Category Archives: Culture

Recession + Obesity = High Waisted Fashion Trend

SkirtAs this Wikipedia entry on Fast Fashion illustrates beautifully, the fashion world is not typically a friend to your figure or your wallet. Nonetheless, by some cosmic fluke, the present prevailing fashion trend of high waisted skirts can be both.

Many Americans are finding themselves short on cash in the present economy. Many Americans are also a little heavier than they were a few years ago. Not to worry. For once, good can come of this situation. You see, skirts that once fit nicely around your hips in as per that early-2000’s trend will now fit snugly around your waist and be miraculously trendy. And you don’t have to spend a dime.



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Donny Deutsch doesn’t get it: Thoughts on Michael Jackson

Today, on the Ed Show, former advertising executive Donny Deutsch declared that Michael Jackson’s death has been over covered by the media.  He said that Michael Jackson was just “a good singer and dancer.”
You can see the full video here.  Hopefully, I’ll learn to post MSNBC video on wordpress.

Deutsch was on MSNBC to discuss Michael Jackson’s effect on the music business. Instead, he took his time on the show to go on a rant about how Michael Jackson’s death has been covered, and how the media is not covering the deaths of many men and women who have “done more for society.”  Deutsch seems to believe that 1.6 million people tried to get tickets to Jackson’s memorial because of the attention paid by the media. He seemed to believe that the 5 million people who streamed his memorial on youtube, did so because of over-exposure of the media. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t get it.

What I have learned over the past two weeks is that Michael Jackson was loved because he and his music reached through various barriers and touched his listeners’ heart.  The media coverage is a response to the intense interest by people around the world.

As a former ad exec, Deutsch probably sees Michael Jackson as a well marketed product.  He exemplifies the biggest problem with modern business, the commoditization of those things which cannot be given extrinsic value.  Why was Michael Jackson a global superstar? I don’t know. I imagine there is no one answer, but he was able to dominate popular culture for 20 years, and has fans in every age bracket.  Ought the coverage taper away? Yes. The memorial is over, and the media should shift back into normal coverage mode.  But that doesn’t negate the fact that Michael Jackson joins the ranks of cultural icons who require a public grieving process.

Deutsch tried to show that Jackson’s death received too much coverage by highlighting activists, soldiers, and doctors who died the same weekend that Jackson died but received no national media coverage.  The fact is that many heroes do not receive the accolades they deserve. This does not diminish the fact that Michael Jackson had a significant cultural impact on billions (yes billions) of people around the world.  His talent, music, and ambition blossomed at a time when distributing popular culture was easier than ever, and his tours fascinated fans all around the world. He gave these people joy, hope, inspiration, and much more.

On those allegations:

Peter King said of Michael Jackson: “This guy was a pervert, he was a child molester, he was a pedophile.”

We all know that many rumors and allegations swirled around Michael Jackson.  We also know that he was undoubtedly a strange guy.  But there are two much more important facts: 1) he went to trial and was not found guilty 2) he is now deceased.

On exaggeration:

At the memorial service, Magic Johnson said that sitting down to eat fried chicken with Michael Jackson was the best moment of his life.  We have also heard that Michael Jackson was the best [singer, dancer, performer, entertainer, etc] ever. I understand that people are honoring his memory, but is it really necessary to deify him? He was REALLY good, at many things, but the rhetoric (especially on the 24 hour news channels) has become ludicrous. Just saying.

This was the most important moment of the entire memorial service for Michael Jackson:

I enjoyed this snappy tweet from MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer.

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Michael Jackson kills the Internet

If there was any question about Michael Jackson’s popularity, it was settled last night, when news of his death created strong, in some cases unprecedented, internet traffic.

Some examples:

  • The Los Angeles Times was one of the first major publications to state that Jackson was dead. When CNN mentioned this as a source, the LA Times website was brought down by the traffic influx, receiving over 2.3 million page views in one hour.
  • Twitter went into a 5-6 minute delay. I saw the fail whale for the first time in weeks. TweetVolume reported that more than 65,000 tweets reported on the original TMZ story within the first hour – around 5,000 per minute at peak. “We saw an instant doubling of tweets per second the moment the story broke,” Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told the Los Angeles Times. “This particular news about the passing of such a global icon is the biggest jump in tweets per second since the U.S. presidential election.” Ultimately, updates about Jackson would double Twitter’s update frequency, and the singer currently occupies seven of Twitter’s ten top trending topics.
  • The number of status updates on Facebook was triple the average. Despite this, Facebook remained operable throughout.
  • America Online’s AIM instant messenger product – which was undergoing some minor scheduled maintenance around the time of the Jackson news – was severely impacted by the story and went down for 40 minutes. “Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth,” an AOL spokesperson said.
  • An edit war on Jackson’s page on Wikipedia ultimately forced the online encyclopaedia to freeze

The New York Times also reports that even google was affected by this flood of traffic:

Even Google had trouble keeping up. Between 5:40 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Eastern, after had said Mr. Jackson had died, some visitors to Google News “experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson,” a Google spokesman said.

