful, and less annoying, than those cards that obnoxiously play music.

Full Article »

pop culture

McCain and Palin Living It Up in Late Night

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 19th 2008 4:55PM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Pop Culture, Media

With nothing left for the Republicans to do but wait and hope, the GOP nominees have apparently decided that the way to turn things around is to appear on late night television. First, John McCain visited Late Show with David Letterman on Thursday because when Letterman says, "Jump," world leaders say, "How high?"

Then Sarah Palin and her doppleganger Tina Fey stopped by the show the pair accidentally revived from its Saturday Night Dead status. Thankfully, putting Palin and Fey in the same place at the same time did not create a rip in the time-space continuum in which the entire universe would have been swallowed, as pundits had predicted.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who appeared on SNL with her impersonator standing right next to her, Palin watched Tina Fey reenact a press conference while talking with Lorne Michaels and Alec Baldwin, the latter of whom mistook Palin for Fey. Then Palin took Fey's place onstage to call out the show's starting gun catchphrase. Watching Palin and Fey pass each other was kind of like that scene in The Matrix when Neo has to fight a hundred Agent Smiths, only this wasn't special effects, it was just two eerily similar-looking women.

SNL wasn't too hard on Palin (in fact, it wasn't hard on her at all), but that's got to be like looking a gift horse in the mouth and then beating it senseless. Plus, Palin's appearance allowed the world to see a very pregnant Amy Poehler perform a rap about Palin while the governor bounced to the rhythm of the boogedy beat, so it all worked out in the end:



*Speaking of world leaders, Letterman followed up his interview with McCain with a chat with Tina Fey the next night, and of course, the conversation quickly turned to the Palin impression and Fey's friend's grandmother.

Full Article »

sciencemusic

"Stayin Alive" Now Even More True to Its Name

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 19th 2008 6:04AM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Science, Music

Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother, you can save lives!

A study from the University of Illinois medical school attempted to determine whether the Bee Gees' classic "Stayin' Alive" (see/hear below) can actually help people perform CPR. According to the American Heart Association, people are supposed to perform 100 compressions a minute when trying to revive someone. It turns out that at 103 beats a minute, "Stayin' Alive" has the perfect rhythm for dancing and performing CPR. In fact, whether listening to the music or just thinking of the song, subjects in the study performed more chest compressions than are considered necessary, which is sort of a "more the merrier" situation.

The study on how you can tell by the way a man uses his walk, he's a woman's man, was inconclusive.

Full Article »

movies

The Bush Movie: Does Anybody Care?

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 17th 2008 9:19AM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Movies

Oliver Stone's George W. Bush biopic W hits theaters today, a release date that is obviously meant to incite an uproar right before the election, sparking both political discussion and boffo box office returns.

But in the midst of thousands of other uproars -- political, economic, athletic if you're in Philadelphia -- the film is just sitting there, much like the film's subject. Though the movie is being released while Bush is still in office, W has sparked no real controversy because everyone has already moved on to the next administration, whichever one it may be. It's a strange thing for a filmmaker like Stone, so used to courting political controversy thanks to earlier movies on such subjects as Nixon, Kennedy, and the Vietnam War.

We could turn to considering whether W is a good movie, but reading reviews for this movie is like watching the debates: hearing the information won't change your opinion because you already know what you're going to do. And anyway, the reviews are mixed. It seems that the film is not so much a study of a president as it is a study of an actor, Josh Brolin, who embodies Bush from his college years to the present. As for the story? Well, that all depends on whether you think W is a comedy, a sad statement on politics, or both:

Full Article »

pop culture

Marcia Brady Not So Brady-Like

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 15th 2008 2:14PM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Pop Culture

With the third debate just hours away, let's talk family values, Brady family values, as Maureen McCormick, aka The Brady Bunch's Marcia Brady, goes on a rampaging media tour to talk about her memoir, Here's the Story. Apparently child stars don't deal with fame well; everybody's favorite eldest daughter spent her post-Brady years freebasing cocaine and trading sex for drugs. Oh my nose, indeed.

Other than the ca-razy revelations about her lifestyle and syphilis-prone family, McCormick spends the rest of the memoir dishing the stuff fans have known about for years, like her relationship with Barry Williams and her feud with Eve Plumb. Still, to watch McCormick's interview is to wonder the same thing one always wonders about random celebrity memoirs: is she brave to be writing about the pain in her life or cheap to be throwing every tawdry memory out there to see what the public might try to catch?


And as for Bobby and Cindy, you don't want to know what those two did to Tiger the family dog.

Full Article »

pop culture

SNL Finds Humor in People Not Named Palin

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 6th 2008 4:28PM

Filed Under: University of Pennsylvania, Pop Culture

Thanks to Sarah Palin, 70 million people watched the vice presidential debate (18 million more than the viewership for the first presidential debate) and SNL is scoring its biggest rates in forever. In fact, the Palin vs. Fey battle has gotten so big, there's a good chance the governor of Alaska will be stopping by SNL's Weekend Update primetime show this Thursday or the next new SNL broadcast on October 18.

But SNL's latest opening sketch managed to highlight, in addition to the so-obvious-it's-amazing-no one's-said-anything-so-far idea of a "maverick" drinking game, something about somebody who isn't Sarah Palin.

And that was Joe Biden's performance in the debate, from his emphasis on repetition ("Let me repeat that again: time!") to his dissing of Scranton, PA, "an absolute jerkwater of a town," to his pendulum-swinging opinion on the Republican candidate ("John McCain, and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for, is bad at his job and mentally unstable"). And while Tina Fey had Palin's winking, Jason Sudeikis had Biden's game show host smile at the end of every answer.

Citizens can rest easy knowing that comics will be able to write jokes in the event of an Obama-Biden win.

Full Article »

politics

Palinizing the Debate

Emily Lasky

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 10:06AM

Filed Under: Politics, University of Pennsylvania

It was a normal debate, doggone it. And by normal, I mean boring. I betcha if you went and asked anybody, the Joe Six Packs, the Hockey Moms, anybody in the middle class, they woulda said that there woulda been fireworks, words exploding everywhere during an incredibly awkward meltdown.

But since she has no achilles heel, the vice maverick (someone get the woman a cowboy hat!) didn't do that. She just walked the walk to the podium and talked the talking points she rehearsed.

And darn right, Gwen Ifill was kicking tail and taking names, calling the candidates out like a ref penalizing a player for high checking, every time, and there were a few times, that neither one answered a question. But, of course, the governor was talking straight to the American people, which is why it's OK that she answered a question about mortage holders by talking about energy. Because she spoke in (fairly) complete sentences, without the filter of the mainstream media (until now) and turned back into that confident, lipstick-wearing pitbull we first saw when she got the nom, she exceeded expectations. And say it ain't so, Joe, that our expectations are that low for the leaders of our country.

All this debate did was prove that Biden and Palin know how to defend their running mates in the political equivalent of a "Yo Momma" smackdown. Which I'm sure is how it goes down on Wasilla Main Street. The only question I've got now is: what's Tina Fey gonna do with this?

I'm not gonna answer that.

*Wink*





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