/Tag: culture

The first of reality TV.

The fascinating, and highly problematic, history of the TV show Cops.

I think the quote, [show creator John Langley] decided he didn’t want to perpetuate stereotypes, so he insisted that the show feature as many white people being apprehended as people of color is pretty much the TV version of that diagram of the kids standing on the boxes. According to FBI data for 2016, 69.6% of arrested persons in the US were white, while 26.9% were Black or African American. On those statistics alone, showing “as many white people being apprehended” is over-representing the criminality of people of color by more than double.1 Assuming the show actually sticks to its “fifty-fifty” policy which, let’s face it, it doesn’t.

  1. Note that the FBI divides Hispanic and Latino figures down on a separate axis, as ethnicity. Even assuming that all Hispanic/Latino arrests are counted under the “white” racial category—a big assumption—it still means arrests of people of color are over-represented. ^
2018-02-02T13:58:25+00:0022nd July, 2018|Tags: culture, pop culture, tv|0 Comments


As an industry, the media specializes in the worldwide production of audiences. The artifacts of this industry have become our common culture, and this is why we worry about the effects of the media. Journalism is something different. It is a social practice essential to a democracy— and democracy is more than mere openness. What journalism produces is not an audience, but a public, and we should worry when journalism fails to have this effect on us.


What’s confusing is that both the media and journalism have an interest in news. But the media sees news as low-cost material— a cheap way to engage us in the moment. The purpose of journalism is to engage us, not in the moment, but in the present— especially the political present. Journalism falters when it loses its authority over the present, it’s ability to engage us in the public world as it presently stands.

Jay Rosen on journalism vs. the media.

This is the text of a lecture Rosen gave in 1993, of all things (the internet didn’t even exist in ’93!), but it remains startlingly and terrifyingly relevant.

2018-02-01T08:02:16+00:0019th July, 2018|Tags: culture, media, newsphobia|0 Comments

Democracy dies in light.

The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out. They look like epidemics of disinformation, meant to undercut the credibility of valid information sources. They look like bot-fueled campaigns of trolling and distraction, or piecemeal leaks of hacked materials, meant to swamp the attention of traditional media.

These tactics usually don’t break any laws or set off any First Amendment alarm bells. But they all serve the same purpose that the old forms of censorship did: They are the best available tools to stop ideas from spreading and gaining purchase.

Zeynep Tufekci on the new censorship.

2018-02-01T07:24:28+00:0017th July, 2018|Tags: culture, media, politics|0 Comments

It matters who started it.

And this, I propose, is the critical human flaw. It’s not that as a species we’re particularly aggressive. It’s that we tend to respond to aggression very poorly. Our first instinct when we observe unprovoked aggression is either to pretend it isn’t happening or, if that becomes impossible, to equate attacker and victim, placing both under a kind of contagion, which, it is hoped, can be prevented from spreading to everybody else. (Hence, the psychologists’ finding that bullies and victims tend to be about equally disliked.) The feeling of guilt caused by the suspicion that this is a fundamentally cowardly way to behave—since it is a fundamentally cowardly way to behave—opens up a complex play of projections, in which the bully is seen simultaneously as an unconquerable super-villain and a pitiable, insecure blowhard, while the victim becomes both an aggressor (a violator of whatever social conventions the bully has invoked or invented) and a pathetic coward unwilling to defend himself.

David Graeber on bullies and cowards.

One excerpt from a much longer essay, and one worth reading in its entirety.

2018-01-31T08:33:05+00:0013th July, 2018|Tags: culture|0 Comments

Bechdel Beyond.

Interesting look at possible “tests beyond Bechdel”, as proposed by women in the entertainment industry.

