Stop Nick Cage Before He Kills Again!

September 25, 2014

Spurious Correlations

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

This graph of the correlation between the number of Nicholas Cage films and the number of swimming pool drownings in each year (correlation = 0.666004) and many more await you at Spurious Correlations.

Here’s the graph of the age of Miss America and the number of murders by steam, hot vapors and hot objects (correlation = 0.870127):

Spurious Correlations 2

Perhaps you scoff at such weak correlations. It may interest you to know that the marriage rate in Kentucky and the number of people who drown after falling out of a fishing boat correlate at 0.952407! What on earth are newlyweds doing in Kentucky, and how do we put a stop to it?

HT Michael Strain


Random Pop Culture Apocalypse: I’m So Lonesome I Could Cover

July 7, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Speaking of cowboys, this song by Hank Williams Sr. demonstrates the hit and miss but generally delightful nature of cover songs.  Here is the original:

Elvis gives the song a go:

Al Green gives it some soul:

Terry Bradshaw (?!?) exceeds very low expectations- Go Terry Go!:

Johnny Cash and Nick Cave go duet:

Plus the Master in the Art of Living Dean Martin gave it a go:

All of these versions however buried their head in their pillows to weep bitterly when they heard the genius of the bagpipe/punk rock version:

 

 

 

 

 


“Doesn’t God Believe in My Pursuit of Happiness?”

May 21, 2014

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

My nomination of Kickstarter for The Al didn’t get off the ground, but after watching this trailer, I already feel like I got full value for the $40 I chipped in to help Zack Braff make this movie without letting the idiots who seem to be in charge of Hollywood mess around with it. Enjoy!



Random Pop Culture: Brian Setzer

December 17, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I caught Brian Setzer’s Christmas show last year, and I liked it so much that I am going to see it again this year.  Setzer’s big band and guitar setup reminds me of a brief, cool era of music like this:

I have previously confessed my admiration for Setzer as a genre bender, but seeing him in person deepened my appreciation. Keeping an orchestra on the road is an expensive proposition, which probably kept this performance format as a short lived niche, but a delight to see nevertheless. During last year’s show, Setzer spent an interlude with a three-man drum/base/guitar Stray Cats setup.  Once he built the crowd up to a frenzy, he stopped everything, smiled and announced:

“I get to play music with these guys EVERY NIGHT!  It’s my JOB!!!”

Which of course reminded me of my favorite Zen quote:

The Master in the Art of Living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion.  He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.

It’s Bryan Setzer’s world folks- we are just living in it.


Pass the Popcorn: Fill the Void

July 21, 2013

I’m interrupting my hiatus one more time to urge you to see the Israeli film, Fill the Void.  Like a Jane Austen story, the film is a love story told within the context of a society with clear rules for behavior, a strong sense of responsibility and connection to family, and the tension of repressed emotions.

The film takes place in an Orthodox Jewish community in Tel Aviv.  Having turned 18, Shira is excited about the prospect of being married.  She spies one prospect for a match in a grocery store and excitedly tells her sister, Esther, that he might be the one.  But when Esther dies in childbirth, and her widower may move with the surviving baby for an arranged marriage in Belgium, the grieving mother proposes a plan to have him marry Shira and stay.  Can Shira fill the void of her sister?  Can she sacrifice youthful romance to marry a widower and keep the family intact?  What are her obligations to her parents, her grieving brother-in-law, and to herself?

Fill the Void is no more a critique of the Orthodox Jewish community it depicts than Jane Austen’s stories are a critique of 19th century British aristocracy.  Societies with lax rules for behavior and individuals with little sense of obligation to their families and communities would never produce the intensity of emotion and the tension of conflicting obligations found in Fill the Void or Jane Austen.  Love is about connection and without rules, family bonds, and community obligations we are more likely to have atomized individuals than loving connections.  The title of the film may not just refer to the void created by the deceased sister, but may have something to do with how love ultimately fills the voids between us.

Unlike almost every other film this summer, there is no action scene before the credits.  There are few plot developments — I’ve already told you almost the entire plot.  Instead, what you see is a superbly acted and directed intimate portrayal.  And the ending has hints of the The Graduate.  Love is triumphant but what comes next?


Robot and Frank

May 3, 2013

Now that this has officially been dubbed a “widely read education reform-pop culture blog” we had better make sure to keep up the pop culture side of the billing.  Let me do so by urging you to see the small, independent film, Robot and Frank.  I won’t spoil anything here for those who have not seen it, but I can tell you that this film is more than a sentimental depiction of an aging man’s relationship with a robot.  It raises questions about how we are defined by our memories and shared experiences.  And what happens if we miss out on those experiences or lose those memories?

But don’t get me wrong.  This is not some dreary philosophical thesis.  It’s a crime thriller, romance, and quite funny.  I particularly enjoyed this effort at social conversation by a pair of robots:

I also enjoyed the depiction of the ultra-modern hipsters who see the past as a quaint amusement rather than the repository of the memories that define us.  People like that may not have the attention span to read this far into a post (“tl;dr”), but I think they’ll recognize themselves in the character of Jake.

And Frank Langella is just brilliant in everything he does.  Enjoy Robot and Frank.


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