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Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

Woodstock Poster“MICHAEL Lang and Joel Rosenman were two of the producers of the original Woodstock festival 40 summers ago. Lately, they have been trying to pull together an anniversary concert this year, they really have, but you have to understand, man, it’s complex. . . .

“While the partners’ most promising idea — a one-day mini-Woodstock in Prospect Park in Brooklyn this August — fizzled when they could not find sponsors, that doesn’t mean others haven’t coaxed a few more marketing miles from the creaky Woodstock bus.

“Dozens of projects are planned to commemorate the August 1969 concert, including an Ang Lee movie called ‘Taking Woodstock,’ a Heroes of Woodstock concert tour (with Jefferson Starship and Melanie) and at least 13 books, including one for children co-authored by a second cousin of Max Yasgur, the farmer who lent his land in Bethel, N.Y., for the original event. Target is set to run a ‘Summer of Love’ promotion featuring licensed Woodstock merchandise, like beach towels with the symbolic white dove perched on a guitar neck.

Woodstock Founders“But Mr. Lang, 64, and Mr. Rosenman, 66, who, with the family of another original partner, control Woodstock Ventures, which owns the trademarks, have so far failed to deliver a solid plan to commemorate their own historic achievement. Time, it would seem, has run out for pulling together the kind of anniversary blowouts the partners were behind in upstate New York in 1994 and 1999 — the former a three-day, mud-slathered event that attracted 300,000 fans, the latter chiefly remembered for a riot.” (more @ NY Times)

Related: Woodstock 1969-2009 (Thanks, Debbi)

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Mustard“What kind of a man eats his hamburger without ketchup? That was the big question yesterday on talk radio, after President Obama visited an Arlington, Virginia, hamburger place on Tuesday and ordered his burger with spicy mustard.”

Apparently Texans and Republicans also prefer mustard to ketchup as their condiment of choice:

In Texas:

“Texans traditionally eat hamburgers with mustard or with mayonnaise (or with both), but without ketchup. This is simply called a ‘hamburger’ in Texas, but is sometimes called a ‘Cowboy Burger’ or a ‘Texas Burger’ outside of Texas. 

“A hamburger with ketchup is sometimes called a ‘Yankee Burger.’ A hamburger with mayonnaise is sometimes called a ‘Sissy Burger.'” . . .

As for the GOP:

“A 2000 survey of members of Congress by the National Hot Dog Council found that 73% of Republican lawmakers preferred mustard to ketchup, as opposed to 47% of Democratic lawmakers.”

(via New Majority.com)

Related: The Ketchup Conundrum

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sugarshack“Ernie Barnes, whose drawings and paintings of athletes, dancers and other figures in motion reflected his first career as a professional football player, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 70. . . .

“Mr. Barnes was an offensive lineman in the old American Football League, playing four seasons in the 1960s for the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. He would often say later that even during his playing days, his heart was more in the painting and sketching he had been doing since he was a child.

“But the athletic experience clearly influenced his painterly vision. His work, which mostly depicts black people — Mr. Barnes was black — is kinetic and often vividly bright, though even in his black-and-white pencil drawings the strain of competing bodies is evident in the curves, stretches and muscular exertions of the figures.

“While his most famous painting, ‘Sugar Shack,’ a jubilant dancing scene that appeared on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album ‘I Want You’ and was shown during the closing credits of the television situation comedy ‘Good Times,’ is not literally sports-related, it is nonetheless a characteristic work, with its vibrant tumble of bodies.” (more @ NY Times)

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“Nearly a decade ago, embarrassed about reports of widespread fraud in the $1-billion-per-year sports memorabilia industry — dominated by baseball and filled mostly with fakes and forgeries, according to an F.B.I. investigation — Major League Baseball did something about it.

“Now every game has at least one authenticator, watching from a dugout or near one. The authenticators are part of a team of 120 active and retired law-enforcement officials sharing the duties for the 30 franchises. Several worked the home openers for the Yankees and the Mets, helping track firsts at the new stadiums. They verified balls, bases, jerseys, the pitchers’ rosin bag, even the pitching rubber and the home plate that were removed after the first game at Yankee Stadium.

“Nothing is too mundane to be authenticated, if deemed potentially valuable. Cans of insect repellent used to combat the midges that swarmed the 2007 playoffs in Cleveland were authenticated. So were urinals pulled from the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis and office equipment from since-razed Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The Phillies are cutting the clubhouse carpet from last season into authenticated 18-by-24-inch mats. . . .

