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mixed grill
another summertime smorgasbord
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)
pop culture

It's been quite a while since I did a summertime pop culture roundup. Yet summer is such a perfect and weird and known-but-unknown pop culture time, it really lends itself to this kind of thing: a good look that doesn't look too close.

(Look too close and it'll burn your eyes out. I mean, really, do you want to analyze the lyrics of "American Boy"? Talk about the theme of how technology dehumanizes us as seen in Transformers 2: The Transformening? Write a scathing review of the latest Nora Roberts? Summer is not for such things.)

1. My inner 17-year-old girl is having a ball with "So You Think You Can Dance." I squee. I rewatch. I read message boards where people report on Nigel's tweeting. I leap on spoilers. (ZOMG Karla and Vitolio are getting the quickstep? Rilly? Rilly rilly? ZOMG that is SO UNFAIR I am totally going to power vote for them WTF!) On the flip side, it's probably my adult persona asserting herself when I realize that the dancer I'm most attached to looks like a scaled-down version of Nathan Fillion. Even in a summertime pursuit of the pointless and shallow it seems I cannot escape The Whedon. Curses!

2. Other than that, I'm pretty much off TV for the summer, which is good, because SYTYCD alone is a three-hour-a-week time commitment. Not counting time spent on a) rewatches, b) spoiler hunting, and c) squee.

3. I finally saw The Brothers Bloom, which I was so looking forward to, since it's the second film from Rian Johnson, who did one of my all-time favorites, Brick. Also TBB stars Mark Ruffalo (yay) and Adrien Brody (good) and Rachel Weisz (love). And I adore con capers. But it never really sat right with me, and I think I finally figured out why. Johnson never picks an era. It's an aggressively quirky Wes Anderson-type world, where children in foster homes wear full suits and bowler hats, and an heiress juggles chainsaws, and silent Japanese henchwomen blow things up with panache. But it wasn't set in the past exactly, because the cars were modern, but people traveled by steamship, but they also used the word "totally." So, too much all over. Plot's great, acting's great, it's just the lack of era (and maybe overly obtrusive music?) that kept me on edge. All told I liked it and would recommend it. Rental.

4. And since one of the main reasons I loved Brick was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you can imagine how psyched I am for 500 Days of Summer. Zooey Deschanel is just the icing on that particular cake.

5. My last summertime roundup, "summer better than others", is still one of my most popular columns of all time, and do you know why? Because it turns up in Google searches for the words "april macie naked." Which at least 10 people, or one very focused guy, still search for every month. And now they'll turn up this one too. Hi guys! How're you doin'? Ever think about moving on? Yeah, I didn't think so. See you in August!

6. It's really brilliant how they've re-engineered "Top Chef" to become "Top Chef Masters." Each week they pick a winner instead of a loser, for one thing. They assign points, which makes it seem more objective, which it's not, but provides a lovely cover. And, of course, the chefs actually know what they're doing. Though you still have awesome, petty moments like the one where Ludo Lefebre makes a quesadilla for a challenge, and when he finds out Rick Bayliss is making a taco, he sneers that Bayliss must have stolen the idea from him. Yes, I'm sure the most well-known Mexican cuisine chef in the country couldn't have thought of a taco without you, dear. Run and play now.

7. Maybe I'm just getting impatient in my old age but at this point I prefer New York magazine to The New Yorker on every level. Their articles aren't 30 pages long. They don't insist on publishing freaking FAUX-DEEP NATURE POETRY every single issue, and the worst of modern navel-gazing, elliptical fiction. On the other hand, I do still love The New Yorker's insistence on the umlauts in coordinate and preeminent. So, both magazines have their appeal.

8. Twitter? Still no.

9. My Netflix watching has shifted over almost completely to TV. No, I don't mean I beam in the Netflix shows through the television (though many do, and once I have a new TV I'll totally get on that), but instead of renting movies I rent whole seasons of TV shows instead. Just finished "Regency House Party" (great for diversifying Austen addicts) and started "In Treatment". Yes, "In Treatment" is hour after hour of one-on-one talking (or one-on-two, in one case) but all through the first disk I was riveted. And the acting is spectacular. For once, I was impressed by Melissa George (I know!) and felt a disturbing hatred for Josh Charles (I know!!), and that's pretty amazing.

10. Why are movie theatres always so cold? I like A/C as much as the next girl, but geez. To this day the only thing I can remember about the Clooney/Soderbergh remake of Solaris was how freaking cold it was in the theatre. Which reminds me, I may have to see that Sam Rockwell movie Moon, which looks like it could be awesome. I'll be sure to take a sweater.

11. So, to sum up: pop culture is glorious and wonderful and we so enjoy immersing ourselves in the senselessness of it all. So savor that. Immerse yourself in it. For part of the day.

After that? Go play outside.


Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry


the best food you haven't eaten
learning from the top food blogs
by jael mchenry
topic: pop culture
published: 4.4.07

belly up to the pop culture buffet
a year-end roundup
by jael mchenry
topic: pop culture
published: 12.5.07


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