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Food Friday: Shrimp Ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche

A sassier way to get your seafood

On a hot summer day, nothing beats the taste of seafood to make us think of rolling surfs and cool breezes – even if we’re stuck in an overheated apartment in the middle of the city.   But for those of us who don’t live on a coast, good seafood can be hard to come by.

Fortunately for those of us surrounded by amber waves of grain, frozen shrimp is plentiful, high-quality, and best of all, cheap.  But it’s often hard to prepare it in a way that doesn’t involve deep-frying or result in limp crustaceans arranged around a questionable container of cocktail sauce.

Ceviche, a traditional Latin American dish, is a refreshing alternative.   Everything marinates in a citrus mixture, which magically “cooks” everything so that it is crisp, and provides a satisfying tang to each bite.  It’s just what the doctor ordered for a steamy summer’s night.

This recipe is remarkably flexible – switch up the vegetables, change the seasonings.  You can even use a flaky whitefish like tilapia instead of shrimp.  All that matters is that you keep the citrus base and use good, fresh ingredients.  For that reason, it’s best if you use actual lemons and limes and squeeze them yourself, although bottled substitutes do a decent job and are much less time-consuming.


1 pound raw and deveined frozen shrimp
1 cup lime juice
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cucumber, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small hot pepper, minced
1/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into inch-long pieces
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Pour in the shrimp, and immediately turn off the heat.  Let the shrimp sit in the hot water for about 90 seconds.  Immediately drain and immerse the shrimp in cold water.  When cool, drain shrimp.
2. Arrange the shrimp, onion, bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, hot pepper, and asparagus in a shallow pan.  Mix together the citrus juice, and pour over the pan.
3. Allow to sit in the refrigerator at least one hour – more time means more flavors mixing.  To serve, drain the excess juice, garnish with cilantro.  Superb with freshly baked bread.

Yields 4 servings

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Sad Day in Pop Culture- Fawcett and Jackson Dead

Obit FawcettFawcett dies of cancer at age 62

Michael Jackson dies of cardiac arrest at age 50.


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Reading the OED: BOOKS

In which the dangers of too much good education are revealed as, fresh from graduation, even an airplane book falls prey to literary criticism.

Fascinating as the unusual words Ammon Shea culls from the Oxford English Dictionary are, Reading the OED is most interesting as an autobiographical sketch of the sort of man who reads a dictionary for pleasure. Or at least the sort of man who actively cultivates a narrative in which his eccentricities are at the fore. Even if Shea is not the misanthropic nerd he would like his readers to believe, he does well to paint that portrait, because it is fascinating. His girlfriend is a lexicographer—just imagine the pillow talk. You’d need a dictionary.

Shea maintains that his task of reading the whole OED in one year is a pleasure, despite the headaches, worsened eyesight, back spasms and desocialization he incurs along the way. Perhaps it was Shea’s intense hostility towards humanity that put me in the mood to question everything, (or perhaps a few too many critical essays stuffed into my brain) but the English major in me couldn’t shake the overwhelming since of intentionality behind Shea’s portrait of himself. This is a smart man who thinks very carefully about the way he presents himself, not the bumbling bookworm he presents himself as in his book. Evidence that Shea is sneakily constructing an identity for his readers? He self-referentially splits the his infinitive when he asks, “is it finally okay to go ahead and split that damn infinitive?” Okay, so he is not the first author to make this joke, but if you are wondering how consciously Shea is constructing his text, here is an answer. The narrative funhouse element alone makes the book a stimulating read.

The words are pretty choice too. I like bedinner —“to treat to dinner”—in my new career as impoverished young person, I hope to be on the receiving end of this excellent verb often. Also useful is Shea’s inclusion of the 8 different types of “drunke” the OED catalogues. There is lion-drunke, for your angry drunks, ape-drunke, for your crazy drunks, and for the other six, you’ll have to read this eumorphous book.

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