“Authenticators carry rolls of high-tech hologram stickers. A bullet-shaped one is placed on the object. Removing it leaves polka dots of the decal attached and renders the removed sticker unusable. A second sticker, with a matching number and a bar code, is scanned by a hand-held unit, instantly recording the item into M.L.B. computers.” (more @ NY Times)

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“On inauguration day, Tom Brokaw was moved to compare Barack Obama’s election to Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution. At the eye of each storm, of course, was an icon who merged the political and the aesthetic–Václav Havel, the rock-star poet and prophet, and Barack Obama, the post-soul master of his own story. Both struck down eras of monocultural repression with their pens.

“Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama’s victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and ’80s to the hip-hop rebels of the ’90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the ‘silent majority‘ were community organizer and artist.

“Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?” (cont’d @ The Nation)

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baseball-lingoWhere would pols, pundits and morose mucky-mucks be without the language of baseball?

“Here’s the pitch: Despite distractions, you have to keep your eye on the ball. You have to be aware of something unexpected coming out of left field, and only if your ad-libbed response is not off base will your home team go to bat for you. You can’t be born on third base and think you hit a triple. Last year, candidate Obama took the sting out of criticism by the scribes for playing ball with a Chicago fixer by admitting, right off the bat, that his property purchase was boneheaded. Palin showed she had something on the ball, considered 2008 a warm-up in the bullpen and took a rain check for 2012, when she hopes to knock the ball out of the park, unless she gets thrown a curve by the rise of Romney, now in the catbird’s seat.” (more @ NY Times)

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rossetFrom NPR, a profile of publisher Barney Rosset, former owner of Grove Press and The Evergreen Review, in advance of the publication of his autobiography, The Subject Is Left Handed, which takes its name from his FBI file. The article includes a clip from Obscene,” a film biography (2007) of Rosset, in which Rosset discusses acquiring Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot.

“Independent publisher Barney Rosset was there for some of the most important — and controversial — developments in 20th century American literary history. The first to publish Samuel Beckett in the United States, Rosset has been honored by the National Book Foundation, the Association of American Publishers and the French Ministry of Culture.

“Born to a wealthy Chicago banker, Rosset served as a photographer in World War II and afterward tried his hand at filmmaking and writing before buying a small, nearly defunct publishing company named Grove Press in 1951. . . .

“Rosset knew nothing about the business of publishing, but one of the first books Grove put out in 1954 became one of its most important: Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. . . .

“Over the years Grove did have a couple of best-sellers, including A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole and Games People Play, by Eric Bern. And Grove championed the avant garde and politically inflammatory. It published the work of noted 20th century playwrights like Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and David Mamet, as well as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which had been dropped by Doubleday.

“In 1957 Grove Press got into magazine publishing; The Evergreen Review became one of the most important magazines of the counterculture . . . Two years after launching The Evergreen Review, Rosset stepped into the national headlines when he decided that Grove would publish Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which other American publishers had shunned because of its frank sexuality. After the postal service impounded more than a hundred copies of the book, Rosset went to court claiming it was protected under the First Amendment. He won, but that was only part of his strategy. His real goal, Rosset says, was to publish another banned book: Henry Miller’s 1934 autobiographical novel, Tropic of Cancer.” (more @ NPR)

Related

[INTERVIEWER: Didn’t you say somewhere, “I am for obscenity and against pornography”?

MILLER: Well, it’s very simple. The obscene would be the forthright, and pornography would be the roundabout. I believe in saying the truth, coming out with it cold, shocking if necessary, not disguising it. In other words, obscenity is a cleansing process, whereas pornography only adds to the murk.]

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05_Flatbed_1 - APRIL“Mexico is protesting what it says is a whopper of an insult.

An advertisement for Burger King‘s Texican Whopper burger that has run in Europe shows a small wrestler dressed in a cape resembling a Mexican flag. The wrestler teams up with a lanky American cowboy almost twice his height to illustrate the cross-border blend of flavors.

“‘The taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican,’ a narrator’s voice says.

“The taller cowboy boosts the wrestler up to reach high shelves and helps clean tall windows, while the Mexican helps the cowboy open a jar.