Some of these I think are useful, some… er, well. I’m just saying “failing” a film where a female character acts as “a plot problem for a male protagonist [and/or hero]” would seem to, for example, preclude having meaningful female characters, of both the pro- and antagonist variety, in… pretty much any film in which men also appear. It would nix, for example, Mad Max: Fury Road (Furiosa and co. cause problems for Max, Nux, and Immortan Joe), pretty much any Star Wars film (Leia causes problems for Luke and Darth Vader; Rey causes problems for Finn; Jyn causes problems for Cassian; Leia and Holdo cause problems for Poe; Rey causes problems for Kylo; Rose causes problems for Finn… yikes, so many), and Wonder Woman (Diana causes problems for Steve and Ares). Which, like. While you can have plenty or legitimate criticism of Fury Road or Wonder Woman or, like, The Last Jedi, “they had bad female characters!” usually, like. Isn’t one of them.

Still. A good list with some important ideas.

2018-01-25T08:18:15+00:009th July, 2018|Tags: culture, pop culture|0 Comments

There is no 5e.

For my fifteenth birthday, I was given $40 to buy myself a present. That present? My Very First Tabletop Roleplaying Book, Litany of the Tribles vol. 1, a sourcebook for White Wolf’s Werewolf: the Apoclaypse game. (Why that book? Well… because they had it in the shop. And I had no idea how RPG books “worked”. Needless to say, my very next purchase was the actual core rule themselves.) To say this game changed my life is probably both hyperbole and an understatement; Liesmith‘s Lain, for example, had his first incarnation as the totem for our W:tA game, which was set in the proto version of Pandemonium City.

I spent pretty much all my teen years playing various versions of White Wolf’s World of Darkness, primarily WerewolfVampire, and Changeling. Yeah, the games both have and had issues—even to my un-woke, pre-internet teen self—but I adored them then and still adore them now. To the point that I spent hundreds buying up the various 20th anniversary editions from Onyx Path which, honestly, I thought did a fantastic job of keeping the “old WoD feel”, while simultaneously updating and smoothing out some of the… less great elements that had been present in the originals.

So when I heard about Vampire‘s 5th edition, I was cautiously optimistic. Even if it wasn’t going to be developed by Onyx Path, but rather a new studio under the same name as the original, White Wolf. The New White Wolf, or nWW, if you will. Because the *20 books were great… but they were also kind of “stuck”, in that they were designed very much as updated versions of old material, not new sourcebooks in-and-of-themselves. So to have things like an updated metaplot? Yeah. I could’ve been down for that. (Also, I really want more content for Demon: the Fallen…)

And then? Then I read the initial 5e alpha rules. Y’know. The one that had “Triggered” as a vampire clan weakness.

Oh, nWW, no.

Since then, everything I’ve heard from the nWW has pretty much gotten worse and worse, right up to the current point, where it’s… getting pretty hard to deny that the nWW is throwing 5e straight at the edgelord wannabe fascist alt-right scene. Which… for a game that introduced me to things like class politics, feminism, and queer activism?1 Yeah. 5e can basically fuck right the fuck off, and take its entire fucking dev team with it.

… talk about ruining someone’s childhood. Ugh.

(Also, while I’m on the subject: Why am I suddenly not surprised to learn the nWW is owned by Paradox Interactive? Because, yeah. I enjoyed Stellaris well enough but holy shit that game’s fandom is an alt-right anime Nazi trashfire. Yikes.)

  1. That Litany of the Tribes vol. 1 really was… formative, let me tell you. ^
2018-07-09T16:05:35+00:009th July, 2018|Tags: culture, gaming, pop culture, rpgs, tabletop rpgs|0 Comments


The annual glut of diet books are pretty formulaic. Take an established star, preferably one who has recently lost weight, and get them to create a diet plan based on their “journey”. Dishes are cut from a standard list of “stuff considered healthy these days”, so be prepared for endless incarnations of avocado, a recipe for Mexican scrambled eggs, and a dizzying array of spiralised vegetables. Most present a complex set of rules and restrictions, with recipes so aspirational and unrealistic for everyday living that most people will fail. It moves from something that happens to you, to something you can buy with enough effort. Modern diet books are the wet dream of neoliberalism, with a side serving of courgetti.

Anthony Warner hates your Mexican scrambled eggs.

2018-02-08T08:15:23+00:008th July, 2018|Tags: culture, cw: dieting, food|Comments Off on Neonutritionism.