Category Archives: Kultcha

The Soft Power of Whitney Houston

Juan Cole:

Houston’s death was front page news in many Arab dailies, and elicited an outpouring of grief from her fans. Arabic newspapers said that the suddenness of her death magnified the shock. Her passing was also commemorated in Arabic on Twitter and Facebook.

Yemeni political activist and dissident Hind Aleryani ( @Dory_Eryani ) tweeted, “When I was a teenager in my room in #Yemen wondering what’s love, #WhitneyHouston was the voice that introduced Love 2 me #IWillAlwaysLoveYou.”

This recollection is a powerful reminder of the reach of American popular culture, and its influence in shaping ideas about, e.g., romantic love in the global South, including the Arab world.

The tragedy was marked in Beirut, the center of Arab pop music. …

Egyptian director Khalid Hagar went political, expressing his grief that Whitney is no longer with us, but Egypt’s military dictators still live. “We will always love you, Whitney, and we will always hate them.” Houston thus stands, for this supporter of the Arab Spring, for beauty and potential cut short.

Houston’s meteoric career made her part of what Joseph Nye has called American “soft power.” The love of world publics for American popular culture translates into favorable views of the US among many people who otherwise would be tempted by anti-Americanism. Nye cautions that the militarism and torture of the past decade threaten that soft power, creating a negative image of the US in the place of the one creative artists often project to the world.

Arab World Mourns Whitney Houston | Informed Comment.

Posted in Kultcha, Politics: International | Leave a comment

Arresting [Not] Charlton Heston/Chrysler Super Bowl Commercial: It’s Half Time in America [Corrected]

[Update: Corrected in the cold grey light of morning: As commentators more awake after the game than I noted, Charlton Heston has been dead for years. I knew he was Clint Eastwood, we even talked about it during the game; no I idea why I then substituted Heston in the post. One of my blogging rules is that when I screw up, I correct, but don’t hide the fact of the error. This is a beauty.]

By far the most notable Super Bowl commercial was Charlton Heston Clint Eastwood reassuring America that it’s only half time and there’s still everything to play for. As his gravelly voice touted the resurgence of Detroit, I thought at first it would be an Obama commercial, and then it was Clint Eastwood/the Man with No Name/Dirty Harry/Walt Kowalski and Chrysler, and it wasn’t, overtly, pro-Obama after all.

But maybe it in a way it was Chrysler’s way of saying thank-you on the QT for the bail-out; if so, getting long-time Republican Charlton Heston to do the spot was a stroke of genius insurance against charges of partisanship. [Update: I still think it felt like a way to say thank you without having to admit it was a campaign expenditure; and I thought of Eastwood as a Republican — see below.]

And a new catch phrase is launched.

[Update: I thought Eastwood was a Republican because he was elected as Mayor of a town in California on the Republican ticket. At least according to a Wikipedia article on the Political life of Clint Eastwood, however, his politics are more complicated than that.]

Posted in 2012 Election, Kultcha | 7 Comments

Groundhog Day Appreciation

Groundhog Day Is Worth Revisiting, Wouldn’t You Say? is Chris Lough’s appreciation of the 1993 movie.

Groundhog Day is one of the very few movies I’ve willingly seen more than once, and this essay captures why. I think it’s the only thing I ever liked Bill Murray in (I liked Ghostbusters, but didn’t like him in it; haven’t seen Lost in Translation yet) so I commend the review (and the movie) to you.

Posted in Kultcha | 4 Comments

YouTube Has Regional Controls

Someone I met recently recommended I listen to the Scissor Sisters so I went to YouTube to get some sense of what their music was like.

I was very surprised to find that I could not play the video for a song called Laura. All I got was a message saying

The uploader has not made this video available in your country.
Sorry about that.

Try playing it yourself, and you you get content, please let me know where you are, what platform you are using, and how the song is.

YouTube/Google is not only within its rights to do this, it may even be a legal requirement in some cases, but I see it as a further harbinger of the socially costly fragmentation of the Internet.

Posted in Kultcha, Law: Copyright and DMCA | 3 Comments

“The Elements of Style” Rap

Dog-on-its-hind-legs rap on writing guide:

The Elements of Style from Jake Heller.

Apologies for the misogyny in the original Johnson quote.

Posted in Kultcha | 3 Comments

Grimmelmann Strikes Again

If you have read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, and you you have also read some Leo Strauss and/or had to deal with Straussians (and, by the way, it seems they’re everywhere in the academy), then it is very likely that you will get a kick out of James Grimmelmann’s A Straussian Reading of The Magicians.

If you haven’t met both conditions, though, don’t bother. Unless of course you wish to read it as a parable of what law schools would be like on the Segal model…

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