“Mexico’s ambassador to Spain said Monday he has written a letter to Burger King’s offices in that nation objecting to the ad and asking that it be removed. Jorge Zermeno told Radio Formula that the ads ‘improperly use the stereotyped image of a Mexican.'” (more @ NY Daily News)

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fidrychMark Fidrych, an eccentric All-Star pitcher nicknamed ‘The Bird’ whose career was shortened by injuries, was found dead Monday in an apparent accident at his farm. He was 54. . . .

“The curly-haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. . . .

“Fidrych acquired the nickname ‘The Bird’ because of his resemblance to the Big Bird character on the Sesame Street television show. During games, he would bend down and groom the mound with his hands, talk to the baseball and slap five with teammates in the middle of the diamond.” (more @ ESPN)

RelatedIn ’76, Bird was the word

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bannedbooks“‘American Psycho’ is Bret Easton Ellis’ story of a sadistic murderer. ‘Unfriendly Fire’ is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it’s ‘Unfriendly Fire’ that does not have a sales rank — which means it would not show up in Amazon’s bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the ‘Twilight’ series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon’s search results.

“Amazon’s policy of removing ‘adult’ content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. . . .

“Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: ‘Running with Scissors’ by Augusten Burroughs, ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’ by Rita Mae Brown, ‘Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic’ by Alison Bechdel, ‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1’ by Michel Foucault, ‘Bastard Out of Carolina’ by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), ‘Little Birds: Erotica’ by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and ‘Becoming a Man’ by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

“Books that remain ranked include: ‘Naked’ by David Sedaris, ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller, ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis, ‘Wifey’ by Judy Blume, ‘The Kiss’ by Kathryn Harrison, the photobooks ‘Playboy: Helmut Newton’ and ‘Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds,’ ‘Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs, ‘Incest: From ‘A Journal of Love” by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition). . . .

“But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be, it’s a bit beside the point. It’s the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can’t be a good idea.” (more @ LA Times)

Related

Update

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girls-gone-wild“A Philadelphia cable network’s early morning broadcast of a Good Friday service at the Vatican abruptly changed to something wildly different – a 30-second ‘Girls Gone Wild ad.

“Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander says the 2 a.m. Friday programming glitch was due to a required test of the Emergency Alert System. He says such tests are usually done in the overnight hours.

“The test automatically tunes viewers to a preselected channel that would provide information in the event of an emergency. But during tests, the channel airs regular programming, which in this case included a paid advertisement for the racy videos.

“Alexander says the problem affected the network’s entire local area, but only one person called to complain.” (via Huffington Post)

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crumblastsupperRobert Crumb‘s cover for “The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog,” from Jeremy Barker’s collection of 100+ pop culture adaptations of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. (more @ Popped Culture,”; via Wired)

[Click image for a larger version of the R. Crumb cover.]

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roy-rogersAn anonymous bidder acquired the ‘King of Cowboys’ Roy Rogers‘ OM-45 Deluxe Martin guitar at Christie’s on April 3. One of the rarest and considered among many collectors the most coveted Martin guitar, the 1930 instrument was put up for auction by the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Mo., and attracted a winning bid of $554,500.” (cont’d @ Antiques & the Arts)

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“In “Defiance,” a clunky but well-meaning action film set during World War II and starring Daniel Craig, the Bielski brothers save hundreds of fellow Polish Jews by battling Nazis in the Belarussian forest. Directed by Edward Zwick and based on a true story, the movie, released around New Year’s, tried among other things to counter Hollywood’s usual tales of Jewish helplessness during the Shoah.

“Whether it did, or instead implied that Jews who didn’t fight bore a measure of responsibility for their own fate, became a matter of some passing debate in America.

“But the film provoked a different sort of fuss shortly before it arrived here some weeks later. Movie critics in Poland wondered whether Hollywood would ever get around to showing Polish partisans as heroes, as opposed to anti-Semites. . . .

“As Europe diversifies, nearly every nation and culture on the continent seems to battle for victimhood status. Poles have especially good reason to see themselves as long oppressed, having been fought over and occupied for much of the last century by vicious regimes. Shifting political power struggles during and after the war, among other complications of Polish Jewish history, led some Polish Jews at certain points to side with Soviets against Nazis and Polish partisans. The whole moral morass, essential to Polish identity, tends to be lost on outsiders, many of whom unthinkingly regard the country, throughout most of the last century at least, as just a Jewish killing field.” (more @ NY Times)

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cartoon-protest“Prints of the Danish cartoon depicting Islam‘s Prophet Mohammed as a suicide bomber in 2005 — much to the chagrin of the international Muslim community — will now be sold by the Denmark Free Press Society for $250 each. One thousand copies are to be printed and sold, with each having a designated number and signature by the artist, Kurt Westergaard, who has been in hiding due to numerous death threats. . . .

“The controversial cartoons caused riots throughout the Muslim world in early 2006, resulting in a number of deaths, property damage and a general wounding of diplomatic relations between east and west that has still not fully healed.” (more @ Huffington Post)

“Westergaard, 73, is one of 12 cartoonists whose drawings of the Muslim prophet were first published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, sparking controversy among Muslims worldwide.” (more @ Straits Times)

Related

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Walgreens has announced that the commander in chief will not sprout a Chia Afro on its shelves. . . .

“We decided to pull the product because it didn’t fit with our corporate image,” [Robert Elfinger, a spokesman for Walgreens] said in a company statement. “We also didn’t want to be subject to any misinterpretation over the product. People could interpret it through a political viewpoint or other viewpoints and we want to avoid that situation.” . . .

“News of Walgreens’ removal of the presidential planter has led at least one enterprising Internet seller to offer the Chia Obama for $50—more than double the $19.99 shelf price.” (more @ Chicago Tribune)

Related

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“In a recession, what people want is a happy ending.

“At a time when booksellers are struggling to lure readers, sales of romance novels are outstripping most other categories of books and giving some buoyancy to an otherwise sluggish market.

Harlequin Enterprises, the queen of the romance world, reported that fourth-quarter earnings were up 32 percent over the same period a year earlier, and Donna Hayes, Harlequin’s chief executive, said that sales in the first quarter of this year remained very strong. While sales of adult fiction overall were basically flat last year, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, the romance category was up 7 percent after holding fairly steady for the previous four years.” (more @ NY Times)

Related: That Old Flame

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schindlerpapers“A list of Jews saved from the Nazi death camps during World War II by the German industrialist Oskar Schindler has been found in research notes at an Australian library and will go on public display on Tuesday.

“The list of 801 Jewish men was found among six boxes of papers that belonged to the Australian author Thomas Keneally who wrote the book ‘Schindler’s Ark’ that was the basis for the Oscar-winning film ‘Schindler’s List‘ by Stephen Spielberg. The 13-page, yellowing, document was found tucked between research notes and German newspaper cuttings by a researcher at the New South Wales Library in Sydney sifting through the boxes of manuscripts acquired by the library in 1996.” (more @ Reuters)

RelatedSchindler’s List found in Sydney

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hendrix“Eric Segalstad has spent the past few years researching a group of musicians who have been dubbed ‘The 27s’ — rockers who died at that age, either through tragedy, misadventure or excess. The club includes Kurt Cobain, who took his own life 15 years ago Sunday.

“The king of grunge is just one of the more than 20 musicians featured in Segalstad’s book, The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll. It includes artists across all genres — from Jim Morrison to Robert Johnson.

“So, what is it about the number 27?

“‘It’s a strange number,’ Segalstad tells NPR’s Robert Smith. ‘It also happens right around that time in your life where most people go from the stage of youth to the stage of maturity.'” (more @ NPR)

An excerpt from Segalstad’s book can be found here.

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jackjohnson1“Sen. John McCain said Wednesday he’s sure that President Barack Obama ‘will be more than eager’ to pardon the late black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was sent to prison nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

“Appearing with three of Johnson’s family members and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., McCain unveiled a resolution urging a presidential pardon for Johnson, who was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed. (more @ ESPN)

[Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908, defeating then-champion Tommy Burns from Australia; Johnson reigned until 1915, losing his title to Jess Willard in a controversial fight in Havana, Cuba. Best remembered for spawning a search for a “great white hope,” Johnson’s story has been chronicled in both stage and film productions of “The Great White Hope” and in “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” a PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Two particularly fine studies of Johnson’s cultural significance written by prominent sports historians are Bad Nigger!: The National Impact of Jack Johnson (Al-Tony Gilmore, 1975) and Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes (Randy Roberts, 1983).]

Related

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